Nothing sets me on edge more than hearing one of my children bellow, “It’s NOT FAIR!” That one sentence can turn me foul even when in the midst of a sun-shiny-birds-singin’ kind of day.
Lily thought it would be a good idea to whine it’s not fair when I asked her to pick up some of the ten thousand blankets she’d used to build a fort in the family room.
Frustrated, I jumped into my now-overused diatribe on ‘fair’. I threw out a few examples, including “Is it fair that your brother is cleaning the guinea pig cage and you aren’t helping him?”
It was going well until I threw in, “Is it fair that you’ve been playing all day and were out on the swings while I made lunch, brought your dishes in, cleaned and put everything away?”
Lily had been quick to answer all the other questions with a ‘No, that’s not fair’ but here she took pause and looked a little bit confused, “Yeah, that’s fair. That’s what parents do. Kids are only supposed to play. Parents have to do all the other stuff.”
I think I have to revisit our chore chart…
Last week Jackson turned six – something he’s been looking forward to since his fifth birthday. Wednesday night I tucked him in bed and told him, with a touch of sadness hidden behind my smile, that this would be my last time hugging my five year old. He beamed and gave me the biggest hug he could muster, promising it would be bigger in the morning when he was six.
He seemed to grow three inches overnight.
Watching him now I can’t believe he’s the same child I held in my arms six years ago. He no longer emits that intoxicating baby smell that I can’t get enough of. Nowadays he smells of strawberries or lavender depending on the type of shampoo he has used that morning. Gone is the sweet newborn smell that seems to cling to each strand of a baby’s fine hair.
And his hands are now the hands of a little boy. Gone are the pudgy little fingers and non-existent wrists. As a six year old, flush with verbal words both appropriate and unfortunate, he rarely talks to me with his hands. I know the time is coming when he will again sign but I try not to think about the kinds of gestures he’ll be making when he’s a teen. For now he sticks to ‘please’ when I’ve said no to something and he thinks the Cute Factor might just swing me over to his way of thinking.
‘I love you’ is another nice one that he still uses quite regularly and it makes me smile every time.
These days our non-verbal communication consists mainly of reminders for both kids to use their manners or my gesturing across the room advising them to behave nicely and share. It ‘s why the outside world congratulates me on having such polite children.
Oops, now you know our little secret.
I had planned on writing a post about the Olympics this morning. A little ditty about my blasé attitude towards the Olympics before it started (for reasons I won’t share – my husband thinks my reasoning proves some sort of mental deficit) but how the opening ceremonies and the games themselves truly intensified my pride in Canada.
Instead I’ve spent a large portion of the day working on my son’s Chore Chart. There have been some intense negotiations, a little bit of research and a lot of help from some lovely Twitter folk.
Jackson will be six in April. He is a fairly good helper but tends to forget to pick up his clothes and put away his toys. Couple this with the fact that both my kids are little hoarders-in-training and tidy-up is a pretty frustrating business with my inner monologue bursting with expletives.
And I really want to work on allowance to teach the value of money. My plan is to put half into a ‘savings’ jar and half into a ‘spend me’ jar.
I have added an extra dollar earning potential (bringing us to five dollars) to be paid for extra things that are especially nice, helpful or unexpected. We call it his Special Acts of Awesomeness dollar. For example, if he’s helpful and kind with his sister. Or maybe he picks up litter or holds the door open for someone. We didn’t talk or negotiate this because I don’t want him doing nice things just to be rewarded, however, if we note things during the week we will thank him and bonus him when paying his allowance.
We talked about what he thought his chores should be and his list very closely matched mine: clothes in dirty hamper, pick up your toys and make your bed. Then we discussed things he’s not doing regularly now but could be and added them (ie. setting the table and feeding our dog).
Listening was a task that Jackson really wanted on his chart. He was fairly certain that compensation would be a considerable help with this heavy burden. I took that moment to insert the lesson that some things are just part of life and will be done. Always. And then I gave him The Mom Look.
Here is what we’ve come up with. I’m sure it will need some tweaking over the next couple of weeks as we get used to this but it’s a start.
Now the trick will be coming up with Lily’s. She’s already asked and, contrary to almost every parenting article I read this morning, I’m pretty okay with putting my three-year old straight to work.
If you’d like to check out our chore chart we’ve posted blank copies for download in mocofun.
It started with a playgroup song. Jackson was about 8 months old and I was the lone oblivious mother singing “I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die. ” I looked at the other moms who seemed to be looking at me as if I’d sprouted another nostril. I listened intently to the next chorus and realized that the Little Old Lady only cried in this new babe-ified version.
Then yesterday when picking Jackson up after school he started telling me about one of the games he’d played at the school’s Olympic celebration. He was talking so quickly I missed the name of the game. When he repeated the word tug I said ‘Oh! Tug of War’ to which he replied ‘No, Tug of Peace.”
Oh, that’s how we’ll achieve world peace…
Jack has never wept over that Little Old Lady and her tormented tummy. And he’s a sensitive kid who has already had to deal with a lot of death in his short life. We deal. We talk. We cry. And we’re okay. The tale of the silly little fly and all the animals that go down after it has never caused tears or raised questions about death.
As a kid, Tug of War never gave me pause to think of strife in the world nor did it make me violent or warmongerish. I would love war to end. Right now. I would love the threat of war to cease. Forever. If only it was as easy as just eradicating the word from a 5 year olds vocabulary.
If I can’t call it Tug of War anymore, I’ll just shorten it to Tug. I’m through sugar-coating. Of course I’m also the mom who changes the words of ‘On top of Spaghetti’ to ‘On top of the Table’ and sing about Lily being told to get down but falling off and out the door.
Yeah, maybe forget everything I just said.
I’m annoying. And unfortunately my apples didn’t fall far from the tree.
With Lily cuddled on my lap suffering from Faucet Nose I asked Jackson if he could hand me the remote control so I could flip on the TV. Without a word of protest he walked over to the table and handed me the phone. “Oh Jack, I said the rem…” His dimple appeared and I knew he was up to no good as he fought, unsuccessfully, to control the mischievous curl of his lips. He put the phone back and handed me a notepad. Then a pen. Then back to the phone.
“Jackson, please. Lily doesn’t feel well and I really don’t want to have to get up” Trying not to smile he handed me a barrette. Then put it back down and handed me the pen again.
Through clenched teeth I said ‘Jackson, just hand me the remote please’ (ok, I may have dropped the please at that point).
He handed me a candle.
I was about to snap at him but my irritation melted away as I caught another glimpse of that dimple and the playful grin now spanning his face . Reflecting back in the grey-blue of his eyes I saw myself doing the exact same thing to my husband (except my son has a lot more committment). I saw myself annoyingly putting a dribble of wine in a glass when being asked for “just a drop more” and throwing a bun across the table at someone because they innocently asked me to “toss them a dinner roll”. I often protest with a grin that I’m merely charming and adorable but if it’s not adorable when my own children are doing it… well, it gave me pause.
Fortunately my kids have my husband’s intelligence but it appears they’re forever burdened with my sense of humour.
My poor children.
I sat on a rock, exhausted, watching the kids half-heartedly play in front of me. Lily wasn’t feeling great and we were both ready to leave the park but Jackson was clinging to a small strand of hope that his friend would show up for a quick play before we headed home.
Lily grew more and more impatient, finally losing her composure when Jackson said he was going sit by the tree and wait for his friend. Lily’s one hand flew to her hip while the other formed the perfect pointer. She waved that little index finger at him and with a tone matching her severe facial expression she exclaimed:
“No Jackson! You need to listen to mama. You not stay here by the twee. It get dark and then a bear come and he growl at you and ‘den maybe eat you up. We go home NOW!”
The ‘good mother’ in me knew that I should stop Lily from speaking to her brother with such attitude but I was so shocked by her torrent of words that I couldn’t help but smile. I did manage to stop myself from running over and hugging her though.
When Lily was about a year old we wondered whether something might be wrong with her hearing. As a test, my husband clapped his hands practically right beside her ear and she didn’t flinch. I smiled, having conducted a very simliar test earlier. I walked away from them and said, barely above a whisper, “Lily, would you like a cookie?” to which she nodded. This not only confirmed for me that her hearing was okay but that she was definitely my child (mmm cookies).
Although we were confident that she was fine we had to go through hearing tests anyway as the first step of her speech therapy. Lils passed with flying colours and we finally knew for certain that she was just ignoring us.
Over the past 2 years my sweet little bulldozer has continued to hone her skills – it’s often like I’m not even in the room. There are days I am truly thankful that she is so unbelievably adorable because it’s all that’s keeping the “free to a good home” sign from going around her neck.
But she inadvertently let the cat out of the bag this week. As odd as it is to hear my words being used against me, I now know she’s listening.
We were sitting together playing tickles. With an expectant smile and wide eyes she sat on my lap waiting for my hands to speed out to grab her again. Once tickled she would say ‘No more tickles!’. I would stop and whistle looking off into the distance and after a few moments her eyes would widen in anticipation. Again, my hands would rush to her sides. After a few rounds she decided to change things up a bit and instead of saying ‘stop tickling’ through her infectious giggles, she pointed her index finger at me and said in a most authoritative tone ‘keep your hands to yourself mama’.
The fact that it’s still a fairly recent phenomenon that she’s using her words at all probably added to the shock and cuteness of it all.
The next day, Lily did all she could to get under her brother’s skin but suddenly Jack’s obnoxious whining stopped and I heard him say ‘Lily, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”.
Ah-ha I say – they both listen to me! They pretend not to but they do. With that knowledge I shall cling to the hope that one day they just might obey.