Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Mom Tip #166: Ask your mom about her childhood

My mother grew up below the poverty line on a cotton farm outside the town of Cartersville, Georgia.  While Leave It to Beaver was on TV across the nation, Mom went outside to the outhouse when the need arose.  My beloved Aunt Charlotte was 14 before they had indoor plumbing.  My grandfather ran the pipes himself.

On Christmas, Mom remembers how much she loved getting nuts and an orange in her stocking--oranges in winter were a rare treat.  She also got a box of chocolate covered cherries as her special gift from my grandfather.  As far as presents went, my mother remembers her bike as a wonderful gift.  My grandfather had repainted the tin roof of the house that year and my grandmother had recovered some vinyl chairs in the kitchen.  Mom watched Granddaddy repaint an old bicycle with the tin paint and then saw Grandmother cover the worn seat with the leftover vinyl.  On Christmas morning, out came her "new" bicycle and she loved it.  

Tomorrow morning my children will receive brand new toys bought from Target and Toys R Us.  They will open massive boxes containing 47 thousand twist ties so that the toys do not move into unattractive positions while in transit.  They will get a ridiculous amount of candy because when confronted with the tons of candy in the holiday section, 3 bags of miniature candy bars didn't seem like that much.  They are also all getting their own tiny flashlights in the hopes that they will stop carrying my emergency/handy weapon Maglite around. 

When I find myself getting caught up in the hassle-joy of 13 (actual number if counting class parties) different Christmas celebrations, I think about my mom growing up.  I know it wasn't perfect.  My mom graduated from a segregated high school and apparently spent childhood afternoons helping my great-grandmother stock condoms in the bathroom of the rest-stop-style store my great-grandparents ran until Granddaddy Virgil was fired for being drunk on the job.  So, you know, now seems better than that.  And besides, A Charlie Brown Christmas hadn't been written yet.  

But the simplicity of their Christmas celebrations circa 1953 resonate with me.  I think about making sure that my children understand what exactly we are celebrating.  I want them to know that on Christmas Day, Grace entered the world, not just American Girl Dolls and Muppets.  Although I do love the Muppets and bought 4 of them even though I only have 3 children.  I think about trying to remind myself to swim upstream against the tide of our pop culture with Santa and Christmas trees and enough wrapping paper to coat the world.  I think about trying to create memories that my children recount with as much love as my mother does when she shares her bicycle story.  

I think about a baby and a manger and a scared teenage girl just hoping she wasn't crazy to believe that God would do something amazing with her newborn child.  I think about my favorite sentiments from the Bible: Joy to the World, Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men. 

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Mom Tip #165: Trade in the kid's meal toy

I feed my kids fast food.  Not all the time, but often enough that they ask for it by name.  Their favorite, by a long shot, is Chick-fil-A.  Since we live in Atlanta, the home of the chicken sandwich, there is a Chick-fil-A every 4 1/2 feet.  They rival Starbucks for strip-mall corner dominance.  Which is my kids' second favorite place to go for nourishment.

They also like Schlotzsky's although they pronounce it "Sloch-key" and it seems to be tied to the cookie that comes with a kid's meal.  On a random note, there is a Schlotzsky's in what used to the Death Zone on the East Berlin side of the Berlin Wall.  Jay and I ate there once and I thought that seemed like one of the funniest screw-yous to communism that I'd ever seen.  There is an American fast food deli where once there were only guard towers and creepy Czech-made cars.  There is also a Starbucks.

My kids don't know any of that, however, because we do not take them to Europe because that would be miserable.  But if we did, they would ask to eat at one of the places whose logo they recognize from 500 yards.

To my credit, they don't really know what McDonald's is.  Someone referenced Mickey-D's the other day and Griffin asked, "What's McDonald's?"  Charlotte answered, "it's that place with the big yellow M and the scary clown."  I almost thought about contacting the McDonald's marketing department to tell them that they have failed.

My journeys to various fast food establishments have allowed me to discover one parent-pleasing tip:  You can trade in that stupid toy that comes with the kid's meal for something better.  At Chick-fil-A, for instance, you can get a kid's ice dream instead of the toy/book/whatever.  Don't get me wrong, it's not like I want to pump my kids full of sugar, but if one of them gets the book and one of them gets an ice cream that they can share, I don't have to give away 45 plastic-wrapped books every few months.  I also can be the nicest Mommy ever because I let them eat fast food AND there was ice cream.

Anyway, it's worth asking.  Sometimes I just eat the ice cream as my own reward for having taken that many kids to eat somewhere by myself. cream.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best Mom Tip #164: Lie to your 3-year-old

First of all, let me say hello to Cheryl. What's up, Cheryl? Cheryl is my wonderful friend who calls herself my #1 fan and reads my blog faithfully. Since she works in television I like to pretend that my writings have been "picked up" by the Cartoon Network because, technically, the same computer that rates Robot Chicken also reads this. So anyway, hey Cheryl. I am resuming writing for you. :)

On to the lying to your children part. One time, when my daughter was 3, we went on a walk to the park that is just under a mile from my house. We got about .8 miles from home and she suddenly decided she needed her princess ball cap more than she needed air to breathe. I calmly explained that if we went back home we would no longer have time to play on the playground. She responded with a sound that I associate with the high pitched whine of civilization's destruction when the nuclear bombs hit.  I then, while 6 months pregnant, drag-walked her the .8 miles back home and put her in time out so that I would not kill her.

When I related this story to my mom, she said, "eh, I probably would have said o.k. and then once we got home told her we couldn't go back to the park."  I was shocked.  You mean, LIE?  NOT tell her the consequences of her actions?  What kind of a child will I be raising? How would she manage in life if I do not present her with reality?

Fast forward 3 1/2 years and two more kids.  My now three-year-old son is in the same phase.  The one where, when things don't go the way he had them planned in his head, he collapses into a puddle of despair.  This is alright if we're at home.  It is more difficult to deal with when we are in the grocery store.

Thus, I find myself lying to him a lot.  Sure, Buddy, those underwear are totally on the right way.  Yes, you have done a nice job wiping off your face.  I will absolutely think about dessert when we get home.

In the car this week we got into a discussion about the validity of flying reindeer.  Now I know that what I am about to reveal is highly controversial, but bear with me.  I do not let my kids believe in Santa.  Are you disappointed in me?  I know Cheryl is.

The thing is, I found Santa confusing.  So I decided that we would present Christmas presents as gifts from us and just ignore the whole your-gifts-are-tied-to-your-ability-to-please-a-stranger-who-looks-a-lot-like-Renaissance-God-in-a-coca-cola-ad part.  For my daughter this was a non-issue.  She didn't/doesn't care and honestly, would have questioned Santa's existence by the age of 4 anyway.  She is a lot like me.

Ah, but Griffin.  While driving to school, Griffin told me he didn't want Santa to be pretend.  Griffin asked me how the reindeer could fly and I said, "Well, they can't.  Reindeer are real, but they can't really fly. That's just pretend."  He got that look.  The one that says, "you are crushing my soul and I will not rest until every vehicle in a three mile radius feels my visceral pain."  The sentiment came out like this:  "BUT I WANT DEM TO FLY!"

So what do I do?  Lie and let him believe that generous strangers pulled by impossible cold-weather mammals are the source of his Mega T-Rex this Christmas?  Can I let him continue his unreasonable desire to believe in cartoons and fairy tales?  Or do I let him have a full-on melt down on the way to school which will result in the teacher physically pulling him screaming from the car?

Turns out lying is actually pretty easy sometimes.  You're right, Buddy.  Reindeer CAN fly.