We Were That Family

It’s summer. Not technically, but the pool at the Y is now open so really, it’s summer.

We’ve been twice. The first time I took all three kids by myself, to meet my friend Angel and her daughters, Zoey and Mya.

It was so much easier than last year. The kids played in the children’s pool for more than an hour. I sat for much of the time. And talked to Angel. James went down the water slide over and over and over. Sophie dipped her naked Barbie in and out of the pool. Owen, well Owen spent much of the time on my lap but still, when he did get in the water, he had fun.

I envisioned a glorious summer made up of afternoons at the pool, in the sun, happy.

So naturally our next visit to the Y was a disaster.

Andy and I took all three kids Sunday. Everything was great—until we had to leave.

All three lost it. We immediately stopped, got down on our knees at their level and sternly told them how inappropriate their behavior was and how there were going to be consequences as soon as we got home.

James listened to us and stopped.

Sophie (Sophie! Who is 5!) and Owen drew stares.

It was if their bodies had been taken over by demons. They screamed and kicked and carried on in a way we have never seen before. I took Owen. Andy took Sophie. There was no talking to them at this point. We carried them, our heads down and lips tight.

The walk to gather our towels and then exit the Y was so long. So very long. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone took notice. Some people had half-smiles on their faces, with I’ve-been-there looks. Some had frowns, with why-can’t-you-control-your-children looks. Some were bewildered, with dear-God-is-that-what-it’s-like-to-have-kids looks.

I wanted to disappear. I still get red-faced thinking about.

Once home, once calm, we had a long discussion about leaving, kicking, hitting, screaming and appropriate behavior. Owen and Sophie lost all dessert and treats for three days (which, for them, is a very. big. deal.). And we’ve told them that from now on we’re not going to put up with even a hint of whining when it’s time to leave—and that if something even close to that happens again, stricter consequences will occur.

So far, everyone has been incredibly well-behaved today. Sweet, even. So much so that I’m half-tempted to drag them all to the pool just to say, “See! They’re not always possessed by demons! Most of the time they’re actually wonderful, kind, incredibly-pleasant-to-be-with children!”

Tell me: Worst public tantrum (if only to make me feel better).

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket

A Lesson In Parenting Found in a Bottle of Glittery Nail Polish

Sophie wants to wear nail polish. Apparently all her friends do at preschool (including a boy she’s friends with). I painted her nails once, over a weekend. She loved it. My thought process isn’t completely clear when it comes to this matter. I will try to use bullet points to organize it a bit more:

Reasons Why We Haven’t Let Her Wear It:
• too young
• all my women’s studies courses
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life
• premature sexualization of children
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old
• fear of her caring too much how she looks


I’m sure many of you are thinking “but, but, but.” Just like Sophie. Last Friday she had some friends over. A couple hours into the play date they all came down and Sophie asked if I could paint everyone’s nails. I told her no. I told her I didn’t know how the other parents felt about it.

She threw a fit.

A fit!

I pulled her away from her friends, and took her upstairs. The following came out of her mouth:

“You never let me do anything!”

“All of my friends are allowed to wear it!”

“You’re not being fair.”

And, my favorite: “You’re treating me like a 2 year old!”

Well, of course I wasn’t going to paint her nails after all of that.

But still, her tantrum gave me pause. I thought about all the reasons I don’t let her wear nail polish. And I argued them, in my head— essentially making another list, with rebuttals.

Reasons Why Maybe We Should Let Her Wear It:
• too young (How does one determine this?)
• all my women’s studies courses (I don’t even really know what this means.)
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life (This is true.)
• premature sexualization of children (I’d have to read more about this but honestly, I don’t have the time.)
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later (This is true.)
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old (Andy brought this one up. But a paler color could solve this.)
• fear of her caring too much how she looks (Honestly, I don’t think it’s about that. Not yet.)

Monday morning I took her to the doctor. Sunday night her temperature spiked to 105.6°. Turns out she has strep. So, she missed Tuesday and today at school. Tuesday night I went to the grocery store. And I bought her pale, pale pink polish—full of glitter.

It was perfect.

It looks childish—not much color and all that glitter. It was the perfect sick day/rainy day treat. She found so much joy in it.

Maybe, I thought, I was over-thinking, this whole nail polish thing.

So I didn’t over-think at all when Owen and James asked for some, too. Everyone got glittery nails, and everyone loved them. It was akin to face paint (which we do almost weekly). Or dressing up (which we do almost daily).

It was fun.

Of course it was good to not cave to her in-the-moment tantrum. But I also think it was good to think about what she said (no matter how scary teenager-speak like it was). And to really sit down and think about why. And then to decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s not that big of a deal.

Because honestly? Half the time I don’t know what’s best. I know there will be things I don’t let her do now that later, I will realize it would have been OK for her to do younger. Just as I know there will be things I do let her do now that later, I will wish I would have made her wait. But. I do know today I had three small children running around the house, happy (so happy!) with glitter on their nails. And that made their morning a little more magical. And that made everyone’s day, mine included, a little brighter.

There can’t be harm in that.

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.” —Angela Schwindt

To the Woman Who Sold Me Stamps At the Post Office Today:

I would have liked to zip in and out sans kids but because you close at 5pm and my husband doesn’t get home until 6pm, I had no choice. Plus, I want to take my kids to the post office. I want to explain how “mailing a letter” works and what “stamp” means and I want to help them understand how our mail gets from here to there.

My children are 4-1/2 and 2-1/2. The line was long. When Sophie complained about having to stand, I talked to her softly and she stopped. I made everyone stay close to me. No one was running around. They started humming and singing, and I asked them to do it quietly. When Owen and James started whining and asking to go home, I held them one at a time. Yes, the other child was whining while waiting his turn to be held but I did what I could.

So, dear postal worker, when it was my turn to make my purchase I was sort of upset when you pointed to Owen, who was in my arms, and said “You have a spoiled one there, don’t you?” And then, when I mumbled a response while lifting each child up so they could see over the counter (something they love), “I have a stamp that says ‘spoiled’ if you want to put it on his hand.”

I would love to have toddlers who never cry and whine when having to wait in a long line in a place they have no interest in. I would love for them to always be content standing next to me (although, I admit, after awhile I’d miss occasionally holding them in my arms). I’d love to go somewhere with all three of my children and once, just once, have such a quiet and calm experience that no one even so much as glances at us.

But right now, that’s not possible. Both my boys are getting over colds, colds which required regular at-home nebulizer treatments. They’re hopped up on steroids, too, which makes them more irrational than usual. Owen also is battling an ear infection and is on antibiotics. And yesterday, they only got a 40 minute nap.

These may sound like excuses and, perhaps, they are. But just know that I’m trying my best. I’m trying my best to lay down rules and expectations for my children while also taking into consideration that they don’t feel good. Maybe I shouldn’t have given into Owen’s whine/cry to be held but honestly, I don’t mind holding him—especially when he doesn’t feel good and especially when he just wants to see. The woman who sold me a cup of coffee understood that yesterday. As I picked up each of my three children so they could see what I was seeing over the counter she smiled and noted how hard it must be for young children to miss so much when everything around them is so tall.

I realize I should let these comments go. But these comments are like tiny gnats buzzing around my head that I can’t seem to kill. They bother me. They make me wonder if I’m screwing this thing up, if I really am raising spoiled children. And part of me hates them because maybe there’s truth to them—Owen and James have been so whiney lately. I try not to respond to it. I try to insist on “nice words.” But, sometimes, I fail. Especially in tiny, crowded post offices when I’d rather just hold my child than deal with—and make everyone else around me deal with—a full-blown tantrum.

As a mother, every day I feel like I’ve failed some way, some how. I make mistakes, constantly. I question myself and worry, worry, worry. But I’m waking up every day. And I’m getting them out of bed every day. And I’m trying to teach them, guide them, share with them, show them, play with them, feed them and care for them the best way that I can. And I know my best isn’t as good as it always could be, or should be. But I’m trying.

In closing, I know my son was acting spoiled. I’m sorry about that. But I don’t need it pointed out. And I certainly don’t need to stamp it on his hand. What I need is a knowing smile, a small word of encouragement, a friendly “hello” to my upset child or, at the very least, just my stamps and receipt so that I can exit as quickly as possible. I imagine throughout your day you experience many unpleasantries—upset children, upset customers, maybe an upset boss. But I was doing what I could to make your day as pleasant as I could—given that my three children didn’t want to be there. In return, I had hoped for something different than the offer to advertise my parenting failures on my son’s hand.

a sometimes-frazzled, constantly worrying, hoping-tomorrow-is-better mother of three

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt