Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rites of Passage

When I am not chasing around a mischievous toddler or talking with my adorable little sweet tooth daughter, I do have some little odd jobs that I fit in my busy schedule. These little odd jobs bring in some greenbacks, and after finishing a task that is not related to the household, husband or babies I do get that HUGE sense of accomplishment. I have been hired by my family business to write blogs a couple of times a week, and the latest endeavor of writing a press release was finally published today! *sigh, kicking the gorilla press release off of my back!*

I have been trying to learn some of this SEO stuff? Yeah, I don't like it so much, but I am desperately trying to think in another dimension. My project manager (Dad-dad-de-yo) was good at nagging...uh...um...encouraging me along the way to publication. The stress about the press release over the past 3 weeks has been monumental, trying to figure out our key words and make the writing sound half way decent as we embed these key words in some sort of news worthy information about balloons. My Dad assured me that the release would most likely get rejected and I would need to modify different things so that it would be in an acceptable format. I made the submission Sunday night, and I was approved on the first attempt! My article showed up in the first page of natural listings, and I got a HUGE gold star for the day!

Anyway, I think that I like doing new things to challenge my brain. I take on these little jobs like making a batch of pies for some very dear friends, or knitting a poncho for another friend...doing any kind of odd job for the family business to have some extra money for the budget. Something always goes wrong! A task that I can perform for myself always seems to get jacked up when someone else has "ordered" something from me. I am not so sure of being an independent contractor. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth, promises that I will NEVER do this again, "no matter how much you pay me!" However, once those pies are delivered, the press release published, and someday that poncho will be a wearable, I realize that I can do things. One of my coworkers famous last words:
You got to put your head down and power through

There is a bigger point to this post, but buckle up, because it is time for the Tacky Tuesday commentary that could get a bit controversial. Who knows! There could be 19+ comments after this one.

This being a Mama, as we all know, has it's bad side. Today, on day two of being rained in, and after my sister forwarded me an article about televison overexposure for young children the movies were off, I was rapidly approaching my wits end. Iain had been blatantly getting into everything he was told not to get into, and even though Fiona slept in until 10! she was itching for mischief as well. TV off. Mud and rain outside. Jake took the car to work since Fiona was still sleeping. Iain will not go on the potty, but instead feels that he should remove his diaper and run around the house naked. After yesterday's incident of him peeing all over our couch, and having him scream at me for making him wear a diaper, I had no other choice than to strap them into the bike buggy and go for a ride. Great idea in theory. What's a little rain going to hurt? I rode my bike in worse rain in college, and I can handle being wet. The buggy has a waterproof cover so the babies=dry, and I was able to get in my work out for the day by pulling about 70 pounds out to see Jake at work. When I arrived, I had a huge wet streak up my butt, grease and mud all over my legs, plus wet clothes. The dry babies fell asleep on the way out, and in my present state I was ready for a mud derby- not fit to enter the jewelry store.

Did I forget to mention that my mother-in-law was also at the store? She noticed all of the mud and grease all over my legs, and didn't want to get to close (I don't blame her) and I tried not to feel like a complete moron that I would actually do something so stupid as to drag her grandchildren out in the weather. They were perfectly delighted to see her, but wanted to go home with her in her car.

I can always get a fair amount of thinking done, uninterrupted, when I am on these little rides around town. For the past week, I have been replaying a couple of scenes over in my head that involve this nasty side of my own motherhood. The first scenario was at the big mall a week ago. We were shopping for a new bath towel for Fiona that didn't say Iain on it and would cover her body. The little man is extremely possessive of his hooded frog towel, so we found her an adorable hooded flower towel on our late evening adventure to the big Jordan Creek Mall. We were there rather late, and it had been another day of raining, so I thought it would be a good reason to let the babies play in the mall play area.
I have always been diametrically opposed to the play areas at the mall. My original contempt for the mall play areas, was that they are full of germs! I would be so furious if my babies got ring worm or lice from some public area that never sees fresh air or sunshine. However, my complete disdain for these slobber filled mosh pits is now centered around the creepy, bratty, defiant children that frequent the cushy areas. I am not speaking of the cute little munchkins that squeal with delight as they teeter around and discover fun things to play with, but rather the over sized variety that are too big!! My first thought is, "Where are your parents!?!" Why would a parent just dump a 2nd or 3rd grade kid into the toddler play area? I don't get it. The reason it makes me angry, is because these large children sprint around the play area and crash into my babies. They jump off of the pirate ship or the mountain peak and are not aware of their surroundings which most of the time include babies who are barely standing or just learning to walk.

Iain and Fiona were so delighted to get to the play area, and we knew that the mall was closing soon so we would have a limited amount of time, which was good! Fiona scooted over to the bottom of a "tree house" structure that had three slides that came out of it. She was trying to go up the slide backwards, since the fake rock climbing was a little advanced for her. I wasn't hovering over her, because I didn't notice any danger until...WHOOSH! A big kid darted up the rocks and went right to the slide that she was trying to climb up, swooshed right down on her with his arms open, swept her up and started to carry her. She was pissed and kicking, so this big kid did not have a good grip on her. I was anxious, and rushed to her, and said to the big kid, "Please do not pick her up. She wants to play, so please do not pick her up." I then moved her to a different rock and slide structure that was off to the side and completely vacant. However, Fiona is still regarded as a "baby" and therefore a magnet of attraction for the young crowd. More kids came over to this double slide and all wanted to touch her (germs!) and try to hold her. "Ummm...this baby needs some space. Would you please use the other slide?" I received blank stares from these other children, but they seemed to get the idea and scurried to off to other fun areas. I don't demand that other children not be around my babes at the play area, but when she is trying to stand and they are mauling her, I feel a suggestion to move along is appropriate.About 3-5 minutes pass, and Jake and I have been watching out for Iain, since he is surrounded by big kids who continue to jump and sprint everywhere...WHA! Where did that kid come from!?!! He had to be about twice the size of the other big kid, so he is the BIG big kid. Seriously! The jumping! Is it necessary? I finally figure out that the two of the big kids are in the same party, and their obtuse mother and grandmother are watching from the outside. Fiona is still having a great time, when the original big kid comes over to the double slide that Fiona is playing on. She is again at the bottom, trying to go up the wrong way. I realize that this is a dangerous position for her to be in, but considering that she was the only person interested in this slide, and there are many other slides in the facility, I feel that this big boy is seeking attention AGAIN from my innocent baby girl. He climbs to the top of the slide and is getting ready to go down the slide head first right onto her legs. I was standing right by the slide this time, so I said more forcefully, "You need to go to the other slide since she is on this slide." He retorted, "No I don't. She needs to move, 'cause I am going down this slide." I was shocked!! I didn't realize that this big kid was actually old enough to talk back in such a fashion, so I got my bigger guns out and said, "You will move to that other slide now. You do not need to be on this slide." He wasn't done, so he said, "You can't make me." I was shocked only for a moment, since his brain donor mother was oblivious to all of the commotion, I shot him the "don't you dare push me any further" Mommy, commander, bitch look and finally he moved. We left. I was furious. Iain and Fiona were pissed because their short visit was cut even shorter. I did double check the height restriction on the kind little instructions for safe play that are posted at the front of the play area on some big foamy fake tree. Please. Like it does any good.So while I was on my ride today, passing the rugby fields, it dawned on me that this was a rite of passage* for me as a mother: Dealing with some other jerk's bratty kids. I realize that we had already had the incident with the next door neighbor kid, but I thought it was an isolated incident. I will probably wear the bitchy mom hat since there are kids out there with attitude problems who think they are old enough to play in the toddler play area! As I looked over to the rugby fields again, I remembered playing rugby at Iowa State. Would I be able to handle a rugby game at this stage in my life? Maybe better than handling punk ass kids in the play area...I should just tackle them to the ground and walk away. Probably not.
My parents freaked out when I told them I was out for rugby. I invited them to a home game in Ames, and I was surprised they came. I could tell that they were aggravated that I was spending time playing rugby. It was dangerous, un-lady-like, dangerous, could get my teeth knocked out, I should have been studying more, etc. etc. They came with their lawn chairs, and set up along the sideline as the men's team was finishing. As we were warming up, my parents were watching the end of the men's game, and one of the first tastes of rugby was the initiating of a newbie who had scored his first tri. The rite of passage is for that rookie to run a zulu the full length of the field. Since I was new to the game as well, I didn't really know what was going on either, but all of the veteran girls were whispering "Zulu." All of the men circled around the newbie taking his clothes off, and then they let him run out one side of the "scrum" as he make his victory lap, completely in the nude. My mother was scarred. My father was shocked, but laughing his butt off. Of course he went into great detail about this rookie who had parts that were flopping around everywhere, but I had turned my head away. It was one of those mixed company things where you have to turn your head away. Not the mixed company of males and females, but the mixed company of parents and kids and you feel uncomfortable when your parents are watching you watch something "inappropriate." OK that was kind of a tangent, but still on my rites of passage theme, plus a funny memory I wonder if my parents still remember.

The day after the belligerent incident with the slide, we were at a different mall in another play area meeting friends for a play date. I was watching my babies like a hawk, but I was a man down without Jake's eyes to help keep an eye on the offspring. Things were going OK, but I noticed that Iain was having an incident with another little boy. The situation was that this other boy had Iain in a grip of some kind...I am sure there is a name for it, but Iain was stuck with his arms being held down from behind...the other boy was behind Iain, but had his arms crossed around in front of Iain. I was just watching, trying to not interfere with my son since he is learning how to deal with other little people. Iain was squirming, and I could tell that he wasn't being strangled but agitated. Jake and I have decided we don't want Iain to be a cream puff, so we are of the opinion that we as parents should let the little man work things out. (A great movie quote comes to mind, from Finding Nemo when the little turtle slides out of the current and the totally rad turtle dad says, "Let us see what Squirt will do out on his own." His parenting style is completely opposite from the overprotective Marlin clownfish) In this situation, Iain was not the aggressor, so I just watched. The other boy let his grip go, and as soon as he did, Iain swung around an pelted him in the head with his fist. Iain started kicking his legs to get this other little boy off of him, and I still watched. Frankly, I didn't care what Iain did to this other boy, unless someone else wanted to protest. I think it is good that Iain has some sort of self defense inside of him that would come out in an instance just like this one. Another Mother who was close by, stepped in to hold Iain back, so then I raced over to grab him out of the situation and take responsibility.

So there are all of these different things that happen socially, where we are presented with circumstances that are extremely difficult. Of course, I can see how Iain and I could be blamed by our reactions to these situations. I was raised to not hit other kids on the playground, but my dad did teach me some self defense. I was able to defend myself and my siblings when a situation went sour, and I am still thankful for that instruction from my Dad. The church we went to when I was younger had a bully. He was a year younger than me, but he was always picking on little kids. I remember being at a friend's house and this bully telling my little brother to stick his fingers in the hing of a door so that the bully could close the door and smash his little fingers. He tried this once, and I belted him in the nose. He was never mean to me or my siblings after that point. His nose bleed was tattling enough to the situation, but the other passel of kids were all on my side since they saw the incident. I think that bullies like to initiate taunting or physical violence with weaker kids, and I remember being scrawny and gangling as a child so my Dad probably knew that some instruction was in order to protect myself.
I like that Iain can react in a situation that makes him uncomfortable. If he feels he is being compromised, the best defense is to swing and hit and kick. If a stranger were to come and try to grab him, I pray that he would know to scream and kick to put up a fight. I remember having a fear of strangers when I was a child. That fear was instilled by my parents. They told me to not talk to strangers, and how to kick if someone would touch or grab us. I am amazed at how precocious little children are around me as an adult whom they do not know. When I was a kid, I would never have talked back to an adult. I would have high tailed it out of the situation.

Kids are going to loose their teeth, scrape their knees and get in some skirmishes with their peers. With Iain, we have had to step back and not hover around him. He needs to learn to stand on his own two feet. He is big enough now. If it gets too much for him to handle, we can leave the situation, but how does that teach him to deal with things? My brother cautioned us about coddling Iain too much and warned that "he will turn out to be a cream puff! How will he go out for football if he never got pushed down or punched when he was a kid?" I have had some of my friends boys hit or push Iain, and I am sure that he will hit and push kids as well. Do we let them work it out as little boys? Or do we intervene each time and try to control the situation? Having two younger brothers, I know that boys are physical, and I think it is in their nature. I think it is important to allow them to be physical, to run around, to play their own little man games. As they grow older, I think it is essential that they learn how to mow the grass and pound a nail so that they are capable as husbands. They will need to have their natural protector instincts when they have a wife and their own family. I can't knowingly strip Iain of his physical tendencies during social interaction at this young age, but as parents we can see the intent and know when our child is being a bully and correct that behavior.As I have been psycho-analyzing myself, my little self defense courses as a child could have contributed to my competitive spirit and my desire to play contact sports like soccer and rugby. I had so much fun running around, having the ball and scoring, but I was always better at defending the ball instead of stealing the ball. Striping the ball from an opponent, throwing an elbow, slide tackling were never easy for me, but I could protect the ball and throw a stiff arm if I was defending or scoring. I think that defense is completely different than aggression. Watching my brothers play years of soccer, I don't ever remember either of them getting a yellow card. I never received a yellow card playing soccer, but did have one moment in the sin bin during a rugby tournament. Playing dirty is not necessary during sports or childhood but there is something normal about physical play especially amongst boys. There is always going to be a bully, but it is OK to deal with them head on. So, I guess I will continue to stand up to the little terrors (and their mothers) at the playground.

1 comment:

Amanda S. said...

Was this when your Iain and my Ian were up on top of the castle? Was it my Ian who was grabbing onto him? I'm thinking there were some other kids up there too. I could see there was something going on over there...some kind of conflict, but I think it was Antonia who was blocking my view as I made my way over there.

I agree with you about not coddling so that they can learn to handle/resolve things on their own. Plus supervising them, as much as we can, so that if they don't handle it well we can step in. It is hard to keep track of kids in those busy play areas and they can get out of our sight so quick! You never know what problems are going to happen if they're not constantly in your view, whether it's another kid who instigates it or yours. Some kids are obvious bullies (you can see it in their eyes), but sometimes it's miscommunication or just plain immaturity.

If it was my Ian, let me know. Thanks.

Have a good weekend. :)