Waging war in the urban jungle

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's not easy being little

Paulo had his heart broken Saturday.

Rene was staining the deck and Dimitri was helping.  Paulo desperately wanted to help too.  He went out in the afternoon to work, but he was, rejected.  Apparently there wasn't a job available for one so small.  He was crushed.  He came back into the house, eyes filling with tears, devastated.  I tried to comfort him, I offered a walk, I offered a book, a board game, anything I could think of to lift his spirits.  He didn't want comfort.  He laid his sad little self down on the bench and there he stayed, watching his Dad and brother do what he was told he couldn't. 

He must have stayed on that bench for close to an hour, stewing.  It's so hard to watch your baby struggle with deep disappointment, when he hurts I hurt and he was really hurt.  He finally got up and eventually went back outside, he got permission to apply the final stroke of the stain.  I went out later to prune some plants and my seven year old came up to me and said "Well at least, I'm talking to my Dad again".  I told him that was a good thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An uphill battle

Let me first preface this mini rant by saying I know I and I alone am responsible for controlling what comes into my son's body by way of food and into his life by way of toys, trinkets and media.  He's 7, he has an allowance but no job so his buying power is limited.  And even with the allowance he can't spend however he would like, I still have veto power!  He doesn't like that, but that's ok, he doesn't have to, I'm the Momma.

That said, I feel like I'm fighting a (sometimes) losing battle.  A battle against marketing for one.  He cannot watch a 30 minute show on network TV without being inundated with junk food ads.  Look Mom!  Those nasty Pebbles cereal are gluten free now! Can we buy some?!  And no, he's not saying "nasty Pebbles cereal" that's all me.  Have you noticed the uptick in marketing unhealthy food as "gluten free" as if that's somehow supposed to make up for the 4 different food dyes and the 8 teaspoons of sugar per 3/4 cup "serving"?  It's the latest fad label.  Gluten Free!  Now Gluten Free!  Finally Gluten Free!  Yeah, but still disgusting.  Now, I know I won't buy them and deep down he knows I won't buy them but does that stop him from trying? Nope.  He's a perfectly normal child who wants what he wants when he wants it and isn't afraid to ask for it.  And it wears on me.  Not enough to go buy the crap cereal but it wears on me and frankly it pisses me off.

My other battle field is one that I bet is all too familiar for many parents . I don't believe my 7 year old needs to play 1st person shooter games.  I think video games have a rating for a reason.  Paulo has a very active imagination and is prone to nightmares.  I like to sleep thank you very much and I do not want to be woken by a frightened child reliving the slaying of aliens in the dead of night.  My neighbor does not share my views, he thinks killing aliens is no big deal and his son-who is a year younger than Paulo-is an avid Halo player.  Paulo is locked in an inner struggle every time he goes to this boys house.  All his buddy wants to do is play Halo, he's 6....SIX....but that's all he wants to play.  Paulo knows I do not approve of him playing shooter games and he wants to please me and be accepted by his peers at the same time.  I feel for him, I do, but man, he's freaking 7 years old.  There is plenty of time for blowing up aliens LATER. 

That last one feeds right into this mornings debate.  There was a TV ad for the Nintendo DS 3D and Paulo ran into the kitchen to tell me the good news, Nintendo dropped the price!  Isn't that great?  Can I have one?  Uh...no.  For starters, from all I've seen even Nintendo doesn't recommend 7 year olds playing the 3D console, something about messing with their peepers.  I explained that to him and he let it drop....for a while.  Really he let it drop until he me as a captive audience and we were in the car on the way to swim lessons.  So...how old do I have to be to play the DS 3D?  He asks.  I pause, admittedly annoyed that we're back on to this topic and reply "18".  WHAT!?  Ok, not really, but we're covered this a million times, you are not getting a hand held video game system.  Don't get me wrong this child is not deprived in the video game department, there are five different systems available to him at home.  FIVE.  I asked him why, if he has five already, he feels he needs a sixth.  Didn't that seem excessive?  And here comes the kicker, he tells me that since I won't allow him to play the games he really wants, the FUN ones like Halo that he's bored and needs a handheld system.  Oh yes, he's good, he's not going to get what he wants mind you but he's good.  I have to give him some credit for a creativity. 

So, what's a Momma to do?  Stand my ground and be unpopular I suppose.  No one said it would be easy.  I just wish I wasn't fighting an uphill battle.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Back to what?!

It's coming.....it's practically here....totally right around the corner....

Back To School!

It's certainly no shock, Target has had the school supplies aisle stocked since July 5th.  In fact, we knew it would come as soon as school ended but still, I'm feeling a little off.  You see, we haven't had much of a Summer-again-here in the Portland metro area.  It's been cool, chilly, rainy even and some mornings have felt more like October than July.  To be honest I feel a bit cheated.  We had great plans for dining al fresco, we had high hopes for late night bottles of wine on the back deck, instead I've had to stop myself from flipping on my gas fireplace. 

I've spent the past couple days with the fact that Monday is August 1st rattling around in my head.  And if July is any indication August will pass in the proverbial blink of an eye and I will find myself in 30 short days muttering September 1st...September 1st?!  How did that happen??? 

I spent today perusing lunch box systems on Amazon.  I really like that laptop lunchbox set up and I'm thinking pretty serious about plunking down the cash for the blue box & bag combo pack.  Paulo's lunchbox from last year got pretty beat up, it's still usable, but really I think I'm just looking for an excuse to buy a new one. 

I have a box of back to school clothes to unpack and sort through this weekend too.  I couldn't pass up the super sales plus 30% off on Kohls a couple weeks ago so I stocked up on jeans (temporarily without holes in the knees) and long sleeved shirts.  I even got a new hoodie sweatshirt for him, he loves hoodies.  We need to sort through last year's cool weather clothes-some of which have had ample "Summer" use-and set aside the things he's outgrown-of which I am sure there will be many, that boy is growing too fast!

To be honest, I love back to school time, and fortunately so does Paulo.  He loves school, he was sad when school ended.  While I might feel a little stunned that September is literally around the corner I am also very excited.  I'm excited to get back to work with his school.  I'm excited to get Paulo into his new soccer team and go to practice and have weekend games.  I'm excited to see what new experiences await him in 2nd grade and I'm excited for the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks.  Fall is my favorite season for so many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is Back To School.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When does it become bullying?

My son is 7, he's a bright, empathetic, creative, rambunctious boy.  He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.  He's very big for his age and I worried when I saw how fast he was growing and how much bigger he was than all his classmates.  I worried that he might struggle to fit in, that he might inadvertently injure a child through the rough play that is so typical of children.  I worried about a lot of things, but I never really worried that he would be a bully because I know his heart and his heart is pure love.  I also never really worried that he'd be the victim of a bully, yet, he has been.  Bullying can happen to any child, I've learned that lesson the hard way.

Paulo's first experience was in Kindergarten, he was verbally taunted by an angry little guy, it escalated to the point where my bright boy didn't want to go to school any more and I had to speak to his teacher and make sure she knew what was happening and that she was going to get a handle on it.  Fortunately the hate language seemed to have stayed in Kindergarten and he's even friends now with one boy that was part of the problem-the ring leader transferred to a different school.  It was so hard to watch him go through that experience, he was filled with self doubt, he believed the boys when they told him he was stupid-even though he could read and they could not-he believed them when they told him that everyone hated him-even though we could name and count all the kids that considered him a friend-logic means nothing when confronted by rejection.  It broke my heart. 

This month though he was the victim of physical bullying and that really stunned me.  My son is not aggressive, he can get pretty rowdy-particularly when playing with his big brother but frankly I consider that to be normal-but he's not aggressive with other children and after last week I'm even more grateful for that sweet character and forgiving nature.  My son was punched in the mouth last week.  He was in a camp that used school buses to transport children around the city for outdoor adventures.  It was a great camp, he loved it, he got to run around in the woods and cover himself with mud as camouflage, it was a boys' paradise.  There was a boy that he met on the first day that he really bonded with, W.  Paulo said that W was really smart and could tell him all about large birds of prey and that they could talk, in depth, about Pokemon.  They spent much of the week together.  On Thursday I picked up my son at his Grandma's and he instantly tipped his face up so I could see his lip.  His lip that was cut.  When I asked him what happened he told me that W asked him on the bus if he wanted a "test".  Paulo assumed math test and said sure-he loves math-but then this boy punched my son in the stomach.  Paulo passed the test by the way, he shed no tears.  In typical boy bravado fashion Paulo asks him "you call that a test?".  W responds by upping the ante and landing the next punch on my child's mouth.  Again though, to Paulo's pride he passed the test and did not cry.  Now as he is telling me this story he shows no fear of this boy, he's not even upset.  He told W it was ok, he was ok, just "give me a minute" as he bled on the bus.  I will admit that there was a part of me that was proud of him for a couple of different reasons, first he didn't retaliate and hit the boy back, second he brushed it off, he's not dwelling on it, upset by it, being dramatic about it, none of that he's just stating the facts to me like it's totally normal.  Now, that's where we differ, I don't think that's normal behavior.  But wait...it gets even better....  I asked Paulo what his teacher said and he told me that the teacher didn't know, he was behind them on the bus and hadn't seen it and Paulo didn't tell him.  I asked him why and he said he didn't want to get W in trouble and the boy had told him that if he told on him he wouldn't give him the Pokemon card he promised.  Uh huh....nice...  I tried to explain to my 7 year old that this boy was not being a good friend to him, friends don't punch each other in the face.  I had to tell him that I would be discussing this with his teacher the next day because it's the camps job to keep all the campers safe and that sort of behavior should not happen on the bus and that while he wasn't badly injured or scared another child could have been.  He sort of understood.

The next morning I talked to his teacher, who did not know what had happened, but shared with me that this was the 2nd time W had been involved in an incident like this that week, which just reinforced what I felt, this was not normal.  Paulo had told me that he was the first kid that didn't cry which to me meant W had done this before.  Again, not typical boy roughhousing.  There's a part of me that feels bad for the kid, I wonder what it is he's seen and experienced that makes him think this is ok.  But the biggest part of me will always be focused on protecting my son. 

These incidents stay with me, I wish I could wrap my boy in bubble wrap and keep him safe forever, shelter him from kids that say mean and do mean things, but I can't.  He's growing up in our world which, sadly, seems so focused on cruelty.  It's everywhere, in the papers, magazine, music, movies and TV.  We love to be mean.  Turn on almost any reality TV program and you will see it, walk down any school hallway and you will see it there too.  I consider myself lucky that my son will tell me when someone's been mean to him, I know that's often not the case.  These incidents may seem minor compared to what some children suffer through but they're real, they're Paulo's experiences, and if it can happen to him it really can happen to anyone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meaning and signifigance

It's an odd thing when a day only really means something to one person.  Many of our milestones and special days are shared if not by the larger culture or society that we live in at least by our family.  Holidays and birthdays are shared events.  They mean something, not always the same thing, to a number of different people.  There is a sense of commonality in that, it's comforting, at least to me.

Today is different.  Today is a day that really only means something significant to me with very few exceptions.  Today is the 5th anniversary of my Mother's death.  Today is a day that is shared with my sister.  This is the day we became Motherless Mothers.  Today is a day I share with my Dad, this is the day he became a widower.  It's such an odd sensation, to have a day mean so much to you but to see the world going on around you as if nothing is different but inside your heart and mind, so much changed on this day 5 years ago. 

So today I remember my Mother, Sharon.  I remember the good; she was an amazing baker and she alone inspired my love of books by reading Little Golden Books to me until I was finally satisfied that the Poky Little Puppy did make it home.  I remember the bad; she was a complicated, often sad, soul that had a lot of growing up to do but never had the chance to do it.  And I remember the ugly; she had a wicked temper. 

I mourn the loss of what was but also, perhaps more profoundly, I mourn the loss of what should have been.  My Mother struggled while raising us, I can look back at my childhood now with the eyes of an adult woman and a Mother myself and find sympathy for her, I can see her, with the passage of time, as the flawed but lovable woman that she was.  But where she really shined was later on in life when she was finally blessed with Grandchildren.  She loved being a Grandma and she spoiled those girls rotten.  I was pregnant with Paulo when her dementia really took hold and we started seeing the early signs.  And it was immediately following his birth that her behavior took a dramatic change.  My Mother, who had to be put on a visitation schedule with my nieces, held my son twice.  Once the day he was born and one other time when she came for a visit and I gave him to her so I could eat.  That second, and last, time lasted about 30 seconds before she declared him too heavy and handed him back to me.  I remember being so confused.  Her visits to my sister had to be scheduled but with me she was ready to leave after five minutes and didn't want to hold my son.  I didn't know at the time that her dementia had robbed her of her ability to feel and express empathy and love.  I would not find that out until my son was 9 months old.  She never held him again, just those two times, and for that I will always feel that my sweet boy missed out.

I suppose with every passing year it gets easier, the pain less sharp, but it's still hard and every year come June I am struck with how much I miss having a Mother of my own.  My Mother was my cheerleader, whatever I decided to do she would support, and boy could I use some of that Momma love these days. 

RIP Mom, I hope you finally found the peace that eluded you during your time on Earth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paulo's surprise

On Saturday I cashed in my babysitting surprise.  Way back in February Paulo's teacher offered himself up for babysitting at our school auction.  Paulo loves his teacher.   I knew I had to get it for him.  I loitered around that sheet throughout the evening vying for the privilege of having my son's favorite teacher spend an evening with him one on one and I won.  Cost me $70.00 but it was worth every penny.

Paulo knew he had a babysitter coming and it was driving him nuts that I wouldn't tell him who.  He asked if he could guess and if he guessed right I'd tell him, sure...no problem, guess away!  I knew there was not a chance he would say his teacher's name and I was right, he never did.  5:00 came and he arrived, quite promptly.  I hung back in the hall with the camera and let Paulo rip open the door.  He was stunned!  He started laughing, he had the biggest smile on his face and then he promptly tried to push ME out the door!  We did the responsible parent thing and gave him the low down, left the check for the pizza and took off for our sushi dinner. 

We didn't stay out too long, we left around 5:00 and we were back a little after 8:00.  As we were driving down our hill we saw them, walking back from the park carrying a football, a soccer ball and a frisbee.  Paulo was in heaven.  He had the undivided attention of a man that matters almost as much to him as I do and frankly he wasn't ready to let go.  So his teacher ever so patiently stayed.  Paulo taught him the finer points of different Pokemon characters, he climbed all over him and we all talked.  I finally told him it was time for bed, time to say goodbye only to hear him ask his teacher to read him a bedtime story, which he did-way to make a Momma melt.  It was such a sweet moment for my baby boy and one neither of us will forget.  Paulo told me how lucky we were that we'd won his teacher for the evening and asked if we have to win him again to have him come back. 

It's not every child that can say he truly loves his teacher, it's not every teacher that is lucky enough to be adored by their students and I feel so grateful that he was Paulo's teacher this year.  I know that having this wonderful man, this positive role model, in his classroom day in and day out is one of the reasons my son loves school as much as he does and for that I am forever grateful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Looking for inspiration

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. " - Nelson Mandela