Jokes with Talia

My oldest daughter has what we affectionately term a "developing sense of humor." She is delightfully logical and studiously serious most of the time. This is what makes her recent obsession with joke books that much more enjoyable.

Talia : I have a joke for you. .. why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?
Shane : Gravity!
Talia: No Dad. It's a joke.
Shane: But it's true. Gravity is why it is rolling downhill. The rest is irrelevant ....
Talia: Aaaaagggghhhh... to get to the BOTTOM.
Shane: Right. With gravity.

Talia: What kind of reptile tells on his friends?
Mom: A not very nice one.
Talia: No Mom. Well, yes...but no.
Mom:Ok, what kind?...
Talia: A tattlesnake.

Talia: What did one dog say to another?
Me: I had a "rrruff" day? *laughs hysterically*
Talia: No Mom. *sighs* it says "I can lick you at anytime."
Me: Nope. Mine is funnier.

Then Talia got a new joke book. Her first joke: Why did the elephant paint his toes red?
Mom: To scare the mouse
Dad: To look pretty
Talia: No. So he could hide in the cherry tree...
Dad: That makes no sense

*Same night. Piper convinces Talia to let her tell some jokes from her book*
Piper: Why was the porcupine wearing red boots?
Dad: So he could hide in the cherry tree
Talia: (hollers from the other room) AAAAHHH! DA-AD!
Piper: No, because his brown ones were being repaired.
Dad: Interesting.
Piper: Why was the goldfish red?
Dad and Mom together: SO HE COULD HIDE IN THE CHERRY TREE!!!
T: (stomping in utterly disgusted) Come on Piper, they aren't allowed to have anymore jokes tonight. Let's go to bed.
(p.s the answer is the goldfish rusted)

And then, the next day....
Talia: Why did the elephant paint himself different colors?
Dad: Ooh, I know this one! To hide in the cherry tree!
Talia: (deadpan stare) Seriously Dad? I said different colors.
Dad: Maybe there are blue cherries....
Mom: Or green and yellow cherries....
Talia:You guys have failed me. The answer was, to hide in the crayon box.
Mom: (stifling hysterical laughter) Oh. I see. Yes. That is different.

Talia: What do polar bears eat for know what? Never mind. I think we should move on. I don't really think Mom will like this one.
Me: Wait why? What's the answer?
Talia: An Eskimo pie.

Talia: What do you get when you cross a mouse and a ghost?
Me: I don't know. What?
Talia : A cari-boo
Me: What?!? Let me see that book. Talia, It's not a mouse. It is what do you get when you cross a MOOSE and a ghost?...
Talia: Oh....moving on....

Talia.: What happened after the mare broke her leg?
Me: She couldn't run for office .
Talia: That makes no sense.
Me: What do you mean? It makes perfect sense. ...
Talia: No. The answer is, she was in stable condition. Get it? *laughs* Stable?
Me: ???? Oh.... Does the book say m.a.r.e or m.a.y.o r?
Talia : m.a.r.e. you know, like a girl horse?
Me: Ok, that does make more sense. I thought you said mayor. But make sure to write mine down because I am hilarious.
Talia : *rolls eyes and walks off*

Dear Internet, Safety is an Illusion

Dear Internet,
About the Cincinnati Zoo incident. [Or Insert latest media story involving a child]
I understand. I understand you are angry that a gorilla had to be shot. That is sad.
I understand that you believe in your heart of hearts that the child must have been unsupervised in order to land himself in that situation.
I am here to tell you something you may not have realized before. You are not in control of your thoughts. The fact is you are reflexively parroting our American belief system that if a child is hurt, in danger, or killed for any reason….any reason, then this must be, by definition, someone’s…anyone’s fault.
You may not realize it but somewhere along the line most of us (yes, even me!) have fallen into the crusade for a zero percent mortality rate. This is the belief that if we all just follow the rules, or make enough rules, or supervise our children enough, than it is possible to reach a perfect 0% rate of mortality for children.
Is it tragic when a child is hurt or killed? Yes! Absolutely!
Is it automatically criminal, or someone’s fault? NO!
And yet we feel a desperate need to spin every child death, every child accident and every child endangerment into some sort of preventable tragedy. We have a need to do this because it makes us feel like we are in control. Americans have a long-term, shared belief system that if we just work hard enough we can become rich and “make it” in the world. This belief in the control over our own circumstances spills over into every facet of our lives. If we just legislate safety enough, maintain enough supervision or protect our children from enough things- then we will never have to face the possibility of losing one.
News Flash: This. Is. A. Lie.
It is a horrible, unpleasant thing to think about, but children die. Children disappear from even the most watchful parent and get themselves into mischief every day.
We often wrongly assume that children are passive players in this scenario. Many of those children are actively watching for that one second, the one tiny opportunity to slip away and explore somewhere or do something forbidden. The tighter we crack down, the more those children are going to be watching us- waiting to exploit that one distracted moment.
Just like an oppressive regime that eventually loses control of its people, so are the children of helicopter parents. They are waiting, ever watchful of that single moment in time when Mom has to tend to another child’s needs, or is distracted by the phone or another adult. And in that moment, they will slip away.
But, that isn’t how we treat these parents afterwards. Oh no. God forbid your child be injured or taken from you by death.
Understand this. The mere fact of child loss is all that is required. Just as my friend who lost her 2 year old in a parking lot- standing exactly where he was asked to stand. The minute the news reported the mere fact that it happened was the very same minute that the condemnation started flooding in. Assumption that he had run into the street. Assumption that he hadn’t been holding hands. Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. All of it proceeding the worst and most horrific condemnation. My friend’s family, facing the worst grief imaginable, began having to defend themselves daily against a world that felt compelled to shout that it was all their fault.
The nightmare is more than anyone can imagine.
So to all the individuals out there making “funny” memes about this family’s near tragedy, or any other child tragedy for that matter, understand this: the only thing separating you from this kind of judgement is coincidence. Safety is an illusion. Childhood is risk. Good parenting is no inoculation to tragedy. Sometimes accidents are just that. Accidents.
And to anyone who might disagree with me, I challenge to you find me ONE- just one article about a child who has died from something other than illness like cancer or the flu where the parents haven’t been questioned, charged or justice demanded in the court of opinion. Find me one where a lawsuit or non-profit hasn’t sprung up to re-write laws to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, “if it saves a single life, it will be worth it.”
You can’t. Because we need someone to blame. We need to spin that tragedy into a preventable one. Because if we don’t, we all have to face the truly terrifying fact that no one is immune. No one is safe.
Instead I challenge us all to read a story about an accident involving a child and either hold our tongue or simply post, "I am so sorry this happened." Because how we treat struggling, grieving families is how we will in turn be treated if, God forbid, tragedy ever strikes us.

A “Good” Mom (read: A Lucky Mom)

Awkward Pediatrican Visits: Mr. Evil-Thoughts

Today we had yet another epically awkward pediatrician appointment.

Let me begin by saying that our pediatrician is amazing. For over a decade she has been an honorary member of our family in the sense that she accepts our special brand of crazy and has yet to call Child Protective Services on us....a joke we frequently use with her, and that she still laughs at...Thank God.

I had made yesterday's appointment, the last one of the day, so that we could consult on where my sweet middle child, Piper, is in her journey with her various issues, and what our next step is.

Piper is my quintessential "middle child" that struggles with ADD and SPD and probably GAD and OCD...or in other words, she has major issues with the alphabet.

I made the appointment to determine what exactly our next step is in the process to help her. We just finished brain integration therapy and some weighted and sensory therapies, but the meltdowns haven't seemed to diminish, so, I have declared this summer my quest to find something, anything, that can help her essentially stay out of her own way.

The appointment lasted and hour and we now have some new steps with where to go, but there is nothing quite like going in to the doctor to discuss your child's a-typical behavior than having your eight year old crawl under the chairs and refuse to come out, and it sort of went downhill from there.

Me (pointing under the chairs): Like this. Is this normal?
Dr.: Typical
Me: It's Typical?
Dr.: No, we prefer the term typical.
Me: Oh, sorry. Is this typical?
Dr.: No, not really. So, Piper, whose your friend?
Piper: (holding up rubber, squeaky dog toy from under the chair) This is my friend.
Dr.: Does he have a name?
Me: Uh...yes. She just named him Octi today.
Piper: Yes, that's true. But his other name is Mr. Evil Thoughts. See *squeak squeak* I have had him for a long time.
Me: Yeeaaahhh. So, it isn't really like it sounds. That's just his name. He doesn't actually have evil thoughts or anything. I mean, she just named him that because it sounded more dramatic.
*long pause*
Dr: So, I am thinking we should start with some counseling first, before we check her for learning disabilities. Just to rule a few things out.
Me: *sigh*

Disclaimer: Named 5 years ago. Does not actually have evil thoughts. Really. I promise.

Fitting in at 40

Everyone remembers that first time walking into class, or into the gym or onto the field and having to navigate being the newbie. It is even harder when it is somewhere with a pre-established order. For some, these challenges are met with a bravado and/or gusto, for others it is met with terror and uncertainty.

But what if you're 40? (For the record, I am not quite 40 yet...but I am close enough that I am pretty sure it counts. Also, "Fitting in at 39" just doesn't seem to have the same ring to it.) Supposedly these things somehow miraculously get easier as you get older........right? Shouldn't there be some magic spell cast over you the minute you push that tiny infant from your body that immediately imbues you with some power to navigate social situations with grace and aplomb?

Unfortunately for all of us, such a spell doesn't exist. This is most unfortunate for the poor individuals who have to come across me on high anxiety days. The depressing truth is that all that crap in school that we promise our kids, "gets better after high school" is quite frankly a BIG. FAT. LIE.

Sure, there may be a period of time during college where this may actually be true for some. This is the time period when you are an adult, responsible only for yourself and beholden to none. This is the only time in your life where you have the freedom to walk away from people you would not care to associate with. If someone annoys you, or proves to be a bad friend, you move on.

News Flash: This doesn't work after parenthood.

Single people might read this and scoff, but I guarantee every parent out there will read this and nod with understanding and resignation. The freedom of early adulthood can be extended into parenthood with the first child, up until a certain point.

When my first child was born, I worked two and a half days a week. The rest of the week I was at home while my husband worked 10 hour days and went to school at night. Desperate for adult company I joined Mom's groups like Stroller Strides, Mountain Mamas and MOPS. I gravitated towards Moms that I genuinely liked and got along with.

These Moms and I made playdates and park dates and coffee dates. We did this because when kids are little it doesn't really matter what the age differences or personality differences are. Babies and toddlers parallel play and preschoolers can play with just about anyone. But, as the kids grew older, it became harder and harder to get together.

The kids started to reach school age and suddenly I was getting pushback. My kids didn't want to go hang out with certain friends of mine anymore because their kids were either drastically different in age or personality. They had an increasingly harder time finding a way for everyone to play together. My playdates weren't fun for them anymore. They would ask me if I could just make plans with my friends without dragging them along. I doubt the pushback was one sided. Additionally, with the onset of extracurricular schedules it became increasingly difficult to make plans with the friends I really wanted to spend my time with.

The flip side of that is that my kids were making their own friends at school, dance, soccer, church, Vacation Bible School and so on. Sometimes my girls would absolutely "click" and would adore a new friend. Then I would have to initiate small talk and exchange information. Sometimes I would call and leave a message about making a playdate......and get crickets. Later, I would sidle up to the Mom of the girl my daughter was begging to have over, but whose mom hadn't called back, and I would try to strike up an conversation. Instantly I would feel like I was back on that first day in a new school. I would have to go home and tell a tear-stained face, that I just didn't think a playdate with little Emmaleigh was going to happen. Then I would lie and say it was because they were too busy. And my heart broke a little. My daughter was in tears because I couldn't be likable enough.

People who know me on a superficial level typically either think I am outgoing, take-charge, and confident or irritating, over-talkative and scatter brained. People who know me really well would probably not use any of those words to describe me. The truth is I subscribe to the fake-it-till-you-make it school of thought. Many times I fake it fairly convincingly, putting me in the first camp...that is, until I don't. When the chinks in my armor start to show through, that is when I start fall into the second camp. In addition to being a full-on introvert, I often suffer from frequent social anxiety attacks. When I start to feel it coming on, I kick into my "won't shut up mode." It is like a darkly comedic out-of-body experience as I float about my body and scream at myself, "Seriously, why are you still talking? Shut up already. Can you not see that woman is annoyed with you!?! OMG! Are you really telling that story NOW, you just met this woman! Great. She just looked at her phone, take the hint moron.... There has got be something around here I can knock you out with..... AAAAAAHHHHH."

The result is that I have a tendency to be less likeable when I am nervous. This only serves to ratchet up the pressure on first meetings when your socially challenged daughter tells you that she HAS to have a playdate with the best little girl EVER or she is going die A MILLION ZILLION TIMES. Suddenly I am forced to find a way to fit in, not because I want to, but because I am convinced that my daughter's happiness (and not being a social pariah) are at stake. Also, so I don't hear crickets on the other end of the phone.

In the old days, before our unrealistic obsession with zero percent mortality and constant child supervision, our parent would just turn us out to play with whomever we found in the neighborhood. Or they would drop us off at a friend's house after they talked to their Mom for about 5 minutes on the phone, just to make sure she would be home and wasn't psychotic. Risk was just part of childhood. To be honest, I am not even sure about the psychotic part, it is just something I would like to think my Mother cared about. Mostly she just needed to know that an adult would be present.

Now when I offer to host another child I get asked things like; who will be there, do I have a gun in the house, am I planning on feeding their precious hot-house orchid anything that isn't organic, no-sugar, health food and what exact schedule was I planning on following? (Yes, I actually got asked that once- "uh, I thought I would just let them be creative and come up with something?" Note: This child was not allowed to come to my house. My choice. Too much pressure.)

These days we practically have to background check each other before allowing our children an unsupervised (by us) social interaction. Often the Moms choose to be present, thus forcing social interaction between them. This brings me back to my point; fitting in at 40. How do I navigate a world that has suddenly become dependent on me making friends with the entire families of my children's friends? And does this mean that I have to sacrifice MY friends in the process?  Do I sacrifice the people I would choose to spend more time with if I could just find some child-free time?

How can I fit in now at 40, when I was terrible at fitting in as a child? As an adopted only-child with parents a full decade older than most of my friend's parents (1950s vs the dramatic change in social mores that was the 1960s), I was an awkward, socially incompetent and strange child on the best of days. Things aren't that much easier now. So, if you thought you were going to get to the bottom of this page and get some answers, I am afraid I am going to have to disappoint you. I don't have the secret ingredient to fitting in with the local Soccer Moms or the PTA.

Instead, I would like to point out that, if what I suspect is true, we are all struggling with this new phenomenon. I suspect that every Mom in the dance studio waiting room is secretly wondering how she is coming across to the other Moms and she worries if she has presented herself in a positive enough way that little Sally's mom would possibly consent to letting her come over for a tea party playdate next Saturday.

Let's find a way to give each other a little grace when it comes to interacting. Some people put their best face forward in other arenas besides the stilted small-talk during drop-off and pick up at school or on the sidelines of a sporting event in between plays.

And just because you wouldn't hit up Starbucks with your child's best friend's Mom, doesn't mean that their child isn't a worthwhile addition to your child's life. You don't have to be best friends with them, you just have return a phone call.

 Let your child have their friends, and get back to having your own. I know that is what I want to do. I want us all to let go of the control, just a little. I think we would all be so much happier for it.

Screen Time- 1:Outdoors- 0 (a.k.a. "I Just Want To Make Dinner")

So, this conversation happened yesterday evening:

Piper: Mom, can I please, please go ride my bike outside, I really want to practice getting better on it. I will just ride it up and down the street.
Me: Oh honey, I am not sure, I am leaving to pick up your sister from soccer practice in 10 minutes. Why don't you wait until Daddy gets home and see what he has going on.
Piper: But, Mom....I really want to go ride my bike. I will be fine, just let me go out by myself.
Me: I said no. Please wait. Your Dad will be home any minute.

[5 minutes later]

Piper: Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! I am so glad your home. I really want to go out front and ride my bike. Please, please, please.
Dad: Oh honey, I would love to, but I have to get this email sent and dinner made, and then we need to get dishes and laundry done since we aren't going to have time tomorrow between work, homework and piano lessons.
Piper: But, I can just go outside and ride. I will be fine. You don't have to sit and watch me.
Dad: But, I do. Back when your Mom and I were little we could go ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, but now if I let you go by yourself someone might call the cops. Kids just aren't allowed to be unsupervised outside anymore and I really don't have time to just sit out there and watch you right now. Are any of the other kids on the street outside?
Piper: [totally dejected] No. They hardly ever come out to play.
Dad: Well, probably for the same reason. Kids just aren't allowed outside anymore honey, I am so sorry. I'll tell you what, I will let you have some extra video game time to make it up to you.
Piper: Awesome! That works. Thanks Dad!

Me: So, you totally just heard what happened there, right?
Dad: Oh yeah. I heard it. I just told my 7 year old daughter I would prefer her to play video games inside instead of going outside for fresh air and exercise. But, was I wrong?
Me: No. The last thing we need is CPS showing up on our doorstep because some "good Samaritan" assumes we must be negligent parents because we let our kids out of our sight. It just makes me so angry. I hate that just actually came out of our mouths.
Dad: Well, maybe you should blog about it.

And so I shall.

We are failing our children. I have been talking about this for years; the frustration with our supervision obsession, our laser-focus on obtaining a zero percent mortality rate, our deep-seated need to control every single aspect of our children's lives so that their feelings are never hurt, they never experience unfairness, anger, difficulty etc. We are teaching our children to avoid risk and then lament the fact that America isn't really innovating anymore. We are building hot-house orchids in our country, not resilient risk-takers that are ready to tackle the future. This needs to end.

I hate myself for having the above conversation with my daughter. I hate that this is only one of the many times I have made that same video game compromise so the kids wouldn't be tempted to sneak outside while I made dinner. SNEAK outside. That statement is ridiculous. I hate that busy, time-crunched parents everywhere are choosing to lock their kids indoors in a misguided effort to protect them, but based on recent criminalization of childhood independence, I can hardly blame them. I too fear the "well-meaning reporter."

I wish my kids knew the joy of running around the neighborhood with the other kids like we did. During the school year we raced home to finish homework so that we could turn ourselves loose in the neighborhood. We didn't come home until the street lamps turned on. When I was a kid we played Ghost in the Graveyard all summer long in the dark until someone's Mom came to kick us all back home. When we were kids we trusted our neighbors and that they would watch out for us and even *gasp* correct us when we were wrong.

These days correcting another child is tantamount to a declaration of war. God forbid another adult approach little Maximillian on the playground and tell him that in fact, throwing gravel in other kids faces is generally considered uncool and it would be much appreciated if he would knock it the hell off. Doing that is almost guaranteed to bring a raging mother down on your unsuspecting head shouting about how people should mind their own business and she will parent her child however she sees fit without ignorant people interfering in her business (Um, I am pretty sure the rock in my child's eye is my business, but whatever).

And here is the thing. I know there is another way. When I was living in the UK, one of the things I took notice of was that young children were almost never poorly behaved in public. Part of that was the fact that the Brits appeared to subscribe to the belief that children are not in fact welcome anywhere that adults are. People with children definitely took them out in public significantly less than Americans do. But, more importantly, correcting children was considered a community responsibility. Shopkeepers and neighbors would think nothing of shouting at an unruly teen or a misbehaved child. Here, we would see that as rudeness, but they see it as their responsibility. Molding the character of future generations is everyone's responsibility.

It might not be a bad thing to go back to the days when the elderly neighbor would come out and yell at you for trampling her flowers or the store owner would ask a child to please stop screaming in his store. It shows the child that they are beholden to a whole community, not just their parents. Children need to learn that there are more authority figures they need to respect, not just family members. When someone corrects my child and I agree with them, I thank them. When they correct my child and I disagree with them, I stay silent and then I discuss it with my child later. I explain, in an age-appropriate way, why I imagine that person felt the way they did, and why I disagreed with them.

As a preschool teacher, I have seen children who clearly are taught that the only person's opinion they need to value is their parents'. These children are extremely challenging in the classroom because they have little to no respect for other adults. This is challenging at 3 or 4, but down right dangerous at 13 or 14. We need to embrace community responsibility for our kids, even when we don't always agree with it. We need to teach them to respect adults and other authority figures in their lives.

We need to start trusting our kids and their surrounding more and teach them to take risks. We can't just sit them in front of the television until they are 18 and then expect them to suddenly have the life skills to become successful adults. A parent who lets their child play unsupervised in the front yard while dinner is made should be celebrated, not denigrated. We need to stop prosecuting parents for letting their kids out of their sight even when they get hurt. When he was younger, The Husband broke his arm halfway into the two mile ride to school. At 13 he walked an entire mile home to get help. If that happened today, even to a 13 year old...the parents would be immediately forced to explain where they were and why they weren't supervising him.

I really want to let my child play outside, but I don't have the time to sit out there and micromanage and supervise every second of her outdoor experience. I don't want to repeat the above conversation with my child. But, unless things change, I know I will - and I hate it.