Monday, August 27, 2012

Changing Gears

The best laid plans sometimes need to be amended.  You plan on taking the bus, but you’re running behind, so you have to grab a cab.  You plan on paying cash for a large purchase, but you don’t have enough “change” to cover the sales tax, so you put it on your card.  You order the sushi special, but it’s sold out, so you settle for a California Roll.  No brainers, right?

Even though I pride myself on my ability to roll with the punches of most situations, the reality is that it’s really hard to change courses on the fly sometimes.  I do well through the decision-making part, as I’m a doer….when things need to get done, I do them.  But then I inevitability immediately mourn the change of plans afterwards.  It’s a vicious cycle that needs to stop.

The entire cab ride is spent silently lamenting the fact that I’m wasting money on a nausea-inducing cab ride all because I decided to flat-iron my hair at the last minute.  The second the debit card is swiped at Target, I kick myself for not grabbing the two extra $20’s that were sitting on the table, as now I’m going to have to make two more stops at home and the bank to even up the accounts.  I have buyer’s remorse the second the waiter leaves the table, as I ALWAYS order the California roll.  Can’t I possibly come up with something I’ve never tried before?

Over the years I’ve gotten better at hiding my agitation at last-minute changes.  I still complain in my head, but I try not to talk about it out loud.  I think if I don’t talk about my compulsive thoughts, they don’t really exist.  They do exist, though, and my face always is a dead giveaway.  The people who know me well can see the wheels turning every time I suddenly alter a plan.  The saving grace is that the pace of our lives is so swift that I don’t have time to linger on the duress because I’m forced to immediately move on to the next topic or decision that’s thrown my way.

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Changing Gears - Change Is Hard

Over the weekend, I asked my eldest daughter to take a run with me.  I was desperate for some exercise to clear my head and I knew her mood could use a reboot as well.  She unenthusiastically suited up in her pink running shirt and patterned shorts and moodily met me at the door.  Before we had a chance to lace up our shoes, her friend came to the door to get her bike that was left at our house the day before.  The friend was swimsuit-clad and ready to ride her bike to the neighboring block party we planned on attending later in the day.  Knowing my daughter’s spirit was more likely to be lifted from the waterslide than with our jog and balancing that against my selfish yearning for a few minutes to myself void of conflict with my nine-year-old, I changed gears.  The running clothing was donned for a swimsuit and the bikes were brought out of the garage to the front.  My daughter went on to the party with her friend and I grabbed my music for my solo exercise session.

Not two seconds after the front door shut, I started bullying myself over the change of plans:  my child needed the exercise and it would have set the tone for her day; I gave up the cherished one-on-one time with my child in exchange for some solitude; there’s no need to go to the block party this early in the morning; who’s going to watch her while I’m not there?

I took my grief on the road and headed to the kitchen, where my girlfriend took one look at me and without even asking what I was thinking, said, “Get over it and go on your run!”

I wanted so badly to review the negative implications of the modified schedule with her, but she shooed me out the door, where my anxiety melted away with the first pop lyric that screamed out of my ear buds:  I think I’ve finally had enough, I think I maybe think too much…my head is spinning so blow me one last kiss.  P!nk always says just the right think at the just the right time!

Here’s the gig:  with life coming at us so fast, our maps inevitably change at a moment’s notice.  We can plan and prepare and primp for what we think will happen in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but ultimately we never know exactly how things will pan out.  The only thing we can be certain of is that things will change.  If you can roll with change, you’re as prepared for life as you can be.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

They Listen All Right!

My eternal complaint with my kids is that they don’t listen to me.  At school, at other’s homes and in the presence of my family, my daughters mostly pay attention, follow instruction, and respond appropriately to requests.  It’s in my presence where they seem to turn their listening ears off.  I am forever badgering my girls to listen to me.

“Please listen to me and do as I ask,” I warn them on a regular basis, in response to an initial request of shutting the door, turning off the light, or bringing the noise level down a notch, being blown off.  While the even yet stern tone of my voice usually grabs their attention, it doesn’t always yield an immediate action.  Sometimes they’re having so much fun doing whatever they’re doing, that they feel it’s just not possible for them to pull away at that moment.

Today’s laundomat excursion followed that line of thinking.  The girls helped separate the clothes, pre-treat the stains, and load the washers.  They sat on a high folding table together, reading Highlights and playing Go Fish.  After spending their quarter rewards on bouncing balls from the toy dispenser, they got a little rambunctious playing hide and seek in the empty Laundromat.

To keep them from getting so wound up that someone gets injured, I asked them to help me with gathering up the clean clothes and getting them to the car.  They took turns filling the big portable carts with baskets of clothes and supplies and wheeling them to the car.  When my eldest came in to snatch the last basket of clothes to put in the cart, so she could do the final trip to the car, I asked her to instead collect the wet clothes that were hanging on the various carts to dry, and take them out to the car.  As I was folding the last of the clean dry clothes, she ran back in to ask me what to do again with the clothes. 

Sometimes I think she hears what I say, but doesn’t always process the words in her head, so I frequently ask her, like I did today, to think back to what I had asked, and then do what I asked, instead of me repeating the request.  She seemed to remember the task about the wet clothes, but still didn’t remember where to put them.

“Just anywhere is fine, honey,” I responded.  “It doesn’t matter.”

Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged - They Listen All Right! - Kids Hear Everything - laundry drying on car
When I came out to meet the girls in the parking lot, 5 items of hang-dry-only clothing were draping the outside of the car, drying casually in the sun.  I started to ask what in the Sam Hill is going on but then caught myself as I remembered my own words. 

My daughter was so proud of herself for coming up with the idea of finding a place for the wet clothes where they would also get dry, that I swallowed my laughter, and praised her for the creativity in her solution. 

Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged - They Listen All Right! - Kids Hear Everything - laundry drying on car mirror

Never mind that the clean wet clothes were draped over the filthy, dirty car that had just transported us over 2000 miles in the past ten days.  Forget the idea that as recently as last night, the girls were squealing with fear over the hundreds of bugs that were covering the roof and hood of the car after parking in a knat-infested lakefront motel parking lot.  The point is that my girls DO in fact listen to me.  They also do what I freakin’ ask!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Life is a Highway

For the past six weeks, I’ve been absent from my life.  I’ve let the laundry go without washing, allowed the dust to accumulate, and let the dishes stack up.  I haven’t had time to wash the sand out of the kids’ swimsuits or mend the hole in my bra that gives the underwire permission to poke me each day.  I haven’t paid the bills, balanced the checkbook, or planned our road-trip vacation that starts tomorrow.  But worst of all, I’ve plain out ignored my children.  I’ve been here with them, but not so much in a parental role, but in more of a peaceful co-existence.  

Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged - Life is a Highway - Keep the car on the road

My attentive parent hat was replaced with the all-consumed home buyer dunce cap.  Somebody had to take the job, as we need a place to live.  Half of my carefree summer has been eaten up by my full-time house-hunting gig.  Our building owner decided out of the blue to sell the two-flat we live in, and while the sale itself wasn’t a big surprise, the timing of having to move within 60 is stressful, to say the least.

Leisurely walks around the neighborhood pointing out different types of birds and flowers have been substituted with brisk speedwalking down each and every street in the neighborhood, hunting FOR RENT and FOR SALE signs.  Relaxing trips to the beach have been interrupted with quick exits to get to a showing with the real estate agent.  Movie nights with popcorn and M&M’s still happen, but without my presence, as I’m busy negotiating out the terms of the proposed sales contract for our new home.  And finally, early evening bike rides to the DQ have been usurped with harried phone calls to building owners regarding their potential interest to sell their building, when the house deal finally fell through. 

It’s been a necessary step in our journey this summer and I’m guessing I could feel discouraged that we’re back to square one with no apartment to rent and no home to buy.  Ironically, I feel relieved, though.

 I looked at my kids today and listened, for the first time in weeks, to what they were saying.  I hugged them and kissed them, and let them linger in my lap without pushing them away so that I could address a parapet wall repair estimate.  I ate breakfast alongside them without excusing myself before my last bite.  I ran behind them as they rode their bikes as fast as they could, and didn’t even stop to talk to the seller of the building we had been trying to buy, as we ran past her down the block.  I wasn’t even mad at the woman for reneging on the deal that would now take us back to the drawing board in regards to finding a place to live.  She gave me my life back.  

I say to my kids often that it doesn’t matter if we live in a straw hut, so long as we’re all together.  I should amend that last phrase to be ‘so long as we’re all together and present.’  I can’t even begin to justify letting six weeks float by without really having any idea what’s been going on in my kids’ heads.   Throwing caution to the wind by leaving our housing situation up in the air to deal with when we get back, I'm going to follow the "Life is Highway, I'm gonna ride it all night long" chorus and just focus on my family and our fun for the next ten days.  The daily stresses of life will still be there when we get home, but my kids' being receptive to my attention will be gone before I know it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Stacy Snyder - parentunplugged - Monkey See, Monkey Do - kids mimic what we do
My 8-year-old daughter injured her foot in a head-on-collision with the pavement a few days ago.  Even though the scabs have mostly healed and her pride has since recovered, she thinks it necessary to walk with a limp, to remind us of her unfortunate mishap.  She only does the limp when she’s bored, is in no rush to get anywhere, or when she has a captive audience.  Today was the latter.  With my mother and my best friend in town staying with us, my daughter really played up the gimpy routine.  As we all watched her shuffle down the hall to her room, taking one regular step with her good leg and then dragging the bad leg behind her, we were amused to see my 3-year-old daughter following her lead and limping with the same foot.  We stifled our giggles so as not to promote it, and returned to our conversation.

A few hours later, I walked into the living room and asked my older daughter to close her eyes in an attempt to hide the red velvet batter for her birthday cake that I was carrying in my bowl, and open her mouth for taste.  I gave her a bite and turned to offer my littlest girl a sample as well.  I found her sitting on the other end of the couch with her eyes closed and her mouth wide open waiting for a bite herself.  Monkey See, Monkey Do.

The imitating and copying our kids do can be adorable, endearing and encouraging, as it means they’re picking things up without having to be actually taught how to do something.  The mimicking they do can also be a reality check for your own behavior.  When your 5th grader drops the F-Bomb in your presence and your kindergartener smokes an imaginary cigarette with her imaginary tea, you realize as a parent, ‘you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.’

We’re going to pass bad habits down to our kids.  There’s really no way around it.  I challenge you, though, to take two minutes and think about the things you do and say to, and around, your children.  Model the future by imagining how it feels to you when your child duplicates that action, those words, or that belief on his own.  Will you be proud of him?  If the answer is no, get rid of it when you’re around your kids, at the minimum.

Imagine what it would feel like to take it out of rotation all together.  Would it be the end of the world?  If you can fathom existing, maybe even happily, without that behavior, belief, or language, just go for the gold and drop kick it out of your life. 

If you can’t envision your life without the drunk driving, name calling, heckling, obsessive cleaning, ambulance chasing, or whatever idiosyncrasies you own, then hold on to it; to each his own.  Just be prepared for your little monkeys to do what they see.