Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lose the Attitude

Lose the Attitude - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged - Smiley Faces
Yah, yah, it’s the holiday season and everyone is crazy busy planning holiday parties, gifts, greetings, and travel, while bells are ringing everywhere you go and the weather is cold, grey, and miserable.  This does not mean you’ve got a free pass to wear an attitude throughout your day because you are so busy and overwhelmed.  If fact, this is the best time of the year to lose the ‘tude, as people really need a break from your snarky comments and your perfunctory ‘I don’t have time to even look your way right now’ glare as you hustle past them in your car or in your heels, or God forbid, Uggs.  Think this could apply to you?  Then keep reading.  Think of it this way…if you lose the attitude for just one day, or even just one hour, in the name of making someone’s day better, you might end up just making your own day better.  It may be a pipe dream, but there’s always wishing that you may just make enough of a difference that you change the way you live altogether.  Cart.  Horse.  Baby steps.

Today my world was slightly tinted by a small change I made in my own presentation to society at large, quite by accident, I must admit.  It started innocently enough with the normal daily flurry of activity….early-morning lunches, lessons, breakfast, drop-off, exercise and shower.  But then I took my 5-year-old with me on an errand to my new favorite store, Hot Mama, in Evanston. 

The clothing store and its employees have changed my view on shopping over the past few months.  Not a shopper by nature, and further more not a clothes shopper at all, as it’s been difficult my entire life, to find clothes that fit me well, due to my height (or lack thereof) and fluctuating weight, I was referred to the store by a friend after telling her how hard it is to find clothes.  I had taken her advice and visited the store last month, where my wardrobe and attitude toward life was given an overhaul by the competent, but not pushy sales staff.  The “I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say something looks good on you if it doesn’t, but I will get you flawlessly clothed and feeling like Pretty Woman” attitude of the first salesperson I encountered converted me instantly.  I walked out $700 lighter in the pocket, but feeling like I had won the lottery, as the Hot Mamas not only routed me toward clothes that actually fit my own body, but also taught me what to look for in garments that would fit me well and serve as staples in my wardrobe.  I’ve felt like a million bucks ever since. 

Unfortunately, I had discovered a small hole in one of the shirts I had purchased last month, so I went in to try and get a new shirt.  I’d already worn the shirt with the imperfection, and had found, when I took it off, in addition to the hole, a series of grease stains on the front of the shirt, probably from the once-a-year purchase of real bacon, that I had fried up earlier that morning.  I was worried about returning the shirt as it was stained, but I also knew I had paid a pretty penny for a shirt with a hole in the fabric.  I was not looking forward to the exchange.  The salesperson at Hot Mama apologized for the inconvenience, unsuccessfully looked for a replacement shirt off the rack, and then arranged for a new one to be delivered to my home from another store, all with a big smile while interacting with my preschooler.  End of story.  Pleased that my issue was handled so efficiently and kindly, I left the store in a great mood, ready to tackle the 12 other things on my list that needed to get done in the next 3 hours, fully knowing there was only time for 8 of them. 

The next three tasks seemed to “fall off the bone,” if you will, and I was well on my way to accomplishing my errands.  The next stop involved street parking in Lincoln Park around lunchtime, where I came upon a gem of a space right in front of the building I needed to visit.  As I got out of the car, I noticed a delivery truck with its hazards on parked right in front of me with less than two feet of space between his back overhead door and the front of my car.  Before I had a chance to consider the implications of me parking so close behind the truck, the driver ran out from inside a nearby storefront, which was to receive a large delivery from the truck.  The delivery driver pointed out that he wouldn’t be able to put the ramp down from the back of the truck, and therefore wouldn’t be able to unload his goods, and asked me to move my car.  Glancing at the Pay to Park sign above my car, I quickly tried to figure out a solution to the dilemma of both of us needing the parking space I was currently and legally occupying.  I was within 2 minutes of being late to my appointment and knew I would never find another parking space close-by, if at all.  I also knew me staying put would cause the driver undue problems with both his delivery and his day.  After conversing back and forth for a few minutes with the driver, each of us making suggestions that the other party take action, he finally spotted a parking spot across the street that had just been vacated.   We locked eyes, as if to say, “Let’s do this thing!”  Without a word, he walked into the street, held 2 directions of traffic up, and directed me into a u-turn right into the parking space.  I got out of the car and screamed a high-five to him and praised him for being a rain-maker.  I ran into my appointment just in the nick of time with a smile on my face.

After my appointment, I walked down to my favorite bagel shop for a coveted everything bagel-thin sandwich for the road.  I don’t usually dine out and hardly ever eat bagels, so I was pumped for the treat, but disappointed to find that there were none left in the display case. 

“There’s more in the oven,” the cashier answered in response to my heartbroken gaze into the case where the everything bagels usually sit.  “They’ll be out in 3 minutes.”

To be honest, any other time, I would, without a doubt, proclaim in that same situation that I didn’t have time to wait, and rush out of the store in a sprint to get back to my meter that was due to expire any minute.  Today, though, the good vibes being sent to me all day allowed me to sit tight for a minute and chill. The bagel was taken out of the oven and deemed too hot by the cashier to load the fixins of a sandwich onto, which might have crushed me to the core on another day, as I like it just so. 

“No worries,” I heard myself say, “I’ll just take the hot bagel.”


"I gave you a discount for the wait,” she whispered to me before ringing up my purchase.

Thank you Einstein’s

I sauntered to my car with 5-minutes to spare on the meter, and headed home to dress the bagel into what I now am considering ‘the best bagel sandwich ever made.’  And all of that was just this morning.  Imagine what I’ve got to look forward to tonight!

When I woke up this morning with a slight bit of trepidation toward the ridiculous amount of junk I had scheduled into my day, I truly didn’t expect such a smooth go of it.  In fact, my experience has led me to somewhat expect, in true Debi-Downer form, that the more I have to do, the more people and places I have to touch, allowing more opportunities for clogs in my day.  But sitting here nine hours later, having floated through my day without effort, drama, or stress, or a negative interaction with anyone, I have to wonder, could I do this every day?  Is it so unlikely to expect that things could actually go my way on a regular basis?

Of course that unrealistic to expect!  But it is NOT out of the realm of possibility to anticipate that I can respond to little wrinkles and bigger issues that I encounter with more positivity and patience and less haste and attitude, thereby setting the bar for the response I’d like to get from all other people I encounter each day. 

So next time Mariah Carey is belting out that annoyingly catchy “All I Want for Christmas” from the reception area in the dentist’s office for the 2nd time in your one-hour wait for your root canal, don’t clench your jaw and promise yourself you will have someone’s job if you’re not called back into the chair within 60 seconds. 

Instead, take a deep breath and sing along or tap your foot along to the music, and look the hygienist in eye when she finally calls you back, and give her the warmest smile you’ve got in your bag o’ tricks and say, “Thank you for fitting me in.  Have a great day!”

By exhaling some positive energy, you can break the attitude you’ve been carrying around and set the stage for the type of energy you’d like to receive back in your day. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In the Wrong

In the Wrong - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged
Mistakes happen.  We’re human.  We screw up.  We say things we shouldn’t, we renege on promises, and we take action without fully considering the ramifications.  Sometimes we hurt ourselves and sometimes we hurt others. It’s a part of life that hits each and every one of us because we’re simply not perfect.  

When you make a mess, though, there is a fool-proof way to clean it up. I won’t say it’s easy, because it’s not, but it is usually effective.  Follow this four-step process and you’ll be better for the wear.

1.    Acknowledge your wrongdoing.

Don’t candy coat it.  Don’t make excuses for yourself.  Simply admit to yourself that you’ve made a bad judgment call.    You did something wrong.  If you can’t be honest with yourself and admit your fault on this first step, then you better have a good ‘ol 'Come to Jesus' talk with yourself and get your house in order, especially in regards to the old school right and wrong.  Just because you screwed up, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  You're simply a person that made a bad choice.

2.    Apologize.

If you hurt someone or something in the process of your mistake, own your error and personally apologize.  Be clear and concise, i.e. “I did ______ and it resulted in  _______ and I’m sorry.”  Don’t use the word ‘but’ in your apology, as it lessens the impact, or can negate the apology altogether, such as “I’m so sorry I interrupted your performance by leaving in the middle of your number, but I was running late.”  Don’t be a pansy about the apology either, as it will come across as not an apology at all, i.e. “I’m sorry you feel like I was a selfish.”  Instead, own your shit and say, “I’m sorry I was an insensitive partner/friend/daughter/husband.”  A true apology includes both an admission of guilt, as well as an asking for forgiveness, so end your confession with a sincere request for absolution, such as, “Will you forgive me?”  This part is key as it opens the door of communication and lets the person know he has a choice in how he decides to proceed.  It also leaves you in a vulnerable state, which can actually be helpful in curbing the urge to make that same mistake in the future.

3.    Fix It.

Whether the apology is accepted or not, if there’s a wrong that can be righted by an action you take, by all means do it.  You left the store without paying for the frozen turkey in the bottom of your cart….go back in and pay for it!  You spoke too soon on telling your child she can have a dog before completely  researching the option….do the research and give your child the educated answer she deserved the first time.  You made the same mistake of gossiping about someone for the umpteenth time...examine the real problem of why this makes you feel good about talking about other people and fix the root condition.  This is just doing the right thing.  Follow your conscience and your heart and do what feels right.  It’s 50/50 whether the fixing will truly benefit the wronged, but it’s 100% proven that the fixing step will help fix your soul and force you to think in terms of what I like to call “clean living,” which means doing your best to do the right thing all the time, so you have no regrets.  The mistakes are inevitable  The effort to mend the tear in the fabric is a true choice of character.

4.    Move On.

Once you’ve taken responsibility for your actions, forge ahead.  No need to dwell on negativity or beat yourself up over your imprudence.  If you’ve done all you can do, forge ahead and let it go.  If someone can’t forgive your mistake, you have to accept that.  If someone has agreed to accept your apology, this means in theory that they’re going to move on and move forward.  You must do the same or you risk eating yourself alive or deconstructing the relationship with your guilt.  Conversely, if the party accepting or inactively receiving your apology is unable to find peace with the resolution, you have to move on from that person as well to keep your own sanity.

Screwing up stinks.  You feel bad about yourself and your choices, and oftentimes feel upset for the grief you’ve caused others.  Even the most conscientious of people occasionally practices injudiciousness.  Don’t let it define you.  Rise above it and deal with your transgressions head-on by acknowledging, apologizing, fixing, and moving on.  It will help you be a better you and help those you’ve hurt along the way, to properly heal.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thanks to the Teachers of the World

World Teacher's Day - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder
In recognition of World Teacher’s Day, my dear friend Margaret posted a lovely tribute on Facebook this morning to the many teachers that have inspired her over the years.  She acknowledged teachers we both loved, some I had forgotten about, and others that we did not share in instruction.  She highlighted a few of the nuggets of knowledge she picked up from each.  It comes as no surprise to me that the things she remembers and learned most of each teacher were not necessarily subject material from the class.  A math teacher showing her how to draw a Snoopy out of the number 25 and an English teacher imparting compassion and life lessons:  the things that matter.


Repost of Margaret's FB Tribute to Teachers:

"Oct. 5th is World Teacher Day according to Pinterest. So I would like to thank a few teachers that have inspired me along the way. Mrs.Henzi thanks for helping me start loving art by having that coloring contest, Nancy O'Neal Lawrence for making my 3rd grade year so memorable, Miss Emke who taught me to draw snoopy out of the number 25 and made math fun, Miss Abrams who taught me more about life and compassion (miss you Abby Baby) and Becky Booher Kilgore who left me with an A to have her son who later became my student, but I am glad to call her my friend, Professor Parish who took me over seas just through his wonderful teaching of Art History. For Louie Laskowski and Jana Hankins and Donna Ward for being my Mentors and helping me realize that teaching art does have its rewards and for Dave Reynolds and Heather Givans for keeping me inspired during those years at Fulton. I thank all my teachers and teacher friends!"

Teachers have always played a substantial role in my life.  Some register on my radar because of their kindness, the way they disciplined me, the way they inspired me, the wisdom they passed down to me, and the examples they set of the type of person I could be if I wanted to.  Others stood out because they taught me what to expect from the world, how to get ahead of the pack, why to respect my parents, my elders, my everyone, and most importantly, how to practice self-reliance.  Additionally, a very small proportion of my teachers serve as a reminder to me of how NOT to be.  There’s not a single one in the lot that didn’t impress at least one, if not many, very important lessons upon me.

In reminiscing about all of my teachers over the years, the impact they had on me, and the many long-term relationships that were formed with them after classes were over, I began to wonder why I had never acknowledged World Teacher’s Day.  My friend’s FB teacher homage referenced Pinterest as her source of knowledge on the day that was created to highlight world teacher appreciation, assessment, and improvement.  Some quick research on my end showed that UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, has been celebrating this teacher recognition day on October 5th for close to 20 years now.  I have never heard of it or UNESCO.  But that comes as no surprise to me, as I had to also google “Is the United States a member of the United Nations” (sorry Mr. Trager, while you impressed a lot on me, history was not one of them).

Bottom line is that today is a day to be thankful for teachers.  Today is a day to reflect and maybe call upon those teachers that have impacted, molded, and maybe even pissed you off.  Today is a day to remember that your children will grow into their intended being, influenced party by their teachers.  Today is a day to start fresh in your viewpoint and approach toward your kids’ teachers. 

While you may think Mr. Such and Such doesn’t handle discipline well or Mrs. So and So is unorganized, our kids simply remember that Mr. Such and Such loved nature and taught them to be cognizant of our human impact on our environment and that Mrs. So and So tutored them when to draw the fine line of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em” and count your losses and move on from an issue.  Reading, writing, and arithmetic….all important.  Demonstrating who you want to be and how you want to act and live your life are much more important, and that’s what these kids pick up from their teachers.  We want them to experience all takes on the world, not just the one we hold as parents.  

I don’t remember who taught me that pi is 3.14159 or which teacher broke through my block of improper Spanish verb conjugation, but I do remember who sent me to the principal’s office for being disrespectful, which instructor noticed I liked to sing, and the name of the teacher who called me out for stealing another kid’s snack.  Those teachers taught me humility, a lifetime love of music, and that lying is not part of my value system. Those teachers helped raise me into the human I am proud to be today. 

My childhood friend, who so eloquently honored the teachers in her life, moved on to be a teacher herself.  She has not spent the majority of her life formally teaching art class, but she’s spent her life’s entirety teaching other people, her kids, and her students how to be good people through example.  I know one day she will receive the formal appreciation from her art students that she is now giving to her life-long history of school teachers, but for today, I am her pupil and will express thanks for the impressive reminder of the importance of teachers.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

Margaret - Nine to Five - Atta Girl - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Doing The Right Thing
Keep it simple is my motto in theory.  Over think, over analyze, over do is my practice.  Since my actions don't always resonate with my words, I spend a lot of time reeling myself in.

I have a simple strategy when it comes to my kids' spending:  odds are you don't need it, so don't buy it. Anything they NEED is produced for them by their adoring parents.  Little surprises, treats, and "just because" purchases are few and far between, but they do exist.

My girls are ten and four, and up to this moment, we haven't had too many issues born out of following this edict, even though many of their peers' exist in different spending societies. They don't ask for much and when they do, they're usually not upset at a "no" or "you can save up for that" response. Enter the Family Economy.

I read this great book called The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership, as recommended by a fellow parent, friend, and preschool owner. The title got me at the word Entitlement, as those 11 letters call me out from wherever I am and whatever I'm doing and demand that I take a step up to my Soapbox.

Just reading or hearing the word Entitle, which is defined by Webster’s as “to furnish with a right,” makes my heart race and initiates my fight or flight response, as I am dead-set against joining today's society of “me”-based parents that are fostering a crop of mini-“me”-based kids.  Those entitled children will grow into our next generation of entitled adults.  I can’t bear the thought!

The book was simply preaching to the choir with me but I borrowed its idea of a monetary system to use early-on with kids to help them grasp the concept of both personal responsibility and Finance 101, called The Family Economy. While author Richard Eyre targeted 8 years old as the perfect time to start such a lesson, he wrote that younger kids could benefit as well.

My 10-year-old picked right up on it:  you meet your weekly responsibilities and you earn the pre-arranged amount of money, based on the percentage of tasks completed.  The money is then hers to budget as she chooses, after she sets aside her portion for college savings and charity.   The 4-year-old is still working on the basics of remembering to meet her daily responsibilities, such as combing her hair and making her bed, so the money is not accumulating as quickly. She knows she has some money, though, and she's morphed into the worst version of a toddler shopaholic that you can think of.

Picture this:  Target shoe aisle, 5 pair of sparkly flats fanned out in disarray on the floor around my daughter as she furiously tries on the 6th pair, and she's screeching, "I want these.  No, I really want these!  Oh, Mom, this pair is the one I want!"  It's the $19.99 pair of size 12 Hello Kitty glitter ballet flats, not to be confused with the $1.99 pair of flip flops that originally caught my eye and landed us in the shoe department in the first place.

"They are pretty," I say softly, "but it doesn't make sense to spend that much money on something that won't fit by next season since there's only a few weeks left of warm weather to wear them."

"But I have money," she whined. "I can buy them."

"You didn't bring your money so we don't know how much you have to spend," I coaxed.

"I've got enough," she said defiantly. "I want them."

"But since the money's not here, we won't be able to leave the store with the shoes because we can't pay for them," I reminded her.

Back and forth we went for a good five minutes.  At some point as I stood there debating this ridiculous purchase with my 4-year-old, I realized there was no need to continue.

While my 10-year old can benefit from making an impractical purchase with her earned money and then having to experience not having enough money or having to bargain-shop for the things she needs more, the lesson doesn't translate yet to the little one. Regardless of her having her own money, she is still a tiny child that doesn't fully understand money,  I am still her parent that makes, and sometimes helps her make, good decisions, based on the values and principles we hold near and dear.

No shoes.  No need.

As I pushed the cart away from the show section, I lamented over the fact that just finding one of the Fiat-sized kiddie carts amongst the hundreds of regular-sized Target carts used to be enough excitement to keep my daughter occupied throughout an entire shopping excursion.  I also considered how close I had come to giving in to the $20 shoes, just to shut down the whining and because I felt bad for her always getting hand-me-down shoes from her older sister.

Don't buy into this, I have to remind myself from time to time. Don't get swayed by my kids' complaints, society's norms in regards to money, or my own inner conflict with money's importance.  Do what you know is best.  Period.  Another day, another kid, another parent....fine.  Today is about me and my kid and our life lessons, whether we want to experience them or not.

9 to 5 - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Doing the Right ThingAfter some grumbles, sighs, and stomping, my 4-going-on-8-year-old begrudgingly climbed back into the wide-load cart and asked excitedly, "Mom, can we ride on the elevator?   PLEASE!"

“Atta girl!” I silently congratulated my daughter, and maybe myself, while channeling Margaret from my favorite movie, 9 to 5, when she salutes Violet, Doralee and Judy for leaving work early.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Taking the Bullet

Taking the Bullet - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder - girls scootering
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Taking the Bullet

My kids amaze me every day. From the funny little things they say to the habits they develop that have no origin from their parents, they continuously expose tidbits of themselves to me that serve as indicators of the persons they are growing into. Sometimes they bare all and show me and the world who they are already.

Our annual family road trip took us south to Atlanta this summer where we visited family. We had brought the girls' scooters to break the monotony between long hours sitting sedentary in the car and as a mode of transportation once we hit each destination.

On a trip to the pool located 2 steep blocks away, the adults walked and the kids rode their scooters, bubbling with excitement about both swimming with their their Uncle Tom and the return ride home, which involved a huge hill for them to soar down on their two wheels, which they had each rode the day before.

After enjoying hours of swim races and hand-stand competitions in the late-afternoon sun, my 9-year-old lead the way down the sharp decline of a street that pointed her toward home. Uncle Tom, demonstrating practicality after witnessing the fast speeds of the previous day's downhill scootering, ran to the bottom of the hill to await her descent. With the wind whipping through her hair, she made it to the bottom unscathed.

As my 4-year-old considered the trek down the hill, a wave of doubt hit her, causing fear. We told her she didn't have to zip straight down the hill, but could take it slow using her brake or could walk with us. A daredevil at heart, she chose speed over caution and timidly pushed off.

Two-thirds of the way down the hill, she lost her flip flop, her wearing them while scootering serving as a dazzling example in itself of why I am Mother of the Year, and it scared her. Not thinking about the brake, as she more often used the bottom of her shoe to slow herself down, she put the shoeless foot down to the pavement to slow her roll. I'm guessing the pain of scraping her bare foot on the ground while cruising at an ungodly speed, freaked her out further and she started to lose her balance and swerved madly side to side.

Viewing all this from way behind, it didn't look too dire of a situation, but the view was clearly different from the base of the hill, where my older daughter stepped into the line of fire with purpose and planted herself directly in the path of my screaming little daughter and her runaway scooter. I imagined her chanting "He ain't heavy, he's my brother" as she stood her ground toward the oncoming collision.

Whether it be instinct, reflex, or intention, my younger daughter laid herself down a foot before she crashed head-on into my older daughter, skidding numerous sections of once-healthy skin on raw pavement. The scooter itself kept going and nailed my eldest in the leg with intense force, causing a huge red egg to grow on her shin. Both girls were shocked into a brief silence before the horror screams made their way out of their mouths and eventually wafted up the hill of which I was now running down.

What initially seemed like a bloodbath of mangled limbs and hot asphalt to Uncle Tom, who made it first to the scene to scoop her up and carry her like a limp rag doll across both of his outstretched arms while running to the house, ultimately amounted to a half dozen cases of road rash on knees, elbows, arms, legs, and feet.

While the wounds each girl sustained from the crash were superficial, the 'I'll take a bullet for you' devotion they have for one another is a quality that has been etched into the core of their beings since the birth of my youngest daughter. I've always been aware of it, but to see it played out so viscerally, is awe-inducing.

When I finally reached by older daughter, sobbing alone, at the bottom of the hill, I slowed down long enough to ask her if she was okay.

"My leg's hurt but please go check on my little sister. I tried to stop her but she's hurt!"

When I caught up with Uncle Tom and my littlest bambino, who was shrieking as if she'd been stabbed repeatedly, I was able to divert her attention from the blood long enough for her to ask, "Where's Sissy?"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Doing Something Well

Doing Something Well - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder - Kids and Housecleaning
Teaching your kids to do something well is hard.  We can all teach any kid an intro to _____ball, the basics to good manners, and the cliff notes to the birds and the bees.  But really diving in and fully explaining, demonstrating, practicing, checking, correcting, and practicing some more is a beat down…for the parent and the child alike.  It’s worth the investment, though, as learning to do something really well, outside of sports, academics, and the arts, seems to be a dying art for kids these days.  Investing time to instruct my children how to do things really well not only helps teach my kids to take ownership of their work, but it also helps them separate themselves from the herd by mastering what used to be called basic human necessity:  taking care of yourself, earning a living, keeping house, and managing money.

All or nothing is my motto, so teaching moments with my kids are pretty intense.  It’s hard for them and hard for me.  Today was housecleaning.  They’ve been involved for years with picking up after themselves, clearing dishes, and doing housework chores here and there.  But today, we stepped it up a notch.  With a new Family Economy in place where the girls are responsible for earning their own money for their wants and needs, such as clothes, entertainment, toys, events, etc. by completing their daily personal and household tasks, my kids have an opportunity to earn bonus money for the chores typically deemed a pain in the you-know-what, which are typically performed by you-know-who.

My eldest was looking to make up for some missed earning opportunities during her week, so she offered to help me with the housecleaning.  Sound like a win-win, right?  I get help with the dreaded cleaning and she earns some extra cash.  Not so fast.  Sure, she’d dusted some furniture before, moved  a mop over the kitchen floors, and even introduced herself to a toilet brush a few weeks back .  But to complete a cleaning task to the level that doesn’t require a re-touch or re-do from another person, a.k.a. me, requires a strategy.  Strategies take thought and experience and planning, all which require time, and in some cases, input from others.

The sweeping of the basement went off without a hitch.  Location of vacuum?  Check.  Rooms to sweep?  Check.  Attachments to use?  Check.  She vacuumed the whole basement in under 20 minutes before carefully drawing up the cord of the machine and putting it away.  She forgot the downstairs bathroom, so she used her noggin and grabbed the portable, battery-opertated vacuum from upstairs to do that small area instead of hauling out the heavy, old-school vacuum that needed to be unspooled and plugged in.

Next came the feat of cleaning the basement half bathroom.  Rarely used, it is an easy room to keep tidy.  But to a 9-year-old, it still seemed daunting.  Together we went through the steps of cleaning….mirror first, then sink, then tank of commode, with toilet bowl last.  I explained the reason for the order (so you could use the same cleaning rag for all surfaces) and which product to use that would accommodate all surfaces.  She did a great job….both efficient and clean.

The final chore was the upstairs full bathroom.  She knew it was a big job, but wanted the big payoff ($3).  Using the same concept as the basement bathroom, we incorporated the tub, the tile floors, and the free-standing cabinet into the cleaning equation.  She asked me for help with how to get the dirt off, where to stand to reach the mirror, and what to take off of the sink, cabinet, and tub, before cleaning it.  All in all, it took her almost an hour and a half to clean that room alone.  It was sparkling.  She was proud of herself and happy to earn her bonus chore money. 

Six hours into a four-hour housecleaning job, I was exhausted and my temper was short, as not only was I trying to clean one floor of the house in its entirety, but also trying to instruct my 4-year-old how to clean windows and mirrors to the point of no smudges, while simultaneously helping my older daughter  navigate the bathrooms.  It was an important day for all of us.  Each of my kids learned how to do a common task well.  I didn’t pay for a piano instructor to teach them to play notes or rely on a professional teacher to help them learn to read.  I taught them myself how to do something elementary -  clean well -  and they learned.  They taught me to do something elementary - be patient and give them the time they needed from me - blow the schedule and the tasks and just live in the moment for once.  We took a break to practice shoe-tying when my 4-year-old needed a break.  We worked together as a team.  We all got frustrated at times, but we forged ahead and finished our work so we could relax and play later.  

If you’d ask my kids tomorrow if they’d rather take a turn on the tire swing or clean the house again and earn extra money, the tire swing will win out every time.  But in talking about the experience afterwards, they both reminded me that we had fun too.  We listened to loud music and danced while we cleaned and felt proud when we accomplished our goals.  We really felt like we deserved our bike ride in the late afternoon.

I could go on and on about parenting today and the lack of expectation we hold for our children when it comes to contributing to the household or even contributing to their own well-being, but to be honest, I’m more concerned with my own kids learning how to learn, and even more importantly, instilling in themselves the desire to do for themselves, than I am for society at large.  My daughter knows how to keep her own house clean, and if need or want be, how to make a living by keeping other people’s houses clean.  I’m a proud mama.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blame It On Texas

It's so hard to be a good parent. Sometimes I just want to be a not so good parent. It's a daily struggle to make sacrifices to do the right thing by your kids. And sometimes I wonder if I'm overdoing it and trying too hard to be a good parent.

Today I’m not overdoing it.  My nine-year-old doesn't need to be sitting on the couch at home from school today. She could have gone to school, but she would need to have breathing treatments every so often.  She's home because I don't want to walk over to the school every four hours and give her a breathing treatment and I don’t trust the school nurse to dose it out to her.  I’m being lazy.  I want some time to myself.  It’s been weeks and weeks of sickness and out-of-town visitors and obligations and requirements.  I just want a minute to myself.  So when I called the asthma doctor to get an appointment for her today and was told to be prepared to wait for a while when there, I lost it.

Sometimes it all just piles up and I feel like I'm going to suffocate. I feel trapped in my own life.  I don’t want to spend my day dropping kids off, picking them up, and waiting for an opening at the doctor’s office.  I want to be in the yard with my fun flighty friend pulling weeds and having no worry larger than ‘Should I move the Hostas to the other side of the yard or leave them where they are?’  I want to be completely selfish.  I don’t want any responsibility today. 

I usually end up doing the right thing as a parent but I always wonder if I will. Today I told my partner that I’m at the end of my rope.  I don’t feel capable of doing it anymore. She already knew and she was there to back me up with a solution.  She’ll take the sick kid to the doctor and I can be selfish and stay home for a few hours of sunshine and dirt in the back yard.  I’m lucky.  I know I’m lucky. 

For now, though, as I watch my four-year-old struggle with her interactions with her nine-year-old sister, I subconsciously wonder why she’s being so snippy and rude.  A sweet, considerate girl otherwise, she is prone to sassiness from time to time.  But today, sassiness doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m hearing. 

“Quit talking,” she says as she cuts off her older sister.  “I don’t want to hear you anymore.”

“You’re not being nice.  I’m never going to play with you again,” she threatens when she doesn’t get her way.

Seriously?  They’re already both sitting in the Work It Out Chair, which means they’re trying to work through a disagreement that has been tagged by me, but I am unable to intervene. They’re supposed to stay in the chair, sitting side by side, until they can each admit their wrongdoing to one another, apologize to each other, and give each other a hug.  It starts out great every time with the apology.  But instead of acceptance moving on to the hug, the acceptance keeps getting followed with a BUT.  The BUT negates the apology and acceptance.  Then it’s back to fighting again about the BUT.  It’s exhausting even to hear.

“Blah, blah, blah…..,” singsongs the 4-year-old to the 9-year-old.  “I don’t want to listen to you anymore,” she says with her hand in the air as a blockade in front of her sister’s face.

Intervene I must.  No longer a productive ‘work it out’ session, I’m now witnessing a diminishing level of respect coming from a toddler.

“To your room,” I order.  “Time out.”

She cries, she sobs, and she wants attention.  After a few minutes, I enter the room to find her crumpled in the corner of her room, crocodile tears running down her face.

You’d think I’d ask her why she’s crying or what she’s thinking about.  Not me, though.  I force her to climb on my lap and listen to my words and ask her if she understands.  I honestly don’t give a shilling what she’s crying about or what she’s thinking.  I just want her to lose the attitude.

“Who did you learn this disrespectful language from?” I ask incredulously.

“I don’t know,” is her reply.

“Was it so-and-so or whatchamacallit?”


“Did you see it on TV?” I inquire.

“I don’t think so,” she says uncertainly.

We talk about respect and treating people the way you want to be treated and asking forgiveness and truly meaning it…the whole ball of wax.  She takes her ridlin of punishment and I release her from the time out to again join her sister in the Work It Out Chair to tie up loose.  From the sounds of it, it’s going to be a long day.

Incredibly, they work out their differences and return to the board game they had started earlier.  A few minutes into it I see the 4-year-old take her hand and sweep it across the board in anger, knocking all of the game pieces off the board.  She’s had it with her sister and the game.  I’ve had it with both of them. 

“To your room,” I ordered again, giving the tot Miss Allen Eye.  Miss Allen was my elementary school principal.  Super kind and supportive woman and great principal, but when you pushed her buttons, she tilted that head to the side, squinted up the right eye, and glared at you so hard with the left, that the intensity damn well may have burned a hole in you.  The rumor among school kids was that it was a glass eye that allowed for the laser-like glare.  Real or artificial, my sister and I spent many an hour trying to perfect Miss Allen Eye over the years.  But to be honest, I’ve never actually used it on anyone before.  There’s a first for everything.

Little Miss Tantrum marches off to her room again, scared to death of me.  I’m scared to death of me.  I’m screaming and stomping and slamming doors because I am just sick with grief over the girls’ behavior.  I’m sick of myself too!

Truth be told, the asthma medication is the real culprit of today’s bickering.  The more my eldest takes of the steroid, the worse her mood becomes.  The sicker she gets, the more medicine she takes, the snottier she acts.  She can’t help it….it’s a side effect of the meds to be cranky.  She's moody, broody, and short with others. As a result, she pisses people off, and to add insult to injury, everybody else starts acting insufferable in response, including her parent….a huge Catch 22. 

But I don’t think of that when I go in to talk to my toddler.  I ask her again where she learned such inappropriate behavior. 

“Is it your girl friends at school?” I want to know.

“They sometimes act like that,” she replies honestly, “but that’s not where I learned it.”

“Well what about what’s-his-name,” I ask, “does he act like this?”

“No,” she carefully responds, “he doesn’t.”

Before I can ask another question I realize that she’s picked up her behavior from me and doesn’t want to make me angrier by telling me!

It was me stomping through the kitchen and slamming the freezer door because I was so pissed!  It was me who cut off my 4-year-old and wouldn’t let her explain, so I could get MY point across.  It’s me she’s freakin’ mimicking!  Holy tamole.  What a bomb.

After I’ve dropped the toddler off at school and I am driving home, I consider that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I remember getting in trouble myself in high school for using profanity toward a teacher.  

When my father got word, he screamed, “Goddammit, Jesus Christ, Stacy…where in the hell did you learn to use such language?”


It’s the world spinning around, over and over, year after year, and people doing the same stupid shit their parents did before them and their parents’ parents did before them.  What a trip.

I’m laughing to myself about parenting and what a crap-shoot it can be, as I’m cruising home in my beater car that probably has no business sharing the road with others, when a fancy shiny black car pulls out in front of me from God-knows-where without warning.  I come close to ramming the car from the rear.  I go to honk and realize our horn has been eternally broken for over 2 years.  We replace the fuse over and over again, and it goes bad usually after the first good use of the horn.  If I’m not too fired up and just casually using the horn as a warning or reminder to drive, the fuse may last through 3-4 short bursts, but if it’s a good long, “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?” honk, the fuse is usually blown after that.Blame it on Texas - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged - State of Texas 

I had just asked my girlfriend to replace the fuse last week and apparently she hadn’t gotten around to it, though, as no sound comes out now. In this case I have to make my own sound of warning, so I scream through the closed window toward the man driving the black car with closed windows.

“Expletive Expletive, you’re an Expletive Idiot!” I yell at the top of my lungs.  As I look down at the license plate, I realize it’s a Texas plate.

Offreakingcourse it is!

I can’t stand Texas, but even worse, I can’t stand when my kids pick up my bad habits.  I’m going to blame all of today’s bad behavior on having lived in Texas.  Today I wipe the slate clean of my southern parenting slips and I decide I’m going to give my kids and myself a do-over.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Hometrainin' - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder - The Golden Rule
As I encounter more and more kids and teenagers in situations where I am dumbstruck with the lack of respect, accountability, and manners they display, I am acutely aware of myself getting older and older, and how my thoughts and complaints about kids these days must mirror those of my parents 35 years ago when they encountered kids and teenagers in an alien-esque fashion, and their parents before them.  

“Those damn teenagers,” I could imagine another generation of parents lamenting after hearing loud rock n’ roll music wave downstairs into the kitchen from their child’s room above.   

“Well I have never in my life….,” I can guess another mother might have said fifty years ago after seeing her daughter bound out of the house without a bra or proper hairbrushing, and wearing a halo of flowers on her head and a hippie skirt over her unshaven legs.

My current day complaint of kids being disrespectful to me, to their teachers, to their classmates, to their parents, and to society at large, might just be the passing of the torch from my parents to me of their misunderstanding the new crop of young people. 

I think it’s more than that, though.  I think we are failing as parents today to give our kids the proper home trainin’ they deserve, creating a lazy, entitled, unappreciative, and snotty crop of kids, destined to set a precedent for years to come.  

I see it everywhere I go.  Kids shouting at their teachers.  Tweens rolling their eyes at their principal.  Preschoolers smacking their classmates.  Teens lying to their parents.  Grade-schoolers giving the school volunteers ‘the finger’ as they turn their back. 

None of these actions are surprising, but instead expected.  Kids learn to be the people they grow into by testing their boundaries.  It’s human nature.  What’s astounding to me is that I don’t see punishment or ramifications being handed out by anyone for these kids’ actions.  With no consequence, the actions are repeated, become frequent, and become a way of life for some kids and young adults.  From the parents to the schools to the community at large, we’ve all decided complacency is the best medicine…just stand back and watch it all happen with no involvement or action.  By all means, let’s don’t come down hard on the kids, as we may damage them.  Seriously?  What we’re doing instead is destroying our kids’ chance of learning some of life’s difficult lessons as a minor, and instead setting them up with faulty expectations of how the world revolves (erroneously thought, around them).

Think of it, as a parent, if you correctly deal with an overly obvious foul like cheating or stealing when your child is still a minor, you can hope to both address the value at large that you want to teach, like honesty, as well as prepare your child for an adult version of the reaction she will expect from her action of cheating or stealing.  If you don’t properly address this issue when your child is still a child, your child will be shocked when she gets arrested as an adult for cheating or stealing, and have no idea why it’s wrong, since Mom or Dad let her skate by without consequence for cheating as a kid.

Time and time again, I’m flabbergasted at our responses as responsible adults, raised under a different set of standards than today’s kid.  Damage to property that’s not theirs?  No worries, they’re kids and that’s what they do.  No consequences doled out by damaged property owner, so kids have their first taste of getting away with something without a repercussion.  There once was a day when if a kid was blessed enough to avoid a rap sheet instilled by a third party, he still had his parents to reckon with.  Nowadays, parents don’t hand out the punishments either. 

“Just a stupid prank,” they say.  “It’s no big deal.”

How about the kids smoking pot on the school lawn in broad daylight, on a crowded weekend with 50+ kids and parents hanging out on the playground and another 50+ kids and parents walking in and out off the entrance where the kids are smoking?  Did anybody (including me) stop and advise the kids to move on, as there are kids around and it’s a felony to smoke on school property?  Of course not, as it’s not our problem and we don’t want to be confrontational.  Did the police show up when the incident was reported while the kids were still on the school property?  No, they didn’t respond either, as pot’s so low on the totem pole of criminal activity, or maybe they didn’t show up because they know the parents in the area are going to sweep it under the rug anyway.

More and more I see with my own eyes, and hear in open narrative from unashamed parents, kids being allowed to act inappropriately without consequence from their parents.  I don’t think it’s the attitudes of the parents toward the actions themselves, that has changed over the years, i.e. most parents still think that their young kids shouldn’t swear.  It’s more about parents’ lack of structure in setting up expectations of behavior and ramifications for not meeting those ideals that has changed.  While there has always been, and always will be, a wide array of opinions from parents as to what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behavior for children, the general understanding since I’ve been alive has been that parents’ purpose is to guide and instruct kids, which sometimes (oftentimes) means disciplining them.  I always expected that as a child.  Please keep in mind I did a lot of shitty things as a kid and young adult….I was always in trouble.  However, I was ALWAYS held accountable for my actions.  This taught me how to survive in this world we live in.  My college degree, my academic honors, my impressive resume all mean nothing without the lessons I learned from my parents, my educators, and my elders, about accountability.

I don’t get the sense that many children today are held liable for their actions.  Of course this is a gross generalization.  I know many families both near and far that not only set expectations, model values they want their kids to learn, but also unwaveringly dole out penalties or consequences for the lack of adherence to those ideals.  It feels, however, that as a parent, those folks and I are in the minority.  Is this possible?

Volunteering to help keep the kids corralled at the school musical dress rehearsal this week, I was saddened by the actions of some of the kids and the lack of reaction to such.  I was shocked to see and hear the forwardness in which some of the older kids (7th and 8th graders) responded to parent volunteers, their teachers, and school security guards.  From boldly using profanity in front of parents and younger children, to saying they hated their musical instructors in front of other teachers and parents, to completely disregarding, disrespecting, and name calling parent volunteers, some of these kids were truly beasts!  Entitlement is the only thing that keeps ringing through my head. 

“They won’t get a job in this world,” another mom urgently whispered to me, after shushing two or three of the same unruly kids for the umpteenth time, and getting blank stares, snickering, and drop-dead looks from the teens, before they continued shouting to their friends.  As I nodded in agreement, she asked incredulously, “How can their parents raise them this way and expect them to be fully functional adults?”

Nail.  Head.  They won’t be fully functional adults as we, or maybe I should say I, at this point, since I may have lost many of you already in my rant, may know them.  They’ll be a new hybrid of surly kids from the school of ain’t got no hometrainin’, in which they were not educated in how to be good people, or at the minimum, act like good people!  As parents we’re performing such an injustice to our children by not preparing them for life, where they will get knocked down and dragged in the street for their inability to comprehend consequences for their actions.

The sad thing is they will get jobs, but not the ones they want.  Their parents will then complain that their kids are a product of the weak economy and the mess this country has put them in.  And I’ll be standing here to wholeheartedly disagree.  Your kids won’t flourish because you’re not giving them the tools by which they can own their choices!  Give them some freakin’ hometrainin’!  By that I mean teaching the basics to them of how to be decent people, and then holding them accountable for their actions.  From instilling values such as integrity, honesty, and respect through example, to coaching them in manners, consideration, and cause and effect, each acts as a building blocks toward a responsible, conscientious, human being that can live in reality. 

As I keep rolling the film in my head of the snarky attitudes I encountered  at the musical rehearsal (by and large the group as a whole was great!), I have to remind myself that it’s really not the kids I’m mad at…it’s the parents making excuses for them.  It’s the parents not requiring them to be decent at home, thereby allowing them to be rude at school and in public as well.  It’s the parents not supporting schools, teachers, organizations, and other parents when they try to enforce acceptable behavior in children.  It’s the parents who scoff at the idea of their child having to do anything other than show up to ‘make the grade.’  I’m angry at the teachers who don’t’ demand appropriate behavior, even though I know they don’t get the support from the school they need and the parents don’t take them seriously.  I’m angry at the administrators for being weary of the parents and not enforcing rules, so as not to make waves with the parents.  And most importantly, I’m angry with myself for not speaking up more…to kids to parents to school officials.  I too, have gotten lazy and have taken a huge step down from my soapbox, where I too, don’t always practice what I preach.  I could be more a part of the solution than part of the problem.

As a society, we’ve stopped old-school parenting.  We’ve stopped teaching our kids to do the right thing and live by the Golden Rule.  We’ve stopped demanding respect from our children, much less to those around us.  We’ve given up on teaching them courtesy, manners, and how to be cogs in the wheel.  We’ve instead filled their heads with the bullshit that they can do anything, be anyone they want, if they just will it to be, which we know will not happen if they don’t ‘work the program’ of respect taught in Hometrainin’ 101! I know many an acquaintance that has made it in this world by using manners, hard work, and doing what’s right.  I know just as many acquaintances who never made it anywhere, despite, advanced degrees, prestige, and the best that money can buy.

I often wonder if sometimes parents just decide that it’s easier to let their kids be, as they don’t have to be the bad guys if they don’t discipline them.    

“Kids these days…..” parents laughing say to other parents when their own children refuse to acknowledge them, much less answer their question of “what time will you be home tonight?” before stomping out of the house. 

My gut instinct when I’m standing on the other side of that conversation is to block the despondent teen walking away from her parent without a response nor a goodbye, and force her to address her mother with respect.  My second impulse is to give that mother a slap in the face, or throw a bucket of cold water over her head to get her attention so she can WAKE UP and see the monster she’s creating.  My final intuition, and usually the path most traveled, is to walk away from the situation and the family, and don’t come back.  Sure, every kid is going to act out from time to time, but experience has shown me that when parents allow blatant disrespect without ramification to happen in front of their friends or in public once, it usually happens again and again, which is my cue to exit stage left.  

Look, I know with 100% accuracy that my kids have and will act in ways that are or can be perceived as disrespectful to others.  I am also confident that my children will know when they’re doing it and will not be surprised when their next play date is cancelled or their bottom is walloped because of their actions or behavior.  I want them to have the experience now, so they experience cause and effect without too much discomfort as a child, as once they step over the threshold of adulthood, I can’t lesson the sting of consequence.  Even though it’s uncomfortable and sometimes even difficult to impose retribution for inappropriate actions, I’m comfortable knowing it will help them be better people in the end.  And after all, isn’t fashioning a good person just as important, if not more, than producing a math whiz or a millionaire or a president?