That Mama.

When I told The Who’s teacher (via text) that I had just burst into tears over the thought of his upcoming last day of school, she called me “THAT MAMA.” I knew just what she meant. That mama who can’t stand the thought of her baby growing up. That mama who cries harder at her baby’s first immunization than the baby himself. That mama who walks away from the bus stop after her kid climbs on for the first time and just can’t hold it together.

What’s funny is that I have never been that mama. I might have shed a tear at his immunizations, sure, but anyone who knows me or has been following my Facebook knows that since the day The Who was born, I’ve been endlessly chasing that elusive “break.” Some sleep. Time alone. Time with grownups.

This is why it seems crazy to me that all of a sudden, as I’m preparing to spend the summer working every day and sending him to camp every day, I keep tearing up over the thought of all the time we’re going to be apart and all the so-called “breaks” I will be having from him. Breaks from his sweet little smile. From our spontaneous day trips. From watching him learn to read and ride his bike and masterfully draw pictures.

I know. I know I’ll still see all this. I know that it’s not like I’m sending him to boarding school. He’ll be a mere building away from me most days since he will be attending the camp where I’m working. We’ll commute together and I’ll visit him from time to time during the day and we’ll spend weekends together. But something is changing. It is a monumental shift. As much as I have grown to treasure those days when he is in school, I treasure equally the days we have together. Mondays and Wednesdays are our special “Mama/Who” days and even though they are often hard and often long and often frustrating, they are just as often wonderful.

Tomorrow is The Who’s last day of Pre-K-1. Lucky for all of us, he has another year in the same class with the same wonderful teacher and so tomorrow is more of a “see ya” than a “goodbye.” Still, bringing home his nap blankets and pulling the photo off his cubby for the summer gave me pause. Goodbyes are hard, even when they’re temporary. Transitions are hard, even when they’re planned and prepared for. Time apart is hard, even when it’s desired.

Next week, we start something new. A change in a routine that’s been the same for over three and a half years. And I’m sad.

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Boo Boo.

boobooWe love to laugh at people here in the United States. (Elsewhere, too, I’m sure.) We love to find the funny in the way people look or act or smell or talk and we’re not above spending a whole bunch of money to share the laugh with other people.

Enter Honey Boo Boo. This kid’s hilarious and so is her family. America loves this show because the family is fat (ha!) and poor (ha ha!) and working class (ha ha ha!) Have you ever known anything to be funnier than people who are in tough situations and look weird? I haven’t! Hahahahaha!

This is why TLC put these people on the air. They spotted Alana (“Honey Boo Boo”) at a kiddie pageant (a post for another time) and they saw how people responded to the fat little kid who makes her belly talk and her fat mama who is unapologetic about her loud mouth. You have to know that the execs at TLC were thinking, “Who doesn’t love a freak show? Put that shit on the air! Stat!”

They’re not wrong. The show is crazy popular. People just eat it up. And you know what? It’s totally one of my favorites, too. But I love it for all the wrong reasons (at least according to TLC.) I don’t love it because it’s like watching an accident you can’t look away from. I don’t love it because “Sugar Bear” has a total of four teeth and a weird accent. I love it because they just don’t give a fuck.

Honey Boo Boo don’t play.

If you watch the show, you will see a whole lot of farting and couponing and lowbrow humor. You will see them blindfold one another and breathe into one another’s faces, playing a rousing game of “whose bad breath am I smelling?” You will see June (aka “Mama”) make kissy faces and give the camera a “come hither” look when she talks about how “smexy” she is and you will see captions at the bottom to make sure the viewers are catching the poor grammar and uneducated misspeaks. This is why I love this show. Because they are a regular family living in the middle of Regularsville, USA going about their regular life. Loving life, loving each other, and laughing all the way to the bank. June doesn’t care if you’re laughing at her crooked teeth or frizzy hair or “forklift toe.” She is unapologetically who she is and I have to tell you, I see more love and acceptance among the members of that family than I do in any other family on television – real or fictionalized.

This is what we should be looking at and loving when we watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Take a good close look at the show when it comes back from hiatus. (July 17!) Try to smile the way I do when I see pictures like this pop up on social media, knowing that the duckface on Mama is all about her fierceness. This show is revolutionary. These people are revolutionary. They – gasp! – don’t hate themselves! That’s the real story here.

Upstream.

When I woke up this morning, this thought crashed over me like a wave: Why am I swimming upstream?

We’ve been struggling lately with our weekends. Time with The Who has felt trying, exhausting, frustrating, irritating, and not fun. Not all the time, of course. But spending a lot of concentrated time and thinking about spending a lot of time has not felt good. Memorial Day weekend was especially rough and after the first two full days, we were all edgy. There are a thousand different reasons all playing into it, but the end result was that, lately, I have been dreading finding things with which to fill our time and grasping desperately for stolen moments on my own — to the point where every word he said to me felt like an intrusion. At the same time, he has surely sensed my irritation and distance and has, in turn, drawn himself closer. Begging to play constantly. Negative attention-seeking by whining, disobeying, and amping up behavior that he knows gets under my skin.

Yesterday, I had a training for my summer job for the better part of the afternoon and I couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. Four hours sitting in a private school auditorium seemed like a spa day compared to more of what home has been like lately. But today was looming large. A whole day with no plans.

But then I had that thought as soon as I opened my eyes. Why am I swimming upstream? Why, when his behavior is driven by seeking attention am I so hell bent on witholding my attention? Why, when all he wants is to play, am I so committed to finding ways not to play? Why, when what I want is to spend pleasant, fun time with my son whom I love do I dread it?

I called him upstairs.

“What could we do today that would make this the most fun day ever?” I asked him as I pulled out a piece of paper and a crayon. We made a list.

After I wrote several items, The Who asked to write some. I am endlessly delighted by his inventive spelling.

After I wrote several items, The Who asked to write some. I am endlessly delighted by his inventive spelling.

And then, surprising m*, The Who, and even myself, I committed to doing everything on it. First, we played a 15-minute game of Hide-and-Seek, which is actually becoming a little more fun now that he can count higher. (Of course, he counted to 100 one of the times, which was no picnic for me as I crouched behind the cardboard playhouse, but it was kind of fun to hear him counting.)

After Hide-and-Seek, we got dressed to walk to the playground. Sure, it was approaching 90 degrees and humid today, but having this list and knowing I was committing myself to only The Who was sort of a relief. All the pressure of trying to get just ten minutes to myself was gone. I stopped being annoyed that I had no time and that he was talking to me all the time because that’s what I was in for.

Knowing that I was his constant companion all day today gave him the freedom to allow me to not play with him every second. Here he is collecting pieces of mulch next to me, without needing me to supply the entertainment.

Knowing that I was his constant companion all day today gave him the freedom to allow me to not play with him every second. Here he is collecting pieces of mulch next to me, without needing me to supply the entertainment.

And it's a good thing, too. Because I was hot. (Despite my scowl, I was actually delighted there, on the bench in the breeze with my stylin' sun hat.)

And it’s a good thing, too. Because I was hot. (Despite my scowl, I was actually delighted there, on the bench in the breeze with my stylin’ sun hat.)

bwrun

Next on our list was “the park” but when I suggested going back to get the car to drive to the park, he didn’t seem interested. He said the ball field across the street could be the park and so we hung out there for a little while, cheering on the old-timers playing softball before moving on to lunch.

Koffee Korner has become his favorite brunch joint, despite the unfortunate use of "K" where it doesn't belong. Twice. He colored some while we waited for our food, which actually took forever because they forgot to put our order in. But again, even a hungry boy is a patient boy when he's getting the full attention of his mama.

Koffee Korner has become his favorite brunch joint, despite the unfortunate use of “K” where it doesn’t belong. Twice. He colored some (also on our list) and played a game on my phone (on the list, too) while we waited for our food, which actually took forever because they forgot to put our order in. But again, even a hungry boy is a patient boy when he’s getting the full attention of his mama.

Our list had “board game” on it next, so we headed home for a rousing game of dominoes. I mean, well, as rousing as dominoes can be.

After dominoes, we headed outside with the binoculars for some bird-watching. We caught a few finches and a robin flying around the back yard, but The Who was more interested in having me stand in various spots so he could look at me through the "far away" side of the binoculars.

After dominoes, we headed outside with the binoculars for some bird-watching. We caught a few finches and a robin flying around the back yard, but The Who was more interested in having me stand in various spots so he could look at me through the “far away” side of the binoculars.

I could tell that rain was on its way and I knew if we wanted to get bike-riding in, we’d have to get to it, so we came in the back door and went right out the front.

He's gotten a lot better on his bike lately and I wasn't prepared for how confident he felt. This was the first time I'd taken him on the sidewalk (m* has done it a few times) and I was a little helicopter-y about stopping at street corners. But dude is down with the hand-brake. Impressive. We went back to the playground to ride around the blacktop and made it back before much more than a little spitting of rain fell.

He’s gotten a lot better on his bike lately and I wasn’t prepared for how confident he felt. This was the first time I’d taken him on the sidewalk (m* has done it a few times) and I was a little helicopter-y about stopping at street corners. But dude is down with the hand-brake. Impressive. We went back to the playground to ride around the blacktop and made it back before much more than a little spitting of rain fell.

Perfect timing for "snackin' at the television." I took a nap. It was so good.

Perfect timing for “snackin’ at the television.” I took a nap. It was so good.

We played “store” after that, which was really a replication of shopping at BJ’s. He was the customer, coming through the check out line and I handed him a “receipt” (which he had made by cutting strips of paper) and then I had to punch it with the hole puncher “to make sure he only had the things he paid for.” After “store”, we read a book and you would think that our list was completed.

You'd be wrong, though. At some point during the day, The Who was reminded of our local frozen yogurt joint and asked if we could add it to the list, which we did (unofficially.) We walked there together after dinner.

You’d be wrong, though. At some point during the day, The Who was reminded of our local frozen yogurt joint and asked if we could add it to the list, which we did (unofficially.) We walked there together after dinner.

We are officially the most tired people in the world right now. It was a hugely full day, but actually, a lot of fun. He was in bed and asleep before 7:30 and I am going to bed soon, not dreading tomorrow, which is a nice change of pace. Several times today, he leaned into me, kissed me, patted me, or told me I was his “best friend.” I’m not saying that I could do this every day. I’m not saying that I could even do it once a week, but doing it wasn’t horrible. And it was a good reminder that all kids really want is to have undivided attention that doesn’t feel like a chore. And even though it was a really full day, it was so much easier than trying to do nothing. So much easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream.

Fails.

My good friend Julia over at It’s Not Like a Cat recently posted about her top parenting fails and asked for reader feedback. My comment to her was so verbose that I decided to re-post it here. And, in turn, ask you for your stories, too. C’mon. We all suck. Might as well just cop to it.

Julia’s question: Do you eat breakfast? How do you make the time/space for it?
My answer: I do eat breakfast. I either eat with The Who on days that we are not rushed to get out (I make eggs. A lot. He only eats the whites, so I feel pretty ok about it.) On days that I will be working at a cafe, I buy a breakfast sandwich there. Not terribly frugal, but yes. I eat breakfast most days.

Julia’s question: Do you give your kids screen time–TV, iPad, games on your phone? How much? Does it bother you at all?
My answer: I give my kid screen time and it doesn’t generally bother me. I tried very hard not to give him any before age 1, but then we started watching one episode of Sesame Street per day. Our nights of sleep were so horrible and I was so beat in the morning that we started our day every day with a show for a while. Nowadays, if it’s a school day, he watches a half hour total, tops. On a non-school-weekday, probably an hour. On a weekend, could be a lot more. Today, for example, I think he watched two and a half hours of TV and had about a half hour of iPhone time. That felt like a lot to me, but I was out all afternoon at a work thing and my wife was exhausted and, well, desperate times call for desperate measures. I also cop to letting him use my phone at restaurants if I want to chat with another grown-up. Sometimes I let him play on my phone when I shower. Bottom line: he gets anywhere from 1/2 hour – 2ish hours a day and, at age 4.5, I feel ok about it. It’s not ideal, but it’s way better than the alternative: my craziness if I had to fill all that screen-time with hands-on playing. That said, he also will almost always choose playing with someone over TV. TV is definitely a fall-back choice for him.

Julia’s question: Do you feed your kids things you thought you wouldn’t?
My answer: We fell into the chocolate milk trap, as Julia mentioned in her post. It’s a morning drink here. The Who was a whole white milk drinker until the fateful day that my wife let him sip her hot cocoa. Never a white milk since. Nowadays, he drinks unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a dash of TJ’s organic chocolate syrup. He LOVES going to Grandma’s, though, where he gets Hershey milk boxes. I also feed him a lot more bacon just in the name of getting protein in him when he is low-energy or grouchy. Bacon is always a winner. Fortunately, he seems less interested in hot dogs lately, because I gave them to him, but never felt very good about it. I also commit the cardinal sin of making him something different than we eat on a pretty regular basis. We eat salads with some kind of protein on top almost every night. If it’s a protein he likes (steak, pork loin, chicken) I will give it to him (with ketchup, of course) and usually a side of fruit. If we have snap peas on hand, I will toss a few on his plate, since it’s the only vegetable he will semi-predictably eat. (Unless you count corn on the cob, which I do, and he does eat that, but many of my friends say it’s not really a vegetable.) I also occasionally toss some other veggies on his plate, hoping he will at least give it a try, which he usually does. So far, though, he hasn’t liked any. If we’re topping our salads with a protein he doesn’t particularly enjoy (lately, salmon and surprisingly, bbq ribs) I will give him something else entirely. Grilled cheese, usually.

Julia’s question: Do you swear in front of your kids?
My answer: Oh, I absolutely swear in front of The Who. I have cleaned up my act to an extent (I say, “oh my goodness!” instead of my old “oh my god!” but I drop f-bombs and their cousins easily and carelessly. Rarely as an expression of frustration, though. More as an adjective in pleasant conversation with other adults. Maybe it’s the lack of accompanying emotion that has made it a non-issue thus far. We have been lucky in that The Who never repeats curse words. He could, easily. He definitely repeats nearly everything else I say, but somehow curse words have not made it into his regular vocabulary.

Julia promised another installment with five more sins. I will copy my answers when she does. In the meantime, what about you?