Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How your kids make you cheesy...the Disney World post

You know those people that have giant inflatable snow globes on their lawn come Christmas?  (Maybe you ARE one of those people).  For many years I thought that was the tackiest thing I'd ever seen.  I wondered WHY would ANYONE put such an atrocity on their front lawn?

And then I had kids.

And I understood that a lot of these families do not have bad taste....they just have kids.  And the joy and delight that fills up their child's face at the prospect of having something SO MAGICALLY COOL on the lawn come Christmas trumps the parents' desire for their home to look classily festive.

And this is why I found myself with a line of light up plastic candy canes festooning my walk this past holiday season. 

There's something else that will happen soon that I never thought would happen.

We're going to Disneyland!

(Actually it's Disney World. But it's so much more fun to say you're going to Disneyland.)

I hate crowds. I mean I REALLY hate crowds and my husband is not much better.  Going to a boy scout pack meeting requires many deep breathing exercises, attending school Halloween parades is best done after a shot of tequila and visiting Funtime America is to be avoided at all costs.  I'm the person who likes to eat out at 5 pm like an octogenarian because no one's at the restaurant and we only go to Chuckie Cheese (once a year) at 10 ON THE DOT on a weekday so that we are the only people there and can then scurry out the door like Chucky's namesake character when it starts filling up.

When we go on vacation, it's always somewhere somewhat obscure, very non-touristy and usually off season so it's nearly empty. Some people thrive on the energy and excitement of crowds but I'm not one of them.   I like quiet, particularly when I'm on vacation trying to recharge. I love when there's "nothing to do".  Jackpot!  More books to read! ( I know what you're thinking..."We MUST HAVE HER at our next party!")

And yet, next month we're going to Disney World.  My oldest is nearly 7 and I had several families urge me to go "before the magic wears off" and this terrified us into booking a trip.  This trip has all of my least favorite things -- crowds, rushing, lines, frantic schedules, bright lights, constant noise and giant turkey legs.

A part of me longs to tell the children that Disney burned down and then go to Block Island instead to sketch lichens and visit the island's lone alpaca.

But their joy in realizing that they're going to Disney is sort of sweeping me up in the excitement also.  My youngest can't wait to see Minnie Mouse and my oldest wants to battle Darth Vader.  They can't believe they're going to visit a haunted mansion and spin on the tea cups.  They are thrilled and euphoric that we're finally going on a vacation in which the main event doesn't involve hiking through a beachside trail because that's really all that there is to do.

And while my husband and I are aren't exactly donning mouse ears yet and prancing around the house to "When You Wish Upon A Star"  I have to admit even we're getting pretty excited. I've been sharing details with the children of our itinerary "Eating with Lady & The Tramp! It's A Small World! Fireworks!"  It's a far cry from our previous non-kid vacations which include visiting the Tate Modern in London and sampling mussels in St. Jean de Luz or sailing completely around this random island as I alternately vomited and went snorkeling for an 8 hour period.  But those kinds of activities aren't geared for children that young. Well, except maybe the vomiting.

Yes, in many ways Disney will be my kryptonite -- over-stimulating, crowded and noisy.  It's the anti-vacation for someone who's at heart an introvert. But I think the looks on our kids' faces and the happiness this trip will bring them will far outweigh any panic attacks I'll be experiencing while we're there.  Or at least I hope.  If it's dreadful we don't have to go again.

Even though it's a giant pain in the ass and extremely expensive, I think travel is really important every so often, not just to get out of your normal environment but to have your kids experience other parts of the world.  There will be a time, yet again, when my hubby and I can go back to the southwestern part of France or take our teenagers on the 12 hour flight to the North Shore of Oahu when it's deserted.  But at this point, it's the Magic Kingdom.  The things we do for our children.

I'll pack my flask. (Is this frowned upon?) Dumbo the Flying Elephant here we come!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five Nights At Freddy's and other stuff to be avoided

I woke up Saturday morning in a foul mood.  My husband, Big G, woke up in a worse one.  I snapped at him.  He snapped at me.  We glared at each other. Considering the children were at a sleepover at Grandma's the night before, we should have been elated. We weren't. I was in a terrible mood and I had no idea why. Even my morning walk through the woods with my friend Red did very little to get me out of my funk.  It wasn't until later in the day, in my karate class, when I accidentally kicked through two boards and right into a chagrined classmate's stomach that I realized I needed to reign in my bad mood.

I stomped home and huffed over to my husband who was pouting in the other room as the kids played checker-chess on the floor. 

"What's wrong with you?!" I demanded, which I think is, to date, the worst thing you can ever say to anyone as an opening to reconciliation.

"Nothing!  What's wrong with you?" he snarled.

I stopped.

"Honestly, I don't know." I was puzzled.  Why was I in such a bad mood?  "I had a lot of bad dreams last night. I didn't sleep well."

"Me neither," he admitted as the tension broke.  "Do you think it was the movie we watched last night?  Because I think it was.  It's putting us both in a bad mood."

I stopped and thought about that.  Generally I don't see violent movies.  Anything with graphic violence, torture scenes, and gory horror films I avoid like the plague. Some people can watch it and let it roll off them, but that kind of stuff tends to stay with me, the grotesque or disturbing images running on a loop in my head, hence the bad dreams.   I'm either extremely sensitive or I'm just a big wus.

"I've been thinking about it," Big G continued. "The part where the guys feet were cut off--"

"STOP!" I held up both of my hands.  "I don't want to revisit it!"

"And then it got me to thinking about all the other terrible things in the world." my husband continued.  "And it put me in a bad mood."

Could it be?  Could seeing an extremely violent movie color our mood for the next 24 hours?  And if this was the case, what impact could seeing violent movies/ video games have on our children's less developed psyches?

It reminded me of something that happened about a month ago when our 6 year old, Big A stopped sleeping for a few days.  He finally broke down and admitted to us that he saw a friend on the bus playing a handheld video game called "Five Nights At Freddy's"  He was crying and begging us to please "take the scary pictures out of his head."  Which we couldn't do.  Big A saw something he was clearly not ready to understand and now he couldn't un-see it. We reassured him as best we could that video games aren't real but it broke my heart how his mind was affected by seeing something so disturbing. It took a lot of time and reassurance before Big A believed that the scary characters from the Freddy's video game weren't actually real and were not going to attack him the dead of night.

( I looked up "Five Nights At Freddy's" by the way.  It's TERRIFYING!  Bloody animatronic animals jumping out at you...creepy.  This macabre "horror" type videogame is for ages 13 and up but I was freaked out by it.  I was deeply saddened that Big A was exposed to something so frightening on the school bus that had impacted him so negatively.)

However, some kids and some adults can see bad stuff, cringe and let it go.  Our family has a rich history of internalizing.

When my hub and I realized that our moods were in fact being impacted by the disturbing and depressing subject matter of the movie the night before, we snapped out of it and had a lovely evening with the kids, one involving going out for milkshakes and, ironically, the board game Sorry!  But it made me ever more aware of the effect that movies and other media can have on ourselves and especially our children. 

So we won't be lining up to see the next Quentin Tarantino movie any time soon. Or letting our 6 year old play "5 Nights At Freddy's"...no matter how cool his classmates say it is. Obviously, he can't handle it. And considering how much we enjoy sleep and good times in this house, neither can we.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Just Say No

I know that this is going to sound insane, given that our children are 3 and 6 years old, but we recently talked to them about drugs.

A friend's son had just died of a drug overdose and after the wake, walking to our car, my husband, in an abrupt departure from his usual happy and laid-back self, suddenly grabbed me and said "That was awful. No parent should ever have to go through that. I don't want this to ever happen to our family."  Seeing the destroyed parents is something we will never forget.

It wasn't the first wake we attended for a young person who had died of a drug overdose. But it was the first time we had attended as parents ourselves.

Certain people around me say that we are fighting a losing battle.  That whether or not our kids do drugs is out of our control.  They say that having an addictive personality is something you're either born with, or not.  They say that certain drugs are so powerful that there is nothing we can do to stop them.  And that drugs are everywhere.

So maybe the odds are stacked against us.  But I'm going down swinging.  I want to know that at least I did everything that I could do to keep my kids off drugs.  So after discussing our options after a rather stilted lunch of Korean tacos, we decided to talk to our very young kids about the evils of drugs.

Talking to our 3 year old was pretty easy.  While she likely didn't understand the concept, we figured it's never too early to impart the message.  This is a summation of our conversation.

Us:  Drugs are bad and you should never do them.
Her:  What's drugs?
Us:  Something bad. That you should never do.
Her:  Like Pez?
Us:  Yes.  But they don't taste sweet, like Pez.
Her:  What do drugs taste like?
Us: Uh...like dirt...and poop. They taste awful.
Her:  Will someone go in timeout, if they do drugs?
Us:  Yes, forever.  Because rugs are bad.
Her:  Will I cry?
Us:  Yes. And we will cry.  If you do drugs.  Drugs are bad.
Her:  Okay.  I won't do drugs. pause Can we play a game where I chase you around with this spoon?

I always say that we need to give our children SOMETHING to talk about in therapy one day.  Talking to our toddler about drugs is a good start.

The conversation with our 6 year old was a little more effective, I thought.

We opened by telling him about the wake we attended that day and how the young man had died due to drugs.

Him: Was he a kid?
Us:  No.  But he was a very young adult. And he was (Name withheld)'s child.  And they are so sad now.
Him:  How old was he?
Us:  22
Him:  Was he married?
Us: No, he didn't get a chance.
Him:  That's really sad.
Us:  It is.  
Him:  Was he like, bad?
Us:  No.  He was good and sweet but the drugs were too powerful.  Once he started, he couldn't stop.
Him:  I won't do drugs.
Us:  You shouldn't. They could kill you. And then you won't get to live a long, happy life.
Him: I want to be happy.
Us:  Good!  Because we want you to be happy.
Him:  I'll only drink beer one day.
Me:  WHOA!  Where are you getting this from?
Him:  I'm going to drink a can when I'm an adult. With a straw.  
Stunned silence.
Him:  Don't worry, I won't drink and drive.
Us:  Err...that's good. But moving on. When you grow up, you might be at a party where there's drugs.  And if that's the case, we want you to call us and have us pick you up.
Him: mildly panicked WHY would you send me to a party where there's drugs?!
Us: If we didn't KNOW there would be drugs there.
Him: hyperventilating now  How did you not know? You should check before sending me! 
Us: If for some reason, there are drugs at a party--
Him:  DefCon 5 I don't want to go to a party where there's drugs!  I'm afraid I'm going to do them, accidentally! I just want to stay home!
Us:  You know what?  You and all your friends are all just going to hang out here during high school. This is going to be the hang-out house, okay?  So we're all sure there's no drugs.
Him: Visible relieved If this is the hang-out house, can we get a ping-pong table?
Us:  Uhhh...sure. When the time comes.
Him:  Can some of my friends sleepover?
Us: Whatever, sure.
Him: YES! Okay, I will NOT do drugs. But sometimes I want to go to my friends' houses. Where there are no drugs.

I know it seems like we promised him a ping pong table in exchange for drug abstinence. And I know that perhaps all of this is way over their heads.  But I want to begin the dialogue now.  I want to drill it into their heads that drugs are bad and dangerous, and can easily ruin the lives of many good people.   I want to let our children know that if doing drugs is cool, I will make them wear mandatory pocket protectors.  I want them to know that I would rather them be the total square that calls their over-protective parents to pick them up and be alive rather than the daring rebel who's willing to try any drug and eventually be dead.  I want them to understand that friends of theirs, desperate for an escape (from whatever) or merely looking to have some fun, may try heavy drugs and, unable to get off of them, may pay dearly, perhaps even with their young lives.  

We want our kids to stay active, interested and passionate about things.  We want to know who their friends are and who their friends' parents are also. We want everyone poking fun at us because we spoke to our children about drugs at such a young age.

We don't care. 

Because the price is too high, the suffering too great to lose yet another child to such a preventable tragedy.  So talk to your children about not doing drugs they way you talk to them about not running into the street.  Both can kill you.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Slowdown

The holidays were a blast but there's some relief in pressing the reset button.  Closets are being cleaned out, salads are back on the menu, we've locked up the liquor cabinet and people around here are actually exercising on a regular basis. We're buckling back down with work and school and all the kids' activities are back in full swing.

While things are speeding up again and we're getting back on a schedule (which I love...I truly love a schedule almost more than cheese) I've made an important New Year's resolution I intend to keep.

SLOW DOWN.

I move through life pretty fast. I think most parents do. Besides work, and the business of raising kids (everything from bedtime to homework to meal prep to getting the kids to swimming lessons to imparting wisdom when your daughter is crushed because a classmate told her he hates girls) there's a lot of other crap that sucks our time down the drain. Running a household, volunteering, keeping some semblance of a social life and any additional activities like working out or being creative whether it's writing, painting or sewing. Then there's that 5 minutes a day we all squeeze in to drink a cup of coffee or read something for pleasure.  If we're lucky.

I don't want to live this way anymore. I felt the impact of this rushed existence when I sat down outside my daughter's dance class to read a book (which I will not name, as not to slander it) about making use of the tiny bits of extra time you get when waiting in the carpool line or at 5:45 a.m. before your toddler awakes.  NO WAY!  How is that okay?  I don't want to squeeze my life into tiny fragments of leftover time.

So it's time to clear the decks.  Little D won't be signing up for karate even though she's begging us...why?  She already takes ballet and gymnastics.  Maybe she can try karate in the summer when gymnastics takes a break. New rule for the kids -- "No more than two scheduled after school activities"  Why?  This leaves plenty of time for play dates, playtime and family time. Big A won't be taking basketball lessons...he already has swimming and karate.  He can play b-ball whenever the mood strikes outside at the net with his dad.  Done. 

 I just realized that limiting each of our kids to two scheduled lessons per week not only saves times time, it saves money!  And it leaves plenty of time for spontaneity.  Building with legos, playing with action figures, drawing, creating and imagining in their very own homes.  Not to mention resting from their action packed days at school.

And de-scheduling goes for me as well. I don't think I'll be making every church council or scout leaders meeting. I've asked another mom to cover a few Sunday School classes for me.  "Just say no" might be my new battle cry when it comes to being any more involved unless it's something about which I am truly passionate.   I want to focus during the day and get my work done so that when my kids are present, I can truly be present for my kids.

Giving up some of these superfluous activities leaves precious, blessed room!  Room to watch a movie together as a family or space for that good friend you haven't seen in a while to come over for dinner  (and see the kids!)  That sounds way better than going to a boring committee meeting or driving your son to yet another activity that clogs up his already tight schedule.

As long as I have all the stress of having small children, I want to really relish the enjoyment they bring as well.  And don't get me wrong. I want to make things available to them.  I want to encourage my son's love of swimming and support him in attaining his black belt. I'm fully willing to drive little D, our gymnastics dynamo, 20 minutes away once a week so she can perfect her cartwheel.  But I'm not going overboard because this frantic, face-paced life that's become the norm so for many of us is just not working for my family. 

Time is zooming past me so quickly. It's already a new year. Time to slow down and really savor it as much as I can.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too much of a good thing...

Look, I have no issue with the long-standing tradition of presents under the tree.  Gift opening and seeing the joy on your children's faces, not to mention the magic involved in the gifts spontaneously appearing on Christmas morning should be cherished.

However. HowEVER.

No child needs 30 Christmas presents from Santa.  No child needs 30 presents at all. But I'm afraid that estimate is on the low end of what most children in our area will be receiving for Christmas.

I sat down and did the baffling assessment this year of how much my children stand to gain from the Christmas holiday.  Three sets of grandparents.  Two great grandmas. Three sets of aunts and uncles.  Two very generous first cousins, once removed.  If each of these entities only get our children one gift (which, by the way, they probably won't) my children will have 11 gifts right there. Counting the fact that my husband and I want to give the children each a gift (a batgirl costume and a minecraft lego, respectively) that brings their  my kids' gift total up to 12.

We've been begging and pleaded with our relatives to get our children NOTHING or give the gift of an outing. The grandma who grew up in poverty gave me a puzzled look and then went off and probably bought them a car. One sporting grandma agreed to give a coupon to take the kids to lunch and a movie which filled my heart with joy but I later found out she bought the kids a bounce house. But it's going to stay at her house, she reasoned, so it really doesn't count.

So, clearly, the grandparents cannot be contained.  The aunts and uncles gently asked me/guilted me to not suck the joy out of their hearts by denying them the privilege of picking out toys for the kids while they are still young.

So maybe I can't control the people in my family, but my husband and I can certainly control ourselves.

I had to say something to the kids. I had to do something to stop them from coming to expect piles of presents from Santa under the tree. I don't want my children surrounded by piles of THINGS when so many go without and nor do I want to raise entitled little brats.   I don't have a bigger house than I need. Half the furniture in our house is second-hand (repurposed is the trendy word). We are not wasteful people. And I didn't want to throw all that to the wind because a fictional fat guy in velvet suit was going to squeeze through my chimney bearing gifts.

So I sat down with them and we talked about the two families we had helped to "adopt" to assist them with buying Christmas gifts...one through the Salvation Army Angels program and one from my WINGS group.  And I lectured them about waste and giving back to others and how things will never love you back and I reminded them of the meltdown Mommy had last year when she realized the giant mound of plastic and paper that all the toy packaging had generated. And how it would all never decompose and be stuffed into poor Mother Earth indefinitely.

"Santa's NOT COMING?!" my son immediately went to DefCon 5, as is his way.

"I was GOOD!  Ask that elf!" Little D insisted.

"No, no," I hurriedly assured them. "You were very good.  Santa is definitely coming.  But he's not going to bring you a ton of gifts this year. Just a couple."

"Why?" Big A wanted to know.

"I think because you're very lucky and you have so much family around you to give you gifts.  And some kids have less family and less money to spend on gifts." That was my response.

"So if we get less, other kids can get more?"  Big A questioned.

"Yes," I said, even though that probably wasn't true.

"Do you know what communism is? I believe mommy is trying to illustrate it. " my husband interjected.   I shushed him.

"It's not that," I tired to explain to the kids what I was feeling myself. "It's just that...for Santa to bring you piles of gifts...when you have so much already...and you're getting even more gifts from your extended family...well, it all seems like a bit much, right?"

Big A looked at me thoughtfully while Little D climbed onto my husband's head, as she often does.

"I think...that would be greedy." Big A came up with.

Paydirt.

"Exactly!" I was relieved he was getting it.

"But..will Santa still bring me a Mario Microworld?" he asked hopefully.

"And my basketball shirt?" Little D piped up.

"Probably, if you're good." I exhaled...glad that they didn't seem phased by getting less gifts from Santa this year.

"So, I still get a few gifts from Santa but just not a pile up to the ceiling or near the ceiling?" Big A clarified.

"Yes." I responded.

"Like how many?" he prodded.

"I don't know," I said. "But remember how many gifts you're getting from all your aunts and uncles and grandparents?  You guys are incredibly lucky to have such loving relatives"

They both seemed okay about it.  And my husband and I agreed that Santa would bring them each three gifts  (A Ghostbusters lego set, the Mario World and an Emmett alarm clock for our son and a soccer ball, basketball shirt and mechanical butterfly for our daughter).  I was glad I managed their expectations and I felt lighter just knowing we'd be generating less waste and consuming less things.

Even though I often feel unsuccessful, I'm not just trying to raise kids here. I'm trying to raise decent adults. And the sooner we can teach them that our society's warped obsession with accumulating things is NOT the path to satisfaction, peace or happiness the better off we will be.

When I think back to my happiest Christmas memories from childhood, very few of them involve gifts.  I remember my mom putting on Frank Sinatra's Christmas record as we decorated the house. I remember my Dad screaming "Pivot! Pi-VAHT!" as my sisters and I dissolved in laughter as we tried to help him bring in the tree.  Hiding the baby Jesus.  Snuggling with my sisters drinking hot chocolate and watching Rudolph. My mom's amazing German cold cut breakfasts.  Seeing my grandparents admire our Christmas dresses.  Sitting with my mom on the living room couch when she (finally) stopped serving people and sat down for a few moments of peace as we listened to opera with the lights dimmed, the Christmas tree twinkling away.  The house filled with the laughter, eating, music and conversation of our family.

I want to create that for my kids. And, believe it or not, I want to watch their faces light up when Santa brings them just what they were hoping for.  But toning it down to something reasonable and less excessive has brought me a lot of peace this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All Good Gifts

With no sarcasm whatsoever, I can freely admit that I adore the Christmas season!  In addition to fact that we celebrate the birth of someone who died so that we may all have eternal life, there's the added benefit that overconsumption of both wine and cookies is not only accepted as the norm, but it's encouraged as well! It's like...if you're not drinking a bottle of Pinot Noir each day and scarfing down a plate of unwitting gingerbread men, people look at you like there's something wrong with you. 

I love listening to Christmas carols, particularly the traditional religious ones like George Michael's  "Last Christmas" and that one by The Waitresses where they both forgot "cranberry" and end up falling in love at the all-night grocery.   And in all seriousness Bing Crosby's "Christmas Waltz" always makes me feel sentimental, giving me an almost irresistible urge grab someone both homely and lonely and mercy smooching them under the mistletoe.

And then there's the task of moving our creepy elf who is plotting to kill us.

There's nothing I like about this part of Christmas. 

But one thing I do love is remembering the meaning of Christmas, which is Christ's sacrifice for us, and whether you're a Christian or not, whether you believe in the guy in the sky or the pie in the sky, there is no human being that doesn't believe in gratitude.  So moreso than Thanksgiving, (when I spend my time avoiding the dry, tasteless meat that is turkey)  the Christmas season makes me remember all the things for which I am thankful.  So here's my list.

 In no particular order, I am grateful for:

1. The 2015 Ford Explorer.  (And no, they are not paying me to plug their brand).  It kept my twin sister safe when she was in a terrible car crash just hours before she delivered her twin infants by emergency C-section. 

2. My brand new niece and nephew.  They are healthy and strong and I very pleased to report that, unlike most newborns, they do not resemble plucked chickens.  I am also grateful that every time Little T makes a face it looks just like the bald guy from The Princess Bride and we all yell "INCONCEIVEABLE!"  I am also grateful for my not-so-new but equally fabulous older niece and nephew who I love like my own kids with the addition of getting to spoil them rotten and having never to discipline them.

3. My children.  When they're not trying to slowly and skillfully make me lose my mind, they are treasure troves of wonderfulness, but specifically I love how Big A is such a gentle soul and a loving, loyal friend.  Every time I see some little shit bullying a smaller child, I'm grateful that although God made Big A physically huge, my little man has come equipped with sweet nature and a conscious.  I am grateful that my daughter is so tough but also has a voice like one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz and is BFFs with her grandmother. I also love that she is the nosiest person in the universe and DOESN'T MISS A TRICK.  At three years old, she's already questioning Santa's toy manufacturing practices.

4.  My sisters.  They are simply the best and I can't write more in a public blog without making everyone uncomfortable.  I would be a (bigger) mess without their love and support. There are two of my greatest blessings.  All I'll say is we could quote the entire movie of Teen Witch.  Well, two of us can.

5. My mom and dad, whose love knows no boundaries. And nor does their every day interactive skills. But one day I will miss them dropping by the house for no reason, gassing up my car when I didn't ask them to, buying me stuff from Cost-co and coming over to tape all the tablecloths down to the tables before I throw an outdoor party. In all honestly, they are the best parents anyone could ask for and the lucky bastard that won the parent jackpot happened to be me.   And you are the gold standard of grandparents!  Your love for my little critters knows no bounds. (Mom, I know Dad will never read this so can you please paraphrase and leave out the cuss words?)  Thanks for putting up with me.

6.  My friends. I adore the love and laughter you funnel into my life.  Whether we met in high school, connected at WINGS or were forced together because of our kids (realizing with some delight that we actually liked each other and play dates were about to become much less tedious) I am very lucky to know such warm, loving women and men.   And one amazing person whose gender I am still not sure about but still, we make it work.

7.  My husband.  I am grateful that he never comes home, flops on the couch and pops open a beer. I love that he has a passion for life and is so down-to-earth and authentic. I love that he has never actually used the word "authentic". I love that he is so tender with the kids. I love that he  tells me he loves me and I am beautiful even when I'm drinking an entire bottle of wine and a eating a platter of cookies, often at the same time.  I love that we laugh together and occasionally, have cried together.

So, of my list of the 7 things I am grateful for this holiday season, one was an automobile and the other 6 were people.

Cheers to that! Pass the eggnog.  And the cookies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweet Lies

There's a sweet mom that always comes to my daughter's gymnastics class exceedingly late.

Even for a mom, she always seems disheveled.  (And that is coming from me, someone who is never in a cute pair of J. Crew green skinny pants and doesn't wear lipstick because simply, I often have no idea where my make-up bag is.)  This mom has three kids under the age of 3 and she always wears a brown parka that does nothing for her sandy hair and light complexion. 

 The class begins at 10.  This past week, she was so late that she showed up at 10:32.   I want to describe the withering looks she got from the waiting room.  It was cold man, and I'm not talking about the wind chill factor. 

I want to be the first person to say I try very hard to get my children and myself to places on time.  Sometimes though, I fail. I do believe that if you're habitually late your life is out of control so I try not to be habitually late. I also find it annoying when someone I'm meeting is always late.  They know this. I tell them. I tell them that this must mean that their lives are out of control. Then they start coming on time.  It's like magic.

But that being said, Late Mom rushed in, hair flying willy nilly, kids covered in crumbs and juice stains and, of course, still wearing the unflattering brown parka. 

She said to the room "You know it's bad when your 2 year old tells you that you need to manage your time better!"

And there was silence.  And it hung there.  And it felt like judgment.   And I think we were all feeling rather smug because we had gotten our children to class on time. Certainly, we were all doing better than that mom least.  And then I saw that Late Mom looked really bummed out. And then I felt kind of ashamed because we were all silently patting ourselves on the back for getting our little kids to a class on time. Big fricking whoop.

There was a mom there who was basically putting out a bid for connection and we were all shaming her?  No one was throwing her a bone and the rather bitchy receptionist was even giving her a superior sort of look.

So I my book of Maeve Binchy essays aside, (which is a huge sacrifice since that hour in the waiting room without any kids is very precious to me) and, all in the name of being less of an asshole than I was being, I did what I do best.  I white lied.  I'm a great white liar, (it's sad but true) and lately I've started owning it. I learned this skill post-college, when white jeans were in and people were asking if they made their respective butts look big.

"I know, RIGHT?"  I yelled back at her.

She looked relieved that anyone was talking to her late, pariah self.  A smile flooded her cute, albeit caked-with-something face.

"It's like we were already so late...my daughter wanted a juice box, so I had to run back inside the house and get it....and then she wanted apple juice instead of grape juice...so I had to run back inside to switch it," she says.

Ohdearohdearohdear....

I squelched to urge to give her advice like "How about next time tell her either "no!" or "it's grape juice or the highway" and I remembered a time (perhaps many times) when I too, indulged my kids because I was just plain too tired for a fight.

" I hear ya, sister!"  I sang out. (My whole demeanor changes when I'm white lying. I sound like someone testifying in a gospel choir, I don't know why.)

"I'm embarrassed I'm so late, I am" She sort of fake-laughed nervously.

"Oh, come on! You're not late for your daughter's inauguration.  It's a tumbling class." I encouraged.

Cue very bitchy look zinging my way from receptionist.

"I know!" she said. "It's the same with the movies...it's like why do I need to get there on time?"

ohdearohdearohdear.  Because your arrival disrupts the entire movie? Because you miss all the previews which is the best part?

"I hear ya!" I say again.  Because that's what this was about.  She wanted to be heard 

This nice mom and I clearly didn't agree on our respective timetables, that was obvious. It was also certain she wasn't looking for advice on how to organize her life. (Not that I'm qualified to give any) But she was having a tough morning and reaching out for some reassurance. And if I couldn't extend my hand for 1 minute with a few kind words than really, what's the point?

It took me back to a time when I burst into tears outside my son's swim class, so horrible was my week.  The kids had been acting up, my husband was away and one of my book reviews had been criticized by a reader for being anti-feminist (as IF!)  One my friends told me her kids could be gargoyles also, her husband left a sopping wet towel on their down comforter that morning and people were crazy.  I was comforted.

Another mom we don't know that well piped in, "my kids have actually been behaving really well this week.  And my husband made me breakfast in bed today!" 

We don't sit with her anymore.

The point is if you have a choice between being a giant beeotch who thinks she's got it all together or a an empathic human being willing to connect, please go with the latter, especially if someone seems to be in need. 

Be kind, even if it means telling someone their white jeans don't make them look like a cannoli.