Say “Yes” To The Mess

Kitty birthday greetings, courtesy of younger son
Kitty birthday greetings, courtesy of younger son

My knee-jerk reaction when the kids tell me about something they’re planning is, “Oh, no. It’s going to be messy. NO!”

You see, their messy nature conflicts with my craving for some order. My older son’s gym shorts have been in the middle of our living room floor since Monday. I refuse to pick them up; he’s managed to “forget” to toss them in the dirty clothes hamper all four times I’ve asked. My younger son’s shoes are often just shy of making it into the shoe cubbies I bought to keep shoes out of the middle of the floor. As an added bonus, there’s usually a pile of sand from the school playground wherever his shoes landed when he took them off. (I’m half-expecting a bill from the school so they can order another truckload of sand before the next school year begins.)

The last thing I want is to invite more messes, but what I’m starting to figure out (after eleven years) is that, while certainly messy, their grand ideas often come with a lesson.

For instance, they insisted on selling citrus fruit from my parents’ yard, lemonade, and beaded jewelry that they made. I told them people wouldn’t buy the stuff, but they couldn’t be deterred. They made $24 and couldn’t wait to plan their next sale.  A couple weeks ago, a neighbor offered them a partnership of sorts: they sell extra veggies from her garden for a portion of the proceeds. (I’ll let you know in a few years if I’m raising little entrepreneurs or slick con artists 🙂 )

The lesson: I learned that I was wrong (again) and they learned that with the right attitude, you can sell just about anything.

Sammy and Lizzy (sons' cats)
Sammy and Lizzy (sons’ cats)

Their latest mess idea: have a birthday party for their cats’ fifth birthday. I didn’t say yes or no for several days, hoping it would pass (fat chance.) The day before the kitties’ big day, I drove my sons to the store. With their money, they bought the cake/brownie mixes they wanted. They put out a snack buffet while I made the goodies. They sat the cats in chairs and held them against their will while we sang happy birthday (and yes, they called me out when my lips were moving but they couldn’t hear my voice.)

The lesson: They experienced the joy of doing something nice for others (even if they’re “just cats,” as my husband would say) and I learned that I need to focus more on these little moments. I have a vague awareness of our pets’ birthdays, and the fact they are a little grayer and little older.

I need to embrace the mess; I need to celebrate more.

(And I’ll start by enjoying my day off work on Friday while the kids are at school 😛 )

This weekend, I’m celebrating Easter… what are YOU celebrating? 

Old Ladies Aren’t Strangers or Kidnappers (Apparently)

Dead Trees?  Easy to spot.  Adults with bad intentions?  Not so much...
Dead Trees? Easy to spot.   Adults with bad intentions? Not so much…

Last week, my eight-year old crashed on his bike. He plays drama to the hilt, so even a stubbed toe comes across as I’m-about-to-die, with a pain level of 85 on a scale of 1 to 10. I always check for broken bones and send him on his way- lingering will just encourage him to cry longer.

He’d just lost the scabs on his face from a skateboard crash a couple weeks prior, so I wasn’t surprised when he came hobbling in the house with my older son right behind him. Doubled over, my younger son announced he fell on his bike. He lifted up his shirt, and sure enough, there was a scrape. (With the way he screamed, I expected his intestines to be hanging out of the wound or something equally horrifying.) After I sent him to rest on the couch, I caught sight of a car outside.

“Um, why is there a red car in our driveway?” I asked.

“An old lady gave him a ride home,” my older son said.

My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “What? You know you’re not supposed to get in the car with strangers!”

“She’s an old grandma,” my younger said through whimpers.

So I went outside to meet this supposed not-a-creepy-kidnapper-killer-grandma. She didn’t look familiar and I’ve not seen her around. It turns out, she dog-sits for a woman who lives down the street. She thought it was funny that after my son got inside the car, he turned to her and asked, “You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?”

It’s sweet that he had the innocence to think a kidnapper would say, “Why yes, kid, you’re never going home. I’m going to take you, do horrible things to you and leave you in the desert.” I love his innocence, but it’s a dangerous thing. After the woman left, I had a chat with the kids.

To my younger son:

Me: “You seriously asked if she was going to kidnap you- AFTER you got inside the car?”

Son: “She said she wouldn’t.”

Me: “You think a kidnapper is going to tell you the truth?”

To my older son:

Me: “And you let him get in the car?”

Son: “I didn’t want to be rude.”

Me: “You don’t have a problem with rude any other time. This morning, you told me I looked fat.”

It’s alarming to discover they didn’t get the message we thought we’d conveyed. From a kid’s point of view, I can see the confusion. We teach them to respect adults and be polite, but then if one gets too close, we expect them to push away- even if it’s rude. Reading social cues is hard. I know adults who haven’t mastered it.

Yes, we have more work to do.

Now, I’m off to make sure they understand that if someone pulls up in a car offering candy in exchange for help finding a lost a dog, they shouldn’t approach the window and ask, “What kind of candy?”

‘Round We Go

In December, we had a show-down with some unwanted visitors (you can read about that here.)  We thought we won but surprise, surprise- they’re back!

Last week, I got a call from my younger son’s school, which is never a good thing.  They never call simply to say you have a wonderful child, or to let you know they have a spa treatment gift basket waiting for you in the front office.  Perhaps they should start doing that to really mess with parents’ heads…

As I listened to the school nurse, my blood went cold.  Lice.  My first thought was, “Oh, crap.  Not again!”  My second thought was, “Oh crap, he slept in our bed two nights ago!”

03-02 WeaponsOn the way home from school, we stopped at Wal Mart to purchase the weapons… um, I mean lice treatments.  As I walked to the checkouts, I had a déjà vu moment.  I was sixteen again, buying feminine products:  no matter how I held the boxes, I couldn’t conceal the contents, and it felt like everyone stared and judged.  As the cashier scanned our four lice-related items, she pretended not to notice what they were.  I wondered if she fought the urge to scratch her head as much as I did.  If she didn’t, I bet right after we left, she at least changed the latex gloves she wore.

If I even think the word “lice”, my scalp itches and I swear I can feel things crawling on me.  The temptation to shave my head is high, but I remind myself if I did that, I’d look less like Demi Moore in GI Jane and more like a cancer patient.  The fact that I’m so susceptible to suggestion is funny to me, because I’m not the hypochondriac- my husband is.

In hubby’s defense, he comes from a long line of hypochondriacs.  His mother has been dying of something since I first met her nearly twenty years ago.  (She’s still alive, by the way, but was just in the hospital for chest pains.)  It’s interesting that my husband can swear he’s caught a cold if someone sneezes twenty feet away, but he was the only one not scratching his head!

We’ve endured the shame of diagnosis and shopping for the cure and we’ve seen different shades of hypochondria.  We’ve survived the lice treatment (though we’re scheduled for a follow up this week) and I’ve almost recovered from the sixteen loads of laundry.  As I ponder the events of the past week, I search for any nugget of enlightenment I can find, just as I always do when I go through an adverse situation.

I’ve got nothing.

Maybe I read too much into my experiences.  Perhaps I’m supposed to learn to accept that sometimes life sucks… just because it can.

Filling In The (Generation) Gap

Recently, there was a gun scare at my son’s middle school.  Thankfully, the report of a man with a semi-automatic weapon on campus ended up not being a threat.

That afternoon, his backpack hit the floor and I asked, “How was your day?”

Shoulder shrug.  “Fine.”

“I heard there was a lock-down at your school.”

Another shoulder shrug.

“Well, were you scared?”

“Figured it was another drill.”

“You didn’t think an hour was long for a drill?”

Yet another shoulder shrug.

“Where do you go when you’re in lock-down?”

This time I got an irritated sigh; a step up from the shoulder shrug.  “We sat under our desks.  What did you do when you were in school?” (Said in his snarky ‘you’re-an-idiot-please-tell-me-I’m-adopted’ tone.)

I paused.  “We didn’t have lock-down.”

This realization spotlighted the gap between our generations.

Yep, this is me... in all my 70s glory!
Yep, this is me… in all my 70s glory!

Back in my day (now that doesn’t make me sound old, now does it?) I remember “stranger danger” as the big threat.  Some pervert offering candy or asking us to help find a lost dog was something our parents feared.  Now we hear about home invasions where someone breaks into the house and takes a child while the parents are home.  Oh, and it’s often not a stranger.

We didn’t have cell phones or the internet (now I REALLY sound old!) but we were able to leave bullies behind when we left school grounds.  These days, meanness has taken to social media where it stalks victims 24/7.

All this got me wondering if school shootings really happen more frequently, or if more media coverage makes it seem that way.  Google led me to Wikipedia, where I found a lengthy list of US school shootings dating back to 1760.  (We’ve come a long way from Dewey Decimal System-filed card catalogs.)

I scanned the list and made a list of shootings that have occurred on elementary, middle and high school campuses since the 1970s, when I began attending school.  In my counts, I didn’t include suicides at school or teachers/adults shot by students or exes.

1970s= 9 shootings

1980s= 18 shootings

1990s= 19 shootings (interestingly enough, sixteen of these incidents occurred BEFORE Columbine)

2000s= 18 shootings

So far in the 2010s, there are 19 shootings.  This is disturbing, especially since we aren’t even halfway through the decade.

I worry about my childrens’ future, but I have to laugh because each generation laments the next generation’s journey to Hell in a hand basket.   The dangers seem more pervasive from one generation to the next.

Maybe there’s something to that.  Maybe each generation can rightfully lay claim to owning the “good ‘ol days.”

02-20 80s-couch

Then again, I believe there’s always room for improvement.

Hate Has Its Place

01-29 Hate

Several times a week, I sit with my younger son (he’s in second grade) and he reads to me.  I would love for this to happen every day, but sometimes life doesn’t cooperate.  That’s another post for another day!  Anyway, as he read the chapter book, my son substituted “bleep” for a word.

I halted his reading and we went back and read the sentence.  Sure enough, there was a four –letter word that he’s been trained since preschool not to ever utter- under any circumstances.  Right there in black and white, “hate” glared out from the page.  Shocking, isn’t it?

Okay, I’m being facetious here, but this did trigger some thoughts.

It’s admirable that language is being monitored (censored?) in an effort to reduce negative speech, but I wonder if it really hurts any less to have one kid tell another, “I dislike you more than liver and onions” rather than the old-school, “I hate you.”

I follow the belief that if I don’t have anything nice to say, shut my trap.  If something about someone bothers me so much that I’m tempted to fire a verbal missile, avoid that person.  If I’m about to say/write something that knocks another person down, do the world a favor and don’t.  Simple, right?

I don’t think banning the word “hate” from our vocabulary does anything for removing it from our hearts.  Here’s another thing- hate is kind of like bacteria:  there’s good and bad varieties.  If we eradicate the good, productive hate then everything goes wonky.

Hate is a passionate dislike of something.  Bad hate is directed at others with the intent to harm.  It hurts feelings, brings tears and burdens another’s heart.  Bad hate is a tangled knot in the threads that bind us together.  Bad hate is toxic.

But hate has its place.

Let me tell you some of the things I hate.  I hate bullying and any behavior that implies one person is better than another.  I hate the fact there are children without loving homes.  I hate that not everyone has enough food to eat, while my hunger is not out of necessity or circumstances.  I hate when differences of opinion turn to personal attacks.  I hate when animals are abused, I hate discrimination for any reason, I hate that we so often turn our backs claiming, “There’s nothing I can do…”

I could go on, but I won’t.

I believe passionately disliking something is the first step in passionately and consciously deciding not to ignore it.  In this way, hate can foster caring.

If you disagree with me, that’s okay.  I don’t hate you for that 😛

What do you hate?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts.