I Confiscated My Kid’s Bed

Jumping on the bedYesterday was a Monday.

The day began… well, actually, the day never really actually began, per se, because it really just kind of flowed into the day before.  The funny kind of math that you never fully grasp until you are in the midst of your parenting “glory days,” goes a little something like this:

1 teething one-year-old
+ 1 three-year-old asserting her independence
= 0 sleep

0 sleep
+ 1 teething one-year-old
+ 1 three year-old asserting her independence
+ To-do list a mile long (pressure!!!)
= 1 day for the record books

All things considered, I think that I should get some sort of award for patience; for most of the day, anyway.  I was doing great until bedtime when I confiscated my three-year-old daughter’s bed.
That’s right- you read that correctly.  I confiscated her bed.  The whole bed; frame and all.

In my defense, she was jumping on the bed rather than actually sleeping in it.  And she had spent the whole day climbing chairs, couches, my leg, and anything else that resembled any sort of climbable structure.  I was at the absolute limit of what my body would physically and emotionally allow.  I could not sit her down on her bed, calmly talk to her about listening ears and helping hands, or sing “no more monkeys jumping on the bed” one more time.   Confiscating the bed felt… right.  And, as a nice fringe benefit of my moment of possible insanity, I get to forever hold on to what the casual onlooker might have observed as I summoned up what little strength I had left to storm out of her room, angrily pushing the poor, dumb-founded kid’s bed into the hallway.

I was done.  I felt like I had wasted an entire day doing nothing but reminding:  reminding a three-year-old over and over…and OVER again about “The Rules.”

I guess we all have our limits; and the pressures that come along with that mile-long to-do list can easily turn into an incredible perspective-devouring monster.  As I (eventually) cooled down from my bed-stealing frenzy, I thought about everything I had said and done that day.

“The couch is for sitting, not for jumping.”
“Don’t hit your brother”
“That was a great hug!”
“Thanks for using your nice words!”
“Please don’t flush the toilet three times in a row; you are going to break it.”

Days can too easily become a blur of yeses and no’s and the little lessons and sweet, unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime moments can get so lost while we are busy mourning the loss of the time that we needed to “get things done.”  And, perhaps, the most important task we are all charged with is to remind each other… over and over… and OVER again in love.

“Hands are for helping; not for hurting.”
“Use your nice words, please.”
“Do not hurt yourself.”
“We take time to listen to each other.”

My three-year old reminded me on Monday that I need to recognize my limits and take a time-out when I need it.  Perhaps next time she can remind me a little more gently.

The Holiday Shuffle

The Holiday Shuffle
I am going to miss going to my Grandparents’ Lutheran church on Christmas Eve this year.  It may be weird to hear such a thing from a Unitarian Universalist (a life-long UU, at that), but I really, truly have always enjoyed the Christmas Eve ritual of joining my grandparents in worship at their church.

As is the case with many families, Christmastime for my family was packed full of places to go, gifts to be bought and wrapped, and cookies to be baked.  We called this, in our house, the “Holiday Shuffle.”  Truth be told, I always did an excellent job pretending to hate it all and could “Bah Humbug” with the best of all possible Scrooges, but, between you and me, I loved every bit of it.

I loved rushing to wrap presents and the butterflies I would get in my stomach as I wondered if we would make it on time (thrill issues, perhaps?).  I loved getting dressed up and smelling the Swedish Meatballs, potatoes, homemade lefse and dinner rolls that were keeping warm in the oven while we went to church.  I especially loved the sharp, cold air and the countless stars that filled the dark Wisconsin sky, wondering if we would be lucky enough to see a snowflake or two that night.  But most of all, as my family filed into the long, wooden pews in the dimly-lit sanctuary, I loved the sound of the choir and pipe organ that filled the cathedral ceilings as one and all waited in quiet anticipation for the stories to begin.  It was magic.  It was, what some people might call, “Holy.”

As is the case with many UU kids, I often wondered why most Unitarians bothered to celebrate Christmas; after all, we, by definition, do not believe in the divinity of Jesus.  I totally stand by that; but what I have decided that I believe in is the Holy of the holiday.

Decorating the treeI believe in the magic of inspiration and I believe in soaking in the wonder and awe of things greater than you; no matter where you find it.  For most in my Grandparents’ Lutheran church, the “bigger” was found in prophecy and story and song about the birth of their Savior and the miracle of His life.  For me, it was just being a part of this ritual, knowing that my presence was valued and treasured, and being reminded, once more, of the miracle of family.

These days, it is nearly impossible for us to make it to my Grandparents’ Christmas Eve celebration and to join the worship at that beautiful church in Wisconsin six hours away from our home.  But as I create new traditions and rituals for my children, I hope that they, too, will feel the Holy of this night.  Merry Christmas!

Therapy Fund

Therapy FundI am not a parenting expert.  In fact, I am hardly a novice.

I have to say, I am extremely suspicious of anyone who claims to have the key to unlocking the secrets of producing the world’s perfect children (complete with perfectly styled hair, spotless clothes, and halos, of course).

In my mere 3 years of being an actual parent, I would have to say that I actually now know less about child-rearing than I thought I did before my children happily shattered every dream I had about the ease with which I would raise them.

It took a few healthy doses of humility to get me to the point of admitting my cluelessness; I spent my first few months as the “perfect” new parent, looking down my nose at other parenting styles (you know, the new-age or simply archaic practices from the parents who will enviably produce the trouble-making kids that my simply angelic children will have to endure at school every day.  Those parents.  You and I are not in these categories, of course).

After enough mishaps and public tantrums that leave the entire room looking at you the exact same way you looked at all those other parents who just couldn’t control their kids, it hits you: YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT.

Each child is unique, bringing into the world his or her own set of needs and gifts, and each caregiver is different, bringing to the table his or her own set of gifts and weaknesses.  You add in all of the variables and suddenly your simple formula for parenting success…well, let’s face it, I was never really good at math anyway.

Shortly after I figured out that “I know nothing” is the only thing I’ll ever know, I started making mental contributions to my kids’ “Therapy Fund”.  I would make imaginary deposits every time my temper was too short or my patience much too thin.  I would even make an occasional contribution on days when I was questioning whether or not our lifestyle choices would leave our children feeling too different.

Then I decided that it would be way more fun to have an actual Therapy Fund. (Especially as I  imagined how fun it would be to pop ten bucks in the therapy jar to diffuse a moment of teenage hormonal rage when my kids declare their hatred for me at about 500 decibels.  “Oh, tell it to your therapist!” I might say to myself.)

Therapy FundTo be fair, the creation of this jar wasn’t JUST for kicks and giggles; I created it in part because I sincerely believe that this is one of the gifts that I can give my children, and not just because they will be actually receiving this money one day (they will probably need someone who will help them work through all of the baggage they have obtained, courtesy of the wacky parents who raised them as UU vegetarians in a fairly conservative small town).

But I think the best gift of the Therapy Fund is that each deposit is a physical representation to me and my children that I recognize that I am, by no means, super-human.  I have real shortcomings that may leave a real void in their lives.  I don’t know all of the answers and I never will (although not for lack of trying).  This simple, silly little jar reminds me that it is okay that my kids may need to turn to someone other than me to help them over one of life’s hurdles, and that I am totally allowed to have a bad day or two (and that I might even be able to forgive myself for that one day).

It also oddly helps me strive to be the best parent I can be (I am not made of money, ya know).  The less I have to put in that jar, the better.

Some time, I may even just throw in a couple of bucks just… because.  Even the parents who have written the books on parenting need help too.

Post "T-day" Reflections

"T" is for TurkeyWhen I picked up my kids from daycare on Tuesday, my daughter presented me with her daily art project as she beamed with excitement.

It brings me great comfort to know that when I can’t be with my kids that they are in a place where they can learn and grow and take such pride in learning something as simple as “T is for Turkey.”  Even at the tender age of three.

Believe me when I say that this lesson in honor of Thanksgiving is very cherished, but bear with me as I share why this simple project was so humorous to me:

We don’t eat meat.

Not that I didn’t see this moment coming; I have actually been writing and re-writing what was to be my pre-Thanksgiving entry in which I shared (ad nauseum) my many day dreams of what my kids might say and do once they entered the world of the local public schools and were introduced to the arts, crafts, and inevitable fairy-tale lessons of the first Thanksgiving Feast.

"Save a Turkey..." t-shirtOne of my more elaborate visions included my precocious daughter announcing to her classmates that some poor baby turkey was now walking around motherless and that the table cloths at the first Thanksgiving Supper were probably small-pox infested anyway.

Of course, at three, my daughter hasn’t quite made the connection that the reason we say “T is for Turkey” is because most people in our culture find those turkeys just so irresistibly yummy.

We find ourselves doing an interesting dance this time of year; deliberating between different ways to lift up our lifestyle choice while still honoring others who choose differently out of principle or simply because of circumstance (because, let’s face it, a vegetarian diet is a privilege).

I don’t want my kids to look down upon others who eat meat, nor do I want them to choose to eat meat merely because they feel as if there is some great magical holiday moment that occurs the second the turkey enters your mouth (surely there must be fireworks displays and a chorus of angels that sing upon digestion).

I totally expect that one day my children will want to try meat, and they will be able to do this with our blessing; there may even come a time when my kids decide that vegetarianism is just not for them and I want them to feel good about that too.

The fact is that we can have conversations all day long about why we are vegetarians and how we came to make this choice (although, this conversation at the Thanksgiving table brings with it the risk of turning your light-hearted family function into a bad SNL skit ala Debbie Downer.).  But at the end of the day, this is who we are and this lifestyle suits us and our Principles best.

Thanksgiving day meal

(At Right: Even vegetarians can do “meat” and potatoes… chickpea cutlets! Maybe I DO hear that chorus of angels… )

So let’s laugh about our differences, drink a glass of wine (a vegetarian delicacy in my book), and remember that we have more in common than we have ideals that separate us.

I, for one, am thankful for that!

Welcome to UU@Home!

Welcome Home!
I had originally planned to use this space to provide simple, once-a-month ideas for Unitarian Universalists who are looking for easy ways to put our UU Principles into practice every day at home.  And since I am also of the optimistic sort, I hoped that this space would also be filled with contributions from UU families everywhere who are implementing these and other ideas in their own homes as well.

While these ideas still have an important place in my overall vision for this blog, it alone seemed a little incomplete.  So in true form of a lifelong UU, I have endeavored to turn a simple idea into something a little more complex than perhaps it ought to be.

Weaving UU principles into one’s home and life isn’t just as simple as starting a new tradition; blazing a new trail brings with it its own brand of baggage.  How do we explain new traditions to our non-UU family members and friends?  How do we confront a culture that doesn’t always recognize our Principles or even our religion?  How do you encourage your child to remain confident in the expression of her UU values despite the fact that her peers awarded her a not-so-flattering nickname, “petition girl,” after her latest effort to ensure that the authorities at her school would actually step in and defend those being bullied because of their looks?  Or something like that.  You know, just as a hypothetical example.  Ahem.

The point is that navigating through life as a UU can be challenging, messy, and, at times, let’s face it… it can be downright funny.

So while I will contribute a monthly suggestion to help you survive as a UU@Home, I will also share my insights from my own experiences as a lifelong UU who also happens to be a parent, young adult, and religious educator.

Welcome Home!

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