Friday, July 27, 2012

Easy Doesn't Mean Bad

The modern parenting movement is demanding. Raising two young daughters in a highly progressive neighborhood in one of America's most liberal cities (San Francisco) has had its challenges. When the girls were babies, the playground moms had an unspoken, yet very evident competition. The winner was always the mom who breastfed the longest, didn't own a television or stroller, made her own baby food, co-slept and whose baby's first words were uttered in at least two different languages. I lost, on all counts.

My second daughter weaned herself at a mere 3 months of age and I made her exactly three batches of pureed vegetables before declaring the entire process of buying, washing, prepping, steaming and mashing to be annoyingly laborious and switched to dry Cheerios and prepackaged food. I half-heartedly co-slept the first few months with each child, only because I was too lazy to scramble down the hall five times a night for feedings. In addition, we own two televisions, three strollers and the only second language taught to either child was via the trusted teacher Dora the Explorer.

Yes, I often took the easy road in parenting. But, why does "easy" need to mean "bad"?

Read the rest here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Top Ten Mistakes I hope My Girls Make

Like all parents, I have many hopes and dreams for my girls. Since they were mere embryos in my uterus, I have imagined their futures overflowing with love and happiness. Of course, I want them to have rich, fulfilling lives, where goals are achieved and triumphs are celebrated. However, I also want them to make mistakes and learn from their missteps. Most importantly, I want them to live without the regret that they never took a chance. As Sophia Loren once said, "Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life."

I compiled a list of the top ten blunders that I hope my daughters accomplish before they are too old to know better. Granted, I am writing this list when my girls are still young and innocent, at ages where sneaking an extra gummy vitamin is considered a time-out worthy rebellion. I trust completely that this list will dramatically change in the coming years.

But for now, I hope they:

1. Get a tattoo
Just one. Somewhere discreet, where they can easily cover it and conceal it from disapproving grandparents and fathers.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lessons I've Learned from my 5-Year-Old

Lately I have spent much time watching my 5-year-old daughter.  She has now "graduated" from preschool and is about to officially enter the world of elementary school.  This summer she is in a state of limbo- stuck between the realms of cut up grapes and backpacks filled with homework.  
 Reflecting on the last five years has been bittersweet.  While I am excited to be done with pull-ups, irrational requests to wear the same tattered pair of underpants three days in a row, and refusals to brush her hair, I would be lying to not admit that I am going to miss her chubby toddler thighs and slightly incomprehensible speech.
She is not the only one who has grown in the last half decade- my own beliefs and personal philosophies have been greatly shaped by her toddler existence.  So I comprised a list of the top ten things that my five-year-old daughter has (not so gently) taught me.
Elana, thank you for teaching me:
  1. Floral patterns, stripes, and polka dots do not necessarily clash.  It is far better that you eagerly dress yourself for school in a myriad of patterns and designs than to battle daily over my preferred outfit of choice.
  2. When the carrots touch the pasta it makes both foods inedible.  I would personally love to buy the inventor of divided acrylic plates a large drink.
  3. Socks are always optional;  even beneath snowboots.
  4. You won’t wear a coat when I am cold, only when you are cold.  How silly of me to think that you might be chilly at the park in windy 54 degree weather!  I may be sporting a scarf and hat, but you, my dear, are just perfect in your sleeveless dress and leggings.
  5. Although television is often seen as taboo, a half-hour cartoon can make the difference between a happy family and disaster.  Before I had you I loathed the thought of seating a child in front of the electronic babysitter.  Needless and lazy, I thought.  I was wrong, very wrong.
  6. When painting, there is no need for a canvas as long as you have your naked body.  After all, it's about the process not the product.
  7. A preschooler's stamina will always outlast your's during a battle of wills.  You redefined the meaning of stubborn, and I am much wiser because of that.
  8. Just when I think that I cannot handle your latest developmental stage one minute longer, you change.  There have been numerous times when I was on the verge of cracking, and just before the last straw was placed on my camel's back, you stopped your night-wakings/food-throwing/back-talk/temper-tantrums.  It is as though you can see through me.
  9. No amount of pleading, negotiating, or bribing will convince you that fish actually tastes good.  I will hereby cease all efforts to persuade you otherwise.
  10. Finally, you taught me the true meaning of the song "You Are My Sunshine".  You make me happy when skies are gray.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tiger Mom Art Project

My five-year-old daughter, Elana, absolutely loves art. She adores paint, glitter and glue. She relishes pom-poms, foam stickers and feathers. And she delights in any project involving colored sand. That said, Elana is truly a terrible artist!

While most five-year-olds can sketch a discernible picture of a favorite animal, her “drawing” of a cat is basically a circle with two wobbly triangle ears and four lines comprising the body, two legs and a tail. She may or may not add a whisker or two but usually doesn’t bother to take the time.

I don’t think her problem lies in the special needs category; it appears to be more an issue of rushing each activity to get to the next. She can complete three coloring pages in the time it takes me to go to the bathroom. Although I have never been a “draw within the lines” kind of parent, and her preschool is also free-form, I expected her to do this on her own. Frankly, I am a bit tired of asking her to “tell me about this picture” each time she presents me with a purple scribble next to a pink one. While I am totally on board with the notion that art should be about the process, not the product, at this point, I was hoping she would have created a few pieces worth saving.

I decided that it was time to go Tiger-mom on the little preschooler’s slipshod behind; an art-intervention, if you like. Together, we would paint a real picture, one that would not require simple explanations of “it’s a house.”

We began our project by discussing what it is that she would like to paint. Elana wavered between kittens and fairies, before deciding that a Pixie Hollow setting would be the perfect scene to complement her bedroom.

Next, we took a trip to the art store to choose a stretched canvas, acrylic paint and a few nice brushes. Although she made a strong appeal for the 36 by 48 inch canvas, I convinced her that the 18 by 24 inch size would be more manageable. I was also pleasantly surprised when she selected a variety of paints in blues, greens and silver, in lieu of her standard pinks and purples.

Now, we were ready to paint. While Elana was ready to jump into painting the lake and fairy wings, I explained that our first task was to cover the background.
Using a wide foam brush she slathered the sky in blue and the ground in green. After two and a half minutes with the green paint, Elana was ready to call it a day. However, I continued to channel Amy Chua (the original tiger mom) and pointed out all the spots of white still visible on the canvas. When she began to hastily spread the paint where the green and blue intersected, I reminded her to slow down and work carefully. With the background complete, we were done for the day.

Two days later, we were able to steal another fifteen minutes of alone time to work on the next steps - a pond and the fairy wings. With chalk, I sketched an outline of each new shape, then Elana would fill it in with paint. My usual laissez-fair attitude was replaced with “Watch the lines”, “Be careful”, and “Let’s wipe this off and try again.”

After painting the fairy wings, we waited another few days for the paint to thoroughly dry and then we tackled the bodies. I must admit that it took every ounce of self-control not to take the brush from her hands and add some touch-ups. And more than a few times, I used a wet towel to wipe away excess paint. (When starting this project, this was not at all not my intention. However, I can only take so many jagged lines and careless strokes.)
The project may have been less of a lesson to Elana in careful concentration and more of a lesson to me in patience and restraint. However, we both (mostly) enjoyed our one-on-one time together, and Elana now has an original work of art to hang on her wall - one I won’t toss in the recycling.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Bedtime Story for Mom and Dad

Picture Courtesy of Karin Asensio
At one in the morning my toddler screams from her room
    "Mommy, I need you!" she wails with gloom.
With eyes half open and feet full of lead
   I make my way down the hall to the side of her bed.
There she is sitting, with paci in hand,
    And a grin on her face, that I truly can't stand.
"My leg hurts," she offers, with little conviction;
    I bend down to kiss it, not showing suspicion.

For the rest of the night, at every half hour
    She chimes like a clock wound up with full power.
At two-thirty, I tell her "Please stop this! Enough!"
    "If you don't go to sleep, I'll..." I bluff.

Well, that doesn't help, she now starts to cry.
    My threat isn't working, so a new tactic I try.
I lie down beside her, softly stroking my dear
    While whispering princess songs in her ear.
 Twenty minutes later she seems deeply asleep,
    And I try to get up without making a peep.

Read the rest here.