Thursday, December 21, 2006

Don't F... with my boys!

Respect is an important part of our household, and we often get compliments on the kids' good manners. Any aggression by either boy is grounds for Time Out and Big Trouble. However, we aren't exactly the most wholesome parents at the preschool. Yesterday, when the Director mentioned on the phone that her computer was tied up because she was taking her Sexual Harrassment training, my response was "Does that mean I'm not supposed to grab your ass when I come in?" Fortunately, she does get our humor, and seems to have similar parenting attitudes to ours. Meaning- She thinks it's funny when kids do all those things we are supposed to tell them not to do. She has no problem being stern and keeping the kids in line, but definitely sees the humor in kids being kids. We do believe in being strict with the boys and not letting them "get away" with bad behavior. We also think they are freakin' hilarious, and do our best not to let them see us laughing. Yesterday was one of those days.

When we went to pick up the boys, the Director said she needed to talk to us about something that happened that day. I was thinking Logan fell down or got bit again, or Hayden didn't take a nap or wasn't listening well. Nope. Logan got in a fight! Not only did he get in a fight, our 15 month old son picked the fight and took on two of his classmates. Apparently, he toddled by another kid and slapped him in the head, completely unprovoked. When the other kid responded in kind, Logan threw down, swinging with both arms, giving a screeching a battle cry that would have unnerved Rebel troops. When the teacher stepped in to break it up, he turned on her, pinching and grabbing her hair. Now, we've seen this side of our sweet baby boy at home, but the school had never seen the likes of this. They had only seen our blue eyed cherub and didn't believe us when we mentioned it in the past. So, as the Director describes this scenario, we are trying not to laugh. Fortunately, she finally looked at us and said "Now, I know I'm supposed to talk to you very seriously, but that is just plain funny!" His rather sensitive teacher didn't seem to feel the same and had to go home to shower and relax before coming back to pick up her two year old.

We left her office to go get our boys and the teacher that was watching Hayden at the time stopped us. Uh oh. What now? She said she needed to talk to us about his language. Here's where we flash back to our newly talking two year old shouting out "F-ing moron drivers!" and wondering what he came out with now. He had been shouting at one of his friends so his teacher asked why he was shouting instead of using an inside voice. His response was that he was "pissed off" at his friend. Since this wasn't nearly as bad as we had anticipated at the beginning of the conversation, we had a hard time keeping a straight face and had to really put on a good act when Hayden came over to sternly tell him that those aren't nice words!

Sometimes, it is either laugh or cry. We choose the first one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Maybe this I'm just bitter that Santa ignored me all these years

Entering this holiday season, I did not consider that the time had come to address our religious practices with Hayden. I feel completely unprepared for this, yet the issue is loud and clear, and had to be addressed immediately. In general, I don't feel that I am militant about my Jewish identity, and find it immensely interesting to learn about other faiths and customs. As a child, we only celebrated Jewish holidays at home, but I was allowed to enjoy other festitivities as well. I would always go decorate my friends' Christmas trees, understanding that Christmas was their holiday and Chanukah was mine. Friends were welcome to join us as well as we would light the candles for eight nights. There are always plenty of latkes and jelly donuts to go around. I never felt like I was missing out on anything because I knew we had our own special traditions. Each week we celebrate Shabbat and my boys are familiar with the rituals. Hayden even recites most of the Hebrew prayers on his own. My feeling is that children will learn what we live rather than something that is just presented once a week at religious school and not practiced at home. However, our boys are still so young that I imagine it would be hard to distinguish the differences in holidays and that we only celebrate certain ones.

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend of mine about where to draw the line on these celebrations. We had a difference of opinion on this. I would like my children to experience Judaism and the traditions, building their own Jewish identity. I would also like them to have an appreciation for the beauty of other traditions and faiths, yet understand that those traditions are not our own. My friend was less comfortable with this. He was concerned that by letting our two year olds participate in Christmas and Easter festitivities, it might be confusing to them, or give them the wrong message. It was a great discussion with both of us acknowledging that the other had some really good points. I got off the phone from that conversation feeling like a very liberal parent who is open minded, ready to "someday" teach my boys about acceptance of everyone along with the value of our faith.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my approach to all this was accelerated before I had considered how timely this would be. When I went to pick up the boys from preschool, I read a letter on the classroom door explaining that the children would be writing letters to Santa, as the post office said they may receive a response back. Santa. As in Claus. As in asking and expecting to receive requested toys from a fictional character associated with a holiday we don't celebrate. Ughh. Well, I was knee deep in it now. I spoke with the school assistant director and explained that I had a real problem with this activity. She acknowledged that it is a sensitive topic and initially was concerned because they were going to be learning about Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanza at school. I quickly clarified that I am happy they are doing this and that Hayden should learn about all the holidays. However, writing a letter to Santa would give him the unreasonable expectation that Santa would bring him presents, which is not going to happen. I didn't want him singled out either by being told he had to be in another classroom during the activity. I suggested he write a letter to Mommy and Daddy or Grandma and Grandpa saying what he would like for Chanukah. She agreed that this was a good compromise, and mentioned again that this week the children are learning about Chanukah in the classroom with related activities and art. Great. Situation under control. I am Super Parent!

Bedtime last night-
Hayden and I are settling down for his bedtime story when he says "Santa isn't going to bring me anything." This was surprising. We haven't spoken about Santa, so I asked him to tell me why he said that. "Miss M said if I didn't take a nap, Santa wouldn't bring me anything and I didn't take a nap." Long pause as I absorb the implications of this. Miss M is not even his regular teacher. Due to staffing shortages he spent time in another classroom today. Every now and then, my little man discloses something very innocently that shakes my very soul. How dare she presume that we are giving our son expectations for a religious holiday? How dare any teacher use Santa as a weapon? How dare she make a threat that would make little kids feel like they are bad kids simply because they didn't receive something from Santa? How dare she usurp a parent's right to teach their child as they wish? Even if I were Christian and teaching Hayden about Santa, I would not use one nap as the benchmark by which he gets his Christmas presents. Being that we don't even celebrate Christmas, I was angry on so many levels.

Hayden and I spent a great deal of time last night talking about this. We talked about how we will be lighting candles, spending time with family and friends and opening presents. We were already going to read a Chanukah book, but it was preceded by rehearsing his response should he be threatened about Santa any more. He very clearly states "Santa is a story. I celebrate Chanukah." Now I do realize the risk here of messing it up for the other kids. I have no desire for Hayden to tip them off that Santa isn't real. It is a magical time for children filled with wonder and excitement and I would not want to rob a child of that experience. However, I feel so strongly that he needs to understand that his not receiving gifts from Santa is in no way a reflection of his behavior. Fillip was concerned about the words I gave Hayden, so we have revised his response to say "Santa is for Christmas. I celebrate Chanukah." I also spoke directly to his regular teacher this morning and she understood my concerns. I later spoke with the school Director, who first the very first time got an angry phone call from me. She seemed very upset when I told her what Hayden had said. When I asked her how the day was upon pickup she said "The kids had a great day. Some of the teachers, well, not so much."

Although I am satisfied with the school's response to my concerns, it opens my eyes to all we will face in the years to come. Our society is saturated with Christianity. While it is widely acknowledged that other faiths have equal importance, it is an uphill battle. We need to be constantly vigilant in forging a solid Jewish identity in our impressionable little boys, without them feeling like they are missing out on the other things.

Parenting is hard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

San Antonio

Howdy y'all. We are back from San Antonio, Texas. Logan and I had a great visit with my friends. I hadn't seen them in over four years, and it was so wonderful to finally exchange hugs and show off the kids. Logan did not sleep on the way there making the 2 1/2 hour flight seem much longer. He was so tired, but fought the nap all the way. Fortunately, once we arrived he was in good spirits, excited to see a new place. Mostly, I think he was just happy to have regained the freedom to run around. A very nice porter offered his help at the gate, as I must have been quite the sight with my baby, stroller, diaper bag and full-size carseat, on my way to get my suitcase. He was a very nice welcome to San Antonio.

The second my girlfriend and I saw each other, we both burst into tears, greeting each other for the first time as moms, each holding a toddler. Her house is beautiful, and she and her husband are so laid back that I immediately felt at home. Logan and I had some leftover pasta for dinner, he got to play with 19 month Brenna, and went to bed gratefully without a peep, just happy to have found his familiar blankie and ball in the pack n play. The next couple nights I would scoop him into bed with me, feeling that sweet little baby against me, with little smiles and giggles throughout the night when he realized I was right nearby.

On Friday, Gina and I stayed in our pajamas ALL DAY. Jim was in and out with meetings, but we were content to sit around the house with the kids, gabbing as if we see each other several times a week, without the need to formally "catch up." We took the kids outside in the afternoon, but only for about 10 minutes. It started sleeting and I told Logan that if ice is falling from the sky he must wear a hat or go inside. He "chose" to go inside. After dinner Friday night, Jim let us girls go out on our own, staying with the kids. Logan was fast asleep, but Jim was happy to watch Brenna and 5 month old Korbin. Gina and I spent a very short time cleaning up, then posed for a pre-revelry pic. This was a bit of a tradition of ours. We used to go out dancing almost weekly, and would take a picture before we left for our girl's nights. Things have changed a bit. Our clothing is ridiculously more conservative, each of us trying to mask the parts the scream out our history of recent pregnancies. There was no consulting on who is wearing what or if we can borrow a lipgloss. We both seem resigned to mediocrity for the moment until we each scare up the motivation to retrieve our former hot bods. Of course, we each look at the other in admiration for her attractive traits, downplaying our own. Such are the lives of thirty-something us. Hardly the caliber of our last bash- Gina's thirtieth birthday where we spent the evening yelling "Sake bomb!" and singing in public. Anyway, Gina and I headed out to a local martini bar and enjoyed a mellow evening of more conversation over a couple of drinks. While there, I finally reached Fillip. He asked Hayden if he wanted to talk to Mommy, and in the background I hear "No thank you!" Um, what? Put that little bugger on the phone! He told me he was having fun with Daddy and being a good boy.

On Saturday, me and my hosts drove to Austin for lunch with my online friend J. It was so wonderful to meet her and her handsome boys in person. Along with being beautiful, her sweetness is so obvious, and I was lucky enough to meet her family as well. They were a gracious bunch, and I am so glad we could get together. It did turn out to be a lot of time in the car that day, but Logan was a champ, napping both ways and being his cheery little self. We spent the afternoon at The Alamo, then a bit of time at the San Antonio Riverwalk. I absolutely love historic sites and I tried to picture what it must have been like to be holed up in that building during a fierce battle. I took a pic to show Logan one day that he had been there. The Riverwalk was beautiful with multicolored lights shimmering on the water and boats going by. I would love to go back and spend some more time there one day, enjoying a meal by the water. As it was, the kids were exhausted and hungry, so we quickly made our way back to the car and went home for some authentic Texas BBQ from their favorite place.

Sunday was a bit more rushed in order for me to catch my flight. Jim and Gina made a delicious breakfast for our send off. Logan insisted on ketchup on his blueberry pancakes, but who am I to judge? The flight home was much easier since Logan slept for two hours and was placated with goldfish crackers and water until landing. Throughout the entire trip Logan was auditioning for Toddler of the Year Award. He was wonderful all weekend, quickly adjusting to being with new people, rarely cranky and oh so friendly. When Jim's dad popped by, Logan immediately snuggled up in his arms and spent a great deal of time petting and kissing baby Korbin. Although he and Brenna had a couple conflicts over toys, mostly they seemed content to play nearby with little intervention necessary. It was so much easier only watching one kid of my own!

When we arrived back in Los Angeles, Hayden and Logan were so glad to see each other. They stood at the baggage carousel just hugging and kissing each other while we waiting for my suitcase. Such little sweethearts. It had been a wonderful trip, but I was happy to get home.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In my day we would have just said Ox.

Hayden seems to be pretty articulate. He picks up various words and phrases and uses them in context when we least expect it. Last night he chattered on and on about which cars need to be fixed, what about them needs to be fixed and who will do it. "Daddy needs to fix the motor in the brown car, but the green car has a broken wheel and needs to be taken to the shopping." Ok, so sometimes it gets a little mixed up, but you get the idea. Last night he started a sentence with "The fact of the matter is..." and he was right.

My favorite time of the day is bedtime stories with Hayden. He picks which book he wants to hear, then snuggles up on his bed with me and his stuffed froggy. He is pretty consistent in picking the same five books or so and is very familiar with each one. Last night he totally floored me by reciting nearly the entire book on his own. It was an alphabet book that has a verse for each letter. Even better is the fact that he can look at a page with the entire alphabet on it and identify most of the letters by sight. I then quiz him on what starts with that particular letter. It's fun to see what he comes up with and how he identifies things.

Me- "Hayden, what starts with H?"
Hayden- "I do!"
Me- "That's right! Hayden, what starts with D?"
Hayden- "Daddy starts with D!"
Me- "Very good! Hayden, what starts with O?"
Me- stunned silence