Last night, the boys and I braved the evening traffic to see the advanced screening of Monsters University, a prequel to the popular Monsters Inc. We were the first ones into the theater with our popcorn and sodas and quickly got settled in with our 3D glasses, our booster seats and our anticipation. Being early was probably not the best idea with a 5 and a 7-year-old because by the time the screen flickered on, they were both antsy and bored. Once the movie got started though, they were both enthralled by the 3D technology, leaning forward and reaching out for the images that floated in front of them. Once the “Scaring” officially got started in the meat of the movie, both boys were appropriately scared and the youngest climbed into my lap to bury his face in my neck for a particularly roaring section. Overall, the story was great and the characters endearing. I missed the particularly appealing part of the Monsters Inc story line–the part where the children no longer needed to be scared by monsters. In this earlier part of the Monster story, that particular premise is still firmly in place and the resulting focus on kid-scaring makes this movie… scarier. It still has plenty of sweet moments and the development of Mike and Sullie’s friendship is rich and funny. I think a slightly older kid would love this movie.
A Post by Beautiful -
Our boys are at an age where they are becoming exponentially more capable. They can make their own toast in the morning and bring a borrowed pan back to the neighbor’s house, they order their dinner at restaurants and can wink and say words like “dehydrated” or “dramatic” or “cattywompas” in a sentence correctly. I mostly feel like they could do anything and that James and I are merely observers to their ever-growing independence, occasionally reaching something out of their range or explaining the way something works, but mostly just supervising.
There are still a few things that my boys cannot do, though. Things that require patience and a certain art that comes from practice. This weekend I called my mom for her sugar cookie recipe and assembled the ingredients with the boys as my assistants. They added teaspoons of baking soda and vanilla and dumped cups full of flour into the bowl with careful precision. But then we rolled the cookies out on the dining room table and the boys pummeled their ball of dough, adding more and more flour until the cookie cutter-ed result on the baking sheet had the consistency of dried paper mache. I tried to guide the use of flour and explain that the cookies tasted better when the dough is soft. This had little effect.
I scooped a large hunk of dough out onto the floured table, rapidly rolled it out into a thick slab and cut cookies from the still soft dough. I outpaced them with my cookies. As I did this, the memory of my mom doing this exact thing came to me. She would fill two pans with circle-shaped cookies cut with the rim of an inverted juice glass while we labored over a few intricate reindeer and angels. She let us participate and enjoy it while she knocked out the cookies we would eat later. We learned to make better, softer cookies as we grew up. I’m glad there are things that we learn this way. I’m glad everything doesn’t come from information or from ability. Some things come from a family recipe, and a feel for the dough and a mom who shows you the art of it until you know it yourself.
There’s a story that my family tells about when I was a little girl and we were at a campground with my mom’s whole family and I threw an epic tantrum. The details vary based on who’s telling the story; sometimes it’s about the bubblegum I was chewing that dropped in the dirt or about not wanting to take a picture. But the fact is, I threw a big giant fit–one of many in my childhood–in front of everyone. And I didn’t care.
I used to be sort of proud of this story and others about tantrums I threw, like I was some defiant imp, a strong-willed child on my way to becoming a true blue strong woman who spoke her mind. But the truth is I was a brat–an irrational, short fused kid.
I can see this clearly today, one day after my three-year old threw an epic tantrum of his own. My sister, my mom, my brother-in-law, my two stunned nephews, my brand new baby niece and my oldest son watched as a difference of opinion progressed from reasoning to warnings to threats to yelling insults to physically pinning my youngest into a car seat while attempting to buckle the five point harness around him. His writhing, screaming body would not be buckled. 25 minutes later, we left. He had won.
I felt like throwing a tantrum myself. I had engaged in a war of wills with a three-year old in front of half my family and lost. Sitting in the car, driving back to Portland, I listened to his sniffling, half-sobbing breaths regulate to normal. I felt bad for my mom those years ago.
I’m sure looking back now, she knows that there’s no winning with an irrational three-year old in the throes of a tantrum, that giving in doesn’t make you a terrible parent, that her kid wouldn’t turn out to be a horrible irrational adult, that everyone else knew exactly how she felt and had been there themselves with their own kids.
I’m sure I’ll know that too. For now, I feel like a terrible parent who has no control over my kid.
This year for Christmas, all gifts for our children will revolve around Superheroes. Because our kids are obsessed with all things batman, superman, green lantern, wonderwoman and storm (the women are for my sake) and especially, inexplicably Aquaman and the Flash. This is strange for a number of reasons: Neither James nor I have ever been interested in Superheroes in our lives so have not encouraged this obsession in any way; as of about 2 months ago, our kids were fully in the throes of toy car obsession and had never even ventured into the superhero aisle at the toy store; and because this whole fascination has turned our kids into sound-effect-making, costume wearing, aggressive defenders facing unknown villains (their expertise hasn’t involved the bad guys yet).
We did not see this coming.
The whole thing came on so quickly in fact that James and I have not been able to keep up with their knowledge of this whole genre. Not that we had much to begin with but seriously, the oldest has started correcting me when I am roped into the superhero play. He’ll say things like “no! Superman is not faster than the Flash. He is stronger and can lift more but he isn’t faster”. Well, sorry…
Part of it, I love though. They are imaginative and expressive and the whole role playing part of it reminds me of how I used to play Barbies. They make up stories and run around the house and when they don’t have established superhero facts to explain things, they fill in with their own little boy experiences. Like when the youngest used a couch cushion as a submarine and explained that he was “fighting the dreams”. Or when the oldest described the shape of green lantern’s magical ring ray as, “fat as daddy’s belly and high as daddy is tall”.
We don’t know where it came from and we don’t exactly understand it, but we are enjoying this phase.
This weekend there were a number of things working against me. It was cold and rainy for the first time after a lovely but too-short summer; our dinner party was a raving success and so inevitably we are coming down into that post party-nothing-to-look-forward-to slump; the boys have converged in the most annoyingly simultaneous whiney stages; I have a really excellent book to read which I’ve waited patiently for along with the other 873 people who wanted to read it in the Multnomah county library system; I’ve been really busy at work; we haven’t been grocery shopping since before the dinner party so the fridge has only baggies full of bizarre foods like pâté and beets with goat cheese and ginger beer, which translates into unhappy kid meals.
Which is all to say that this weekend I was terrible to my kids.
The oldest wanted more water in the bathtub after letting the water out of the bathtub in successive gulps as a part of an elaborate game he plays with the tub drain stopper. I said no. He whined. I roared.
The youngest is perfectly capable of fitting his elastic laced shoes onto each of his chubby feet, mostly even on the right chubby feet. But this weekend (and mostly every other day) he did not want to put his own shoes on. I explained that he could and would put them on his own feet or else he wouldn’t be coming to dinner with us. He screamed. I screamed back.
James was not immune either. I yelled from the living room couch (where I was trying to read that very excellent book) for the youngest to stop yelling in the back yard. James asked me to stop yelling and then had an elaborate wrestling match with the boys to their very hysterical delight. I said he was just trying to make me look bad. He said to join them when my attitude changed. I read my book and sulked.
I know this is not acceptable, especially for the working parent who should have a surplus of patience. But I rarely have a surplus of patience. I feel like I often walk into or am minutes away from some kind of melt down from one of the kids and it’s sort of disappointing. I have this secret expectation that I will spend these quality hours after work with my well behaved, clean shirted kids, that this will be special time. And that somehow they should understand that this time should be special, non-whining, unmessy time spent with me–that they are supposed to be my ideal kids. But they do not realize this because they are 5 and 3 years old. I’m just an occasional accompaniment to their whiney, messy days. They are not ideal but these days, neither am I.
As James mentioned, this week our oldest got his shots, got his eyes checked, got his finger pricked, got new school shoes and got registered for kindergarten. And to me, this generally indicates that he has started the process of being grown up and leaving us. I could cry just thinking about it. In fact I fully expect to be sobbing silently by the time I finish writing this, wiping my snotty nose and my smeared mascara for the very sadness of the fact that kids who were little get big.
I think the hard part is mostly that we have been slowly losing control as he grows up and has other influences and gets more capable and independent. The start of public school education marks a significant jump in this lack of control. He will be away from our home for somewhere around 7 hours a day where he will be interacting with other kids and taught by other adults. I realize this is inevitable and healthy. And I also realize that it is inherently irrational that I would be counting the hours he is away from home when I work away from the home for more hours than he will be gone.
But I read a blog post recently where this woman described this same feeling, this “empty-lapped” feeling where you start to notice that these kids have started to be busy with other things than holding onto your leg vice-style while you stand at the sink doing the dishes or driving matchbox cars over the stretchmarks on your belly while you lay on the couch trying to read Entertainment Weekly or pepper you with “8942-hundred” questions while you try to follow the google map instructions to a friend’s house. And it feels a little lonely, knowing that they will gradually have more and more things that have nothing to do with us.
That same blog post, she mentions how she has always felt about getting in bed at the end of the day with her husband, how it feels a little like touching down in a plane, home at the end of a trip. That feeling of relief that we all made it and we are back. I couldn’t agree more. And the kids have become a part of that. The routine at the end of the day, the finding of jammies and reading of books—it’s all a part of returning again, of touching down.
I know I have a lot of years still where the kids will be part of that touch down at the end of the day. And a lot of years of them running out to my car in the morning, demanding that I give them a kiss out the car window as I leave for work, of holding my hand a little too tightly on the escalator, of hiding behind my legs when there are new people to meet.
But it has started. The Growing up. Or I guess the better thing to say is: it continues, the growing up. And I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled to watch these landmarks pass. He’ll do great in kindergarten and I’m proud of him. But I ache a little for his chubby little baby legs, his mispronunciations, his dependence.
James and the boys are camping this week somewhere in central Oregon…I’m not exactly sure where. They went with James’ parents and will be gone a couple more days. I’m sure they are having fun.
If I’m honest though, It’s pretty fun having them gone. That is if you consider fun: eating roasted chicken directly out of the dutch oven, crackling and hot while Terri Gross on Fresh Air is blasting from the living room and the new Elle Decor waits for an evening of perusing, or finishing the laundry and drinking a screwdriver while watching endless episodes of ever-more appalling reality tv (which I seriously never otherwise do), or going to see a movie all by yourself at the cheap theater and then really not minding when the lift bridge is up on the way home and so you have to roll down the windows, turn the car off and watch the sunset in the middle of I-5, or meandering through neighborhoods on the way home from work to admire the gardens. Which, you know, I do consider fun.
I’ll miss them pretty soon. I can feel it coming on. The house is a little too quiet and I’m feeling a little too self-involved. Pretty soon, I’ll be really glad they are almost home.