Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pancakes Save the Day

We ran out of frozen Eggo waffles and I didn't realize it. My kids don't ask for waffles every day, but I usually keep the freezer well stocked. However, we have been at our beach house a lot in the past month and I have to say that my grocery shopping has not been consistent. This morning, our first morning home in a while, my 3 year old woke up in a bad mood, but found a smile when promised some waffles for breakfast. You can imagine my horror when I opened the freezer to see the shelf normally full of Eggo boxes was empty. It is never empty. I actually started pulling things out of the freezer because I could not believe that we had none. After thoroughly searching behind the ice cream and bags of frozen fruit, I had to break the bad news. And I knew exactly what was coming: screaming, crying, and tears. Lots of tears. What could I expect from his already fragile state? When my 3 year old wakes up in a bad mood, the smallest thing can set him off. He really needed those waffles. I really needed those waffles.

So, I found myself making pancakes this morning. For me this is an unusual occurrence in general and especially on a weekday. I am not a big breakfast maker. I'll make paninis to order for lunch and a huge dinner every night, but breakfast; not so much. We are always rushed in the morning and the thought of cooking something seems too overwhelming. Pouring some cereal in a bowl or putting an Eggo in the toaster seems like much less of a commitment to cleaning up a kitchen before leaving for the day. But the horrible screeching coming from my child forced me to reconsider. I don't like to give in to bad behavior (a kid crying to get what he wants), but I guess I was feeling generous this morning. Or maybe I was taking the easiest way out; anything to stop the crying.

Growing up my mom made breakfast for us almost every day. I don't know why because I don't remember asking for anything in particular and probably would have been just as happy with some sugary cereal. She greeted us every morning with pancakes or waffles or oatmeal, or eggs and bacon. To this day when we are all at the beach, she still would rather cook us all breakfast than let us just go out to the cafe. I appreciate her efforts now and I'm trying to figure out why I'm not living up to this Betty Crocker status. But, thinking back and remembering these breakfasts, I also remember my brother and I leaving for the day - leaving my mom behind in the kitchen still in her bathrobe with a pile of dirty dishes and pans. That would be the difference. I need to leave the house in the morning, put together at the very least in some cute work out clothes. That is what keeps me sane and happy.

The homemade breakfast exception today was also for sanity and happiness for us all. The pancakes topped with some defrosted frozen fruit brought smiles to both kids instantly. I got several thumbs up when their little mouths were stuffed with pancakes and I got a "Mom, you are the best pancake cooker ever", when they were finished eating. As it turns out, it didn't take too much effort to make breakfast and clean-up, and it was worth the smiles. But, I did end up running an hour behind my usual schedule and was still in my pajamas for most of the morning. Worth it for special occasions, but I still don't think I'll make this a habit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Moment's Peace

As I was showering this morning my 3 year old came busting into the bathroom. This is not an unusual occurrence. In fact, there are two doors to my bathroom (neither of which has a working lock), so sometimes there is almost a parade route running through my master suite while I am showering. This morning's interruption was to show me something he had built with the Legos that were supposed to be keeping him busy while I showered. I was a little annoyed, but still came out of the shower to see his creation. After the fourth time of him barging in this morning and letting all of the warm steam out of the bathroom, I was really annoyed. Is it really too much to ask to shower in peace?

Yes, it is too much to ask with kids. There is very little alone time when raising small children, unless someone else is watching them. I may be in the minority, but I don't have a Nanny. I used to rely on naps, but naps in my house have long been a thing of the past. So this summer without school, without naps, or a Nanny, I am in high demand. The second I go into the bathroom, my kids suddenly and urgently need me. If the phone rings or there is someone at the door, they come out of the woodwork to cling to me. Even when I try to place a stealth outgoing call from a far corner of the house, they have some sort of dial tone detector that allows them to find me, rendering a conversation impossible. As I am typing this right now, my 3 year old is crawling up the back of my chair to snuggle in behind me. His little hands wrapped around me is sweet, but he is only here because he had some sense that I was trying to concentrate on something and needed a moment alone.

All of this constant attention from my kids can be draining. Until I had kids clinging to me all day, I didn't understand the toll it can take. There are some days when my husband gets home from work and I ask him to please not touch me or talk to me. I know that sounds harsh and he has trouble understanding, but after 12 hours of little people talking at me incessantly and groping me, I really need a moment of peace. Can moms suffer from Sensory Overload too? I think I just described a text book case.

So, today after the fifth time of being called out of my warm shower to see something my 3 year old built, I thought about getting the locks on my master bathroom doors fixed. But I also thought about how much my kids crave my attention right now. I am their world and that is a good feeling. I'm torn between wanting my moment of peace now, but knowing that all too soon, I will have plenty of moments where my kids will be too busy for me. I may wait to get those locks fixed and stick to showering at night after the kids are in bed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Skin Deep

I have some work to do. The other day, while we were standing in line at the Post Office behind a tall man, my 3 year old said to me (aloud), "that guy is brown". My first response was "What?" because I thought I didn't hear him correctly. When he repeated himself for a second time it was more of gasp. Yes, he was "black" or "African American", or whatever the current politically correct term is, but I don't think "brown" is it. Fortunately, the man didn't hear him say it and he didn't notice my "shushing" either. Just a minute before, the man had been smiling at my 3 year old who was doing his usual performance in line - various songs and dance. I had noticed him because I thought he looked familiar; it was Aaron McKie of the Sixers. My 3 year old noticed him for a different reason; he looked different than himself.

When we got back in the car I started to explain why we can't really label people by color and I realized that while it makes sense to me knowing our country's social history, it made no sense to him. Obviously, my 3 year old was making an innocent observation that was literally only skin deep. He and my 5 year old make these same types of observations at home about my dark complected husband. In their opinion he is "light brown", while I am "dark white" or on a summer day "light tan". They don't equate skin color with making anyone anything but look different. To them, noticing someone's skin color is no different than noticing hair color. So, it was no wonder that my 3 year old's eyes started to glaze over when I went into my usual spiel about how no matter what color a person's skin is, the inside is the same - same heart, same mind, same feelings. Blah, blah, blah. He didn't care, because he never thought otherwise.

Every year around MLK Day, I get onto the same topic with my older son who always has lot of questions about this holiday. Each year I explain who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, how he died, and the importance of his life's work for civil rights. I go through my same speech that skin color is only an appearance and that all people are really the same despite how different we all look. This year I thought he really got it. But then he spent the rest of the day pointing out to me any "black" people we saw. Although he was following that up with "they are just like me", I was at a loss. I don't know how to get my real point across without making a point that I didn't intend to make. I didn't try to draw attention to skin color, but I did.

How do I expect them to grow up thinking all people are equal if I keep pointing out differences to make my point? I could just leave it alone and say nothing, but they do notice color and I'm concerned what kind of message they are getting on their own. I'm concerned that most of the diversity my kids see in our community is on the other side of the counter at McDonald's or in the check-out lane at Genaurdi's. I don't want them to correlate skin color with any one career or lifestyle, good or bad. I do want them to optimistically view all people as having equal potential and opportunities. I want them to know and believe that a person from a different background than their own can achieve great things, just as I assure them they can.

So, I have my work cut out for me. And, I don't have that figured out just yet. I do know that prejudice is a hard thing to explain to a child that has never experienced or witnessed it. But without this knowledge it is pretty hard to explain why they can't just state the obvious. If the person in front of us at the Post Office had blue hair, it would be a different conversation. Life is truly wonderful viewed through the eyes of children. Wouldn't this world be a better place if we never lost that view?