Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fear

Lady: That's disgusting.

Husband: What?

Lady: (to little girl) There is no way I'm letting you go in there!

Girl: Why not?

Lady: There is disease in there.  It's disgusting.  Disease and dirty diapers!  Do you know what happens to people who go in there?  They get sick. 

Husband: (quietly) Really?

Lady: (to little girl) There's NO WAY I'm letting you go in there!

This was the conversation that occurred right next to us as we approached the splash-pad-esque-water-area at the Minnesota Zoo.  I had looked it up on the internet earlier that morning and saw that there was a water area with fountains and squirting water where the kids could play.  On a hot day, it seemed like the best place to be AND it's in the middle of the zoo.  Does it get any better than that?  He was so excited about the possibility, Sean wanted to wear his swim trunks and swim shirt TO the zoo.  I thought this was a great plan.

Yet somehow we got stuck next to this family of Haters, and they were so close to us, it was difficult to not feel reprimanded by the mother myself for even looking in the direction of the water.  After her fearful reaction to seeing the water and recognizing the child-like wonder her daughter was exhibiting thinking about going in, I spoke directly to Sean.

me: Seancito, do you want to go in the water now or later?

Sean: Um, I think maybe later.

I don't think he heard the fear-ridden woman talk about the water.  I think he was just curious about finding the animals first and coming back to the water later.  However, I did stop and think for a moment about the impact that woman's words could have had on Sean.  He's a cautious kid.  All it takes is someone adamantly saying that water will make you sick, and he might take a break from the water for a week!  Thankfully her words didn't stop him from playing in the water area after lunch, and he had a great time.  What I wanted to tell that lady was that my dear Audrey would refrain from getting in the water, meaning I was single-handedly saving 25-30 children from getting hand, foot, and mouth virus that day.  Somehow I don't think she would have appreciated my heroism.

Fear is something that takes hold of me all too easily.  Though I wrote the lady off as a crazy, fear-ridden (and clearly unhappy) individual who has no fun, I did have one moment where I allowed her fear to take root inside of me.  I paused and thought: maybe I shouldn't let Sean run through that water.  Maybe there are diseases here!  I mean we are at the zoo!@!?&!  Perhaps there are germs everywhere, just waiting to take my children down!

Oh wait... Audrey already has a terrible virus.  That's right!

We live in a culture that spews fear.  Take the recent shootings in Colorado - an awful, sickening tragedy.  It's something that hasn't left me alone since I first heard about it.  It doesn't help anything, but I play it out in my mind: what if I had been in that theatre, what if I had heard those gunshots, what if one of my kids will be in a theatre like that someday?  These thoughts are paralyzing.  In fact, I find them to be spiritually deadening.  There is absolutely nothing - nothing - I can do about someone else's choice to harm people.  I have no control over my children's lives in that respect, and it terrifies me.  But if I give in to that fear - if I allow those hypothetical thoughts to take hold - I will not be able to be a good mother.  Frankly, I would begin to see everything in this world as a possible danger to my kids.  I must admit, I've thought twice about taking the kids to a movie anytime soon.  Makes sense, right?  Why would I want to put them in danger?  And yet... when I really evaluate that idea... that doesn't make any sense at all.

A week after September 11th, I got on a plane to Ireland for my Junior year study abroad experience.  A couple days before I left, they re-opened the airports, solidifying the fact that I would indeed get on a plane.  I remember distinctly having a conversation with my mom about my own fear, sitting on the stairs of my childhood home.  (Forgive me, Mom, this conversation happened over 10 years ago.  The content is all there, but I'm sure I've changed some words.  And perhaps I'll embellish a little for dramatic flair.  At least I'm honest about it.)

me: Maybe I shouldn't go.  Maybe I should go back to Dallas and not go to Ireland.

Mom: Oh no, I don't think that's the best idea.  You have to keep living your life.  (she begins getting teary-eyed) We have no control over what people do, and there is evil in this world.  But you must - we all must - keep living our lives.  We can not let fear dictate our choices. 

I was touched by this statement.  I know it was the reason I got on that plane a couple days later.  I was scared out of my mind, and when I said goodbye at the airport, I had a rock in my throat wondering if I would see my parents again.  Which is what I voiced to her in response to her positive, inspirational message.

me: What if something happens here?  What if something happens to you guys?

I expected mom to come back at me with more positive, inspirational thoughts.  I wanted her to bolster me in this time of second-guessing my adventure.  I wanted her to tell me that good would triumph over evil.  That there was no way we would get attacked again.

Mom: Well, Anna Marie, we have no control over other people's choices.  But as I said, we must keep living our lives.  And my only hope is that if we are attacked with biological warfare that I can stay healthy and strong enough to help Mary Kate.

WAIT A MINUTE!  Wasn't this an after-school special?  Wasn't the music playing and the tears were streaming and you were going to tell me that everything was going to be okay??  How did this devolve into biological warfare??  How can you say this to me right before I'm getting on a plane to fly across the ocean??  Have you any idea how good I am at creating my own worst scenarios??  I don't need any help in that department!

We both cried.  I firmly believe my mom was still inspired by the obvious answer: good would prevail over evil.  It always does.  It's part of her faith system and she lives it out every day of her life.  HOWEVER, I was crying because I allowed my mom's comment to take root inside me.  I will admit that flying on that airplane days after September 11th was not easy.  But I'm glad I took my mom's advice and I kept living my life.

My hope is that I can model that same thing for my kids.  Thankfully they aren't old enough to know what happened in Colorado.  I'm grateful we don't have to have that conversation right now.  Also working in my favor is that Seancito was so excited to be at the zoo the other day that he didn't seem to hear the crazy lady talking about the diseased water.  Is this what they mean when they say that in order to truly understand God, we must become like children?  We must be oblivious and ignore the news and revel in the moment in front of us?  Strangely, I think yes!  Maybe not be truly oblivious, but definitely ignore the news.  When I step foot into a movie theatre again (and I hope it's sooner rather than later) I will have to be a little oblivious to what I know has happened in Colorado.  When I send my kids off to school, I will have to let go of the fact that crazy people have made awful choices and hurt children while at school. When I get on planes, even still to this day, I make peace with myself that something terrible could happen.  Thankfully, we have more instances of movies running normally, school days running smoothly, and airplanes taking off and landing with no hiccups.  It's just that those don't get the publicity.

And when I go to the splash area at the zoo, I will have to surrender my control to the gods and understand that Sean just might come down with an awful disease or virus.  Something that might give him a fever and then blistery-lesions all over his hands, feet, and mouth.

Oh wait... he was already exposed to that at home.  If only that fearful lady knew how close she was to disease.







Wednesday, July 18, 2012

a slight misunderstanding

It rained here today.  I was grateful because our car needed a good external rinse to get the chalk off.  Chalk? Why chalk, you might ask?  Well, it was a slight misunderstanding, but Seancito decorated our car with chalk designs a couple weeks ago, and we've been without rain (or the car's been in the garage) so there's been no opportunity for a rinse.  Did either Tom or I try to rinse it off ourselves after we realized he'd chalked the car?  No.  Why would we do something like that?  A couple weeks ago, he'd taken sidewalk chalk to his tricycle.  I think the misunderstanding occurred somewhere in here:

Sean: Hey, look, Dada, I colored my bike!

Tom: (feigning a level of excitement greater than he actually felt) Oh, nice, buddy!  Keep up the good work.

It was only later, when we got the family together to go somewhere that I saw the chalk designs all over the car. We'd been chalked.  Tom assured me that he and Sean had a little discussion about it; discussing how chalk is not the best thing to put on the car.  Now weeks later, we still have the chalk marks strewn on all four doors, rearview mirrors, and bumper.  The rain today, though, took care of it.

Life with our kids is sprinkled with slight misunderstandings.  For example, as I was cleaning Audrey's poopy diaper today, she kicked me in the face.  Probably not on purpose (because I don't think her aim is that advanced yet), but it stung all the same.  It was a slight misunderstanding on her part, and I wanted to elucidate this for her.  Had I not bit my tongue, and if she could reason like an adult, my monologue to her would go something like this:

Audrey, thank you for that heel to the face, but I want to take a moment and make clear: I am not doing this to torture you.  Given the quick onset of your leprosy (aka hand, foot, and mouth virus), I'm sure it's unpleasant for me to hold your feet and ankles while wiping your bottom.  However, it's the only way to keep your blistery, pussing, and oozing limbs away from the diarrhea that just exploded from your ass: an ASSplosion, as your Aunt Susie would say. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather see the diarrhea than witness your constipation, as we do on most normal weeks, but I don't relish the idea of cleaning it up.  Frankly, it makes me gag almost every time I have to do it.  But do you know why I grab those oozing ankles and throw them nearly over your head?  So that I can keep you hygienically clean.  Do I want to have my fingers in your shit?  No. NO I DO NOT.  But that's not a choice I get to make.  In fact, it's a choice that's made for me in the fine print at the hospital when they agree to let us take you home.  We must clean your dirty, dirty bottom.  Multiple times... a day.  And this will go on for the next 2-3 years (God willing, no longer than that!), and then we'll get to fight and argue about potty training.  Until that time, sweet girl who just kicked me in the face, I am forced to clean your butt.  So sorry it interferes with your idea of a good time.  That makes two of us.

Another misunderstanding occurred this morning while trying to get out the door.  Having run a leper colony for a couple days now, I could feel myself getting itchy to get outside.  Yet I was having a hard time thinking of any places we could go where I wouldn't infect small children with SARS.  So I settled on the idea of driving to the downtown library (one of my favorite spots in the cities), and once there I would confine Audrey to her stroller.  Then the only people she would touch would be me and Seancito, whom she has infected already and we still are healthy.  So as we got ready to go, I asked Sean to put on his sandals himself.  He quickly ran to get them and came back 2.5 minutes later with his sandals on.  AND on the wrong feet. 

me: Hey, nice job, buddy.  I think those are on the wrong feet, though.

Seancito: No they're not.

me: I'm pretty sure they are.

Seancito.  I like them this way.  Can I wear them this way?

me: You can, but...

And this sealed it.  He wore them on the wrong feet the whole morning.  Is there anything wrong with this?  I don't think so.  Did it help him fall in the parking lot and scrape his knee?  Probably.  Natural consequences, right?

Last week I told Sean he could go out and play with the neighbors, if they were home and outside.  Living in the suburbs in Minnesota, we've become very comfortable letting Sean run between houses.  It's a good, safe feeling.  However, being lax has its downsides.  One of them being this misunderstanding:  Sean takes off running towards the neighbors' yard.  Our houses butt up to each other and we don't have a fence between us, so the kids can roam freely.  I go to check on Audrey for a minute and when I return to see if he's in their backyard or ours, he's gone.  I don't panic right away, because I think he might be around the side of our house.  I head out to the backyard to search for him.  I call for him repeatedly, and he doesn't answer.  I'm just starting to get worried, and then I think, "maybe he's at our neighbors' house." so I walk in the direction of their backyard.  Just as I get to their lawn, I see Sean running from the front of their house back into their backyard, carrying a large toy.  He's struggling to both carry it and run at the same time.

me: What are you doing?  Where have you been?

Sean: I was just getting this toy.

With that he plops it down in the middle of their backyard, exhausted.

me: Where did you get this from?

Sean: Oh. From the garage.

I walk along the side of their house and into their front yard, and I see that their garage door is open, and Sean has indeed picked a choice toy.  I return to their backyard, storming.

me: First of all, that toy goes back in the garage right now.  Second of all, you can not just run off like that without telling me.

Sean: (horrified) NOOOOOOOO, but I want to play with this toy!  I want to play at Greta's house!

me: Sean, it doesn't look like they're home, and you've taken a toy without asking.  You need to go put it back in the garage and then come back to our house.

Sean:  NOOOOO - you said I could play at Greta's!  It's not fair!!

You're right!  It's not fair.! It's not fair that this was all a misunderstanding in the first place.  I said you could go out and see if Greta's home to play, but I did NOT, in fact, tell you it was okay to come take their toys and play in their backyard when they're not home!

me: The toy goes back, and then you come home.  I will give you one more chance to do it yourself, and then I'll  take it, carry you home, and you're in big trouble.

It's this last bit that gets him.  He puts the toy back in the garage and returns home with me while crying and protesting.  Just a slight misunderstanding.

I've heard of some other misunderstandings recently that have nothing to do with my immediate family.  1) My cousin had a baby this past weekend.  From their 20 week ultrasound they were expecting a girl.  However, at birth they welcomed a beautiful baby BOY!  Slightly misunderstood ultrasound images, I'd say.  2) A woman parked her car in a parking lot and went into a store (this is a true story, but I'm not relaying names or places to protect the innocent... or guilty... as the case may be).  When she came back out, she saw her car (an old jalopy) had side-swiped another vehicle parked across the way from where she had parked hers.  The vehicle that was hit was a very nice Jaguar. 

Witness #1: Is that your car?

Woman: Yes.

Witness #1: Did you forget to put on the emergency brake?

Woman: Yes.

I'm sure when the woman went to explain what had happened to the Jaguar-owner, he or she would see it all as a slight misunderstanding.  Thankfully, in this life, most of my misunderstandings are comical at best and annoying at worst.  My children provide me with ample opportunities to clarify what I want from them.  Though there are times when I want to bang my head against a wall because I'm done explaining myself, I also savor those moments when I can go into a deeper explanation of why something is the way it is.  There are times that Seancito's misunderstanding opens the door to a really great conversation.  This has certainly been the case as we talk about my Aunt Jeanne dying.  It's also been true as we've discussed the presence of God in the world.  On a more mundane note, we've had conversations about how airplanes fly, and why the backside of his pillow is cold and not warm.  They recently knocked down a house in our neighborhood and this has provided hours of observation, entertainment, and explanations.  Many conversations offer moments that are profound, sweet, and simple.  Other moments are hard to explain but it's well worth the struggle.  All in all, they are moments that develop my relationships with my kids, and I'm grateful for them.  Even when some moments can drive me batty.

Yesterday Sean had initiated his own need to go to the bathroom, which I love.  I applauded him on his self-awareness and sent him off to the bathroom alone.  20 seconds later I hear crying and whimpering coming from the bathroom.  Having trained myself to not respond to every single cry and whimper, I let it go on for a couple minutes.  It sounded to me more contrived than real, so I continued bringing up loads of laundry from the basement and checking on Audrey.  The whimpering continued, and I felt myself going crazy.  Finally, breaking my own silent rule of ignoring him, I caved.

me: (stifling my annoyance) Sean, are you doing okay in there?

Sean: (mild whimpering) Nooooo....

me: What's going on?

Sean: (still whimpering) I fell all the way in the toilet!

And I decided to go in the bathroom.When I got there, the back of his shirt was wet and so were his shorts (how did THAT happen?) with toilet water.  Bleh.

me:  How did this happen?

Sean: (beginning a fake cry) I forgot to put on my seat!

He has a smaller seat that fits flush on the top of the toilet, thus allowing him to sit, protect the bathroom from errant penis spraying, and keeping him from - you guessed it! - falling in the toilet.

me: Why didn't you put on your seat??

Sean: (weakly) I'm not sure...

It was then that I noticed the roll of toilet paper.  It appeared as though someone had unrolled it and then rolled it back up.

me: What's going on with this toilet paper?  Did you do this?

Sean: No.

me: How did it get this way?

Sean: I'm not sure.

me: Sean.  Did you unroll the toilet paper and then roll it back up again.

Sean.  Yes.

Ooookay.  As we were relaying this story to Tom later that night at dinner, we all had enough distance from it that I was no longer annoyed.  Coining a phrase that I've been using around the house recently, Tom described the whole situation as a "hot mess."  Not wanting there to be any misunderstanding of what transpired, Seancito corrected him.

Sean: Actually, Dada, it was a wet mess.

And then everything was clear.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Something always comes up

At approximately 12:45pm today I was scrubbing the kiddie cart attached to the grocery cart at Target.  Both kids were in the car eating gummie bears.  They had not yet eaten lunch.  I was hunched over the cart, my backside hanging all too closely to the traffic in the Target parking lot, and I realized that I had only eaten a piece of toast with peanut butter on it, a cheese stick, and a cup of coffee this morning.  No wonder the heat was getting to me.  If you think me a thoughtful Target shopper for cleaning up my cart after using it, then I want you to hold that thought in your brain while you read the rest.  Perhaps you will think well of me for another 60 seconds until you get to the end.

We traveled to Texas this weekend for my Grannie's 90th birthday celebration.  It was a great time!  It's been far too long since I'd seen my Grannie, aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins' offspring.  A good time was had by all.  Some highlights are below:

After renting a car in Dallas, we began a journey down to Mabank, Texas that ended with Sean puking all over the back seat of the rental car: chunks of hotdog and strawberries mingled with the smell of stomach acid, and the car was not a place you wanted to be.  We stopped on the side of the road (but a mile from my aunt and uncle's lake house), stripped Sean down to nothing, pulled out suitcases from the back of the car, and got Sean clean clothes.  He whimpered while we dressed him, and his favorite part of this mishap was getting to ride in the front seat on Tom's lap for the rest of the 1 mile trip.

Tom: I feel sick to my stomach now.

me: Don't do it!  Stop breathing it in!  We can not all get sick in the rental car!

Upon arriving at the house and seeing his cousins, Sean forgot all about his puking-in-the-rental-car-scene and ran off to play.  We never saw a lick of illness from him again.

The next day Susie and I rode the jet ski across the enormous lake, Susie was screaming at the top of her lungs, clutching my middle while I rev'd the engine.

Susie: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

me: We are going 14 miles per hour.

Saturday night we had a skit put on by the 4th generation Agniel/Herbert grandkids called "Cinderella at the Farm" and it was inspired by a budding actress in our family, Abigail Barni.  She has a glowing future ahead of her in creating stories and theatre, and she gathered many cousins to play the different parts in the skit.  When I asked my nephew, Theo, if he wanted to join in, he had some specific things to say about his role.

Theo: (knowing the title had Cinderella in it) I want to be one of the mice.

I had to search my brain for the mice in Cinderella, but I quickly picked up what he was talking about.

me: Okay, that sounds great!

Theo: But I don't want to be Gus Gus.  I just don't want to be the fat one.

Fair enough.

Throughout the weekend, the lake house had a constant din from all the kids running around, and there was action happening in every room.  We had food and drinks out at all hours of the day, and my favorite scene involved looking at the island in the kitchen filled with rows upon rows of red plastic cups, each marked with a family member's name on it.  Given that our party approached 60 people, we needed a lot of cups.  You could find groups of people talking around the kitchen table, the patio out back, the deck on the water, lounging on couches, or helping the little kids play bingo, corn hole, decorate cookies, or play pool. 

As part of the celebration for Grannie's 90th, we put on a "This is Your Life" skit and had a slideshow with tons of pictures.  There were cupcakes that were delicious (thank you, Katie!), happy birthday was sung, and there were presents for Grannie.  Yet through all of the merriment and re-connecting with family, our little Audrey was cranky.  Her usual gentle demeanor was replaced with whining and crying.  Her usual easy going attitude and quick smile was replaced with a constant "no" and shake of her head for anyone who touched her and a quick scream when she didn't get her way.  This was not the personality we see at home.  I chalked it up to the huge molars coming in on both sides of her bottom gums. 

Tom and I didn't get much sleep.  Partially I'm proud of that, because we had two great nights of hanging out with cousins around the hotel after kids were asleep.  But as I crawled into bed around 12:30pm each night, I was woken only an hour or so later by a crying, screaming Audrey who could not be consoled.  She ran a low-grade fever, and she fought me every time I tried cramming Orajel in her mouth. 

This morning, I called the doctor to get her an appointment, and after getting off the phone with the nurse, I looked at Audrey's hands and feet.  What had seemed like little mosquito bites and a terrible diaper rash had turned in Leprosy.  She had huge lesion-looking welts all over her hands, feet, toes, and some cropping up around her mouth.  I got increasingly concerned and was grateful for our doctor appointment.  As I relayed to the pediatric nurse all of Audrey's symptoms from the weekend, I explained about her teeth coming in, how we alternated between tylenol and ibuprofen every 3 hours, and how she still seemed to be in pain.  I then explained that she had these lesions showing up around her hands, feet and mouth that seemed to explode this morning.

nurse: Have you ever heard of hand, foot, and mouth virus?

me: Yes.

nurse: She has it.

I paused.  Weren't we supposed to see the doctor?  How could she diagnose that so easily?

Sean: Mama, can I have a drink of Audrey's water?

nurse: Nope. No sharing.  She's very contagious.

My heart sank to my stomach.  Not only had I allowed Sean to finish Audrey's milk this morning, but we had just come back from a fun-filled-60-person-family-reunion!  Audrey could have infected anyone and everyone!  I felt awful.

So it wasn't until I had both kids strapped into the kiddie cart at Target and we were headed through the aisles that I realized something.  I probably should not have this child out and about! I quickly did my shopping, making sure to keep Audrey only in the cart and nowhere else.  However, her leprosy-hand-foot-mouth disease seemed to flare under the fluorescent lights, and I felt that every single mother could see them from miles around.  I was endangering everyone!  I moved as quickly as I could, feeding the kids cheese sticks, grapes, and milk in the store.  After piling most all the groceries in the cart, only needing two more items, Sean began melting down.  I became desperate and walked towards the candy.

me: (speaking quietly and forcefully) Sean! If you stop whining and crying, I will get you a special treat. 

He stopped and looked up at me with tears in his eyes.

Sean: What kind of special treat, Mama?

me: Well... (I perused the candy aisle) I will get you.... gummie bears.  But you must -

Sean: (whining) Can I hold them??

me: If you stop whining, then yes, you can hold them.

At the checkout, my eyes searched the candy shelves again and I put a Mounds bar in the cart for me.  My mothering knowledge of feeding my kids healthy food, or less than that, feeding my kids something substantial before feeding them candy completely fell away.  I couldn't get out of the store fast enough, but not before I had something to comfort myself with.  Something to promise both them and me that we would be rewarded for making it through.  I could feel Big Brother aka the CDC watching me through hidden cameras, judging me for having a child with hand-foot-and-mouth-leprosy OUT IN PUBLIC.  Who does that?? Me.  That's who.  And I buy gummie bears and a candy bar.  I have hit rock bottom.

And that, my friends, is why I was scrubbing the kiddie cart at Target on a nearly empty stomach.  And that's why my two kids ate gummie bears for lunch.  And that is why after completing this post, this hand-foot-and-mouth-leprosy mother will reward herself with a candy bar.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

to make a point


It was 100 degrees in the Twin Cities yesterday.  That's hot.  So we've spent a couple days at the splash deck at the YMCA.  The first time we went a couple weeks ago, Sean and Audrey were both skeptical.  We didn't stay very long, and neither one of them liked the element of surprise that the water provided.  However, we invited friends to come with us earlier this week, and not only did I appreciate the company of another mom, but I hoped the presence of the two other kids would encourage Sean to step out of his comfort zone.  It was a success!  All of the kids had a good time playing, sliding, and jumping through the water.  I was grateful to see Seancito being brave and grateful to the other kids for showing him the way.

Back at the YMCA this morning, getting dressed to go out to the splash deck, Sean reminisced about our recent visit to the splash deck with friends.

Sean: Mama? Do you 'member when we brought the Hjelles with us to the splash deck?

me: I do.  That was fun, huh?

Sean: Yeah. That was fun!  Let's do that again!

me: I think we will.  We talked about coming again with them soon.

Sean: Yeah... and Greta was scared.

me: What?  Greta was scared?  Of what?

Sean: Well... (taking a thoughtful and compassionate stance) she was kinda scared of the slide.

This was not the way I remembered our previous trip to the splash deck.  But then to make his point...

Sean: Yeah.  She was scared, so I went up to the slide with her.  (nodding his head)  Yeah.

me:  Hmm.

I didn't bother to disprove his point.  It wasn't worth an argument.  Yet I was interested by the fact that he'd constructed a complete lie about Greta being scared (when in fact he was the one who was scared), and then used that lie to rationalize his own (false) valiant actions.

Once outside and fully blasted with sunscreen, we headed straight for the slide.  I must admit that I have as much fun on the slide as Sean does.  With Audrey on my lap, belted in tight with my arms, we zip quickly down the slide aided in no small part by the copious amounts of UV protectant.  Of course, that quick zipping can't happen until Seancito gets off the bottom of the slide first.  Because he's a cautious kid, he likes to slow himself down on the slide, coming to a full stop earlier than most.  He stops sliding and then stands nearly at the base of the slide, but not quite on the flat area: the flat area is a good 8 feet long, so that when bigger kids (or fully grown adults having more fun than the kids) slide down, there's ample space for their larger bodies to gradually come to a stop.  A small, cautious 3 year-old, though, has no trouble stopping long before this 8 foot plateau.  After stopping, he then turns around, and with a worried look on his face begins yelling.

Sean: No! Mama!  Don't come down yet!

There are kids in line behind me.

me: Sean, get off the slide!

Sean: Mama!  Don't come down, I still need to get off the slide!

OOOOOOookay.  When I get to the bottom of the slide, I discuss with Sean how he can keep sliding until he gets to the flat part.  THEN he can quickly get off the slide.  He tries again, going down the slide semi-quickly, stopping himself just before the bottom and turning to look at me with furrowed eyebrows. 

Sean: No, Mama!  Don't come down! 

me: SEAN!  Get off the slide!

I'm waving my arms, gesturing wildly for him to remove his body from the slide area.  This is all taking much too much time.  We talk again at the bottom of the slide how dangerous it is for him to stop and turn around.  I talk to him about taking responsibility for himself, and not worrying about me.  I explain that I will wait until he gets off the slide, but in order for the line to not get too long, he has to move quickly.

Subsequent trips down the slide provide the same pattern over and over again.  I finally realize that he's not understanding what I'm asking him to do.

me: Sean, you could just step over the side here, instead of walking all the way down this flat area.

Sean:  Is that what other little kids do?

me: (stumped) Eh... sure. Maybe. But that doesn't matter what other people do, I'm just offering you something different to get you off the slide faster. 

Sean:  But I like to walk all the way down to the bottom.

me: Right, yes. I've seen that.

After a couple more trips down, same pattern of behavior, more waving arms, yelling from the top of the slide, I give up.  He's 3.  I cut him some slack.  He's having a great time, no matter how long it takes him to get off the slide.  I'm having a great time, and every time Sean yells, "let's do it again, Mama!", I then hear Audrey say "gen. gen." She's clearly having a great time.  No need for me to get my swimsuit in a bunch about how long it takes for Sean to get off the slide.

At a later point in the day, though, Sean switches things up on me.  He insists that I go down the slide first with Audrey.  This makes a lot of sense to me, and given that most everyone has cleared off the splash deck, we are left with only another mom and her three boys.  I move myself into position to slide down ahead of Sean.  When we sail down to the plateaued area, I hear a small voice calling to me from above.

Sean: Mama, get off the slide!  I'm coming down now!  Get off the slide!

He made his point.

This evening Sean pulled his usual hunger strike during dinner time.  He refused all food.  But then hours later, just as he was about to go brush his teeth, he threw a huge tantrum about being soooo hungry.  Go figure!  He hadn't eaten anything since lunch!  Tom and I held our ground, because we are trying to get him to eat with us at dinner time instead of turning his nose up at all food in the evening.  We threatened him with losing his book-reading-privileges if he didn't stop the tantrum.  Then he was refusing to brush teeth, saying he was soooo hungry.  Finally, after not listening to any coaxing or prodding we had to say, I snapped.

me: That's it.  Straight to bed!  No books, no stories, no toothbrushing!  Just go to bed.

He lost it.  Tom picked him up and started carrying him into his room.  Seancito was thrashing about, hyperventilating, crying, and then he decided to make his point.

Sean: I don't want to get cavities!  I don't want to get cavities!  Nooooo!

Tom struck a deal with him and he was able to brush his teeth. Who knew that disallowing toothbrushing could actually make it an attractive option?

After both kids were asleep and we discussed what had happened tonight, Tom and I went through our usual ups/downs/questions about what we did and why.  We are a pretty good team and tend to encourage each other on.  There are those moments when we feel totally lost or confused about Sean's behavior or Audrey's sleeplessness, or maybe even upset with ourselves for not maintaining enough patience or compassion in a certain situation.  This was not one of those times.  I think we both felt okay with Sean going to bed hungry in the hopes that he would decide to eat dinner tomorrow night.  This is another moment as a parent where I just have to let go.

But back to the splash deck for one last thought:  for however much I get frustrated with my own kids, I saw something happen today that made me feel not so alone in the parenting world.  The mother with three boys I mentioned earlier was trying to get her three kids off the splash deck and headed home for lunch.  One boy listened and went with his mom right away.  The other two boys ignored her for a long time, and so the mother, trying to make her point, just started leaving the area without them.  When that tactic didn't work, she turned around to speak (yell) in a more forceful tone.  Finally the second one began following after his mother.  Her threat, which went unheard by me as I could not hear over the din of the splash/spraying water, clearly took hold in his mind.  The third boy held out for as long as he could.  He watched the mother and the two older boys begin to leave.  He walked away from the base of the slide and directly into the middle of the splash deck area.  His mother safely 50 feet away, he began pulling down his swimtrunks.  He inched them just far enough down to begin peeing directly in the center of the splash deck.  When the mother turned around, a look of confusion spread across her face.  But slowly, she began walking towards her son.

mother: What...are... you doing??

The boy did not break his stream, did not break his stance, did not break the holding of his penis to direct his pee at the other sprays of water.  Making his point, the boy let his mother know what he thought of her idea to go home.

I had a smile on my face.  I know that breaks the unspoken code of conduct between mothers where we're supposed to support each other and stand firm, especially when our kids are doing something directly against what we've asked them to do.  I couldn't help it, though.  I was far enough away and about to head down the slide with Audrey on my lap.  I watched my own son, who just moments before I was desperately trying to get off the slide more quickly, stand  in the middle of the slide and stare at the boy peeing.  For that moment, I thought, well thank goodness he's still standing on the slide, otherwise he might have urine on his toes right now.  Point taken.