When Does Parenting Cross the Line From Encouraging to Controlling?

The plan was to jog the 5K with my daughter’s Girls on the Run teammates. Instead, Ava and I sat in our car for ninety minutes inching the final two miles to the event parking lot and missing our race start time by 45 minutes.

By the time we arrived at her team’s base camp, her friends had crossed the finish line, beaming at each other and glowing with endorphins and pride. Ava was devastated. I felt ashamed. Hadn’t these people hit the same butt-numbing traffic we did? Apparently, they’re better parents. Or at least better drivers.

At that moment, my desire to run the race disappeared, replaced by a voracious urge for large quantities of junk food. But was that the message I wanted to send my daughter – Life hands you lemons, binge at the nearest Dunkin Donuts?

Instead, my tenacious side won out. I didn’t drive two hours to give up. We were running that god damn race. And we would have fun running it, even if it killed us.

Ava and I lined up hand in hand at the starting line. Earlier that morning, I promised Ava we could walk as much of the race as she wanted. She felt scared. I did too. While Ava had spent two months jogging with her teammates to prepare for the race, I had run exactly twice – once for training purposes, once to buy a corn muffin as big as my head from the bakery down the street.

Walking the race originally sounded like a brilliant plan. But as we stood at the starting line with the many others who had arrived late, adrenaline ignited my competitive streak.

“Can we walk now?” Ava said after we’d run approximately 25 feet.

“No way, kiddo,” I said. “We’re running. Let’s go!”

I felt strong and was eager to burn maximum calories before our long trek home.

“Mom, you’re breaking your promise. I can’t trust you if you break promises.”

Her words sounded vaguely familiar, but I was too full of energy bars to back down. “Ava, you worked hard for this moment. Don’t let your disappointment ruin it for you. Let’s switch off jogging and walking until we finish.”

Block by block, I pushed Ava to keep up with my plan. She jogged, walked and complained simultaneously for three miles.  When the finish line came into view, she begged me again to walk.

“You can walk if you want, but I’m running. I’ll race you!” I said, registering the anger in Ava’s eyes.

While I told myself I pushed for her benefit, I’m not sure that’s true. My motives weren’t pure, but when we ran across the finish line, Ava’s face radiated pride and joy. I saw a mirror for myself, and I liked what I saw. Maybe a little pushing is a good thing. Maybe I’ll call it leadership. I may be justifying my behavior, but I’m grateful we ran half the race, even if Ava spent that half hating me.

Worth pissing her off? Check with me in 20 years.

Worth pissing her off? Check with me in 20 years.

Tangled: Our Silly Putty Hair Solution

Silly Putty Hair, Silly Putty ClothesAs the gold medal slipped over my head and the opening notes of our national anthem filled the stadium, the crowd’s screams slowly dissolved into screams of despair. I reluctantly emerged from my delicious dream as my brain registered real life screams coming from our daughter Ava’s bedroom.

Now awake, my mental calculations began. Emergency or bad dream? Did our daughter’s screams qualify as a one- or two-parent alarm?

I rolled over to jab my husband awake.

“Is she being abducted?” I said.

“Doubtful. Fire?” Mike said.

Ava’s screams reached a crescendo.

“I don’t smell anything. You go. You have longer legs,” I said.

“There better be a wild animal in there,” Mike said as he jumped out of bed. “You owe me.”

Wishing I could reenter my Olympic dream, but too agitated to sleep, I glanced at the clock. 12:50 a.m.

I yelled to Mike to tell me what was happening.

“She’s bleeding from her head!” is what I heard.

Oh, god, not again, I thought as I sprang out of bed and clamored for my glasses, lost among the detritus on my nightstand.

As I ran to her side, I chided myself for ignoring her initial screams.

“How bad is she hurt? Where did she fall?” I said between pants.

“She has silly putty in her hair.”

Not registering Mike’s response, I peered at my daughter’s head.

Apparently she’d fallen asleep playing with silly putty and woken up with the puke pink-colored goo matted to hunks of her thick brown curls. I’d never seen anything like it.

Although I assured Ava we wouldn’t have to cut off her hair, the matting was so severe I feared she’d soon be sporting a one-sided mullet.  Not a great look for a fashion-conscious fourth grader. And not a haircut this mom was willing to live through.

I turned to my trusted friend Google for advice.

Apparently, since time immemorial, silly putty and kids’ hair have attracted each other like fingers and electric sockets. Fortunately, parents around the globe have tried countless remedies ranging from peanut butter to WD40 and documented their success with each on the internet.

We decided on olive oil for our triage in the beauty ER and massaged half a bottle into Ava’s matted web of curls. I couldn’t help giggling as Mike combed out the now liquefied goo with the studied precision of a brain surgeon.

Ava, however, did not appreciate my punch drunk humor and berated me for being insensitive, which launched another fit of giggles, especially as I realized we now had to get all that olive oil out of her hair.

As the clock struck 1:45 a.m., Mike and I finished our task, hugged Ava and settled down enough to sleep, grateful for our parenting success. My only regret?  Not photographing Ava’s head before and after. And she refused to put more silly putty in her hair for the sake of this blog. That’s the thanks I get.

This mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter's silly putty debacle! Bless her!

Unlike me, this mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter’s silly putty debacle!  Photo courtesy of http://www.sarcasta-mom.blogspot.com.

Plastic Barbie Lunch Boxes: Use Only As Intended

Plastic Barbie lunch boxes should come with a disclaimer:  This item will not protect you in an emergency.

I walked home from elementary school past the same twenty seven houses every afternoon for months without incident, swinging my pink lunch box north to south as I counted the brick and wood-frame homes fronting Westover Avenue or skipped over the cracks snaking through the sidewalk, determined not to break my mother’s back by landing on one.

I’d just passed house number thirteen on my route and stopped to smell the lilacs dangling like purple snow cones from the bushes out front when I saw a blur of movement over my left shoulder and felt the sidewalk slip beneath my feet. The lilacs’ heady scent mixed with the hot, muddy smell of spit as I felt the sting of teeth on my arm and fell to the ground under the bushes. Before my brain registered pain, I saw the ash-colored face of a large greyhound run past me.

Terrified the beast would return for round two, I crouched in the bushes, clutching my scratched lunch box to my chest as a shield before sprinting home, determined not to stop, even for our neighbor who called after me as I ran by.

“Help,” I wailed as I ran up the stairs to the kitchen where my mom was filling homemade cream puffs. I could smell the rich lemon custard on her hands as she ran to me, unmasked horror and powdered sugar clouding her features.

After cleaning the small wound on my forearm where the dog’s teeth had punctured my skin, she sat me in front of the kitchen’s picture window with a bowl of custard and a blanket. I didn’t budge until I heard her talking to the police about rabies and heard the panic rising in her voice.

“We don’t know whose dog bit her. She’s never seen it before. How can we make sure it doesn’t have rabies?”

“Mom, what are rabies?” I said, tugging the telephone’s curly cord. “What are rabies?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” Mom said. “Go sit down. Right now.”

Convinced I was about to die of some horrible dog disease, I soothed my fear with more custard and glanced out the window. Sitting among our lilac bushes, like a sphinx guarding its temple, my personal hellhound stared at our back door, his black eyes steady and unblinking.

Nearly identical to my hellhound! Photo courtesy of www.projectocova.net

This is not a photo of the actual dog that bit me. Photo courtesy of http://www.projectocova.net

A mouthful of custard muffled my scream, but my mom came running.

“That’s the dog?” she said. “Are you sure?”

I managed only a vigorous nod before bursting into tears and grabbing my lunch box for protection. Moments later, the dog was gone. And I never saw him again.

With the help of our neighbors, the police found the dog and determined he did not have rabies. But I slept with my Barbie lunch box on my chest every night for the next week.  Just in case.

Why I Should Be “Mother of the Year”

Unlike my dear blog friends Ilene from The Fierce Diva Guide to Life and Chris from The Mom Cafe, I have not been officially designated “Mother of the Year” by any governing body or election committee, nor have I earned a congratulatory badge to display on my blog.

What I do have, however, is photographic proof that I should be considered for next year’s contest (or at least receive an honorable mention for best decorations) for pulling off what has heretofore been an impossible feat for mothers around the globe me – a drama-lite, at-home birthday party for our newly-minted five-year old daughter and 15 of her closest friends.

After ignoring the warnings of several more experienced mom friends (“You’re having how many five year olds in your house?”), I honored Rhys’s wish for a birthday tea party and invited all the girls from her preschool class. Impossibly, everyone said yes, and several moms inquired about bringing siblings. What the hell, I thought! Bring ’em all! I’m nothing if not a “yes” person! Gulp.

Fortunately, we encountered nary a meltdown and zero very few fewer than expected mommy (meaning me) tantrums. Victory! Oh and Rhys had fun too …

Hanging those poofs and lanterns resulted in the biggest argument hubs and I have ever had. Worth it, no?!

Hanging those poofs and lanterns resulted in the biggest argument hubs and I have ever had. Definitely worth it, no?!

A dear friend and consumate party planner loaned me all the decorations for our tea party. Can you say eco-friendly? That should buy me extra points with the selection committee! Right?

A dear friend loaned me all the decorations for our tea party. Can you say eco-friendly? That should buy me extra points with the “Mom of the Year” people! Right?

I almost didn't mind when all the kids messed up my artfully displayed creation!

I almost didn’t mind when the kids arrived and messed up my perfectly arranged stuff!

I say, what's a tea party without a magician? The little one is my newly minted five year old!

What’s a tea party without a magician? The little one is my five year old!

I eagerly await the “Mother of the Year” nominating committee’s congratulatory email! Until then, happy birthday, Rhys! We love you!