A Lesson in Waiting for the Tooth Fairy

tooth

With a twist and a quick tug, it was out. My eight-year-old had finally lost a tooth, and his goofy grin was priceless.

For two years, he’d seen so many of his classmates lose tooth after tooth after tooth. He’d hear stories about that tricky tooth fairy, see kids bring home cute certificates from school acknowledging the milestone, and watch friends with envy as they wiggled their pearly whites.

But for my own son, his teeth didn’t budge for years. He so desperately wanted to lose a tooth, to participate in this rite of passage, to finally have his turn.

He asked and asked and asked when he would lose a tooth, and I could only respond that it would happen in time, when his teeth were ready to pop.

It’s tough to wait, especially when you see others get something you want so badly.

For my son, it was the tooth, but everyone has these moments.

For the girl seeking that first boyfriend …

For the woman who so desperately wants to get pregnant …

For the exhausted mom willing her child to sleep through the night …

For the individual seeking that job interview, offer, promotion …

For the writer waiting to hear back on a pitch …

We all want our moment. We pray. We wish. We bargain. We beg a higher power.

But so often, we simply need to wait and trust our time will come.

Motherhood has certainly made me more patient, but I still hate waiting. Just like my son, I want to know when. I ask. I try to game the system. I convince myself I can control the outcome. But really, I can only wait.

My little guy is still sporting his new smile and excited to be a part of the “lost tooth club.” But I’m certain there will be other moments in his future when he’ll need to wait it out again.

Patience is a virtue, and it’s a virtue I’ll be working on for the rest of my life.

Have you mastered the art of waiting? Any tips for Type-A impatient girl?

Managing Your Kids’ After-School Activities as a Working Parent

baseball24 p.m. baseball practice. Say it ain’t so.

When both you and your spouse work full-time, after-school activities can kick your ass.

With my job, there is simply no way to get to a 4 p.m. practice, or dance class, or scout meeting. I work 35 miles from home, and if you know anything about Southern California freeways, I’d need to leave the office at 2:30 p.m. to get to after-care, pick up my kid, shove a snack at him and hurry him to get ready for practice. We’d then likely zoom into the parking lot, and realize I left something at home.

So obviously, the baseball practice conundrum does not fall on my shoulders.

My husband, on the other hand, teaches until 3 p.m., so he sprints from his classroom almost every day of the week, drives 10 miles, picks up my daughter at preschool and then grabs my boys at after-school care. He’s a machine, having already packed snacks the night before, and all the kids know the drill. Change. Pee. Grab homework. Grab jackets. Grab sports gear.  Run to the car. Go, go, go!

Surprisingly, in this day and age of so many families sporting two working parents, all of the kids arrive to practice. Occasionally, there is a grandparent handling drop-off. Of course there are some stay-at-home parents. And likely there is a parent who has negotiated a flexible schedule, or perhaps works solo.

Every phase of parenting presents challenges, but these crazy years of activities seem to push us to the extreme edge.

Why?

  • Well, when we sign our kids up for sports, we have no control of the practice schedules, except for the one team my husband is coaching. Teams are often assigned a field, a time and you make the best of it – 4 p.m. practices included.
  • We have three kids, so even if they each only select one activity a season, we still juggle an event every night of the week. Even the youngest now has an extracurricular on the list, requiring Dad to acquire the new skill of doing ponytails and buns for ballet.
  • If there is more than one activity a night, and we don’t have both parents on deck, we scramble. Who can we call? Do we leave early from one practice to head to the next event? Do we skip something?
  • Dinner must be planned. We try to keep it simple. I leverage the crock pot, the microwave, a one-pot wonder ready for the oven. On the worst evenings, we turn to takeout because we just don’t have time to head home for a meal.
  • And the weekends? Those are all about dividing and conquering. You take the older kid to soccer. I got the middle one at baseball. The youngest gets dragged around to whichever place has a playground. Please don’t throw a birthday party in the mix!

I love watching my kids explore and delight in their various pursuits. They are all gaining new skills, new friends, new memories. But logistically? We are screwed! As organized as we are, this phase of parenting is all about hustling. Not to mention I feel like I am writing a check for something every week.

But when I see my daughter smile brightly as she prances across the dance studio, or witness my son juke a player on the soccer field, or sit back and listen to my eldest participate in band … well, it’s totally worth it. We’ll find a way, even for the 4 p.m. practice.

How do you manage extracurricular activities with your kids?

Check Box Parenting

prayerful handsMaybe it’s the Catholic way.

You move through the sacraments – Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion. Check. Check. Check.

You head to Mass on Easter and Christmas. You find a seat among the packed house. You might even give up something for Lent – perhaps chocolate or soda or Netflix.

You sign your own kids up for those same sacrament classes. Drop them off at Sunday School. Say a prayer when the going gets rough.

I know everyone’s spiritual journey is different, and research clearly notes the commitment to religion is dying in America. We tend to our parishes and synagogues and churches when it’s convenient. We might rush our kids through those big spiritual moments when the grandparents pressure. We turn to our faith when life is hard. We cast requests to a “Greater Being” when we need something.

Given I live in California, my lens to spirituality is likely different. Very few of our own friends attend weekly services. Some call themselves Catholics, others Christians and Baptists. Some claim no religion at all. To each their own.

But over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to view my own faith journey through a very different lens – through the eyes of a Sunday School teacher.

I elected to take the message of volunteerism and service to heart, signing up to co-lead classes for our young first and second-grade students preparing for Reconciliation and First Communion. Since my middle child would be going through the classes, I figured it would also be a special way to spend time with him, and push me to learn more about my faith.

We are now only a few months away from the “Big Day,” but at times I feel hollow. I’m excited for my own son and a number of the kids in the class, but I’ve also seen about 50 percent of the families show very little commitment to this journey. While they drop their kids off at our bi-monthly sessions, they never attend Mass. They don’t pray at home. They don’t participate.

Twice a month, we touch on the basics, but I can tell the education stops there. The amazing thing about second-grade students is that they are brutally honest.

“My mom says we’re too busy to go to Mass.”

“I don’t have time to do my workbook pages.”

“We don’t say bedtime prayers.”

I’m no saint, but I’m stumped.

When you sign your child up for religious classes, why do you do it?

Is it to fulfill some check box?

Is it to grab a picture on the big sacrament day?

My husband and I decided long ago that we wanted to raise our children in the Catholic Church, and we want them to believe in something greater. We teach them to respect others. We teach them to love and give. We teach them that sometimes this commitment isn’t convienent. It means missing events, or waking up early on a Sunday when we all want to sleep in. It means carving out time to learn about our faith. Obviously these actions can be associated with any religion.

So I guess my question to parents is why sign the kids up for religious education? If you aren’t willing to “walk the talk?” why go through the motions? Why treat your kid’s faith journey as a check box item?

When you sign your kids up for something – whether that be religious education or dance or baseball or art classes – why not show your kids the importance of being all in? It’s easy to drop them off to events and practices and classes. The real work, however, comes in the discussions you have with your kids about these commitments. Are you simply writing a check and waiting for the certificate? Or are you in? Are you a teacher? Are you a model?

If you’re not religious, that’s fine. But if you sign your kid up for religious education, think about why you are taking this action. Are you simply checking a box? Or are you seeking something more?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Defined by My Four-Year-Old

martin luther king jr.

My 4-year-old has been learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., eagerly awaiting today. She colored a picture of him and told me in her most serious voice that he died.

“He was shot,” she said sadly.

“Yes, yes he was,” I said. “Do you know why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.?”

“Yes I do,” she responded with confidence. “He wanted everyone to be friends. He wanted everyone to be together.”

I smiled. Such a simple, clear statement. Obviously there is much more to the story, but I love how children see the world. So pure. So innocent. So full of love.

From the mouths of babes … we should listen more often.

This is Parenthood

family plansWe were on a schedule.

  • Squeeze in a gym workout.
  • Get everyone dressed and ready for a family baby shower.
  • Pick up balloons for party.
  • Load car with gifts, party wares and food.
  • Drive to LA – a 45-mile trek – and pray rain and traffic wouldn’t slow us down.

We got this, I thought.

I’m used to the three-kid juggle and Southern California freeway drama. I had been planning for the shower for weeks, so the bags of goods were neatly packed in a corner. And we were ready with time to spare, knowing our need to get an early start.

But 10 years of parenthood has taught me something. Even the best plans can be derailed, quickly.

And so it unfolded…

The youngest child was so excited about the party; she wanted to help with everything. She started moving my organized piles throughout the house. She angered when we told her “no.” She danced about yelled, “When are we leaving? When are we leaving? When are we LEAVING?”

Meanwhile, my middle child woke up feeling a little “off.” Just minutes before we got in the car, he threw up. Had to call in grandparent reinforcements, make an unscheduled drop-off and roll with it.

Just as we pulled up to the grandparents, the poor kid threw up again. Thank God we had a bowl.

Still, we were doing OK.

Then the rain started. If you’ve ever lived in Southern California and it rains, the freeways come to a halt. Our built-in cushion of time was rapidly diminishing.

The oldest child, through the midst of all of this, started gagging when the middle child got sick, but eventually settled into his own world with electronics. However, as the minutes crept past an hour, he began to whine. “Must stretch legs.” “This is taking forever.” “I think I might be getting carsick.”

Lovely!

My husband joked and said we should have videotaped the past two hours. “This is parenthood. This is what we need to show to your sister and brother-in-law.”

Years ago we would have been thrown off by a sick kid, a tantrum, the whining – and there are certainly days when we hit our edge. But we are getting better at knowing we only have so much control. We are raising little people who get sick, get moody, get tired, and get crazy. We have to be flexible. This is life, and it often laughs at my neatly written plans. It laughs pretty stinking hard.