Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Revenge is a dish best served shoved down next to the bed

Once upon a time Joseph and I were downstairs together.  Joseph went into his room and I heard some thumping around. After a minute he yelled "Augh! Mommy! Help me!" I ran into his room and found him like this:

That's right, I took a picture.

As Joseph explained it he was trying to reach something that had fallen off his bed and he slipped down and then was unable to get out. Now maybe I'm the meanest mom every but that made me laugh and then I took a picture. Then I posted it on facebook. Now here's the best part.
It happened twice.

And twice I laughed and took a picture and posted it to facebook.

Fast forward to today when I pick Joseph up from school and he excitedly tells me that he has big news.  It turns out that Joseph wrote a speech for his class's speech competition. He won the class round and went onto the 5th grade round. He won that round and will now be competing in the school round.  He'll get to read his speech in front of the school and the parents of the children in the competition.

In case you're wondering about the title of Joseph's speech? "My Most Embarrassing Moment - The Time My Mom Posted a Picture of Me on facebook".

See? What goes around comes around.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


A few nights ago I was flipping through channels and I landed on the preview for the new movie Bully. I really only caught the last 30 seconds or so but that was enough to take my breath away and break my heart. 

I won't be seeing Bully even though I think it's an important film about an important subject. I don't need to see it to know what's in the movie. I was bullied as a kid. I lived it. I saw it happen to other kids around me. I saw adults stand idly by and do nothing about it. I send my kids to school with worry in my heart because someday it could happen to them.

After I saw the preview I turned the tv off and went into Joseph's room.  I watched him sleep and he looked so calm and peaceful that I wanted to cry. I leaned down and wrapped my arms around him, hugging him close to me. He stirred a little and murmured "Are we all out of bacon?" I pushed his hair back and then stood watching him for a moment more. Then I went into Elle's room to check on her. Her little head was back, read hair all over the pillow and she was softly snoring. We call it "sawing twigs". I moved her into a position that looked more comfortable, covered her back up and then stood there for a minute listening to her breath.  Then I went to bed but I didn't go to sleep.

For hours I lay there awake wondering what I could do to keep my kids safe.  What I could do to keep other kids safe. Vulnerable kids, kids with special needs, small kids, heavy set kids, poor kids, kids who don't wear the right thing or say the right thing or look the right way.

I couldn't come up with an answer.  The fact is that every day parents have to send their kids into great big world and some of those kids are going to be bullied.  Some of them are going to be bullies.  Most of them will see bullying but won't know what to do about it or won't care enough to try to do anything. So how do we change that? Where do we start?

I will tell you where I am starting. I sat my children down and we talked about bullying. We talked about what it means and how it feels and why it's never ok. We talked about how someone else's pain is never funny and how just because someone might be different from us it doesn't make it ok to be unkind to them. We talked for a long time and we agreed on three things. I know this blog isn't read by many people and I don't expect to change the world with this but I am begging you, if you are a parent PLEASE consider talking about your children with these three things. Please consider sharing this post on facebook or twitter or just with someone you know. Maybe it will only impact one kid but it could mean the world to that one kid. The three things I talked to my kids about and came to an agreement on are:

1. If you're being bullied STAND UP and SPEAK UP.  The old advice was "ignore it and they'll stop" but that's not true. All it does it tell the victim that if they were handling things right the bullying would stop. Even worse it lets the bully know they have a victim who won't fight back. If you're being bullied then tell someone who can help you. And if they don't tell you then tell someone else and keep telling until you get help. It doesn't make you a tattletale, it makes you an advocate for yourself. No one has the right to bully you and get away with it. (I also asked the kids to promise to talk to me if they were being bullied so I could be sure it was being handled.)

2. Never, ever, ever, EVER bully. Don't engage in behavior that is hurtful to someone. Even if it seems funny at the time it's not ok to get caught up in hurtful behavior. Someone else's pain is too high a price to pay for your own amusement. It's not ok. Not even if you're mad about something or having a bad day or just really sick of how weird/loud/annoying the person next to you is.

3. (I think this one is the most important because most kids will not necessarily ever be bullies or victims but all kids will see it happen sooner or later.) If you see bullying happening do something about it. Get an adult or tell the bully to stop. Never be afraid to stand up for the little guy. We're all little guys at some point and we would all want someone on our side so let it start with you. Be the one to help.

I was interested to see that the third one was the one my kids were most interested in.  They kept coming up with more and more ideas about how they could try to stop the bully. ("Tell a joke to make people laugh." "Make a loud noise to get attention!") This made me happy because there were times when I was young and I saw someone being bullied but I kept silent because I was just glad it wasn't me.  Those are the times that weight heaviest on my heart. I don't want my kids to have those regrets too.

Please talk to your kids.  Hug them close and tell them you love them and let them know that they're important enough and strong enough to stand up for themselves.  Let them know they are kind enough and compassionate enough to be gentle to others. Let them know that they are brave enough to help someone who needs it. Don't let bullying happen just because it's uncomfortable to talk about. Don't think it's not your problem. If we all just try our best to do those three little things I think we can make a real difference.

Friday, April 06, 2012

An afternoon at the museum

Since the kids had the day off from school (do kids have the day off from school everywhere for Good Friday? Or is that just a thing around here?) I decided to take them to the Minnesota Science Museum. By myself.  Now that might not seem like a big deal to you but I really hate driving in any traffic worse than what I see on the main street of my very small town. But figured it would be ok since I have GPS on my phone so I decided we would brave it and make the hour and a half drive.

All was going well until right as I was preparing to exit the highway into the heart of Minneapolis and my GPS cut out.  Not like a little blip in service but like it totally shut off.  And I couldn't get it back on. And Joseph started to freak out in the backseat. And a car drove into my lane and came within inches of hitting us.  That was not the best part of the day. By some miracle I managed to get myself to the museum without GPS directing me.

I drove around trying to figure out where in the heck to park.  A warning - if you visit the museum know that it is surrounded by giant parking lots, all of them blocked with signs saying "Lot closed - use lower lot". And none of the signs tell you where this mythical lower lot is so you're just forced to circle around and around while your son hyperventilates and your daughter whines "I don't like this! Let's just go to the zoo!"  You might be driven to make a left turn directly onto a very narrow street marked "Exit only!" and "Restricted!" and "Wrong way!".  This will not serve to calm your children down.

But somehow I got out of the danger zone and I managed to find the stupid freaking lower lot.  And here's something funny!  The lower lot was closed! Haha! Despite the fact that the museum had only been open for about an hour the entire parking lot was full. I was going to try to turn around the find another spot but more and more cars kept pulling up right behind me and I couldn't back out of the lane to get into the ramp.  Then, a miracle!  A car came out and I was allowed to go in.  And we got a great spot. In fact there were at least a dozen spots that we saw so there goes the "full" theory.

Let me tell you about how things went at the museum with just pregnant, waddling me and my two maniac children.  It went freaking awesome. Of all the kids my kids are the best kids.  My number one pet peeve with museums is parents who let their kids run wild and dash from exhibit to exhibit mashing on random buttons without every figuring out how anything works.  Not my kids!  They read instructions.  They followed steps.  They asked questions and they figured things out and they worked together and I damn near cried watching it.

There was one exhibit where you could build little contraptions and put them in a chute that was blasting air straight up.  Then you could see if your contraption would fly or not.  The kids watched a bunch of 10-14 year old boys trying out their contraptions for a little bit.  Joseph got to work carefully building what he described to me as a hang glider.  Elle whispered to me "Those boys are making things too heavy." Then she made a little thing that looked like a bird, elbowed her way through the crowd of boys and put her contraption in the tunnel.  And I am not lying when I say her little bird thing flew right up to the top of the tube and then right out the top. It fluttered down and she caught it in her outstretched hand while the crowd of boys around her grumbled about how none of theirs would go to the top and why did hers? I got all bursty in my chest and then I got even MORE bursty when Joseph brought his contraption to the tube and put it in.  It was big and heavy but he had built it so well that it lifted right up, flew out of the tube, hit the ceiling and landed on the floor right in front of Joseph.  I might have strutted a little bit and said "Yeah! Those are MY babies! Suck it other parents!". Ok, there were no other parents around.  But I did strut.

We also visited a pirate exhibit. Joseph was especially fascinated by the eight year old pirate we learned about. He wondered what would make a little boy want to be a pirate.  He said maybe the boy had Aspergers.  A short pause and then "I think I have Arrrrspergers. It's a disorder that makes me want to be a pirate." Then we all laughed because Joseph is punny.

As we were just about to leave the museum we stopped at an exhibit where you could build a machine that worked like an big gear .... thingy ... that could draw patterns on paper.  As Elle and I set it up a boy who was maybe 14 or 15 came right up by and started to move things around.  I was about to do my "back off" stance that I had perfected during the day but something about this boy struck me.  He didn't say anything to us and he was standing way too close to us but I could tell he was just trying to help.  Once we got the machine set up he took a step back and just stood there and waited till we were done.  He rocked back and forth from one foot to another.  I noticed he was holding a paperback book in one hand.

After Elle finished her drawing we stepped back and I watched as Joseph and the other boy set the machine up with a new configuration.  They were both wearing track pants and hooded sweatshirts.  Both had brown hair in need of a trim.  Both wore glasses.  You guys, it was almost creepy.  It was like Joseph from the future was standing right there next to us. A kid who didn't understand social cues like how far to stand away from a stranger or to ask before jumping in and helping with something you know how to do. A paperback book in his hand.  I actually got tears in my eyes.  I'll blame it on the pregnancy hormones. It just struck me as awesome somehow.

Then it was time to leave. I needed to use the restroom and the kids picked that exact moment to stop listening to me and chose to argue and ignore my instructions.  I was able to get them situated but I came within .03 seconds of peeing my pants right in the middle of the museum.  I couldn't even really scold them though because seriously? Best kids ever.

Then we drove home and we sang together "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying 'Hey-o! I'm a Lego'" and it was awesome and fun and totally made up for the drama of the morning. I need to take my kids out more often because they are so worth the effort.