Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Wide World of Sports Presents ... Olympic Parenting

Winter Olympics 2014. Sochi, Russia.

I propose a new Olympic Event.  Forget ice skating.  Forget skiing.  Forget curling.  This is the next big thing.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Olympic Sport of...

Leaving The House 

We've got a year to get it approved and I think we can do it.  At least some of those people on the Olympic Committee have got to be parents, and they would most definitely have our back.  They may have been training for this event themselves and not even realized it!  

To have an event considered for the Olympics, one of the criteria is...
"...the IOC determines it is widely practiced around the world, that is, the number of countries that compete in a given sport is the indicator of the sport's prevalence." ( 
Sounds like a piece of cake to me!  I mean, come on...please tell me where in the world there is a smooth and seamless transition when it comes time to pack up and leave the house with children.  If such a place does exist, please let me know, because we may be moving there.  Soon.

I recently came to the realization that getting packed up and out of the house in a reasonable amount of time without someone (read as: "me") losing their patience is very much like an athletic endeavor.  It takes training, concentration, stamina, perseverance, physical strength and mental toughness.  If that doesn't warrant an Olympic Event, I don't know what does.  

So, sports fans, grab your is the play-by-play of an actual, recent attempt by our little family to Leave the House.  

Game Plan

Preschool begins at 12:15pm, which is located about 7 minutes from our house.  I plan to leave the house at 12:00pm.  At about 10:45am, I start laying the groundwork with my 4-year-old and 2-year-old that we are going to finish playing, eat lunch, get dressed and go to school.  This all seems pretty reasonable.  The kids are both very agreeable and an easy victory appears to be within my sights.

Pre-Game Warm-Up

Pre-Game starts out pretty well.  Pep talk (for myself) and a little light stretching to limber up for the inevitable physical feats that lie ahead.  The kids finish playing while I get lunch ready.  (If we haven't left the house to go anywhere in the morning, my kids usually eat lunch in their pajamas.  This is based on experience.  Nine times out of ten, they spill something on themselves, and on school days, this requires yet another change of clothes before we leave.  So lunch in PJs it is!)  

They hop up into their chairs to eat, and seem pretty ready to go.  However, about 15 minutes into lunch, I realize I'm facing my first big defensive stance.  They aren't really eating much.  They appear to be eating, as they keep picking up their forks and cups.  They sound like everything is going well, as they talk and laugh with each other.  But lo and behold, I look at their plates, and there is still quite a bit waiting to be devoured.  This is all part of their crazy good defense.  I don't fall for it, though, and keep prompting them to eat a bite of this, to take a bite of that.  What I think will take about 20 minutes, ends up taking 35.  The game clock is quickly becoming my enemy.

Next part of preparation.  While they are (hopefully) finishing up lunch, I start to get their gear ready.  Boots on the floor, coats on the floor, hats on the floor.  All at the ready for them to get into on their own.  [Please note, I am purposely submitting this event for the Winter Olympics, as getting ready to leave in the winter takes infinitely longer than any other season.  All this gear!  All these layers!]  Everything is still going pretty OK.  Today is my day.  Any given team can win on any given day.  PMA.  All that other stuff.  Here we go...bring it on.

It's Game Time!

After a little more prodding and prompting to eat one last carrot and one more bite of their sandwich, I determine they've eaten enough to sustain them until dinner.  The clock reads 11:37 and it is time to move it into high gear.   

Stay positive.  Running a little behind, but this still feels very attainable.  

I tell my 4-year-old to take his pajamas off and put them in his hamper.  His clothes are laid out for him on the living room chair.  He is pretty good about getting himself dressed, with a few reminders along the way.  I clean up lunch, then put my 2-year-old on the potty.  She tells me she doesn't have to go.  She tells me to leave.  I go stand in the hallway and wait.  She does actually go to the bathroom.  (Small victory.  I consider this a first down on 3rd and inches.)  I try to keep the momentum going and move her right into getting dressed in her bedroom.  I have her clothes -- including socks and barrette -- laid out and ready to go.  

Second big defensive stance.  My daughter throws a huge fit because she doesn't like the clothes I've picked out.  So this is where it age 2.  Heaven help me when we hit age 12.  I figure this is not a battle worth fighting, so I let her take charge and pick out what she would like to wear, which includes NOT wearing a barrette.  So, clothes are mismatched, hair is in her face, but we are making forward progress toward the goal.  This is good.  I am trying to help her get her socks on, but am somewhat distracted by the blur I see run by her door.  

Hmm...was that what I think it was?  A naked pair of 4-year-old buns whizzing by on their way to the bathroom?  Do I need instant replay?  The audio that followed confirmed the call on the field.  "Mom, I have to go po-o-o-o-o-o-op!!"  This, apparently, was ground breaking news that needed to be yelled from the rooftops, while not wearing a stitch of clothing.

Quick in-game son was actually less ready than he had been when I told him to put his pajamas in the hamper 13 minutes earlier, and what I thought would be a quick process of getting my daughter dressed had actually doubled in time and produced drama and a crankypants as byproducts.  

Stay positive.  Stay the course.  Stay calm.  You can still do this.  Come from behind victories happen all the time.  Sometimes even the Lions pull one off.

Speaking of walking into the Lions' Den...

Half Time

My poor, unsuspecting husband arrived home from a meeting and walked into the middle of the chaos.  Very innocently, very much trying to be helpful, he looked at the clock, looked at the complete unreadiness of the kids and said "Did you know it's 11:57?"  

Did I know it's 11:57?  Did I know it's 11:57?  

I had been trying to get this motley crew ready to go since 10:57, and I was well aware of the precious moments ticking by until we would officially be late for preschool.  In trying to avoid a technical foul or an unnecessary roughness penalty, I stifle my sarcastic response of "Gee, honey, I had no idea.  I suppose we should now begin getting ready,"  and think better of screaming in his face like he had just blown a call in the end zone.  I grumble something, give him "the look" and jump back into getting kids ready.  (In his defense, he truly was trying to be helpful.  Poor guy walked in at the wrong time.)  Saved by the conference call awaiting him, he very wisely heads downstairs to his office while I finish wrestling alligators upstairs.  

I tell my daughter to go get her hat and coat on, and I'll be right there to help with her boots.  (Both my kids can do the "flip the coat over their head from the ground" thing, which helps a ton.  And as you can see, we need all the help we can get...)  Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince my son that yes, indeed, he is done pooping.  He has actually been done for the last 5 minutes that he has been sitting there singing "Hakuna Matata," but he thinks otherwise.  By some miracle, I finally convince him that he's done and help him start getting ready.  He wants to dance and jump and just all-around be crazy as I am now frantically trying to get him ready.  I can tell I am losing my patience with my tone of voice and less-than-helpful words of "Hurry up! We are going to be late!"  

I figure he is capable of getting himself dressed, so I tell him I'm going to help his sister and he needs to hustle and finish up on his own.  My 2-year-old is twirling around in the kitchen, oblivious that her coat, hat or boots are lying there, just begging to be put on.  As she is dancing, I sneak her hat on and start to put her coat on.  I think this trick play is working, but then she catches on.  "NO!  I do it MYSELF!!!"  She yanks her arm, halfway in the sleeve of her coat, out and throws the coat on the ground.  She pulls her hat off, leaving her un-barretted hair a total static mess, and throws that on the floor, too.  She is now crying and clearly ticked off that I even attempted to help her.  Besides my sister, my daughter is the most independent person I know. I am well aware of this and it was my error in judgment to try to do something for her without involving her. Make a note in the playbook for next time.  I blame it on my bad mood and lack of patience at the time, and the tick-tock of the clock reminding me how little time we have left.  I tell her she can put her hat on, but she needs to do it now.  

I return my energy to my son, who does indeed have his coat and hat on.  I sit on the floor, and try to get his boots on while he is still dancing around.  (Man, these kids love to dance...)  I am holding his waist and he is falling/grabbing onto my back.  I can't tell if he thinks this is funny or he is mad.  I don't really care either way.  I can see the finish line of leaving the house, and I'm not giving in now.  

Whew!  Back to 2-year-old.  She has pulled her hat on and down over her eyes.  Quick.  This is my chance.  I pick her up and plop her down in her boots, trying to wriggle her now bone-less legs into them.  She is fighting me the whole time, but not crying, so I consider this a victory.  I wrestle her into her coat.  Gloves or mittens are out of bounds.  Totally write them off.  Maybe next time.  

I am now clearly perspiring (read as: "sweating profusely"), from both the panic that it is 12:09pm and we are just getting ready to walk out the door, and from the physicality of getting them ready.  Grab my purse.  Grab my keys.  Hope there is no food stuck to me anywhere noticeable and try to get everyone in the mini van.  My kids must sense it's go time, because they actually let me buckle them in their car seats without a fight.  I appreciate and take these two free throws, and keep pressing on.

Post-Game Cool Down

Literally.  Cool down.  I take a couple deep breaths and remind myself that we made it.  We are all strapped in the van safely.  It was a buzzer beater, but we survived.  No fouls.  No turnovers.  No ejections.  I turn on the radio, find a song my kids like, and we all get our groove on for a few minutes before pulling in the school parking lot.  I open the doors of the van and hear the bell ring.  Late, but not noticeably late.  We can shuffle in while everyone is still getting settled.  I pray the other parents don't see the beads of sweat on my forehead as I deliver my happy kiddo to his preschool classroom.  I get a quick hug and a "Bye Mom!  I love you!" before he turns and heads into class.  My daughter grabs my leg and drags me toward a bulletin board filled with penguins.  No matter what, those two will always be my MVPs.  Hands down.

I think I need a soak in the whirlpool.

The Game of Motherhood

Take joy in the small victories.  The times you DO actually leave the house with a few minutes to spare.  The times the kids are totally agreeable and happily hop in the car, eager for you to buckle them in.  The times you are not battling the clock, and have the luxury to simply get there when you get there.  

Take a breath in the small defeats.  So you were a few minutes late...  If kids are involved,  whoever you are meeting or wherever you are going is more than likely going to understand.  So your kiddo is wearing mismatched socks and has a jelly stain on the front of his shirt...  At least he is dressed.  So you left your lunch sitting on the kitchen counter...  You did get the most important cargo, your kiddos, safely in the car.  Looks like you may even get a little out-to-lunch reward for all your troubles.

There is always a next time.  Consider it training, conditioning, practice for the next match, the next race, the next game.  Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team.  YOU have made the cut as a Mom.  You're a Good Mom, and with all your skills, passion and determination, quite possibly, a soon-to-be gold medalist!

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