Doing Your Job: A Scooter Story

Not only does Mr. Ornery love anything with wheels, he loves anything that doesn’t involve someone telling him what to do. This, of course, means that he does not appreciate the four-walled brick building called “elementary school” in which he is sentenced to six hours each day.

Last week when I picked him and the Little Guy up for their check-ups, Mr. Ornery skipped and jumped in the beautiful sunshine and said, “Yay! Thank you, Mom, for rescuing us from juvie!”

So, to encourage a better attitude during the school day, his teachers place great hope in a “behavioral chart” on which he receives a “star” for “following directions,” “staying on task,” and so forth. Mr. Ornery thinks this is a stupid piece of paper. Because I am also hoping to encourage him to shift more interest into academics, I recently decided to connect his behavioral chart with a monetary reward.

That he understands. As his allowance and earnings crept close to $40 one night, he came running upstairs to me hiding in my bedroom and exclaimed, “Mom, I can order a scooter now. Quick, get on Amazon. Please, please, please let me push the buttons and order the trick scooter.”

And so we did. Oh, how exciting it was.

This is all we talked about for the next forty-eight hours. “My scooter is coming in two days.” “When will it arrive?” “When is it going to be Saturday?” “Is it Saturday yet?”

And then the day arrived. We looked up “track package” on Amazon. It was to arrive by eight o’clock. We went to soccer and returned home right afterwards to see if the package had arrived yet. No. We out to play for a few hours at a friends’ house and returned home. No package yet. We had a late night soccer tournament and drove home at 9:30. “It’s got to be there,” Mr. Ornery said excitedly as we drove. “It definitely should. It definitely should,” I agreed, “but I would never say 100% on anything.”

Crushed. The boy was crushed.

No package on the door step. Checking Amazon, I saw that the USPS delivery person had marked, “Unable to deliver due to no access to the door.” What?!!? There is an 8-foot slab of cement patio in front of my door; that is it!

Nothing blocking the doorway (except an old scooter!)

I was on the phone with customer service pretty quickly (while walking the dog so that the boys couldn’t hear my intonation) to inform them of such foolishness. I was on for a long time regarding my displeasure at the clear lie of the delivery person, the fact that USPS would not be able to deliver again until Monday, and the sadness of my 8-year-old who had been waiting so eagerly.

The agent asked to speak to my sad child to ask him if they could send him a toy. “What would you like?” she asked. “A mini rocker,” he requested. I laughed. He wants a $300 “mini rocker” or “Fatboy” BMX bike. He wasn’t going to get that for free from Amazon, but they gave him $20 credit.

As Mr. Ornery lay quietly in bed that night venting his displeasure and sadness, we talked about how disappointments come in life. We talked about patience in waiting for the next opportunity. And we talked about the importance of doing one’s “job” to the best of your ability. The delivery man clearly did not do his job and gave a fake reason. We spoke of how people rely on each other to do their jobs. When you don’t, there likely is someone who will be sad or disappointed. We talked about school being the current “job” that Mr. Ornery has and it’s important for him to do his best at his job. We talked about how I try to do my best in my job. And as he drifted off to sleep, I thought about how challenging the job of parenting is, when the days are long and the years are short and you never really know how well you’re doing at this job. But I sure do know that my boys depend on me to try to do my best at this job. Their life, their love, their future depends on this job.

And then we waited another 48 hours until after school on Monday for the glorious scooter to arrive. I missed the joy while at work, but I did find out that the excitement lasted approximately 9.2 minutes until the glorious scooter was unusable — tiny ball bearings popping out of the handle connector.

Off went the glorious scooter back to Amazon….

Fortunately Target had one for sale!

 

 

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Letting them down…Helping them learn

Last week I frantically waved my left hand at the back of the kindergarten classroom hoping that the substitute teacher would notice me, and I could point to an empty ring finger in the hopes that she’d stop asking my 6-year-old to “be thinking of what you like to do with your dad because I’ll call on you next. I always like to call on kids when their parents are visiting us.” His head dropped as she reached down to tie his shoe and I heard her speak more softly, “that’s okay. You can tell us something you like to do with your mom instead,” but she never did call on him.

It’s the end of the school year. Time to make Father’s Day cards. Heart sink. I cringe with regret that I have let my boy down. I’m not good enough. I have not “given” him what every boy wants – a Dad. My boys probably deal with this issue more than I imagine. Given an age in which non-traditional family structure is becoming more and more common, it still amazes me that certain settings continue to function as if there is only one model of family. Elementary schools still have pre-printed materials that ask children to fill in what they do with their dad or with their moms as if it applies to everyone. Parent forms usually do not include a way to indicate single parenting or non-traditional parenting.

And I realize that even though I have wrapped my mind around the fact that we’re currently a non-traditional family, I don’t often talk about it with the boys. Yes, when they bring it up, I answer their questions. When Super Tall Guy blurts out, “You’re never going to get married, Mom,” I answer, “You never know.”  But I realized a few days ago, that it might actually have been helpful to talk to Mr. Ornery about what happened in the classroom, to reflect with him, “I noticed your teacher kept asking about what you like to do with your dad. How did that make you feel?” I might be able to learn some from him and help him feel more aware and comfortable with our situation.

Instead, I process the experience for myself. How did it make me feel? What did I think? Well, I felt like I let him down. That I wasn’t providing enough for him. That I put him in an awkward situation just because I haven’t done the “typical” life cycle event of getting married. That somehow my poor kid is not living life to the fullest that he could be. Then I stop myself and remind myself that I am providing for these boys so much more than what the situation they were born into could have provided. We have a home filled with more toys than they need. They rarely experience hunger. They have an extended family who loves them and a wide social net around them. They play sports. They go to the pool. We take family vacations. I remind myself that I am doing my best for them and it’s pretty darn good, come to think of it. (Yes, they do need to be doing piano lessons….but I just haven’t gotten around to scheduling that yet, much to their delight!)

It’s hard to understand the world around you if no one explains it to you when you’re six. It’s hard to comprehend how families are different and how life is different for different people unless someone explores that with you. And as an introvert who is so used to internally processing what I see and hear and experience, I rarely think about making my thoughts “evident” to my sons. Huh. New parenting insight. “Think” more externally. Journey with them rather than apart from them.

Good thing I processed the situation! 🙂

 

When Parenting Drop-kicks your Expectations

“Parenting – the hardest job you’ll ever love.”  I don’t know, sometimes, it just doesn’t work for me. Sometimes it’s just way harder than I’d like it to be….and I’m not seeing much of the flames of love.

Most of the time, it’s hardest when it spits at and flaunts my expectations for the day. You’d think that with a cumulative “parenting age” of 16 (8 + 5 + 3), I could learn not to have expectations….but no…..I’m still a young and naïve student of erratic, nonsensical, disruptive young boy behavior.

The earliest lessons in false expectations are learned dramatically by all parents in naptime woes. You think you’ve managed to keep the little 3-month-old awake all morning and put him down at 10:00 am so you can catch the Ellen Show…but no….five minutes after you just sit down, right after her dance routine fades into commercials, and…. “waaaah.” Crushing.

You think you’re going to enjoy a nice afternoon at the Museum of Natural History, dsc_0243but you spend the entire time chasing down an escaping two-year-old, cornering him in the bathroom after he’s already wet his pants, and then staring in shock as he drops his knickers in full view to pee on the grass near Dippy the Dinosaur outside. Mind-numbing, drop-kicking parenting.

Then there’s the recent experience with the tonsillectomy where I figured about 4-5 days of ice cream, popsicles and jello and we’d be right back into routine.  But no…..two trips to the ER, return trip to the operating room and two weeks of spitting out saliva. Messy, disgusting, worrisome….and so knocking out my expectation.

Parenting…. drop-kicks every expectation, right?!?

But no, I don’t even learn the hard way. Tuesday morning….it’s my birthday….and what do I expect?  Silly of me to even think that we could possibly have a peaceful day. Super Tall wakes up beside me and wonders, “Do I get to stay home from school for your birthday?” “No, my dear,” I reply, “I don’t even get to stay home from work!” And since it was the first day back to school after a long holiday weekend, the boys sure weren’t going to work too hard on having a peaceful back-to-school moment just because it was my birthday!

But I out of work a little early to pick them up from the bus and take them out for some ice cream (my treat) …. and that was the end of the peace. Parents picked up Thai food earlier and reheated it for dinner. Boys bounced on and off chairs and screeched and babbled at the table repetitively. Every few minutes another pile of dog poop was gleefully discovered under the table and had to be cleaned up. The wine glass stood untouched. The food was cold by the time it reached my lips. The fight over who was going to blow out the candle (clearly not the birthday girl) was not surprising, of course, and the chaos before the quiet of deep sleep was only a tad more than typical. “Exhausting” is not even an adequate adjective.

My brother called around 8 pm and asked, “So – what’s your resolution for this upcoming year of your life?” Without pause I replied, “Next year – next year on my birthday, I am going to be at a nice restaurant with adult friends enjoying some peace and quiet and a very fine glass of wine!” He seemed surprised. I don’t know why.

In about 50 weeks, I’ll let you know time and location ….and I’m going to expect some good cheer, belly laughs, and a table full of peace and quiet!!

You can hold me to it.

(Of course, this expectation will be dashed by a kid who breaks his arm falling off the top of the minivan at 4:00 pm!)