When Your Child Discovers The Big Lie

Standing in the toy aisle in Kohl’s and concentrating on which item to buy for a friend’s son’s birthday, I hesitated before asking my son to repeat what he had just said.

“Can you repeat what you just said, but can you whisper it to me?” If it was what I thought it was, I didn’t want his 5 year old brother to overhear.

“I know that Santa’s not real, Mom.”

The color likely drained from my face as it was probably the last thing I was expecting him to say at that moment, but it was, in fact, what I thought he had just said.

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“Ok, if you want to have this discussion, it has to be in private, with both me and your father. It needs to be away from your brother.”

“Oh! So you’re saying he isn’t then? I knew it!” His voice getting more shrill with each word.

“I said let’s talk about this later. Now is not the time.”

Thankfully, he forgot about it.

Two weeks later, after walking in the door from school, he reminded me that he wanted to have that talk. He said he knew about Santa and the Tooth Fairy because he had set up his iPad to video us sneaking around.

“That’s bologna.” I said. He smiled and admitted to fibbing.

“Well, I know they’re not real because you say you will tell Santa if we are misbehaving. That made me realize you’re lying. How could you tell Santa? It’s not like you have his phone number. What you think you can fool me by saying you’ll just dial him up? Or email him! It’s lies!”

“We’ll talk about it at bedtime.” I silenced him for the moment.

At bedtime, his father and I sat down and told him in so many words that he was right. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were pretend magical stories to make the holidays and losing teeth more fun and special for children. It was a lie coming from a good place (uh, confusing), and he would understand one day and do the same for his children.

Anger was the emotion that seemed to settle right in when we confirmed the bad news. He got emotional and went on to say he was hurt and surprised we had lied to him for 8 years. Then my husband corrected him and said, “Well, actually 9. We lied for 9.” Thank you, husband.

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He pushed us away when we tried to hug him. We didn’t “deserve” hugs. We were horrible parents. He was sulking like an irritated teenager. Then he asked about Elf on the Shelf which we only started doing these last two Christmases. He seemed more upset about the Elf for some reason. We gave him the ol’ “you can help keep the magic going and be part of it for your brother now…” spiel and it simply ignited more upsetment.

“How can you ask me to LIE to my own BROTHER? What kind of parents ARE you?” The drama was over the top. I wanted to laugh, but then I couldn’t, because he was so genuinely upset, the humorous vibe evaporated. We explained that he better not tell his brother or his friends.

The saga continued as he ran into our bedroom and grabbed his framed baby picture off of my nightstand and stared at it. I felt like we were in REM’s “Everybody Hurts” music video except it was, “J’s found out there’s no Santa.” This was like a made for TV moment.

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For the first time, we didn’t get a warm goodnight (he’s a lovey dovey kid), and we were sad about this phase being over. We shuffled back to the living room feeling a sort of grief only parents that have just gone through this experience can understand. It was the end of an era, which is sad for parents too. As your children go through different phases, some good and some bad, when the phases come to an end, there is a small sense of mourning. Not really for the bad phases though… adios to those!

We thought about any possible way to lift his spirits. Since our son had stayed home sick that day, we didn’t know if he had made drama club.The school had a lottery system in which they select children who are interested at random and there are a limited number of spots. My husband posted on the school’s parent group on Facebook to see if there was a way to find out and wa-la (thank you Facebook and the parent who got right back to us) we found out he had made it!

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We agreed to tell our son right away in hopes to cheer him up, but he was pretty stoic after we shared the good news. He wanted to crash in our bed for the night which he hasn’t done for years. He kept saying he didn’t know how he would fall asleep because this was the worst day of his life.

The next morning he was still thinking about it and said to his dad, ” So what’s up with the Santa tracker then?” It was obviously still on his mind. So much for hoping it would pass!

I guess with parenting, one never knows how much something will impact their child until it actually happens. My son clearly believed HARD in the magical things we told him about. For that I’m glad because those years were SO MUCH FUN. This was definitely a learning experience. The anger carried on the entire next day, but slowly it dissipated and we got him to agree not to tell his friends or his brother. I do believe we just witnessed his first major disappointment in life. Sure he’s had other let downs, but nothing to this degree. Of course there will be many more to come. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s so interesting what we learn from parenting. It’s a front row seat to the growing changing of the human being you’ve created-physically, mentally, and emotionally. You can’t help but be riveted, worried, and grateful simultaneously during the whole experience. Hopefully, we can still get a few more years of Santa, the bunny, and the Tooth Fairy with our youngest!

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Could Teaching Empathy Start With Bugs?

Here’s my latest on Medium. Be sure to clap for my article if you enjoy it and follow me on Medium so you don’t miss my future stories.

I used to think it was a little much. My husband was firm with the kids when urging them not to hurt or kill the ants, spiders, ladybugs, or any other random bug they were toying with outside. Over time, I grew to love how gently they would handle the ants that were building their little sandy huts on our patio in the backyard. They would pick them up with great care, and talk about how cute each one was, while it scurried in between each finger across their little hands. This little teaching about being respectful to bugs, seems to have stretched across all living creatures for the kids and it seems to have stuck. Our sons treat our cat with great care, express concern when someone gets injured or sick, and have randomly shown empathy for birds’ “feelings” as of late. Maybe this “be nice to the bugs” business has transformed into more than we could have imagined in the way of teaching life lessons.

Continue reading here.

Working Parent Guilt-What I’ve Learned May Surprise You

Going from a full-time to part-time working mom has been an enormous shift. One that is reshaping our family and how we do things pretty much on the daily. Big change brings about learning and a fresh perspective. Over the last 8 months I’ve learned quite a bit- not only about myself, but about my children, my husband, and about my expectations for the extra time I would have with my kids. A recent realization prompted me to write one of the more shocking things I’ve come to understand.  Something that I hope will give full-time working parents a splash of cold water on the face of guilt they wear each day as they trudge off to work.

Continue reading here.

Ownership Involves Things – Not People

Today’s article is brought to you by the word “Simmer”.

Enjoying looking through some quotes and anecdotes about children modeling the behavior they learn in the home, I came across one that set my pleasant mood on fire. It stuck out like a sore thumb, and did not belong alongside such positive tones. The title was something along the lines of Rules for Dating My Son.

Pausing, taking a deep breath, and re-reading the list of rules, I tried to turn down the flame of anger and let it simmer a moment. The musing was written by a mother who thought she was writing a warning to future female suitors and a powerful message of unification to all mothers of sons. The words she used made it feel as though she was speaking of her most prized possession. Something she owned and held close for no one else to enjoy or love, like that of a caged bird she fed and adored. It was a message to mothers of sons that no one can take your son away from you. That she will be watching his girlfriend or wife’s every move with a skeptic’s eye. It was a message to send fear into the woman that would come to love her son or perhaps that already does. That the love of his girlfriend or wife would never match his mother’s and she will always be his number one love. That he is hers and always will be.

I don’t feel this way as a mother. I don’t feel ownership over my children. I don’t feel they need to put me first in their lives, because, truth be told, they should focus on becoming the best versions of themselves so they can benefit society as a whole. It has nothing to do with me. They are allowed to love and love freely. I’ll never feel jealous of a girlfriend or a wife, a friend, or a partner of theirs. That would be silly. I’m their mother and of course I always will be until I’m no longer here. I birthed them, but they owe me nothing because they did not ask to be born. Their father and I chose to bring them into this world and it is our duty to raise them to be compassionate, loving, generous, confident, thoughtful, to make sound decisions, and to keep them safe. It is not their duty to make me number one their entire lives.

I know they love me, and that is more than enough.

When and if they marry someday, I will be crying tears of joy and nostalgia. Not tears of insecurity and jealousy. I will not wish harm upon their lovers. They are my children, not things I own or possess. I can only hope the woman who wrote that selfish and scary musing comes across this post to understand she has much work to do on herself and the many roles we each play in the game of life. She is not only a mother, she is a woman, a worker, a daughter, a friend, perhaps a wife, or a sister. My advice to mothers who feel this way would be to diversify and put energy into each of these roles instead of only defining yourself as the doting, overprotective mother.

If you truly love someone, set them free. This is an anecdote I can get behind.

 

via Daily Prompt: Simmer

Random Things I’ve Learned About My Kids This Week

Now that I’ve been unemployed for two weeks, my days are filled in a different way. All the things I’ve put on the eternal back burner I can now take on and finish in my home.  Among the adult chores I can now tackle on the home front,  I’ve also enjoyed taking and picking up my kids from school and the extra hours in each day that I now get to spend with them. In the last week there have been some cool conversations and some not-so-fun ones with my sons.  There have also been some bonding activities I’ve tried to cram in each day since I’m a little kooky and always feel like when something good is happening it will soon go away. So I have been doing what I do best- squeezing in as much as possible. Sometimes the activities go well, sometimes they blow up, sometimes I have a talk with my kids and learn something when paradoxically, I am trying to teach THEM something.

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On my first week home I let both my sons know Mommy would be picking them up from school and they no longer needed to go to their after school care programs.

My oldest pondered this for a long minute then said, “But Mom, I don’t want you to pick me up from school. If you pick me up that will mean Y is all alone at after care. She only plays with me. I can’t leave her like that-it’s not right. She needs a friend. So, like, no offense, but can I still go there and we can pick one day that you can get me right from school?”

I thought to myself -how can I refute this? He’s showing compassion for his friend and he has a really good point. This program is pretty amazing and it is extremely inexpensive for the entire year, and we’ve already paid in full up front. Most importantly, he unleashes all that pent up energy there because there are so many activities. I agreed with him that it was the right move for him 4 days out of the week, but that I will pick him up a half an hour to an hour earlier than usual.

For the last eight months I have put our youngest to bed pretty much every night. Long story short the four alarm meltdown when I don’t put him to bed lasts forever and cuts into the time he should already be catching his Z’s. My eight year old is beginning to get pretty sad about this because he misses this connection time with me. So my youngest surprised all of us by saying, “Mom, I want Daddy to put me to bed one night and then you do the next”.

Both me and J were excited to get this long awaited connection time. While lying there, we usually chat about life and other random things before he drifts off. While he was dozing, I pulled out my phone and started a task I’ve been putting off for a while -adding members to a Facebook group I’m the administrator for.  He peered over and asked what I was doing. When I explained, he sat upright, his voice upset. “You mean you don’t add everyone? What do you mean you decline some people when they try to join your group? That’s so mean. You’re MEAN. You should be including everyone or anyone who wants to join! I can’t believe you.”

Startled, but happy that my kid has an inclusive nature, I explained to him that my group is only for the county we live in and it isn’t relevant or useful to those that live in other states, countries, or even other counties. He would not let it go. He saw it as very black and white. If people want to join something- let them join. I realized no matter how many different ways I tried to explain to him how that isn’t how these groups work, I wasn’t going to win this argument. He went to bed steaming mad at me. Some things are hard to explain as a parent and I felt so crappy that this was our first night together having a nice chat and that it ended on this note. While upset that my kid was disappointed in me, I was actually happy that he got so worked up about something he believed in so firmly. Passion is a good thing.

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My little guy wears a uniform to school. It’s a T-shirt and sweats basically. I bought two polos which are part of the older kid uniform just in case there was ever a day he needed to dress up for school.  Now he refuses to wear his T-shirt which is the normal uniform and only wants to wear the collared polo. He cries the entire way to school if I put him in the T-shirt. I tried the route of explaining to him that there is a mountain called Mt. Everest and that is also the name for our pile of laundry.  Mommy can’t always get to washing the two polos in time for school. He just cried harder. I just chalked it up to a bad couple of mornings because he’s not a morning person. Then came time for his older brother’s parent/teacher conference this week. We had no luck getting a sitter and ended up having to bring both kids with us. Before we left, E begged to wear a fancy shirt and a tie. He said he wanted to look his best for his brother’s conference. Insert me melting into a heap on the floor. I connected the dots right then and there. Looking nice is important to him. He wants to look his best at school – that’s why he had the fit about wearing the t-shirt vs the polo. Sometimes it takes us parents a minute to learn what our kids are really trying to say.

I told the kids we were going to have a screen free evening yesterday and make pumpkin pretzels for a gathering we’re having this weekend for Halloween. I thought it would be a fun activity in the kitchen for the three of us. Not. So. Much. The melted orange coating got everywhere and they just kept trying to eat it. Then they spilled half the M&M’s all over the floor and we had to throw them away. Each time I finished putting one on the tray no sooner would I go to place another down and the one I just finished had disappeared into one of their mouths. Can I tell you how frustrating this was? I drove 20 minutes away to track down the last two remaining bags of orange candy melts at Jo-Ann fabrics because every store from here to NY was out of them. Note to self and other moms- some baking activities are fun with kids. This one was not! We argued the whole time. The good news is- I had just barely enough and got ‘er done. Here they are in all their delicious and pretty hide-them-from-the-kids glory.

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Learnings, wonderment, and arguments with the kids aside, I am really enjoying this time with them. It solidifies my decision in leaving my job every time my four year old’s face lights up when I’m standing outside the doors to pick him up from school. He still asks me every morning if I will be there to pick him up.  I’m guessing it’s because he’s adjusting to no longer being the last kid at after school care every day. While this is temporary, I’m not taking one second for granted. I look forward to what I’ll be schooled on next week by J and E!

 

Bedtime Stories: Mommy’s Encounters With Leonardo DiCaprio

Sometimes we forget about the hysterical or cool things that have happened while we’re out having fun into the wee hours of the morn. We especially forget if many years have passed. If you would have told me ten years ago I’d be resurrecting stories from my crazy nights out in order to up my bedtime storytelling game with my two sons, I’d have called you a liar.  Nevertheless, there I was, sharing the details with the kids. Read More Here

Guilt Is My Alter Ego- Part 1

It was interesting to peer into my young mind and relive what was unfolding inside the words. Reading my journals dating back to 1987 has been an experience.

Combing through past experiences exposed how my all-consuming  inner voice was formed.  It’s pretty much an alter ego and her name is Guilt. She consumes me as a working mom, a friend, a wife, a daughter, and a sister. Better yet, she’s my arch nemesis and alter ego rolled into one. Beyonce doubles as Sasha Fierce, David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust, and Bridget the Bergen became Lady Glitter Sparkles. But I’m stuck with the not-so-glamourous and sparkly version of myself .  She hovers over me like I’m her whipping boy, saying to me, “It’s GUILT Bitch!” which somehow doesn’t have the same chirpy ring of Britney’s fun voice. And based on pretty much anything you read related to motherhood, it would seem a lot of other moms also get bogged down by their feelings of guilt.

A few weeks ago, my husband gave me some advice. I was running around in a million directions, trying to clean with one hand, talk on the phone in the other, play with the kids with my left foot and eat with my right. After hanging up the phone, I griped to him that I felt all jittery and mega stressed. It felt like I had just finished beer-bonging coffee.

He said, “Look at yourself. Look at all the things you were just trying to do at the same time. You’re doing all these things because you think you should do them. You go through your life doing things all the time you think you should do, but do you ever ask yourself what you actually want to be doing?”

This must be a man thing because it would seem so many men can just turn off the stress and veg out in front of the TV. I do not not seem to possess this same gift of compartmentalization. As in being able to say to myself, “Now I will relax. Later I will do X. Tomorrow I will do Z.”

No way. It all is on fire and has to be done now. That’s is the way my brain always sees it.

Anyway, after I picked my jaw off the floor from his Dalai Lama advice sucker punch , I thought about what he had just said and he did have a major point. All of the things that were causing my stress to go into overdrive were self inflicted: 1.) I had answered the phone because it was someone I hadn’t talked to in awhile, so I felt like I had to answer; even though it was hands down the worst time of day to talk. 2.) While talking on the phone, I was feeling guilty over not interacting with my kids because it felt like I hadn’t really engaged with them all week. This thought is what led me to tell them I would play legos with them, but then I answered the phone, so actually I was half playing with them, half talking on the phone. 3.) Piles of laundry were all over the place so I was carrying the basket to and from the washer/dryer with the phone cradled on my shoulder followed by plopping down to fold the clothes right next to where we were playing legos. Yes, I thought I could fold, talk on the phone, and play legos with the kids all at the same time. 4.) The kids love to tell me how hungry they are whenever I’m doing anything. So I was making popcorn, cutting up apples, and pouring glasses of water upstairs, then going downstairs during intervals of folding clothes, playing with the legos, and talking on the phone.

I’m tired just writing this. This is the stuff I do to myself ALL. THE. TIME. And it basically boils down to guilt in addition to feeling like I am available to and owe everybody something at all times.

My husband continued on in his Dahlai Lama state of mind and asked me to think of all the decisions I’ve made in my life – both big and small -current and past.  Are they driven by other people’s wants or my own? Had I EVER based my decisions on what I felt like I wanted to do for myself? Or did I just default to what my brain was telling me was the “nice” thing or the “right” thing to do at that moment.  He pointed out that something bigger was likely driving my guilt.

Guilt manifests itself out of different experiences, fears, and beliefs we all have. Over time these patterns are hardened and then it feels impossible to break the cycle of that nagging voice.