No One Wants to Play Anymore

It started again last week when I found a plastic Iron Man action figure under my son’s bed. Goodness knows how long it has been there since he doesn’t play with his action figures anymore. As I held the figure in my hand, the tears came to my eyes, and it gave me pause for what I have been missing lately. He is ten now, but Iron Man figures used to be our thing. For some reason, no matter how many he owned, I always bought him another whenever he asked. Unfortunately for him, he spent so much time in the car as a little boy that I called him the car seat cowboy. It seemed like I was always driving his big sister here and there, and I felt the guilt every time I strapped him into that seat harness. Once again, he would be going somewhere he didn’t need or want to go to. It felt less painful when I knew he would enjoy playing with his new action figure while in his seat. He loved them so. I loved them, too.

I was always the mom who would play. I played with my kids every day during those years. But these days, no one in my house wants to play anything with me. Back then, our games were always big and imaginative. Sometimes we were wizards running through the house with our wands. Other times, we were diamond miners digging through the pea gravel under the play set looking for the most sparkling rocks we could find to add to our treasure collection. My home office was often filled with baby dolls that were up for adoption and needing a good home. The kids and I always found them the perfect parents after a thorough interview and tour of the orphanage. Playing with both a boy and a girl could be a challenge at times, but my son’s Iron Man figures were always welcome to join the game of Barbie his sister and I had started. The matchbox cars were a bit of a problem. Being a true girlie girl in my own youth, I never had them as a kid, and my son loved them. I assumed you played them like dolls and that every car had a name and a personality and went on adventures. On one occasion when my husband sat down to play cars with our son, he pointed out that I didn’t teach him to play cars correctly, and he wasn’t having that version of match cars. Apparently they were supposed to crash a lot and race repeatedly. Who knew?

As my daughter matured and pulled away from playtime with me, it didn’t affect me the way his departure from play does. When she quit, I knew he was waiting in the wings, and it would finally be his chance to get some one-on-one time with me. For a couple of years, it was just the two of us paired up in a play world filled with samurais, superheroes, and anything that involved a ball. Current reality is just so different. With my daughter, I can shop, chat about girl stuff, paint nails, etc. The conversations come easily. As eager as I am for time with my son, I am saddened to find that connecting through conversation becomes harder and harder. He doesn’t want to talk much. He has one speed – fast. He loves being outside and running fast and playing sports and playing hard. There was a time I was able to keep up. I can’t attempt to play soccer anymore. With the difference in skill level, it is not fun for either one of us. I quit playing Wiffle Ball two years ago when I took a particularly hard hit to the chest after he swung with all his might.   I didn’t even know Wiffle Balls could hurt! That experience keeps me from attempting baseball with him. We were able to run together a few months ago. I was dead tired when we got home after a couple of miles. Barely out of breath, he looked at me and said, “Do you want to do some uphill wind sprints now?” I didn’t know exactly what those were, but I was definitely not interested.

I find myself struggling with ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts. All he really wants is to be outside. He has every type of sports equipment and is completely stocked when it comes to his favorite athletic gear. And, sadly, he does not want toys. The play mom is now without options. I thought I had figured another thing we could do together, but in the last three weeks he has politely said no thanks when asked to join me for a board game. I tried three different times and gave up. I decided I would make special plans for us to go to Dave and Buster’s for video games galore after an early dismissal from school the other day. I put on make up and didn’t even wear yoga pants! This was our big playdate, and I could not wait! The reconnection was finally going to happen! Unfortunately, when I arrived to pick him up from school, another parent came up and sweetly asked if he could play at their house, and he was really excited at the prospect. He chose a friend over me and Dave and Buster’s. That one stung a bit. That was one more opportunity to connect, and it wasn’t going to happen.

The morning I found Iron Man, I sulked most of the day. Interestingly, something unexpected happened that same evening. As I put him to bed that night – a time I cherish – we had an extra long snuggle. With my face in his neck I gave him a little kiss and called him sweet little names and told him I loved him. I then laughed and said, “What I just did is precisely why your dad and sister make fun of us. Well, the haters are gonna hate.” His reply took me by surprise. He looked at me and said, “And lovers are gonna love.” He then grabbed onto me tighter, closed his eyes, and settled into a peaceful smile. Love! That was it! THAT is our thing! A sense of peace I had been missing came over me as it sank in: The snuggles and late night conversations, the way he still reaches for and holds my hand in public, and tiny kisses on the forehead were ours. Those were the connections he wanted from me! And best of all, unlike board games and action figures and tiny cars, he will never outgrow my love. Love, pure and simple, is the best connector of all, and we will have our own special kind forever.

Learning As I Go

I have a confession to make: I have not nailed parenting. I am certain I try my best 90% of the time, but the learning curve is steep, and sometimes I am just too tired to put on my best game face. Somehow the four of us seem to function pretty well in the chaos of our family dynamic, and I have a pretty good notion that, when all is said and done, we will have raised fully functioning grown-ups who will not mind visiting their parents from time to time. There are still so many things I don’t know about the parenting world. I feel like I am learning something new everyday. Here are a few things I’ve recently learned.

When your ten-year-old son asks to sit in the grocery cart because his legs are tired from soccer, you can say yes if you don’t have much to buy. You say no if you have a cucumber in the cart. I didn’t realize how creative a boy could be with a vegetable. There he was sitting “criss cross applesauce” in the cart in full soccer gear, proudly holding the English cucumber in the position of his choice as I pushed him round and round the produce section. I didn’t know there could be such creative moments with vegetables. I was certainly thankful that the English cucumber was wrapped in plastic and that he had not noticed the two avocados that I had also dropped in the cart. I guess we need to find happiness in the little things.

Take every situation that seems normal and manageable to you and multiply it by 50 if you want to attempt to relate to the responses of a teenage girl. Did you ever get a tiny spill on your shirt on the way out the door? Has your mascara smeared a tiny bit under your eye shortly after you applied it? Did your parent ever buy you white note cards when you had hoped for neon notecards? You’ve probably experienced one of these scenarios. What you probably didn’t do was lose your freaking mind, wail, consider these scenarios to be injustices in the world, and threaten to go to your room and never come out. The drama is quick and rarely predictable. Most of the time, it happens right when you should be getting in your car. Sometimes it just makes me laugh, and sometimes it causes me to turn into my own version of teen girl crazy.

Long after pre-k you will still never quite know what your child is going to say. A few weeks ago, we were have a leisurely lunch out with family. We’d had a silly conversation about tattoos, who has them, and unique tattoos that we’d seen. The conversation went quiet for a bit until my son broke the silence by saying, “You know, if you tattooed the letter L on each butt cheek, wouldn’t that be LOL?” (I’ll let you process that one for a bit.) It was later suggested that I get M’s and his grandfather, Pop, get P’s. While I appreciated the suggestion, I’m probably going to have to pass on that one.

Select sports are a punishment to parents who birthed an athlete. For as much as I have complained about my parents’ never signing me up for any sports during my school years, leaving me talentless and scrambling to find my place in the world – Yikes, did my teen girl drama side just peek out? –, I think they may have been onto something. My parents had their weekends to rest and recover from the week and get a few things done around the house. The kids slept in and watched cartoons and played in the yard. That option was too calm for us. We decided to put our son in sports when he was five, and it turns out that despite his maternal genetics working against him, he is pretty darned athletic. By nine, we were told he needed to play at a more competitive level, so we moved right into select sports leagues. We went from leisurely weekend games in the neighborhood to signing over our lives and weekends for the duration of the season, which appears now to function on a year-round basis. You don’t practice anywhere near your home, and you spend most weekends on the field. Many times, sports consume your entire weekend, and then you go back to school and work sunburned, windburned, dehydrated, or a combination of all three. You pay a premium for it, too. It is also a source of conflict with the grandparents, who don’t seem to understand why we aren’t available for a weekend gathering until 2019. I truly enjoy the other parents who are living this same life with us; we are one big sports family on those weekends. But, if your athletic child has a sibling who is not playing, and if you are trying to juggle two (or more) sports, it is a butt kicker. I didn’t know this was a parenting scenario, and now I know more than enough about it.

Despite your best efforts to remain the cool parent, you will lose this battle at some point. If wearing shorts that cover my entire backside and then some makes me a grandma, as I have been called by the younger female in the house, then call me Little Ol’ Granny all day long. In the shorts she would have me wear, I would never be able to conceal those “M” tattoos I’m considering. I am tired of arguing about shorts in my house. You might see some WWE moves going down in the Target dressing room when my daughter tries on new bathing suits for me as the warmer temperatures draw nearer. I argue a lot about swimwear, too. I cannot handle this Kylie Jenner generation of girls trying to look 25 at thirteen. It’s exhausting and makes Granny want a nap. And, Granny doesn’t care if “everybody else” wears it. I do not, and therefore you are a liar.

Lighten up when you can. I did not like it when my daughter threw chips in my hair last week so seagulls would chase me. I did not like that much at all, but that was really funny. She didn’t get in trouble for it. She’ll get payback for it, but she won’t get in trouble. I chose not to yell at my son the other day after he had a spill in the kitchen. He’d just opened a package of Fun Dip he’d received for Valentine’s Day. Those are the packets of flavored powder into which you dip your vanilla candy stick. You can’t pronounce a single ingredient used to make them, but the kids think they’re great. Anyway, he spilled some of the bright green powder on the kitchen tile. When I used a damp paper towel to wipe it up, I freaked out because I then had a bright green, wet smear that stained a tiny part of the grout. I asked what was wrong with him that he couldn’t be more careful with his candy, and my tone wasn’t pleasant. Very calmly he replied, “We need a little color in here, Mom. Don’t worry about it.” Although I prefer throw pillows to Fun Dip stains, I saw his point as I looked around at my brown and beige living room and kitchen.

No matter their ages, enjoy the time with your family members this weekend. Laugh at the unexpected conversations, settle the conflict, and look for some color. If you need me, I’ll be on the ball fields.

*photo by terrihinojosa.com

This Is Not Relaxing!

I’ve just returned from three days at the Texas coast with the kids.  I had hoped this would be a relaxing visit to the beach.  Unfortunately, my kids discovered some new beach fun when we visited last November and decided to take it up a notch or two with this visit.  Last November, my daughter had planned to place food on my son’s back as he laid in the sun in order that she could attract some seagulls to chase him.  He became aware of her plan, and, before she could execute it, he threw a huge handful of popcorn at her.  It got crazy fast.  I wanted to write about the experience but have decided the video on my Facebook page is so much better than any words I could put together to describe it.  (My daughter happened to be taking a video when she was attacked by the popcorn and then the birds. I have her permission to post the video.)  At the moment of the attack, I was finishing my lunch and watching from afar.  Because I have the maturity of an eight-year-old boy, I immediately laughed uncontrollably.  I laughed so hard that I sucked a french fry down my throat and choked the entire time she was screaming and running about.  You can hear me coughing at the end of the video, when she finally makes her way to me.

The kids upped the ante with this trip.  Clearly, they had been putting some thought into it.  My daughter and I were getting out of the car at the same time, at least I thought we were.  Little did I know that she was waiting for me to exit the car so she could throw chips in my hair and lock me out of the vehicle.  Who does that? I am so thankful that there is not video of that reaction.  My little man had to get in on the fun by throwing popcorn all over the car so we wouldn’t exit and he could claim his spot on the beach first.  It was crazy.  However, the original video from November posted to the Facebook page is the best reaction to seagulls you might ever see.  You’ll definitely want to turn down your speakers if in a public place.  A future blog will detail more about why I dislike birds on a level you could never imagine.  Enjoy the video, and cheers to relaxing beach escapes with children!

https://www.facebook.com/talesfromthecanvas/

Tales From the . . . What?

 

The blogging journey I have blindly entered into has been beyond interesting. From one week to the next, I really never know what my next post will be about. I simply try to live my life and get inspired by organic experiences that happen to me in my very average existence. I can’t tell you how many times I have shared an event from what I would regard as a typical day in my life and have been told, “That would only happen to you, Lorissa.”

It is the blog itself that has inspired me today. The site I use for publishing my blog has made a suggestion to me that I must share. It has suggested that I create a Twitter account. It even proposed a handle, or a Twitter user name, that I could use. The site proposed that I use . . . @talesfromthecan. I don’t even know where to start with this.

First of all, let’s just hope that this was a computer-generated suggestion, and that no one is playing a joke on me. Twitter will only allow fifteen characters for your handle, so that does pretty much nail it. Second, why am I so intrigued with the suggestion that I am actually considering it? Choosing this handle could be really entertaining and also fodder for future blogs.

I would guess that my current readers who use twitter might follow me. I just can’t help but wonder who, without knowing about this blog, would actually choose to follow the handle @talesfromthecan. Those would indeed be some interesting people. The bigger question is whether I would want these people following me.

My son does talk about bathroom habits quite a bit, and that will make an entrance into a story at some point. That might please the mystery followers. Other than that, I think I would deeply disappoint them. I am certain there are numerous tales from the can I couldn’t even begin to imagine. If one wants some really good tales from the can, I think I would be a complete and total disappointment.

In this name selection process, I can’t help but think about who might actually be interested in choosing this handle for him or herself. I don’t picture myself. I picture a hardworking trucker named Bobbie Ray who likes to use Twitter to keep up with road reports and Nascar. Bobbie Ray likes outdoor country music festivals and camo. Between the concerts and being out on the road, he’s had many a port-o-potty adventure. He definitely has some tales from the can to share.   The truck stop bathroom alone would be a great source of inspiration for Bobbie Ray.

I don’t mean to brag, but I am not without my own tale from the can that occurred at a truck stop. A couple of months ago, my family and I stopped in Nowhere, Texas on the way home from an out-of-town soccer tournament. I casually entered the women’s room not knowing I would come out with a tale from the can. You see, when I went to wash my hands, I noticed a woman staring at me. After I smiled and went back to washing, she pointed out that my shoulders were a little sunburned. I explained that I had been at an outdoor tournament all weekend. She said, “I make my own oils. My favorite one is called miracle oil. If I had it with me right now, I would rub it on you.” Drying my hands quickly, I said, “Thanks, maybe next time.” She smiled at me, revealing she had no teeth. It suddenly felt a bit like a Deliverance moment, and I got the hell out of there. Now THAT is a tale from the can, and, yes, I promise it is true! Hmmmmmm, maybe this handle doesn’t just belong to a Bobbie Ray!

And, now, a decision must be made. What will the blog’s official presence on Twitter be? I’m going to give it a little more thought. I’m not totally opposed to @talesfromthecan because I can’t stop laughing about it. Based on my research, though, choosing a name for a Twitter handle is very important. The handle should accurately represent you because it will influence new connections and create buzz. Perhaps @fromthecanvas would be the more professional choice. You just never know with me. Stay tuned for the official announcement!

Routine vs. Rude Teen

Teens. I’ll have one in a little over a month. I even have a female one which I hear is the most enjoyable kind you can get. From a child development perspective it is fascinating. I see glimpses of behaviors repeated from toddlerhood- outbursts, crying, pouting, a focus on self, and more. All of these are developmentally appropriate and come with the occasional hug or snuggle so all is not actually lost. But with this tender time also comes the occasional parent “dis”. Ouch.

A few nights ago I entered my daughter’s room to do the same thing I do every night-take every bit of technology including phone, iPad and laptop. This is to be expected. It is a routine. These items sleep next to me at the side of my bed so I know they will not interrupt her sleep in any way, and that is just one of the many reasons I do it. And, despite it being routine, there is at least a day or two each week where there is a moment of conflict, and yet the end result is always the same- I get the technology.

On this particular evening I had prepared a mini speech explaining why I take her things each night, why it should be accepted as the regular routine, and I even explained how it is expected that she and I will not always see eye to eye on all matters. I also explained I was okay with her expressing her anger, dislike, etc. in an appropriate way. Being the generous person I am I even offered her examples of ways she could word her frustrations that would keep things clean and fair and not have the conversation escalate into World War III.

You should have seen this talk. IT. WAS. AMAZING. It was the stuff that the old after school specials were made of. I wondered if I should quickly type it up and send it to The Huffington Post for immediate publication to help other parents in the same situation. Then, just as I was about to hold my arms up high in the air for my “mic drop” moment, turn on my heel and exit, she spoke. With perfect eye contact and her best TOTALLY over it tone she said, “Great speech, Oprah. Now will you get out of my room?”

Wow! What the hell just happened? I did not see that one coming. What would I do? I cleared my throat, smiled and said, “Well, I was leaving anyway. And I happen to LOVE Oprah! Thank you for the compliment.” And with arms overflowing with phone, iPad and laptop, Oprah left the building.