Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You're Tired

By Kelly

My Mom is a genius.

All my life, she’s had one phrase that covers every childhood problem.

She would simply say, “You’re tired.”

Fighting with a sibling? “You must be tired.”

Cranky the day after a sleepover? “You sound tired.”

Whining about having nothing to wear? “Someone’s tired.”

Broken arm? “You must be tired.”

I’m kidding about that last one. I think.

But sometimes, that’s how it felt. Tiredness was to blame for everything. I wondered if the world would end and my Mom would blame it on exhaustion.

And I hated hearing it, honestly. I hated that she had a calm answer when I wanted a dramatic reaction. I hated that she didn’t seem to care about my life-altering problems. I hated that she acted like she knew me better than I knew myself. (“Like I wouldn’t know if I was tired,” I would snort to my teenage self.)

But now that I’m the parent, I see the genius in that phrase. Because my Mom wasn’t just diagnosing a condition.

She was showing us grace.

She was saying, in essence, “I believe you know how to get along with your siblings and stay kind even after a late-night party and be content with the clothing you have. I believe you can do better than this. Surely, it’s the tiredness that’s making you act this way. You must be tired.”

I understand this now, because I watch my two-year-old after a week of not taking naps, and I see how she melts down when I tell her no, she can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. And I know she can do better than that. I’ve seen her have better reactions.

She must be tired.

And I watch my older son and daughter bicker and pick at each other all day after a weekend of swimming and late night ice cream cones and extra reading time before bed. I know they can treat each other with kindness. This isn’t like them.

They must be tired.

It’s a beautiful thing, really, to believe my children can do better if they just had a little more sleep. It’s a way for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe in them. They just need more rest.

And now, it’s time for me to go to bed. Because tonight, I found myself getting annoyed when my toddler wanted to hold my hand while she was falling asleep.

I must be tired.

Kelly blogs at Love Well, when she's not too tired.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Neighborhood Etiquette 101

By Kelly

When we moved into our little town home complex in the fall of 2007, we didn't have many neighbors. Such is the nature of a new development. In fact, when we took the kids trick-or-treating that Halloween, we discovered Natalie and Connor were the only children in residence at that point. (Pro: We got bags and bags of candy. Con: We got bags and bags of candy.)

But now, the development is finished and full. There are quite a few young families around. Which means, for the first time in their lives, our kids have neighborhood friends.

I'm delighted they have playmates. Yesterday, they spent the better part of the afternoon running around our building, playing tag and riding bikes and having squirt gun wars.

But since our old house was in the country (read: no neighbors), I feel a little out of my element here. What's proper neighborhood etiquette? How much do I need to supervise? Do I get involved when a minor skirmish breaks out? ("That's my toy! I was playing with it!") If my kids are inside someone else's house for more than an hour (an activity which was initially approved by all adults involved), do I need to go check on them to make sure they aren't overstaying their welcome?

The fact that I have a young baby to care for adds to my unease. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Connor and Natalie are having fun -- away from the computer and TV. On the other hand, I feel vaguely guilty that they are off my radar, and I'm not actively involved in what's going on outside.

But maybe that's OK? I don't know.

So far, we've laid out the following rules:
1. You need to share your toys (bikes, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, etc.).
2. You shouldn't expect or demand that your friends will reciprocate with their toys. It would be nice, but it's their decision.
3. Never go into someone's house without asking Mom or Dad for permission.
4. If your friend wants you to come inside, make sure it's OK with their Mom or Dad.

What else do I need to know, experienced parents? I need "Neighborhood Etiquette for Dummies." Enlighten me.

This post was originally published in June 2008 at Kelly's blog Love Well. But neighborhood etiquette remains an enigma for her. So please - share your thoughts.