The Problem with Time

It’s cliché by now. All those more experienced mommies wagging their figurative fingers at you, telling you to enjoy every moment because after all, “The days are long but the years are short.”

And it’s totally true. IT TOTALLY IS.

(But it doesn’t make you feel better when you’ve already experienced a year’s worth of annoying child-caring and it’s only 9am.)

Anyhow, I blinked and my baby, (not the current baby, but my baby for the last four years), Glow Worm, is now four years old.

FOUR YEARS OLD.

I remember when Cookie Monster (7.5) was four and I thought he was SO BIG. After all, compared to the newborn Glow Worm, he was huge. As for Gamera, I don’t recall her ever being four.

I mean, obviously, she was four. (And come to think of it, it was a lot of crying. I mean, 5.75 is a lot of crying, but 4 was even MORE crying. OMG IT WAS EVEN MORE CRYING.) But for some reason, Gamera always seemed older than her actual age and I constantly thought she and Cookie Monster were the same.

But Glow Worm.

Glow Worm has been my baby for the past four years and even though it seems as if he all of a sudden became a big boy over the summer, it still has caught me completely by surprise.

And now that he is four (OMG, HE IS FOUR!), I still find him so very small.

In my mind, he’s still a baby. At least, that’s the excuse I give Gamera and Cookie Monster when they complain that I’m not being fair and letting Glow Worm get away with shit they couldn’t even dream of getting away with.

Part of it is because Glow Worm was such a late talker that he only started being intelligible (and still, half the time we’re not sure if he’s babbling away in Chinese or English when actually it’s CHINGLISH) and he’s also short for his age. And part of it is because compared to his older siblings, he really IS a baby.

But mostly, it’s because I’m in rampant denial.

HOW CAN HE BE FOUR?

He was always such an independent baby, and now that he is four, he is even MORE independent.

This summer, he was in full time school in Taiwan just like last year. But because this year, we had Sasquatch (9 mos), I did not get to spend much time with him after school. We had the hour between his pick up and the older kids’ pick up time, but once Hapa Papa joined us in Taiwan, he took over that pick up.

I didn’t even realize how much I missed that time with Glow Worm until the week was over.

In fact, it took me awhile to even realize that I had barely talked to or spoke to Glow Worm until the week was almost over.

I know.

FAIL. FAIL. FAIL!!

Now that we’re back home and he is starting up preschool again (and for more days than last year), I am missing him a lot. For some reason, he has switched to Hapa Papa being his favorite so Glow Worm no longer fights to sleep with me at night, so I don’t even get to snuggle with him in the evening or at night. (He just informed me today that he loves Papa when I asked him to kiss me. Like he would be cheating on Papa if he kissed me. Hmph.)

Joni Mitchell is totally right. (To be cliché yet again.) I did not know what I had until it was gone.

I mean, Glow Worm now will occasionally still seek me out in the morning and snuggle with me for about five minutes, but then he’s off and running and has no time for me except when it is most inconvenient. (Like when I’m trying to appease Sasquatch and Glow Worm MUST sit and squirm in my lap because OF COURSE.)

It’s not only with Glow Worm, of course.

I know that though I spend a lot of my time with all my kids because I’m their primary caretaker, it’s not focused or necessarily quality time bonding. (To be honest, it’s a lot of reading Chinese and English and nagging.)

However, Gamera and Cookie Monster fight to sleep with me at night (they now have to take turns and the loser gets Hapa Papa as consolation prize). But even then, it’s hardly quality time because they want to spend time and talk to me but I’m trying to put Sasquatch down.

Incidentally, Sasquatch has been a punk lately and refuses to sleep at the boob because he now likes to ROLL AROUND WHILE NURSING and now I have to rock him to sleep in the rocking chair and yes, I know I should sleep train but FFS I just broke down (and sold) the crib because he’s never in it and since he can now walk – OMG HE CAN WALK UNASSISTED – it’s not safe to have him put himself to sleep in my bed.

So as a result, I’m mostly annoyed at Gamera or Cookie Monster for not being quiet and wanting to actually have a conversation with me and they’re sad because I’m mean and as Cookie Monster says (to guilt me on purpose), “I just want to spend time with you, Mama.”

And then I feel like a giant asshole. Because HE WANTS TO SPEND TIME WITH ME. BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.

Whereas I am done with being hugged and kissed and only want some uninterrupted alone time.

I should clarify. They DID fight to sleep with me at night. But now that we finally re-arranged their room so that it’s truly their room with a twin over full bunk and trundle bed, plus moved all their clothes from the family closet to THEIR room in their own dresser, THEY ALSO WANT TO SLEEP IN THEIR ROOM WITH HAPA PAPA.

OMG. Did I mention that the reason Gamera no longer wants to sleep with me is because we moved all her clothes into her room AND SHE DOES NOT WANT TO WALK?!?

Dr. T says I should consider spending a little bit of quality time with the kids every day. Like, play games with them or draw with them or read with them or SOMETHING that is NOT homeschool. And that even though I constantly say I birthed siblings for a reason, that perhaps my kids would stop being assholes and trying to get my attention in negative ways if I actually paid them ANY attention at all during the day.

And then perhaps also, bed time would go a bit easier.

I know Dr. T is right.

I also sense my time with the kids slipping away and soon I will be old and my kids won’t want me at all and I should be grateful that they love me despite my being a crotchety dick because after all, I’m the only mother they have and they still want love and affection THOSE BASTARDS —

SO.

So.

So, Hapa Papa and I have decided to take turns taking a kid out for a date each week. (My mother already does this and it’s a big hit with them. They LOVE being the only person with a beloved adult.) I also am trying to make sure I spend quality time with the kids each day (although perhaps not individually).

I suppose that won’t actually kill me.

I might also enjoy myself and feel better as a parent and human being.

Thus far, I have spent time playing a board game with the kids one day, and playing my beloved (but ignored) logic games with them another day. I even spent quality time with Glow Worm.

I guess it was enjoyable and my heart might have become slightly less Grinchy.

Anyhow, am I the only one who doesn’t spend quality time with my children because I spend such a massive QUANTITY of time with them? How do you ensure that you get meaningful moments with your children? Let me know in the comments.

My Parenting Secret: Mediocrity

A lot of people ask me how I do it being a SAHM of three small children. I often reply that it is easy: I just ignore them.

People think I’m joking. I assure you. I am not.

Here’s the thing though. Lately, I feel as if even my lowly standards of parenting have been violated. Lately, I’ve really been subpar.

Don’t get me wrong. My children are fed, bathed, clothed, and put to bed at a reasonable hour – but come on. Isn’t that like a bare minimum baseline for parenting? Shouldn’t I be doing something more?

I have been consumed with reading books (not even high literature – just your run of the mill fiction and romance novels) or watching TV. Of course, Facebook and random buzzfeed “articles.” But interacting with my children? That is rare.

I play occasionally with them or cozy with them. But most of my interactions revolve around shuttling them to and from school, feeding (okok, force-feeding) them meals, making them do homework, forcing them to bathe, and the forcing them to bed. I really can’t think of a time I spend really “being” with them.

Part of the reason is I really don’t enjoy playing with children. There is a reason I birthed siblings for them; there is a reason my house is a toy store. It is so I don’t have play with my kids. I mean, I don’t even enjoy reading to them – and I LOVE reading.

I think I keep thinking that someday, when they’re older, we’ll hang out and enjoy each other. But let’s be real. Why would they want to spend time with me if they don’t expect me to in the first place?

The other thing is that I feel conflicted. I certainly don’t recall my parents playing with my brother and I (except card games when we were older). We watched hours of TV and we both turned out fine as people. We are even both avid readers. So, should I really be worried that I don’t play with my kids and give them lots of over the recommended amount of screen time? (It’s in Mandarin! That counts as educational, right?!)

And of course, since my children are creatures of habit, I have a feeling that changing the way we relate is going to be harder than I think. On top of this, I feel guilt about homeschooling. I mean, if I can’t even hang out with my kids, how am I going to teach them?

So I find myself in quite the quandary. Ideally, I would spend some quality time with each of my children. After all, I do love them. It just seems like so much effort to change course.

There are so many things I would like to do and start doing. But then, I get overwhelmed or tired or lazy or any manner of excuses. To top it all off, I feel this crushing guilt. What manner of shriveled up old witch am I that I don’t want to make the effort to have quality time with my children?

This is why I keep having babies. Babies are easy. Simple. They have basic needs and I meet them. None of this other stuff like “relating” or whatever. Too bad babies grow up.

Any ideas on how to kick myself in the ass and just do the things I should do? (I suppose the only way out is through. Thus, the only way to get things done is to just do it. Blasted Nike and their catch phrase!)

No, but seriously. How do you motivate yourself in the face of overwhelming tasks? Let me know in the comments.

Flirting With Homeschooling

So, many of you know that I’m a completely lazy parent. I can barely muster up the energy and desire to play with my children (that’s why I gave them playmates in the handy form of siblings). How can I possibly think that I will be able to teach my children anything and homeschool them?

My brother thinks I’m turning into the DuggarsHapa Papa thinks I barely pay attention to my children now – how will I add teaching on top of that?

Here’s the thing. I don’t particularly want to homeschool, but I am feeling very conflicted.

You see, I firmly believe in kids having lots of free time. Free time to play, to read, to watch copious amounts of TV. In short, to have the sort of childhood I recall having. I also want my kids to learn and be fluent in Chinese so that kills either a Friday night or a Saturday morning for the foreseeable future. If I add sports, music, and other activities on the list, that’s more afternoons gone. I would also have three (hopefully four) kids in these classes. Unless they are all in at the same time, it’s going to be a LONG time. Plus, I’m sure their regular schools will have homework as well.

Don’t get me started on how stupid homework is. I get needing homework for math, science, and reading. But a lot of the homework I’m seeing is truly a waste of time. I already know I’m going to be one of those annoying parents who complain about the amount of homework their kid brings home every week.

My friend told me her first grader (in the same school district my kids will be attending) had to write a paragraph on what MLK’s “I have a dream” means to them. Then, the parents had to write an essay on the same topic. WTF? The parent has to do homework?? I’m sorry. I already have a college degree, thanks. I don’t need to be doing homework for the fucking first grade. Also, how do people who work full time even deal with this shit? If I were a working parent, I’d seriously be even more livid. Why is my precious little time with my kids going to be wasted on busywork and stupid sheets of paper that teach them “math mountains” (what the flying frak is that?) and circling how many things “11” is?

No.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. How do I have my kids in extracurricular activities and school without overscheduling them?

I know there is no way my kids can learn EVERYTHING (forget time constraints – they likely won’t be interested in everything). I also want to say I have certain non-negotiables in terms of what my kids will learn such as a musical instrument, a sport, and Chinese. But even if school lets out at 2:30pm, that’s not a lot of time for other stuff PLUS free time. It will likely be just extracurricular stuff and no time to just be a kid.

So, I was thinking. If I homeschooled, then my kids could take the extracurricular activities during the regular school day and I could teach them their “normal” curriculum at other times, that would be awesome! I mean, no offense to regular schools and teachers, but I am pretty sure that I would take less time to teach my kids the same stuff by virtue of there only being my kids vs. twenty-six other students. I can tailor the pace to my child and not teach to the mean. If my kids need me to slow down, I can. If they need me to hurry up, I can. Plus, I can teach a lot of stuff in Chinese (and my Chinese will thereby improve, too!). There really seem to be so many benefits!!

There are two main drawbacks for me. 1) Cookie Monster is highly social and I think if he were stuck with me all day, he would miss kids his age. I can sign him up for classes with peers, but there is no real substitute for sharing life with a classroom of other children. 2) I have to teach my children and spend all my time with them. sigh I mean, I love my children to pieces but this sounds truly awful. Almost enough to break the whole idea altogether.

An alternative is if Cookie Monster gets into a Chinese immersion magnet school in Oakland and then, I don’t have to worry about adding Chinese school on top of other activities. Then, it’s really just being reasonable with outside activities.

For those of you who are further along in the parenting time line and have older children, how do you manage? And for those of you who homeschool, any tips? Good sites? etc? Thanks in advance for all your help, friends!

I know I have at least a year to figure out what to do – and that any decision I make isn’t final. I can put them in regular school, pull them out, put them back in, etc. It really is rather flexible. But I do believe in being prepared.

For now, I will think about trying to do more formal teaching for my kids in the afternoons. Cookie Monster is showing signs of wanting to read so I guess I’ll teach him that. Gamera might just learn because she wants to be like her big brother. If I can actually follow through on this (and maybe teach Cookie Monster some basic math), then perhaps I will have a decent shot at homeschooling them in the future.

Or maybe pigs can fly. Sigh.