Teaching children how to Communicate

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If we teach our children to reason with one another through rational thought and discussion instead of fists and harsh words we are providing them with valuable skills to help them to survive.

Raising our three boys ages 4, 7 & 9, has given me a completely different perspective on the perplexities of life. I was born the youngest of three girls and boys have always been my distraction and my muse. Can this be the explanation as to why I ended up with three boys of my own? I admit that I appreciate the quirky jokes that life plays on me but this one seems somehow…illogical. Yes, I am sporty, young at heart and very playful but I sometimes wonder if I have the proper constitution to watch as they live their lives to the ultimate degree.

Accepting that boys love to hurl themselves off of great heights is not an easy task for any mother. I try my best to instill life’s learned lessons into their heads in order to keep them alive. The boys are excited to join the Freestyle team next year and I can’t help but wonder how I will ever be able to be proud of them as they catch air on the enormous jumps, some which are built for the X-Games. It is a mental challenge to allow them to just be boys. I have had to learn from Baddy to not be a helicopter parent but my nerves are not as calm as they use to be. It is a fear of his that he will come home one day and find a note stating that I have flown off like the irresponsible Mayze in Horton Hatches the Egg, never to return.

Just the other day Thumper and I sat on his bed, his beautiful, velvety green eyes filling with tears. Feisty-One hates me, he said all depressed. I couldnt express to him how my life long goal is to raise safe, happy, healthy, intelligent, caring children who will always love each other and protect each other from harm. Every tear that dropped made my heart ache. Instead, I became the voice of reason explaining to him why his younger brother was retaliating and teaching him how to prevent further upsets.

Would that I could always take each child to a private place to discuss their troubles and help them to better understand lifes dilemmas but I have learned that letting children resolve their conflicts without interference by a parent is an important aspect of parenting. It is all about letting go while still being there. If they are not trying to destroy each other physically and there is no blood being shed, than I try to stay out of it.

Life is unpredictable and time and patience are not always on our side. It is impossible to stay? consistent in a house filled with flatulent, hip hopping, highly energetic boys. Occasionally music is the tool I use to lure them away from fighting with each other. Maybe this is why my boys are so in to music and dancing.

The children have accepted that their parents are not always equipped with sound reasoning and I know that they appreciate the times where they are able to escape the sit down chat. I certainly cannot reply upon Baddy in the morning. He is catatonic and not capable of thinking logically until his full pot of coffee has triggered his brain to function. In return, he does not look to me for assistance when I am hormonally challenged or when the clock hits 5:00pm, on any given evening.

The time out theory never has worked for us but I have experienced deep moments of regret when observing friends who have clearly mastered this practice. A few Saturdays back, we went with our friends to a candy store after skiing. One of the teenagers became self-appointed mayor of the candy line and created a bartering system that ended up in total chaos. His mother sternly told him to take a time out. He looked at her and pleaded silently for her not to do this to him in public. In complete disbelief I watched him as he slouched his head between his shoulders and shuffled off to some dark, secret place to reflect upon his wrongdoing. I realized that I had misjudged this alien theory but recognized that my window to train my kids with this useful tool was now firmly shut.

Usually our method of communication works wonders on our children completely changing aggressive behavior. But sometimes Baddy and I are at our wits end and feel completely defeated. As in the time when I picked the boys up from school and took them up to Aspen for an afternoon of scootering and ice cream. That evening the boys were more zany than usual, a tough feat. Time Out, I yelled. They stopped what they were doing and looked at me with large innocent eyes inquiring as to where the football game was playing. Go to your rooms, the whole lot of you, I demanded. They continued on their tirade in total defiance.

Nothing we could do or say could stop our Tasmanian devils from launching off of every piece of furniture and landing on top of each other in hysterical fits of giggles. As Baddy picked them up by their ears I swore to him that I would never again give the children ice cream after 4:00pm. We shouted out threats and warned them that if they did not stop terrorizing each other Baddy would personally go out and make it so they would never see the ice cream man again.

As parents, we all battle with the issue of time. More often than not we are giving our children the short end of the stick by shouting out demands to shape up or ship out. Unfortunately, we are not super heroes and can only do our best in any given situation. Baddy loves to use Dr. Evils zip it method where every time they open their mouths to say something he interrupts saying, shhhuuut or zipppppt until they forget what they were whining about.

As they grow up, the boys are learning how to get what they want by applying our logic. Their ability to manipulate and provide stronger evidence to support their issue at hand gets more and more impressive.

We cannot always be the voice of reason or bring humor into the equation but one thing is for certain, if we teach our children to reason with one another through rational thought and discussion instead of fists and harsh words we are providing them with valuable skills to help them to survive.

Maximize Child Time Before They Leave You

[su_heading]Maximize Child Time Before They Leave You[/su_heading]

Hugging and kissing my boys good night at the end of the day, I soak up their scent and the warmness of their ever changing bodies. Thumper begs me to stay with him until he falls asleep. With all the horrible images he has stored in his mind from the newspapers, he is afraid of somebody bombing our house. The creaks in the house do not help any. He asks me to tell him a story from when I was younger. It can be scary or funny, it’s my choice. It disturbs me that out of all the stories that have happened to me in my life I can only remember a selected few. He tells me
to put my “healing hands” on his head and scratch his back. I love him so much I want to cry.

If only I could have more individual time with each of them. They need this undivided love so much. I am hanging on for dear life to their cherished innocence and love for me. It is flying by way to fast. If I don’t establish a closeness with them now, than what kind of relationship will we have when they are moody teenagers? I have been forewarned that boys leave their mothers for a while when they hit puberty. They are silent and introverted. The mothers that warn me of this assure me that it doesn’t matter how close you are with them now. Boys will feel the need to distance themselves from their mother’s in order to grow up in the world. When this happens, I want them to go away knowing that we have a special relationship that they will always need to return to.

I lay awake at night thinking about when they were fumbling little toddlers. I would throw the ball at them and they would look at me with a big smile with their arms stretched out. When the ball would hit them in the head or land at their feet they would look at me and ask,  “What happened mommy?” I can’t believe it now, but I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to actually catch and throw the ball.

Thumper at nine is now learning all about football and watching it with his daddy, and I love that bonding. This is it!! This is part of what raising children is about – Having a 9, 7 and 4 year old. We are in the throws of FAMILY. The boys still want us around. Still love going on adventures with us – scratch that, once they are actually on the adventure with us they are happy but to get them in on the plan is a major whiny experience.

So, what I am trying to say? Growing up I always had daydreams of playing and laughing in a field with my children and my husband and then having a picnic and playing board games. Well, here I am…there, and hanging on to it with every breath because I know that it will all be over soon and I am beginning to panic.

I don’t want another life. I like this life where my children are my being. Even though I am ignoring Hootie-Hoo so that I can write, I still like to know that they are here, with me, forever!! With this panic comes the realization that there are so many wonderful things out there to explore with the boys and I have not even begun to tap into them yet. I have little companions to go on walks in the woods with, snowshoe, explore ski trails with, etc… I need to get on it!

PICT0026.jpg image by jilly3
Building dams and cities in the mud by the creek on our property

PICT0176-1.jpg picture by jilly3
Hot and tired

Putting Flames on My Mini-Van

 

Putting Flames on My Mini-Van
mini van with flames

[su_heading size=”18″]Putting Flames on My Mini-Van[/su_heading]

Baddy woke me up one morning when we were living in our condo, and told me that a Cottonwood Tree had fallen on our mini-van. My first question was, “Are the flames ok?”

When I was pregnant with our third child, Hootie-Hoo, I had to trade in my Toyota Fore-Runner for a mini-van to accommodate my impending larger family. It was a difficult decision for me to make. My father had a BMW fetish and that is what I grew up driving in. I tested all of the hybrid vehicles desperately trying to purchase a more environmental car but they were all to small for my needs. I envisioned the frustrations I would have to endure when I was trying to load up all the gear. As it was, I was constantly cursing at life as I loaded and than unloaded the cumbersome gear and I only had two boys.

I decided upon the mini-van because it had the most room and the best mileage over all the SUV’s. When we decided to go off the beaten track and needed higher clearance, we would have to cram in Wade’s Dodge pickup truck instead. Prior to leaving for our favorite summer spot, ready to pop, I made all the arrangements to pimp up my mini-van. If I was going to be like every other mom in America, I insisted that the van should have some style. Wade insisted that we play down the flames and have the decals be blue instead of orange. I begrudgingly agreed. Three days before Tucker was born an article came out in the New York Times that featured a mom pregnant with twins who also had flame decals placed on her mini-van.

I insisted that Baddy contact her for me. I imagined that we would become good friends. It never happened.

We drove our new baby home from the hospital in our new van with sparkling flames on the side. I am not one for chotzky nicknames but the van has a personality of it’s own and has thus been dubbed “Vini-Man”.

Vini-Man has lots of fans amongst the Latinos and younger drivers. I take advantage of it’s appeal when I am racing to pick up the boys and need to cut into the traffic lane. When the boys are in Vini-Man with me they love to drive slowly through town, windows open, blaring music and singing,”Life is a highway, and I’m going to drive it all day long”.

I was in Bikram’s yoga once and a friend whispered to me in the middle of Shavasanah. I thought she was complimenting me on my practice but when she repeated herself, so that I could hear, she was saying that her kids saw our van go by and yelled, “There goes that flaming van with the Livingston’s in it”. We love to drive around town at the height of the season when all the Aspen glitz is strutting around in their high heel shoes and fur coats. We feel that it is our duty to let them see a glimpse of what the down valley folk look like.

Vini-Man was beginning to stink recently and the fan was making a clicking noise, so I brought it in to the shop. The report was that a mouse had crawled in through the undercarriage and died in the fan. It’s poor little feet were hitting the fan’s motor and that was what was making the clicking noise. Who would have thought?

Occasionally, I will glance over to a car next to me and notice a group of adorable, rugged, young mountain boys smiling at me. I forget what I am driving for a moment and fantasize that they are checking me out. “I still got it”, I say to myself giving them my glamor smile. Than my bubble deflates as I realize that what they are admiring is not me but Vini-Man.

Vini-Man is beginning to fall apart on me. At this point we cannot afford to purchase another car and an environmental car to meet my needs has yet come out in the market . Luckily, I have become quite attached and would feel naked without the flames. We are going to milk every mile and hold on to Vini-Man for as long as we can, which hopefully is longer than I think.

 

I Saw The Tooth Fairy

I Saw the Toothfairy.

[su_heading size=”18″]I Saw The Tooth Fairy[/su_heading]

The other night Axel’s tooth fell out, or rather, Wade yanked it out as usual. This family is not for
the weak hearted. When the children hurt themselves they scream louder when they see their Daddy approaching. Both Wade and his father have the ability to handle pain and they expect the same tolerance from their wives and their offspring

I was so tired that night but forced myself to place the tooth under Axel’s pillow before I fell asleep. I was up late quietly writing on my computer when I heard a soft, velvety whoosh outside my door. The hair rose on the back of my neck and I shuttered at the thought of what it might be. As I very quietly climbed the
stairs I laughed at myself for believing in the impossible. Living with children had really gotten to my head.

Before I reached the top of the stairs something small and irredescent flashed by me. Standing there frozen my suspicions were confirmed. Unable to breathe I stood awash in her colors as she fluttered her wings
hovering in the entrance of each of the boys’ room looking for Axel. She would remain motionless, all but her wings, and then suddenly dart to the next room.

Finding Axel she softly landed on the carpet and there she rose to full height smiling as she watched
him sleeping. I watched her as she extended her long thin fingers to search for the tooth under the pillow. Axel’s head must have been right on it because she seemed to have difficulties reaching it. She carefully picked up a corner of the pillow and slipped a present underneath. At that moment she startled and
suddenly her face was directly in front of mine looking into my eyes with the most beautiful emerald green eyes I had ever seen. We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity and than she shot out of
the room and down the stairs. Looking down I noticed shimmering dust all over my pajamas.

The next day Axel excitedly flew down the stairs with a paddle racket with a ball attached. In all the excitement, he noticed that his tooth was still under his pillow.

Seeing the tooth fairy has changed my perspective on the world. I can’t go outside at night anymore or
enter a forest without knowing that I am not alone. I keep listening intently in the hopes of hearing the sound of her fluttering wings again and I look for her everywhere.

I hope that she did not get punished for being seen by a human. If I could say something to her I would
thank her for confirming my belief in magic and for giving me the ability to see that there is so much more to life than I had ever imagined.

Living with Boys

[su_heading size=”18″]Living with Boys [/su_heading]

PICT0084-1.jpg Living with Boys

The boys worship their dad and follow his lead as he clears 720’s off of every precipice. Or rather, Thumper clears it most of the time. Axel perseveres in manic attempts to clear it and Hootie-Hoo jumps off making all the appropriate sound effects. We travel from BMX park to ski terrain parks replete with full face helmets and pads for every sport. When we are home we are all hip hopping around the house while Thumper Dj’s. Baddy is the lead singer of
their raucous air guitar band. I keep 911 on speed dial.

People often say that Baddy has a certain Will Farrell appeal. This helps in the humor department. The other night, while trying to commandeer the boys to get ready for bed, I threw a book at him titled, “How to Redirect Children’s Behavior.” He commented that he didn’t need to read no stinkin’ book and proceeded to dramatize all he had learned from my painful parenting classes. In a split second he had the boys dancing behind him, giggling and performing the bedtime routine, no problem. It is unfortunate that I have to suffer, alone, the audible groans and apologies I hear when it is my turn to announce, “Hi, I’m Jillian, a mother of three boys”.  But I don’t need apologies. I love my boys!

Currently, Hootie-Hoo is the one who keeps us on our toes. Quickly, his boyhood is escalating at all levels. He is always rock and rolling and following me around the house asking me questions about life; “Are real snakes stuffed like toy snakes? Why do they call it a tummyegg? (tummyache), where’s my banero? (bow and arrow).” He also redundantly inquires as to when we will be blasting off again to visit Grandma in an airplane? I have not yet decided what he was in his previous life, maybe my father.

 

 PICT0068.jpg My three boys picture by jilly3

Getting Chicken Eggs From a Neighbor

[su_heading size=”18″]Getting Chicken Eggs From a Neighbor [/su_heading]

Tonight at dinner I asked my family to take note that I was actually wearing a short sleeved shirt without a sweater on. It probably was the first time since the last warm day in the Fall that I was not wearing my old three ply cashmere sweater and my hat and gloves at the dinner table. My boys, including Wade, looked at me as if I were crazy, shook their heads and continued their conversation about 360’s, ramps, jumps and music.

The head shaking by Wade is a very common reaction to me, his wife, and now the boys are following suit. Yesterday morning I woke him up to tell him that I had to run out to get eggs to finish making the pancakes. I rattled off the list of things that needed to get done before my return, none of which registered, and ran out in my pajamas to get some hand picked eggs from our neighbors. Raw milk and fresh eggs all in our backyard, what more could one ask for.

I entered the door to the breezeway of the house, which did not quite fit with the directions I received from the sleepy man on the phone but it was early morning and my mind was not yet fully awake. When I continued on into the garage and saw that there was no fridge I knew that I had indeed just entered the wrong house. I scared myself when I saw my reflection in the garage window. My hair was breaking out of the big pile I had lumped on top of my head and I looked like some insane mother on the make, in her pajamas. It was like a bizarre Pink Panther film.

I was trapped, there was no other way out.  The owner was now standing on the other side of the breezeway door, in her bathrobe, feeding her two dogs. Bent over in a tip toe hunch I tried to quietly open the door and make a run for it. I was lucky that the dogs were fluffy, sweet Australian Shepherds and instead of tearing me to shreds they ran up to me and poked their noses into my crotch. If I had a choice I would certainly choose the latter. Recognizing the woman, I breathed a sigh of relief and launched into my explanation of why I was in her house unannounced. She feigned normalcy at this strange story and directed me to the correct house. I left in a fit of giggles and apologies. I drove up the correct driveway and read the dog warning sign, “Our dogs can reach that fence in five seconds, can you?” I could tell that this was not going to be a great day. I burst into our kitchen door and told Wade the story. He shook his head once again and made some sort of comment like, “if you would stop writing and pay more attention to the tasks at hand, you might not need to create such lasting impressions on our new neighbors”.

Staying Balanced as a Mother

[su_heading size=”18″]Staying Balanced as a Mother[/su_heading]

This morning Baddy and I laughed, cried and spat at each other, and the kids, in the one hour we had together before we shoved everybody into the car to go to school. Oh to be able to afford the $1,000 per kid school bus.

This behavior is indicative of a strange phenomenon that occurs before my birthday every year. It used to be that I felt in sync with the world and everything seemed to magically flow together setting my new year?off with a tremendously, positive, embracing bang. Something has changed in the past few years and I am hoping that age has nothing to do with it.

Nowadays, approximately one month before my birthday, the chaos in the Universe descends upon me full force throwing major obstacles in my path. My life becomes very disconnected and I cannot trust my intuitive navigational tools.

It is true that I place a lot of value in our biological connection to nature and the universe. It would make sense that there is some kind of cosmic shift when one reaches the annual date of when they were born. I just am not used to feeling as though I am wearing a wetsuit inside out and backwards with two left shoes filled with water to guide me.

This year I am determined to fight this onslaught of dysfunction. I am eating beets and spinach and hitting the yoga hard. I have even started a meditation practice. But with children it is never easy to stay in control of a steady flow and balance. I can only try my best as I whirl into yoga after maniacally cleaning the house, getting the kids dressed, preparing snacks and loading the car for pick up after school.

I burst into the yoga studio five minutes late, which is very characteristic of me, and cause complete disruption in the yoga room making everybody move their mats around to fit me in. I smile and mutter my apologies to all of my fellow yoga diehard friends. After class I ask my yoga instructor and friends if they think that moving from completely frenetic energy to Pranayama breathing could possibly do me in. They all agree that the reason we go to yoga is to break down that energy and reach a place of calmness and peace.

Commiserating with friends helps. We reassure one another that we all are facing the? same struggles in our daily lives and that we all have to endure needy, screaming kids as well as husbands at times. We look to each other for validation and therapy. We share our profound wisdom and experience helping each other to know that we are not alone in the world. We all must endure the ennui that is part of our job description. We master the science of learning how to fit in our personal time so that we are ready to give our families our undivided attention. It is common to hear comments like, My husband thinks that by flushing the toilet he is contributing to the housekeeping chores.

Last night I got into bed and looked over at the pile of books waiting to be read. The New Yorker came first to keep me educated and in the loop, next came an autobiography of a child survivor of the Holocaust. A story that parallels the lives of many of my late relatives. Lastly, to help fill my mind with positive ideals as I slept, I started The Art of Achievement by Tom Morris, a new friend on Twitter.

I fell asleep with a well-rounded read of politics, humanity and philosophy and woke up challenging life. Bring it, I thought, because those people and obstacles that are doing their best to bring me down, are my tools to help me to rise like the Phoenix and become a stronger being.