Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.


Until we meet again


I hate goodbyes.

Really, I do.  Goodbye seems so final. So permanent.  Nothing GOOD about it. Is anyone “good” at saying goodbye? I’m not. I get all weepy and blubbery and words fail me.  It isn’t pretty.

Instead of saying goodbye, I have decided that I prefer “until we meet again,” which holds the promise of a future meeting.

I have raved in this space before about how fantastic our neighborhood is. We feel lucky to be raising our boys in an environment where we trust the neighbors to step in and help in the parenting process when needed.  And we’re finding that the older the kids get, the more we need the extra help and support.

Jeff and Tara have lived on our street for longer than we have. They raised their two kids here, the youngest of whom just graduated from high school and will be heading to college in the fall.  Their home is on the cul-de-sac (that’s French for “dead end”), which is our little oasis from the Real World.  When we’re down there with kids on bikes and skateboards and scooters, there’s a good chance “Jeffy” will amble down the hill and offer a beer. Their yard has been the site of many a winter bonfire cooking fire. The ladies have played poker at Tara’s dining room table.  We have all admired their gorgeous landscaping and watched in admiration as Jeff designed and built his fabulous screened-in porch, complete with a sunken hot tub. We’ve attended their kids’ graduation parties.

We’ve become friends. Our lives are intertwined.

Our floundering economy’s effects aren’t limited to Curt’s job. Jeff, who’s made his career in the real estate sector, was called to relocate from his job in Maryland to one with the same company in Ohio. The timing was actually good; and so is the opportunity. It makes sense when viewed through any number of lenses.  

No one is more sensitive to having to make this particular life-changing decision than we are. We did the same thing almost three years ago.  Our move, too, looked perfect on paper. But, ours wasn’t.  We feel fortunate to have been able to move back to Maryland.  Despite the recent turn of events, we remain convinced that moving back was the right thing for us for many reasons.

Jeff has been working at his new job, travelling back to Maryland every couple/few weekends. Despite the soft residental real estate market, they sold their home in a relatively short amount of time. They settle on the sale and move out in two weeks.

Because we hadn’t already partied enough during this long holiday weekend, We decided to extend our traditional Fourth of July festivities with farewell activities for Jeff and Tara.  Curt and I hosted Sunday brunch for our closest neighbors, plus some other friends and family. We had gotten together last week and made these garden stones–


each with a significant image representing their time here. We gave them the stones, then showed them a slideshow of photos from all our good times in the ‘hood, set to tunes that instantly made me cry. (I’m such a sucker for a slideshow!) It was a nice sendoff, I think.

Though we hate to be saying farewell, we certainly wish them all the best. We also know that they aren’t just our neighbors, but will continue to be our fantastic friends, no matter what.

Columbus, we’re told, is a short and easy flight on Southwest, and a do-able road trip for those inclined to drive. We’ve seen photos of Jeff and Tara’s new home there. It looks like there will be plenty of room for houseguests.

And so, as we say “until we meet again” to our friends – and we hope that “again” comes soon – we also anticipate a new beginning, and the possibility of making new friends. Jeff and Tara tell us that a family with young children is moving into their home. We’re thrilled at the possibility of new playmates for The Peezer.  We hope they’re like-minded, enjoy a good party, dig bonfires, and have similar thoughts about raising children here. 

No one can replace Jeff and Tara, but we think they’ll be happy if the new family can carry on in their tradition.

Farewell, friends!


Thanks to UPI for the photo of Marc-Andre Fleury

In hockey, three-on-one means there are three offensive players driving towards the goal with only one other defender between them and the goal. It’s not a good spot to be in if you’re the netminder.

While my husband is away, playing hockey in Toronto, I have been feeling like the outnumbered defenders. So, even though he’s not here, we still have something in common this weekend.

Last evening, my kids were scattered around the neighborhood and suddenly I realized, I AM ALONE IN MY HOUSE! I didn’t quite know what to do with myself; it’s something I often wish for, yet when my wish became reality, I was disoriented.  Should I run out for a pedicure? Go buy gin? Nap? Finish our taxes? I settled on taking a shower, then cooked my dinner and sat down in front of the TV with it. Halfway through eating it, my neighbor phoned to report that the 14 year old neighbor on a skateboard had collided in her driveway with my 4 year old, and I should probably come and collect my freaked-out little boy. So, I did. He really was fine, just understandably shaken up. It was a good thing he was wearing his helmet. Once I got him home, he returned to being the bossy, demanding Dictator we all know and love.

My older boys had ended up at another neighbors’ house, and I finally had to call and summon them home at 10:30 pm.  They fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV. This morning, despite repeated attempts, I couldn’t get them to wake up and get ready for church. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get myself and the Peezer ready to go when I hear the cat retching outside my bedroom. He had eaten his canned food, then drank a lot of water, then immediately puked up the water and the cat food. SUPER!  Because I was just thinking, hey, now would be a great time to bust out the steam cleaner. To add insult to injury, Peezer did the exact same thing – inhaled a doughnut, drank some water, then coughed hard enough that the water came right up.

(Oh, and I forgot to mention, Curt’s damn alarm clock went off AGAIN at 4:00 a.m., and I had not plugged it back in! It’s seriously possessed. I have since figured out why, but what a rude awakening, two mornings in a row.)

Anyway, the required cleaning of the cat puke and Peezer spit-up made me late, and so I decided to let the boys “have their way.”   They always moan and groan and fuss about going to church, and, because we feel it’s important, we always insist. But after everything else, I just didn’t have it in me to get them up and deal with their painful whining. So, I LEFT THEM. “You win!” I announced. “You get your way! Have a fun morning! Oh, and we will talk about this when we get home!”

“Thanks, Mommy!” said The Boss. I just stared at him, shook my head, then left without responding.

After I returned home, we sat down and had a little chit-chat.  “How’d you feel when I left?” I asked. The Boss was right on it. “Sad,” he said.

“Really? Why?”

“Because I knew you were angry,” he replied, his voice trembling.

And he was pretty close; I explained how mostly, I was disappointed, and blah blah blahdeblah BLAH, BLAAAAAH BLAHBLAHBLAH deblah. (At least I’m guessing that’s how they heard me.)  It was a calculated risk, and I knew it might backfire, but I think I may have made my point.

And then my head exploded all over the kitchen.

Well, not really, but you know what? I’ve written before about how mentally draining I find parenting to be. Between fending off the moody, sarcastic, sullen teenager and the constant barrage of demands and needs from the four year old, I barely have time to focus on the under-the-radar, sweet fifth grader who’s probably just around the corner from his older brother’s attitude. And what then? I’ll be outnumbered! Say prayers! Send gin!

Single parents probably think I’m being whiny, but my husband has me spoiled. I’m so lucky to have him. I miss the advantage of having my teammate here to help me fend off the Attack of the Short People. To share the burden of discipline.  To remember where the older two boys are when the younger one needs undivided attention.  To mix a cocktail upon request!

Meanwhile, the report from Toronto last night was good. The Men of Steel had won one and lost one yesterday, which earned them a spot in the semifinals. They were to play at 11am today, and, if they won, again at 1:30pm.  Playing the afternoon game would require them to rebook onto later flights home, and Curt had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, they went to play, and they wanted to play, and you never don’t want to win. But, they were getting tired, and the prospect of returning home at midnight Sunday, exhausted and sore, and getting up for work as usual on Monday, was less than appealing. Right now it’s a little after 3pm, and I haven’t heard from him, so I’m not sure what the outcome was. Watch the comments or, perhaps, for a new post if the news is good.

I’m so glad he’s having fun – he needed this getaway, and I’m happy to be able to make it possible. I don’t intend for my crappy day to make Curt feel badly that he wasn’t here – far from it.  Everyone needs a break from the routine now and then, and it was his turn.

My turn is coming in two weeks. Stay tuned.