A day in the life of a default parent

default parent | noun : the person who children come to for everything

A while ago I read a post on default parenting. It was like someone smacked me upside the head. Why didn’t I put that together before?! The default parent is the one who the children come to. Even if it means walking right past another parent on the way to seek out the default parent. Even when the default parent is in the shower and can’t realistically help find something or help put something on. Children see no obstacles when it comes to finding the default parent to ensure all of their wants and needs are met. Immediately.

Labeling the default parent helped me understand why most days I fall into bed physically and emotionally exhausted. In our house, we share a lot of responsibilities when it comes to parenting. Or we try. Three times in one week, Quinten came into our bedroom at 1 am. He doesn’t say much, but he makes a lot of noise on his way in. He usually throws open the door and loudly makes his way up on my side of the bed. He takes over my pillow and falls asleep in 10 seconds. Each time, I wake Bryan up to carry our very solid preschooler back to his bed. {That’s what a default parent calls delegating.}

Being the default parent translates into being the default housekeeper, food maker, food shopper, and school schedule keeper. No wonder I want to faceplant into my bed most days at 6pm. It’s mentally exhausting to keep so many balls in the air all the time. Children don’t care how much sleep the default parent got. They don’t care if you have a headache or the flu, they have needs to be met on their timeline. To all you default parents, word. 

Nights out are extra special for a default parent. When you get together with other default parents, everyone is responsible and no one needs parented. It’s simply amazing!

  1. You don’t get interrupted
  2. You willingly go with others to the bathroom because it means there’s something to be talked about in private
  3. Getting someone a drink isn’t a chore
  4. No words are off limits!
  5. We naturally take care of each other without noticing

This fall, we took a girls trip to Kansas City. We were basically gone for two days, but I still spent Friday doing all the things so my family was taken care of while I was gone. It’s exhausting being the default parent, even when you’re gone!

Here’s a glimpse into the going-out-of-town-default-parent life.

Responsibilities, Yo.
Wash, dry, and fold. BAM!
Here’s your meal plan family: chili and pizza.
Beer for lunch! Because it’s already a long day.
Always have a friend who knows the life of a default parent.

 

A day in the life of a default parent

The terrible threes…or the way of life?

I’m writing this from just above the trenches. Or that’s what it feels like. We were in the trenches of non-listening for so long that it feels like a freaking vacation right now. Sitting on my couch, with a dog next to me, sunshine coming through the windows, loud hammering in the basement, music that is barely audible downstairs, the slider open, and voices traveling in the house. {Note: this paragraph was written a few weeks ago. It’s gloomy outside and was pretty crappy inside for most of the morning. We turned a corner though and everyone is playing with planes. Shhh….don’t make any sudden movements.}

“Maximus, I’m going to use this digger.”

He’s always talking. Except for when he first wakes up or when he crawls in bed during the middle of the night with a blanket and whatever stuffed animals he can grab on his way out of his room. Not a single word, just grunting as he climbs up on my bed and snuggles right into me on to me and my pillow. Otherwise, he says all the words. Last night he carried on a conversation with me about how the dog smelled like poop and was going to poop on him while they sat on the couch. Five minutes before that, he told me how much he liked Wrigley and wanted to sit next to him. I can’t keep up with the nonsense that he talks about! 🙂

We seemed to have turned a corner in disciplining or understanding or stubbornness. Whatever it is, I’m not even afraid to talk about it. Because, for all I know it’s just a tease and I might need some reassurance that peace actually happened.

We hear Quinten ask for toys before taking them from Maximus. And we hear Maximus give them before telling or hitting. It feels like a miracle happened around here. THEY CAN PLAY WITH EACH OTHER NOW….sometimes.

Here’s a blip into what it’s like to live with Quinten. Rapid-fire nonstop talking without waiting for me to say anything. And then he simply walked away to see if he could check someone else’s ear.

mommy, these are my monies.
mommy, these are all my quarter monies.
mommy, these are all my treasures.
mommy, look at all my money treasures. 
these are all my treasures. 
all my treasures.
mommy, can I check your ears?
{As he climbs up on the couch next to me} mommy, can I have some space?
mommy, when I check your ears I give you some of my quarters.
yup, no yucky things? 
mommy, here are your monies.
mommy, i’m the doctor today.

He’s the most lovable thing in our house but has the stubbornness and willpower of all of us combined. He’s hot one day and cold the next. In all his three-year-old glory, I have to remind myself that most of his actions are fueled by his age. The rest, his personality. Some we can control and the other we have to try to contain. It’s a balance that leaves us exhausted and worn down most days.

I’m not wishing away the years, but I might not be so quick to deny that I’m not wishing away this phase. It’s hard. Like really hard. Teaching a really stubborn, not always gentle, child to be a good person is work. I’m not naive, I know raising this free-spirited child isn’t going to be easy but I’m hoping I’m a little better prepared or able to handle him as he gets older. Something about trying to engrain values and good person characteristics is making it really hard to teach and discipline. Most days it feels like he doesn’t get it at all and he’s just in trouble for being mean to his brother. I’m not the only one who considers just letting them duke it out, right?? My dad has some pretty crazy stories, but everyone survived.

The terrible threes…or the way of life?

Independent activities for children are hard on mama hearts

Sitting in a loud, echoey pool watching a little in swimming lessons is a mix of relaxation and anxiety. Two very opposite emotions. 

I have one child who is timid and nervous if he can’t touch the bottom. {I kinda don’t blame him.} And another who appears to have little fear. I’m constantly in awe of the different personalities these two possess. 

Teacher swimming lessons feels like a level up in parenting. Trusting someone to care for your child while they are in water that goes over their head. It’s different than the leap I felt leaving them at preschool in the care of strangers surrounded by strange children. At preschool you know they are safe and constantly busy. At swimming, I feel a strong need to be the one to watch my child at all times. No one else is watching him the entire class. 

Seeing 15 young kids in the pool while their faces barely stay above water and they are constantly told to swim across a giant pool. All the anxiety. They make it look so hard. All the huffing and puffing and holding of breath. My anxiety is on full alert during swimming. 

  
At the same time, my kid spends 75% of the time sitting on steps or holding on to the side of the pool waiting for the next instruction. So it’s kind of relaxing. To sit there and just be in the quiet. Well, unless I have a smaller child to tame. Then it’s the opposite of relaxing because I have to make sure TWO kids don’t drown. 

The relaxation is my reward for the busy that comes next. Swimming that overlaps the start of soccer skills class. Oh, that was an exciting four weeks of busy Saturday mornings! I’m still patting myself on the back for picking overlapping activities instead of swimming at 8:30 am on a Saturday. I’m not built for that

It amazes me that a child can be SO excited for something like soccer and then show up and not do anything. Because he doesn’t want to run. Or because he’s too busy talking to his friends. 

Children activities are such a big dose of humble pie. Things that are second nature to a grown person are not close to being coordinated things for children. I know age 5 is too young to determine what a child is “good” at but it also makes me fast forward and wonder what activities he’ll focus on in the future. And when I’ll know what activities to drop. I don’t want to overextend ourselves and especially not him, but I also want him to have the opportunities to try many things and enjoy what he wants. 

Parenting is such a strange mix of emotions, especially when your children start doing independent activities. I know I’m just hitting the surface of independance, but I’m a mom of a 5- and 3-year-old, so I’m new to these emotions! 

Independent activities for children are hard on mama hearts

Surviving the last 24 hours of solo parenting

Do you believe in karma? I suppose I do because I have been known to say it a time or two. In early January, I was traveling for work and Bryan ended up only working one day out of an entire week. I can’t remember who got sick first, but at one point they were both home. We had a pretty complicated schedule that Friday as he was leaving town before I was getting back. It would have normally been no big deal – school and daycare. Except they were both home so a grandpa came in to cover for us.

Fast forward a couple of months.

I’m ending a two-week solo gig. Our first week was SUPER.BUSY. We were only home two nights out of six. By the end of the week everyone was worn down and tired. That made for some fun mornings. As we entered week two, our schedule looked good. We were going to be home every night and I had my lunch hours planned to get all my errands done. {Because no one wants to run errands after work with two kids in tow.}

Then Tuesday happened.

One whining child was so tired he couldn’t get his pajamas off to go to the bathroom. {Hashtag: the struggle is real.} The other complaining of his tummy and leg hurting. Off to the kitchen he went to eat his cereal. Pro tip: if your slowest eater is dressed, take advantage and try to get that food in him quicker. Also, he eats about three breakfasts a day but loses his mind if he has to skip the one at home. Back to “help” a 5-year-old figure out how to get off the hallway floor when he’s soooooo.tired. Crying from the kitchen. Sprint through the house because I’m thinking the worst just happened and it was probably throw-up. Nope. Hurt leg really hurts and cereal looks untouched. I pick him up and don’t like the sounds in this throat. Luckily, I have years of experience at this stuff. No thinking required, just action. I stand with my back to the sink as I’m holding him against my chest. Arch my back so his face is over the sink. Or at least I hope it is because I can’t see back there. Shush him as he throws up over my shoulder and calmly talk to Maximus as he buttons his pants and tells Quinten it’s ok. {Yay! He’s able to get dressed again!} When I’m sure he’s done, I look to see that he didn’t have anything in his stomach so it was just a lot of saliva. However, dress goes into the laundry and yoga pants and t-shirt on.

So karma does come back around. The throw up was an isolated incident and in came a small fever. Little did I know, there would be no work and daycare on Wednesday. Maximus woke up around 11:30 that night and was pretty hot. He stayed up until almost 2:30! I eventually let him come into my bed. Quinten stormed into my room around 2:15 terrified of a loud sound and pretty hot as well. It was most definitely a monster or a siren or a mouse or a loud boom or a beeping sound in his room or thunder. He’s just sure of it. I did what any solo parent does at 2am – got everyone’s pillows and blankets and favorite stuff animal and turned on random bathroom and closet lights so everyone could see. And told them to stop talking and use quiet voices and JUST PLEASE GO TO SLEEP. Then I slept on the smallest sliver of my bed, crowded out by Quinten and Wrigley.

Luckily, I had shared a bottle of wine with a friend that evening so whatever I can deal. Because otherwise a person would go crazy after that kind of night. {Yes, I bought the same wine today when we were at the store. Because, yes.}

Wednesday got us two kids staying home! Slight fevers and emotional messes because no one got enough sleep due to our middle-of-the-night party. I was bored out of my mind and tired of watching Curious George, but we survived. And at the end of the day, I drove all around town getting them fast food because it was that kind of day. I high-fived myself when I got them both to sleep in their own beds even though it was raining, windy, and thundering.

AND THEN 2 AM HIT AGAIN!

I sat up in bed as I watched them both come into my room talking away. “Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy, I want to sleep in your bed because I’m scared. Mommy, my tummy hurts so I want to sleep in here.” AHHHH! Fifteen minutes later I had all the necessities again and we were settled in. Somehow they slept until close to 8:30, but ruined my early morning workout plans again.

It’s 30 outside, windy, and gloomy. We’re fever-free, it’s spring break, and we’re bored. I took them to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and the grocery store so I could get a Starbucks. {Let’s talk about how I calmly waited out a stubborn 3-year-old who wanted to push his own little cart. GET IN THE OBNOXIOUS FIRE TRUCK. PLEASE AND THANK YOU! I won.} I made them a super awesome lunch of pigs in a blanket and promptly put them all in the fridge because no.one.ate.them.

One more day until Bryan comes home…and a bottle of wine that’s calling my name. When can I open it???

Surviving the last 24 hours of solo parenting

Creating a Will and Power of Attorney

For some unknown reason {life being crazy}, I wrote this post in the beginning of 2014 and never posted it. I suppose it’s fitting since we talking about doing it for two years and it took me a year to post it…

After two years of talking about it, we finally signed our Will and Power of Attorney. We went to our lawyer to do our Will and Power of Attorney documents. We decided to go to him even though there are plenty of forms online. It’s an uncomfortable conversation and thing to do, so we decided to work with a professional to ensure we did everything the right way and we thought everything through.

Steps in getting your Will done:
First, we had a face-to-face meeting to have our lawyer go over the standard Will and Power of Attorney. We answered his questions and made decisions so he could draft up the documents.

    • Who will have custody of the children? Who has financial responsibility (if it’s not the same person)? What happens to the money – does it go into a trust? At what age do children get their share of money? How do you split up shares of money between children?
  1. Before he drafted the documents, we each had conversations with individuals who we wanted to be on the Will or Power of Attorney. (We each have our own Power of Attorney that falls back onto our respective parents if the spouse is not able to act as Power of Attorney.)
  2. Review the documents for questions or changes.
  3. Go into the office and sign them in front of a witness.
  4. Purchase a safety deposit box.
  5. Put the Will in the safety deposit box.
  6. Put the Power of Attorney documents in our Legacy notebook. (Step 6b. Create a Legacy notebook.)*

We’re still working on items five and six. We may need to set a goal for ourselves given our history between steps three and four. 🙂

*What’s a Legacy notebook? It’s a central location for all the important stuff. For example, we have legacy folders for each of our children. This includes doctor phone numbers, medical records, etc. What we haven’t done yet is create a legacy folder for our family. Essentially, this is all the information that someone will need if something were to happen to the spouse who handles all of the finances and mortgage, etc., or if something happens to both of us. These folders should help others run our house and family. Something we didn’t know before, the Power of Attorney document goes in our home, where someone can access it quickly and easily. In a critical situation, you don’t want someone to wait for bank hours to get into a safety deposit box.

What’s next?

After we put all of our documents in their designated safe places, we need to update our electronic records. We need to update our human resource files to reflect the secondary beneficiary. We will update it to be the trust name. So, the primary is our spouse and secondary is our trust. Because we have the trust set up, it will ensure that money is handled in the manner we decided. We also need to update our life insurance policy for a secondary beneficiary and also our IRA profiles. Essentially, we need to update everything to reflect the trust as a secondary beneficiary so everything points to the Will as the dictating piece. Instead of each system reflecting something different. I assume this information can be found online, but this has proven to be one of the biggest reasons why choosing a professional was the right thing for us. We’re in unknown waters now and don’t know how everything works for (or against) each other.

It was hard reading that first draft of our Will and Power of Attorney. No one wants to think about the unexpected turns life can take, but I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that there’s a plan. If the unexpected does happen, I can live every day until then knowing what will happen with my children and family. It’s not a fun thing to consider, but it is so very important.

My final note: I am in no way an expert (and obviously not a professional!) on this matter. This is my experience as I understand it based on our situation. If anything, hopefully it brings up some questions about how or what you need to consider. And gives you enough information to seek out a professional. I know it’s easy to do things with the Internet, but it’s not always the best way to handle legal matters. Pay a professional to know their job and to take care of you!

Creating a Will and Power of Attorney

Listening skills: do they really have them?

Listening skills. We learn them at a young age. Now that I’m a parent, I’m not exactly sure what age that is. It feels like a pretty important detail when you’re in the trenches of Preschooler 1 and Toddler 2 facing daily struggles of listening.

I can only assume I say the following in my sleep:

  • Are you listening to me?
  • PLEASE listen to me.
  • Please look at my face.
  • What did I say?
  • PLEASE look at me, what did I just say to you?
  • Do you need to go to your room for not listening?
  • IF you don’t listen, I’m going to send you to your room.

We’re struggling hard with this one and I’m a little surprised that it doesn’t appear to have bounds with age. Most days it feels like both boys spend the same amount of time not listening and doing something mean to the other. When Maximus was 2 1/2, Quinten was just born. I don’t remember ever making a big deal about not listening or using as many words or time outs as we do with Quinten. Maybe this is one of those examples of the younger sibling growing up faster than the older one did. Crap. I think our vision is getting blurred in expectations of the boys because they are acting so similar. Age has gone out the window and we both reach the end of our patience for anyone not listening. Sorry, Quinten.  

You learn a lot about yourself as an individual and parent when you’re faced with these issues. I know our little humans don’t know what buttons to push or even that they can push buttons to get a reaction out of me. But it’s so very hard to try to get out of the house TO GET TO WORK and have ears not listening. Or whining because they don’t like the words you say. I try to give more “opportunities for improvement” when we don’t have somewhere to be, but it’s just as frustrating when I’m trying to make dinner or it’s time to get ready for bed.

I feel that one of the most exhausting parts of parenting is the constant repeating. When you constantly tell them the right thing to do and you aren’t sure you’re even getting through. Or, that they’re listening. I’d be ok if I knew I had to say something 100 times before they really had it. I’d still get tired of doing it, but I would know there’s a successful end to it. Right now, we’re trying certain methods but don’t get any positive feedback. Sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t. Is that because of our approach? Is that because of their mood? Do they understand right from wrong? WHO KNOWS!

No one ever says parenting is easy, especially the early years. Honestly, it’s exhausting most days. Give me two energetic, hyper, not listening boys after a full day of juggling work. Well, I’m sure my patience is lower than it should be for a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. But, I’m sure they are tired too and not using their listening skills to the best of their ability. If only two grumpy people equaled a happy interaction!

I know my little humans are capable of listening, I see them do it consistently with other people. I think that’s the first part of successful parenting. It doesn’t matter what they act like at home, how do they act around other people?

How do you get your children to listen? I might need a new bag of tricks.

Listening skills: do they really have them?

Are you for or against breakfast for supper?

Every couple comes to this point in their relationship as father and mother. It happened tonight. The calendar said leftovers and Maximus didn’t want any of them. He just wanted fruit and watermelon (isn’t that fruit?) and a smoothie. He didn’t want meatloaf, chicken fajitas, or hamburger. So we told him he needed to eat something with protein. Peanut butter taco? NO. A cheese stick hot dog? NO. I know, basically four course meals, but we already cooked meals the past few days. That’s the purpose of leftover night. No cooking!

And here’s where you pick a side. You’re either cereal for supper is ok or you’re not. I don’t know that you can convert someone either. It’s a pretty solid line that’s hard to cross.

Here’s the thing, I think I’m right. Breakfast food can be eaten for supper. It’s totally legit. 😃A couple weeks ago Quinten and I had scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches for supper. I loved having pancakes for supper when I was growing up. I know I had them in college, but I’m afraid we haven’t exposed the boys to that awesomeness. And I think it’s because 50% of the adults here don’t think it’s ok to have breakfast for supper.

Maximus, “Can I have cereal?”
Me, “Sure.”
Maximus, “Can you get me the superhero cereal?”
Bryan, “You’re not having cereal for supper. Pick something else.”

And that’s where our opinions differ. I guess I’ll be making some breakfast meals for supper on the nights Bryan is gone. After all, every child should experience pancakes for supper.

Which side of the line are you on? Breakfast ANY Time of the Day or No Way It’s Only for BREAKFAST!

Are you for or against breakfast for supper?