I Did That Thing I Hate.

I was walking the boys on the beautiful path from school to the car, the stroll that usually contains questions like, “Mom, can we…?” “Mom, did you…?” and I never seem to have the right answers.


There is always some degree of happiness and another degree of frustration as they are excited to be finished with school and simultaneously making plans for their afternoon and breathing the release of stepping out of the scheduled day, and this recipe always brings some kind of emotional meltdown.  


One would think it’s an easy stride, because who doesn’t want to be done with the structured part of the day?  But I ask you, how often do your children come home from school crying or agitated?  I’m no psychologist, but there’s got to be something to that process of stepping back into the familiar, safe place that evokes tantrums of any age, size, and proportion.


I know it’s true for me.  If I feel safe with you?  Look out, and listen for the tick-tock of the emotional time bomb.


We were walking down the sidewalk, and I saw this little girl, too young to be in school, so she was surely a younger sibling of one of the students, sitting in the levy.  Crying, crying, crying. Sweet little snotty face, a strand of hair stuck to her wet cheeck, and she was looking all around, calling for Mommy.


I know a lost child when I see one, I thought.  I stepped away from my kids and down into the ravine.  “Hi, sugar.  Are you okay?  Where’s your mommy?  Do you need help?”  


No answer, just more crying.  But not louder crying, so at least I know I haven’t terrified her.


I scooped her up, and as I began looking with her for her mom, the mom walked over to us and took her daughter into her own arms.  


“Oh, is she yours?”


“Yes.  She’s throwing a fit.”


Aha.  She’s not lost.  Her mom did the classic Walk Away strategy.  And here I came, SuperMom, to save the day and rescue her daughter from these consequences.


“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I thought she was lost.” Turns out, I don’t know the difference between a lost child and one who is sitting out a consequence on the side of the road.  


I did that thing I hate.  When my kids were smaller, I really hated it when someone got involved to cheer up my children when I was in the middle of a discipline battle.  


“Oh, hey, buddy.  Are you sad?  Here’s a lollipop.”

“Oh, you’re too cute to look so mad, little guy!”

One woman even began singing to my son while we were in the middle of a mother-son throwdown.


And here I was.  I did that thing.


The little girl and her mom walked away, probably to continue their discussions and negotiations in the car.


And I returned to my children, who were now panicked and lost because I had wandered away from them without warning.


It was just an awesome moment.  I’m so glad I could help, really, everybody in that scene.

Kicking my own Butt with Psychology of the 1970s

I am reading The Road Less Traveled.

(You’re picturing an anthology of Robert Frost, aren’t you? It’s not that. Think more along the lines of the psychology of living a whole life.)

(You probably became exponentially more or less interested now that you know this isn’t a blog post about 19th century American poetry.)

My friend is reading this book and recommending it from the mountaintops – actually, it’s his third time to read it this month. Seriously? Three times in one month? I need to at least give this book a glance. There’s got to be something amazing behind that book cover.

I’m learning all kinds of things about the psychology of problems, whether and how I choose to solve them, and the nature that problems are part of life. I’m learning about delayed gratification as a way of life, of having the discipline to do the hard things now so I will be more comfortable later.

Essentially, I’m getting my butt kicked by a psychology book from the 1970s. I’m telling you. Good stuff. And so worth the lacerations on my psyche.

The author says he was 37 when he learned that he had the ability to fix mechanical things. He had always written off that skill as an area in which he was born deficient. Just something he couldn’t do.

On a walk through his neighborhood, he walked past a neighbor who was repairing on his lawn mower. Peck, the author, complimented his neighbor and said he wished he had those skills, but he just couldn’t do it. The neighbor said, “Oh, sure you could. You just don’t take the time.”

The author explains this realization that most of the problems in his life, most of the things he believed were set in stone, immovable factors to his way of life, were actually problems he could solve but hadn’t taken the time to fix.

So, for three years now, I’ve lamented the fact that my family cannot-cannot-cannot make it to school on time. And yet, other families do. I just believed they were perhaps more organized, better routinized, more skilled, better parents than I am.

But now you’re telling me that this might actually be something within my control? Something I could change, if I just take the time?

(See? Butt. Kicked.)

Well, sure it is. We are late to school because I haven’t taken the time to get up earlier, to set a routine with the boys that is a regimen they will know even without my reminders. If I take the time to create the routine, then our odds would seriously improve. Or so says Dr. M. Scott Peck.

It has long been said of me, “If Tricia reads something clinical or diagnostic, look out. She’s about to implement.” True story.

And so this principle may also apply to other areas. I can change my oil, if I take the time to learn how. And the converse is true: I could change my oil, but I choose not to take the time to learn how. I leave it to the people who are paid to invest their time and expertise in the dipstick. (A funny word to me since I was seven.)

How it is now isn’t how it always has to be. I do have some control.

And when you’ve lost every sense of control in your life, you want to kiss the hand of the person who gives some back to you.

p.s. We have been on time for school two days in a row.

Operation: Independence

I needed to get my hair cut, and it’s hard to tell which “I don’t want to” measured higher: I didn’t want to take them with me, and they didn’t want to come.

So we tried an experiment.

“Guys, you get to go on an adventure while I’m getting my hair cut. The grocery store is right next door, and I’m going to let you go inside and choose a treat. One for each of you.”

“Oh, mommy. This is the most best idea ever.”

“I think so too. What rules do you think I have?”

“No running.”
“No screaming.”
“Stay together.”
“No fighting.”

I’d say that just about covers it. I gave Tyler the money in an unexpected choice of responsibility. He raised his eyebrows and looked at me, “Are you kidding me?! No way. Give that responsibility to Tucker.”

We synchronized our watches and we parted ways. They launched into a task of teamwork, budgeting, and independence.

Twenty minutes later, they came to the hair salon with perfect change and a bag of donuts.

They even chose one for me. My favorite kind.

A win on every level.

(Especially since I choose not to think about little hands reaching into bakery showcases, with or without waxed tissue paper.)


Tonight, I will take the boys to their first high school football game.

They will see the crowds,
smell the popcorn,
feel the gravel underneath their shoes.
They will see school spirit,
on t-shirts and painted faces
and likely a group of senior guys who are shirtless and unified.
I might buy them a candy apple
because that was my favorite treat when I was their age.
I might buy them a BlowPop and a Three Musketeers bar,
because that was my favorite when I was a few years older than them.
They will hear the drum candence, first far away and distant, and then loud as the drum line marches by.

They will see the trombones, the section that has always received my greatest respect, since any other musician can fake it in a sea of brass and woodwinds.  Not the trombones. A trombone slide doesn’t hide mistakes.

They will see the mysterious intrigue that is cheerleaders.
They will see the stands open up at halftime, when most of the world buys their concessions, and only the real fans stick around in the bleachers.
They will see their first marching band halftime show.

And when they climb into bed tonight, they will know what their daddy loved.

Boy-Dog Parts

I made an appointment with the vet today when I noticed this never-seen-before black swollen lump in his abdomen.

He was neutered yesterday (praise God from whom all blessings flow), and in the post-op appointment they gave us many tips to watch for, all suggesting problems with the sutures or Max’s pain.

But this black lump?? This can’t be right, I thought.

I took Max in, although he was not quite so willing to step over the threshold today. No way, Tricia. You don’t even know the indignities that happen inside this place.

The technician and I had spoken on the phone to schedule the appointment, and he met me in the lobby. “Okay, before you spend fifty bucks with the doctor, let me just have a look-see. This? This right here? That’s his scrotum.”

No, it is not. “I have never seen that before in my life.”

He looks up at me and winks. “Well, we all have one.”

Holy cats. Now somehow I think we’re talking about yours.

“So, he’s okay then?”

“He’s absolutely okay. You’ve never seen that before because it was covered with hair, but he’s always had one.”  This discussion of that particular tuft of Max’s hair seems like a very different conversation than the fluffy bit behind his ears.

The tech looks at the receptionist and says in blatant falsetto, mimicking my voice from the phone call this morning, “He has this black lump, and it’s all swollen…”

The receptionist answers. “Yep. Scrotum.”

“Well, no kidding…huh.”

I definitely didn’t know boy dogs had one, or that he would still have one after yesterday’s procedure. But, I confess I didn’t do a whole lot of research. I just wanted him to stop humping everything that stands still. All of the stuffed animals had been violated. Nobody was safe around here.

So, there we have it. Max is well, and he won’t die with this black swollen lump that has now been identified.

And I am the laughing stock of the veterinary clinic. Officially my most embarrassing pet-owning moment.

(Please note, I didn’t say Dog Parenting.)