All I Really Need to Know About Relationships I Learned in Kindergarten

“I bwaked up with Sawah,” the Wee Man announced with appropriate drama.

“What?! Why?!” I could not imagine what a darling 5-year-old could’ve done to deserve dumping.

“She picked her nose in the hall,” he told me.

“Are you sure? Honey, I just don’t think she’s that kind of girl.”

But he was adamant. And he’s got a real prejudice against nose-pickers. He recently declared a favorite playmate “obviously evil” because of the friend’s compunction to pick his nose and eat the findings. So I know this is a relationship deal breaker.

More questions: Does he feel sad? Are they still friends? How did she react?

His answers: No, he’s not sad. Nose-picking is “gwoss.” Of course they’re still friends, he just doesn’t like her as a girlfriend now. And she didn’t react at all because he didn’t actually tell her.

Turns out she doesn’t know she’s his girlfriend.

So my son has spun up a fake romance, a perceived fatal flaw, a damning judgment and a stormy end to the fake romance. All this about a sweet little playmate who’s so shy her mom had to help her recite her nursery rhyme on Mother Goose Day. It’s a kindergarten version of what too often happens in my adult relationships.

How often do we make snap judgments based on limited information and write a whole crazy drama in our minds about the whats, hows and whys? I see it all the time with people I love — myself included. One person says or does something that strikes someone else as rude (or funny, sweet, pathetic — fill in the reaction), and it’s completely opposite of the intended effect. Person B then has a strong reaction, Person A is confused or oblivious and miscommunication/angst/hilarity/whatever ensues.

For some reason, we seem to prefer to make up stories rather than ask for clarification. Why are we so quick to over-react or get emotional? Maybe that person who just cut you off in traffic is rushing to save someone’s life. Maybe he really has to pee. Odds are, what he did has absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person or a desire to adversely affect your life.

So if you’re going to make up stories, make up happy ones. You mom didn’t love your sister more than you. She just appreciated your independence and trusted you to make good decisions without her input. Your husband didn’t leave his dirty clothes piled up on the floor to give you more crap to pick up. He’s just preparing a nest for the winter.

So I advised Wee Man to reconsider. Was he really sure Sarah picked her nose? Could he possibly be mistaken?

Thankfully, he came up with a new story. In this one, she didn’t pick her nose, so he can like her again. It gets better: He made her a very sweet card asking her for a (play) date. He hopes she’ll want to be his girlfriend in real life now.

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I’m so proud he’s not too proud to change his mind. I keep telling my kids they get to decide how they feel and what they think, so if they don’t like how they’re feeling they should change their thoughts.

It’s sound advice. I hope I follow it, too.

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As If

A lovely bunch of fat flakes had just started to fall yesterday afternoon. For the Wee Man, that meant the start of winter Olympics.

He dressed himself to sled: ski jacket, dinosaur skull cap, helmet, goggles and sandals. I pointed out that there was not actually any snow on the ground, so it was not yet prime sledding time.

Here’s what the ‘hood looked like yesterday when Wee Man first tried to sled. He’s not one to be deterred by a minor detail like a complete lack of snow.

He didn’t care. He marched out there with his bright green slider and slowly scratched down the driveway twice. Then he came back in.

“You were wight, Mom.”

I thought that was a pretty impressive admission, especially from a male member of my family. I told him it was supposed to snow more tonight. Maybe he’d have better luck tomorrow.

It did snow, just enough to leave a crystalline dusting and a narrow, millimeter-thin track of snow on the driveway. So this morning, Sled Boy was back in action.

He was so proud — utterly delighted with his sledding. I was so proud to see him living the “Act As If” principle I’ve been reading about in my latest Wayne Dyer book, “Wishes Fulfilled.” Dyer says one of the keys to creating the life you want is to act as if you already have it. When he’s writing, Dyer has a copy of the cover for the book in progress to reinforce the concept.

So Wee Man — ever proof that reality is relative — happily skidded down the driveway this morning acting as if he were on the tubing hill at Beaver Creek. I captured the magic moment on video  with my iPhone, because I was acting as if his moment of glory would last forever and he won’t be grown all too soon.

Cat-a-Tonic

In honor of Labor Day, my small people are working hard at one of those priorities that make sense only to people under 48 inches tall. They’re tag-teaming to build the perfect cat trap out of laundry baskets and beads.

Today’s cat trap, complete with doll blanket and kitchen towel.

“Put him in the wound pen!” the Wee Man just yelled.

Clearly the kitten needs more ground work. He’s only 3 months old, so he isn’t fully trained. Plus, he’s a Bengal cat, so he’ll never be fully trained. But I think Vetericyn, Ritchie Waterers and the whole Downunder Horsemanship gang would be proud that my 4-year-old wants to get the cat’s feet moving to engage his brain. He never even watches Clinton Anderson’s horse training videos with me (his sister does) so he’s clearly picking up THE METHOD by osmosis. If only he’d apply it to horses.

But for now, it’s all about cat-astrophes. Since this kitten came home last week, he’s been swaddled in blankets and deposited in various American Girl Doll accessories, added to Bat Cave adventures (luckily he seems to like lattes), nearly refrigerated, pillow-trapped into toy cubbies, pulled into the bathtub, and latched into plastic tool boxes. (That last one prompted an informative and overdue lesson on carbon-based life forms and their need for oxygen.)

But he’s also been cuddled, kissed, hugged, cradled, sweet-talked and universally adored.

This kitten is clearly a masochist. Here he is cuddled up in the arm of his oppressor. He was purring when I took this photo.

And now that Wee Man has taken a cat-catching break to tan under a reading light (That’s his story. I’ve mentioned before he’s weird.), Loco is watching with great interest from his perch just inches out of the range of the fluorescent light bulb.

There are many great things about our new kitten, but the best is he seems to love every minute of the constant and bizarre ways my kids try to show him the love.

There’s got to be a pithy parenting lesson in there. I guess I need to be more like the cat. I need to look past the discomfort of laundry bag traps and doll clothes and appreciate the fact that there are two hysterical kids sharing their love in crazy ways that makes perfect sense to them and no one else.

It’s enough to make me purr.

Good Nightgown, and Good Luck

The Wee Man is unquestionably weird. I love that.

One of his little foibles is his strange affection for a Little Mermaid nightgown his sister outgrew years ago. He probably outgrew it last year. Despite its tears, immortal stains and Klingeresque flair, he loves the damn thing.

His daddy does not.

He doesn’t understand why a 4-year-old boy needs a nightgown. Clearly, this man was deprived his sister’s hand-me-downs as a child. That explains a lot.

So when the Wee Man requested his favorite drag outfit tonight, I realized I hadn’t seen the beloved nightie in quite some time.

“I don’t know where it is, honey. Ask Daddy.”

Daddy looked a bit uncomfortable.

“Daddy, did you do something to the nightgown?”

Daddy asked us to define “something.” I asked him to produce it from whatever hole he’d shoved it down. He sheepishly reached under a stack of books in his nightstand to retrieve the precious outfit.

The Wee Man was so happy, his daddy suffered only a mild rebuke. From him.

I was more upset. Dear John knows our boy loves the damn thing, nasty as it is. I’m always quick to redirect when either of the kids claims something is a “boy” toy/color or “girl” sport/look. I don’t want them limiting themselves based on any kind of pointless gender assignment some other jackass came up with for no good reason.

Real men wear pink, after all.

So the Wee Man is delighted with tonight’s outfit, even though there’s no Spider-Man influence to be found anywhere on Ariel’s tattered visage. I love that this kid knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to own it, no matter what.

The beloved Ariel nightgown. View and feel the pride. See that bubble wrap to the right? He likes to stomp it. In his nightgown.

Shown and Told

It was such a simple request.

“Please go put something on.”

But I should know by now that nothing is ever simple in this house. I was prepared for weird, color-clashing and super hero-inspired. I was prepared for arguments over underwear.

I was not prepared for Show and Tell.

Yes, that really does say "Show and Tell." Yes, the bag is the only thing he's wearing.

Seriously. He really did this. I can’t make this sh!t up. Thank you, Jesus, for cell phone cameras and cell phone addictions. That’s how I was able to snap this epic pic.

The bag was the fabulous surprise in the preschool basket this morning. It’s a huge deal to get it. You use it to carry your favorite stuffed animal, book — whatever — to share with the class. I guess it’s only fitting that the bag nicely covers that which no doubt eventually will be the Wee Man’s favorite toy of all time.

To Pee or Not to Pee

Well, that’s not exactly the question. But whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the bodily fluids of another’s progeny or take arms against a sea of urine and by opposing end it.

In other words, what do I do when someone else’s kid pees in my bathtub?

This was my moral dilemma during a recent play date. This sweet little friend initially aimed into the proper receptacle. But for some reason, he stopped mid-stream and moved into the bathtub.

So it wasn’t an accident. It was just one of the many super-weird things young boys do for no good reason other than to make grown women wonder when the mothership will return to reclaim lost mini-Martians.

I was mad. But I didn’t know what I should do. If it were Wee Man, time-out, lecture and forced-cleaning would follow. But this was not my son. I understand and respect the fact that different families handle these kinds of things differently. Not sure what I can or should do to discipline and housebreak another’s child.

Ay, there’s the rub.

I asked this boy what he was thinking. Of course, he had no good answer. He agreed he would not like it if I went to his house and peed in his bathtub. (Inspired line of conversation, I know.) I handed him the bathroom cleanser and paper towels. I stood over him to ensure he gave it a thorough scrub. I fished the paper towels out of the unflushed toilet when he dropped them in there once I declared the tub clean. That required still more deep breathing and lessons on hygiene.

Of course his parents were horrified. Turns out this is something they’ve been working on for a while.  They’re also at a loss.

I know when I make a huge production of an infraction around here, it rarely works out well for anyone. Drama begets drama. But how do you get through to these people? How do you correct bad behavior that seems to be done simply for effect? Do they really want to get in trouble because mad parents are somehow exciting and entertaining? Is it all just a twisted power trip?

I’d like to react with love and kindness. I can imagine my aura shining gold with an angelic glow as I point out the error in a nurturing way that inspires them to do better and be better. A flock of ivory-billed woodpeckers flies overheard as a unicorn prances by on his way to the final signing of an irrevocable world peace accord. It’s a pretty picture.

But I get pissed off at pee in my tub. (Terrible, terrible pun.) With someone else’s children, I do a better job of maintaining my cool. Conscience does make me a coward. But with my own kids — the people I love more than anyone else in the universe — I find myself more often than not regretting angry words and escalated conflict.

I know all my sins will be remembered. Lord knows grudge-holding runs in my family. I just hope that by the time my kids are old enough to pick out my nursing home, they will have grown from hilarious, wacky, irrepressible, fabulous little people into larger versions of who they are now, and that those sins are forgiven.

And that no one pees in my tub ever again.

Love and Illogic

“Mom, I messed up my bed,” the Wee Man reported with his stopped-up-nose voice.

“Why did you do that?”

“That was your consequence for not giving me a knife.”

Oh. So because you threw your knife across the floor because your sister gave it to you instead of me and I refused to give you another knife, you’re punishing me by messing up your bed, which I just made and you clearly need to return to.

Love that logic.

I know you’re feeling bad, son. I know you’re frustrated. I love that you feel empowered enough to dole out punishments to your misbehaving mom.

But I am your mom. So I’ll see your messed up bed consequence and raise you one calm request to return to your room and fix it. I’ll congratulate myself for not losing my cool and fanning the flames of sick day drama.

Then I’ll go back to my parenting books and see if I can figure out how to temper your sense of justice with a little respect for author-i-tah. Not much, mind you. Just enough that you’ll stop throwing knives.