19 April 2010

When Moms Attack...

Spongebob Yelling

Ok, so not literally. I'm not talking about a fist fight.
I'm talking about a mom berating her child in public.

A few weeks ago, I read a post by Lisa Belkin, whose blog, Motherlode, runs in the NY Times. The topic was Friends with Different Parenting Styles. I read in disbelief about moms who felt entitled to criticize other moms freely, after all they were friends. The discussion centered on whether to remain friends with someone who felt so comfortable telling you that your parenting sucks.

I thought, short of seeing someone hitting their kid, I couldn't really imagine criticizing someone else's parenting style. After all, shouldn't we all just be doing what's best for our own families? I have mom friends who parent quite differently than I do. We don't have problems - we have playdates, mom-dates, we get along. We respect each others choices.

And then it happened. I was in the park with my son. It was the end of the day and we were getting ready to leave. Diego had been playing with another child who was now being verbally ripped to shreds by mommy.  I didn't think that the child had done anything that terrible, certainly nothing out of character for a 4-year old. But the kiddo's behavior must have pushed a button, because mom lost it.  I had to wonder if she spoke to her child like that all of the time or if she was having a really bad day. After all, I had spoken to her on occasion and she seemed nice enough. But I was shocked by the hurtful words she was saying to her little child.

Now let me say upfront, I yell. My mom was a yeller. I'm a yeller. And, though I do have a pretty long fuse, when I've reached my limit I resort to yelling. I am not proud of it. It is not how I want to parent. I struggle every day to have more patience, to try to understand what I can learn from the situation at hand. But, sometimes there's nothing else I am able to do in that moment. So I resort to yelling my child's name in hopes that he will hear the stress and seriousness in my voice. And of course, it doesn't work. It never works. Yelling at your child only makes them tune you out ever further. Or so it seems...

When I was a child, my mother screamed at us on a regular basis. I was the oldest of four, but even when it was just me and my brother - she was always yelling. And she was mean. As much as I wanted to tune her out, I couldn't. Maybe it seemed we weren't listening - I wish that I hadn't been. But on nearly every occasion that something unpleasant came out of her mouth, I heard every word. I was scared of her. My mother scared the crap out of me. And that's really sad... it's also something that I don't want for my little boy. Which is why I struggle to keep cool, and why I'm struggling as I write this post.

Would it have mattered if this playground mom had just screamed her child's name instead of something mean? What if it was just "come here now!" Is that ok? And where do you draw the line? Maybe the effect depends on the kid - though I can't remember one time where I just heard my name screamed at me from across the room. Maybe that's just me.

Is it really my business that this woman said awful things to her child? In a way, yes. I wasn't eavesdropping - I was right there. I'll probably never say anything to this woman though. I doubt that I'd be heard (for a variety of reasons). And I don't have that kind of relationship with her. But it is an opportunity. It's a chance to learn more about myself and how I parent.

I started this blog so I could reflect on my choices as a mother, to understand how I could live a more compassionate life - for myself, for my family.  Seeing behavior in others that I am uncomfortable with leads me to ask myself why? Am I sensitive in this situation because of my own childhood? Probably. Can I understand how this mom lost it? Absolutely. But, I also understand how this little child felt. This new reminder of something that happened to me such a long time ago will hopefully serve as my teacher. I pray everyday for the compassion to better handle the challenges I face as a parent. And I pray for the mindfulness to remember that anyone can be my teacher.

05 April 2010

It's not easy being green... or is it?

Spring Scenery

It is finally warm out and I feel compelled to keep all the windows open and air out the house. It's time for Spring Cleaning. It is also a great time to get started on detoxing your home.

I know it sounds intimidating, but there are a few simple things you can do right away to "green" up your place.  First, take stock of what you have in the house. Here's everything you'll need to make household cleaners that are safe and effective, and won't mess with your endocrine or reproductive systems.

The list:
  • distilled white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • borax
  • washing soda (in the laundry aisle of your supermarket, near the borax)
  • essential oils (the type is up to you - chose any oils with antimicrobial or antibacterial properties - I use tea tree or bergamot in the kitchen and lavender in the bathroom)
  • liquid soap - like Dr. Bronner's - something natural
  • spray bottles to put your cleaners in (I got mine in the dollar store)
  • a paint container (the 5 gallon kind - from a hardware store)
  • a big box ( to dump all your current toxic cleaners in)

You may already have a lot of this in the house to begin with... if not, most of it can be purchased cheaply and will last an inordinate amount of time. The most expensive item will be the liquid soap, but again, it will last a long time. This is everything you need to get started.

So, what can you do with all these items? You'll make all-purpose kitchen cleaners, bathroom cleaners, windex, and laundry detergent. And it is so easy, you'll never spend money on brand-name cleaners again!

Kitchen Cleaner
 - spray bottle
 - warm water
 - vinegar
 - essential oil (citrus or tea tree oil)

First, label your bottle. Then add in 1 part vinegar and two parts water. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil. Shake well. Voila! You can use this to clean the entire kitchen.

When you need some scrubbing power on greasy surfaces, spray first and sprinkle with baking soda. Rub mixture onto greasy surface. Wipe off excess. Spray & wipe to get rid of residue.

The spray can be used on all surfaces - including glass - with no streaks!

Bathroom cleaner
Repeat above, increasing vinegar slightly. Substitute lavender oil in the mixture.

You can use baking soda in the bathroom, as well. I use it to clean the toilet and it always sparkles. First, spray with the lavender cleaner. Then sprinkle with baking soda. Leave it for a few minutes, then clean with the toilet brush.

Mirrors? Use your lavender cleaner - you will never have streaks again. You can even wipe the mirrors with a rag instead of paper towels with out streaking!

Laundry Detergent
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/4  - 1/2 cup liquid soap
5 gallon bucket
hot water

** When mixing the detergent, be careful not to inhale the powder from the borax, it can irritate the nasal passages and lungs. I just keep my face turned away as I pour it from the box.**

Dissolve the borax and washing soda in the bucket with 2 gallons of hot water. Once the mixture is dissolved, add in the liquid soap and mix together.  Fill bucket with 2 additional gallons of hot water and mix thoroughly.  Put some detergent in a smaller container that you can easily carry to the laundry room.  Seal the bucket up tightly.

Use 1/3 - 1/2 cup per load. For the first few washes, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as the residue from your old detergent washes out of the clothes.  Vinegar is also a great fabric softener - 1/2 cup - and your clothes will smell fresh - not vinegary.

This mixture lasts about 4 months in my house. I've been using it for over a year and my clothes are clean, soft, and look great.

You can do all of this in 30 minutes or less. Your house will be clean and non-toxic.  And you'll save money, too!