Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks for No Thanks

By Terri Lively

I have been trying to teach my kids to be polite, practically since they were born. We were teaching them the sign for Thank You before they could talk. When they could talk, we worked on the tough  “th” and “nk” sounds together so that others could understand their toddler-ese.

I have also been trying to teach myself not to lose my temper when even now, seven years later with the oldest child, I am still reminding him (and her, and the other him) to say thanks.

I shouldn’t be surprised at least not about Brenton. My oldest child is shy and cautious. He would rather die than talk to a stranger. Unfortunately, a stranger to him can be anyone outside of the immediate family at times. Even if he has known them since before he could walk. This reluctance to speak is, as anyone who knows me can attest, foreign to me.

My middle child is like me in that she never minds talking. Sometimes she just says words like “poop” in the middle of a sentence to get a laugh. But even she is unable to remember a well-placed thank you after someone does something or says something nice to her. Although of the three of them, she is by far the best with the thank you’s.

The baby who is just starting to talk gets a pass for now. He’s the youngest child so he doesn’t need manners. He just needs to stay cute so everyone doesn’t realize what a rude little turkey he can be.

So I wondered if maybe their reluctance to say thank you had anything to do with their parents. I reviewed whether Brenton and I were loath to use the words. But we aren’t. I would say we are most gracious recipients of compliments, services and/or gifts. We even send hand-written thank you notes to people. Sometimes...unless we forget.

We thank the UPS and Fedex guys when they drop stuff off at the door and literally dash back to the truck so quickly that we have to shout it down the walkway. But we still thank them.

We thank the people who tell us we have a beautiful family. We think (know) they are beautiful, but we are still pleased that other people notice.

We even thank people who have so much good advice for us. You know what they say about advice and opinions after all. (No…not that one, the other one about how you could never have too much helpful advice. You haven’t heard that one? I know…me neither. But we thank these helpful opinion- spouting people anyway since they apparently must have an extra orifice back there in the under-carriage so they have much bigger problems then not knowing when to keep their advice to themselves!)

But the kids…not so much. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small favor like picking up their dropped pencil or a big thing like a new bike. In fact, you could hand them a pass to Neverland where they would get to spend the night flying around on Captain Hook’s pirate ship, eating cookie dough and playing video games and you wouldn’t hear a peep of gratitude from them without my prompt.

I do have them write thank you notes. Sometimes ...unless we forget. They seem very willing to write it, by the way. It’s the saying of it that really seems to escape them.

The holidays are approaching however, and I am worried about how they will do in the family gift exchange. As they age, they begin to realize that all not gifts are created equal. Not everyone knows that they are seven (or five, or 20 months) and will get them a gift more suited to their younger sibling. Or something they already have. Or worst of all, something they don’t like. I fear the honest commentary that these realizations may launch in the unforgiving scrutiny of extended family.

But I have a plan. I am going to have present practice this year. We are going to wrap up items in the house and have them come up with something nice to say about the gift. And if they can’t think of anything, they can just say, “Thank You.” In fact, if they just say thank you in a convincing tone, then they will get bonus points.

I know that someday my kids will say thank you without a prompt from me. At least, I hope they will. I have had a couple of people tell me that my kids are extremely polite. But they have been around more than a couple people, and I have only heard that a couple of times…

When that day comes, I must remember not to faint. Or cry. Or make a joke about how that never happens in a stand-up comic, sardonic tone. But smile like I’ve been there before, enjoying the sound of the words I have worked so hard to get out of their cute little mouths.

I guess it’s not so bad to have to remind them. It’s not like I know any other kids who always says “Thank you.” Most moms are cajoling gratitude out of their little brood just like I am. I have a sing-songy way of chirping “What do we say?” after my kids miss their cue. I am certain that this exchange will show up in their blog someday as the punch line to their teen-aged angst-ridden rant on the hologram machine.

They are still little and working out how to be little grown ups. And as they hurtle toward adult hood at a pace that is alternately way too slow for my patience and way too fast for my heart, I need to remember that they are thankful even if they don’t use the words.

So on this Thanksgiving I give thanks for the lack of thanks in my life. For all the little ways that they still need me to help them, remind them and quite frankly nag them. Someday they will thank me with an email, a Hallmark card, or a crystal-powered holo-gram and I will feel pangs of regret for these days of no thanks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Daylight Effing Savings Time

4:41 am Sunday morning.

“Ahaaaaa. Doooooo. Kaaaaaah. Kaaaaah.” Sings a happy little voice in my dream.

Open eyes. Squint at clock projected on the ceiling, a sinister sentry in the predawn hours glaring down at me in red numbers. Close eyes. Maybe I didn’t hear anything.

“Mama….mama…mama…maaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaa.” sings the voice again only this time not in a dream.

Open eyes again. Squint at projection numbers again. Roll over the edge of the bed to check the DVR clock. 4:42 am. For real? Look up at clock on wall run by honest to goodness batteries. 5:42 am. Realization sets in. Last night was Daylight Savings time, the fall back side. Daylight Effing Savings Time.


Cue the thump, thump, thump of my five-year-old across her Pergo floor, her tread as light and airy as a troop of elephants in army boots.

No. No. No. Not yet. Please? Maybe if I lay still enough, I can pretend to be asleep. Then hubby will get up and deal with them.

Squeeeeeaak goes my bedroom door on its hinges as the hall light spills in a rectangle on the floor to my right followed by a much quieter tread on the carpet to the edge of my bed.  Little hands and eyes just visible over the edge of the bed. A hushed whisper of “Mom?”

I don’t answer. I’m still feigning sleep and hoping for a rescue from the left side of the bed.

“Mom?...Gavin’s awake…Mom?”

I give up. I look at the red numbers flashing above my bed. 4:43 am. Heavy sigh. Aggravated shifting of my covers as I begin to swing my legs over the side of the bed.  Just before my toe hits the carpet illuminated by aforementioned hall light I hear:

“Okay. Okay. I’m up. I got this” from my hero, finally awake and probably because of the heavy sigh and aggravated shifting of covers just now. He knows morning isn’t my best time.

“Really? I can do it…” I half-heartedly offer,  snuggling back down in my still warm covers, relieved that I don’t have to parent in these ungodly predawn hours. But I gave up on going back to sleep at 5:01 am.

But as all moms of small children know, kids don’t get daylight savings time. Just because a gout-ridden, French-loving, revolution-inciting founding father knew a few people in government back when leeches were a viable medical option, we get to struggle through a week of misery while our little lovable cuddly children get their biological clocks adjusted to the mechanical ones.

Oh, sure. We have good reasons for daylight savings time. Not the least of which is that we don’t want kids to wait for the school bus in the dark.  Of course, I haven’t seen a school bus in Orange County since I moved here. But thank goodness no one is waiting for it in the dark.

Arizona, or the Maverick state, doesn’t worry about the kids waiting for the bus. Their wheels go round and round no matter where the sun and horizon are related in the morning. And somehow they survive.

But as I shuffle down the stairs this week at hours that make 5am look like a day I’m sleeping in, I wonder if Daylight (Effing) Savings Time isn’t an idea whose time has ended. I mean … we have electric lights. Maybe old Ben hadn’t discovered electricity when he suggested this little exercise every spring and fall.  But now, we have lights covered. We can get though the dark morning without stubbing a toe and needing to get a leech on it by candlelight.

Plus it was just a couple of years ago (2007) that Congress decided to extend the period of time we are on D(E)ST by a couple of weeks. It was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was an attempt to combat growing energy problems and is subject to a repeal following the results of its effects revealed by an energy efficiency study.  I hope when they do the study they include all the energy we moms spend making extra coffee in the morning and posting on social media how frustrated we are by the giant crimp this is putting in our carefully nurtured and manically maintained schedules.

But this capricious shift of start and end dates does beg the question, if we can arbitrarily shift its duration to see if it improves our energy problems, can’t we also axe it to see if it improves my energy problems?

Okay, so I just read Wikipedia and I stand corrected. Ben Franklin just suggested daylight savings time. Apparently he got the idea from his French friends who would adjust their schedules to take advantage of the early morning sunlight. No doubt scowling at it and blowing their cigarette smoke in its “general direction” (imagine a badly-executed French accent here.) He didn’t actually make it happen.

The real culprits responsible for getting the ball rolling on good ole DST are a couple of dudes (naturally) who wanted to collect bugs after work hours down in New Zealand, or finish a round of golf on a prematurely dark midsummer’s London night. Their names were: George Vernon Hudson and William Willet, respectively. Each of them had these ideas independently. Both of them produced marketing materials to get everyone else on board. They weren’t successful, but they planted the seeds so that some more dudes, obviously not directly responsible for child rearing, could put it into effect during World War I.

I bet you can imagine what I will be thinking of all of these guys tomorrow when I am trudging down my stairs to the coffee machine at an hour that in my life is only reserved for making flights at LAX or putting down the patio umbrella during an especially intense Santa Ana Wind Event. Seriously, unless there is stomach flu or dairy cows involved, there is no reason to be up at this hour.

At least this is the fall back side of Daylight Effing Savings Time. Spring adds insult to injury by robbing you of an hour and making your kids sleep too long. Now you are forced to achieve super-heroic efficiency in the morning in order to make it to the fictional bus in the glorious sunlight. In the fall, I have at least a whole extra hour to drink coffee, check Facebook, placate hungry children with cereal and fruit, and change poopy pants. Gavin’s, not mine.

In a week or so, we will adjust back to a normal rising hour. Which, truth be told, is still insulting to me. And my venomous thoughts of injustice will fade for four months or so. Until I have to spring forward. Then I will be grouchy for another week. 

I’m too tired to end this with anything witty. Besides, I will be getting up in 6 hours, so I’d better get this posted and off to bed. Stupid Daylight Effing Savings Time.