Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Toddlers vs. teens

When our girls were toddlers, I couldn’t wait for them to outgrow the temper tantrums, the whiny meltdowns and the tattletales.
I just knew that once they became young adults, life would be so much easier. The crying fits and screaming would end, and the Huffman home would then be inhabited by civilized people talking to each other in a kind and sensible manner, Jane Austen-style.
I know, I know. How wrong I was. I was wrong in the wrongest way.
It turns out having teenagers is almost the same as having toddlers all over again, only these “babies” have car keys, Tumblr accounts and boyfriends.
This became even more clear to me after reading a toddler parenting advice column. I figured reading about preschoolers would give me a vacation from the mental contortions of raising three teenagers. At least we don’t have potty training to worry about anymore, I thought smugly.
There was just one problem as I started reading. The column, while written about toddlers, was sounding very familiar. Like mom-of-teenagers familiar.
I pretty much wanted to cry when I realized all I had to do was substitute the word “teenager” for “toddler” and lo and behold, the advice still fit. Was there no escape?
“Don’t be inflexible” with your toddler, the column advised. “Toddlerhood may represent the most stubborn, inflexible time in the life of a child. Too often parents do not recognize this as a normal part of development, and are frustrated as their child increasingly seems irrational and out of control.”
Stubborn, check. Irrational, check. Out of control, check. We have all of this and more at our house these days. We’ve got enough stubbornness, irrationality and attitude to start our own snarky farm. Twelve crabby comments for a dollar. Bulk discounts available!
The toddler/teen combo advice continued. “Toddlers need someone to be in charge, and that’s you. While you can benefit from giving your child choices, you will also benefit from setting loving boundaries so your child can feel safe and satisfied in the choices she has made.”
Boundaries. Choices. Safety. Three more words that circle every mom’s head when her teenager is begging for a later curfew and a ride to a concert in Oakland with her three friends.
“Don’t reason with a defiant toddler,” the column advised. “Toddlers are irrational by nature, and as a parent it’s important to simply accept this fact.”
You got that part right. Have you ever tried to reason with a defiant teenager? Vaya con dios, mommy.
The column concluded with a cheerful pep talk for toddler moms.
“Toddlers are interesting little beings, filled with passion, humor, curiosity and willfulness. … By trusting your instincts and implementing rules that you are comfortable with, you will be doing all the right things to help not just your child, but your entire family.”
Better advice for parents of teenagers was never written.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The birds and the bunnies

We need to breed Bonnie, said our youngest daughter.
There’s nothing like a 12-year-old talking about procreation to get a mom’s attention. Luckily, our girl was referring to Bonnie, her pet bunny.
Bonnie, a black-and-white Dutch rabbit, lives in a little hutch in our backyard. Over the past two years, she’s been proudly shown at various rabbit shows, fairs and 4-H meetings.
If we breed Bonnie, I can have more rabbits to show, our girl said. Plus, I can sell some of the bunnies and make some money, she said confidently.
I looked over at Dad. Was he behind this bunny breeding business?
He just shrugged his shoulders.
How do you play bunny matchmaker anyway? Its not like there’s a Match.com site for rabbits. Girl bunnies don’t take out singles ads in newspapers. What would the ad say — “Female Dutch looks for cute male Dutch, must enjoy long hops in the grass and carrots”?
But Dad and daughter had it all figured out. Turns out, Jessica, the bunny breeder we got Bonnie from, had plenty of boy bunnies to set up with Bonnie.
We can breed her at the rabbit show in Santa Rosa this weekend, Jessica said.
So much for any bunny courtship. No flowers or phone calls for these two. The bunnies would be simultaneously introduced and become parents with just a twitch of a whisker.
That’s how we met Willie, Bonnie’s “boyfriend.”
Turns out, Willie is a handsome fellow. He’s a show champion, my husband informed me, which means their offspring should be equally show-worthy.
Meeting up at the rabbit show, Jessica wasted no time with bunny introductions. She simply put the two rabbits into one cage so they could do their bunny thing. Only there was just one problem — Willie’s boy bunny parts didn’t exactly connect with Bonnie’s girl bunny parts.
I must pause here for a moment because I realize that writing about bunny sex is a first for this column. Add another notch on my “Most Embarrassing Mom” belt. 
Jessica pondered the failed mating. Maybe it was too noisy at the show, she said. Willie might have been distracted.
Maybe he had performance anxiety, I thought. Poor Willie. How can the average bunny be expected to, ahem, fulfill his obligation, in broad daylight and with all these people watching him? What about some soft lighting or candles? Maybe some romantic music? The theme from “Peter Rabbit” might be appropriate.
After several failed “attempts,” Jessica offered to take Willie and Bonnie home for the night. Apparently, the two needed more privacy. Maybe they could bond over a carrot for two.
The next afternoon, we picked up Bonnie.
I looked at the rabbit. She didn’t look like she was pregnant, but what did I know?
When should we expect the baby bunnies?, I asked Jessica.
In about 28 days, she said.
Get ready, I said to our girl. You’re about to become a mother.