Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Warning Labels

This being Princess and Birdie's third year at the same elementary school and fourth year in this neighborhood, I had mistakenly assumed that by now everyone around here kind of had an idea about how my girls tick.  Recent events have reminded me that there is always someone in any given situation that just isn't quite prepared for my little darlings.  Some people handle the surprises my children have in store for them with great aplomb and roll with the punches like pros.  Some people, I feel, get what they deserve when dealing with my kids (and it's sad that I find this humorous).  Most people, however, could benefit from some sort of warning label or quick-start guide to ease the pain of the learning-my-children curve.

1.  Even though their clothes may say otherwise, they are NOT wearing costumes.  No, you didn't miss the Tacky Day memo.  The contrasting fabrics, patterns, and colors are aesthetically pleasing to my girls-- they feel "fancy" when they dress this way.  The rabbit ears, tiaras, and silk fall foliage worn in their hair is for decoration, not for ha-has.  Laughing at these accessories is a horribly bad idea.  Complimenting or commenting on these items to Princess is not a great idea either, if you have never met her before.  She will just assume you are teasing her. :(  Case in point, I saw an older student at school a few weeks ago nearly get mauled for telling Princess she looked like a cute little bunny (because of her rabbit ear headband).  The image was like a scene out of a Bunnicula meets Goosebumps novel-- scary.

2.  My kids are LOUD!  Shushing them may lead to even louder voices so that they can explain to you why they are being loud.  Using a soft voice to talk back to them works as a better reminder than all the yelling in the world.  This is experience talking, folks.

They look like angels, right?
3.  If you say something to Birdie or Princess and she doesn't respond, believe me, she heard you-- she just doesn't care.  This is especially true if they feel you are asking a question with an obvious answer.  You will also be ignored if the question you ask has been asked too many times previously.  Examples of these are "how was your day?" or "what did you do today?" or "what is wrong?"  These questions all have obvious answers to my girls.  The obvious answers are:  My day was good or someone else would have told you otherwise; I went to school-- you took me, remember?; If I knew what was wrong I'd be telling you right now so you could fix it.  Duh.

4.  Lack of eye contact is not disrespectful, especially when the girls are in trouble or upset.  Princess will be the first to tell you that she has "trouble hearing you if she has to look at you".  How's that for self-awareness?  

5.  Be prepared for overwhelming quantities of blatant honesty.  The examples are numerous.  I'll try to mention only my "favorites".   In front of my friend (about whom she is commenting) Birdie says "Wow, Mom, your friend just keeps getting fatter!  Does she know about the healthy food pyramid?"  Another gem from Princess to a total stranger was "You know you can wash that awful smell off with soap and water."  Recently, Birdie has been very concerned with bra straps.  She loves to remind anyone offensive enough to let their straps show that "bras are UNDERWEAR... they go UNDER what you WEAR."  *wince*  I keep waiting for her to pop someone's strap as she says this.  It's going to be a long summer...

6.  Don't ask a question you don't really want the answer to.  This goes hand in hand with #5.  My beautiful, flawlessly honest girls answering a question may result in you receiving too much information OR too much opinion.  Neither is pretty and both are socially awkward for everyone involved except Princess and Birdie.  They never seem to understand why someone would be appalled by the truth... it is the truth, after all.

7.  Don't make a promise you can't or don't intend to keep-- you won't happily live through this error in judgment.  If you aren't 100% certain you can make good on your commitment, keep your *insert explicative here* mouth closed.  Not only will you suffer and never hear the end of how horrible and unreliable you are, but so will I.  Then you'll have three very pissed off (dare I say?) ladies sending ugly thoughts toward your little corner of the universe.  (I should probably put several stars next to this warning.  It is definitely one of the toughest things for Birdie and Princess to get past.)

You stay on your side, Sissy.
8.  Touching Birdie or Princess is usually a bad idea if they didn't initiate the contact.  They are more accepting of touches and hugs after you have gone through the vetting process (and deemed worthy), but you have to wait.  The un-vetted can't-- just CAN'T-- cross the invisible boundary into Personal Space.  (I always hear personal space in the same voice as "Pigs In Space" on the Muppet Show, by the way. hehe)  Personal Space is a BIG issue that comes up frequently with my little darlings.  It at school has been the root of several "behavioral mishaps"--if you'll allow the euphemism-- at school.  If you're going to force me to be honest, those
"mishaps" would be better described as tantrums, micro-meltdowns (which just means the entire day wasn't lost to the meltdown), and the occasional scuffle with another student.

You really can't wrap your brain around this personal space thing until you witness it.   Just last week, one of my co-workers witnessed an near-mishap at school and now she understands.  Birdie had gotten all gussied up for school picture day and wore her prized coyote-tooth necklace.  (No, that is not a typo.  Remember, pieces of dead critters are the ultimate treasure for B.  Won't that be a fond memory in 20 years?)  At the end of the school day, Birdie came to my friend J's 5th grade classroom to say hi.  Many of the students in J's class were still there when Birdie arrived.  J told me one really sweet, outgoing little boy noticed Birdie's necklace.  He told her it was cool and reached out to touch it.  *wince*  Without so much as blinking, Birdie looked at the boy and told him in a calm, even voice "if you'd like your wrist back in the same condition it's in now, you should remove your hand from my necklace".  I can only imagine the look on that sweet little boy's face...  (Secretly, I am glad she can stand up for herself.  I only wish she could discern when to be forceful and when to be polite-- she goes straight for forceful every time.)

9.  Interrupting my girls while they are speaking will result in an on-the-spot lesson on manners and possibly a tirade (if you're dealing with Birdie).  Don't be fooled into thinking they will wait for you to finish your sentence, however-- chattus interruptus is totally fine when they are the offending party.

10.  Be prepared to be corrected for accuracy.  Spend some time with them-- you'll figure this one out in a hurry.  For example, I asked Birdie to bring me her long-sleeved blue monkey shirt.  She assured me she didn't have one of those, "but I do have a teal long-sleeved monkey shirt.  Will that do?"  Really?!

11.  Be prepared to hear the same info over and over and over.  When my girls love something, they will exhaust you with it.  You need to love it, or you need to leave them.  You will have a hard time changing the subject.

12.  Body language is crucial-- both theirs and yours!  You can instantly see what to expect from Princess and Birdie by the way the hold their head, whether they avert their eyes, are their hands making fists and if they are what kind of fist is it-- happy/excited or angry?  And you better believe they are looking at your body language!  They might not understand all the nuances of the emotions crossing your face, but they can tell if you are grumpy or relaxed or frustrated by the set of your shoulders and the attitude of your stance.  Many times people are labeled "mean" or "grumpy" by Princess simply because they stand with their arms crossed or their hand on their hip.  It's something to consider.

Poor Birdie...
13.  The last, and I think the most important, warning is this:  when my children are upset and say "I don't know what is wrong", that is the truth.  They are not being defiant or difficult or manipulative, they just don't know.  Instead of asking "what's the matter?" when you see them crying or angry, a better question might be "is there some way I can help?"  Asking what's wrong often makes things worse.  Asking if everything is okay is, frankly, stupid.  I am sure one of my tactful straightforward lovelies will clear that up for you right quick.  I have never understood asking what's wrong, have you?

Longest warning label ever, right?  I know it seems like a lot, and I don't mean to worry people that my children are difficult.  But who am I kidding?!  They are a teeny bit challenging at times.  But they are also awesome!  They have so much to offer that I don't want the world to miss out on Princess and Birdie's sweetness because they are worried by their rough edges.

I also want others to realize that my girls aren't usually trying to be disrespectful or rude-- they aren't often bratty.  They tend to be very forthright, which these days isn't really appreciated much.  Social etiquette requires that we tell kind lies and half-truths to soothe the sensitive egos of our peers, and although it's technically dishonest, it makes for smoother waters.  One day, smooth waters will matter to them, but for now, the truth is all they have so that is what you will get.  They have no hidden agenda, no subtext, no secrets and no boundaries to where they will take a conversation.  As long as you can see past the clothes, the loud voices, the Personal Space issues, and the other minor quirks, you are in for a pleasant surprise.  You might just make a friend.


  1. I can't wait to meet them! But I'll make sure I've been to the gym (and showered) first...not sure I can handle many truths these days...LOL

  2. was a delightfully awkward moment. :) At least you know she won't take any crap from anyone.

  3. I totally had a dream about Birdie last night. I took her to my in-laws house for some reason and boy was she honest. Lol.

  4. I've been in Princesses life for two school years now. So far so good, as a matter of fact, I think we've bonded quite nicely! I guess I must smell alright, and maybe I'm not gaining too much weight???

    1. Love it! Obviously you are a pro at rolling with the punches. ;)