About Lesley Bolton

Posts by Lesley Bolton:

Devil Dogs

Hi, folks. This week I’m going to tell you a heartbreaking tale of how two best friends will forever (for a while anyway) be separated from one another (no more sleepovers).

Meet Remy, a playful and talkative German shepherd who will have a conversation with you even before you have your coffee in the morning. She is quite well behaved for being just a little over a year old. Her only “bad dog” moments involve chewing the feet off of some of Story’s stuffed animals. And I’m sure they deserved it.

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This is sweet Savannah, a Rottweiler. She belongs to Ali’s pack and has so much love for the family that her little bobbed tail never stops wiggling. At six years old, she still has some of the puppy playfulness with the responsible nature of an older dog. Her “bad dog” moments involve giving too many kisses and slobbering all over people.

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When Remy and Savannah met, it was not BFF at first sight. The clusterlove had gathered together at my house for a picnic. The usual sniffing and circling took place, of course. But the kids added another element. Each time Remy would get close to Riley or Maddie, Savannah would jump in to guard them. Remy did the same when Savannah came close to Story. It took a while, but once they finally realized that they both had the same goal—keep the children safe—a friendship was born.

 

Recently, Ali has had to travel a bit, and I volunteered to watch Savannah, knowing it would be a special treat for Remy. Savannah seemed to be at ease rather quickly. Playing with Remy distracted her from missing her pack too much. The two had a blast together. I swear they were smiling the whole time. I would soon find out, however, that their grins were not of pure happiness; there was a big dose of mischievousness—nay, devilishness—as well.

Savannah does not handle being confined very well. Her crate is a metal heap somewhere in Ali’s garage. Remy is used to being crated. Because I was going to be gone during the days, I had to figure out what to do with the two of them. I couldn’t crate or confine Savannah to a room, and it wasn’t fair to Remy to crate her in her own house while her guest ran free, so I let them have run of the house. What could go wrong? Savannah would drool on things and Remy would de-foot a stuffed animal left out? Not a big deal.

I was wrong. Our two angel dogs become the hounds of hell when together. Over the course of the week, their sins moved from understandable to unbelievable. It was as if they spent the day double dog daring each other. Story found excitement in running into the house before me to report on what the dogs did this time. Let me give you a few examples.

  • They scattered the bathroom trash into each room.20150619_181039
  • They smeared coffee grounds all over the kitchen.
  • They used the den as their toilet.
  • They shredded all the cardboard from the recycle bin.
  • They chewed holes in some of my clothes.
  • They pulled down several hangers from Story’s closet.
  • The chewed a hole in the padded part of my lap desk and shook out the thousands of tiny Styrofoam balls, making it look like it had snowed in the living room.20150619_180943
  • They pulled pictures off the walls and chewed on the frames.
  • They quartered a doll and chewed up her bits.
  • They pulled books down from the shelves and attempted to eat them.
  • They ate the still-packaged pasta and sauce before I had a chance to cook it for dinner.
  • They played tug-of-war with my computer cord, while I was using my computer.

These are just a few things the demons got into. If I dared clean up their mess, they would retaliate by upping the victims: Story’s school papers, her artwork, my books, my favorite pillow. By midweek, I understood that I was dealing with pure insanity and left things as they lay. By the end of the week, in the living room alone, I collected an entire trash bag full of destruction.

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After being separated, their demons were somehow exorcised. They have gone back to their good-dog selves, acting like nothing ever happened. It did happen. I know it. But I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I am not the insane one.

5 Tips for Good Parenting

3879111346_b191905bcd_zFollowing are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way. You aren’t likely to find these in any parenting magazines, but they’ve worked quite well for me!

 

 

 

  1. Pick a fight. Story was worse than a teenage boy when it came to sleeping in. I could jump up and down on the bed, tickle her, drag her from one corner to the other—it didn’t matter; she wasn’t going to budge from her slumber. I tried nearly everything and then hit the sweet spot. Story loved to argue, and she just had to correct anyone who got her name wrong, so I picked a fight. Over and over. “Wake up, Story Banana.” “My name is Story Bolton.” “Oh, yes, Story Banana Colton.” “No. My name is Story BOLTON.” “Right, right. Wake up Bolton Banana Story.” “Mom-my! My. Name. Is. Story. Bolton!” And she was up! This worked for at least a year.

2. Instill a healthy fear of sugar bugs. We can all agree that oral hygiene is very important and that kids don’t give their teeth’s health a lot of attention. To give Story a better reason for thoroughly brushing her teeth, I told her that every time she ate, she would get sugar bugs that would eat holes in her teeth if left long enough. (She wasn’t really sure about this until I asked her to see if she could feel them crawling around and let her imagination take over.) The only way to kill the sugar bugs is to brush them with toothpaste. I’m happy to say that Story has excellent brushing habits. She especially likes to drown any that may have survived the brushing with mouthwash.

3. Lie. Don’t judge me. We already do it: Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Elf on a Shelf. I just take it a bit further. Story is not allowed to have caffeine. She understands and accepts this (after a longer-than-I-cared-for question-and-answer session about the effects of caffeine on children’s bodies). Her acceptance was too good to pass up. So now, anything that I don’t want her to have has caffeine. That glass of red stuff I’m having with dinner? Oh yeah, that has caffeine. You want a root beer float in the car? Sorry, that has caffeine. Of course, I can’t use it on everything or Story would figure it out, but it certainly comes in handy when avoiding an argument or endless questions,

4. Use her competitive nature to your benefit.
Story is verycompetitive. I tried tempering this somewhat but eventually gave up and used it to my advantage instead. For instance, Story was quick to potty train, but she was afraid to use public restrooms, or maybe it was just her way of manipulating me into going only where she wanted to go. Who knows? But the fact remained, her stubbornness took the spotlight anytime it was necessary for her to use a public toilet. I was able to help her past this fear by challenging her with a timed event: “I bet you can’t go pee by the time I count to ten.” Her eyes would sparkle and there she’d go. I’d count faster every once in a while to make her lose and stir up that competitiveness a bit. I certainly didn’t want it to become too boring for her.

5. Teach the meaning of grounded early. I had the wonderful opportunity to instill the fear of this particular punishment early on. Story asked me if the older neighbor girl could come over to play, and I informed her that she couldn’t because she was grounded. This, of course, piqued Story’s interest and led to several questions. I used a broad definition: “Being grounded means you cannot do anything fun.” One evening, when Story was being particularly disobedient and asked me if she was going to be grounded, I said yes. Anytime she asked if she could do something, I would respond with, “Is it fun?” If yes (which was every time), she couldn’t do it. At one point, she was sitting on her bed doing nothing, and I asked if she was using her imagination. She said yes, and I told her to stop because that was fun. That one evening had quite the effect on her, and now I have an effective replacement for the now-ineffective time-out.

Let’s hear from you! What parenting tips and tricks do you have?

 

 

I Can Fly!

I heard a story this week about a young man who makes unusual life choices, such as becoming a monk, deciding to quit the monkhood and ride his bicycle back to Indiana from Arizona with no plan or map, and waking up one morning and running a half-marathon. This is amazing and all, but what the storyteller said last struck me the most: “He did these things because no one ever told him he couldn’t.”

How many times do I tell Story she can’t do something? All the times.

“You can’t go potty in the backyard.”Flying

“You can’t be a dragon at school.”

“You can’t have candy for breakfast.”

“You can’t ride the dog like a horse.”

The list goes on and on. Of course, aside from the dragon transformation, she actually can do these things. It’s just not preferable. So, why then do I tell her she can’t? Why don’t I just explain to her why she shouldn’t do these things instead? I’m familiar with Carol Dweck’s work; I’ve read Mindset, and I know the effects of growth versus fixed mindsets. I also know that if you continuously impart negativity on someone, he or she will likely grow to believe it. I know all of this but still, “Story, you can’t.”

While the things I tell her she can’t do now don’t seem like such a big deal, I don’t want Story to grow up to have an “I can’t” attitude. So I resolved to change my downbeat ways.

My first challenge: Story has decided to fly. She began practicing by jumping from one piece of furniture to another. Once she was successful with this, she graduated to jumping from the deck railing. She kept at it even after quite a few falls, which means she’s serious. After practicing from the middle of the slide and not getting much further with her goal, she decided that she needs wings. She’s reassured me that once she has her wings and flies away, she will find me again by using echolocation like a bat.

And this is where I am. Do I make the wings she wants (and has described to me in detail) and let her figure it out on her own? I have to protect her from harm, of course, so I can’t just let her try to fly from a tree. That takes me back to “can’t.” Do I tell her that humans can’t fly, not on their own anyway? Maybe I should just pretend my resolution hasn’t started yet and tackle the next challenge instead. But who knows what that will be? What do you suggest, friends? What would be your chosen course of action?

Preschool Graduation

It’s been an emotional week for Ali and me. Maddie turned one, and we had to say
Story Preschool graduationgoodbye to “baby.” Story graduated preschool, and we had to say goodbye to “little girl.” I knew these transitions were going to be tough, but I had no idea of the effect they were going to have on me. I was always curious about mothers’ reactions to preschool graduation and the first day of kindergarten. Why on earth were tears always involved? Wasn’t this supposed to be exciting? Not being much of a crier myself, I thought that maybe those moms were just the emotional sort. Never did it occur to me that I might react the same way. I thought I was fine and dandy for preschool graduation; Story certainly was. It turns out I wasn’t.

Monday, Maddie’s birthday: I left my work computer at home. I live too far away to just run home and get it, so I had to borrow one, and it did not care for me. I forgot our summer intern was starting that morning and had to rush to pull things (and myself) together enough to get her going. I lost my to-do list and forgot a deadline. I left my workout clothes at home, too. I lost my wrist brace. (I have carpal tunnel syndrome.) I forgot Maddie’s balloon and birthday card for the party.

 

Tuesday: I wore my leggings backwards all day. I made coffee with leftover grounds. I still could not find my wrist brace and guessed it was under the mountain of laundry on my couch. I also could not find clean socks for Story, so I sent her to school in mine. I wandered around at work, periodically forgetting where I was going and what I was supposed to do.

Wednesday: I forgot my lunch. I also forgot to look under the laundry mountain for my wrist brace. By this time, my wrist was killing me, so a coworker made a sort of brace out of wooden craft sticks and rubber bands. (Thanks, Rachel.) I cried a bit at the end of Book 10 of the How to Train Your Dragon series as Story and I listened to it on the way to school and felt a strong kinship with Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.

Thursday, Story’s preschool graduation: I cried a bit in the morning as sweet Story ticked off all the ways she would still need me even after graduation. I don’t remember the work day at all. I teared up during the program as they showed the kids growing up. I held it all together though until after my family left and Story fell asleep. Then I sobbed into my pillow until I got the sup-sups.

 

Friday: I felt supremely better! I found my wrist brace. I remembered everything. I got through my to-do list. Story told me I was the bestest mom in the whole wide world. And she let me put the toothpaste on the brush for her, without reminding me that she could do it herself.

I understand now. Thanks for the lesson, Universe. And I’m sorry, moms, for judging you.

Sisters

Story is an only child and lucky to be so. All my extra energies (and income) go to her. Every time I look at her, really look at her, I’m overwhelmed by how much love it is possible for me to feel. I understand now where the phrase “my heart is going to burst from my chest” comes from. That’s really the only way to describe that so-intense-it’s-scary emotion. It is very difficult for me to deny her a smile, whether that comes from a gift of a toy or allowing her to sleep in my bed. I do it (sometimes). I can’t give in to everything or I wouldn’t be a good mom—at least that’s what I tell myself—but it hurts a little. Like any other mom, I want to give my child everything.

 

Story is an only child and unlucky to be so. She doesn’t have that special bond that is only between siblings. My family is the absolute best; I don’t know what I did in a past life, but I certainly won the lottery in this one. One of the many things that makes it so special is my relationship with my two younger sisters. I would not be who I am today without them. They each own a piece of my heart, and the really cool thing about their being my sisters is they always will be. We’re all stuck with each other; we’re family. There is an invisible but incredibly strong ribbon that binds us. If one of us tugs on that ribbon, maybe without even knowing it, the other two feel it and show up. My point is, Story doesn’t have that. Her ribbon is only wrapped around her.




So, I had the great idea to give her a sister. This is a bit problematic for a couple of reasons. First, I would need to procure sperm from somewhere. Second, it is not yet scientifically possible to predetermine the sex of your child. Bummer. So my great idea took a turn and extended to adoption. I really thought quite hard about it and was excited. And then I talked to my mom. My oh-so-wise mom asked one question: “Lesley, do you want to adopt because you want another child or because you want a sister for Story?” Well, damn. There went that idea.

I’d come to accept that Story is going to be an only child. I didn’t know how it would be possible for me to love someone else that much anyway; my heart is only so big. But Story said something the other night that made me rethink all of it. As she was getting ready for bed, Story was practicing her letter sounds. “Hey, guess what! Everybody in our family here [my family lives in different towns throughout the state] has an E sound at the end of their names: Mommy, Story, Remy [dog], Henri [fish], Ali, Riley, and Maddie!”

Story is an only child, and Story has sisters; she has a toe in each pond. It’s not at all what I pictured for her. I think it might just be better.