Posts Tagged ‘embarrassing’

“L, today you lose!”

This is what I found myself saying to L as I angrily and not-too-gently buckled S into the car. The truth is, today we all lose. I tried for a win, but it was just not in the cards.

Let’s back up to breakfast where L threw a fit because T made the wrong kind of oatmeal. Not between two kinds we have in the house, but between the one kind we have in the house, and a kind we once had, but have run out of. Offers of other breakfast items received a tongue out or some other rude response. L cried for about 35 minutes. Then he asked for raisins. I got some out, put them in a dish and gave them to him. He promptly threw the dish across the room and screamed that he wanted the whole container. (Something he’s never had, never been allowed to have, and he has no reason to think he would ever receive.) Here begins a second 30 minute round of sobs.

I’m still calm.

Instead of my usual engaging in the battle, sending him to his room where I have to stand at the door holding it closed while he destroys everything inside, I say things like, “That’s not an OK thing to do, even when you’re mad. It seems like you’re having a hard time controlling your emotions this morning. Can I give you a hug? Would that help?” (This offer was met with a defiant push.)

Meanwhile, S is having the kind of day where she falls completely apart at any perceived injustice. Including the fact that L is crying. She looks up to him and if he’s upset, then upset she must be as well. When he throws his milk cup, she throws hers. Then she cries for her milk.

I’m still calm. Against all odds. The cacophony in my house is something terrible. I turn on the TV and step away before I kill somebody stop being calm.

I decide that this day needs Something Big to turn it around. I know! It’s the last nice day before apocalyptic rains, let’s go to the super awesome park 30 minutes from here which has an amazing splash park where fountains shoot up from the ground, a train you can ride on through a mini zoo, a mini zoo, and so much playground equipment that a child could never run out of things to act crazy on.

I pack a bag full of towels, bathing suits, snacks, drinks, bubbles, and throw the bikes in the car for good measure. On the way L complains that it’s too long a drive.

Are you fucking kidding me? I think. But, “Hmm, OK, maybe we can do something else,” I say.

So I stop at a family mini-golf spot about 15 minutes away instead. This will be fun!

This was not fun. We got to the third hole, with difficulty, and that’s when L stuffed the tubes that the balls should go into and shoot out of full of rocks and woodchips, totally ruining the fun for everyone else ever.

That’s what did it. I did not stay calm. I dragged both kids back to return the putters, which had only been used as projectiles, and to the car. This is where I told L that he loses. I know he can’t possibly understand what I mean, that I tried hard, and now I will not try anymore.

Instead of fun, we’ll run errands. We go to Whole Foods. I sternly warn them that they do not want to cross me any more today.

Some fun with numbers:

4: the number of separate strangers in the market who looked at me, not unkindly, and said, “Wow, you’ve really got your hands full.”

2: the number of people who thought the kids were cute walking around with baskets on their heads who I offered my children to.

11:31AM: current time, the time when I effectively quit my job for today.

7 hrs 29 minutes: time until bedtime, I will be counting.

5 hrs 29 minutes: time until I pour a glass of wine.

14 years: time until L goes off to college.

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I’ve always thought the term “housewife” was a strange one. After all, I’m not married to my house. And it’s a good thing too because if I was then I’d be in a shitty marriage. Thankfully, T is laid back about these things and agrees that my main job is to keep the children alive on a daily basis.

After spending a good 20 minutes searching for, and failing to find, a common kitchen tool this evening, I realized that this was a sign that I’m a bad housewife. Naturally, I had to make a top 5 list. It was embarrassingly easy to come up with these.

Top 5 Signs That I’m a Bad Housewife

5. I am currently resting my arms on a pile of random papers and debris on my desk as I type this.

4. When I do clean my house, my 4-year-old not only notices, but goes on and on and on about how wonderful it looks and what a great job I did.

3. When I opened the hall storage closet while a friend was over, she said, “I feel like I’m seeing stuff that I’m not supposed to see.”

2. If you drop by unannounced, I will talk with you on the porch and not invite you in. Unless I just hide behind the sofa and pretend I’m not home.

1. I could not find the can opener this evening, making it impossible to make what I had planned for dinner. I will probably need to buy a new one before the old one ever shows up.

I could easily make this a top 10, 20, 50 list. I am living proof that a SAHM does not necessarily have to be an organized, neat, tidy person. When you come to my house and it’s clean, know that I’m pretending that I live that way.
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Upon returning home from dropping L off at school this morning, I was shocked and terrified to open my door and find this:

An after picture of tornado damage?

Was my house ransacked and robbed while I was away? I looked around and spied my TV, computer and iPad all where I left them. Unless these were criminals after something other than expensive loot, it was not a robbery. I continued my investigation and found this:

A trail of shoes, what could this mean?

Looks like three people were here, but left without their shoes? This is confusing. I turned another corner and another and found more of the same.

Washcloths? Puzzle pieces? What's going on here?

To my horror, this destruction was not limited to floor space.

Can you spy the broken sunglasses? Two pair of swim goggles? Hours of fun!

Clearly, someone who hates me has been here.

With dread and bitter disappointment, I realized that my house has not been ransacked nor has it been ravaged by Mother Nature. It has simply endured a typical morning with my children. This mess was made between the hours of 6:30-8:00 AM. In that time the kids also brushed teeth, got dressed and ate breakfast. Which means that they made this mess remarkably quickly.

I know what you’re thinking: they didn’t mess up that kitchen, you did it, Allison. That is true. But in my defense, the center of that counter top is just about the only place that no kids can get to. All day long objects are torn from grimy little hands and placed into that one kid-free zone. As the center pile grows, earlier confiscations migrate back to the edge. Like the scissors perched just within L’s reach. Don’t you think it all enhances how lovely my peonies look?

What about the shoes? Well, that would be S. All day she puts on different shoes, walks three steps and discards them. In this way she effectively covers my home with shoes of all types and sizes and guarantees that when you are in a hurry, you will only have one shoe.

Now I will go about the process of picking it all up. My efforts in this area make the game of “find our crap and throw it” so much more fun for my kids.

Now you know why I need at least 36 hours notice for any visitors.

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We did it! I took L to another marionette show and we lived to tell the tale. Did he at one point lay down in the middle of a street, stopping traffic and alarming innocent bystanders? Yes. Yes, he did. But did he behave in the theater? Yup. So, it was more successful than last time.

It all began in the 6:00 hour when L came into my room and woke me by physically lifting the eyelid of my blissfully sleeping right eye. Into my eye, as if it’s a microphone, he not-quietly says, “I’m so becited, Mommy! Today we’re going to the movie theater. I got dressed all by myself!” He was dressed. “OK, Honey. Can you go back to your room for few minutes and let Mommy wake up on her own?” And can you please release my eyelid? “No, I’ll just stay here with you because I’m so becited. Get up now. But don’t take a shower.” Good morning.

I explain that it’s not a movie but a puppet show. He jumps for joy. He whoops it up. Then he stops and asks earnestly, “Am I going to be a puppet?” On the drive to drop S off, and then on the drive to the town with the theater, L explains that he’s going to wish on a star to become a puppet. But not a puppet. A real boy puppet. My end of the conversation consists of unenthusiastic unh-huhs and mmmm-hmmms.

We arrive an hour before showtime. Perfect timing for breakfast at one of my favorite spots. L charms the wait staff, charms a few other diners, and charms me into feeling hopeful for our outing. I also had a few coffee refills, which helped charm me. We hit the bathrooms at the restaurant and walk across the street to the theater. We’re 15 minutes early, perfect time to get a good seat upfront. (The marionettes are small and hard to see from the back of the theater.) The 15 minute wait felt long enough for me to give in and get L popcorn, despite my morbid fear of it. I spent the rest of the show on alert and ready to call 911.

The show, Pinocchio, was weird and a little boring, but L enjoyed it well enough. He especially liked clapping, so he was in an exceptionally good mood at the end of the show after all that clapping. We stepped outside into a beautiful day, so I thought we could stroll through town a bit and window shop. Big Mistake.

Note to self: quit while you’re ahead.

I was ahead. Way ahead. We had a great morning that included breakfast out and a show. I should have put the kid in the car and headed home. Why oh why didn’t I do that?

Instead we ended up in a store where L wanted to buy a button that said “Bullshit” when you pressed it. He also wanted to buy a fart machine. And a set of rubber balls – as in testicle balls, not bouncy balls – although he did not know what they were supposed to be. Clearly, I had wandered into the wrong store. We were nearing a meltdown when I spotted a set of foam Yo Gabba Gabba bath toys on sale. I thought I had the solution. I could buy him something, and have that something not be rubber balls.

He didn’t want it. We left the store, some of us walking some of us being dragged. Once outside, we had a full atomic meltdown on our hands. I pulled, I pleaded, I finally said “OK, bye,” and walked away. This is where he walked 1/2 way across a side street and apparently decided to lay down. I didn’t see that part because I was the awesome mom walking away from my 4-year-old. I turned around at the sound of a gasp, a shriek, and a honking horn. A crowd of concerned citizens began to surround L, who appeared to be injured or having some kind of seizure if one didn’t know better. A car was waiting for the street to clear. I felt like a royal douchebag as I pushed my way through kind strangers to unceremoniously drag a now boneless L to his feet and off to our car.

So, the verdict is that the show was a success. And yet I still managed to achieve a parenting fail by not pulling the plug while things were going well.

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I once swore I’d never take L to another marionette show. (You should click over and read that post, it’s a good one, I’ll wait….) At the time it seemed like a plausible thing to do, even though I doubted that I’d do it. I knew even then that one day the memory would fade and my hope for a fun outing would eclipse the dusty memory of a disaster.

That time has arrived. Next week the very same theater is putting on a marionette version of Pinocchio. L loves Pinocchio. (Which, by the way, is full of kidnappings, smoking children and donkey morphing, all of which I didn’t really remember or notice until I watched it as a mother.) He is four now, is he big enough? Surely the m&m debacle won’t repeat itself. But could it be a good outing?

Any outing that involves something new and potentially exciting, something new and potentially boring, any waiting, any sitting still, and any expectation of quiet on L’s behalf is an outing full of potential pitfalls – an outing that gives me anxiety. But then I think of how fun it could be, how different and special it could be. And all of that hope outweighs my anxiety and my right mind and I go ahead and do it. And then I end up bitterly disappointed and swear off any such thing ever again, again.

So, what to do? Buy the tickets? Give it a shot? He is getting big and sometimes he’s actually, surprisingly, well-behaved.

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I have two children and I’m supposed to love them equally. (Isn’t that what good moms do?) While I do love them both, I certainly don’t love them equally. There is almost nothing similar at all in my feelings for them, except that visceral attachment that keeps me up at night with worries about rare childhood diseases, teenage driving, freak accidents and abductions.

S is easy to love and I love her with abandon. I can hardly look her way without smiling, beaming. It’s all I can do to let her play or color and not scoop her up and smother her in kisses and squeezes. There is no challenge, no risk to loving her as much as I do (except the horrible and unlikely things mentioned above). I am smitten. This is epic stuff.

My love for L is different. It’s wrought with worry and riddled with frustration. He breaks my heart, little pieces of it all the time. As soon as I lay my heart out on the ground for him, he steps on it. I simply can’t have the same reckless abandon with my love for L as I do for S.

So what am I going to say when they ask me who is my favorite? Certainly S is easier. Her disposition is pure sunshine while L’s has some more complicated storm fronts. I sometimes can’t help but find myself wishing for two S-like kids. How easy it would be! We could have all the family harmony and good times I imagined having with my kids. When L is a dark storm cloud, I can’t help but wish he was just easier. Why can’t he be more like S? Some families get two S-like kids. Seems unfair.

Then I feel awful for thinking that. Would I really wish L away? Of course not. His exuberance and intensity are amazing, but that same intensity is also the wall I bang my head against daily. It’s the worry that I’m not a good enough parent for him. It’s the worry that he’s going to struggle. Why can’t he just be more like S? Why can’t he be more like the other kids I know? Why can’t he ever just acquiesce, just get along, just sit still?

And then I feel more awful for thinking that. Here I am, mom to two wonderful, healthy kids. Some moms have real problems. I need to somehow put away my image of what our family life could be, and accept and appreciate what it is. I am grateful for my healthy kids. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the kids come into our bed on a weekend morning to hang out, read stories? We could easily do that with S, but never with L. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk somewhere with both kids and feel confident that L isn’t going to suddenly dart away and disappear in a crowd? Wouldn’t it be nice to play a fun game and then let the game come to an end without the inevitable tantrum that follows? Wouldn’t it be nice for me to ever be able to relax in front of other people and not worry that L will hit their children, hit me, throw a fit, swear, break stuff or go ballistic in some other embarrassing way?

As much as I might wish for it, I feel like if L were the easy kid I long for he’d lose some of his awesomeness. The very same traits that give me the most difficulty, also bring the most joy. When he points his energy and intensity towards good rather than evil, the awesomeness that follows is unmatched.

So what am I going to say when they ask me who is my favorite? I’ll probably tell them that I love them both the same.

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In the town where I grew up there is a park with a great sledding hill. The hill is wide enough for dozens of sledders, has some pretty steep parts, sections with a more gentle grade, and a huge flat area at the bottom where a sled can safely come to rest. I have vague memories of sledding here once or twice. We only went once or twice because we had hills in our yard. Although not nearly as fun, they were right outside. I didn’t understand why my mom didn’t take us to the park more often. I mean, it was clearly so much more fun. And she could sled too instead of being stuck inside watching us out of the kitchen window.

Now I get it.

My town is currently under 2 feet of snow. I can’t put S down in it for fear she’d drown. L can’t walk through it, and when he falls he is unable to get up since pushing himself up with his hands results in sinking to his armpits and face-planting. Nevertheless, L and I have romped around in the snow at our house, and S even seemed to enjoy herself on my back as I went snowshoeing. So, with much stupidity, I took the kids to the park to go sledding.

I should have turned around at the gate when I discovered that the parking lot had not been plowed. Previous sledders and x-country skiers had furrowed a narrow winding trail to the hill at the far side of the parking lot, perhaps the length of a football field away. Both kids are bundled up, how bad could it be?

S started crying the second I took her out of the car. I considered buckling her into the baby sled to pull her along, but the trail was too narrow, and so deep that she’d certainly tip over. So I carried her, screaming, dragged her sled and encouraged L along. L fell down every 2 or 3 steps, complained that pulling his sled was too hard and basically moved about as slowly as a person possibly can.

Finally we meet our friends at the top of the hill. There is no place I can put S down. She continues screaming with enthusiasm, and my arms begin to ache. L makes his first attempt down the hill, sliding about a foot before getting stuck. See, with sledding, the depth of the snow has to be proportionate to the steepness of the hill. This hill is great with 4-5 inches of snow. With 2 feet, not so much. My arms are full of screaming, miserable S and my blood pressure is seriously on the rise, so when L finally reaches the bottom and begins to throw a fit about having to come back up with his sled I have no patience and am ready to go home.

I let L take 3 runs. Each return trip requires some “encouragement” (yelling and threatening) to get him back to the top. S never stops screaming. I’m wishing to be anywhere else than out in 2 feet of snow forced to hold a slippery 20 lb screaming child. I’m torn between embarrassment and who-the-fuck-cares as I yell at and threaten L and try to make light of the fact that S is crying harder than she has since she had colic as an infant.

Miraculously, L agrees to depart and we begin the long trek back to the car. This time I’m in front setting an unforgiving pace and each time L cries that he can’t keep up I shoot him a look that lets him know he’d better. Apparently, I’m very good at this look. Afraid to cry full-out, he whimpers and does his best. All in all, the walk to and from the hill take significantly longer than the actual sledding. We were out for about 45 minutes, 9 or 10 of which were spent sledding.

Between the hell of the outing itself, the process of getting both kids dressed for it, undressed from it and the sheer volume of wet clothes to contend with afterwards, I can easily guarantee that we will never do that again. So, like me, L might have vague memories of a sledding hill in his town; and I’m looking forward to many years of being stuck inside watching from the kitchen window.

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