Until quite recently, I was a full-time television news producer, full-time mom and was losing my mind… full-time.
Ever been so frustrated with those precious little ones you tried so desperately to conceive that you wanted to scream loud enough to make yourself deaf, if only so you could stop hearing them whine, cry and insult you? Ever been so tired, you find yourself in a meeting at work nodding off like a heavy drug user? Ever get sick of people posting nothing but glowing, gloating anecdotes about their perfect lives and angelic children online?
Here’s the truth. Here’s my American dream.
Follow this blog, lovingly named Living The American Scream, for glimpses of life in our suburban Florida home — shared with two insane dogs and filled with regular visits from both the Cuban and Anglo halves of our family. Throw in a husband with a new business that requires him to travel, leaving me alone with two kids and a computer, embarking on a new journey as a stay at home mom, who knows what tales this blog will tell …
Whether you’re a working mom, an insane suburbanite looking for common misery, or you just find glee in learning of the travails of others, you’re bound to find something in these posts that will catch your interest. Or at least make you feel better about your life.
I am starting a petition to rename my local children’s museum The Land of Shitty Moms.
A snit between me and some lousy parent nearly came to fisticuffs today.
She may have been pregnant or just a regular at World of Beer. Either way, I know I would’ve won.
Yeah, she made me that mad.
The first problem: It’s the week where admission is free with your public library card. Apparently people who enjoy free books also believe in a style of parenting that fosters stealing, hitting and general mayhem.
There wasn’t a single toy my children played with that wasn’t snatched from their hands within seconds.
There wasn’t a span of 5 minutes where they weren’t shoved out of their position in a line.
Their requests for a turn with something, no matter how polite, were met with a child holding onto the coveted item with a death grip, flashing an evil grin that would’ve earned them a role in a teen vampire flick.
But, no single instance of crappy kid-dom got my dander up like the following:
My kids were playing with giant soft blocks.
They are numbered, intended to be used to create an arch.
My kids are bringing me each number in order to stack them up.
As soon as we got three blocks high, some string-bean with a maniacal Joker grin would rush them like she was part of the defensive line.
She did it once and I waited patiently for the demon seed’s mother to intervene.
The second time, I said, “No, honey we’re trying to build a tower for an arch.”
The third time, I am looking around like, “Where the f*&k is your parent?”
Now, I’m not a complete asshole.
The first time some kid tries to bulldoze mine or treat them like straight poop, I take a deep breath and assume the parent was busy sneezing or wrangling a second child.
But, when it happens over and over, I am damn sure gonna tell your kid to back the f&*k off. (Obviously, in the gentlest way possible.)
Now, this kid’s mom turned out to be just feet away, watching and doing nothing. (In other words, totally approving of her little shit’s behavior.)
In fact, a few seconds later I overheard her say to her tiny psychopath, “They can’t tell you not to play. The kids’ mom is right there. You go ahead and do what you want.”
‘Do what you want?’
Well, therein lies the problem.
Your kid can’t do what she wants. What she wants is to destroy something other kids were playing with. (In the way it was intended to be played with.)
Next, she’s going to “do what she wants” and smother your newborn to death. But, ‘Go ahead honey! Express yourself.’
Now, as for what I want to do when I hear something like this? Well, it could be misconstrued as a published threat against a potentially pregnant woman.
Now, let me be clear, I do not hold similar grudges against other parents of toy-snatching underage assholes.
There were plenty of babies who grabbed a toy from my kids and I simply smiled and gave the “friendly shrug” to their moms.
If your kid is so little, his main objective is to deep throat that phallic fake fruit or use a felt piece of lettuce to wipe away the evidence of a cold accumulating under his nose, no apology needed.
(Yes, I noticed your son, the one with the gooey drainage traveling like a slow-motion river from nose to mouth and was offended. You took your sick kid to a freakin’ packed children’s museum during free week. Thanks a bunch! But, still… you’re not the mom I’m pissed at.)
As a parent, my job is to watch my child’s every move.
I have to make sure no pervert sneaks them off to a public restroom.
I have to make sure no mentally ill woman who miscarried 3 years ago tries to snatch my kid and pawn them off as her own.
But, mostly my job is to make sure my kids don’t act like dicks to yours. I do a damn good job.
All I ask is that you do the same, because if you don’t, I will take over the role.
Several times today I told a small child that wasn’t my own, “You need to take turns.” “You need to ask for a turn.” “You need to wait in line.”
My head was so hot today, all those moms are just lucky I didn’t throw a “f*&Kwad” at the end of those sentences.
Another brief example:
I was at a free music show event for kids at my local library the other day.
A herd of cackling moms sat in the back and talked the WHOLE time. (Great example ladies!)
Meanwhile, the poor guy performing had to yell at one of their kids over and over to sit down.
At one point, the kid pretty much slapped the guy in the face.
The kid’s mom was still laughing away at whatever-the-f&*k with her pals.
Yeah, you weren’t facing some dire circumstances and were looking for a shoulder to cry on and momentarily lost track of your son in a small room during a public performance.
Well, maybe your kid has special needs.
Wait… in which case, you REALLY should’ve been watching him to make sure he didn’t ruin an entire event for a few dozen kids and physically assault the musician.
Here’s what I’ve realized since deciding to make my full-time job raising two children:
I’ve done a darn good job with limited time for the first few years of their lives and a whole lot of other parents are failing miserably with loads of time and they don’t give a crap.
Welcome to life as a stay at home mom.
Welcome to the Land of Shitty Moms.
I was swallowed by a career and just survived getting shit back out.
I think it’s safe to say most of us aspired to be something great at some point in our lives.
Career day in elementary school wasn’t a gathering of kids with big dreams of someday being underpaid, under-appreciated, mid-level employees facing brutal criticism and daily disappointment.
Upon graduating from high school, I thought I was making an incredibly sensible decision in abandoning the pipe dreams of being an actress to get a degree in Telecommunications.
I had a healthy grasp of reality when I graduated from college.
Shit, I didn’t even walk.
I picked up my diploma from an office and started applying to jobs. Hundreds of jobs. Mostly radio jobs, where the salary offered wouldn’t have been enough to survive on without roommates and lots of Top Ramen.
I had already won a Hearst award, AP Awards and SPJ’s while up against grown men working in radio in the state and I couldn’t even get a gig that paid a fraction of my college loans.
When nothing panned out, I moved in with my mother in Miami and starting working as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble.
Little did I know, that would become my favorite job to date. That’s despite having to wear a ridiculous witch hat on Harry Potter nights.
Months later, I got my first job as a temporary writer at a station in Miami. I was ambitious. I was going to claw my way to the top, but without sacrificing my ethics.
No brown nosing.
I wasn’t giving up my sense of self either. Hoodies and jeans.
Deal with it.
Within a year, I was a full-time associate producer. Within 2 years, a regular producer.
I would sit at bars with co-workers and hash out the bullshit of the day, an alcoholic post-mortem always punctuated by my comments about how it would be “When I run shit someday.”
Four years later, I got sick of working overnight, paying my dues in sleepless nights, power naps that left a dent in my forehead from the edge of my desk.
Daydrinking because it was normal.
Breakfast baked potato from the 24-hour Wendy’s in the ghetto.
I took a position in Tampa with every expectation I was on the fast track to becoming an Executive Producer.
I watched my mom go from Associate Producer to News Director in less than 6 years.
I had this on lock.
Not to mention that the News Director who hired me referred to my cover letter as “beautifully written.”
He called my resume impressive. Once I started, he said he thought there was no way they were going to get me to come on board.
I was too good for THEM.
I met my husband and had a couple of kids.
Along the way I went from weekend producer, to weekday 11, to weekday 6.
Then, suddenly 2 years ago, I was doing the Noon show.
Then, they told me they were moving me back to weekends.
After 9 years.
I gave my notice the same day.
I don’t have some awesome other job lined up. I am not just giving up a job, I am giving up a career that I once loved very much.
While I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to focus on being a better parent to my children, there is also some sadness over a dream that has died.
But, as one of my very best friends said, “Defeated doesn’t suit you.”
Somehow I allowed this business, this job, to dig its hideous black talons into my spirit and squeeze out the very guts of who I am.
I leave them now in a trail behind me as I walk out that door for the very last time.
Enjoy my entrails.
Consider them the breadcrumbs that lead to another world, one where I am free to aspire to be something greater than I am every day.
Chew on that.
My mother is Earl Grey tea with a little milk. She is cinnamon toast and yogurt with peaches. She is macaroni and tomato soup on a cold night.
She is the piano playing on a drowsy summer day. She is the soft hush after a nightmare. She is rocking me slowly, singing Carole King until the crying stops.
She is my solo standing ovation, applauding my practice for an audition. She is the voice of reason following bullying and rejection. She is taking me on a shopping spree for clothes so I can fit in.
She is chocolate cake after a rough day.
She is wine and carbs after a bad breakup. She is cruise ships and suntans and Mexican food so spicy I get second-degree burns.
She is a late-night campfire and the deepest, safest sleep.
She is brushing my daughter’s hair, scratching her back. She is picking flowers with her, strolling through the garden.
She is Nana now.
But, she will always be cattails, Vanilla and willow ware, swinging brass pots and Chariots of Fire, cradling me and singing Hush Little Baby.
For all she did for me that I understand now, I will forever be blessed.
Ahhh, the sleepover.
A quintessential part of the American childhood.
Just the word “sleepover” probably stirs up fond memories of late-night giggling, poorly painted toe-nails and itchy sleeping bags.
For me, it dredges up the crying jags and calls to come home in the middle of the night.
The panicky realization that I was actually expected to sleep at some point.
The horror of having to pretend to LIKE pizza and ignoring the aching pains that followed due to lactose intolerance.
My top 3 worst sleepover experiences, in no particular order:
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
Maybe it was the title of the movie that had the parents confused.
Sleeping, like a “sleepover.”
Maybe I had led a sheltered life, never having seen a movie that was rated R by the tender age of 8.
But, I could not hide my shock and dismay as we huddled onto our friend’s fluffy, pink twin bed and watched Julia Roberts being raped by Patrick Bergin.
The first sex scene I had ever seen and it was a portrait of a violently abusive marriage.
At this age, the mere mention of sex made my throat swell-up with anxiety.
As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and just thinking about sex was likely to earn you a ticket straight to the fiery pits of hell. (At least in my prepubescent mind.)
At first, I tried to nonchalantly cover my eyes.
That wasn’t going to work.
There was audio.
Can’t cover your eyes and ears simultaneously.
So, I did what any other slightly hypochondriacal youngster would do.
I pretended to feel sick, rushed out of the room and spent a good portion of the evening engaging in calming banter with my friend’s mother. (No mention was made of their incredibly poor choice of films for the sleepover.)
(By the way, I adore that movie now. I guess it’s kind of like, ‘I can watch it now without wanting to die or praying for forgiveness! I win!’)
THE MANSION UTI
My father was a math teacher at a prep school for rich kids.
We didn’t have much money (understatement) and frequently found ourselves with incredibly wealthy friends.
One of those kids lived in a mansion with an olympic-size swimming pool, complete with high diving board and an ice cream parlor.
They were having a birthday party for her brother and I swear to God, they had the longest, most phenomenal Slip ‘N Slide I had ever seen. It ended in a pool that was way bigger than the above ground one we had in our backyard.
Needless to say, I was already intimidated by the home, the toys, the yard, the pool.
Just looking at my friend sitting with perfect posture while playing at her grand piano was enough to make me feel inferior for JUST BEING.
It was around midnight when I started to realize I was suffering from the world’s most wicked urinary tract infection. Dear God, the pain!
I wasn’t keen on being there, but I wanted to impress my rich pal, so I tried to suck it up, tough it out, biting into the provided pillow to try to keep from screaming.
I finally broke down and called my mom and whispered through tears that my private parts were en fuego.
I’m sure you’re already thinking you can guess how this sleepover went. But, wait!
It was a sleepover at MY house and I was NOT the one who puked.
It was my neighborhood friend.
She ran for the bathroom.
She only made it to the hallway.
It was projectile.
It was shocking.
It was the look on my father’s face while he was sopping it up that I will never forget for as long as I live.
He looked like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in any movie for that matter.
These and also the glaring facts that some parents are also perverts, some guns are left unlocked and some alcohol is on the bottom shelf are the reasons why I will never (don’t hold me to it) let my kids sleepover.
And your (vomiting) kids can’t stay either.
So, I just finished up a story about a 19 year old accused of violently shaking his 2 month old daughter until she had a fractured skull, ribs and bleeding in the brain.
I’m still waiting to update the story on the 150 people killed in a plane crash in the French Alps.
Before I started that one, I wrapped up the arrest in the cold case murder of a 64 year old, unarmed hotel security guard who was shot twice in the back by a robber.
In-between stories, I cried all over the desk after reading a friend’s blog about her friend’s 21 month old son who died unexpectedly last week.
Yesterday, I sobbed on the drive home after a stop at the vet’s office to get my dog’s medication. I saw a woman holding a little boy on her lap in the parking lot as they wept over a dead pet.
When I have a spare moment, I am overwhelmed by sadness over my mother’s struggle to care for my grandparents alone.
They have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
She works full-time in the news business too and comes home every night to soggy adult diapers stuffed in the dog food canister and profanity-laced tirades from my grandmother who is perpetually threatening to kill herself or escape. (When she’s not berating her husband, who has no memory of her insults just moments later.)
Last night as I worked out, I sweat, cried and worried for a friend whose marriage is falling apart.
Along with the endless sorrows of this life, I had to fight off panic today when I realized I missed a phone call from the day care because Alma was screaming that her eyes were burning for some unknown reason.
Then, I cried because I feel like a shitty parent. For missing the call. For not being able to rush to the school to pick her up.
Then again for the mother I don’t even know who just had to bury her son.
I am worn thin from the misery, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I love hard, even though it means I hurt deeply.
I care for complete strangers and take pride in my empathy.
I hurt for my family and friends, but I also celebrate their joys like it’s my own private party.
And at the end of the day, when I put my daughter to bed, she will give me a real hug and a kiss on the cheek and tell me she loves me and it will be enough to prepare me for another day of tragedy and despair.
My son will ask me to read him a book and rub my arm nonchalantly and lay his head on my shoulder and I will feel like I can walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders forever.
So, you survived the endless pooping newborn months.
You managed to tackle toddlerhood without your child escaping diaper-clad from your home or flying down a flight of stairs.
Time to celebrate?
No way. Now, you’ve reached the creepy kid stage.
Children are basically small stalkers and perverts and they get a free pass.
Allow me to use my own as examples:
My kids constantly want to watch me bathe. I don’t have a clue what they find so fascinating about my personal bathing habits, but it’s not cool and locking the door is the ONLY option.
They also want to watch me use the potty. Again, my bodily functions don’t vary much from anyone else’s, so I don’t understand their obsession.
They’re also obsessed with their own bodily functions.
Each child, every time without fail, feels the need to share the number and size of their poops. “I did three! One big, two tiny!”
I’m like, ‘Uhhh, I don’t care. I just know I can’t wait until you can effectively wipe your own butt.”
Just about whenever I get my son undressed for his bath, he points to his chest and says, “What’s this?”
“Also your nipple.”
“Do you have nipples?”
“Does Alma have nipples?”… and so on and so forth. Bathtime is one long list of people who have nipples.
Last night, I bent over to pick him up off the couch and he reached into my shirt and said, “I want to touch! Squeeze! Squeeze!” Nothing like getting goosed on the boob by your kid.
They love to share their bodily functions. Alma sees nothing wrong with wiping her snot on my blanket. Occasionally she will drag her hand across my cheek, leaving behind a wet streak. I will ask her why her hand is wet. “I licked it.” (‘Cause that totally makes sense.)
Huck doesn’t mind that I use the bath towel to remove the shit-ton of wax from his ears, as long as I can show him what it looks like afterward so he can say, “Ewwwww.”
Children are also morbid.
The other day as we were walking through the park, I noticed a black snake writhing in the parking lot, it’s head squished by a van that had backed up over it. I tried to urge Alma to walk away and she started whining, “I want to see it! I want to see it!”
She also told me about a classmate who killed a lizard at school. She went into graphic detail about how he chopped off its head.
Then she told me that same story again… and again… and again.
Children are not only creepy, stalking, morbid, perverts. They also know how to REALLY bring the awkward.
Randomly the other day, Alma turned to me and said, “So, when I grow up will I have someone in my belly?”
It’s sweet that she already aspires to become a mother someday. It’s adorable that she’s planning her brood. It’s totally NOT a conversation I want to delve into with my FOUR year old.
In conclusion, you thought you were done with the yuckiest part of parenting? Nope, now they can just TALK about all the nasty stuff that comes with being human. Welcome to Kids Are Creepy.
So, we’re at some family-neutral restaurant eating wings when Alma starts to act up.
She’s sliding around the booth like an eel, smacking her chin on the table, worming her way onto the filthy floor.
I threaten her with a “bathroom time-out.” Before she even blinks again, she’s grinning maniacally, slithering back under the table.
So, I drag her to the bathroom and go inside a stall with her. Instead of whimpering and apologizing, she’s grinning at me with hate in her eyes.
She’s in full-on batshit crazy mode.
So, I tell her I am going to leave her alone in the stall for her time-out.
I close the door, waiting for her to at least utter a half-assed ‘sorry’ when instead, she says “I don’t even want to look at your FACE right now!”
At which point, I drag her back out and my husband and I tell her she’s not going to attend her friend’s birthday party. That’s where we were heading next, so I drop off my husband and son at the party and drive Alma home.
She’s now raving like a lunatic, screaming, spit flying from her mouth, digging her hand into the back of her throat and gagging.
I put her in her room for time-out, while she continues to shriek and flap her arms wildly in my general direction.
I tell her through tears that I wanted her to go to the birthday party, but her behavior is the reason why she can’t go.
She screams louder.
She screams for an hour.
When it turns to a shuddering hiccuping, I go back in and ask her if she knows why she got time-out.
I said, “You were not listening, sliding around in the booth and then you told me you didn’t want to look at my face during time-out. You were mean to me. Do you want to be mean to me?”
I said, “If you act badly, you can’t do fun things like to go to birthday parties.”
Alma: “I’ll just go to the next one.”
This was me sticking to my guns.
The most epic time-out of my parental history and she doesn’t give a shit.
If she’s this vicious and ungrateful now, will we be bailing her out of jail when she’s 13?
This weekend, we took the kids to the beach, to the park, out to lunch, bought them Big Hero 6.
We cooked for them, we bathed them, we cuddled on the couch suffering through episodes of My Little Pony and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
We do so much for them and so very, very little for ourselves.
I asked Alma if she had any fun this weekend at all.
Her response… “I didn’t go to the birthday party.”
She got another time-out at dinner for playing with her food. My husband threw her food in the trash.
I’m the mom who is secretly sneaking some leftover mac n’ cheese into the fridge, just in case she really is starving and apologizes or acts even remotely like a normal child.
I am the mom who cries as she’s tucking that tupperware into the fridge.
I am the mom who is tucking it right next to the rum I bought in order to make it to Monday.
I am the mom who is starting to feel like she’s losing as a parent.
My daughter can be so sweet, yet so evil.
So kind, yet soul-crushing.
I watched her at the park playing on the see-saw long after she was done so the other little girl could keep bouncing.
She will find a quarter in the mulch and look at me to see if she should put it back down, just in case it might be someone else’s.
She will rush to get me a band-aid if I have a hangnail.
Then, she transforms like Ed Norton in Primal Fear.
Sticking with the Norton theme, she’s Tyler Durden from Fight Club, pouring lye on our hands.
Such a sweet face.
I know the devil inside.