In less than a year I will become the sole member of my family to still live in my hometown.
It’s something I never could’ve predicted.
At 13 years old, I came home from school to find my father standing by the front door with a suitcase.
The year that followed the stunning revelation that my parents were getting divorced is a collection of fuzzy memories and cloudy snapshots.
My oldest brother was away in college. My other brother chose to live with my dad in our grandparent’s house.
I stayed with my mother in the house I grew up in, discovering the glorious distraction of the world wide web. Late nights with the green glow of the computer screen on my cheeks making the empty rooms disappear.
We started renting a tiny house, the color of mud, with terrazzo floors, jalousie windows and a sketchy neighbor who wore an eye-patch and mysteriously knew our names.
It wasn’t long before our dog Patches died of cancer and the only house I remember from my childhood was sold.
My mother had a job as a librarian at a school for “troubled kids.” She quickly parlayed that into a position as a “media specialist” for the world-renowned Poynter Institute. Months of watching presentations focused on the ethical dilemmas of Journalism and she landed her first gig in T.V. news as a writer at the small station in Sarasota.
This meant she worked overnight and slept during the day and was painfully absent during some of my most formative years. But, her determination earned her a position as a Producer at a Tampa station within a year. A year later, she was the Executive Producer at another station in town. By the time I left for college, she was running a 24-hour news station in Austin, Texas.
My dad was cheating the system and living in a senior living apartment complex.
I was without a “home” to call “home.”
I have always envied those college kids who were able to return home for a long weekend to their moms doing their laundry, home cooked meals and the stuffed animals from their childhood still cozying up together in their bedroom closets. I imagine them sighing with relief, enveloped by a quilt embedded with some comforting and familiar smell.
Fast forward to present day. My mother lives in South Carolina. My brother lives in Massachusetts. The other one is in Orlando. My father is about to retire and move permanently to North Carolina.
I am the last of the Fields to reside in Tampa Bay, although my last name is no longer the same.
Granted, I returned here after four years in Gainesville and four more in Miami.
But, I am HOME.
I cannot gaze dreamily at the white eyelet canopy above my childhood bed. So, instead I stare squinting at the Florida sun.
I can’t smell my dad’s barbecue chicken on the grill, the smoke filling the sky with the smells of summer.
But, I can dig my toes in the same sand I did when I wasn’t even old enough to swim.
Watching a palm tree, strained and bent by the gusting wind of a summer storm can bring me to tears.
My cheeks hurt from smiling hard while watching the “heat lightning” from my son’s bedroom window.
My Facebook friends probably find it annoying how frequently I talk about my love for this state. I post pictures of the sunset more than could be considered normal.
Florida is my home, my family, my childhood, my stability and my solace.
While I can’t be sure that I will be able to provide my children with their “childhood home” to return to some day, I am going to dry my darndest. But, they will always be coming home to my home.
My roots here run deep and my loyalty is fierce.
I think my daughter might be the “mean girl.”
Her “report card” last week included a note that suggested we speak to her about sharing and “being nice” to her friends.
She recently told me at dinner that she tries to tell her friends to chew with their mouths closed.
“Nobody listens to me. I tell them over and over and over!!”
This weekend I got to witness some of the judgmental nastiness first-hand.
We went to a birthday party for her classmate at a Jump Zone.
Alma says all the time, “I’m not afraid of anything!” She’s a liar.
She’s terrified of the car wash, haircuts and bouncy houses.
She refused to go anywhere near any of the bouncy houses, instead lurking nearby and occasionally talking smack about her classmates.
I suggested she say hello to Kendall. I figured they were besties considering Alma recently told she wished her name was “Kendall.”
Alma: “Kendall always talks like a baby.”
Kendall’s mom was standing… right… there.
Me: “Oh, well…er… remember… you’re the oldest girl in your class.” (Why did I have to give birth to her after September 1st, dangit!)
Later, she spots the birthday girl in a purple crown and says, “I want one of those purple crowns.”
Me: “Well, she is the birthday girl. The crown is just for her.”
Alma: “No, I can just get it from her.”
Me: “You can’t just take her crown, Alma.”
Alma: “No, I am going to ask her for it. She will give it to me.”
I have to grab her by the arm and stop her from racing over to a bounce house she won’t go inside where she plans to strong-arm the poor chick with the Elsa wig out of her birthday crown.
What a jerk.
Her brother is in heaven, climbing the steps like a little diaper-clad monkey, out-bouncing middle schoolers.
Alma grabs him and asks enthusiastically, “Want to play hide and seek?”
Before even seeing if he’s game, she’s squatting near a bounce house counting. She shouts, “Here I come!” She never even considered the possibility that Huck didn’t want to play.
She ran to find him, threw angry hands on her hips and said with massive attitude, “Where did he go?”
I told her he went back to play inside a bouncy house and she yelled, “I told him to play hide and seek!”
My daughter is a bully.
How did this happen?
Sharing is like the introductory course to being a Corsa.
In our family, skipping the word “please” means you will go without.
Forgetting “thank you” means there’s a chance we will snatch back whatever they just got.
“Can I have a turn, please?” is our mantra.
I don’t even know how to begin a conversation with her about this.
“Alma, you can’t be such a bitch or everyone will hate you.”
“You’re kind of a bossy dick.”
“You’re a few mutilated animals away from becoming a serial killer.”
I don’t want to believe that she is a mean girl and I certainly don’t want to think that I’m somehow the cause of her behavior.
I would like to be the one to put a stop to it, but how do you delicately tell a toddler that she’s basically a 35-pound version of the wicked witch terrorizing the munchkins of daycare Oz?
When she’s being mean to her brother, I occasionally say, “Alma, you’re mean.” Huck always comes to her defense, “Alma’s not mean. She’s nice!”
Is he right? Am I overreacting?
It’s totally my job to keep her in line, but how do I do that when her social interaction is limited to the several hours a day I am NOT around because I’m working?
This same little girl spontaneously hugs me, kisses me, tells me she loves me and even compliments my sandals, clothes and hair… and apparently rules her school with an iron fist.
I usually try to tie these posts in a pretty bow, but there ain’t no flowery way to wrap up a post about my daughter, the Castro of the Corsa clan.
My kid has a stalker.
She just turned 4 and she already has an obsessive little boy following her everywhere at daycare.
She told me his name is Andrew and that even if she is talking to someone else or playing with someone else, he is right there next to her.
She said it like it was the most annoying thing EVER.
She also told me he was the only friend from school she wanted to invite to her birthday party. (Which is just around the corner at… 10 months away.)
I told her that the next time I drop her off at school or pick her up, she should introduce me to Andrew so I can firmly explain to him that little girls don’t prefer a male shadow. A crappy drawing of a unicorn will do.
I consider this to be a more appropriate response than the ones my husband typically has.
Recently, I dropped Alma off at school at the butt-crack of dawn. The only kids there were the children of the cranky, neanderthal daycare worker, the one with the bad weave who clearly despises my children and therefore me.
Her biggest kid was sitting right by the front door and the second I opened it, he looked up at Alma and said with a sneer, “Oh, it’s her.”
He then proceeded to inform me that Alma spit on him at the playground the previous day.
I asked her if it was true and she ignored me, her facial expression instantly placid and pleased.
I shrugged at the kid and moved on.
I didn’t feel so bad considering a few moments later this Lionel Tate-sized boy knocked over a tall cubby that could’ve easily crushed a child.
When I told my husband about the “spitting accusation” he said what I was already thinking.
The kid was asking for it. The kid spit on her first or pushed her. Or she was just giving him a good-natured raspberry.
Not my kid.
Alma is batshit crazy, but only brings the vile, unacceptable assaults when provoked.
So, my husband tells Alma that if that boy ever does anything mean to her that he will go to the school, pick him up off the ground, twist his body into a pretzel and drop him on his head.
A shit-eating grin spreads across Alma’s face and she says, “Okay.”
My husband has always had a tendency to be overprotective. It’s equal parts flattering and awkward.
My old college buddy wanted me to take him to his law school dance, an entirely platonic arrangement and my husband’s response to the Facebook post was, “The only way she’s going is if my swinging cock is going along for the ride.”
I burst out laughing and then considered how to best craft an apology on his behalf to my longtime pal.
It does the beg question, when can you intervene in your child’s personal life?
At her previous daycare, when she was just a wee little thing, Alma was a biter.
She never bit us, was never aggressive toward the dogs, but every couple of days we were “called into the office” because she took a chunk out of some kid’s arm.
It didn’t take long to figure out that she was only ever biting one girl and that one girl was a bit of a klepto, sometimes trying to literally steal the shoes off Alma’s feet.
The daycare kept pressuring me to teach Alma sign language, like somehow being able to sign the word “more” or “milk” would prevent her from gnashing her teeth at crawling thieves.
They even sent me home with a sign language book.
I had a sign for them too. It only required one finger.
Fast forward a year and Alma was no longer cannibalizing kids and her favorite victim was her new bestie.
The lesson I took away from that: You don’t always need to get involved.
Kids just work shit out themselves.
Now, there’s a chronic biter in Alma’s class now and that’s just unacceptable.
He’s a walking, talking sneak attacker.
He’s probably “challenged.”
So, how do you explain that to your kid?
This was me FAILING:
“Uhhhh, I know you said he bites you all of the time, but he probably takes longer to learn than other kids about what is appropriate and what is not. He’s not as smart. He’s… uhhh… maybe not going to be in your class next year?”
Alma used to stand up at the kitchen table during dinner, bend over and drop it was like it’s hot, saying she was shaking her, “booty butt.”
It was a skill she learned from a chick at school.
Can’t call the poor kid “ghetto”, but I had to explain to my toddler that some kind of dancing is “nasty.”
I taught her “the twist” instead.
I want to like my kid’s friends.
I want them to be on their level intellectually and emotionally.
I don’t want to have to resist the urge to back-hand the little shitheels that hurt them.
I definitely don’t want my husband to go “dropping kids on their heads” as he is wont to do.
I guess all I can do is raise my own kids and hope for the best.
But, if I meet the stalker guy I might consider the pretzel move.