Here’s my riddle. I am in desperate need of something that flies without wings.
There’s a fine line between having a life that’s moderately difficult and a life that’s nearly unbearable.
The former can be greeted with an acerbic sense of humor. The latter cannot be greeted with anything other than a veritable sledgehammer of curse words, an inordinate amount of alcohol and a river of tears.
Lately, I have found it increasingly challenging to manage my life with shrugs, snickers and snarky comments.
I’ve read articles recently about the curse of having a “Threenager.”
I have a Fournager. See? It’s not even funny because there is no word for a child who has gone from being willful to unmanageable and is also four.
I am bombarded with comments about how her stubbornness and crappy attitude will someday allow her to become a powerful, confident woman. It is of little comfort when I am currently tossing her “powerful” butt in time-outs all day long, every bedtime is a battle of wills and we’ve been forced to swear off all public outings.
Don’t get me wrong, she still melts my heart by telling me I’m her best friend and randomly cuddling up to say, “I like you, mommy.”
But, lately, she’s destroying my life.
I can’t take a bath without the sound of her shrieking upon getting another time-out.
I can’t make it through dinner without her playing with her spoon, flicking her food to the dogs and shouting “Huck touched me!”
I can’t take the kids somewhere fun without her demanding a toy. Since when did it become a requirement to have a commemorative purchase when you go to a Jump Zone?
Huck is not absolved of all guilt.
The other day I heard them arguing about “who won” in the race to get upstairs. (They both say they won no matter who gets to the top first and then fight about it.) Moments later, I heard the loud smack of Huck’s hand across Alma’s face.
Even when he’s not pummeling her, she’s fake crying over something he did.
When he finds out I’m not the one putting him to bed at night, he slaps the air and grunts. If I am in close enough proximity, he slaps me too. Another time-out! Yay!
I am sure every parent has been there at some point, but it feels like the kids are conspiring against us right now.
They’re determined to suck the joy out of every single moment of the day and let me tell you, my days suck pretty hard long before I get home in the evening.
Not to mention all the fun times involved with cool stuff like earaches.
I have tried so many different methods of discipline and parenting (Without spanking, can’t bring myself to get there yet.) to no avail.
The only explanation I can come up with is that they have so little respect for us because we’re… just… not… there.
We’re paying a hodgepodge of day care workers to raise our kids for pretty much the entire day, five days a week.
I can only wonder if I would find better ways to get them to behave if I was actually able to monitor their behavior, their food and their naps every day.
Maybe they’re tired.
Maybe they’re eating too much sugary crap at school.
Maybe they’re harassed all day by whiny brats and no one is there to intervene, so they become whiny little brats when they get home.
Maybe they just don’t respect us because we’re just not there.
It’s a long shot, but Lord knows, I don’t blame the kids. If children behave badly, it’s invariably the parent’s fault, right?
So, now on top of the misery of long commutes and long days at work and long and repeated time-outs, I am wracked with the guilt of feeling like a failure as a parent.
So, if anybody wonders why lately I’m not a font of hysterical anecdotes and amusing quips about my adorable family, that’s why.
I need… more… time.
I am a horrible cook.
It has only taken me 34 years to figure that out. Over three decades and the straw that broke the camel’s back was dished up by my ungrateful children.
Last night, I made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn. The meatloaf is my mama’s recipe which I tweaked with a little Paula Deen diced tomato action.
As always, I serve the family first, then dish myself up a colder, congealing version for myself.
As I am making my plate, I hear my daughter say (before taking a bite) “I don’t like this!”
My husband says, “Me neither.”
I walk over and give Huck a bite and ask if he likes it. He shakes his head no.
Meatloaf is easy, but it takes a long time to cook so it’s already after 7pm and my family is boycotting my food.
I speed down Hillsborough Avenue, tears streaming down my cheeks to buy a Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza.
I return to cheers of, “Mommy’s back with pizza!!”
I guzzle red wine, hold back tears and choke down my food with resentment.
It was not bad meatloaf.
It had peppers and onions.
That was my great failure, the unholy insult to their digestive tracts.
I have made spaghetti with real homemade meat sauce, chicken quesadillas, pineapple teriyaki chicken, sweet and sour meatballs, fried rice with honey teriyaki chicken, pesto pasta and just about anything else I can think of that children and a carnivore husband will consume and they think it’s ALL CRAP.
The real burn?
I actually think the shit tastes good. Maybe my tastebuds are busted.
It’s not just that the kids are picky or my husband has a profound aversion to vegetables.
They adore HIS cooking. Ropa Vieja, black beans and rice, Picadillo, Bistec Empanizado, beef stew… I could keep going. It’s all Cuban and it’s all amazing to the kids.
I happen to have already OD’d on Cuban food and prefer the more bland white folk meals, preferably meatless.
I think casseroles are cool.
I think I’m DONE cooking.
Boston Market, baby! Fish sticks and Mac n’ cheese. Hot ‘N Ready and breakfast for dinner. (cereal, because it doesn’t require a frying pan)
So, you’re probably wondering why this is a topic that would make me cry like a little bitch and shrink down into invisibility, diving into a pit of black, sticky despair.
I have come to the realization that I am old.
I am not a skinny, hot young thang anymore. I am all grays, crows feet and stretched out waist bands.
I am Renee Zellweger’s after picture without the plastic surgery.
I am not a driven, dedicated Journalist.
I am the guy wearing jeans and plaid, guzzling caffeine and just trying to get there on time.
I am not a quirky, acerbic, offbeat, indie chick with great hair.
I am a MOM.
That is my great accomplishment.
Just cause you squeeze them out like a champ (I really was quite fantastic at pregnancy and childbirth) doesn’t mean that you are an ace at being a parent. That’s now apparent.
I can control my temper, I kick ass at storytime, I am the ultimate caregiver when it comes to boo boos, vomit and general malaise.
But, I grew up thinking that if you can’t cook, you don’t belong in the kitchen and if you don’t belong in the kitchen, you might want to consider choosing a career-driven life over procreation.
So, here I am. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. I am 34 and suck at everything.
Well, at least everything anyone would ever notice.
I’m a voracious reader, a real bibliophile. So, there’s that.
Good to know I truly excel at something that won’t ever put a dime in the bank or benefit anyone other than myself.
I’m starting a support group: Mom’s Who Can’t Cook, or Do Just About Anything Else Well.
(p.s. I threw away all of the leftover meatloaf, tupperware and all. It was all I could do to keep from burning it in the backyard.)
I attended a rave for kids over the weekend!
But, first let’s recount another epic restaurant failure.
We took the kids to Lee Roy Selmon’s for lunch.
Huck was asleep when we arrived. I wish he had stayed that way.
As soon as the food arrives, he wakes up pissed off and starts crying. My husband tells him to stop crying or he will get time out. So, he starts WAILING.
Then, my daughter starts crying because I told her she can’t have any birthday cake at my niece’s birthday party because she’s refusing to eat anything but Mac ‘N Cheese.
Can 3 year olds get scurvy? I bet mine can.
I have literally eaten a few bites of food before my husband is trying to hail down the waitress to get the check and I’m shuttling two screaming kids out of the restaurant.
Outside, in the blistering heat, I use distraction techniques to shut them up.
“Do you hear a plane?”
“Look, a lizard!”
It works until we get to the car, when my daughter starts being a giant Jackass. Every 2 seconds, she’s saying “mommy.”
“Mommy, get my Cinderella dress off the floor.”
“Mommy, I want juice.”
“Mommy, I’m being good now so I can have birthday cake.” (Oh, hell no you can’t.)
“Mommy, I want a snack.” (Go, F-yourself you little meatless, veggieless, fruitless monster.)
We took my food to go so I could eat it in the car, but my blood pressure is soaring and I know if I eat I am going to be trapped in a bathroom, destroying the toilet at the bowling alley for my niece’s party.
Which brings me to the rave.
We arrive earlier than anticipated since lunch was cut so short. We take them to the arcade area and try to show how them how to play Skee Ball.
We take a shot at air hockey.
Alma refuses to play.
Huck sits on the table and my husband accuses me of trying to injure our son because I hit the puck too hard.
We walk over to the party once it’s started. Seconds after the obligatory round of cheek-kissing, they shut off the lights.
I am blinded by neon and can no longer see my children.
The theme is candy.
Tweens are running around sucking on ring candy and I’m having a flashback to the time I ended up at a rave, sitting miserably against the wall with some douche bag spinning glow sticks in front of my face saying, “Are you rolling? You’re so rolling. Are you rolling?” (For the record, I was NOT.) (That same night I ended up in the women’s bathroom with some chick who asked if I was having fun. I told her, “Not at all.” She offered me cocaine.)
So, now I am desperately trying to herd my children around the table where I’m sitting on one of the most uncomfortable, perpetually swiveling chairs.
I am envisioning their melon heads being shattered by some pre-adolescent boy wildly swinging a bowling ball.
My daughter is repeatedly refusing to drink fruit punch because she wants juice. Abuela offers her the same drink and calls it juice. Alma drinks it and loves it. (Then snidely says, “Mommy, it’s not fruit punch. It’s juice, see?”)
I’m digging apart pieces of crappy, overpriced pizza for my son, the tomato sauce burning through my hangnail. (Pizza that I cannot eat because I am lactose intolerant.)
There’s some pizza-faced, “slow” girl who works for the bowling alley lurking around to make sure the correct number of adults are bowling at each lane. I resist the urge to trip her. I mean, it’s dark. No one will see, right?
I love bowling and I’m pretty darn good at it. Doing it basically blindfolded while trying to keep my toddlers from being abducted by potential pervs?
I buy a pitcher of shitty beer. It does not make me feel better.
My son has been given a little birthday balloon on a plastic stick. He proceeds to hit himself in the eyeball with the stick. (2 days later and it’s still red)
Awesome, now I’ve blinded my son for the sake of a little kid rave.
My daughter is hopped up on candy (Candy is not birthday cake, she has informed me.) and I am still STARVING.
In the car, my spoiled leftovers smell like cheesy, unclean, fat person butt. (Which surprisingly does not keep me from being HUNGRY.)
We have no food at home. I get groceries. I cook. I hate everything.
The next day, my husband needs to get some work done so I end up taking the kids to see the new Planes movie.
I’m down with talking dogs. I can even chill out with phallic-looking Muno and his genital warts.
They lose me at communicating planes, helicopter and tractors.
My son is demanding to “walk around” during the movie.
My daughter drops her smuggled banana bread onto the floor.
At one point, she’s sitting on the floor, sticky with God knows what and I DON’T CARE.
I come home to find my husband still working and I die a little inside.
We manage to wrest him away from the computer long enough to hit up the mall park.
It smells rancid, like hot, unwashed hair.
Big kids are trying to jump from a giant fake hotdog to a giant fake Coke cup, threatening to squash my tiny tots running in between. My husband yells at them to stop and other parents are looking at his NRA hat suspiciously.
My son poops and I take him to the family restroom and discover we don’t have any wipes in the diaper bag. I am wiping him with Starbucks napkins, hoping other parents don’t notice. Within minutes of being back inside the park, he poops again.
We have to leave because there are no more Starbucks napkins.
Now, Alma starts screaming because we didn’t take them on the cars outside the park. (The little motorized cars that we refuse to pay for so they can jiggle from side to side. I always tell them to just get inside and enjoy their Goddamned imaginations.)
At home, Alma wants to blow bubbles outside even though it’s blazing hot.
I suffer for ten minutes, drenched in sweat. Then, I take her to look at animals at the pet store and buy a coloring book at the craft store. We emerge into a torrential downpour.
My husband works through the entire night.
He’s going out of town this week.
I watch Ray Donovan alone after the kids are asleep and cry into a glass of wine.
Looking on the bright side, there’s half a bottle left.
There are skills that make any good mother something akin to a superhero. In my estimation, stay at home moms have the hardest gig. But, working moms have it rough too. They also develop superhuman powers, often not found in everyday women.
1. The ability to apply all makeup while at stop lights on the way to work. No smudges, no crazy lady eye shadow. To the women who even tackle plucking their eyebrows behind the wheel, kudos… and I’ve been there.
2. They have learned the fastest way to get to and from work. Yeah, they’ve been late fifteen times trying different routes, but now they have it MASTERED .
3. The ability to do laundry incrementally over several days.
4. They are phenomenally low maintenance. Only 10 minutes to shower, dress and get out the door? No problem.
5. They have dismissed the iron as an extraneous appliance. Clothes that wrinkle are dedicated with love to Goodwill.
6. The secret ankle shave allows them to wear capris or long skirts unabashedly.
7. They have found a way to effectively eliminate ALL down time. Down time? What is that? Walk through the front door after a long commute home from a crappy day at work and immediately start COOKING.
8. They have bid a fond farewell to food snobbery. You simply can’t waste precious time coming up with organic, healthy, creative meals and snacks. Sometimes it’s just a banana and a smile for breakfast.
9. The ability to give off the appearance of extreme concentration during a meeting when you are actually falling asleep.
10. They can change a diaper in a single bound, at the speed of light. Casual diaper change when you’ve got somewhere you have to be in order to pay the bills? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I am 98% sure I am having a full-blown identity crisis.
I am confident in my gender preference, sexual preference and my current status as being married and a mother.
Everything else is up for grabs.
When you become a parent your priorities don’t just shift. You don’t just put your needs on the back burner. You set them on fire and watch them turn to ash and waft away in the wind.
When it comes to my self-worth, I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket. There was a basket for being a successful News Producer, a basket for looking good, a basket for being loyal and loving and a basket for maintaining my sense of humor.
I didn’t drop the basket, but I may have crashed the delivery truck.
I have always wrapped up my self-confidence in a blanket of compliments. I was a great writer. I was skinny and attractive. I was smart and witty. Quirky and fun. Deep and loyal. Cynical and acerbic.
Now, I just feel old and tired. I have been told I am a bad writer and a bad Producer.
I drag my baby weight around like a yoke around my… well, let’s be frank here… belly.
My sense of humor is more bitter than acerbic.
Fun… what is that?
I have forgotten what it feels like to feel awesome.
I know it’s hidden in there somewhere, but you can only be told you’re not good enough for so long before you start to really believe it.
You know how it would feel if someone told you that you have an ugly baby? That’s how it feels when you love something tremendously and are told you suck at it.
I never proclaimed to be a stellar writer, but it’s something I’ve done like it’s a compulsion for my entire life.
To be told that I blow at it is a REAL BLOW.
It has made me question whether I ever had any talent to begin with. Is the full extent of my skill blogging, like this is some extension of a Dear Diary? Is my writing this right now proof of that?
I would be content if I was just focusing on raising two wonderful children, being Suzy homemaker but, instead I am stretched thin like a rubber band across the gap between work and home.
I haven’t changed how much effort I put into my job, but suddenly have hit a ceiling. While I continue to pour effort into a job where I am underappreciated, my home is collecting dog fur and grime and a stranger is cleaning it up. My kids have started to know when “Linda cleaned” the house.
I am opting for canned veggies, fish sticks and mac and cheese for the kids when I want to master a real meal.
I want to have someone take a picture of me that isn’t just from the shoulders up that I don’t immediately have the urge to delete.
There is the person I was, the person I am and the person I want to be.
They are all entirely different. I would love to say I’m ready to dig deep and reach that goal, but I’ve got to get out of the hole I’m already in first.
I need to be able to pour my heart and soul into something and have someone say just one time, “job well done.”
Let’s make it one word. Kudos. It’s cheap, cliche and a candy bar. I’ll take it.
We sat outside in the blistering heat so the kids could water paint.
We tormented a poor skink that was hanging out on the patio by chasing it back and forth to try and get a good look at it.
My children transformed into sloths during dinnertime.
They waded their way through the food on their plates like it was tar or quicksand.
Before bedtime, my son started to whip my arm with a pink rubber lizard and when I snatched it from him, the arm ripped off. The arm is now stuck on his wall.
At bedtime the kids took turns shouting “mommy” for no apparent reason for about an hour.
I took a day off from work the next day, so Huck decided it would be AWESOME to still wake up at 6 a.m.
He also burst into real tears when I left him at day care.
It didn’t take long to get over the guilt and have the MOST AMAZING DAY EVER.
I planted flowers, hit my favorite used book store, went to the beach, got a Coke Slurpee, got food from my favorite Mexican restaurant and watched Scandal.
I can safely say that if I hadn’t taken that day in-between I would’ve suffered a nervous breakdown by now.
The kids were total champs about dinner. They ate all of their ravioli and in a timely fashion. They even drank… drum roll… WATER!
I figured it was going to be an amazing night, but then bath time rolled around.
Alma is sitting on her brother in the tub, ridiculing his private parts, splashing me and then crying because she wants me to wrap her like a baby in her towel.
Then she actually starts whipping me with the towel. Not full-on locker room whipping, but she did nail me good one time in the eye. She responded with a sarcastic “SOOOORRRY.”
God bless my little hero, Huxley. He shouted, “No, Alma! Don’t be mean to mommy!!”
No such luck kiddo.
She was a nightmare to put to sleep. She wanted to color with markers and when she discovered the paper wrapper had fallen off of one of them she accused me (with attitude) of doing it on purpose.
She said condescendingly, “When the paper falls off, then you don’t give me THAT marker.”
I said, “I’m not doing anything for anyone who talks to me that way. Get this straight little girl, I’m your mom and you can’t talk to me like that.”
Lotta good that did. Little snot stayed up until 9:20 p.m. no matter what I did.
She’d rather color in the dark like some kind of f*&king vampire than go to sleep.
I still need to take a little time to unwind after the screaming and crying dies down, so I end up staying up way too late.
Then Huck wakes up at 5 a.m.
ALMA picked out her outfit the night before, but suddenly in the morning acts astonished that I would choose such hideous attire and forces me to dress her in the EXACT same outfit she wore two days before, including the sweater she demands to wear “because she’s cold” when it’s 90 degrees outside. I washed it, but still… nobody else knows that.
Huck is crying “No way mommy!” over and over because I won’t take him downstairs while I get Alma ready. (Which is because the day before, I took him downstairs and he cried because he was alone down there while I got Alma ready)
He cried, “I want daddy.”
Guess what? I want daddy too.
And when daddy comes home I am going to put a shock collar on him and if he ever tries to go out of town I’m gonna zap his ass.
SPECIAL NOTE: I want to give a special shout out to Olaf, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven (or “Spen” as my daughter pronounces it) and even Prince Hans. Without them this week would not be possible. For all of you Frozen haters, this movie is the only way I have been able to do laundry, tidy the house or even bathe. I love you, Frozen.