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.
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.
Lately, I can be seen shuffling around like a homeless schizophrenic, mumbling to myself over and over, “It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase.”
For the past few weeks, my daughter has transformed into the kind of girl nobody wants to hang out with.
She has pretty much ruined every holiday event or special occasion.
There was Christmas where I watched in horror as she shredded open gift after gift barely pausing between to assess the present. When she finished she whined, “I want more presents to unwrap.”
I tried to convince myself it was just some kind of OCD obsession with the thrill of unwrapping.
She practically cried when I offered her Cinnamon Buns for breakfast, then downed two of them within minutes, sending her off on a sugary high, shrieking and bouncing around the house like a crackhead kangaroo.
She spent hours in separate “time outs.”
I asked her what her favorite gift from Santa was. (Santa, you know, the “guy” who bought all the presents, wrapped all the presents, decorated the tree and stealthily stuffed stockings when “he’d” rather have been sleeping.) Her response: “The kitty, I guess, but it was the wrong color and I didn’t get the doll carriage I wanted.”
This sent me off on a tear-filled, mimosa-fueled afternoon followed by a splitting headache and sweaty nap.
On New Year’s Eve, we used the Netflix fakeout countdown for the kids during which my daughter whined that she wanted to watch Batman instead.
Afterward, we partook in the Cuban traditions.
We were each eating our 12 grapes when Alma proceeded to drop 2 of them, 1 of which was never located. A slimy grape is currently curled up in our carpet maliciously awaiting a middle of the night barefoot run for a glass of water.
She refused to put pants and shoes on with her pajamas, despite the fact that it was super cold outside, because she wanted to “be Tinkerbell.”
We walked around the house with our suitcases in order to ensure a 2015 filled with travel. Of course, our neighbor walks out in a vest and tie on his way to celebrate New Year’s the way normal adults do. I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked traipsing through wet grass and dog shit with our luggage, wearing pajamas.
We get back to the front door and Alma starts fake-crying because she was under the false impression we would be walking around the whole neighborhood.
We go to dump our bucket of water out the front door to wash away all the crap that’s happened in 2014. Alma is throwing a fit because she wants to do it herself even though the Popcorn bowl is so heavy, she would end up on the sidewalk in the puddle.
Last night, I managed to sneak out of work early because we had short newscasts on New Year’s Day. On the drive home, I am cheerful despite writing about sons decapitating their mothers and boyfriends nearly strangling their girlfriends to death. There is no traffic, it’s not too hot and I am arriving home before the sun sets.
So, we decide to take the kids out for pizza. After the 30 minute drive, we discover the restaurant is closed. Alma commences whining about how all she will eat is pizza, so we end up at chain Italian restaurant that shall remain unnamed.
I always planned to be the kind of parent that would NEVER let their children play on computers at the dinner table… until I ended up the kind of parent with kids that jostle me perpetually, ask “why” repeatedly and don’t allow me to eat a single bite of food without arguing with me about something.
So, I let Alma play with her Leapad. Instead of enjoying herself quietly, she’s demanding that I watch what she’s doing, take part in what she’s doing and talking over the Comicon, Dungeons and Dragons playing waitress who is trying to take our order.
Halfway through our overpriced, undercooked pasta, the little boy in the booth behind me stands up and projectile vomits spaghetti all over the floor.
The C-team staff starts to mop it up and then leaves little wet spaghetti pieces on the floor right next to me and the stinking mop and bucket right behind my husband.
My main resolution this year was just to detox, not for the entire year, but long enough to avoid feeling pickled post holidays.
January 1st and I’m making a Moscow Mule so I can suffer through putting my daughter to bed.
We’re coloring together and she’s wide-eyed and crazed, intentionally coloring hard and outside the lines.
She stays up too late on her computer. I take it away and tell her to sleep.
When it’s finally time for me and the husband to go to bed, he turns off the hallway light and I heard Alma yell, “MOM! MOM! Turn on the light! I can’t see!!!”
She says it like we’ve offended her sensibilities by turning out HER light when SHE is trying to stay up until midnight the day AFTER New Year’s Eve.
I cry myself to sleep while browsing Facebook, looking at people wearing their fun New Year’s Eve hats, drinking champagne, their children grinning and still joyously and gratefully playing with their Christmas loot.
It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase. Until… it’s not.
We jump through hoops to ensure our children believe a chubby dude in a red suit squeezes his fat-ass down the chimneys of homes worldwide giving out presents, but only to “good” kids.
We convince them Fairies with a dentin fetish will steal their teeth in exchange for cash WHILE THEY SLEEP.
There’s also the giant rabbit who brings eggs, candy and dollar store tchotchkes to celebrate Spring. Nobody ever explains how the hell he gets inside and why he doesn’t also leave monster droppings behind.
Some of us also want to make sure our children have a handle on the whole “higher power” thing. God, meting out punishments on sinful kids and watching their every move like an invisible stalker.
Angels watch over them too, ghosts of dead people who provide nebulous support in times of need.
It’s a lot to ask.
Then, Halloween arrives and we have to tell them that all things scary are totally fake. Ghosts, witches, trolls, ghouls and goblins.
You have to explain that they will encounter copious amounts of blood, but it’s not real.
Our neighborhood will appear to be bat-infested, populated by hoarders who have allowed spiderwebs to overwhelm their porches.
Children will be required to solicit candy by threatening to assault or insult the strangers who answer the door. Yay!
It’s a fine balance, getting your children to believe in intangible phenomenon and then turn around and be able to recognize other horrors as imaginary.
Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with my daughter.
Alma believes in angels and Santa, but understands that monsters don’t exist. She adores The Nightmare Before Christmas and has started telling us that there are ghosts everywhere.
She’ll tap her foot on the car door and proclaim, “It’s a ghost! There’s a ghost in the car!”
Unfortunately, my son has not mastered the delicate balance between enjoyable fear and downright terror. He starts shouting, “Ghost in the car?” “No like ghost in the car!”
Alma enjoys walking into a dark room, grinning and sneaking saying, “spooky!”
Huxley notices the lights are out, says “scary!” and scrambles onto my lap looking over his shoulder.
I am notorious for accidentally terrifying my children.
I get amped up during severe storms and yell “thunder!” I made the mistake of explaining to the kids the real potential danger of being hit by a bolt of lightning.
I stressed the important of buckling up by warning them that they could be seriously injured if we get into a car accident.
(Hey, I work in news. Car crashes and lightning are a very real danger in Tampa!)
I went to play “dollhouse” with Alma recently and had to think fast for a motivation for my squirrel family arriving at her mouse family’s house.
Without considering the repercussions, my squirrel mom was pounding urgently on the door because the house had burned down.
Yeah, that was the storyline I chose for my daughter whose one fear is the smoke detector.
Thankfully, she was cool with it, explaining that “If your house is on fire, you wait until it stops and the steam stops and the water dries up and then you can live there… or just build a new house.”
For my daughter’s sake, I want to go as a creepy vintage doll for Halloween.
For my son’s sake, I won’t.
For my daughter’s sake, we started to watch Triplets of Belleville.
For my son’s sake, we turned it off before getting to the part where some raggedy-ass old bitches subsist on frogs.
I guess it’s enough that they hear the hushed sounds of blood-curdling screams from the movies I watch after I put them to bed.
It’s only a matter of time before they stumble bleary-eyed into the living room and encounter a serial killer clown and are scarred for life.
So, this guy walks into a bar…
Can you picture it? Me neither.
My husband and I were discussing adult actors on kid shows. How can they live with themselves as grownups when shooting wraps for the day?
I don’t see Mister Douche from Imagination Movers proudly donning that early 90’s Shaggy haircut and chunky soul patch while ordering any beer with an alcohol content over 5%.
He looks like more of an O’Doul’s type. Maybe throw in a teeny umbrella.
I’m guessing they have morality clauses in their contracts, but what would that entail for a 30-something on a kid show?
I mean, do you think Twist from Fresh Beat Band hits up the strip club on occasion?
He has crow’s feet for Christ’s sake!
I have a huge girl crush on Carly Ciarrocchi from the Sunny Side Up Show.
Her cutesy color blocking and funky sneakers don’t fool me. I bet she’s a blast to hang out with at house parties and can kill it at the club.
But…. can she? Does she?
Don’t get me started on The Wiggles.
“Sir, I didn’t recognize you without your rib-crushing, shiny spandex turtle neck.”
“You mean, you don’t actually prefer women’s underwear? I just… assumed… because… you know.”
There’s always this secret assumption that at least some of the older cast members on these shows could be undercover sex offenders.
Thanks Pee Wee. Mugshot complete with pervy Blue Blockers.
Even in death, the lovely Mister Rogers will never be able escape theories that he was actually some kind of evil-doer.
I still love you Mister Rogers. You, and Mr. Happy Trees.
Even when they find the bodies buried in Bob Ross’s backyard. I’ll still love him.
I struggle endlessly to discover new and awesome movies for my kids to watch.
Disney flicks are way too pricey to buy.
My daughter wants the Barbies and Ponies and my son likes the trains and cars, so they rarely agree.
The greatest challenge is finding something I will watch without constantly checking Facebook updates or playing solitaire on my phone.
Here are my top 5 current and contemporary kid flicks.
Say what you will about it, but there is something incredibly freeing about belting out ballads, especially with midget backup singers.
I love Anna’s quirkiness. She drools, looks like crap in the morning, has a severe chocolate addiction and falls for a stinky dork with a family of trolls.
2. Meet the Robinsons.
Plots centered on adoption tug at my heart strings. It gives us a glimpse of a super villain as an innocent child. The mom is a bad-ass who thwarts a brutal attack where meatballs are used as weapons.
It has a song by Rufus Wainwright that I ADORE.
This can’t be a kid flick. It just can’t. Chock full of grownup metaphors.
4. Hotel Transylvania.
I hate Adam Sandler, except for in this movie.
I dig monster humor.
And there’s this line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXveWvxYz3A
5. Free Birds.
Owen Wilson. Amy Poehler. Woody Harrelson. George Takei. (I had you at Takei, didn’t I?)
My husband would add Fantastic Mr. Fox to this list, but a friendly reminder to fellow parents: Your kids repeat what they hear, so only watch it if you’re a-o-k with the kidlets saying, “What the cuss?” or “This is a total clustercuss!”
Parents of little ones, please add your suggestions and justifications. I am always searching for better alternatives to playing with the dollhouse.