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.
There was a girl who had grown increasingly disenchanted with love.
She was worn thin by the lies, the secret Facebook pages and popped collars.
She was exhausted by the perpetual showering of cheap ‘I love you’s’, the mind-boggling pro’s and cons lists and the overlooking of flaws.
In her sad state, she fled hedonistic, superficial Miami to Tampa with high hopes of finding new meaning in life.
There was a man in the new city, lured by her song, A Sunday Kind of Love.
Their eyes met, or his met her profile picture, her tush squeezed into tight capris.
He made the not-so-bold move and wrote the girl a message. It was no love letter, but it was articulate, humorous and a breath of fresh air.
She was already dating someone else, a “Go Gators” kind of guy, but the “conversations” with this mysterious man were too compelling to ignore.
When they finally met, she saw him across the patio of a crowded restaurant. The jazz music played as she spotted him, looking cool and serious. A Cuban James Dean with nothing to lose.
There was some awkward conversation, mostly carried by her as he stared disinterested at the bar behind her.
She thought the date was over when he turned to her and said, “I thought you said you were going to drag me to some dirty blues bar?”
She grabbed his arm and smiled and they rushed to the bar where the thrill grew and the fun began.
He tried to give her a fist bump and she had flash backs to jocks past. She said she’d rather be spanked as a salutation, so he did.
As they closed down the bar, they ended up having a chat with the dirty blues band singer, his Captain Ahab beard catching the ash from his cigarette.
The Captain said unsolicited, “You guys are gonna make cute babies.”
The mysterious man performed an impromptu Judo throw on the girl as she walked to her car and they kissed.
It was brief, but the spark was there.
As he drove off in the opposite direction, the girl felt the rush of excitement, the feeling of knowing, the visions of a future all laid out like a dream come true.
She saw herself living in his loft in Ybor, nights spent cooking together, drowsy mornings cuddling in the dappled sunlight.
Once that became a reality, it wasn’t long before she saw the wedding, their 1920’s bungalow and a baby.
Before she could hardly realize what had happened, she was married to the man who spanked her on a first date and they were raising two very cute babies together in yet another home in the suburbs.
It hasn’t always been easy. Those cute babies can be demons. Work paired with infants can be a major impediment to romance.
But, she still sometimes has to pinch herself when she realizes she has married that mysterious man, who can still surprise her with his wit.
Now, there are day care date nights, sneaking “quality time” in before commandeering the jukebox at the bar and catching up over dinner and sometimes… sometimes, they still laugh so hard in bed at night their cheeks hurt and fall asleep soundly with the heat of their bodies to keep each other warm.
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.