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.
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.
The real story behind the sweet pictures of our Sunday trip to the zoo.
(Worth noting: My son was sick the night before and we were up with him every hour until he woke up for good at 4 a.m.)
Things started off remarkably well.
The first animal we saw was some kind of warty hog that had buried himself under a pile of hay with only his rotund rump exposed. Despite this, my daughter shouted with glee, “This place is fun!”
We dodged dive bombing parrots inside the aviary.
We saw white rhinos, including the enormous lumbering bull that my daughter was determined to call the “mommy rhino” despite some obvious danglage of dude parts.
Both kids were amped inside the exhibit I call “Snakes and bugs and stuff.”
We made our way through the shrimpy funk at the stingray tank and got splashed by mungy water during a feeding.
Then, Alma made her first demand for a toy.
Here we go.
I tell her she has enough toys at home.
She says she wants a different toy.
I say she should start to learn to enjoy the experience of being somewhere fun without taking home a token toy.
Her attitude shifts and the next thing I know she takes a swat at my husband with her bunny.
I take her bunny away and tell her she has to apologize for hitting him with it and she bursts into tears.
She’s crying hysterically while we walk past the flamingos and coy pond.
People are staring, but I am not backing down.
Eventually, she apologizes and we recover on the carousel.
Afterward, Huck wants to go on the tiger train rollercoaster and we’re pumped when we see that he’s over the required height.
Alma and I stand by to take pictures while the boys wait in line and then I see them come back out of the line.
Huck is crying.
They’ve told him he has to be 3. My husband told them he turns 3 next month and they still turned him away.
We try to appease Huck with a watermelon icee and he’s NOT HAVING IT. He’s grunting like a gorilla and swatting the air.
“Do you want to go to the petting zoo?” “Do you want to see more animals?” “Are you hungry?” “Do you need medicine?”
With every question, he does an angry Michael Jackson moonwalk away from me.
I finally get him to calm down enough to take a spoonful of the melted icee and he promptly gets brain freeze and spews it across the ground outside the penguin exhibit and starts screaming.
Moments later, Alma starts choking on her icee. This is just SO MUCH FUN.
Later, we’re standing in line waiting for the “train” (hoping to make Huck feel better) that takes you around the zoo for a brief and underwhelming tour. The kids are eating Doritos, which means mostly just dumping them along the walkway and stomping them into tiny pieces.
Of course while we’re waiting in line, they notify us one of the trams is shut down so it’s a longer wait than usual. (Now, 20 minutes) Then, the speaker system breaks on the working tram while we’re in line and it’s another 20 minutes.
Alma yells, “Mommy, Huck pushed me!” Huck says, “I said I was sorry.” Then he hugs her.
I overhear people standing nearby saying, “Awww” and “There’s still good parents out there.”
There it is. The balance between cracking the whip and showing the kids a good time.
“Here’s a fantastic day where you don’t have to do anything but have a good time. We provide the snacks, juice, icees, rides and carry your crap around. We wipe your bums, bring changes of clothes and spend a gazillion dollars all so you can have a blast.”
They behave badly and we give time outs, take their stuff away and trouble shoot.
People see them throwing a massive temper tantrum and probably think, “crappy parents.”
People see them hugging and apologizing and think, “good parents.
The fact is, we’re good parents BECAUSE we don’t buy into their temper tantrums.
Alma never got a toy. She got to keep the zoo map.
We did not try to smuggle Huck onto the kiddie rollercoaster. (Although it was tempting) He got the tram ride where he kept saying, “There’s no animals. There’s trees.” (An astute observation)
We’re trying so hard, but it’s a battle and one that doesn’t usually end with pleasant memories and grateful children.
As we walk back to the car, Alma is pouting because she didn’t get a toy.
Huck whines, “Where’s MY map?”
Then he crashes, drooling on the car seat.
We were hoping to go out to lunch. Instead, it’s McD’s and buying groceries and consoling Huck when he wakes up and tossing out the kids uneaten peas and watching Batman and breaking up fights over legos and “Don’t hit your sister!” and “Stop crying over everything!” and yes, that’s moonshine in my Coke.
There were good moments at the zoo: Alma in heaven on her horse, Huck mesmerized by otters, the moment when Alma randomly started patting Huck sweetly on the head.
Was it worth it?
Ask me when the kids are in their 20’s and we find out if they even remember this stuff.
I’m about to tackle an incredibly touchy subject.
While passions run high in the wake of the Ferguson riots and now the Garner protests, it’s nearly impossible not to have some level of awareness of racial tension.
It’s clogging social media, sucking all the attention away from positive news stories and making everybody just feel frickin’ uncomfortable.
I don’t have some profound take on the issue. I am no expert. But, I have acquired a pretty comprehensive collection of personal experiences.
Let’s begin with my fundamental Christian beginnings.
At the first church I can ever remember attending.
My very first memories of a best friend.
Her family went to our church. Her mother was black and her father was white. I was friends with her because she was nice. (and very pretty)
My brother had a black friend from the neighborhood that came with us on a family camping trip.
I’m not trying to say, “We’re not racist! We had token black friends!”
What I’m saying is that the song we sang in our church preschool wasn’t just a catchy little diddy.
“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
It was a mantra. I pictured those kids. The red and yellow peeps I had never seen were always perplexing, but I grew up believing there was absolutely no difference between me and anyone of a different skin tone.
Accepting others, even when they are different from yourself is not something my parents just taught us. It’s something they put into practice.
My parents had black friends. We had black friends. It was NORMAL.
There were also ample opportunities for me to deny my upbringing and become racist.
One of my first elementary school crushes was on a black kid who teased me mercilessly. (Clearly, he was in love with me.) He got expelled for bringing a gun to school. (I still thought he was AWESOME and misunderstood.)
Another little black boy was obsessed with my long hair. He would sit behind me in 4th grade and pluck it out strand by strand.
It was annoying.
I was flattered! He liked my hair!!
In middle school, I had a crush on a black kid in gym class because he had a six-pack and could do several back handsprings in a row. He was a total badass. Isn’t that what all girls are looking for?
While my friends were writing their wedding vows to the boys from NKOTB, I was equally enamored of Christian Bale from Newsies and Michael Jordan.
My middle school was rife with racial tension. I was once walking down the hallway when a gaggle of loud black girls started hollering behind me. I glanced back to see what the deal was and one of them said, “What the f&^k you lookin’ at white bit&h?” They proceeded to (as a group) shove me onto the ground.
An overhead view of our school cafeteria would’ve revealed something resembling a black and white cookie. It was split down the middle, Black kids on one side, white kids (and others) on the other side.
Somehow, I always ended up on the border. The girls from the black side frequently threw school lunch food at my hair. I had to rush to the bathroom to drag tangled spaghetti noodles out of my hair, more than once.
That could’ve made me racist, but thankfully there were always OTHER black kids around. Perfectly decent, lovely human beings.
She would never know it, but one of those people was Fontaine. We weren’t close friends, but in retrospect her impact was pretty profound in my life.
At a time when I felt harassed and humiliated for being white, she was sweet, smart and treated me like anyone else. She would be my science class partner without batting an eyelash.
It was no big deal. Which made it a big deal.
I went to a high school in Southside St. Pete. If you know Tampa Bay, then you know exactly what that means.
I was 16 years old when the race riots broke out in the wake of a black teenager being shot and killed by a white officer. People set fire to businesses, looted stores and even beat a newspaper photographer, all within blocks of my school.
But, I was there the next morning ready for class.
Some black kids wore black power tee-shirts and the richest of my white pals were noticeably absent. That was it.
It further solidified my belief that even if I was white and they were black, it wasn’t a “me” versus “them” situation.
I knew plenty of ghetto people during high school and college, the vast majority of whom were white.
The guy who was hopped up on cocaine, rested an axe on my shoulder and whispered, “I could kill you right now.” He was white.
The guy using scales to measure drugs with the gun in his waistband. White.
The crackhead who called me a bi*&h for hanging out on a porch during some rave party at a house because he didn’t want the cops to show up. White.
I ended up staying in a house in the heart of Southside St. Pete for many weekends over the course of a couple of years.
Black girls would glare into my car as I drove down the street, some stopping in the middle of the road as if daring me to hit them. I had a car. They didn’t have bumpers. This never made sense to me.
In an area where gunshots and sirens were the nightly soundtrack, I was given shifty looks every time I walked the dogs.
I never chalked it up to “all these black people.” It was “all these ghetto people.”
I could hang out in Pinellas Park and feel equally uncomfortable about “all the ghetto people.”
While I was treated like some kind of outcast in St. Pete, my best friend in college was a guy I called “big black Steve.” He called me “Ofay.” Although we haven’t seen each other in years, he’s still my friend.
I have encountered plenty of racist white folks and they all seemed to have one common denominator. They were from wealthy, exclusively white suburbs. Their lack of exposure seems to be the biggest problem. They just don’t know any black people, so they make assumptions. Shitty ones.
I knew a (rich, white) guy in college who once said, “I think I want to date a black chick next.”
I asked, “Who is she?”
He said, “Oh, I don’t know any black chicks. I just know I want to date one.”
It told him this was reprehensible.
I knew a guy who used to say, “There are black people and then there are ni&&ers.”
I said, “There are good people and there are bad and they are all just people.”
In conclusion: I feel like there are many factors that contribute to someone’s likelihood or improbability of being racist.
It’s your upbringing, your parents putting their beliefs into practice, exposure to people of all races and the common sense understanding that a handful of people will never represent an entire group.
It’s why I love the daycare worker who braids Alma’s hair all the time, the little Asian kid named Andy that’s Huck’s best friend at school, the crapload of Indian kids that live on our street and Doc McStuffins… finally a character of color with her own entire goddamned Disney show.
The most important thing I will ever do in my life is raise a little girl and a little boy to grow up to be good people, ones who don’t even consider the color of someone’s skin as a factor.
I think it’s a safe bet.
I’ve been writing in a journal since I was able to write. I’ve been shoving stacks of my innermost, private thoughts inside cardboard boxes for decades.
They now accumulate dust, cowering in shame, paranoid about the possibility of being discovered.
My mind is always racing and when I don’t harness my thoughts, they turn black and ugly. Writing them down gives them wings, they fly off giving me peace.
I sleep better.
To write without sharing feels empty.
I am not an author. Probably never will be. So, for those who aren’t talented enough to publish their thoughts, sharing them online is the best alternative.
There’s no way I am the only woman who struggles with the daily travails of being a working mother.
I don’t belong to a support group.
My busy schedule and time trapped in traffic preclude me from spending quality time with other moms.
Not to mention that every spare second I have is spent with my husband and children.
I don’t have friends I chat with on the phone.
I don’t do “girls night out.”
My conversations with my mother are limited to several minutes a night while I’m stuck in traffic and she’s cramming to post news online at work.
It’s all too easy to feel painfully alone in my world.
When I share my struggles, I feel connected to people all over the world who are muddling through motherhood. Whether they comment or not, like a post or not, they’re out there and now they know I’m out there too.
Oh, how I wish I was not so alone.
Bam. Now, I’m not.
Despite having a public blog, I’m still a relatively private person.
My following is not huge.
I am no Baby Sideburns.
My children can’t read, so there’s no risk of doing damage to their psyches. Even if this blog were to remain “in the cloud” forever, I am guessing they won’t be enraged that I’ve outed them on struggling through potty training or temper tantrums. In fact, I wish my mother had captured those moments from my childhood so I would’ve had a better idea of what to expect as a new mom.
Honestly, I don’t plan on writing the blog forever. I certainly wouldn’t be doing it if my kids were at an age where they were perusing blogs online.
I’m trying to put a humorous spin on the frustrating, the annoying, the disgusting and unbearable aspects of parenting toddlers.
I hope I’ve been able to make it clear with my style of writing that I absolutely adore my children.
I don’t think they’re monsters.
They’re not exceptionally evil, stupid or gross. In fact, I think my children are exceptionally smart, good-natured, kind, talented, creative and beautiful.
I just think that along with all of that AWESOME, there’s a whole lot of AWFUL. It’s worth a chuckle and that’s the point.
I’m not a fat, drunk.
I just enjoy hyperbole.
If that’s unclear, I am an even worse writer than I imagined.
There is so much from my life that I refuse to share with the public.
There are feuds and fears and venomous hatred, private family matters and workplace-inspired outrage.
When my daughter came home from school with a humiliating story, I did not share it.
When my husband and I get in a spat, it’s between us.
Plenty is off limits and as long as I’m the one at the helm, I can be selective in a way that works for my family.
I share, I hide and it’s my decision.