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.