Monthly Archives: September 2011

No, No, I Won’t Mow

“Look, Annie across the street is mowing the grass,” says my daughter, peering through the blinds like a puppy waiting for the mailman.

“Mmm hmm,” I say, not the least bit interested in that remark. I know where this is going.

“Hey, Mom,” my son yells, taking the steps two at a time, “Did you see Annie mowing the grass?”

“Yep.”

Five minutes later, “Oh, look, Dear,” my husband runs in to tell me. “Annie is mowing the grass.”

“Well isn’t that good for Annie,” I say. Dammit, why can’t the women around here band together? Or at least can’t they mow the grass when my family is not at home?

I have held fast for 13 years and counting. I have never mowed the lawn. Well, I attempted 13 years ago when we were moving from a rental and needed to mow the thick, waist-deep forest that had become our backyard. I pushed and heaved with all my might, and the mower sputtered and choked and did things I wasn’t sure it was supposed to do. I mean, I was new to the whole mowing thing. Thick, three-foot grass is not something to cut your teeth on. So I stopped. A whole eight-foot strip of grass. That is what I have mowed. So yes, technically I have never mowed a whole lawn. And I don’t dare start now.

I’ll tell you why. I have wiped so many butts some days, that I have not been sure which was my own. I have had every bodily function spewed or smeared all over me. I have cooked dinner while doing laundry, helping the kids with their homework while they have been splayed over the table crying that they don’t understand, and trying to get my mother off the phone for the third time that day. I have had a meal on the table every night when my husband comes home from work, even when my kids decide that while I am cooking is the best time to pitch a fit. I clean the house, wash the sheets, put toys away, clean the crud off the toilets, hold the kids down for shots, check body parts for things I do not want to, shovel snow, rake the leaves, sweep the driveway, and sometimes trim the bushes….I do it and that’s fine.

I do not want to mow the grass. And every time I see little Annie over there mowing the grass or the three other women on my street who occasionally do it, I grit my teeth, clench my fists, and think to myself, “Don’t we do enough?”

Well, evidently, they don’t.

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Taming of the Tantrums

Strolling through the aisles of a store recently, I heard the start of a giant fit coming on. A toddler wanted out of her cart. Those pesky toddlers can be persistent. Boy, the memories flooded back. My quiet shopping experience had become stained by the piercing shrieks and then constant screams of this little girl who wanted nothing more than to be out of her cart. I snuck a few glances to see if her mom was “stuck,” meaning could she even get out of the store. She quieted when her mother held her. Then she started up again–she wanted down, and she repeated that for a very long time. This fit went on for a good ten minutes. It was loud. The mother made no effort to make a beeline for the door.

All I could think was two things: 1) Why doesn’t she run out of the store and save herself? I would have had it by now. When you run out of cookies, get thee to a door. 2) I have been there and I am so glad I am done with that!

Six years ago…

One morning I took my kids, two and a half years and six weeks old, to a craft store to buy some Halloween stuff to make with my son. I knew what I wanted. It would be a quick trip. This was one of the first outings alone with my kids, and it was a doozy.

I picked up the things I wanted and my son pointed out what he wanted. I told him no. That’s where I lost all control. He went into full fit mode: volume turned up, body convulsing out of control. I was in a bit of a pickle. This craft store had tiny carts and the carrier my daughter was in did not fit in a cart. I had carried her in and walked my son in. I was stuck in the store with a toddler in a full-blown tantrum. All I could do was gently hold him down in the aisle and wait it out.

At first I laughed. I’d wait this beast out. Well, I waited. And waited. People stared. My daughter slept. I still couldn’t pick up my son at all. Two older ladies came by. “I’ll bet you’re two and a half,” one said to my son. I laughed. She nailed it. God bless her. She understood. She offered to take my son out in a cart. That made him scream more because he thought I was giving him to this stranger, which at that point I felt like doing.

I thanked them but waited another minute and my son calmed down long enough for me to grab him in a football hold and loop my other arm through my daughter’s carrier. I ran for the door and through the parking lot, my son kicking me and biting me the whole way. While I tried to strap him in his car seat, he kicked me in the face, pulled my hair, and grabbed at my face with what felt like sharp claws. I can’t even mention the words that were going through my head and I’m pretty sure I cried the whole way home. I didn’t go back to that store for months.

I have been fortunate these past six years. That was the worst public display and nothing else has compared, but it scarred me for life.

Looking back to that day, when I realized I couldn’t escape my stupidity, I should have bought the silly wooden pumpkin that he wanted. I saw that fit coming and I could have said, “Sure, you can pay me back.” It wouldn’t have spoiled him. But it would have saved my sanity and helped me avoid a few battle scars. Had it not been there, that fit would have played out somewhere else, but maybe I would have been able to make a run for it. Regardless, I learned early on, it’s always better to shop without kids.

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The Boys’ Bathroom: Sometimes You Don’t Want to Know

I am fortunate (I think) to have a son who tells me things. When I ask him what happened at school, he tells me about his day at school. He tells me the minutiae of his day. And he tells me the goings-on in the boys’ bathroom. For years I’ve heard stories about what goes on in those dank, smelly chambers. Boys sticking their feet in urinals. Boys–cringe–rolling on the nasty floor. Boys doing things they should not be doing.

This week I think I’ve heard it all. I can’t bear to hear another bathroom story. My husband doesn’t even know the story, why I keep lecturing my son about this. “Just don’t touch anything and wash your hands. With soap. I don’t care what the other boys do.” My husband makes fun of me for this.

My son told me he went in the bathroom the other day and George* wasn’t in there, so he used George’s urinal.

“George’s urinal?” I asked.

“Yeah, George has his own urinal and nobody can use it,” my son said.

“Why is it his urinal?” I asked.

“He licked it,” he said.

My brain stopped right there. Overload. Too much to process. Where are the teachers? Ugh. Should I tell his mother? No, she wouldn’t want to know. I didn’t want to know. I mean, you don’t want them to touch anything in the bathroom and this boy had slathered his tongue along the cold porcelain. I felt weak.

“Don’t you ever lick anything in the bathroom,” I said. “Anything. Don’t even touch the urinal. People miss.” I could have gone on for an hour. My son had already moved on.

He described how a line formed behind him and then George came in and said, “Hey, why are you using my urinal?” and everyone in line started pushing.

Then George put a pencil in a toilet and flushed it and they watched it swirl around and around. Billy* reached in to get the pencil out and threw it away.

“Don’t put your hand in the toilet,” I told my son. “Ever. Just don’t touch anything in the bathroom. And wash your hands. With soap. I don’t care if the other boys do or not. You wash your hands.”

Ugh. Sometimes you don’t want to know.

*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

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I Was Dissed

I packed up my lunch yesterday and headed to school to eat with my kids. My daughter smiled and bounced in her seat at breakfast when I announced I would be coming. My son said OK. That’s pretty much how it goes every time. But I knew something was up when he walked into the cafeteria at lunch and looked at the wall instead of at me. He sat at his table with his friends, and when I motioned for him to join his sister, her friend, and me, he shook his head no and wouldn’t look back. Dissed. Is my third-grader already too old for this?

I’ll be honest: It stung a little. When the excitement of having Mom meet you for lunch has dwindled by third grade and wanting to be with friends begins to take over, it’s a bit of a shock. I know it happens. I remember vividly that inner struggle as a kid, wanting to be with my parents but wanting to be with my friends too. (Though I was much older, I’m sure.) You don’t want to miss any of the fun and really, you want to seem cool. Eating with Mommy isn’t cool after a while. Boys can’t talk about bathroom situations and gross stuff when Mom is around, and Lord knows they do. And Mom might ask questions. Yeah, I would certainly do that. “What do you like to do?” “What sports do you play?” Seems like a logical time to get to know the kids my kids hang out with. Maybe it’s too much.

My son looked over at me once during lunch. I played it cool. I mean, we were having fun. You know, yeah, whatever man. He had a good time with his friends, whispering and laughing and bonding over Spaghettios and Wonder Bread.

I don’t eat lunch often with my kids at school. My kids ask when I’m coming again as soon as I leave the lunch room. But when he blew me off and pretended I wasn’t there, I tried not to be bummed. I saw his point-of-view: time to hang with friends and let my guard down or be with Mom, another supervisor. It was just harder seeing it from a mom’s point-of-view.

That afternoon during pick-up time, I debated blowing him off. Instead, I decided to just let him sweat it out a few extra minutes.

Later on I was going about my to-do list at home. He came up and hugged me. A big bear hug. No words. No prompting. Just a giant squeeze around my waist. I get it, son, all of that growing up stuff. I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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Words That Make My Son Giggle

“Daddy, I learned a new word today,” my son announced at dinner. My first instinct is to always ask, “Is it appropriate?” His determination pushed him on. “G-E-N-I-T-A-L-S.” He spelled it for the sake of protecting his younger sister. Sweet.

I tried to stifle a snicker and could tell immediately that my husband was not amused. My daughter had a check-up at the doctor yesterday afternoon and we had the pleasure of trying to catch a sample in a cup. During that transaction, my son entertained himself with some wall reading, medical info. Nice.

A fit of giggles meant he found another funny word: penis. “Ha ha! Look, Mommy.” It was an eight-year-old boy’s dream, right there in the bathroom of the doctor’s office. Naughty words displayed for him to read again and again, providing that satisfaction in feeling he was doing something he shouldn’t be. Giving him reason to say it. I couldn’t dispute the fact that it was right there on the wall…several times.

Overall, a juicy discovery for a kid, finding sacred body part words in print. Learning a new one. Genitals. He even had to stop and close his eyes for a moment after he saw it. “Hold on. I need to remember it,” he explained. He was genuinely proud of this new word. Hopefully, he’ll fight the urge to share it during recess today.

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Cry Me a River

So it’s been a full week of back-to-school bliss. My days are filled with quiet cleaning, cool morning walks, peaceful time to work, hours to do what I want with no interruptions. And then at three o’clock every day, all hell breaks loose.

Here’s how our week has gone:

~Nearly everyone in my daughter’s class from last year is in another class together this year. “Why did I get left out?” Heartbreak for her, heartbreak for me. Not to mention the impulse to call the principal and ask him what in the world was he thinking doing that to my daughter? She shed a few tears.

~A fall down the stairs sent my daughter into a well-earned crying fit. More crying upstairs. I raced up to learn that my daughter had bumped her nose. And then when a mid-air flip attempt went awry, my son landed on his head. More tears.

~My daughter released a flood of tears one afternoon on the couch, just because.

~Tears flowed at the mere mention of writing thank-you notes for birthday presents my daughter recently received. This followed by a bit of rolling around on the floor and burying her head in a pillow.

~Homework, ugh!!! My son just didn’t get it and he wanted my help. Yet every time I read the directions to him and tried to explain it, he threw a fit. Did he or did he not want my help? I know he didn’t read the directions to begin with. Writhing on the floor, he screamed, “I hate homework!” Me too, man, me too.

~It took me 15 minutes to read one email due to four crying fits over a chair, a stool, a couch filled with dolls, and a knee to the eye. Each time I entered the room, it was a different story. “What’s wrong now?” I said, trying to keep my frustration to myself. My son kneed himself in the eye while doing flips on the couch. I didn’t even know what to say. After the whole head thing? Seriously?

~A math problem nearly sent me into tears. My son just wanted me to do it but I continued trying to calmly explain what he was missing. Hair pulling. Teeth gritting. Tears man, more freakin’ tears.

~Don’t even get me started about the announcement of bathtime and bedtime every night….

I’m amazed I’ve been able to get dinner on the table and homework done and the kids to bed on time (7:30 because they are so damn cranky). In years past, we’ve suffered nearly two months of this meltdown mania at the onset of school.

If you are a cranky mom this week, hugs to you. If you know one, give her a hug. Me? I think I just need a good cry.

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