The NeverEnding Bedtime Story

What time was this at? Were we just getting the party started?

What time was this at? Were we just getting the party started?

I wish I could better remember bedtimes from when I was a child. One of the few things I recall is my dad saying goodnight to us. While we lay in bed, cozy under our rainbow sheets, he'd come in, sing us an original song ("goodnight dear girls, goodnight. Goodnight dear girls, goodnight. Goodnight dear girls. Goodnight dear girls. Goodnight dear girls. Goodnight"), flick the lights on and off for a few seconds, and then leave the room dark as he walked out. 

Did we then immediately get up and demand a glass of water? Did we sneak out of bed and start playing with our toys noisily? Did we scream and scream and scream for our parents to come in? Or did we just go to bed, exhausted from a day of playing and bike riding, so thoroughly ready to catch some shut-eye?

If my children's bedtimes are any indication, I must have been an absolute terror because I'm pretty sure I'm paying penance for some really horrible shit I did in my childhood. For the past seven years, we have not had a single easy bedtime. It usually drags on for over an hour and any goodwill that we might have had for each other as a family at the beginning of the night has dissipated by the time Darla and Jude drift off to sleep. We've never said "good night" to our kids at bedtime and had that be the last time we see their faces until morning. They're so diligent about dragging out bedtime that I sometimes think they consider it to be their job. They even nag us in shifts. If one is too tired, the other one covers for them and carries the brunt of annoyingness. 

As for the people who have children they're able to "tire out" by having them run and play in the hot sun for eight hours straight, I have nothing but ire for you. When you say, "these kids are going to sleep great tonight," I'm so tempted to say "fuck off." Your kids might be begging to go to bed at 7:00 as they struggle to keep their eyes open after playing a little too hard. They nestle themselves into your shoulder, already asleep by the time you reach their room. My kids, on the other hand, never want the party to end. While you're tucking your kids into bed, my kids are sneaking handfuls of candy and having dance parties in their rooms. An hour past their bedtime, they're lighting up sparklers and begging to go back to the pool. Your kids are deep in their REM cycle, and my kids are just settling in to watch JFK in its entirety. 

Every night it's a struggle, and I've tried everything to make it better: reward charts, calming music, sound machines, blackout curtains, earlier bedtimes, and meditations. I've enacted strict cabaret laws and have forbidden dancing after seven, effectively turning our home into the town from Footloose. Nothing has worked. 

So, after seven years, I'm on the verge of waving the white flag; tell my kids that I give up and that they've won. We will no longer enforce bedtimes. But every time I get to the edge of letting my kids take over our house completely, I dig deep and shore up a little glimmer of hope. I find the strength to carry on and march ever towards the goal of an easy bedtime after which I can finally finish watching The Staircase. 

Lost Stuffed Animal

A small brown object straddled the dotted yellow line that divided the eastbound traffic from the westbound traffic a block away from my home. From a distance, I thought it was a dead raccoon, so I took a wide berth to avoid getting its blood on my tires. I then thought it was a brown, fuzzy sweater when I drove a little closer. I slowed down on the off chance that it was Dolce & Gabbana or Prada; if it were cute enough, maybe I’d pick it up and try it on. 

A few feet away from the object, I saw it was a much sadder loss than my previous two guesses. What lay on the road was a brown plush monster with a gaping red maw and two brown buttons for eyes. It was the sort of toy that, in its description, sounds like it might be the making of a child’s nightmare, but had just enough roundness to it that it was adorable. It lay on its back, arms outstretched and looking heavenward as if to ask God, “Why hast that child forsook me?”

When I saw what it was, I wondered whether this was a beloved toy. Why didst that kid forsaketh the poor stuffed animal? The possibilities were limitless. The child could’ve been sitting in her stroller as her dad absentmindedly jaywalked while talking on the phone so he didn’t notice the gigantic stuffed animal falling at his feet. The child may have tempted fate and dangled the monster out the window and, when it flew out onto the street, the mom in the front seat who hears her kid scream incessantly just thought it was another false alarm. Maybe today was the day that child learned the valuable lesson of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

As I wondered about what led to the tragic situation I was beholding, I made a hideous decision. I kept driving. I looked carefully at the possibly beloved toy and kept moving. 

I thought of the "lost" sign I had seen a couple of weeks before. A child had drawn a picture of a stuffed cat, and an adult had written a paragraph dictated by the kid: Lost stuffed cat. Goes by the name "Boots." Small and gray with whiskers. Lost on the intersection of Commonwealth and Franklin. I miss my cat. Please help me find her. 

I read the sign and was overwhelmed by how much I wanted to be the hero who found the plush cat for that little girl. I fantasized about calling the girl’s parents with the news and bask in their joyous gratitude. Maybe we’d appear on the local news as a beautiful human interest story to distract us all from the reality that we live in a world where families are torn apart, and children have to live in fear of school shootings. At least some people take two seconds out of their day to comfort a small child!

Despite this fantasy, I kept driving. By the time I pulled into my parking spot, I felt like I was as big of a monster as that stuffed animal. The only difference is that the beast just looked sort of scary, but was a source of comfort for some small child. Me, on the other hand, was a monster on the inside who couldn’t take two minutes out of her day to pick up a stuffed animal on the off chance that some small child’s love for it was so massive that they’d make signs and post them up around town. My guilt tore me apart, and I restarted my car to go back to the monster. 

Before I could pull out of my parking spot, I thought of something. What if that toy comes from a house with bed bugs or lice? Lord knows I can’t save the world if I’m sifting through books and burning my sheets to combat a bedbug outbreak in my apartment. With that, I turned off my car, went inside, and felt confident with my decision to leave the stuffed animal on the side of the road.

Craigslist Negotiations

Craigslist was full of so many possibilities years ago. Missed Connections provided endless hours of entertainment as previously unpublished writers began composing sonnets and essays about strangers they encountered while they were puking on adjacent street corners in Manhattan. Bed bug ridden couches and slightly damaged Ikea shelving units were sold with such enthusiasm that you'd assume all the world was liquidating. 

The most valuable resource provided by Craigslist was one of shrewd consumerism. Before the website, I knew people were the absolute worst, but the "customers always right" mentality of commerce insulated me from what level of garbage humans can be. Company's, who desperately wanted me and everyone else to return, lavished us all with lenient return policies and only smiles when large coffees spilled over a stack of sweaters. And sure Craigslist might be a fancy, free newspaper classified, but print ads didn't have nearly as far a reach as it does. 

On Craigslist, people want to offload their shit and make money; they don't care if they have to screw over someone else by masking damage on the product because they provided a fake address and you'll never be able to find them again. (Didn't you think it was suspicious that the person was sitting on the curb in front of the house when you got there?) I've learned to be more careful with my purchases. Also, I've learned not to take the word of dudes with 6-inch tall, blonde pompadours who insist that a car will pass smog as he salivates over the $4000 cashiers check sitting in your purse. The car will not pass smog, and you'll never be able to track that guy down again. 

Negotiating with my kids is a lot like that ok a Craigslist transaction: I don't trust them at all. I can thank this classifieds website for how I interact with my kids. 

1. Never hand over the reward before they've satisfied all requirements: I'd like to say that I've stuck with this rule, but sometimes the kids' demands for cash up front wears me down. Once they've gotten the tv time they were supposed to "earn," I find it nearly impossible to get them to do the job I wanted them to do in the first place. Like sharks, they demand further payment before they do the job they were supposed to do in the first place. 

2. Always look under the "hood:" My kids might say their room is clean, but I don't trust them. I have to make sure to check the closets. Most times, every piece of clothing, toy, and book that previously strewn about the room are now a mound of chaos under a rack of haphazardly hanging clothes. I have to pull it all out, throw it back on the floor of the middle of the room, and close the door quick lest their tantrums blow out my eardrums.

3. Never go into negotiations alone: It's important always to have another adult present to witness the agreement. If no one over the age of 18 is available, siblings work fine in a pinch as they're always looking for ways to sabotage their brother or sister. If, at a later time, the child with which I made the contract with decides to change the parameters, call in the witness to back you up. 

While I would give anything to get that $4000 back, the lesson I learned that day has made me a much better negotiator with my kids. I've been burned one too many times to fall for their tricks. 

Take What You Like and Leave the Rest


The candy aisle never looked as majestic as it did on the Fourth of July when I was a kid. Every year, my dad led my siblings and me to this section, tucked away behind the liquor aisle of the grocery store. With a grand flourish of his hefty, freckled arm, which glided over the colorful horizon, he'd say, "you can have whatever you want."

We'd then tear down the aisle like feral children and throw fist fulls of candy into the empty shopping cart my dad held. It was like Halloween with a lot less work and a lot more control. We didn't have to schlep a sagging pillowcase up and down the block, sweating in our princess costumes and singing for our supper, just to wind up with a pack of Smarties or a couple of dirty pennies. All we had to do was pick up candy in a well air-conditioned grocery store and toss it into the cart. And, unlike Halloween, there was no need to say thank you 800 times for candy we never would've picked out for ourselves. 

The permutation of that ever-increasing mound was wild and unpredictable from year to year. One Fourth of July, we might've leaned heavily into the chocolate offerings and go for broke on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Whatchamacallits. The next year, we might tend toward the sour and tart selections and stock up on Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, and Jelly Beans. There was nothing methodical about our choices. We'd rip apart the candy aisle, oblivious to the disdain directed at us by the high school employees who were responsible for cleaning up our chaos after we left to enjoy the sunshine and national holiday. 

My dad would stand by and chuckle as he watched the bottom of the cart disappear under mounds of red, yellow, purple, green, and brown. The only rule enforced during these shopping trips was that we weren't allowed to leave the grocery store until the cart was at least half full of empty calories and limitless potential for hyperactivity. We were obligated to spend at least $300 on candy. 

Once purchased, we'd spend the rest of the afternoon destroying the candy. Soon, we'd be in a euphoric sugar high that made our bodies vibrate with possibilities. The sweets commanded us to jump on our beds, scream as loud as we could, and laugh uncontrollably at fart jokes. Eventually, the room would begin to spin and twirl with mania. Next, we'd find ourselves hunched over with stabbing stomach pains as we forced ourselves to shove one more Rolo down our throats. We'd start twitching and begin picking fights with each other. The day would end with us pulling each other's hair out while our mom dutifully cleaned up the candy wrappers and scrubbed melted chocolate off of the couch cushions. 

This was an extraordinary part of my childhood, one that others hear about with envy. Beyond the Fourth of July, my dad was more conservative with sweets and would divide up single donuts among twelve people. He would also rely heavily on his belt to keep us in line and shamed us for even being alive. With this candy madness, however, my dad was able to rise above the terrifying wreckage of his parental decisions. The supermarket candy-aisle sweep was so fantastic that, as we got older, sometimes the memories of the colorful frenzy would rise above that of the chaos and abuse. No one begrudges the candy man for his excesses. Even Charlie forgave Willy Wonka, the moralizing puppetmaster who played god with his destiny.  

I want to be the parent who takes her kids into a grocery store and says, "The sky's the limit, kids. Go wild!" I want to watch with a smirk as my kids knock down shelves of candies as they pinwheel sweets into the shopping cart. I want to be the parent who gives her kids this memory. 

Every time I get to the precipice of this experience, I stop myself. Just last week, while on vacation, my sister Kathy, Greg, and I brought Darla and Jude to a magical candy store stocked floor to ceiling with confections. Instead of walking in and letting the kids go nuts, I stopped them just inside the entrance and said, "You can have one candy each." I worried that allowing them to indulge would have some damning, long-term repercussion; as if I'm still working off the sugar high from a Fourth of July three decades earlier. Darla scoffed at me, spread out her arms as if she were begging me to behold the beauty that was around me. 

"Aunt Kathy," Darla yelled across the store. "Can you believe this? My mom told me we could only have one candy from this huge candy store."

Everyone then had a good chuckle at my expense while I increasingly felt drab and uninspired against such a magnificent backdrop; I was ashamed I had preached moderation and abstinence in a hedonist's church. I wondered what my dad, who died four years ago, would think of me if he saw me at that moment. Would he look at my kids with pity? Would he feel sorry for them that they have the most boring mother?

Unlike my dad, I have never hit my kids. I show up for them every day and only get pushed to my limit every once in a while. I sit on the floor with them and play trucks or make-believe. I, sometimes, laugh more than I yell. I know in most ways I am a better parent than my dad was. 

What I could improve on is the magic I allow into my kids' lives. I get very rigid and rule-driven, which can push my kids. They, in turn, get combative and fight back while they attempt to wriggle out from under my tight control. I don't allow myself to freefall into an experience with an excellent potential for bonding. I worry over schedules and whether we're all behaving like good citizens. I try to wrangle my kids every step of the way. It leaves me stressed, not present, and miserable.

While I know that 90% of what my dad did was destructive and had adverse effects on my siblings and me, there was that 10% that was glittery and dazzling; this was the part that created strong, unique memories that stand out in our minds. In anonymous recovery programs, there's a maxim that goes, "take what you like and leave the rest." In a way, my parenting feels like a sort of recovery from a crappy childhood with an abusive father. Most everything positive I've learned about being a parent has been from my mom, the person who quietly cleaned up after the chaos my dad unleashed. I want to try and take a part of what my dad offered the world as a parent, as well.

I like that my dad let us go wild in the candy aisle. I didn't like that he would spank us even when we did nothing more than sit quietly at the dinner table. I've done a pretty decent job of "leaving the rest." I'd like to try out the "take what you like" part. Maybe the next time I walk into a candy store with my kids while we're on vacation, I'll let them fill up a basket with too much candy while I stand off to the side and smile. 

Hard Work Doesn't Pay Off

I busted my ass as a food runner at a pizza restaurant in college. I would run up a flight of stairs carrying five, hot plates on my arms. I would then run back down the stairs and grab five more. I was the type of employee who provided such a level of relief to the rest of the staff that they'd all relax a little when they knew I was on the schedule. I was called a rockstar every shift I worked. 

After a few months, I noticed something weird. At this restaurant, and most others, food runners are just biding their time until they're promoted to servers, which is when they can collect much bigger tips. Despite being the best, I watched as the crappiest employees, who would spend their shifts flirting with the bartenders or taking extended bathroom breaks during the peak rush, were promoted before me. I worked harder and watched even more people get promoted. It would be almost a year before I was allowed to wait tables. 

I had known my whole life that not trying was the best thing I could do for myself. I would never clean or help with dinner, so I was never asked to do any of it because I made it clear that I was incapable and would mess it all up anyway.  I would lay entirely still, trying my best to fade into the background, while my mom wandered through the house asking if someone could help her carry in groceries. To this day, I proudly carry the mantle of the least helpful sibling. 

 In my first restaurant job, I had forgotten that lesson. I decided to push myself to be the best, which earned me stagnation. I was invaluable in the position I held, which precluded me from any promotion. To get the worst employees out of a crucial support position, the boss offered the most coveted spots to them. 

My kids are cognizant of this dissonance. They know that the minute they apply themselves and exceed mine and Greg's expectations, we'll raise the bar ever so slightly, and they'll have to try that much harder next time. A few days ago, before we had even woken up, Darla and Jude had dressed and fed themselves for the first time in history. This was the opposite experience of every other morning. Typically, I'm begging my kids to stop laying naked on the couch with their butts in the air up until five minutes before we're supposed to leave. That morning, our kids had shown their hands; we now knew what they were capable of. While they've yet to repeat this since, and I assume it won't happen again until they're in their 20's, we now feel an added layer of disappointment when we have to spend 40 minutes trying to get them to put their shoes on. 

While the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the utterly inert wheel gets carried to wherever it needs to go. I have told Darla to clean her room every day since she was four. She's cleaned it maybe a couple of times and, when she does, it looks about the same as it did before she "tidied up." I usually end up cleaning her room because she's, also, a future hoarder, with her stacks of flyers and trash toys she collects whenever we leave the house. If I don't, I wouldn't be able to open her door. Her complete unwillingness to clean has led to her getting her cleaning service. Jude, on the other hand, will eventually clean his room thoroughly. I may have to tell him innumerable times to get it done, but he'll do it. 

For that reason, I don't clean his room. Jude's good behavior is rewarded with more responsibilities while Darla gets to continue to lie on the couch naked with her butt in the air. It's good to see that life continues to be as unfair as it ever was. Maybe, someday, Jude will also learn the lesson that hard work doesn't pay off. 

When You First Start Looking for Mom Friends

I was a stay at home mom for the first six months of Darla's life. Maybe I should call that an extended maternity leave? Regardless, there was a lot to love about this time. I got to hold her always and be there for every fantastic first. From the first time she projectile pooped across the room to the first time she laughed at my expense, Darla and I were a team. 

For all that I gained at the beginning of parenthood, I lost a sense of connection to the world. Loneliness was ever-present. I was going through something utterly transformative, losing a bit of myself in the process, and I wanted to surround myself with people who understood. Those days seemed to go on forever; I would go grocery shopping three times a day and create imaginary errands just so that I had something to do. And while I was out, I was constantly on the lookout for potential friends.  I looked for friends all willy nilly; it didn't matter if the woman behind me in line at the market was super boujee and had probably made fun of me in high school. If the said woman was wearing a mewing newborn in an Ergo, I could forgive her for calling me nasty piece of shit a decade earlier. 

I assumed I shared an experience with all new mothers that would bridge any gap. We might never have spoken to each other before, but the trauma of someone handing us a newborn, the most vulnerable and valuable of our species, and saying "be sure to keep this thing not just alive but thriving" connected us. The day before Darla was born, I struggled to clean two plates, two forks, two knives, and two glasses on 12 hours of sleep. I know you're gonna say this was because I was super pregnant, but that was me every day for the previous 28 years. Suddenly, just a day into Darla's life, I was supposed to remember to change her diapers and feed her 9000 times a day on 30 minutes of sleep. I wanted to surround myself with other mothers so I could look at them and ask, "Can you believe the shit these children are expecting of us?" And I thought all mothers would look back at me and say, "Right? I wonder if it's too late to give them back to the hospital."

There were a few parents who didn't understand what I was talking about. My identity as a mother was so fragile in the beginning that even witnessing a parent doing things differently from me and not complaining about his or her kid felt like an admonishment of my decisions. I had a neighbor who, every time she would come over, would give Darla's plastic toys and crib a side eye; She'd always laugh, bemused by how fast and loose I was playing with my child's future. I would leave these interactions drained and in tears, wondering what kind of monster I was cultivating with my half-assed parenting. 

I eventually learned that other parenting styles had nothing to do with me. I'm okay with whatever anyone does with his or her kid, and I'm just gonna assume they're okay with my decisions.  Seriously. We're all just trying the best we can, and it's in our best interest to support each other. And, if someone disapproves of what I'm doing, I'm still going to be alright. (Can you tell that I'm lying here? I live in constant fear that someone is going to call CPS on me every time my kids' have tantrums or yell too loud. I've heard the advice, "fake it til you make it" innumerable times, so I'm trying that here. Maybe I'll believe it by the time my kids are 30). 

Given my indiscriminate connection to other parents, I also ended up attempting relationships with women with whom it was impossible for me to connect. I found myself in conversations with some mothers who were perfectly coiffed and wearing waist cinchers two weeks postpartum; these parents did nothing for my self-esteem. Somehow, their newborns were sleeping through the night, champions of tummy time, and practicing multisyllabic words. Darla and I felt lost and messy. We had spent the entire morning mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and crying, and these other mothers weren't helping my hormone drop at all. 

These mothers would blink in confusion whenever I bitched about Darla. They'd offer a gentle reminder that children were blessings. I agree that it's pretty amazing that the newborn, who had just been a cluster of cells a few months prior, could make me laugh harder than I had ever, but that was never what I needed to hear. I knew I should appreciate every second with a newborn since it goes so fast (as everyone was wont to tell me at least a few times a day), but every second drags on and on when the only person I had to talk to could barely stay awake longer than 30 minutes at a time. 

Then there were the women with whom I had no common ground. Before kids, every person I knew had similar politics and priorities. Suddenly, I found myself stuck in conversations with women I shared no interests. Sometimes, their observations would even skew into the realm of "fucked up," and I would have to either call them out or steer the discussion in a different direction. "That's cool you're into eugenics. I'm more of a fan of watching Golden Girls reruns and eating chocolate cake." 

Eventually, these mothers, the ones I felt no connection to and whose politics gave me a headache, and I ghosted each other. And from the dust emerged mothers who I could connect with. Mothers who feel in over their head and complain a lot about their kids (mostly when they're not within earshot, of course). Women who, also, see that institutionalized racism is just as problematic as white supremacy. Much to my surprise, since I assumed, based on a few interactions, I'd have to hang out with people who took personal offense when someone's child was gender fluid, there were a lot more parents like me than I initially thought. I just needed to look for the ones who seemed utterly exasperated at drop off every morning and who didn't give a crap what their kids wore. These women are the ones who get it. And I assure you that not one of them would've bullied me in high school.

I know, at this time, this is the opposite of what I should be doing. I know the only way this world is going to get better is if we associate with people who may have different viewpoints from our own and that, in doing so, I'll see that we're all the same. And I'm all for that when it comes to everything else in the world but parenting. Seven years in and I'm still flailing and haven't even gotten my sea legs. Sometimes all I need to survive is a group of parents who won't give me the side eye when I pick up the full sugar, full fat, full wheat cookie my kid dropped on the ground, dust it off, and hand it back to them. They understand the tantrum is way more deadly than the germs that might have attached themselves to that cookie. I don't need to, also, be having a debate about gun control while yelling at my kids to stop eating dirt.

A Dead Baby Bird

"We're burying a dead bird," Darla said when we were at a birthday party for two of her friends. I had just been counting the minutes until I could leave and get back to staring at a wall at home while my kids fought and I agonized over putting my foot in my mouth repeatedly at the party. 

I looked at Darla for a moment, utterly bewildered. Was this a good or a bad thing? I was in the worst position imaginable: I was forced to make a decision in front of other parents. This is something I typically like to do out of the public eye because I feel I choke under the pressure. 

"Oh wow," I said. "Are you sure it's dead?"

"We're positive it's dead," Darla said. "We think it fell out of a tree. We're burying it."

Suddenly, the birthday party, with its potato sack races and cake, had turned into a morose funeral. Carefree laughter gave way to a solemn commemoration of the baby bird who fell out of the tree. I knew there was a life lesson about the inevitability of death in there somewhere, but I was too distracted by the parent, who I barely knew, standing next to me to suss it out.

When I looked at the burial from a distance, it seemed like good, old-fashioned kid-ding: very "Stand by Me," except it's the dead body of a bird. As a kid who, starting at the age of six, would leave the house on my bike at 9:00 and come home for supper by 5:00, it feels like so many real childhood experiences are missing from my kids' lives. I live in an area where the hills are too steep, the traffic too heavy, and the paranoia of stranger kidnappings too high to really let kids ride their bikes alone even in front of the house. There are not enough opportunities for them to make (and sometimes eat) mudpies or climb trees without me hovering a few feet away yelling at them to be careful. This bird funeral was a good opportunity to let Darla see what life was like when I was a kid and make amends for all my helicoptering.

The other parent, whose kid was also participating in the burial, and I looked at each other. He shrugged his shoulders.

"Did you touch the bird?" I asked.

"No, we just saw it was dead," Darla said.

"It's really nice you're having a funeral for it," I said, deciding that inaction was my best option. "Just be sure you don't touch it."

I watched her gather up leaves and dump them on the ground. I realized I should maybe walk over to where the dead bird lay since I didn't know if I should accept a seven-year-old reading of the situation as accurate. The children had piled green leaves and pink flowers over a small hole, completely covering the dead bird. It all looked carefully arranged and peaceful. I was confident in my decision to allow the kids to honor the passing of a living creature and participate so lovingly in the ceremony. 

I was about to walk away when I saw a couple strolling through the park in the general direction of the burial site. They looked at what the kids were doing and overheard that they were tending to a dead bird. They gave me, what I perceived to be, a weird look and kept walking. I saw judgment in their eyes, which I am powerless to defend myself against. I wondered if the bird might still be alive and in need of help. Were we allowing the kids to bury the poor bird alive? Were we feeding some primal, sadism that lay dormant in these children? It started to feel like a situation they would later look back on with deep shame and become some dark bonding experience that would forever tie them to one another. Feeling overburdened by the responsibility, I grabbed Darla's hand. 

"Come on," I said. "We really shouldn't be doing this."

Darla was hesitant to leave at first, but then she followed me over to the playground to play on the monkey bars. I stood by her and watched her play since none of her friends were on the playground anymore. They were all still huddled around the dead bird. 

I felt sad for Darla at that moment. I saw all the other parents allowing their kids to participate in this timeless rite of passage. They all were so confident and open; so capable of free-range parenting when the situation called for it. Something about the experience seemed so natural and authentic. I looked at Darla playing alone. She needed to go back to the funeral. 

"Are you sure the bird was dead," I asked as I watched one of the girls dump a full box of apple juice over the grave. Juice poured over a dead bird was a ritual offering. I think the same act, when done on a live bird, would be called apple juice boarding. I needed to make sure I was dealing with the former. 

"Pretty sure," Darla said as she looked at the ground. "Well, actually, I touched it, and Kelsey picked it up and held it in her hands. She said she could feel its heart beating, but it looked dead."

Everything romantic and swirly about this ritual changed at that moment, and I became super practical. I immediately told Darla about how dangerous it is to touch dead birds. I told her about salmonella and trichomoniasis so that I could strip the situation of everything magical and earnest. 

Darla looked worried and I felt like a terrible wretch for instilling fear in her. I let her go back to the possible burial/ritualized torture of the possibly dead/alive bird before we left the party. Darla hovered around it but was too afraid to get close now. I double checked and was relieved to see the bird was, in fact, dead. At this point, the party was coming to a close, and it was time to go. I told Darla to pay her final respects. 

One of the little girls crouched beside the grave and sang jibberish in a sweet, soft voice. I could still hear her lovely tones in the background as I led Darla away from the party. Careful not to touch the hand that came in contact with the bird, I walked towards the other parents. 

"Isn't this the sweetest thing?" I asked. "Oh, and just a heads up, there's no soap in the bathroom, and dead birds could have salmonella."

And then I walked away. The, now, panicked parents yelled at their kids to get away from the filthy bird. I had broken the spell. Sometimes, anxiety and worry can be more infectious than the most contagious of bird flu; I tend to be patient zero. At that moment, I was relieved to have company in my stress, but I felt slightly guilty that I had dispelled the magic of yet another experience. I resolved to not get involved the next time Darla decides to bury a dead baby bird. I'll watch from a distance; I'll look away when she sweetly pets the rotting corpse and immediately sticks her fingers into her mouth since I assume that's what a good parent would do. But probably not because salmonella really freaks me out and no amount of magic is going to convince me that nothing bad is going to happen. 

A Mother's Most Significant Break-Up

After I gave birth to Darla, the first time I saw the Ob/Gyn who delivered her, I got very flustered. I felt as if I were in the presence of a celebrity. I had come to the office for my six-week checkup, and I saw her as I walked down the hall to the room with the stirrups, etc. I'd be seeing another doctor, but I was so happy to see she was there. I had wanted to talk to her for weeks. She and I walked towards each other. My heart started beating quicker. My palms sweat.

"What should I say to her," I thought as I opened my purse to pull out my phone. "Should I show her pictures of Darla? I'm sure she'd like to see the picture where it looks like Darla's smiling; the one where it's more likely that she's just farting, but a smile is a smile. She'll probably want to take a selfie together, too. I guess I should do duck lips."

When we were within feet of each other, I beamed at the doctor. She looked in my direction, gave me a polite nod as if she didn't recognize me, and kept walking. My shoulders slumped as I put the camera back in my purse and walked into the checkup room. Apparently, you get immune to the birthing process when you deliver 2-3 kids a day. 

My regular doctor, the one who didn't deliver Darla because she wasn't on call that night, eventually came into the room and I felt like I was meeting a c-list celebrity. It was still nice to see the woman who walked with me through the pregnancy, but it wasn't the same as talking to the woman who caught my kid. 

My regular doctor, however, was the one who delivered Jude.  Suddenly, she was no longer a C-list celebrity; she was A-list. She was the woman who made it so I didn't have to induce; the woman who, although she got there 20 excruciating minutes after I was ready to push, caught Jude. She was my new celebrity crush. I looked up to her so much that I didn't question her when she told me a particular birth control had zero side effects, which ended up having so many awful ones. I even overlooked the fact that she still thought my name was "Christie" (my last name) after seven years. 

I believed our respect and admiration for each other was mutual. I always made my ob-gyn laugh, and she said my kids were perfect. I thought it was pretty impressive that she helped me bring one of my kids in the world. It would seem we had a stable relationship.

Everything was hunky-dory between us until today when I called to schedule an appointment. I informed the receptionist that we had switched back to an HMO. There was a long pause.

"Unfortunately, the doctor is no longer seeing any new or returning HMO patients," she said nervously.

"That's ok," I said. "I was able to use my HMO with her when I was in last year. Me being an HMO patient isn't a new thing."

"I understand," she said. "But she no longer sees even returning HMO patients."

I was silent. My mind raced. Was my doctor breaking up with me because I didn't have fancy, prohibitively expensive insurance? And she's having her receptionist do it for her? I wanted to tell the receptionist about my son Jude's labor and delivery and how the doctor and I had bonded. But I just stayed silent and stewed in the betrayal.

Eventually, I spoke. "So there's nothing I can do?"

"No, there's nothing we can do. I'm sorry," the receptionist said.

"I guess, then, this relationship is over," I said in the angriest voice I could muster, which is a lot of other people's polite voice. I pushed the end call button as sternly as I could, wishing that I had a rotary phone so I could slam the receiver down. 

I felt as if a seven-year marriage, one that I thought had its problems and was somewhat one-sided but worked overall, had just ended. But then I remembered all the things I had overlooked over the years since Jude was born and realized that our relationship had been over for a long time; I had just still been getting high off the fumes of the birth. It had been years since she had done anything to wow me. It was for the best that this doctor/patient relationship was over because I'm now with the hottest ob-gyn in the LA game who doesn't turn his nose up at my HMO. 

Life Isn't Fair

My kids are the fairness police. If one kid gets four pieces of broccoli, there's an all-out war if the other kid gets only 3. It's impossible to reason with him and explain that, yes, she may have just gotten three, but the third one was so huge that it equals two. Therefore, she has four. The kid with four starts to scream and crying big tears. I take the third, largest floret, cut it in half, and suddenly the other kid is satisfied.

Never is the concept of fairness more keenly felt than when it comes to taking turns. Pushing a kid on the swing, an activity that has every opportunity to be relaxing and pleasant when being done with one kid in tow becomes a regimented, panic-inducing activity when you're a parent flying solo with two kids. If it's thought that one kid has received extra time (despite a timer counting down to the second how much time each gets), there's a meltdown that requires an immediate departure from the park.

Darla and Jude are continuously keeping track of turns, even when it's longterm turn-taking. We have an ice cream cone shaped spoon. This spoon is the most coveted item in the house, and it's the only spoon Darla and Jude want to use when they eat cereal. We should be following a stringent system, alternating the ice cream spoon from one kid to the next. I can tell you, however, that Jude has gotten the ice cream cone shaped spoon three times in a row. I know this not because I have been keeping track, but because Darla has and I'm confident she feels as hurt and abandoned as a child left alone at a mall. 

Every decision I make, I weigh out how this will look if seen through my kids' eyes. If I smile at one kid, I have to smile at the other. If one kid gets another pair of shoes, so does the other. If I feed one, suddenly the other is demanding basic nutrition, too. It gets exhausting contemplating how one sibling perceives my treatment of the other sibling. Sometimes, I can't wait for when they're adults, and they're not so concerned about turn-taking. But then I remember the feeling I get at every four-way stop sign intersection. 

I pull up to the stop sign carefully, watching the other cars approaching. If I get there first and the car, the one that would be next in line, decides to keep going, I get enraged. If I arrive at the same time as another car, and I'm on the right, but the other car decides to go, I feel personally injured. There's one intersection a few blocks away from my house that I approach with so much anxiety since my right of way is routinely taken away there. I leave this interaction with an increased heart rate and a feeling that the world is out to get me. This intersection is proof that the world is out to get me.

As someone who continually foregoes her comfort for that of a complete stranger (not in an altruistic way, more like in a people-pleasing way), I find turn taking the only place where I can let my righteous indignation fly. I tap my toe furiously as I watch someone cut in line until I explode and tell them to get to the back of the line feeling like the father on a Christmas Story who informs Ralphie that the line he got on "ends here, it begins there." 

If ever there's a restaurant that doesn't have a hostess stand and, instead, has a kind of honor system piece of paper everyone puts their name on, I am on high alert. I anxiously hover around the list to make sure no one comes up and crosses off my name because I am hyper-focused on fairness and turn-taking as my kids. 

As I reflect on this reality in my life, I'm keenly aware that fairness is something humans of all ages are monitoring. At least, as an adult, I'm not reliant on one person to ensure that the world is being equitable to me. I can spread it out to store managers and every other driver on the road. My kids place the responsibility squarely on Greg and my shoulders. Maybe, someday I'll finally absorb the age-old lesson that life isn't fair and there's no use taking it personally. 

Role Playing at the Ren Faire

Parenthood is 90% participating in activities you don't have any interest in. Sometimes, I find myself having to feign enthusiasm for things that I actively avoided going to pre-kids, such as birthday parties and school. This past weekend, I found myself at a place that would've inspired a dark depression in me before becoming a mom: The Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Obviously, I didn't do it for me. I did it for the kids; no activity is more family-friendly than one that requires us to walk around in a dusty field along with adults who drench conversations in fake British accents and sexual innuendos while wearing costumes. I find it absolutely vital that my kids watch grown ass people bite the heads off fake rats, rub each other's boobs, and drink tanker after tanker of beer. Surprisingly, my kids loved it. 


.While there were a lot of kid-friendly activities (like tedious crafts and rides consisting of kids floating around in balls in a kiddy pool filled with the dirtiest water they could find), there was little to distract me from my woes. While I felt embarrassed for a minute that we weren't wearing costumes, I quickly remembered who I was and how little I enjoyed dressing up; maybe my lack of proper attire would send a clear message that I had no interest in whatever this festival had to offer. As soon as we walked in, though, I realized that the Ren Faire requires a lot of audience participation regardless of what you're wearing. They'll overlook the fact that you're from the future and drag you kicking and screaming back in time 400 years. They pretend to be confounded by whatever futuristic gadget you happen to be holding. ("What dost thou hold in thine hand? Why dost it illuminate so? A cell phone you say! How delightfully perculiar.") Walking through the festival is like sitting in the front row at a well-lit regional playhouse that's massacring Shakespeare. For me, I died on the inside while I looked on with a smile so plastic and frozen that my cheeks get cramps. I'm so unfamiliar with this world that it took me a good hour to realize that everyone wasn't Irish. 

When I wasn't being forced to participate, I was watching other adults wander through the land of make-believe. I felt like a voyeur as I overheard complete strangers greet each other with a civil nod and a "M'lady" or a "M'lord," ignoring the thumping hip-hop playing softly in the distance from the KIIS FM booth stationed at the entrance. Many of the interactions were sexually charged, and I kept having visuals of ripped bodices littering the fairgrounds in the Ren Faire-after-dark experience (assuming there is one). I avoided all eye contact as I walked through the festival.

As I watched a birds-of-prey demonstration, the handler asked, "What comes out at night?" Assuming he was alluding to the Whodini song from 1984, I responded, "The Freaks." I wasn't loud, but I was within earshot of some serious festival attendees. As soon as I said it, I realized that the other attendees might be so committed to Renaissance living that they had never heard music that didn't include lyre's, bagpipes, and hurdy-gurdies. What was merely a callback to a 1980's song could easily be misconstrued by a Luddite who has avoided hearing any pre-recorded music. (Just an FYI, the actual answer was "owls). I honestly thought the answer was "freaks," but I immediately began to regret my decision.

My face grew red, and I looked around nervously to see whether anyone thought I was calling those in attendance "freaks. Would people perceive my mockery of the festival as a hatred of nerds? This notion stressed me out more than having to make eye contact with role-playing adults because that wasn't what I meant. My extreme dislike had nothing to do with the enthusiastic embracing of renaissance culture. I have a deep reverence for people who show excitement. And I really do enjoy the profound appreciation of all things Renaissance related. No, my extreme discomfort was all about me being an unimaginative adult who struggles her way through even basic games of make-believe with my kids. I don't feel like digging deep and conjuring up a joy with strangers that I can barely give life to when playing with my favorite people in the world. I just wish I could get over myself enough to just immerse myself in the Ren Faire experience, but my anxiety gets in the way. 

After six hours of pretending to love being dragged into role-playing scenarios, I was ready for bed despite the sun being hours away from setting. As we left in the late afternoon, Darla asked me if I had fun. I smiled even bigger for her and said, "I had the best time. I love the Ren Faire." I realized at that moment that I was capable of something that I previously thought impossible; I was able to play the role of a mom who had the time of her life despite feeling so uncomfortable she wanted to cry. Yea, mine self art capable of being a fine lady though I be a witch in real life. 

It Smells Like My Tears

On the eve of April 20th, my family and I went on our nightly walk around the neighborhood. It's a walk that typically starts with high hopes and the best of intentions. As the nights grow longer, we start these walks as the sky's turning pink in the west. That night, I took a deep breathe, searching for any lingering hints of of early spring's jasmine floating through the air. It has been weeks since I'd been able to smell it. I wondered how many more sweet Jasmine springtimes were left in my life because nothing is more relaxing than contemplating your own mortality.

In my mind, the walk would be a gentle stroll up and down the hills as my kids slowly ride their scooters a few feet ahead of me. As I thought about how many years I had left in my life and looked forward to the walk, my kids raced down the hill and the nightly panicked walk had officially begun. Jude decided not to wait for us at the corner like he usually does but continued down the block and around another corner. He disappeared completely from view. That's when I remembered why I sort of hated our nightly walks. 

I tore down the hill around the first corner and didn't see him. I imagined how plausible it was for a pedophile to pull up in a Buick, grab Jude, and drive off. He'd only been out of my sight for less than a minute. Was that enough time for someone to steal him? Did I see anyone suspicious driving down the street as he rounded the corner?

I ran down the block, wondering when I should call 911. I decided I'd wait until I went around the next corner, which is when I saw Jude bounding up the hill away from me on his scooter. I yelled. I took his scooter. I kept walking. Jude stood on the sidewalk and cried, but he eventually caught up with us and got his scooter back. We rode on. 

As we neared our house, a smell overtook the air and it wasn't the smell of sweet Jasmine. It was the smell of sweet pot, which was, no doubt, being smoked by childless people on a warm spring night; people with enough time on their hands to pregame 4:20. 

"That smells disgusting," said Darla. "What is it?"

"Sage," I said. "Someone's burning sage."

"I hate that smell," said Darla.

"I love it," said Jude.

Greg and I shared a glance, knowing that we may have a future stoner on our hands. As we rounded the last corner to arrive at our house, the kids stopped to smell a fresh magenta rose whose blooms were just opening. 

Jude inhaled deeply and said, "It smells like my tears" before he continued to ride back to our house. 

I realized then that if Jude were to eventually become a stoner, he was destined to be a happy, poetic one. I was even a little bit jealous that he had thought to liken the scent of a flower to his tears. The best descriptor I could come up with for Jasmine, my favorite flower, was "sweet." Maybe I should loosen up a little like Jude and just ride life like a scooter. Maybe I'd be less of a paranoid stoner and more of a dramatic one. 

Ice Cream Messes

I used to have childlike wonder. I used to love playing with my dolls and imagining fantastical worlds, but then I turned 10 and my interest in it fell off a cliff. Almost my whole life, I could dance for hours. Now, I'd rather sit on a couch and stare blankly at the wall. With each passing year, I've grown more stodgy and colorless. I'm prone to bitching and hate doing anything that requires energy, which I'm certain makes me a blast for my kids to be around.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years is my relationship to ice cream. Although I think it's delicious, I've always had complicated feelings about it. As a child, I would enthusiastically demand ice cream as a special treat. My mom would narrow her eyes at me, but she, against her better judgment, would always take my sister Sarah and I to Baskin Robbins. I would order a chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone. (I always considered the sugar cone to be a sophisticated touch, not like the cake cones, which are cartoonish). I would take two licks of the ice cream and immediately begin talking with the speed and chaos of a derailed train. Meanwhile, I'd forget to continue to lick the ice cream cone, which would slowly start rolling its way down the cone. My mom would anxiously watch it melt and, at the last second, would lick the ice cream moments before it touched my hand.

A mother of twelve can only be so diligent. Eventually, the tiniest bit of ice cream would make its way to my hand. The tears would be instant. I'd howl with pain, feeling personally injured by the negative impact the passage of time has on frozen desserts. I would march over to the trash can, throw out the ice cream, and immediately sound the alarms. I had a dirty hand and someone needed to take care of it. 

Part of my anxiety around the experience was the fact that Baskin Robbins has napkins thinner than tissue paper, which they dole out sparingly. Don't look for them anywhere on the customer side of the counter; you have to ask the employees for them and they only give you two at a time. I knew that, once that stickiness reached my fingers, my day or night was ruined. There was no telling how long I'd have to walk around with my hand in this state. I'd leave the ice cream place in an absolute panic, licking my hands to try and bring some semblance of comfort back in my life. I eventually gave up on ice cream cones and came to accept that the only way I'd really get to enjoy it was in cake or milkshake form.

For 25 years, this worked well for me until I walked through the doors of motherhood, which is when my safe consumption became irrelevant. Kids don't want milkshakes. They don't even acknowledge that there's ice cream in there. To them, that's just sweet milk. They want to see that what they are eating is ice cream in either a cup or on a cone. As if I needed another reason to feel like a total buzzkill parent, I'm the mom who dreads taking her kids to ice cream. In all fairness, it's an issue I've had since I was little, so it really shouldn't count as a strike against me.

I'm unable to see their excitement through my anxious anticipation of the hellscape that is my kids at an ice cream shop. First, there's the counter. As someone who spent years working in food service, I know how horrible it is to patiently standby and watch customers hem and haw over their choices. And the customers who want to try 30 samples are the worst. But, aside from Jude who always orders vanilla in a cup with sprinkles, my family is the one that can't decide what they want, which isn't helped by the fact that the menu boards at ice cream shops are always hung in the least visible places. I sweat as I watch the line grow longer behind us. 

Then, there's the standard mess. It happens almost immediately. Darla gets ice cream all over her face and hands. Jude tries to put his entire scoop on his spoon and bring it to his lips rather than bend forward to eat it over the bowl, which leads him to drop half the ice cream on his lap. The end result is a table and two kids smeared in a rainbow of stickiness. And, worst of all, my hands are covered in ice cream despite me not even having ice cream (i'm not gonna waste my dessert on such a panic-inducing scenario for me). I'm then forced to do the thing I hate the most. I go to the counter, ask for napkins, and return to wash my kids off with the tissue paper, leaving bits of paper on my hands and their faces. At the end of the cleanup, my hands are still sticky and I didn't even get the benefit of it coming from my own ice cream cone. 

Who is Deebot?

Recently, I received a robotic vacuum called Deebot. This thing is amazing. I feel like I used to spend hours every day vacuuming or sweeping the floor. Now, I just set the vacuum on its journey around the house. After a couple of hours, all the bits of glitter and candy wrappers are all picked up. Now, Deebot isn’t perfect. It always sucks up Legos and my phone charger cord, but it really can’t be blamed for that. If we humans were just a little better, Deebot would be able to complete tasks unimpeded. My love for Deebot runs deep. 

When we first got Deebot, we immediately began to anthropomorphize it. Deebot might have been just a brand name, but we also made it its Christan surname. We discussed how well Deebot was doing and even contemplated how specific tasks made it feel. Through all our discussions, I realized that we’d need to figure out its gender pronoun ASAP. At first, we all called it “she.” 
The more I thought about it, though, the more I didn’t like it. Were we calling it a “she” because women are supposed to be the ones to clean the house? Did I want that to be the message my kids received? I grew up in a house where the boys never cleaned. All that did was deeply ingrain the message that women took care of all the housekeeping and even now, as an aware, feminist, I still find myself tripping over this idea. I wasn’t going to do the same with my kids, so I asked that everyone in the family call it “he,” explaining that men are competent cleaners, too. 

But then I thought about how much I love what Deebot has done for my life. I wondered whether I wanted to give a man credit for such bounty. I then decided Deebot was a she since I could send the message to my kids that women are extraordinary, just like Deebot.

I’m a pretty cautious person when it comes to what I say. I’m ever-paranoid of upsetting someone or committing a verbal misstep that will forever shatter my sense of self-worth. I agonize over what to say and, when I don’t, I feel I’m left having to clean up the mess of my hastily spoken words. This is just how I am in social situations. 

Many people get angry with such careful and thoughtful selection of words and call people who take such pains the “PC police” to say that we’re all wet blankets intent on sucking the humor out of life. I would argue, however, that an unwillingness to re-examine one’s language even when it’s at the expense of other people is just laziness. If your humor or lexicon is unable to be expanded upon and evolves in this world to take care of other people, then maybe you’re not that funny to begin with.  

When it comes to my kids, there is an additional layer of stress. I may not be careful when it comes to cuss words, which I continuously let slip out during moments of anxiety, but with words that could have some bearing on how my kids interact with the world. I understand the subtlety of language that will influence my kids’ broader worldview. I’m cognizant that establishing a benevolent, inclusive lexicon for my kids’ is crucial to their ability to be open and loving humans. 
Take, for instance, a conversation I had with Darla last year. She asked me whether only girls had babies. I started saying “yes,” but stopped myself because this wasn’t the right answer. I told her that both men and women could have babies, which is the truth. To say otherwise, to not include trans men in the discussion,  invalidates them as real men. It was important to me that she understood that there was no black and white answer when it comes to reproduction. 

My kids often pull down a book off the shelf that gives me, a woman who spent 16 years in Catholic school, so much agita. The book is called “Amazing You.” It’s a children’s book filled with simple language and diagrams to explain anatomy to young kids. Every time this book is brought out as our bedtime reading, I cringe my way through the book, knowing that normalizing every part of their bodies will build esteem in them. If I can make my way through the book, maybe they won’t feel the same level of shame around sex I had to contend with when I was young. 
I don’t love the book, but I read it straight through. Until I get to the part about making babies. That’s when I heavily edit the words because, to me, they fail to account for the beautiful rainbow that is human reproduction. The book says that babies are born when a man and woman love each other. For a scientific, objective book, such moralizing and heteronormativity is confounding. 

When I get to that part, I pause and mentally rewrite it. I take out all the parts that are subjective about creating life. People are not in love. People are not making a decision. He or she is not participating in sex. Without all that, I edit it down to: “when sperm meets an egg, a fetus is formed” because, at this point, I don’t know what’s in my kids’ futures. I don’t know if one is going to be straight, gay, trans, or asexual. Darla may choose to have a child alone. Either may adopt a kid. Or, maybe they both will be straight, get married, and have babies. Regardless, the world doesn’t follow that pattern broken down in the book, and I don’t want them to assume that that’s the path for everyone. 

I knew how to handle this situation, but when it came to Deebot, I was stuck. I explained to Greg how I have been agonizing over the gender pronoun for the vacuum and explained my rationale for either decision. I told him that I was at a loss. 

“Well,” Greg said, “how about ‘it.”

I was floored. That was the answer I was looking for. Why was I trying to assign a pronoun to an inanimate object? It was a robot. It was neutral. It didn’t need to have a male or female pronoun because it was neither, so why the hell was I wasting my time with such a consideration? It was pretty insulting that I was even contemplating the issue, which is something I'm going to have to deal with on my own time. Once I settled on “it,” I felt like I could finally relax and enjoy my new cleaning gadget. And let me tell you, it's doing a fantastic job. I may even promote it to my htird child soon.

The Incomplete History of Writing

Darla has started writing short stories. They're plotless, directionless, and absolutely amazing. Her most recent work is a little book called "The Incomplete History of Love." Rather than give a rundown of love in prehistoric times, the origin story of Cupid, or the first romantic stanza that was ever written, she writes what love is. She talks about how amazing love is and how happy it makes her. Although she doesn't give a single fact, hers really is the complete history of love because love has no history. It's ever-present and indescribable; she really captured the essence of love. And at the end, she wrote: "to learn more about Love go to" I did want to learn more about love, so I went to the domain and there was nothing there. Even that misdirect was masterful. 

I believe Darla knows that her writing makes me more enthusiastic than anything. If she ever decided to join a sports team, which seems highly unlikely at this point, I wouldn't be able to muster a fraction of the enthusiasm I do for her stories. And this facts makes me wonder if I'm painting her into a corner. If she sees me stoked about her writing, will this make her want to write more just to get a positive reaction out of me? Is that such a bad thing?

My dad was the same way with my writing. Although I think I'm a better parent than he was, one of the positive things about our relationship was how supportive he was of my writing. I wrote my first play in second grade about Thanksgiving, which is a fact I constantly reference. In fact, I've probably written about this at least a couple times here. It was the height of my writing career and I feel like everything I have done since then has been in service of chasing this high. You can forgive me for beating that dead horse since that play was really good. After I wrote that play, my dad labeled me the family "writer." It was something he talked about when we were ever alone, which was thankfully infrequent. He talked about it my entire life.

Even when I went years without writing anything, my dad would talk about how great my writing was. His praise was so frequent and persistent, that I suspected it contained overtones of sarcasm. I was skeptical of his kudos, but they did instill in me a confidence that I could actually write, so I wrote. Looking back, it's hard to say what came first: my love of writing or my dad's love of me as a writer. Regardless, I've spent a good portion of my life writing, whether it's a fool's errand or not. 

When I  get amped about Darla's stories, I see her face light up and her wheels spin. It seems in these moments she's imagining the next story she could write that will illicit the same kind of reaction from me. I can't help my response and I'm excited to read more of her writing, but I wonder if I should spread this excitement around a little more. Maybe I will usher her towards writing and that's not what she wants at all. Lord knows I'm not swimming in money I earned from it, so that might not the best career choice. Maybe I should just cheer for everything she does regardless, even if it does eventually mean I have to get really enthusiastic about softball or basketball.  

The Vicious Cycle

As I slog my way through yet another two-hour bedtime, I fantasize about being able to get away.  When I imagine my break, the most enticing thing is the thought that I can end my day whenever I feel like it without having to worry if someone else brushed his or her teeth. I would eat dinner in peace, read a book, and not worry about someone popping out of bed 50 times before they fall asleep. Sitting on a couch at 7:00 with the whole night stretched before me, who hours unaccounted for, is all I'm asking for. It's all I need. I imagine what it will be like to be responsibility-free and living life like I did before I had kids for just a few days. 

When the opportunity to take these breaks comes, I shake with excitement as I count down to my departure from my kids. This is the best part of it. The entire break lays ahead of me. Not a second of my time away has been used up. Just knowing it's there feels like I'm wrapped in the warmth of the best vacation ever despite my kids screaming through the house and elbowing me in the boobs. Barring the flu, nothing is going to interrupt my joy because I'm counting down to my break. 

Once I start the break, I already mourn the end of it because precious seconds away immediately begin disappearing. Every minute is one less minute of freedom. Rather than relish it, I worry over its end.

Beyond my inability to stay present, there's one other reality that casts its shadow across my break: my life will never again be like it was before I had kids. I can't pretend I don't have kids for a minute because those two are deeply ingrained in my soul. No matter how much they irritate me with their incessant questions and demands, they're a part of me and there's no way I can disentangle myself from them. While I eat meals in peace and quiet and sleep in as late as I want, they're still there with me the whole time. Whether I'm worrying about them or laughing about all the funny ways they've fallen down, I'm never not a mom. I can never go back to be the person I was before having kids.

While this is sometimes challenging to accept because I didn't even know how amazing freedom was when I had, it's a good trade-off. Before having kids, Greg and I were sitting on the couch, watching tv, and being so bored. At this point, that sounds like heaven, but at the time it was getting very tedious. We weren't appreciating all the time we had. We didn't write novels, create masterpieces, or even go out very often. We just sat there and wondered if there was something we should be doing.

Now, we appreciate the shit out of any free time we have. And if we have a night off, we're going to wrestling matches or fun restaurants or, even if we're sitting on the couch, we're watching shows about amazing houses or Queer Eye, so we're definitely having more fun than we did before. And, between all the chaos and tantrums with the kids, there are genuinely good moments. Times where we laugh and enjoy each other's company as a family. 

One of the weirdest parts of these short breaks is that I actually miss the kids when I'm away (not right away, but after a day or so. I'm not a saint over here). I slowly start to miss their little faces and the funny things they say. Usually, by the time the vacation ends, I'm even sort of looking forward to seeing them. But then, within five minutes of seeing them, someone's screaming because the window on her side of the car won't roll down like her brother's window does and I'm already counting down the days until my next break. 

I'm the Worst Tooth Fairy

This smile right here was worth at least $1.

This smile right here was worth at least $1.

 I can’t remember a time when I believed in the whimsical; when I felt like effervescent sprites traveled great distances to pay cold hard cash for teeth and bunnies hopped to the homes of Christian children to leave them baskets full of rabbit-themed candies. I don’t remember flitting around through life contemplating a land where lollipops sprouted from the ground like flowers and candy bars grew on trees. A place which was gently ruled by a benevolent princess made out of licorice and marshmallows. Maybe I did, and I’ve just forgotten, but the only magical Imagineering I recall from my childhood was stretching my mind to invent maladies and illnesses to suit my hypochondria. I have a vivid memory of imagining it was possible for me to get pregnant at five. I believed in my body’s ability to do the impossible to make my life more miserable, not that impossible creatures existed in this world to make life more fantastical. 

But I must have believed in magic at some point because I remember moments when the reality under the magic revealed itself. When I saw the inner workings and realized that things aren't as mystical as I thought. The biggest one of these revelations was that Santa doesn’t exist. (If anyone reading this didn’t realize it before, I’m super sorry I just sucked the last bit of whimsy out of your life). The day I made the discovery, I was innocently looking through a family album when I was seven. I came across a picture of my mom writing. I looked closer and saw that it was the letter Santa had written us a couple of years earlier. It took me a moment to realize my mom wasn’t just copying the message, but that she was Santa Claus. I wondered if my dad had snapped the picture to expose the cracks in the façade since he could be pretty mean-spirited at times. Undeterred, I moved forward with my life pretending that I still believed in Santa since I knew a world without Santa was present-less one. 

That’s why I also pretended I believed in the tooth fairy when I cracked my molar while chewing ice when I was seven years old. I heard the snap and tasted metal as my gums began to bleed, but I don’t remember any pain. I felt the half tooth with my tongue. The molar had a silver filling on it. (I’m only just now realizing that might have been dangerous because didn’t they used to use mercury in fillings? I’m almost sure they were. Does this mean I’ve reached my max allowance for mercury consumption in my life? Can I no longer eat tuna?)

After I cracked my tooth, only one half fell out right away. That night I put the tooth under my pillow not because I believed in the tooth fairy but because I believed in money. If a regular tooth was worth 50 cents in the late 80’s, then half a tooth was good for a quarter, at least. Once I lost the other half, I’d have 50 cents, and I’d be well on my way to buying myself a 100 Grand candy bar without having to steal quarters from the top of my dad’s dresser. 

When I woke up the next morning, there was a $20 bill under my pillow. I wondered if maybe the “tooth fairy” saw value in a half of a tooth because it was unique and was willing to give up 40 times the asking price for it. I knew better than to believe that nonsense too long. I had a feeling that the “tooth fairy” had been up late the night before drinking whiskey on the rocks while watching the news and had accidentally pulled a 20 out of his wallet. I, also, knew that the “tooth fairy” was gonna be pissed when he’d found out what he’d done, but he operates under cover of deep secrecy so he wouldn’t say anything when he realized his mistake. I’d like to think that the “tooth fairy” was seething as he watched me prance about with the $20 bill while he drank his morning coffee.

I, now, get to be the tooth fairy and Santa Claus for Darla and Jude and I’m failing miserably at the job. Not in the way that I accidentally give them too much money, but that I forget to do it all together. I sometimes wonder if my anxiety-ridden childhood has made me less capable of creating a magical environment in my home. I read parenting blogs that advise on how to build fairy kingdoms in dew-filled, overgrown gardens or project constellations on the ceiling with a flashlight and some construction paper and I wonder if I’m destroying my kids’ lives by not being whimsical enough. I’m not even capable of doing the most basic steps to keep the magic in their lives. I’ve accidentally used “Santa Only” wrapping paper to wrap non-Santa gifts. I’ve barely disguised my handwriting when sending notes from magical creatures. 

Most recently, Greg and I had even forgotten to retrieve the tooth from underneath Darla’s pillow for an entire week. One morning, I felt so awful that I wrote a letter from the tooth fairy promising that the money would be under her pillow that night. I then proceeded to forget to do the whole deal when that night came. So much time had elapsed, that Darla even lost another tooth. We told Darla that the tooth fairy probably didn’t come before because she knew the other tooth was going to fall out. Despite the stakes being raised, we still forgot to put money under her pillow that night. Darla, taking a hint from the tooth fairy, even stopped putting her teeth under her pillow. Eventually, she got the money, but the magic was gone. I could tell her heart wasn’t in it when she danced with the dollar bills.

As I watched her face fall morning after morning, I felt terrible that I’d done such a terrible job. Since this has happened, I wonder if Darla’s going to end up getting a boring desk job because I’ve created such a non-magical home. Greg carries much of the weight of keeping the house exciting with fantastical games and storytelling, but there’s only so much he can do. Maybe, if I kept things more exciting, she’d be destined to be a famous artist or playwright. I think I’m doing the best I can, so maybe a boring desk job it is!  

That being said, as I've gotten older, I have begun to believe that there are mystical layers to our world. I felt it when Darla and Jude came screaming into the world. I see it every day as I watch them both develop into themselves. I know it's there when Greg and I laugh so hard at the kids that we can't breathe. I've witnessed the magic when Darla first learned how to read. I've watched it take shape as Jude tries to dance. I can smell it when, on the first days of spring, Los Angeles becomes overwhelmed by the scent of jasmine. The magic might not be filled with fairies and candy coated raindrops, but it's fairytale-like none the less. 

The Mystery of the Frosting Container

    Although we’re huge fans of grocery store bought birthday cakes in my house, Greg and I typically make a sacrifice on our birthdays and allow the kids to create our cakes. Since we’re not masochists, we don’t let them make them from scratch, but, instead, we buy a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, Pillsbury frosting, and let the kids believe that they’re the reason the cake tastes so delicious. It feels misleading, in a way, to present this as actual baking. I imagine they’ll be years out of college, still bragging about the culinary skills, before they realize that cracking three eggs, dumping a half cup of oil, and one cup of water into a pre-made baking mix doesn’t constitute skilled baking. Those mixes are foolproof.  

When making the cake, the kids feel like they can let their hair down when we decorate it. Literally. They get strands of hair in the frosting.  They, also, cough all over the cake, dump fistfuls of sprinkles on it (so much so that I feel like I might crack a tooth biting into it), and believe they’re both Degas. This year, when making Greg’s cake, I wanted Darla to feel more invested in the process. As someone who for years was a subpar cake decorator (please don’t ask me to draw any designs. I can do rosettes, and that’s about it), it was necessary to me that she tries to kind of learn how to frost, as well. I purchased a prefilled pastry bag with rosette tips to make this dream a reality. As we prepared to frost the cake, I noticed that the safety seal on the pastry bag was broken. I immediately thought of the Chicago Tylenol Murders of 1982, where 7 people died of poisoning from Tylenol bottles that had been tampered with. It’s the entire reason there are safety seals on commercially sold consumable products sold in containers, now. Seeing the seal broken on the frosting made my heart rate subtly increase. Were we going to be the first victims of the Wilton Frosting Murderer of 2018? 

“Did you open this,” I asked Darla as I held out the bag, trying to look serious but unthreatening.

“No,” Darla said.

“Are you sure?” I said. “You won’t be in trouble. I just need to know.”

“I swear I didn’t,” she said, tears filling up in her eyes as she teetered on the edge of a tantrum. Her reaction wasn’t necessarily an indication that she was truthful. She’s put on this act even when she has lied in the past.

“Seriously, Darla,” I said, again. “Did you open this?”

“I can lie and tell you I did open it,” Darla said. “Does that work?”

“No, we want you to tell us the actual truth,” Greg said. “It will determine whether we keep this bag.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because I want to make sure no one else opened it,” I replied. “If they did, we can’t use it.”

The temperature in the room immediately changed. My kids began to look panicked. Darla quickly ran to the door that leads to our kitchen and closed it. Jude covered his ears and closed his eyes.

“I have goosebumps,” Darla said.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” yelled Jude who looked like he wanted to hide. 

“It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine,” I said quickly, unsure why everyone was in such a panic about this. As far as I knew, they weren’t aware of the Tylenol murders. In my mind, that was the only thing to worry about. 

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Darla said, her eyes wide with horror. “Please come with me.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Greg said, both of us still confused as to why they were so scared. “No one else opened the frosting container. I was the one who opened it. You don’t need us to come with you because nothing scary has happened.”

“Darla, I’ll go with you,” said Jude, the only other person in the room who understood why Darla was afraid. Together, they embarked on a journey down the well-lit hallway to the well-lit bathroom with much trepidation. They came running back into the kitchen after, both because they were eager to decorate the cake and get away from whatever was freaking them out. I ended up using the scary frosting to prove to them that the Wilton pastry bag was nothing to be afraid of. Also, chances were high that I had unscrewed it myself without thinking. Mindfulness isn’t my strong suit. 


By bedtime, the kids were still afraid, and we still didn’t know why. After much cajoling and talking down, both kids eventually fell asleep. With a moment to ourselves and a second to think, it finally occurred to us what the kids were afraid of. Darla has been reading Harry Potter, and there’s a poltergeist named Peeves who, as any good poltergeist would, fucks with all the students at Hogwarts. It’s feasible that Darla, to allay her fears and scare her brother, had told Jude about this character. 

When the kids initially saw my look of concern, they didn’t understand what the big deal was. To them, an opened container was a non-issue. The look on my face, though, told them otherwise. In an attempt to make sense of my apprehension they, simultaneously and without any discussion, had concluded that a poltergeist had unscrewed the Wilton frosting bag. I wasn’t aware that I had told them a spooky story that chilled them to the bone when all I wanted to know was whether the frosting would kill us. 

After coming to this understanding, I’m not too confident which scenario is less scary. Would it be preferable to think an agent of chaos would put arsenic in a commercially sold frosting to raise awareness of the United States’ dependency on sugar? Or, would I rather believe that a ghost was hovering around the house waiting for opportunities to mess with our heads? In the end, I might say I’d prefer to have a poltergeist since I ended up using that frosting to decorate Greg’s birthday cake and I’d like to think that I don’t currently have a poisonous cake sitting on my counter. 

You Can't be a Parent AND a People Pleaser

My entire life, I have been a people pleaser. Sometimes it feels like everything I have ever done has been in service of making other people happy. When I was little, I would try to entertain and diffuse uncomfortable situations to make everyone more at ease. I’ve consistently pushed aside my concerns because I hate to have a negative impact on other people. You could cut me off on the freeway and I'd apologize to you because I was driving real slow. I’m not saying my stress regarding other people’s happiness yields excellent results; keep in mind that I’m continuously guessing at what will make them the most at ease. For all I know, I could be making other people’s lives more difficult with my attentiveness.  

Worrying non-stop about whether the entire world is satisfied and in a good place is utterly exhausting. It has gotten even more fatiguing since having kids. Not only do I regularly worry about whether my kids are living as happily as possible, but I’m also overly concerned about their existence having as little of a negative impact on the general population as possible. Often, these two desires are at odds with each other. My kids feel the only way they can live their best lives is by being as loud, joyous, and boisterous as possible. Everyone else seems to want them to be abnormally quiet and considerate. Being a mom has made my people pleasing nearly impossible.

When we go to restaurants, I want my kids to sit calmly, eat their vegetables, and let the waiters and waitresses work. Instead, they fidget around, eat nothing, and try to engage the servers in in-depth conversations about the new toys they got at Christmas over two months ago. The servers try to be attentive as possible, but I can see their eyes glazing over as they run down their endless, ever-changing mental checklist. I usually intervene and distract the kids from their story. Sometimes, their volume makes me want to hide under the table out of embarrassment. I try so hard to keep them calm. This takes a herculean amount of effort, which is why I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed a meal out since 2010. On plane rides, I agonize for days over how to keep my kids out of the other passenger’s hair. I pack toys, snacks for days, and kindles. I hyperventilate the night before the flight as I think about all the ways my kids might make the other passengers' flight less than pleasant. After a successful trip, I then wonder how much my kids will hate me for all the stern “shhhh’s” and talking to’s I had to give them on the flight. I can’t win.

Never has this dichotomy felt more intense, though, than in my home. When we first looked at our current apartment, my biggest concern was that we couldn't be on the top floor lest our kids’ running destroy the lives of the people who live below us. Although the listing said there were four apartments, I only saw three. The ground floor apartment we were looking at and the two apartments above. I figured the listing had a typo in it.

On our move-in day, I walked around the side of the house for the first time. I froze halfway down the driveway when I saw a tiny hovel and a dingy red door. I looked up and saw, above the door, the bedroom that was intended to be the kids' room. That troll cave was the fourth apartment. All my dreams of having a relatively relaxing existence dissipated. Years of tense worry about my neighbors was sure to take over my life. To add to this, I found that our floors/ceilings were extremely thin, so my kids were at risk for pissing off the entire building. 

When we moved in, it took a solid month for Darla to adjust and Jude, a newborn then, was waking up multiple times a night. Nightly tantrums, 2:00 am screaming, and early wake ups were our norm. This was now the norm for all my single, kid-less neighbors. I worried and yelled and tried to make our house a quieter space, but nothing worked. Not only was I making my family miserable, but the noise that had led me to feel overwhelmed with anxiety was also staying at the same volume. I have slowly eased up on my kids and have let them do kid things in the apartment.

For the most part, my neighbors haven’t complained, and I have learned to temper my anxiety. Although I continuously tell them to use their inside voices and to not run around the hallways until 9:00, I don’t go into a full-blown panic when their voices hit that decibel that makes my ears bleed. 

There is one neighbor, the sweetest girl, however, who continually drops hints about how much she doesn’t like their early wake ups. Instead of falling over myself, apologizing, I just say, “Oh my god, I’m so not a morning person, either. I’ve tried for years to get them to stay in bed, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” If anything, my kids might inspire her to wait a little longer to have children of her own. 

I still haven’t been able to temper my people pleasing, but I’m trying not to let it get in the way of me raising my kids. While, much to my husband Greg's chagrin, I did try to buy nice bottles of wine for all my neighbors before Darla’s birthday party last weekend, I resisted the urge and didn’t. I suffered in silence as I allowed nine kids to shriek, run, and dance across our wooden floors in such a way that shook our entire building. I didn’t hear a single complaint from our neighbors and Darla got to have the wildest party of her dreams that ended at a respectful 9:00 pm. 

Miniature Toys are the Worst


The person who conceived of Shopkins, the miniature anthropomorphic figurines in the shape of adorable food items, is a sadistic genius. (I just found out her name is Jacqui Tobias). These microscopic toys are not only expensive, but the brands' survival is built into the product. If by some grace of God your kids are able to hold onto these toys, they will clamor for the newest models when they release them seasonally. If your kids are like mine, however, they will be lost within a day and demands for replacements, so loud and insistent, will begin immediately. Next time you're at Target, they'll whine as they pass the toy aisle. They'll never let you peruse the sock aisle at your leisure without the Shopkins in their hands, so maybe you buy them more in the hopes that they'll hold onto them this time. Sadly, this is impossible. These newest Shopkins will be lost by the time you get home and the cycle will start all over again. It's by means of this infinity loop of despair and torture that Moose Toys has taken over an entire aisle at every big box store. While I hate the havoc she's brought into my life, I can appreciate Jacqui Tobias's brilliance.

Tiny toys will be my downfall as a parent. For Darla, they're just an absolute waste of money since she loses them immediately. A day after losing them, she doesn't even remember she had the miniature item in the first place, so it was as if we never bought them. Jude, on the other hand, has a mental inventory of every toy he owns. And not just the big toys he gets at Christmas. He remembers the tiny spider ring he got when he went trick or treating or the small whistle he got from a goodie back last summer. With such a large inventory to consider, Jude has a hard time keeping track of it all. Every day, he asks me to hunt down some small lego person or a micromachine he lost a month ago. His new nickname is "Needle in a Haystack" because he always wants me to achieve the impossible and hunt down these items from the middle of a tornado of toys in his room.

While I appreciate that he thoroughly enjoys his toys, this constant tracking down of missing items can wear me down. I'll be putting him to bed and he'll ask for his miniature Spiderman. He'll insist he won't fall asleep unless he has it next to him. He starts screaming when I say no. I leave the room and we have a standoff. He wails and I pretend I don't hear anything. Eventually, I go in and find the toy because his crying is like nails on the chalkboard.

This process, unfortunately, is entirely my own doing. The first time he did this, I explained to him that the little motorcycle he was looking for was so small that I wouldn't be able to find it. He insisted I could. I told him I couldn't. He asks me to try. I sigh and search to prove my point. The only problem is that I found it almost immediately, which proved to him that he was right and I am always capable of tracking down every item he requests of me. From then on, the argument that I won't be able to find the item is useless. He has complete faith in my ability to track down even a small lego sword. I wish I could go back in time and kept that motorcycle unfound so he would know how hard it was to track down small toys. 

It has taken some time, but we're currently in the process of breaking him of the habit of requesting that we find all his missing toys. I tell him that if he wants to keep all his toys, he has to be responsbile for knowing where they are. If he doesn't, then the disappointment of losing items will be a good life lesson; one that I have learned over and over again (once when I accidentally threw out all my clothes, once when I threw out designer sunglasses thinking they were my broken drugstore ones, once when I lost all my shoes, etc...). It's an importnant lesson in impermanence and non-attachment to material items. Or, at least that's what I tell myself when I'm feeling too damn lazy to look for his little Lego police car. 

On a First Name Basis

My mom wasn’t particularly strict. She was more preoccupied with keeping all twelve of us alive and fed to worry about discipline. There was one thing, however, that she wouldn’t tolerate: people younger than her calling her by her first name, Mary. She was strictly Mrs. McKenna. I have brother-in-laws well into their 50’s who still refer to her as such. This sign of respect is how they’ve stayed on her right side. For my mom, referring to your elders by their first names is a sign of disrespect and lacks the deference she wants to see from children. When I was growing up, the rest of the world concurred. I never called teachers or my friends’ parents by their first names. To do so would feel too familiar. It, also, was never even offered as an option. Forcing kids to refer to adults by their title established an immutable distinction between kids and adults. 

Something about that dynamic must have worked, at least for me. I may have started smoking at 12, drinking by 13, and broke countless other laws,  but I never once mouthed off to my mom. When my mom is struggling to find the most favorable achievements of my childhood, this is always the fact that she returns to. I may have disrespected her behind her back by never listening to her and doing whatever the hell I wanted, but I never called her a bitch or mouthed off to her. It’s evident that my mom is grasping at straws whenever she praises the “respect” I gave her as an adolescent. 

When I had kids and began having to consort with even more kids, I told all of them my name was Elizabeth, and I’m not even really sure why. Maybe because standing on formality just seemed too passé. Or perhaps it’s because I don’t think of myself as a Mrs. Christie, which sounds more like the name of a teacher than a rad mom who lives on the edge and lets her kids eat cookies on weeknights sometimes. And all the other new parents around me did the same, encouraging kids who aren’t their own to call them by their first names. 

On the other side of this first name experiment, I wonder if there was something to the decorum and the distance placed between adults and children by having them address us by our formal titles. These names seemed to promote fealty to one’s elders. As a parent, I’ve noticed a lot of attitude coming my way from all the six and seven-year-olds I’ve encountered (my daughter Darla included). Since they refer to me by my first name, the may feel like we’re peers and approach me accordingly. And let me tell you, nothing makes the rage bubble up to the surface more than six-year-old acting like he or she is your cohort. I worked hard for this status. I was pregnant for 20 months, pushed two kids out, and raised those two kids from birth. I can barely handle the attitude I get from them, so it’s extra challenging to hear it coming from one of their’ friends. 

Recently, I had some of Darla’s friends over for a playdate. I let the kids run wild in my house, thinking that providing a space for the kids to play would be enough. I decided to take five minutes to read, but even those five minutes were frequently interrupted as they begged me to let them play “Pie Face” (the game that’s kind of like Russian Roulette, but with whipped cream). Finally, I gave up on the bit of free time I thought the playdate would offer and went into the game closet to get it. As I bent down to grab it, I felt a rubber ball hit my back, and heard a child’s voice say “You bum mom.”

Nothing stabs me in the heart more than disapproval from young children. Insults from a first grader sting just as much as they did when I was in first grade. One might argue that I’m in a state of arrested development, but, in my weaker moments, I would say that kids are a divining rod for the coolest stuff. If a child derides you, you deserve every bit of that disdain. So, as I sat in the game closet, I felt myself deflate. “I’m totally a lazy bum. How did they know? What am I doing with my life? I should be out climbing mountains, not sitting inside reading. I’m the worst!” As I fell down the shame spiral, I remembered that I was an adult and those kids were guests in my house, and then I was pissed. I said nothing since they weren’t mine and I never know how other parents feel about people who reprimand their kids, but I seethed and felt very wronged for a bit. I let this one slide but decided that I had to establish some boundaries with future playdates (lest I come across as a total pushover). I made a mental note that the kid had one chance before this child wasn't invited over anymore.

As much as I want to belt out in an acapella version of “What’s the Matter with Kids Today,” I realize that kids are just as bratty now as they were in the 80’s. In fact, the eighties seemed to breed disrespectful children exclusively. Neon shirts, fingerless gloves, and skateboards lend themselves well to bitchiness and eye rolling. I don’t recall much of the brattiness my friends may have exhibited, but I’m pretty sure if I ever watched my friends act rude to their parents, I assumed the parents deserved it. 

Ultimately, my meditation on the rudeness of children (mine included) has led me to a dead end since it seems that attitude is a rite of passage. I’m sure cave children were even total jerks to their cave parents. So, like previous generations of parents, I'm stuck trying to figure out how to raise respectful children in deference to their desire to act completely disrespectful. I'm hoping my zero tolerance for rudeness in my home will create a positive difference in the world, just as long as my kids start learning the lessons.

And, as upset I get when six-year-old mouths off at me, I, ultimately, want them to like me because I have issues with self-esteem. If I’m not positively reflected back by a six-year-old, how am I going to manage to impress any of my cohorts? I am happy to report that the same child who called me a “bum mom” loved the pasta I made, so I feel like coming out on top of that situation.