Mommy’s Little Monster
Every child in my daughter’s class got a new pet last year. This is what I hear at least. I know of at least three that did in fact get a dog in the past year. But I’m pretty sure the majority of the remaining twenty two first graders did not get a new pet. Unfortunately, this is the one area where my kid wants to be just like the other kids and now she wants a pet.
She initially asked for a puppy but quickly decided that a kitten would be a better choice based on the ease of poop retrieval. We went through all of the things she would have to do to care for a kitten and she feels strongly that she is capable of doing them. I told her that she would need help that her dad and I are not willing to give right now but she was adamant that she could do it all herself. I learned quickly at the start of this conversations that all of her feelings about this subject were strong – vehement even. She is seven, so most of her thoughts and feelings are life changing. She is pretty sure at this moment her life is incomplete because there is no kitten in it.
I asked her how she would get her kitten to the vet, and asked if she would be driving herself there. She replied “Of course not. I’m a child. I can’t drive!” I thought this was a good place to end the discussion, but she proceeded to list the other ways she could get to the vet. My daughter may not be able to drive, but next time I leave her at school I can ask why she didn’t just call an Uber because she is clearly familiar with how to get a ride. Uber was one of five ways she listed to get to the vet. I didn’t even want to ask how she planned to pay for the veterinary services.
The problem with having a clever child is they have an answer for everything. She badgered me for three hours. She negotiated, cried, made promises that she was clearly not capable of keeping and batted her eyelashes furiously until I finally told her to go ask her dad what he thought. I immediately hid in the closet and read a book. She may be clever, but she is also afraid to go upstairs by herself. I had approximately fifteen minutes of silence. When we reconvened she told me that my husband had told her she should ask her grandparents to get a kitten at their house since she spends so much time there. The problem with this is she could actually wear them down or talk them into it and eventually the kitten would end up in my house. This was not a good plan.
I reminded my daughter that we had a cat when she was little. Said cat had actually been a resident in our house for years before my daughter was born, and I was pretty confident that she would be evicted the second we brought our newest member of the family home. Mommy’s Little Monster – Monster for short was an adorable little ball of neurotic fury. The cat was very clearly insane and very attached to me. Go figure. We were pretty sure she would completely lose her shit when we brought our daughter home, but somehow she didn’t. She actually mellowed for awhile until our baby became a toddler and was able to give chase. She finally turned on her after one too many close calls with sticky fingers and a tail and we had to find Monster a new home.
Monster getting her head stuck in a glass – a weekly occurrence
I thought some stories about all of the mischievous things Monster did would persuade my daughter that a kitten was not a good idea. That cat was truly a pain in the butt. I shared how she used to break half of the ornaments on the Christmas tree every year, and how she knocked over my water glass in the middle of the night while trying to take a drink. I shared how she attacked the paper in the printer and sent faxes by lying on the speed dial buttons at 3 am, and how she tried to escape the house every time we opened the door. I told her about the time Monster got trapped in a plastic grocery bag and ran herself stupid around the house until she got stuck behind our bed. When we finally got her out, we found that she had literally scared the shit out of herself and had been bouncing around in a bag full of her own poop for ten minutes. We had to take her into the basement and give her a bath in the washtub after cutting the bag off her body. Everyone involved came out of that experience with new scratches and teeth marks. Instead of being horrified by this, my seven year old found it all hilarious. I had forgotten that one of her favorite activities is terrorizing me, so all of this was incredibly appealing, not appalling.
Unfortunately, I think this is a conversation that will continue all summer. I can’t act surprised, I have seen it coming since she told me about her friends and their new pets throughout the year. She is at the age that pets are entering the picture for a lot of her peers and she is hearing about the fun they are having. I guess it could be worse. Her friend’s mom is pregnant. She could be asking for a baby sibling!
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I finally did it – the thing every parent dreads and hopes never happens to them. I forgot to pick up my kid from school. Actually, her grandparents didn’t pick her up from school, but it was my fault. She had a noon dismissal on Friday and I didn’t let my parents know so they showed up to pick her up at her normal dismissal time and found an empty parking lot. I actually called my mother at 1:30 to remind her that they were picking up at 3 that day. My poor child had already been sitting around for an hour and a half by that time. She was probably already four shades of pink from the hot weather and sun scorching her skin. I had, of course, forgotten to apply sunscreen in the morning.
Now, my seven year old has been able to say “I told you so!” repeatedly about this. The day I abandoned her at school was a special day. It was Conge – which is a year end celebration that has been a tradition at the school since I was a student 500 years ago. There is always a noon dismissal on this day. We actually had a discussion about the dismissal time the night before and I consulted both my calendar and an e-mail about the uniform requirement for that day. Neither of these references said that she should be picked up at noon. My daughter argued that she would be coming home at noon. She was excited about spending the extra time with her grandparents until I told her that she was not coming home early. We went back and forth about it for at least ten minutes until I finally said “if you had a noon dismissal it would be in my calendar, and there would be an e-mail about it.” Right? Wrong.
I even attended Conge. I showed up at 10:30 to take some pictures and left right after the primary school’s lip sync performance ended at 11:15. Had I stayed until the end, I would have been able to take my kid home with me, like every other parent in attendance. But I had things to do and bolted as soon as her feet left the stage. I think I score some extra bad bonus points for this move. It would only be worse if I actually drove through the pick up line and waved before leaving.
But the icing on the bad parent cake is that I didn’t even pack her a lunch. I pack this child a lunch every day. She has hot lunch maybe four times a year even though she begs for it weekly. On this day I told her she could have hot lunch since she was spending the night at her grandparents’ house and I didn’t want her lunchbox to sit for the night. The problem with this is since dismissal was immediately after Conge, there was no hot lunch. All of the kids who stayed in the extended day program brought their lunch. So basically all of the kids went to the extended day room and opened up their lunch boxes to eat. All of the kids except mine who had no lunch. Luckily, she missed most of this because she was standing around outside waiting for her ride that never arrived. It was after all the other kids had gone that a teacher escorted her down to the extended day room to join the other kids. At some point someone gave her a bagel when they realized her negligent mom had neglected to send food.
She looks like this when I pick her up too!
Luckily she was able to hang out in the extended day program for a few hours which she has been asking to attend for months. She is the kind of kid who looks at the bright side so this was the first thing she said to my parents when they picked her up. The next thing she said is that she was worried that something had happened to them. Of course something must have happened for her grandparents to leave her. If it was my day to pick her up it wouldn’t have surprised her at all.
Taking a cue from my daughter, I am also looking at the bright side of this. Technically, I wasn’t the one who left her at school for three hours last week. Her grandparents are the ones who picked her up late. Even though it was 100% my fault, I am pinning this one on them and everyone seems to be going along with my little act. My mom feels so guilty every time it is brought up that my daughter may get her own car out of this before she is even in middle school. Most parents would feel just as badly about this as my mom does. I am not most parents. I am saving all of the guilt for when I forget to pick her up from college or show up late to her graduation.
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When my husband and I were first married we lived in a little house in a neighborhood that was headed into economic hardship. We lived directly across the street from a condo complex that included government subsidized housing. There lived little old ladies, single moms with gaggles of small children and our favorite resident who we called “Cracky”. She was a middle aged woman who rarely left her front porch but had many visitors. She spent most days – both warm and cold – sitting in her front yard with a tumbler full of booze in her right hand and a cigarette in her left. Mullet and mustache sporting men moved in and out monthly, some leaving in handcuffs and at least one in a body bag.
Cracky was a regular source of entertainment for us during our first few years of marriage. We watched as she drank her days away, hosting parties with loud classic rock blaring from her front windows. We had little choice in watching her antics since she was always louder than our TV and there were always some form of lights or fireworks illuminating the front of her home. When we heard sirens in the neighborhood, there was never a question of where they were headed. We saw at least three bodies removed from the house in black bags, mostly by ambulances, but one in an unmarked minivan. I had no idea the coroner’s office employed outside contractors. Maybe she found a discount service.
She had a grown son who lived with her on and off. One day we watched him pack a bunch of camping equipment and head into the complex. We saw him return every so often after that, but he never stayed long. We made up stories about him moving to the woods and living off the grid in pure paranoid stoner fashion. We were pretty sure he only came home once a month to bathe.
A lot of hard work and a little entertainment
Occasionally Cracky got social while drinking on her porch. She came across the street to chat with my husband and dad as they installed a paver walkway from the driveway to the porch one morning. My dad commented that he thought she was drunk at 10 am. He didn’t know Cracky like we did – she had been loaded since half past 8. She spent twenty minutes hitting on my dad while my husband tried to ignore there was a drunken, half-clad woman tripping all over our yard. I think she finally noticed my dad’s wedding band or her drink was running low because she headed home pretty quickly. Later that day our neighbor told us how he had woken up from a nap one day and she was swimming in his pool – uninvited. I made a mental note to lock our gate.
She returned the following summer when we had a garage sale and offered me a nickel for every item for sale, even a leather jacket with a $10 neon orange price tag attached to the lapel. I offered her a nickel if she would remove herself from my driveway and stop scaring off potential customers. It was again before 10 am and she could barely keep her body above her dollar store flip flops. That was the first and last garage sale we even had.
We once put a couch at the curb that had seen better days. I don’t know when those better days were since it had passed through at least four houses before finding it’s way to our basement. It was worn and ugly and had been around the block more times than the ice cream truck. It sat at our curb for approximately 10 seconds before Cracky recruited her son and another dude from inside her house to drag the entire sectional across the street. Apparently a twelve year old couch is cause for a celebration. The couch sat in the center of her front yard as party guests arrived over the course of the afternoon. A bonfire was lit, the coolers were opened and we heard several very out of tune guitars playing “Smoke on the Water” until the sun came up the following morning. We thought the party was over, but apparently a white trash celebration over a dumpster find lasts longer than a Hindu death ritual. Luckily the last guitar string broke within the first day and they resorted to the classic rock radio station for their listening entertainment. It took a summer thunder storm to break up the party. We watched as the guests stumbled over themselves trying to drag the soaking wet piece of furniture into the house without spilling their beers. A few weeks later I came home to see the couch sitting in Cracky’s front yard. This time it was closer to the sidewalk with a giant sign on the front that read “FOR SALE”. I guess she had to pay for her Five O’clock Vodka and Marlboros somehow. I walked over and offered her a nickel.
It’s been awhile since we have moved from that old neighborhood, but I like to think that Cracky is still sitting on her porch, drink in hand, listening to some Sabbath. I’m guessing she is slinking around today, swimming in some poor sap’s pool while they are at work and digging through their garbage for little trinkets to sell to passersby on her sidewalk. I have yet to find a neighbor even half as colorful as Cracky in our new neighborhood.
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Danger – small children may get lost in grass!
We have a lawn service. They are inexpensive since they handle a lot of the homes in our neighborhood. Because of this I never complain about the little things that bother me. Sure, I swear under my breath when they show up before 8 am on saturday most weeks but I don’t complain. I just shake my head and throw my hands in the air while watching the tweenage boy handling the weed wacker, occasionally beheading my flowers as he wildly swings the machine that weighs more than him around like a golf club, but I don’t complain. I don’t even complain that every year I have to remind them to mow the hump in our front yard that they apparently mistake for a flowerless flowerbed with grass growing in it. Seriously, it’s a hump where a tree once grew that now is covered with grass. I don’t complain about any of this because they are cheap. I understand that you most often do get what you pay for.
I am, however, ready to call and complain right now. This month they have come to do their job once. It’s the end of May and they have done one cut of our lawn, on the 15th. Our grass is so long it tickles my knees as I walk through the backyard. My husband joked that he would be able to do all kinds of cliche family portraits without having to drive anywhere. The field is now surrounding our house. I walked through the grass yesterday and when I turned around there were giant foot prints where I had flattened the grass. Several small crop circles are positioned all over my yard where I dragged bags of mulch to the flower beds.
As I drive down my street it looks like half the neighborhood abandoned their houses. A lot of my neighbors use this lawn service and nobody has seen them in more than ten days. It’s like a zombie apocalypse on our street. I saw some pink and white streamers blowing in the wind and it was the handlebars of a little girl’s bike. The grass had swallowed the entire bike, leaving just the tip of a handlebar unconsumed. If I had a decent script I would break out the camera and film a horror movie in the hood.
The end is near!
The neighbors on either side of me must be losing their minds. They both take very good care of their yards so having the hillbillies with the field next door has to be making them crazy. I noticed that our one neighbor was out on his riding mower for the third time in a week yesterday. I think our yard is giving him anxiety. Maybe he is worried that it’s contagious. I almost told him if he wanted to just keep riding and cut through our yard I wouldn’t complain. At this point though, I’m afraid he might get stuck. I think we are at a level where only an industrial mower will handle our situation. I’m expecting a letter from our homeowners’ association any day now.
Sadly, what I am most annoyed with in this entire situation is that the owner of our lawn care company is a horrible businessman. I could understand him not showing up if we paid a flat rate per season regardless of the work performed, but we pay per cut. Every week he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. Maybe he is like Forrest Gump and cuts grass for fun, but even then I would think he would want to come around more than once a month. So now I am standing around the door waiting for the crew to show up so I can give them a business card and offer them some solid business advice while I remind them that the hump out front is just a hump and needs to be cut. This is going to be a long week!
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My daughter would make a natural politician. She has the gift of gab, she can manipulate the stripes off a zebra and when all else fails, she knows that most problems can be solved with cold hard cash. She has been attempting to use this last technique to avoid doing anything she doesn’t want to do lately. Last week I told her to get ready to go to the gym. She explained that it wasn’t a good time for her since her friend doesn’t go on Tuesdays. When I told her she would have plenty of other kids to play with, she waved a $5 at me and said “you can have THIS if you let me stay home from the gym!” When I asked her if she was trying to bribe me she asked what that meant. I explained that offering someone money to do something they didn’t want to do was bribery. She said very simply “yes, I am trying to bribe you.”
In her seven year old mind there is really no difference between working and accepting a bribe. She picks up sticks for my dad when he is doing yard work and he pays her. She sees this as getting paid for doing something she doesn’t want to do. She thinks my dad is paying her to do this work because he doesn’t want to do it – which is partially true. She thinks paying me $5 to avoid going to the gym is the same as my dad paying her $5 to pick up sticks so he doesn’t have to do it. I can’t argue with that logic since her young mind doesn’t have the life experience to understand the difference.
I think she’s going to need to pick up more sticks!
This is probably the time I should be teaching her that bribery is bad, but the thing is, I bribe her. I’m not saying this is a good parenting technique, but I use it. A lot. We have several different reward systems for things and they work, so I am going to continue to use them, bribery or not. She is smart enough to call me out on it if I tell her that she can’t bribe me but I can bribe her.
I do feel there must be a lesson to be learned here. I have decided that the lesson is you can only get out of unpleasant things for so long – in this case until you run out of money. So she hasn’t been to the gym in a week and I have $25 that I didn’t have last week. What can I say, some lessons are harder than others.
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