Mother

She might fall, but she might fly.

I was watching the news this morning and there was a story about how a toddler was injured at a playground that caught my interest. In the preview they kept showing a picture of a young mom sitting on a slide with her toddler on her lap, all smiles. I was already thinking that the mom was probably the one who accidentally injured the child, and sure enough when the story aired, it was the mom’s fault – although the story wanted to somehow blame playgrounds as a whole. The mom went down the slide with the child in her lap and halfway down the kid’s leg got stuck on the side of the slide and broke.

Things happen. Kids fall. They fall on playground equipment, they fall off of playground equipment. They fall in the grass, on the sidewalk and down the stairs in their own homes on occasion. The world is a giant test course for kids. But this child was hurt because her mom – who barely fit down the slide solo – decided that the child would be safer in her lap than alone. Her leg got caught because there wasn’t enough room in between the mom’s legs for the child’s legs so they were on top, flopping around unsecured. Of course her leg was going to hit the side of the slide and her rubber soled shoe was going to get stuck.

I have done this exact same thing with my daughter and at the time I had two concerns  – her leg getting trapped under me or both of us falling as one unit off the slide. The second situation was probably more likely since gravity and I have never gotten along very well. I remember thinking that I was much too large for the slide and I was about half the size of the mother I was watching on TV. The thing is, I knew that most times when my daughter was trying to climb something or play on something that my interference would muck up the works. She was better off doing things on her own. Me hovering would likely lead to me somehow falling on top of her or tripping her. The few slides that I did descend with her were at least 10′ tall and she was unable to get to the top of them by herself. If one or both of us had been hurt while on the slide I wouldn’t have blamed anyone but myself. This mom was acting as if she had no blame in what happened to her kid. She actually used the “everyone is doing it” excuse. There is some cult member out there just waiting to stumble upon this woman as their newest recruit.

One at a time please!

There are signs at every playground I have ever been to that caution people that the equipment is designed for children ages 2-12. Some even list the ages as 5-12. This mother was advocating there be warning signs at playgrounds of what could happen if an adult were to use the playground equipment. It’s the equivalent of the little pictures on fast food coffee cups explaining that you shouldn’t dump the coffee in your lap because it could burn you. Do we really need more cautionary signs for what could happen if we don’t use common sense? I think we should just start putting up signs that read “Don’t be an idiot.”

I really didn’t want to blame the mom in this story because we moms get blamed for enough already, but when I saw the mom holding her daughter up to hang on to the monkey bars at the end of the story I decided that this particular mom didn’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt. I imagined the child a few years in the future trying to hang by herself from the monkey bars, falling on her face when she couldn’t hold herself up. Kids don’t learn to hang by themselves when their parents always hold them up. I remember the first time my daughter was able to swing from one bar to the next and how proud she was of herself. This was because I told her for several years that if she wanted to play on the monkey bars she would need to do it herself. I wasn’t going to carry her across because that took away the future sense of pride she would one day feel.

Hang on honey, Mommy’s climbing up right behind you!

The most interesting part of the story was how much playground injuries have increased over the last twenty years. Even though the equipment has become safer, there are more injuries. I would suspect a lot of them are either kids falling off of things the first time their parents aren’t holding them up or the parents otherwise mucking up the works. Twenty years ago children were not having their legs broken on slides all over the place because their parents weren’t insisting on riding tandem. Kids can get hurt enough on their own, they really don’t need mom’s assistance in this area. And no matter how much the lady on the news program blames the playground and their lack of signage, her little girl is still going to grow up and tell the story about how her mom broke her leg when she was a toddler. Welcome to motherhood lady!

I wrote this blog while listening to Dropkick Murphys

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Girlfixer

My daughter was looking through some of my old yearbooks last weekend. As I flipped the pages and looked at pictures of my class, I was a little shocked at how few of my classmates I remembered. I was also shocked that when I saw the picture of one particular girl I was brought right back to being a twelve year old girl and wanting to rip someone’s head off. Not so shockingly, it wasn’t even the girl, it was her mother.

I went to a very small school. There were less than 15 students in my grade and most of us had been in school together since we were very young. One girl that I was good friends with wore glasses the depth of the bottom of a glass soda bottle. Of course when some of the other girls teased her the words “Coke bottle” were often used. These are the words that I heard come out of the mouth of a girl we will call “Judy” that initiated my feelings of ill will toward her mother.

Judy was the kind of girl who defined herself by her looks. Her entire self worth was wrapped up in the emblem on her popped collared shirts and pink headbands. She spent more time in front of a mirror than a book and her school supplies consisted of glosses and powders rather than leads and paper. Looking back, I can’t really blame her for this, it was how she had been conditioned by her mother who was a walking Ralph Lauren advertisement. I think Judy’s mom was pretty, but it was hard to tell what she really looked like under all the mascara and hairspray. Sometimes her insides showed through which is exactly what kept her in the pageant runner up category. She would never be beautiful with all of her insides making an appearance like they did. She was full of gossip and snarky comments. It was no wonder Judy only felt good about herself when she was making others feel badly about themselves.

Judy never picked on me the way she did my friend. I think she knew better than to enter a battle of wits unarmed. Twelve years of smart assery had left me a relative wit warrior. Having an overly healthy self-esteem, her words would have been like paper airplanes attacking me. I threw grenades. And after she called my friend “Coke bottle” that day, I threw a pretty hefty grenade. I don’t recall my exact words but the message was that even the strongest braces were not going to fix her enormous buck teeth. Although I was a skilled verbal swords woman I was also a prepubescent girl so my natural reaction was to go directly for the jugular. She had no comeback for me other than to scream “BITCH!” which was, unfortunately for her, overheard by a nun walking down the hall. We were both taken to the headmistress’s office and our parents were called. I don’t recall any punishment. I do remember that our mothers had a telephone conversation that night.

In that conversation Judy’s bumbleheaded mother informed my mom that Judy was forced to call me a bitch. My mom asked if I had held her down and made her recite the word. I don’t think Judy’s mom understood what “personal responsibility” meant when my mom used the words and she certainly didn’t understand what my mom was getting at when she was trying to find out how I had coerced poor little Judy into swearing at me. Judy’s mom finally let her insides show and said “maybe if you stayed at home with your daughter these things wouldn’t happen…” My mom is a better person than I am. Where I would have said “maybe if you didn’t spend so much time with your daughter she wouldn’t know what a bitch was”, my mom remained calm and continued the conversation until they finally agreed to disagree and hung up. My mom has told me many times that there is no fixing stupid.

I know those words cut my mom. I know she often felt guilty about being a working mom in a land of stay at home moms. I know this because I used that guilt as a weapon on many occasions. Again, I was a prepubescent girl so my natural reaction was to go directly for the jugular – mother or not. Plus, I was kind of a manipulative little asshole. Those words actually provoked me to be a little more like my mom. I was pretty certain that Judy’s mom truly was a bitch and it was probably because she was miserable with her life decisions. I had always thought that my rebelliousness came from my dad, but I realized then that my mom had been bucking the system my whole life.

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Love Cats

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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Mother of the Year Part Eleven Million

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.

Pre-abandonment

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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Little Trouble Girl

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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