stfu.

Here’s what I want you to know about right now: I need my child to stfu. I mean, I need it. Like, if he doesn’t stfu, I am going to lose my mind. More than I have already lost it on him today.

I can’t tell if it’s my irritability (8 days out) or if he really is more annoying than usual today, but whatever the reason, he has crawled right under my skin and taken up residence. From the second he woke up, he has had a constant emittance of noise coming from his face. His usual chatter, sure, but then even when he’s not talking, he is humming or beeping or bipping or singing. Right now, for example, a full 25 minutes since we said goodnight to him, he is in his bed, infuriatingly humming one single note, pausing only to draw a breath when he runs out. Is he listening to his voice? Noticing the vibration it makes on his lips? I don’t know and whatever it is, I’m sure it’s fascinating and important and not something I want to squelch. But for god’s sake, make it stop.

The Voice.

So. My kid makes this — noise. With his face. Ok, his voice. He makes this noise with his voice. He uses this crazy-ass voice that makes me want to die. Or kill him. Or at least maim us both severely.

It started as the voice of his [stuffed] dog, Bella, but it has now become his default tired/excited voice also. And, apparently, when you’re 4, you are either tired, excited, or pretending to be your best [stuffed] friend approximately 98.64% of the day. Every day. All the goddamn time.

I hate this voice.

He knows I hate it, too, which is the kiss of death. I remind him constantly how crazy it makes me and how I sincerely wish he would reserve it for just Bella. (I mean, what kind of jerky mother tells her kid that his best friend’s voice isn’t allowed to be heard?) And he seems to be agreeing. He seems to understand (to the extent to which he can.) But then, out it comes. And it gets right under my skin. So, I tell him again, exasperated. He obliges, but only momentarily.

The other day, I was talking to m* about it and she told me that it was only annoying me because I was letting it. She didn’t let it get to her. “Try some positive affirmations,” she told me. I snorted and rolled my eyes, but I tried it anyway. The next day, every time he’d slip into The Voice, I’d silently tell myself: It’s not so bad. He’s just playing. You can tolerate anything for a little while. And, lo — it worked! He went in and out of The Voice all day and all day, I rolled with it. I didn’t mention it to him once and it miraculously didn’t get to me.

At some point during the afternoon, I texted m* to celebrate my newfound patience: “FYI I have not mentioned the voice all day, despite its near-constant use.” And she texted me back to say, ironically, it had finally gotten to her that morning and she had spoken to him about it. (The message didn’t permeate, apparently.)

Ah, well. So much for positive affirmations.

And, also, kid: stfu.

 

XX.

PMS (mine, obvs) is not a good mix with a 4-year-old. I couldn’t help but laugh, really, as I was quietly (not so quietly) seething. He’s got this allergic, like, I don’t know. Ball of mucous? Just sitting in his gullet. And I can’t blame him because, I mean, right? But he does this half-throat-clearing thing. On repeat. Every four seconds. (Yes, I timed it. What of it?)

And then there’s Curious Goddamned George. (I think that must be his official given name.) With his monkey noises and crap behavior. Getting into bullshit messes that could have been avoided with a little common sense. Squawking and chirping and bouncing around like a friggen monkey. For a half hour. I had to draw the line at one episode. Even Strawberry Annoying Shortcake is better than that monkey.

And then there’s the hair in my face, the way my shirt keeps riding up, the butter that got everywhere as he attempted to spread it on his toast, the skin on my body that I want to crawl right out of — it’s just not a good scene.

We played a rousing game of “I Spy” in the car on the way to school and it took the edge off, believe it or not. And thankfully I remembered my ear buds for my day of cafe-working. At least there’s Pandora. And Adele. And multiple renditions of “Hallelujah.”

Asshole.

I’m going to preface this post by saying that there is nothing right about it. It’s all wrong. I mean, wait. Don’t misunderstand; it’s all accurate, but it’s wrong. So wrong.

My kid is an asshole. And I say this with complete confidence because I know that all 4-year-olds are assholes. I know it. I have done enough primary and secondary research to be able to definitively make this statement. And I have evidence, too. Plenty of it. So, don’t start with how awesome they are and how cute and loving and whatever. I know. I hear your counter-argument and I respectfully disagree.

I offer you these examples. Read them and then see if you can really stand there and tell me that 4-year-olds are not assholes. Go ahead.

  1. When I am trying to walk somewhere, he decides he wants to walk in the exact same place and doesn’t give a shit that someone else is trying to walk there, too. I am forced to hold his head with my hand to keep him in one place so I can squeeze through the doorframe before him. Then…
  2. …he complains that I messed up his hair when I was trying to pass him.
  3. On his way to do anything I have asked him to do, and after he has asked the mandatory “how come?” at least twice, he takes baby steps to do it. With a pouty face on like I am asking him to shoot the neighbor’s dog instead of go pee before he puts his clothes on.
  4. From the back seat: “Put my music on!” “I can’t HEAR it!”
  5. Interrupting.
  6. Interrupting.
  7. Interrupting.

There is, of course, more. But I’m gonna let Louis CK explain the rest of it to you. This is in no way safe for work. Or children. Or anyone who doesn’t have kids, frankly. There’s a lot of cursing. And oh so much truth.

(The relevant part is between 3:17 and 5:28.)
The Kids Do You In

Asshole.

I’m going to preface this post by saying that there is nothing right about it. It’s all wrong. I mean, wait. Don’t misunderstand; it’s all accurate, but it’s wrong. So wrong.

My kid is an asshole. And I say this with complete confidence because I know that all 4-year-olds are assholes. I know it. I have done enough primary and secondary research to be able to definitively make this statement. And I have evidence, too. Plenty of it. So, don’t start with how awesome they are and how cute and loving and whatever. I know. I hear your counter-argument and I respectfully disagree.

I offer you these examples. Read them and then see if you can really stand there and tell me that 4-year-olds are not assholes. Go ahead.

  1. When I am trying to walk somewhere, he decides he wants to walk in the exact same place and doesn’t give a shit that someone else is trying to walk there, too. I am forced to hold his head with my hand to keep him in one place so I can squeeze through the doorframe before him. Then…
  2. …he complains that I messed up his hair when I was trying to pass him.
  3. On his way to do anything I have asked him to do, and after he has asked the mandatory “how come?” at least twice, he takes baby steps to do it. With a pouty face on like I am asking him to shoot the neighbor’s dog instead of go pee before he puts his clothes on.
  4. From the back seat: “Put my music on!” “I can’t HEAR it!”
  5. Interrupting.
  6. Interrupting.
  7. Interrupting.

There is, of course, more. But I’m gonna let Louis CK explain the rest of it to you. This is in no way safe for work. Or children. Or anyone who doesn’t have kids, frankly. There’s a lot of cursing. And oh so much truth.

(The relevant part is between 3:17 and 5:28.)
The Kids Do You In

Banner.

I’m trying hard to make this day the kind of day I need and want, but I am being thwarted at every turn.

Thursdays are my “off” days, which means only that I don’t have to be in a classroom, teaching. Thursday is the day I use to catch up on all of my grading, student emails (though I also handle those as they come in all week), and other administrative stuff. Often on Thursdays (especially these days, as I am trying to catch up financially from a summer of basically no work) I will drop The Who off at school and come right back home, planting myself on the couch for a solid chunk of work.

I cherish Thursdays. I don’t have to talk to a single soul from drop-off to pick-up if I don’t want to (and I am finding that as I get older, the less I want to interact.) I love the feeling of not being needed. I love that no one talks to me, no one asks me to play, no one’s potentially waking from a deep sleep and crying, and there are seemingly endless hours back to back during which to work, nap, stare into space. Aah. Thursdays.

Today is no such Thursday.

It started with a doctor’s appointment that I had to make because this strange muscular (?) hip pain that has been gradually getting worse over the course of a few weeks reached an un-ignorable level on Tuesday when I climbed the flight of stairs and walked the five long hallways to my morning class. I mostly want confirmation that I don’t have an enormous tumor wrapping itself insidiously around my inner workings, but also, I wouldn’t mind some pain relief beyond the stomach-eating ibuprofen I’ve been downing. So. The appointment: 11:15am, which is not a horrible time to have an appointment on a crisp, sunny fall day such as this. That gives me two solid hours after drop-off to bang out some work, a casual drive out to the office, and then a solid chunk of time after to finish up.

(It’s worth a mention here that m* is home from work today and although we can easily exist in the house together happily, the vibe is not the same. It’s just not Thursday. So, I was already planning to do my work at cafes, which is why I had thought ahead and packed my laptop up with me. Smart girl, right? Sorta. Read on.)

It was 48 degrees this morning. I am still wearing capris and sandals because, well, because it’s not goddamn winter yet and I refuse. So, as soon as my temp gauge hit its sweet spot, I pumped the heat and as soon as I did that, the heat gauge slid all the way up to “H” (a setting it has never hit in all of its 6 years — not even when the radiator crapped out last winter.) So, drop-off-and-then-work turned into drop-off-and-then-repair-shop-where-there-is-no internet. (Also, remember the whole playing catch up from not working all summer? Yeah. The car repair shop is not so much the place to do that.) (They did, however, send me away within an hour with a directive to come back in a month and see if I need to spend $1300 or not.) (Awesome.)

So, with my morning work shot, I headed to the doctor where I found out that they didn’t actually schedule my appointment and not only did I not have an appointment now, the doctor was running behind (which she has never not been doing in the 9 years I’ve been seeing her.) They slid me into a 1:15 appointment with the promise of a phone call if she was running late so I wouldn’t have to stop my work prematurely.

Oh, right. Work. Here I am at Cosi, all set up to do my work. Finally, at 12:15. Except when I went to plug in my laptop, I realized that in my haste to leave on time this morning, I forgot my power cord and am using my last 22 minutes of battery power to write this post. Plus, the promised Cosi wi-fi is MIA, so I am patched into some jacked up Home Depot public slow-fi, which is not helping me make the most of my now, 21 minutes of battery.

So, let’s recap: no work done this morning. Possible jillion-dollar car repair. Doctor’s scheduling mishap. No power cord. Shitty wi-fi. No work this afternoon. So far, it’s a banner day. At least the sun’s shining.

Crayons.

Yesterday I had my [apparently] monthly hormonally charged breakdown wherein one slightly overwhelming thing happens while another slightly overwhelming thing is happening and then I cry like I just killed someone and then I feel a lot better (albeit bleary-eyed and exhausted like whoa.) I have little to no recollection of these outbursts after about a week has passed, but m* remembers them. They have even moved her to start tracking and marking the calendar so she can be prepared and well-equipped to talk me off the ledge, which she does remarkably well.

So, yesterday. Yesterday was an awesome day, beginning with a morning yoga class at the Y while The Who hung out in the KidZone. Then we took a swim together and came home for lunch. Watched a show on the iPad, played with the MagnaBlocks, and played house. We were stuck home waiting for the Orkin guy from 1-5 and we were trying to make the best of having to spend the remainder of the beautiful day indoors instead of walking into town to our weekly farmer’s market, which is what we both wanted to be doing. I proposed we work on “the crayon project,” which is that viral Pinterest idea about melting bits of broken crayons into silicone muffin molds, thereby creating new, swirly crayon cakes. We set about peeling crayons and sorting colors into the fishie and sea star silicone ice cube trays I had gotten at Ikea months ago, with this project in mind. The Who sand his nonsensical alphabet song as he worked and remarked that “we sure are working like great teamwork, right, Mama?”

And then. Then we put the trays into the toaster oven and then! Then the oven heated up and then! Then the crayons started melting and then! Then they started looking so pretty and we were so excited and then! And then. Then the trays started to melt. And the oven started to smoke. And all of a sudden, I had melting wax in a melting container and an eager three-year-old and actual fire (when the wax hit the bottom of the oven.) “This is an emergency, Who! There is actual fire! Don’t talk to me for a minute while I solve this problem!” (I have to congratulate myself here for keeping it together with him. Although moments later, I would find myself shouting, swearing, and crying on the phone with Orkin, with my child I was damn near peaceful.)

It’s ok, brand-new $200 toaster oven. You’ll be good as new in no time (even though you will continue to smell for days.)

So, as I moved the melty trays to the freezer (it is now a challenge to find a piece of ice not covered in red wax) and started to attempt the cleanup (which involved removing and blow-drying the oven tray and then sticking my hand inside a hot convection to wipe wax off the inside of the door) and as The Who continued to call my name in an effort to make sense of the chaos going on around him, the phone rang. Orkin.

Chaos.

On the phone, it was not my usual technician, who knows our particular issue and has been working on it for months with us. Instead, even though I’d scheduled this appointment specifically because it was when this tech was back from vacation, it was some random dude who’d never been here, calling to ask for directions to my house. And with the broom in mid-sweep of multiple shavings of colored crayons, I unleashed my fury on this poor guy. I know he didn’t deserve it, but it exploded out of me. I may or may not have exploded with the mother of the curse words (while my 3-year-old played a few feet away) And then I called the home office and demanded that my contract be cancelled and my last payment refunded. And I may or may not have cursed at her, too. And then I cried.

Because the craaaaaaayons! And Orrrrrrkin! And otherrrrr assorrrrrrted stresssssssful thiiiiiings! 

And then it was over. I explained to The Who that I was feeling SO FRUSTRATED! And then we ordered a pizza and called it a night. But not before drawing a family portrait with the misshapen hunks of crayon that The Who was totally delighted with, despite it all.

The End.

 

School Days.

The more time I spend with The Who, the better bonded we become. I know — I’m a genius, right? But seriously. It’s true. It’s the days that we spend entirely together (even if there are chunks of it when we are doing separate things, which he occasionally allows) that I end up having the most patience and the most fun with him. It’s the school days when I am short-tempered and easily frustrated. It’s the school days when his limitless questions crawl up my very last nerve and it’s the school days when I inevitably end up yelling at him and/or otherwise being a shit of a mother to him at one point or another during the, what, three total hours we spend together?

So, let’s break it down: home days/togetherness = mostly great time. School days/time apart = crap.

The irony, of course, is that I need/love/crave time alone and I am so very lucky to be able to have that a couple of days during the week. And if I had 5 weekday home days in a row, I’d want to claw my eyes out. I tried that one summer (granted, he was a very young toddler at the time) and I was totally overwhelmed and miserable. Finding a happy balance has been a process. This summer, he will spend two days a week at school (as opposed to the three he spends during the school-year) and I think it will work out splendidly for the whole lot of us.

Today, though, unfortunately, was one of those school days where I just wanted to climb out the window and run far, far away (except, I really just wanted to wander, not run. Because I was so tired from the sugar crash that came after the cupcake I consumed in an effort to not feel so grouchy, which is never a good idea.) Tomorrow’s another school day and I am going to make a concerted effort to Be Nice in the morning and when I pick him up — even if he does take his SWEET EVERLOVING TIME DOING EVERYTHING and all I want is to put his tired self to bed and not answer one single more “why” question, (which are often valid, but the after-school ones tend toward the absurd and are obviously just so he can hear his own voice. E.g. “What are you doing?” Opening the window. “Why?” Because I am hot. “Why?” Because it’s hot in here and my body feels hot. “Why?” Seriously? Seriously?)

Anyway, you know what? I didn’t start writing this post to complain about my lack of patience and my 3.5-year-old’s 3.5-year-old-ness. I started writing it because I am really looking forward to our road trip this weekend and the week visiting family and friends. Even though it’s a lot of time together (m* is staying home, so although my mom will totally help out a lot, I will be the primary caretaker pretty much the whole time) and even though we have had our fair share of frustrations while traveling, these trips always re-establish our connection. I’m excited about hopping in the car together for an adventure. I’m excited about our Sunday-night “hotel movie party” and I’m excited about just breaking out of our routine and hanging out.

The end.

Control.

Ugh. You’ve got to be kidding me with this.

We’ve discovered, based on some internet sleuthing, that The Who holds his poop and pee as a form of control. (Boy, we catch on fast, don’t we?) Somewhere along the line in this potty training (it was me, I’m sure) we completely stripped him of his personal agency and now he’s hanging onto the last little shred in the form of bodily functions. The remedy, as we read, seemed simple: give the control back. Piece of cake, right? Just let go of the control, put it into his hands, and everyone goes along his or her merry way. Puppies. Rainbows. Cotton Candy.

Yeah.

Turns out that it’s next-to-goddamn-impossible for me to relinquish control. Inside my head, I am screaming: You are miserable and uncomfortable! Take a shit! Just — why? Why don’t you just do it? But I learned long ago that 3-year-olds don’t think rationally. They’re like little mini maniacs and nothing makes sense. So he holds it. And holds and holds and holds and runs around the house, doing everything he can to keep it in, including laying on the couch and moaning and whining that he is “tired.” He even asked to go up and take his nap today because he knew that staying up any longer would just mean more fighting to keep it all inside.

It makes me want to poke my eyes out with the broken tip of a shattered Christmas light.

For two days, we’ve all been inside the house, with the two grownups relinquishing control and the little one [hopefully] regaining it. Him: I’m tired. Us: Ok. Him: I wanna watch a show with cocoa (another “holding it in” technique.) Us: Ok. Ok, ok, ok, ok. Everything is ok. And in conjunction, we’re trying to give him more overall autonomy to encourage his self-sufficiency, which is actually a perk of this whole business. It’s amazing how coddled and cared for first and only children are. I can totally see where a second child would be doing way more on his own than The Who is, but now that it’s come to our attention, we’re changing it up. Just over the past two days, The Who has (for the first time ever ): put on his own underwear with no help; rinsed himself off with the handheld shower after his bath; unbuttoned his own jammie shirt (with minimal help); got out all the ingredients for his grilled cheese, including opening the fridge, opening the deli drawer, and finding the cheese; and lit the Hanukkah candles independently (well, I lit the shamash, but he used it to light the rest with no assistance.)

And there were probably more things, too, that were just as [in]significant, but that I didn’t necessarily take note of. He’s our first. Our only. How were we supposed to know he could put his own underwear on? He couldn’t always. Hell, maybe he couldn’t yesterday.

I’ll tell you what all this power struggling and control and burgeoning independence does. It shines the brightest, most glaring, most unattractive and uncomfortable light ever on us. We keep having to look at parts of our own childhoods that we’d just as soon walk away from. I have also been reminded, more times than I care to remember over the past two days, about my own control and power issues.

Oh, man. I so don’t want to screw up my kid. I want him to be happy and well-adjusted and self-possessed. I don’t want to kill his spirit. It’s just so exhausting. For all of us.

Circle.

I saw a guy outside the building where I teach. He was smoking a cigarette and thumb-scrolling through his iPhone and I thought, as is befitting my status as an edging-toward-40-year-old, What did we do before cell phones? We sat and thought. Thinking is a lost art. (Not that I necessarily believe thinking is an art. But maybe it is.) As soon as I had that thought, though, I felt cynical and embarrassed for myself. Isn’t this age-old, really? Weren’t our grandparents saying, What did we do before TV? We read books!” And weren’t their grandparents saying, What did we do before reading books? We told stories! And on an on and on and on and so it goes forever and ever and ever and you get the point, right? Things change. And lamenting the change seems to be the hip thing to do (I recently saw this book on the kids’ shelves) but it’s not. It’s old-fashioned.

Yes, before the Smartphones, we spent more idle time. Before email, we wrote. Before the car, we walked. Dylan told us the times were changing and we smoked weed and grooved along (well, I didn’t; that was still before my time) but it seems that we are so much more disturbed by it than we should be. New developments beget new problems, which beget new developments to solve those problems and so on.

What we’re doing here is grieving. Missing our youth and familiarity. Mourning a reality that is no longer real. I don’t, for example, think it’s sad that students don’t know how to spell. I used to be sad about that, but I’m not. They don’t need to know how to spell like we did. They have spell-check. What they need to know how to do is operate complicated technology and function in a world that is changing incredibly fast. They don’t have the capacity to do everything well. I also don’t, despite my knee-jerk thought reaction this morning, think it’s a shame that people spend their cigarette breaks with their iPhones.

I’m done being rueful and sarcastic and cynical about the changing world and the way people do things or the things people no longer do. It’s just part of the fabric of human existence and we’re all pretty much powerless against the forward motion.