In the true spirit of Mother’s Day, I will do absolutely nothing that is not required of me and I will let this golden nugget speak for itself.
Thanks to nickmom.com (via passive aggressive notes) for the laugh.
When one is motivated to blog on a semi-regular schedule, some parenting duties may fall to the wayside. Laundry, grocery shopping, pet care, making occasional eye contact while your sweet offspring are trying to share their innermost feelings and concerns with you. You know, the small things.
So as the TV program switched over from Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness to Spongebob Squarepants without my knowledge or consent and my three children sat transfixed while eating a dinner of macaroni and cheese and some lettuce, Mr. Snark entered the room and posed the following query, henceforth known as riddle #4:
“What is the opposite of helicopter parenting?”
Answered provided by middle child, MelloYello:
You just can’t please some people.
It is a commonly known fact that your kids will always be more polite, obedient and just plain nice when dealing with complete strangers than they will be with you. They will engage in casual banter with the UPS man and regale the McDonalds cashier with a humdinger about how they lost a tooth last Thursday and the tooth fairy forgot to leave a dollar under their pillow. When you ask them a simple question or make a small request, there is eye rolling, stomping, whining, and finger pointing followed by a series of false accusations, an angry swearing of a loathsome pox upon you and a finale of door slamming.
When you’re a teacher, the kids in your class can go either way with their allegiance and/or willingness to comply. At the beginning of the year, when their teacher is a stranger to them, they smile brightly, listen intently and put on a good show. There is a honeymoon type love-fest of cooperation and a desire to please. The students are bright-eyed sponges, willing to take pretty much anything you say at face value. Sure, they say, I’ll sign that class contract agreeing that I will always try my best and have an excellent sense of personal space and a sweet disposition. At about week two or three, you get a sense of who’s going to test the dark and murky waters down in the deep end of the pond. And they do. Put on your life jacket and flippers. It’s a necessary evil of going to kindergarten. They test limits. They try patience. It’s in their job description. You are now a familiar, trusted adult. And they know they can try their best to make you very sorry you ever thought this teaching gig might be a good idea, but that you will love them and take care of them no matter what.
My kids, like (most of) yours, are great kids. We get plenty of positive feedback from acquaintances, peers’ parents, coaches, and elderly strangers in restaurants who say “Your kids are so well behaved.” But that last one was a long time coming. So I know this “evil twin” phenomenon holds true in our little family. But what of everyone else’s?
Last weekend there was a spectacular outdoor event at my kids’ school. It was a “Go Green” community-building extravaganza complete with all the kid friendly bells and whistles. I volunteered to work behind one of the many crafts tables, helping small children plant marigold seeds in little plastic flower pots. Between me and the two other moms facilitating this activity, we assisted hundreds of little gardeners as they followed the multi-step directions to put together the necessary elements of about 400 marigold plants. This is what I do on my day off from teaching.
Without exception, every child who came up to our table was polite, attentive, and able to interact with us (strangers to most of them) respectfully and appropriately. No one sprayed her brother with the water spray bottle. No one complained that they didn’t get enough fertilizer in their cup. They accepted help when necessary and followed steps independently when encouraged to do so. Everyone said thank you. And then they all went home and screeched like spider monkeys, threw themselves on the floor, and demanded pizza for dinner from their exhausted parents.
So it is clear to me now that everything my mom warned me about will eventually come to pass. Mom always said, “Don’t stand downwind from 200 pounds of pulverized potting soil on a gusty day unless you want to be the victim of sudden onset emphysema, AND just wait until you have kids of your own who act just like you did when you were their age.” Which is just a terrible thing to say. Because I was a real pain in the ass.
Generally speaking, I am a very honest person. I am also easily offended by less honest people, and feel vaguely superior to them as I am confident my integrity will not be compromised and my character will not be questioned. Well maybe it has been or it will be and I just don’t know it, but I’m pretty secure in the fact that I’m not a big fat liar when the chips are down.
So, where do I draw the line on the whole children’s menu thing? So far, it’s not an issue. My son, Red Bull, is now twelve and eats like your average twelve year old boy or farm animal. He does not order from the children’s menu anymore. He generally has expensive taste and is the first to ask, “Do they have lobster?” as he is lunging toward the bread basket and dropping butter on his pants. My ten year old daughter, MelloYello, is a tall, athletic machine who independently self monitors her portions and makes intelligent food choices. No idea where she learned that. When we go out, she enjoys a treat as much as the next guy and she usually goes for the grilled cheese sandwich or cheese quesadilla. She is still legally entitled to order from the kid’s menu, so it’s all good (and all cheese). Sprite is just six years old, so she always orders from the children’s menu, and no matter how delicate the glimmering panko crust on her succulent stack of chicken fingers, she will only eat the French fries and that’s just the way it is, please pass the ketchup and just back off already.
Now here’s the real question. Where do you draw the line on faking your kid’s age to get the children’s pricing? Is it a hard and fast rule or more of a general guideline? I never thought I’d fall victim to the children’s pricing cheat until I went to … yes, you know it’s coming. The Happiest Place on Earth.
Join me now on a family trip a few years ago. We are at the gates of Disney World. The children are dripping with anticipation and are already demanding stuffed toys, gimmicky accessories, and sugary beverages. All right now. Calm down everyone. Let’s just get in this long line of families with crying babies, parents wielding cans of sunscreen spray like graffiti artists gone wild, grandparents who are suddenly having grave second thoughts, and me, who can’t quite read the pricing on that board over there. What does that say? No really. What does that say? Holy. Friggin. Mickey. Mouse. My. Ass.
Okay, Sprite. Quick. I know you’re a big three year old girl, but just get into this stroller that we rented primarily to haul around our overpriced Disney loot, and crouch down so you look small. No, smaller. Now stop talking. You can’t speak. Okay this is fun. We’re having fun. Yay.
Um, Hi. Yeah two seniors, one adult (Mr. Sprite gave us his blessing, or urging, to go without him while he was 1,000 miles away at work. So wise, that man is.) two children. One baby. Yeah. She’s two. No charge for babies. Really? That’s great! MMhmmm. Thanks. Do you take American Express? Or just the title on my house? Okay. Yes. We’ll definitely enjoy the Princesses on parade at midnight if we’re not already dead from exhaustion, sunstroke and diabetic shock. Okay, You too. Have a great day.
Shhh. Sprite. Okay sweetie. You can come out now. See the castle? No, It’s okay. Come out now. Mommy was just kidding before. You can talk as much as you want now. Do you want a lollipop and an ice cream?
So we poured the $84 (I know, right?) we saved into bribes to get her out of the damn stroller. And then she wouldn’t get out. Except for It’s a Small World which is just a ridiculous waste of time unless you are two (sort of) or 102. And then we eventually gave up and went back to the hotel to go swimming. For free.
My youngest child, Sprite, and I stood outside school the other day waiting for her big brother and sister to take their sweet time to rendezvous with us at our regular meeting spot. While we inevitably wait for Slow and Slower each afternoon, Sprite and I usually take a few minutes to have a chat about her day in kindergarten. Our discussion went something like this.
“Mommy, that lady over there is going to have a baby. Her belly is round like a ball.” Sprite paused and I could see the wheels turning. I was afraid of what might come next. “She’s looks just like Bernadette.”
I don’t know anyone named Bernadette. And Sprite has a penchant for making up names for dolls, stuffed toys, random strangers, breakfast cereal. But lately they are all named Lucy. The other day her doll Lucy was riding in her little stroller with a panda bear named Lucy. They were going to meet their friend Lucy at the park.
“We saw Bernadette on that show. She was having a baby on TV.”
Ummmm. Still no clue. Though Sprite has incidentally seen lots of shows she shouldn’t have as she inconspicuously plays with Lucy the slinky in the periphery of the viewing area.
“I don’t remember that show.”
“Bernadette was in the hospital and she was with her husband Peter. He was wearing an Incredibles shirt. He was Mr. Incredible. Then they had a baby.”
Holy crap. This child has a mind like a steel trap. She watched an episode of A Baby Story with me and we saw Bernadette and Peter welcome their baby boy Owen into the world. I swear to God, I just called her into the room to ask her if it was a boy or girl and she told me it was a boy named Owen. I tried to confirm this online, but I’m really willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The only detail I can independently remember from this whole shared viewing experience was the guy in the Incredibles shirt. It was two weeks ago. I can barely remember to call every single doll, root vegetable, and freshly inked scented marker portrait of any female whatsoever, Lucy. I can’t possibly be expected to remember Bernadette and Peter and Owen.
“Sprite, you have a really, really good memory. I can’t believe you remembered all those things from that TV show!”
“You have a good memory too Mommy.”
“Thanks sweetie.” Well, at least I’ll remember that.
Adele. Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Rumor has it. Must find Mello Yello’s cell phone. Is it in the car? Her backpack? Under her bed? Find out who has the tablecloths for the Faculty Appreciation Luncheon and get them back tomorrow. Must have for Wednesday. Where are my kitchen gloves? In the kitchen I suppose. What is with the flock of excessively loud birds outside my window? Is there a Hitchcock thing going on here? I need a haircut. So do the kids, Mello Yello (a little messy), Sprite (bangs or no bangs?) and Red Bull (like, right now or I think he might be mistaken for a yeti and get picked up by an animal control officer). Do they still have animal control officers? Do we pay taxes for that? Do they ride in small paddy wagons with cages in the back like on The Little Rascals when Petey the dog got taken to “the Pound”? That was a sad one.
A little nap… Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Rumor has it. Awake again. Should I go do a Jillian Michaels exercise dvd and make good use of this time? Nah. Quiet now. What happened to all those birds? I have to pee. Too tired. It can wait. Okay, it can’t wait. Back again. Here comes Gotye. You didn’t have to cut me off…. I don’t know the rest. How can I not know the rest? It’s on the radio every 9 minutes. My memory is getting so… what was I saying? Did we have any leftover steak from dinner? Grocery shopping. Must go grocery shopping. Don’t forget the juice boxes again. Do not buy more Oreos. It never ends well. Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Rumor has it. Bomp Bomp. Did Jessica Simpson have her baby yet? She’s not so big. I could have taken her in a sumo match when I was 9 months. I think I have a hairball. Can’t. Stop. Coughing. Mr. Snark, your snorfling snores are so soothing beside me. You’re sleeping so soundly. I hate you. For that reason only. Otherwise you’re all right.
Adele. Let’s make a deal. You sleep at your place tomorrow and I’ll sleep at mine. Bomp Bomp.
I have found some of your personal belongings in the washer and dryer. I did not make this up. You can never ever have them back and I refuse to replace them. They are categorized by genre for your convenience:
A watch. Earrings. Rope bracelets.
Hair clips, ponytail holders, headbands and a comb.
Belts. Several. In many colors. For any occasion.
A cell phone.
Your bus pass for camp. Your library card.
A diaper! That must have been my fault when I was very, very sleep deprived and mistook the laundry basket for a diaper genie.
A Magic Treehouse Book.
Lip balm. Tissues. Tissues. Tissues. (Sadly, these items made it all the way to the dryer.)
Emery Board. Nail clippers.
$14.81 in spare change.
Gum. Starbursts. Tic Tacs. Wadded foil chocolate kiss wrappers with little white Hershey tails.
A pencil, eraser, and plastic sharpener full of shavings. All nice and tidy in the side pocket of your cargo pants.
And while we’re on the subject, two pockets full of rocks in your purple coat that was washed, put into storage, and then came back out with the rock collection intact.
Legos. A dreidl. Chess pieces. Dice. Happy Meal Toys.
The Pokemon cards you absolutely HAD TO HAVE.
Stickers. Crayons. Notepads. Paper clips. Rubber bands. A tape measure.
Flip flops. Goggles. Sunscreen. Seashells. Not all on the same day. Really.
Leaves. Grass. Sticks.
A Soccer Medal.
Mini Golf score card (with mini pencil).
The shirts you dribbled olive oil/Gatorade/butter/popsicle juice/chocolate milk all over without bothering to ask for stain remover.
But never once have I found, in the washer or dryer, the socks you take off in the kitchen every day to leave behind as your personal calling card. Hi mom. I’m home.
Would somebody please come downstairs and pick the sunflower seed husks out of the dryer lint screen? Thanks.