I Need a Big Drink

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So if you’re on Facebook and you’re friends with any parents, you might be familiar with this article: You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations. (TL;DR: Man in Costco sees father yelling at his innocent little boy.) I strongly dislike this article for any numbers of reasons, such as the author being a smug dillhole (“People see my relationship with Noah, and quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving him more than most dads love their own kids.” OMG so this is who really owns all those World’s Greatest Dad mugs?), but primarily because the article is so one sided. As a parent myself, I happen to know just how likely it is that what Dan “I’m a damn good dad” Pearce actually saw was carefully orchestrated by a devious mastermind, i.e. a toddler, to coerce/embarrass his dad until he bends to his will.

I’m not saying, ever, that parents should go around jamming their fingers into their children’s collarbones, but as the parent of a 2 1/2 year old, I know how easy it is for a child’s words and a parent’s reaction to be wildly misinterpreted by outsiders. I submit for you Exhibit A, an Oscar-worthy routine Klara has perfected which I like to call “I Need A Big Hug.”

“I Need A Big Hug” was born about a year ago, when Klara was still an only child, on a nighttime car trip home from somewhere, probably my parents’ house as I was alone with her in the car. She was crying about something – leaving her grandparents? wanting a snack? dropping a mitten? – and through her sobs she choked out, “I need a big hug.”

Well I’m not made of stone. How can I hear that from my baby and not want to encase her in my warm, loving mother’s embrace? You better believe I pulled off the road. I got off an exit and pulled into a gas station. I crawled into the back seat, unbuckled her, and cradled her in my arms.

I’m pretty sure it didn’t help, and then I had to fight with her to get her back in her car seat, and she probably cried the rest of the way home anyway. But the damage was done – she had found a powerful tool at her disposal, one that would make Mommy stop whatever she was doing and pay attention.

As a parent, we are often told to pick our battles, or save our most powerful tools (time outs? balloons? new episodes of Doc McStuffins?) for when they’re desperately needed. Toddlers never got that memo. If something works once, they’re going to play that ace every chance they get. Mommy won’t let you use her iPhone? “I need a big hug!!!” Mommy gets mad at you for not following directions? “Give me a big hug!!” Mommy tries to put you in time out? “I NEED A BIG HUG!!!” At first, I tried to comply when I could, if I wasn’t driving, or holding Joey, or peeing. But pretty soon it just became a standard part of each tantrum. Mommy won’t do what you want immediately? Play the hug card. It’s no longer a plea, it’s a shrieking demand. It doesn’t even mean “give me a hug” anymore, it means “DO WHAT I WANT AND DO IT NOW!!!” I’m about as likely to pull over when she says she needs a big hug as I am to pull over for a hitchhiker.

Of course, your average innocent bystander has no way of knowing the storied history of “I Need A Big Hug.” All they see is the tiny blonde person, tears running down her face, imploring her mother, in the middle of Shaw’s, to please give her a big hug. Who wouldn’t be appalled when said mother snaps back, “I am not giving you a hug!” or “No more hugs!!” or even, “Naughty girls don’t get hugs!!” I can see their blog posts now. “What kind of mother refuses her child’s impassioned plea for a bit of tenderness!?!” Tenderness my ass. She just wants me to buy her a box of Dora Fruit Snacks. She doesn’t want a hug any more than I want a romantic evening with Dan “Do you not realize the incredible and powerful bond that skin on skin contact with your daughter will give you?” Pearce.

I can’t possibly interpret every public interaction for you, so you’re going to have to check your scathing judgement and realize that what comes out of a two-year-old’s mouth is so often light years from what they really mean. Their parents know this; they are skilled interpreters of toddler bullshit. In case you happen to come across me out and about with Klara, here’s a cheat sheet:

“I eat a healthy lunch?”  – Awww, she’s asking for some sustaining nourishment. Nope, not even close. She wants a treat. She knows if she asks for a treat, I’ll tell her she needs to eat something healthy first. She’s asking me if she ate a healthy lunch, i.e., “Can I have a treat?” Sometimes asked sweetly, sometimes screeched with an exclamation point instead of a question mark:

“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“No, you didn’t eat a healthy lunch. It’s 9 A.M. You had half a muffin and some cheddar bunnies for breakfast. You’re not having a treat.”
“I EAT A HEALTHY LUNCH!!!!”
“I’m going to take that ugly orange pumpkin-shaped bucket of treats and dump the whole thing in the trash if you keep screaming like that.”

“I’m ‘TARVIN'” – “I am trying to delay going to bed/delay putting my shoes on/keep you from accomplishing anything meaningful today.”

“It’s ok Mommy! It’s ok!” – “I have done something naughty; please don’t investigate further.”

“Who do you need to feed?” – “Are you going to nurse Joey now? Because I really want you to give me some food and turn the TV on and stand next to me while I use the potty even though I’m fully capable of doing it myself.”

“You need to tell me” – Said in response to a question. No, she’s not looking to me for parental guidance. She wants me to list every option available to her, as in:

“I’m ‘TARVIN’. I need some food.”
“OK, what do you want?”
“You need to tell me.”
“OK, how about an apple?’
“No.”
“Grapes?”
“No.”
“Cheese?”
“What kind?”
“Mommy cheese?*”
“No.”
“Oma cheese?**”
“No.”
“The kind you bite?***”
“No.
“Raisins?”
“No.”
“Klara, that’s all we have. You need to pick something.”
“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“NO! NO HEALTHY LUNCH!”
“I NEED A BIG HUG!!!!”

 

*shredded cheese
**string cheese
***Baby Bels

 

 

 

 

 

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Assertivepants

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So according to Sheryl Sandberg or someone we’re no longer supposed to refer to our daughters as “bossy;” we’re supposed to use more positive, self-esteem-building words like, I don’t know, “assertive.” Well, let me tell you, I am raising one “assertive” little lady. (Wait, that sounds sexist too. “Assertive young American”?) No one who knows me is surprised – I have a reputation for being “assertive” myself. It’s part of what makes me a good teacher.

Today I made the rookie parent mistake (is it still a rookie mistake if you make it over and over?) of telling Klara company was coming in the form of her friend Madeleine. Her face lit up with unbridled joy. “Mademine is coming?!?! To my house?!?” Just as quickly, it darkened into a glare, the full force of which was directed squarely at me. “You need to clean up.”

Yes, thank you, I do. I would love to clean up. If you could please let me know how to get your sister to stop screaming bloody murder every time I put her down I’d be happy to clean up. It would also help if you didn’t fling every clean pair of undies in the basket all over the family room every time you get a new pair, which is every time you go to the bathroom. Or if you didn’t leave half-eaten granola bars on every flat surface. Or if you didn’t interrupt me every 30 seconds asking me to do things like put a bib on Minnie Mouse, or hold your booger, or answers questions like “Where do bumps live?” She didn’t let up either. She continued to nag – excuse me, “remind” – me to clean up because Mademine was coming for the next two hours, until Mademine actually arrived.

Madeleine is probably the most agreeable, well-behaved little girl I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Seriously, this is a picture of Madeleine:

20140815-dsc_0501

 

 

 

 

(Her mom told me today that when she wakes up in the morning she just rolls over and starts quietly playing with her stuffed animals and “would probably stay in there for two hours if we let her!” At that point I started seriously rethinking our friendship.)

This is Klara:

IMG_6731

 

 

 

 

(Klara does not “wake up in the morning.” Klara wakes up at 2 a.m. screaming “I WANT MOMMY!!!”)

Klara and Madeleine get along famously; the dynamic of their relationship is best summed up by the late, great Shel Silverstein in his poem “Friendship”:

I’ve discovered a way to stay friends forever–
There’s really nothing to it.
I simply tell you what to do
And you do it!

Klara had decided long before Madeleine arrived that they were going to paint. When presented with this “option” Madeleine, characteristically, agreed. Klara is nothing if not a good hostess. She ordered up bowls of grapes for each of them – “We’re ‘TARVIN’. You like grapes, Mademine? Mademine needs a bowl of grapes.”

Madeleine also agreed when Klara decided it was time to move on to playing with the Little People princess castle and Klip Klop stable. True, she balked a bit when Klara decided that that was quite enough of that and it was time to clean up every last princess, whether Madeleine was playing with them or not, and sit on the couch and watch T.V. I pleaded with her that Madeleine was using the toys, but to no avail. “No. Mademine wants to watch somepin’. She wants to sit on the couch.” She determinedly shoveled the princesses into the box, slammed the cover on and jammed the box onto the shelf. (Why in the name of all that is holy can she not be that “assertive” about picking things up when I want her to pick up???) I patiently explained that Madeleine was our guest and she was still playing. But it was too late. Madeleine had agreeably decided that she really DID want to sit on the couch and watch somepin’. “You like Mickey, Mademine?” Of course she did.

In good time, snacks were ordered. “We’re ‘TARVIN’.”

“You’re not starving. You just had a snack and it’s almost dinner time.”

“Yes we are. Mademine is ‘TARVIN’. You ‘tarvin’ Mademine?”

“Yeah!” Madeline agreed.

“She doesn’t even know what ‘starving’ means,” her mother whispered. “Madeleine, what does starving mean?”

“I don’t know!” she chirped.

Anyway, it was time to go. Madeleine immediately threw herself to the ground and began hitting and kicking and screaming “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!!!!” Ha ha no just kidding. She cheerfully thanked both me and Klara for having her over to play, dutifully put on her coat and left with a wave. I seriously rethought my philosophy of life, the universe and everything.

“That was so fun!!!” Klara bounced around the room, flinging undies. “I like Mademine.” She turned to me with a glare. “You need to cook me some dinner. I’m ‘TARVIN.'”

Assertive bitch.

 

 

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Dear Parents Who Travel For Work

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On behalf of Spouses Who Stay Home With the Kids, I ask you to please refrain from doing the following:

Acting tired from staying out late drinking
Posting pictures of yourself with celebrities on social media
Calling us from water taxis
Calling us from harbor cruises
Calling us from lazy rivers
Calling us from dim, quiet hotel rooms
Calling us from expensive dinners
Calling us drunk
Mentioning golf, receptions, cocktail hours, weather warmer or nicer than it is back home, or long airplane rides that require you to turn off your phone and read something
Acting like any of the above is a chore
Arriving home with presents for the person who just spit on someone in a fit of rage rather than the person that just got spit on
Sleeping in the day after you get home because YOU’RE tired

In return, we will not taunt you with mentions of Caillou, poop explosions, grocery shopping, laundry, chicken nuggets or Barefoot Moscato. We will not serenade you with the theme song from Paw Patrol in an attempt to get it out of our head. We will not post pictures of ourselves posing with Miss Sarah from story time or Miss Samantha from gymnastics. We will not call you at 2 am and 4 am so the whole family can be awake together. We will make sure you get to keep the 6 identical brown leaves we found on our walk today and had to bring in the house. We will insist you sleep in the day after you get home because you work hard to provide for our family.

Deal?

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