Tag: kids

The Outcome Was Not Hilarious

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There‘s a Facebook “ask your child these questions and post the results” quiz going around, and on a whim, I decided to ask my son for his answers. I thought it would be funny. A lark.

He was crying by the second question.

I really feel like I’m cocking up this parenting thing 98% of the time. Am I the only one who feels this way? I always feel like I’m failing at parenting, no matter how hard I try.

 

My son is diagnosed with ADHD. I am also. I’m his genetic link. This feels great, by the way—passing on a brain type to one’s child that makes life harder. No guilt associated with this at all. Nope. Nada. (Also, I’m sarcastic. Did I mention that sarcasm is my favorite defense mechanism?) So basically, I failed my son from the second he was conceived. I failed him in utero. Off to a great start.

Today, I started the meant-to-be-funny test verbally to see what my son would say. Here’s how it went.

 

WITHOUT prompting, ask your child these questions and write EXACTLY what they say. The outcome will be hilarious. 😂

Interviewed: M, 10.

 

Me: What is something I say a lot?

Him: I love you.

 

(Okay, we seem to be off to a good start. I am such a loving mother. Yay, me!)

 

Me: What makes me happy?

Him: When I do the right thing.

 

I looked at him sadly. His answer broke my heart.

My son then started crying. Tears rolling down his face. Because this is what it feels like to be a kid with ADHD.

This is also what it feels like to be an adult with ADHD.

You feel like your inability to control impulsive behavior, your easy distractibility, and your problem finishing things (on which you aren’t hyperfocusing) all make you a bad person.

Because your behavior is corrected constantly, you also feel like you’re failing all of the time. At everything.

 

Eventually, if you’re like me, you may become chronically anxious, overthinking and hesitating before every decision, because you’re so used to making the wrong choices.

You may often freeze from indecision and fear, lest you fail the people counting on you to do the right thing, one more lousy time.

You may worry they will stop loving you, or leave you, because you can never seem to make people happy, no matter what you do.

You may grow up feeling alone in the world, and unable to trust anyone, because nobody ever stays. You will then blame, berate, and emotionally beat yourself up for not being able to maintain a healthy relationship with another human.

 

It really sucks.

 

We try so hard to choose our battles and be gentle with our son, but the reality is that when someone is constantly impulsive—to the point of being a danger to themselves, or an annoyance to others—you have to say something.

Present parents teach their children how to behave appropriately. If these teachable moments are happening all… day… long… the emotionally immature recipient of your “life lessons,” no matter how gently you present them, starts to feel like a failure. Quantity trumps quality eventually.

And being human, you’re sometimes not as kind or patient as you should have been—especially when you’re correcting the same poor choice for the 100th time, and that behavior is something your child should have mastered years earlier.

Sisyphus has nothing on the parents of an ADHD-brained kid. We wish we were only rolling a damned rock up a hill all day. At least then we’d have the luxury of not worrying about how we’re making the rock feel as we roll it over and over again, and what kind of a rock it’s going to grow up into because of our ineptitude.

Having a child with a developmental delay is like having a toddler for 3 times longer than you should, and you will want to punch yourself in the face. Often. Sometimes a pillow in a bedroom behind a locked door will have to do, because we need faces to see, eat, communicate, and other important crap like that.

 

When I’m handling it well, I feel like there is nobody as patient as me in the whole wide world. I am the Queen of Patience. I am an angel in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to guide this child to adulthood with love and light and also a lot of laundry.

When I’m not handling it well, and I lose my temper, I feel like the shittiest human who ever walked the planet. I am the Queen of Shit. I am Satan in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to ruin the life of an innocent boy with snappish remarks and nagging and also a lot of laundry.

I know he’s just a kid, without the life experience or perspective I have, and of course he’s not going to inherently understand everything. He deserves the same chance to make mistakes and learn from them the rest of us received. So unfortunately, when I am not at my best, “Queen of Shit” is written on the sash I wear to complement my gown made from the tattered fabric of parental shame. I don’t deserve a tiara.

 

It’s a frustrating cycle, and it kills me because I was the same kid; misunderstood and angry all of the time. I still lack self-esteem. I still have a chip on my shoulder that flares up if I feel I’m being treated like I’m stupid—a bitchy, defensive chip that my husband “enjoys” dealing with on the reg. I still feel like I’m failing all of the time. And I so desperately want life to be better for my son.

God, I don’t want him to feel like I do. I don’t want anybody to feel like I do.

 

I asked why he was crying, and he said, “I’m crying because I don’t know what makes you happy.”

 

Oh, my heart. Ouch. And then I started crying. I opened my arms and he came over to the couch and jumped into my lap like we do at the start of every day.

I hugged him for a long time. I told him that he makes me happy because he exists, and not only when he’s doing the right thing. That I am trying to teach him how to be a good person when I correct his behavior, and making mistakes is normal because that’s how we all learn to do the right thing.

I told him I will always love him, and that even when he’s doing something that doesn’t make me happy, I love him just as much then. I told him I’m only trying to help him learn to make good choices, and that I will never love him any less, no matter what he does.

I told him he makes me happy just by being here.

 

I’m trying. I’m trying to make sure my son doesn’t feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing at parenting while I try to make sure my child doesn’t feel like he’s failing at being a human.

I recognize the duplicity of the above process, but I don’t have a better solution.

 

Failing. Failing, failing, failing.

 

*****

 

After I dried his tears and told him the test was supposed to be fun, we continued. I wanted to salvage this moment. I wanted to lighten it.

 

Me: How tall am I? 

Him: 5’9″

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What’s my favorite color? 

Him: I don’t know? Blue or purple or something? 

 

(Close. Blue-green.)

 

Me: What is my favorite thing to do?

Him: Write on the computer?

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What makes you proud of me? 

Him: That you do everything for me. You’ve kept me alive for the last 10 years!

 

(Jesus. It’s nice to be appreciated, but keeping you alive is my job, kid. I feel kind of bad about his answer. I am officially promising Future Me will never guilt trip my son. Do you hear that Future Me? He appreciates you. Like, biologically. No guilt trips.)

 

Me: What is my favorite food?

Him: Burritos?

 

(Correct! Well, actually, my favorite food is artichokes, but they’re expensive, so bean burritos with cheese and green sauce are my number one comfort food. They have been since I was a kid in Phoenix.)

 

Me: Do you think you could live without me?

Him: No! I couldn’t!

 

(I smiled and kept it light, but seriously. What kind of a needy, Disney-movie-moms-must-die kind of question is this? My son freaked out recently, when, at almost-11, he saw the REAL beginning to “Finding Nemo” on TV. It was his first favorite movie, and I skipped past the “mom dies” beginning every time. Because damn, Disney. That’s some heavy shit to drop on toddlers. Stop it.)

 

Me: If I could go anywhere, where would it be?

Him: I don’t know? An island?

 

(Wrong, unless the island was never sunny and not surrounded by water, which would make it not an island. The vast endlessness of the ocean freaks me out, and I am extremely photosensitive. He got the solitude part right, though, if that’s what he meant.  I’d love a cloudy, cool climate and a house alone in the forest.)

 

Me: What is my favorite show?

Him: Your medical shows.

 

(Correct! I love all medical shows. If I could go back in time and change my college major, I would choose nursing instead.)

 

*****

 

This was the end of the test.

My son is a volatile, high-strung, emotional and extremely empathetic human, just like me. We feel everything in the world. It’s exhausting. The ADHD brain type doesn’t help.

So I should probably mention that I’ve also made him cry over his pancakes by jokingly making the Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup bottle exclaim, “No! Don’t drink my lifeblood, little boy!”

He’s run crying over to me after a group of shitty kids stomped a cool bug he was watching.

He cries over sad shows on television. He’s a sensitive soul. But still. Today was a reminder to be as gentle as possible with my son, as often as I can muster it.

 

What a hilarious outcome. Thanks, stupid Facebook quiz.

 

 

 

 

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She’s a Little Runaway

I laid low for a little while, on my best behavior, after the social worker came by the house. The thought of being sent back to the small town Missouri high school of 400 after attending the exciting Arizona high school of 4000 terrified me. I had a new set of friends that I wanted to keep, even if I only got to see them at school.

I was no longer grounded, not that it mattered much, since I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere anyhow.

There had been no mending of the relationship between my father and me. As my bruised face healed, my pain was forgotten by the adults in charge. After a trip to the dentist to fill in the chipped portion of my front tooth with composite resin, all returned to outer normalcy (if you didn’t count what my father had deemed my “whorish” blond hair). Minus the physical reminders of the fight during which he punched me in the face repeatedly, we moved forward without discussing the incident, as if it had never happened.

There would be no family therapy sessions, no psychological counseling, like in the After School Special television shows. In our family, when abuse happened, we did the sociological equivalent of a cartoon character emitting a “just minding my own business” whistle and sidestepping uneasily out of the room. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

I had my gym bag packed with clothes and all of the money I had ferreted away to date; around forty dollars. The plan was to ask to spend the night at a good friend’s house. If I was denied, I was running away. Because I was never allowed to go anywhere, I was pretty sure I would be running away.

I’d had it. I was angry about being beaten up. I was angry that nobody cared. I was angry that I didn’t get to have a social life and was expected to spend my teenage years friendless, in the middle of nowhere. I was just plain angry, and I wanted to do something bad to the people who were making me feel this way. It really was that simple.

A therapist would probably call it a cry for help, but a more accurate assessment would be that it was a middle finger. Fuck you. Fuck you, you awful, kid-punching people who never let me be a teenager or have any fun. Fuck you, I’m leaving. Oh, and also: fuck you. Did I mention that?

That morning, I asked my father if I could spend the night at my best girlfriend’s house. He said no, as expected. I left the house with a goodbye yelled down the hallway, so that my gym bag would not cause suspicion. I walked the usual route down the dusty gravel road to the bus stop and rode it to school, just to get out of nowhere-land and into the city.

When I got to school, I walked off campus. The girl who had been in accelerated classes and the gifted program her entire life was now resigned to not graduating from high school. I didn’t even care. I was so unhappy with my life; I couldn’t stand it in my desert prison with the guy who’d beaten me up, even one more day.

I wandered around the city, getting further away from the school as the day progressed. I worried my father would send the police to the area, looking for me. What I didn’t realize in my naivety was that he had as much reason as I to avoid the police. The police would ask his teenage runaway daughter questions with ugly answers that painted him in an unflattering light. He never called the police.

Foolishly thinking I would need a disguise, I bought a hair dye in a grocery store to change my white blond hair to a burgundy red. I grabbed a bag of on-sale bread rolls while I was there. I ate a few and gave the rest of them away to a homeless person in a Phoenix alley.

I found a bathroom and changed my hair. The violent incident that led to my eventual running away from home was set into motion by the bleaching of my hair, and the irony of now putting it back to a more father-friendly color to evade the police was lost on me.

After school hours were over, I found a pay phone and called my best friend. She told me about a party that night and we arranged a meeting place where she would come get me. Nothing else to do, I headed that way.

The party was in a cheap motel room. It was being thrown by three older military guys with a penchant for high school girls. The bathtub was full of ice and free booze, and the dimly lit room was packed with illegal deeds. A boom box sat on a bedside table, blasting the latest rock. It was sweaty, crowded, and overpowering. The smell of teenage pheromones was louder than everything.

The party tapered off into the late hours, and as high school curfews slowly eliminated the crowd, I found myself wondering where I was going to sleep.

One of the older guys throwing the party had latched on to me. We were drinking and talking, sitting on the edge of a bed, which would have seemed like a dangerous idea if the same bed hadn’t been used as a crowded couch for the last few hours. It seemed benign enough to an ignorant young girl who had no idea what he really wanted.

He pounced fast, kissing me roughly. I didn’t want to kiss him, not at all. I looked around wildly for help as he pinned me to the dirty motel bed, but the room had cleared. There was nobody left but the two of us. He had been waiting patiently for this opportunity, placating the stupid drunk teenager with small talk and alcohol.

Outside the room, I could hear talking in the parking lot as people said their goodbyes. I could hear cars starting, engines revving, and help leaving.

While he was sucking on my neck, giving me the kind of red marks I would despise the rest of my life, I was trying with all of my strength to push him off. I had moved from not attracted into completely repulsed by him, but I couldn’t make it stop.

He was a big guy, and muscular from the military training. He wouldn’t budge. I started to get genuinely scared, as I let myself think the frantic, horrified thought I’m sure many victims have had: “Oh my god, I’m about to get raped.”

This was how it happened. This was how girls got raped. I was saying, “No. Get off of me,” and he wasn’t listening. At all. But I didn’t want to get raped. I needed a new approach.

My whole life I have had a really calm mind in moments of extreme pressure, and this was one of them. I quickly assessed the situation and decided to psychologically outwit this bastard, if I could.

I stopped struggling and saying no, and acted like I was into what was happening. I kissed back. I used my hands. I convinced him that I wanted it as much as he did. I just needed to earn his trust and get him to lower his guard for one second, because there was no way I was getting out of the situation otherwise. He was just too strong.

Once I’d sold my desire enough, I told him in my best husky, oversexed voice that I thought we should both take off our shirts. He temporarily shifted his weight off of me while he sat up to pull his T-shirt over his head. I made bedroom eyes and pretended to start taking my shirt off too.

This was the chance I’d been hoping for, probably the only one I was going to get. I shoved myself out from underneath him while he was off-balance, and ran for the door to the motel room. I knew that if I could just get outside to yell for help, I’d escape.

I made it outside, with my potential rapist running thirty feet behind me. He was shirtless and angry. I spotted my best friend across the parking lot, exchanging phone numbers with a guy she’d been talking to all night. They were in front of his car, getting ready to leave. I ran as fast as I could in their direction.

When I got there, I said in a low, whispering voice, “Help me, please,” right before the guy I’d left in the motel room bed caught up. I said overly loudly to them, “I just realized I’m late for my curfew! Can you give me a ride home?”

My friend and the guy she was talking to both understood immediately what was happening and hustled me into the car, amid protests from my pursuer. We kept it really chipper and friendly, exclaiming things like, “Hey, thanks for the party!” as we drove away. We left him dejected and annoyed, standing in the parking lot.

My Trashy Neighbors Part 1598

(Writing from September 12, 2010. The neighbor I wrote about giving the kids marshmallows as an after-school snack would later encourage her daughter, who was overweight, much taller, and a grade older than my son to bully him for being neurologically atypical. Try to act surprised.)

***

My weakest subject in the school of parenting is socialization. I’m shy, and this simply does not work when you have a very outgoing little boy.

My 4-year-old son is in kindergarten with other kids 8:30-2:30, five days a week, and still wants to play with someone when he gets home. I was a loner kid, and don’t understand this at all.

I am home alone during his schooling, and often feel I could use more alone time. I have almost always lived alone, since I moved out at 17, and in relationships, often stayed at my own place for space. I require a lot of silence, yoga, and long, centering walks, so as you can imagine, motherhood has turned me into a nervous, twitchy mess. It’s a living.

So here’s my neighborhood dynamic: we have a few nice moms with a 2-3 kids each on my street. We tried group play dates for awhile, but that petered out after a few months when one mom decided that we were close enough friends to start coming over to my house unannounced, which I find nervewracking and rude. Call me southern, but my mama taught me better than that.

I finally started completely avoiding her after she came by unannounced to leave her baby with me because her husband accidentally took the carseat to work with him, and she needed to shop for a birthday present for her mother. I’m not even kidding.

First of all, babies scare me. I know that now that I’ve had one, I’m supposed to be over my fear and grab any squirming infant that I stumble across, cooing with confident glee, but it didn’t happen. I have no baby experience other than my son, and was relieved when he came out of me weighing 9.5 pounds because it made him seem so much less fragile than other newborns. I’m not a baby person. I’ve accepted this.

Secondly, this particular baby was hugely attached to his mother and cried nonstop when anyone else tried to hold him – even his own father. And she knew this, because she’s the one who told me.

Thirdly, who does that? I don’t think she even knew my last name at this point. Who just leaves their kid with someone they don’t really know? Here, lady across the street with whom I’m on a first name basis, please unexpectedly take my child who will cry nonstop while I am gone and watch him for a few hours. Enjoy!

When I told my husband about it, he said, “Why couldn’t her husband just drive the car seat home during his lunch break? That’s what I would have done.”

Right?

Anyhow, that was the end for me. Plus, with my 1 kid to their 2-3 each, I was really never going to win at the trading babysitting services game, was I?

So I stopped answering the door when she would knock, and excused myself out of the playdates.

The part that makes me feel like a motherhood failure, though, is worrying that my son suffers because of my social weirdness. I don’t want to play nice with the neighborhood mommies, but these are the people with children, so he is deprived of playmates. All because I don’t want high-maintenance friendships with women that will eat into my precious alone time. And because I don’t want to watch other people’s screaming infants, with no notice, for free.

Can you blame me?

So with this in mind, a few evenings ago, when my son was begging me to play with the neighborhood kids across the street as they raced down the sidewalk on their bikes, I let him. I put on his helmet, helped him cross the street with his bike, and away he went.

I dragged a fold-up canvas sports chair into the front yard, stuck a beer in the cup holder (my husband was home – I don’t drink on the job otherwise), waved at the moms a few houses down across the street to whom the gaggle of children belonged, and tried to relax.

Within seconds, I noticed my son had stopped biking with the other kids. I stood up to see that he was hovering near the mothers, drinking something. Sighing, I walked down the street and crossed the road to see what he was holding.*

It was a Capri Sun. Which I never give him because it is high fructose corn syrup and water with a tiny splash of juice thrown in so they can very largely plaster WITH NATURAL JUICES on the front (http://www.cspinet.org/new/200701081.html). I was annoyed, but realized they were just trying to be nice, since the other kids had the drinks, so I thanked them. (Yes, I’m a non-confrontational pussy. I think we already covered this.)

I allow occasional treats, and don’t want him to grow up with a later-in-life addiction to sugar because he was deprived as a kid, but there is so much high fructose corn syrup in everything that I make a point of reading all labels and buying the versions of foods that don’t use it (HFCS-free peanut butter, jelly, ketchup, and juices, for example).

I don’t think they should have given my child something unhealthy without asking me. I would always make someone else’s child run and ask their mother. But then I was the socially-challenged weirdo sitting in my own yard rather than hanging out with them, so I wasn’t really there to be asked. Fair enough.

I told my son that I would keep the drink for him and he could come over to our house if he wanted to drink more so he could go back to playing. Because I am a very polite liar. I walked back to my house and threw the rest of the Capri Sun away. We were going to have dinner in a while and I didn’t want him to be full of corn syrup water.

I sat back down to observe. Within minutes, my son was missing from the bike gang again. I stood up and noticed he was holding a bag of something and eating from it. I figured it was potato chips or something. Again, not a food I keep around or give my kid, because at his age, they don’t eat much. When he does eat, I want it to be good quality food so his growing body gets the nutrition it needs.

(This seems blatantly obvious to me, by the way, and I am constantly shocked by the junk food I see people feeding young children. Gee, I wonder why health problems related to poor diet and obesity are such a growing problem in our country?)

I let it go on a few minutes, thinking he’d get bored and put the bag down any minute, but I soon realized he was just going to town on that bag of whatever. He was going to completely ruin his appetite for dinner, so I once again got up and ambled down the street to investigate.

It was a bag of marshmallows. Motherfucking marshmallows. My son was shoving mini-marshmallows into his mouth as fast as he could. When he saw me coming, he knew the jig was up and started cramming them in faster, until he could no longer talk without spitting marshmallows.

Best part: the woman who apparently gives her children marshmallows as a snack was just telling me a few minutes before about how her husband is having heart trouble and diabetes-related issues. This woman has a college degree, so I was blown away that she couldn’t see the connection between her horrifyingly unhealthy snack selection and poor familial health.

So my son had high fructose corn syrup water and marshmallows for dinner that night because he wasn’t hungry anymore when we got home. Gross.

And I decided that, mommy guilt be damned, that is the last time I’m going to let him hang out with the neighbor kids.

Yes, because I am flawed and psychologically uncomfortable hanging out with people I don’t know simply because we have procreation in common.

But also because I love my son, and I want him to grow up knowing how to eat healthfully and take good care of his body so he won’t have weight issues, heart problems and type 2 diabetes.

It has finally sunk into my thick skull that no socialization is better than negative socialization. I’m not failing at motherhood, as I feared. Not at all. Because every decision I make is based on what’s best for my kid.

And also, these are not my people. These are my trashy neighbors, and I don’t have to hang out with them simply because we bought homes near each other. I can choose my friends based on who they are, not their location.
Eat yer vegetables, kids.

xoxo.

 

24 Crayons

I had finally moved up to the bigger box. The coveted 24 pack of Crayola Crayons. I had colored my 5-year-old way through the 8 pack and the 16, and had graduated to 24. I was so excited to have so many more options, so many more of the bright, happy colors I adored. My coloring books would never be the same.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and it was 1976, so coloring was one of my favorite forms of entertainment. Things were slower back then, and without television networks devoted to endless cartoons, video games and the internet to entertain us, we had to find things to do on our own. Free from the psychological constraints having an incredibly talented sister would later place on me, I still fancied myself quite the artist.

I’d gotten in trouble before for leaving my crayons on the floor of the living room, and had been instructed, as usual, to go get my father’s belt for a beating. I was a precocious, stubborn, strong-willed little girl, but I lived in fear of the belt. When the belt entered the picture, my red curls snapped to attention, and my blue eyes widened in fear. I had the task of picking up my crayons permanently seared into my memory with every lash of leather on my young skin. From that point on, I always picked up my crayons when I was done coloring. Always.

My sister was a few years younger than me, and I never wanted to play with her. She was a great kid, but I was an odd child, and preferred to play alone. She followed me around and wanted to do everything I did, to my annoyance, and I was required to share my things with her, which is a nice lesson. But she was younger than me and didn’t quite have the house rules committed to memory. I should have seen it coming.

When I let my little sister borrow the glorious 24 pack of crayons, I was probably relieved that she’d found something to do besides emulate me. I had been busy playing with toys in my orange shag-carpeted bedroom, probably listening to the Mickey Mouse record player I loved so much, when my dad got home from work.

My dad really liked to take out his bad days on his wife and two daughters when he got home, and because he was an unhappy person in an unhappy marriage working a job he didn’t like, most of his days were bad. Much of my early childhood was spent avoiding the man, because being within his physical or mental reach never yielded anything particularly pleasant. He had proven himself easily capable of hitting my mom and me, so I kept my distance from the junkyard dog of his psyche.

He yelled my name, and I froze in terror. He sounded mad, and that never meant anything good. But I knew that hiding would only make the punishment worse when he found me. And he always found me. Full of dread, I walked down the hallway from my room, toward the living room where he stood.

Where he stood over my crayons.

My sister had left them out. She was younger. She didn’t know. She didn’t realize the enormity of what she’d done. And I would love to say that I was a brave girl and took the fall for her, but instead I ratted her out immediately. It wasn’t noble of me, but I knew she wouldn’t be punished as harshly. I thought that maybe if he knew I hadn’t done it, that I’d respected the rules written on my bare ass by the stinging belt, he might calm down and understand this time. Just this time, maybe it could be different.

I apologized again and again, repeated that I’d lent my crayons to my little sister, that I never would have left them out. When he didn’t send me to go get the belt, I thought that maybe my begging had worked.

He bent down and started to gather up the crayons into his hands. I was confused. Surely he wasn’t picking them up for me? Shouldn’t he be making my sister pick them up, the way I’d had to pick them up before, limping from the spanking, with snot and tears crusting my face, gathering them into my shaking toddler hands?

He walked into the kitchen with my 24 crayons. My mom was cooking dinner and turned around to watch as he started snapping them in half, slowly, individually, while he laughed at my growing hysterics. He dropped the broken pieces into the open garbage can while I sobbed in horror.

I was screaming for my mom to stop him, that my sister had left them out, not me, while she screamed at him to stop. But no matter how hard I cried and apologized for what I hadn’t even done, no matter how my mom pleaded, he just kept snapping them.

Red, snap! Dandelion, snap! Violet, snap! Orange, snap! Green-yellow, snap! Yellow-orange, snap! Violet-red, snap! Yellow-green, snap! Yellow, snap! Blue-green, snap! Scarlet, snap! Cerulean, snap! Apricot, snap! Red-violet, snap! Indigo, snap! White, snap! Brown, snap! Black, snap! Carnation pink, snap! Red-orange, snap! Green, snap! Blue, snap! Blue-violet, snap! And gray, snap! So much gray.

Until all of my beautiful colors were ruined.

He grabbed a beer and left the kitchen to sit in his chair in front of the television until my mom finished cooking dinner.

I think the worst part of all was how my father destroyed my brand new crayons with a smile on his face. This was no “it hurts me more than it hurts you” parental lesson, he clearly relished the pain he was causing me; I have no doubt. I am not one of those people with an amazing brain that can recall many clear moments from childhood, but the traumatizing ones have always stayed with me. This was one of my first lessons about the great cruelty of which humans are capable, and I’ll never forget it.

Pollyanna Loves Swim-Up Bars

I did something right today.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’m really bad at all things social interaction, and I actually helped a stranger feel better today, rather than just making them feel uncomfortable.

Go me.

Seriously. I have noticeably alienated every one of the other kids’ mothers at my son’s school who have tried to talk to me. It’s a real problem. I get nervous, blank out, stutter, and freeze up. And then the weird things come out of my mouth, like some sort of poorly done German film noir I have to watch in mortification, while I have the usual brain self-dialogue.

Oh my GOD, what is wrong with me? Why did I just say that? Why can’t I say normal things like normal people? Why would she want to know that? You’re so fucking weird, Tawni. Stop! Just stop now, while you’re ahead. Shit. No. Why didn’t you just stop? See? You’re just making it worse. They’ve got the freezy eyes of discomfort. You made another one have the freezy eyes of discomfort. She’s trying to politely escape. The eyes are flicking around wildly, searching for an escape. Congratulations. You’ve turned yet another human into a frightened horse trapped in the stable of your social ineptitude and insanity. Let her go. Save yourself! Run from me! I’m a fucking monster! Be free, horsie! Balls. Why do I talk… ever?

Anyhow. A guy was dropping off his daughter at my son’s kindergarten this morning. It’s a small private school. The kindergarten classroom is upstairs, and consists of fifteen kids. The teacher is amazing. Very smart, hands-on and loving. I adore her. More importantly, I trust her.

I hugged my son goodbye, and he started immediately working on some artwork. I have always been blessed with the most nonchalant-about-my-departure child in the whole world. He never went through the separation anxiety phase he was supposed to, and has always given me a cheerful wave, hug, and see you later when I leave him with others. Not a single cling. I got so lucky, and am immeasurably grateful for this little mercy, as I am a huge pussy a total empath. I honestly don’t think I could walk away from my crying child, even though I logically know it’s okay.

As I was walking out the door, I noticed one of my son’s classmates, a little girl, because she was sobbing big, weepy sobs while the teacher hugged her and helped her put her coat and backpack away. I looked up in time to see her worried daddy going down the stairs, obviously feeling awful about leaving her there crying.

I was on the flight of stairs above him, and we met eyes. I gave him the Ugh Face, and said, “It’s so hard to walk away when they’re upset like that, isn’t it?”

He looked so sad. He looked like he was about to cry. And as I mentioned above, I don’t really know what it’s like to walk away from a crying child fraught with separation anxiety, because my son has never had any, but it seemed like the thing he needed to hear.

He nodded, and I said, “The important thing to remember is that she will have completely forgotten about it and be playing with the other kids in about thirty seconds,” and I smiled gently. He smiled back.

Well I’ll be damned. You seem to have said the right thing for once, dipshit. No freezy eyes of discomfort! You even got a smile on his face!

We were both headed to the front doors leading out to the parking lot, but someone cut me off because the women who bring their kids to this school are rude, oblivious bitches busy people with places to be, but he made a point of holding the door for the women who cut in front of me, and held the door for me too. When I made it to the door, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have a really nice day,” with a grateful smile.

I told him to have one too, and walked to my car with tears in my eyes because I was so fucking happy to have helped make somebody feel better. I helped! I helped! My inner Pollyanna was hugging herself and leaping around clumsily as I drove away.

And then, when I picked my son up from school in the afternoon, someone had brought their new puppy upstairs to the kindergarten, and she let me hold it for, like, five minutes. I made someone sad feel better AND I got to hold a puppy today! It was a good day.

I like to think I’m complicated, but sometimes I’m pretty simple inside.

***

My husband won Sales Rep of the Year again at his work. He also won last year. He’s really good at his job. You’d be surprised at how useful a drama degree is in sales.

With the award comes an incentive vacation that the company chooses every year. Last year it was an Alaskan cruise. I was not spoiled enough to not be excited about a free vacation, but really, honestly, if you asked me what my dream vacation might be, somewhere cold and still in the United States while trapped on a big boat with the elderly masses and the rotovirus would not have been my first choice.

We had a good time. Of course. Alaska was gorgeous. I saw whales. We got the honeymoon we never had with 24-hour room service included for free. And it was especially nice after four years straight of parenthood without a break to not be a small person’s bitch-servantmommy for an entire week. But my husband and I both got deathly ill as expected. It took three weeks, two sets of lung x-rays, and a few rounds of antibiotics to get me back in ship-shape afterward. (Ahhaha. Ship-shape. Get it?)

So you know. I’ve been poor my entire adult life. I’ve never been able to afford vacations. I was genuinely happy to get Alaska.

But wait. It gets better.

This year, the incentive destination will be… drum roll… COSTA RICA!

Or Costa Fucking Rica, as my husband called it when he sent me the confirmation text that he had won the trip.

Costa Fucking Rica.

I can’t believe it. This is a vacation spot I would have chosen. I am a warm weather girl all the way, and grumpily wait for spring every winter under an electric blanket, with a stack of books next to my bed. I am so ridiculously excited about this vacation. I scream inside with excitement every time I think about it.

Costa Rica! Eeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Here are some pictures of the beautiful resort at which we’ll be staying:



My husband is excited about the golfing opportunities. I might actually be a very brave girl and go to the spa for the first massage of my entire life.

I’m really weird about strangers touching me intimately. The whole idea of a massage sounds so sexual and intense to me that I’ve been afraid to get one my entire life. How do you turn that part off? How do guys not get boners during massages? If someone is rubbing me like that, it’s kind of on, you know?

And heaven help me if my masseuse is attractive. I got a really hot gynecologist at Planned Parenthood once, and it nearly ruined me. I turned red and splotchy and could barely talk to him as he stared into the depths of my nethers. If he hadn’t already seen my vagina, I would have given him my number. Humiliating.

But I want to move past this. What kind of a freak has never gotten a massage? I can’t die without ever having gotten a massage.

The website also mentioned a swim-up bar, and I decided that there really isn’t a more perfect creation in the whole wide world than a swim-up bar. I would have a swim-up bar in my living room if I could afford it.

So if you’re going to be in Costa Rica this summer, come join me for a drink. You know where to find me.

Let Them Eat Cake

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Smiling, I watched as two kids around the age of seven happily grabbed pieces of the chocolate cake we were trying to unload. I worked in the free sample corner of a California grocery store. Usually my job involved cooking food for this purpose, but whenever we over-ordered a product, it conveniently became that day’s sample. The customers got to try something new and we got rid of our excess goods. Win-win.

The children had run away down an aisle toward the back of the store, presumably in the direction of their legal guardian. I was not yet a mother at the time, but the way people let their little ones run wild in public had always perplexed me. Weren’t they worried about the safety of their offspring? Weren’t they worried about the annoyance of others? Now that I’m a mother, I still don’t understand this lackadaisical approach to childcare, but if you disagree with me we can discuss…wait, what’s that? Oh, sorry. I can’t hear you over the chop-chop-chop of my helicopter parenting. Forgive me.

A woman walked up to my counter with an unpleasant sneer on her face. “What about the kids?” she barked at me. “That was chocolate cake! What about the kids?”

She was obviously angry that I’d given the children sugary food without asking their parents. She was not angry about the fact that the kids were completely without supervision–she was angry at me, the girl who was not allowed to deny anyone a sample, as per the boss’s orders.

If someone stood at the counter eating all of my samples, despite the fact that I got in trouble for an empty tray, I wasn’t allowed to say a thing. When the homeless lady came in daily to eat everything at once (and chug the entire carton of milk supposed to be used as coffee creamer), I had to watch in silence. What this abrasive, snarling soldier in the fight against sugar didn’t realize was that I was not allowed to join her military. I was sugar Switzerland.

But did I say any of this to her? No. Why not? Well, first of all, I needed the job. Arguing with a customer certainly wouldn’t garner me a raise come employee evaluation time.

Secondly, I am non-confrontational to a flaw. I don’t like it. It makes my stomach hurt.

And last of all, and most importantly, she was being rude. I didn’t deserve to be snapped at because somebody didn’t care enough to make sure their kids weren’t taking candy from strangers.

So what did I do? How did I handle the situation? I’m a bit embarrassed to say because it wasn’t very mature of me. In my defense, I had fifteen years of working customer service jobs with the public under my tired belt, and honestly, my patience with mean people was running on empty. I could still fake sincerity with the best of them, but my years of hoping that people are mostly good at heart were long behind me. My jaded inner Pollyanna was sitting firmly on the steps of her imaginary trailer, chain smoking and hollering ignorant invectives at the neighbors.

My temper in absentia, I did the first passive-aggressive thing that popped into my head. I pretended I didn’t understand her. She had a thick Spanish accent, and the way she was saying “the kids” made it sound like “da keys.” So I went with it.

“The keys? Have you lost your keys? The customer service desk is right over there. If someone has turned in your keys, that’s where they’ll be,” I told her kindly, with a beatific smile plastered pleasantly upon my lying jerk face.

“No! The kids! What about the kids?!” she yelled.

I continued to radiate sweetness and innocence, coupled with a not un-dog-like head turn to let her know that I was confused, yet patiently trying to understand her dilemma. I was here to help.

“Oh no. So…your keys? Did you lose your keys? Well, if you go to the customer service center they can help you find your keys, ma’am.” Still smiling. Apologetic nose crinkle. Blank eyes.

She turned beet red. I could practically see the cartoon steam coming from her ears. “No! The KIDS! The KIDS! The KIDS!” she spluttered at me in fury. Except that because of her accent it came out as: “Da KEYS! Da KEYS! Da KEYS!”

So I continued to psychologically poke the crazed woman by acting like I thought she’d lost her keys. Nobody does passive-aggressive like a person working retail. Nobody.

She stormed over to the customer service desk I’d pointed out to her and grabbed a manager. It was Jamie, one of the cooler ones, thank goodness. Her anger really helped my cause, as by the time she dragged him over to my counter she looked completely insane. Meanwhile, I thought about unicorns, emanated rainbows, and adjusted my halo.

“She is so STUPID! She is an IDIOT!” she pointed at me accusingly as I widened my eyes in feigned surprise. I held my hands out at the manager and said, “I’m sorry, Jamie. I thought she lost her keys, but I guess I’m not really understanding what she wants. I was just trying to help.”

“That’s okay. How can I help you, ma’am?” he inquired, turning to her politely.

Behind my manager’s back, I gave her a very different smile from the friendly “eediot” smile I’d been giving as I pretended to not understand for what she was berating me.

This smile knew she’d been saying “kids” and not “keys” all along.

This smile was shotgun-married to the hardened gleam in my eyes, and knew the score.

This smile whispered “Fuck you” as it passed you in a crowd, and kept walking.

It was at that moment she knew I’d been messing with her the whole time, and when she realized she wasn’t going to get me in trouble, she became even more enraged.

Without attempting to further thwart my agenda for the corruption of angelic children via evil chocolate cake, she immediately demanded that he refund her money and take back the bag of groceries she’d purchased.

Because yes, like some sort of sugar police officer noticing a violation while off-duty, she had been walking out of the store when the kids took my samples, and walked back in to yell at me. Now she stormed over to a register with Jamie for the refund, and then flounced out of the building, loudly announcing that she’d never shop in our store again.

(It never fails to amaze me when irate customers say this, as if the employees will take it as an insult. What we’d really like is a promise. Maybe even a legally binding document stating that you will never, ever come back. Please. Do it for the kids.)

The Chocolate Cake Incident happened in Los Angeles, the land of the body-conscious and health-minded. A few years later, I met the man who would become my husband, and we had a baby. To give our child a backyard in which to play, we moved to Oklahoma, the home of the not-so-body-conscious and not-so-health-minded. Sugar flows freely here. Gravy abounds.

In Oklahoma, nobody screams at me for feeding children chocolate cake. In Oklahoma, I am treated like a hippie freak for enjoying vegetables, and not really liking processed foods. I am sometimes appalled on play dates with other kids when their mothers hand them unnatural junk foods like dyed chemicals disguised as yogurt squeezed from plastic tubes, or as I recently witnessed, pull out a bag of marshmallows for them to eat with their Capri Sun high-fructose corn syrup waters.

Because it seems to be everywhere, we try to keep the sugar to a dull roar at home without being weird about it. We figure that if we don’t give our son too much daily sugar, it will be a nice treat when he receives it at school or from his grandparents. I recognize that it is my job as his parent to teach him to eat well so that he won’t become an adult with obesity and poor diet-related health issues. But I’d like to do this without making him feel so deprived he winds up overcompensating for all the desserts he missed once he’s grown up.

You know. Moderation.

My husband took our son with him to run an errand at the DMV this weekend. As they waited in line, a kind stranger bought our boy a gumball from a nearby machine. My husband was perturbed by the presumption that it was okay to give someone’s child sugar without asking. When he told me about it, I was bothered more that they gave an unknown child gum, as it was only months ago we could finally start trusting him to not swallow it.

As we discussed this, it occurred to me that we had become the sugar police. We were now the concerned adults whining about giving too much sugar to children. I immediately remembered the time I was on the non-parent side in Los Angeles, and tried to put myself into the shoes of the woman who’d chewed me out for giving chocolate to children six years ago.

Was she right? Should I have risked losing my job to take the cake away from the unsupervised kids? Had I unknowingly set the obesity and diabetes wheels in motion for them? Should I have explained that my job required me to give samples away to everyone? Had I been too cruel as I pretended I didn’t understand what she was saying to me?

Nah. That lady was a bitch.

 

 

Dandelion Wishes and Bees in My Face

(Writing from June 22, 2011.)

What’s not to love about the duality of a dandelion? I adore these dreaded yard weeds that make themselves known with cheerful yellow flowers, friendly, edible leaves, and puffballs made for dreamy wishing.

Of course I had to teach my son the joy of pissing off the Yard Police by blowing the seeds everywhere in the name of hopeful thinking. This is a childhood rite of passage akin to playing ‘loves me loves me not’ with a daisy, and must be passed down from one generation to the next.

When I first taught the fine art of dandelion wishing to my boy, he was three years old and not quite into the Mommy Adoration phase of boyhood. He was actually still in the temper tantrum-throwing I’m Only Still Alive Because I’m Cute phase.

When he made a wish on a dandelion, he would get a mischievous gleam in his blue eyes and say, “I wish that one hundred bees would sting my mom in the face!” Or something creepy like that – the more disturbing, the better. I would pretend to be mock dismayed on the outside with a smile, while feeling somewhat genuinely dismayed on the inside. There was a part of me that believed his wishes might actually come true. After all, what is more powerful than the wish of a true believer?

But no bees stung me in the face. And now that he is five, I’ve noticed he wishes for nice things. I was walking behind him through our neighborhood recently as he rode on his bike, and he stopped to pick a dandelion.

As he made a wish, he told me he was going to make the wish for me. He blew the puffy white dandelion apart and wished that I would have “…a happy sun, ponies, and a fish that doesn’t ever poop and make its tank dirty.”

He then handed me a fresh round puffball and told me to make a wish for him. I wished that he could have a long, happy, wonderful life, and I blew the seeds into the Oklahoma wind. My eyes watered a bit, hoping so fiercely that my wish for him will come true.

Here are some pictures of him making dandelion wishes, growing annoyed with his mom for trying to get him to look at the camera and smile, and finally riding away from me in exasperation.

I get that “Mom, you are a ridiculous human being,” look* featured in the penultimate photo quite often these days. If you ever decide that you are extremely cool, and wish to be knocked down a few notches in the name of garnering humility… have a child.

*I call it his Death Stare. In fairness, I might have just called him “Chicken Little” before I took the picture. (From the movie. It’s the big helmet. I can’t help it.) He gets really pissed off when I do that.

Enjoy:

The Dentist

(Writing from May 20, 2011.)
***
This is what it is like to get a five-year-old boy to the dentist for his 6-month check-up in my world:

6:30 am: He wakes up. Drinks his morning cup of milk. Refuses to eat breakfast.

6:45 am: I nag him to put on the clothes I picked out, and then we go to the bathroom where I brush his teeth twice with his electric toothbrush so they will be clean for the dentist. He refuses to use the toilet before we leave, insisting he doesn’t need to go.

7:15 am: We walk to the car where I strap him into his car seat, or “trap him” as he calls it. He turns on his Discovery Kids MP3 Player boombox and proceeds to play a song his father wrote and recorded over and over again during the drive to the dentist. He also does this every single morning and afternoon during the rides to and from school. Needless to say, I love his father very much, and think he has a beautiful voice, but I am really tired of hearing him sing.

7:30 am: My son informs me from the backseat that he has just pooped his pants. When I ask him how this happened, he tells me that he “gambled and lost,” which is code in our family for when you think you only need to fart and are mistaken. Very disgustingly mistaken.

7:31 am: I rage silently, wondering like I do in such moments how I went from playing guitar and singing in rock bands in Los Angeles to wiping up the shit of another human being in Oklahoma.

7:32 am: My son asks, “Well? Are we going to turn around the car and drive home for new underwear for me?”

7:33 am: I rage silently. More rock band versus poop contemplation.

7:34 am: I tell him that we can’t cancel this appointment last minute and there isn’t enough time to run home as we are now more than halfway there, so we’re going to try to clean him up when we get there. If the mess is too bad, we have a spare pair of underwear and shorts in his school backpack we will use.

7:35 am: He turns his father’s song back up so we can both enjoy it all the way to the dentist. The car continues to reek of shit and frustration.

7:45 am: We arrive at the dentist’s office 15 minutes early. I pat myself on the back for being so neurotic that I am 15 minutes early to every appointment, because today this quality has enabled me to clean poop off of my son’s buttocks and still be on time. Yes, today, poop has validated one of my neuroses, and probably not for the last time.

7:50 am: I walk with my son to the elevators and take them to the 4th floor. We enter the ladies’ room and crowd into a stall together. I wipe him off and am pleasantly surprised to discover that his underpants are cleanable. I can work with these Scooby Doo doo-doo stained drawers. The emergency pair of Wall-E underpants in his school backpack can remain there in case they are needed later.

7:55 am: We walk into the dentist’s office with 5 minutes to spare. The receptionist has just arrived and is putting her purse on her desk. She tells me in a chipper voice that they have a staff meeting in the back and leaves. The office is completely empty, so my son runs to the Thomas the Train table and begins to play. I grab an In Style magazine and sit down on a nearby couch, excited to indulge my superficial magazines fetish, as I stopped subscribing to all magazines two years ago to save money. (Well, except for one. I can’t give up Elle Décor. I need to be able to look at beautiful places, even if I can’t afford them.)

8:00 am: My Type-A starts itching as nobody reappears from the back to staff the receptionist area. “I hold others to the same high punctuality standards to which I hold myself” is what I’ll tell you if I’m trying to make myself look kinder, but really, if I’m being honest, I’m a little bit bitchy about lateness. I don’t like it when people waste my time. People can make all the excuses for their lateness in the world, but what someone is really saying by being late is that they consider their time more important than everyone else’s, and that’s rude.

8:05 am: Still waiting for the receptionist to return from the staff meeting. Wondering what’s happening at a dental staff meeting that is more important than keeping an 8 am appointment with one of the customers who pays for said staff. Start visualizing scenarios messing with receptionist’s desk while she’s in the back. Might enjoy placing a random object from the waiting room directly in the middle of the desk, such as a magazine opened to an odd advertisement. Or a potted plant. Will feign innocence if confronted, despite the fact that we’re the only ones here. Will suggest ghosts if accusations continue. It’s good to have a back-up plan.

8:06 am: Son stops playing with train set and runs over to me with a frantic look on his face, exclaiming that he needs to poop. Now. We run out the door and down the hall to the restroom.

8:07 am: I stand in a dingy, dirty public restroom stall while my son has explosive diarrhea, trying to lean as far away from him as 3 feet will allow in an attempt to escape the smell. He will not let me leave the stall because I made him use the ladies’ room and he feels like he’s not supposed to be in there without me by his side. Lucky me.

8:11 am: I help him clean up (i.e. wipe his ass) and we hurry back to the dental office. He plays with the Thomas toy and I wait, annoyed that I actually worried about getting here on time for his 8 am appointment.

8:17 am: Finally, the receptionist calls my son back for his appointment. I settle in for trashy magazine reading, mellow overhead music listening, and people watching of those now entering waiting room.

8:18 am: I think about what the opposite of a “wonderland” might be, and what John Mayer might sing about my post-pregnancy body. Would my body be a scary theme park, or perhaps some sort of roller coaster ride for the very brave and foolish?

8:24 am: I try not to twitch visibly as I listen to a woman whose son is playing with the Thomas toy call it “rasslin’” instead of wrestling, and pronounce the word “cement” as “SEE-ment.” I decide she probably calls it “EYE-talian” dressing too, and try to focus on my crappy magazine.

8:35 am: I wonder why they aren’t done looking at my kid’s teeth. They’re tiny — like little white Chiclets. They aren’t even doing x-rays today. How long should this really take?

8:40 am: I send my husband snarky texts about how long the appointment is taking and the excellent people watching I’m experiencing in this waiting room. He suggests “Your body is Silver Dollar City,” or maybe, “Your body is Six Flags” for my own personal John Mayer ballad, and I don’t really know how to take it.

8:45 am: The dentist and his assistant call me to the back to discuss my son’s teeth. My boy runs circles around us while we talk as I try to get him to be still, to no avail. I am trying to listen attentively to the dental people, and he is fully aware of this, taking advantage of my diverted focus. The dentist and assistant both comment on how “active” he is, with big, sympathetic eyes when I agree that, yes, he never stops in a weary, haunted voice. The dentist tells me he is the father of 6 boys and it occurs to me that a man with 6 kids is actually giving me sympathetic looks about the rambunctiousness of my child. I am momentarily humiliated by this realization, but then I have to stop my son from lifting a glass coffee table into the air to “show us how strong he is,” which breaks my shame spiral.

8:46 am: I interrupt the dentist to tell my son that the boomerang they’ve given him as a reward is an outdoor toy only because he’s started throwing it across the room.

8:47 am: Dentist and assistant recognize that conversation is pointless because my crazed, manic child will destroy the waiting room if I don’t stop him, and we part with pleasantries.

8:48 am: I make the appointment for his next 6 month checkup while he runs to the waiting room. I find him there hiding magazines inside the toy box “as a funny joke.” I would normally get the magazines out and put them back where they belong, but feel justified wasting the time of whichever employee will have to do this chore because they’ve made me wait so much this morning. I leave them. We walk out the door and head down the hall to the elevators.

8:49 am: My son screams, “I lost my boomerang!” and runs frantically back down the hallway to the dentist’s office. He finds the boomerang, and we leave again, after he shouts, “We found it! We found my boomerang!” to the entire waiting room, and the receptionist who manages to somehow look condescending and amused by my psychological discomfort at the same time. She is clearly not excited for us.

8:55 am: My son snarfs down an entire bowl of dry Cheerios in the car during the trip to his school. I drop him off and drive home.

9:15 am: I arrive at home. I am already exhausted. I decide that parenting a hyperactive 5-year-old boy is kind of like playing in a rock band with a coke-head, so really, my life isn’t all that different than it used to be, right?

The Kids Are Not Alright

(Writing from September 20, 2011.)

 

I’ve been upset by the distraught Facebook status updates of a friend for the last 24 hours or so, because I can relate to them, and because I’m really upset for her. And I’m pissed off about what’s happening to her daughter at school because it has happened to my son. And my son has been kind of dealing with the “boy version” of it lately. And because, like my friend, I don’t know how to handle it or what to do. And this is partly because I can’t be next to my child, or inside of his brain, guiding him on what to say and do all day long at school.

I’m being cryptic. I’ll try to explain.

My friend has a little girl the same age as my son, who started kindergarten this year, like my son. She is a bright, glowing little light; one of those outgoing, happy, sparkly little kids who likes to sing and dance, and is a friend to all she meets.

Both of our kids share an adorable lisp on the ‘R’ words (acceptable/age appropriate until first grade, according to his kindergarten teacher, no worries) and a super-sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve disposition. I am not a proponent of corporal punishment for children, but for my son, this has never even been an option regardless of my distaste for violence against those smaller than us, counting on us to keep them safe. I look at him sideways and he bursts into tears. We have no need for spankings. He already has more empathy than most adults I know.

My son is very similar to my friend’s daughter, which is why I could immediately relate to her distress over how her daughter was being treated by the other kids at school. You see, other children aren’t always as kind as our kids.

When my friend’s daughter runs up to other little girls on the playground and innocently asks them if they want to play with her, these little baby-bitches ignore her and turn away. My friend has been hearing about this from her daughter, and has watched it with her own eyes. And it’s breaking her heart.

As the momma of the most earnest little open-book-boy in the world, I have seen the same thing happen to my son on the playground, and I’ve watched him shoved to the ground by other little boys, and I’ve gotten him off the school bus, with a tear-streaked face, and asked him why he’d been crying, only to have him show me his scraped up hands and bruised legs, and tell me that an older boy on the bus violently shoved him out of his seat, to the floor, on the ride home. And like my friend, it is breaking my heart.

My husband has had to talk me down from spilling the blood of those who’ve wronged my boy, because obviously, I can’t be with him all day at school, and on the bus. And I can’t go around beating up third graders. He tells me that boys are different from girls, that they are more physical than girls, and I’m going to have to get used to my son being shoved, pushed, and hit all of the time. That’s just how boys interact, he tells me.

Well then why doesn’t my boy interact like that? If all boys interact this way, then why doesn’t my boy shove, push, and hit?

Oh, yeah. That’s right. Because I’ve taught him to keep his hands to himself. Because I guess I stupidly thought that was what I was supposed to be doing, and I thought that was what everybody else would be doing. I thought I was supposed to try to raise a kind human, with empathy, who used his words instead of his fists to communicate with others.

Silly me.

And I’m sure my friend with the also kind and gregarious daughter probably thought she was supposed to raise her daughter to be accepting of others, to be open to new friendships, and to have good manners when approached by her peers. Because I thought that too.

And I have seen my sweet kid run up to other little boys on the playground, saying, “Hi! Do you want to play?” and watched in horror as a little boy immediately shouted, “No! Go away!” causing my son’s face to crumple in sadness.

And in addition to the breaking of my heart for all of my fellow sensitive empaths in the world, like my son, and my friend, and my friend’s daughter, I’m starting to get really, really pissed off.

Like darkly, darkly angry.

Because it’s not the fault of these rude, cliquey, pushy-shovey, or otherwise poorly-mannered children… they are what they are because nobody has been teaching them to not be that.

I’m pissed because I have tried so hard to teach my son to be a gentle little boy that I did too good of a job. He is getting pushed around by boys at the bus stop, he is getting shoved around on the bus, he is getting hit at school.

And I’m watching the mothers of the shoving, hitting, pushing kids do nothing.

And I’m wondering where the fuck the teachers are when this shit is going down. This shit that makes my son come home from school sad.

So I’m experiencing the cognitive dissonance-producing phenomenon of knowing violence isn’t the way we solve our problems with others, as civilized humans. All while choking down the mother animal inside of me who wants to tear the throat out of anyone hurting my child.

Parenting is not for the weak. Oddly enough, physically controlling myself in the face of those abusing my child is the biggest challenge I’ve had to face as a parent. Not parenting, but other people. Other people are my biggest parenting challenge.

And that’s fucking ridiculous.

Just teach your kids to be decent people. Jesus. Why is that so much to ask? Don’t be an asshole, and don’t raise more assholes.

Do better, humanity.

 

 

 

 

Gifted Children: 10 Signs Your Kid is Super Smart

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Gifted children often go unidentified, leading to boredom and frustration in the classroom, which can appear to be ADHD or other behavioral disorders. These improper diagnoses can prevent intelligent kids from reaching their full potential academically, as well as disrupting their emotional growth and well-being.

When smart, sensitive children are treated as troublemakers because they have different needs or require extra mental stimulation, this condemnation from the authority figures in their lives can lead to feelings of rejection and a defiant attitude, turning the negative labels into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This problem makes it very important to recognize gifted children as soon as possible, with many schools now performing intelligence tests (such as the OLSAT) on the entire student population, beginning as early as 1st grade.

Below are 10 signs to help you know if your child may be intellectually or creatively gifted:

 

  1. A Restless Brain—

Gifted kids have trouble focusing on subjects that don’t interest them, and much of the time when this happens in a school setting, this disinterest stems from the fact that they are being forced to sit through and “learn” concepts along with the rest of the class that the gifted child has already mastered.

 

  1. Many Questions— 

When a child asks questions constantly, especially about the way things work, this can be a characteristic of giftedness. If they seek knowledge beyond the basic answers, or want to study very specific concepts, this can also be a sign of an extremely bright young mind.

  

  1. Endless Energy—

A gifted child often has a body that races along in an attempt to keep up with their rapidly moving mind. This constant mental and physical movement can lead to difficulty sleeping, which you may notice during infanthood; or in the form of an early end to daily toddler naps. It can also lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD in a child not kept intellectually challenged.

 

  1. Super Sensitivity—

Along with advanced intelligence, gifted children may also show sensitivity beyond what a child in their age group normally possesses. These kids may still be of average maturity for their age while empathetically advanced, causing them emotional issues that may incorrectly present as behavioral disorders.

 

  1. Perfectionism, Please—

Gifted children hate making mistakes, and will often set overly high expectations, becoming agitated and upset when they don’t achieve them immediately. If your child gets frustrated, angry or gives up easily when not instantly good at something, this may be the cause.

 

  1. Natural Leaders—

If you’ve noticed your child tries to dominate the situations or manage groups in which he or she is placed, this can be a sign of intelligence. While shy children can be gifted too, it is very common for smart kids to be opinionated and outspoken, causing them to be seen as leaders by their peers.

 

  1. Intense Focus—

The same gifted children who become unfocused and disruptive when bored by topics they’re not interested in will show an amazing power of concentration concerning anything of interest to them.

 

  1. Advanced Language Skills—

Precocious early reading abilities and a large vocabulary for their age are two common signs that a child may be gifted.

  

  1. Challenges Authority—

With a quick-moving, inquisitive mind comes the need for answers, which can directly clash with the “shut up and do what I say” approach of many authority figures. Rather than robotically doing as they’re told, gifted children are often labeled as rebellious because they question how things are done.

While children definitely need to learn to be respectful, and that there is a time and a place to ask questions or challenge the system, many people misinterpret the curiosity and problem solving skills exhibited by gifted kids as disrespect, not realizing the child is simply using the intellect beyond their years with which they’ve been gifted.

 

  1. Unusual Interests—

Gifted children are known for finding something that fascinates or challenges their mind, and wanting to delve deeper into the subject than what would be average for their age. They may also start odd collections of things typically not considered collectible.

 

 

While there is no universally accepted definition of gifted, generally students who score 130 or higher on IQ tests, show consistently high academic achievement, or test 2 or more grade levels above average for their age are considered intellectually gifted. Children who show advanced artistic or musical talent may also be considered creatively gifted.

No matter what the definition may be, it is clear that gifted children have different psychological and educational needs that should be addressed and supported by the parents, teachers and other adult advocates in their lives as early as possible. If you believe you may have a gifted kid, communicate with your school’s administrators to ensure your child receives the academic and emotional encouragement they need to thrive.