I was a really nervous fourth grader; even as a child I hated new experiences. The butterflies were never exciting ones, they were always weighted down inside of my cockles with dread. This particular day we were taking a class field trip to a local private school to do a workshop with kids from another school program, probably to “branch out” or “broaden our cultural experiences.” For whatever reason, my hippie public school teacher with feathers in her hair and earthy perfume had orchestrated an embarrassing exercise in which we would run improvised short plays. She made me act as the person who kicks Rosa Parks out of her seat on The Bus. You’re probably going; “What?”
I agree, there is absolutely nothing great about being the fourth grader who gets assigned the most racist role ever.
I walked into a small classroom with my large class and met the students of the class we were invading. There were silent, shy stares from both classes. None of us understood why we were there. While I quietly and blankly observed the faces of the new kids sitting in a semicircle in front of us I was also taking in the details of the room.
It was vastly different from my stark-white cement brick classroom background. These floors were hardwood, not thinly carpeted with an itchy, blue rug. The walls were softer somehow, with trimming and details and large windows framed with wood. Back then the bookshelves seemed so big, and the kids had bean bag chairs to sit on while they read. Having no architectural or stylistic idea of what I was appreciating as a fourth grader, today I know it was warmth and natural light, soft color palates and nothing harsh, metal and industrial like you’d find in just about every other school building I’ve been in.
It stayed with me, both the humiliation of yelling at pretend (and very much white) Rosa Parks and having only half of a clue what that meant, and the feeling inside that building. I wanted to keep it forever, carry it home in my pocket and try to transform some area of my life into a safe and cozy nook.
I grew up down the street from that school in a Formica house of hard lines and no yard. As I got older I went trekking up the enormous, winding dirt driveway that lead at first to a mansion transformed into offices, used mostly for Yoga, and then just beyond that is an inlet for public hiking trails. Nestled up there on top of that huge hill just beyond that mansion is a school house. Made of wood, neutral tones and big windows, sitting in the shade of ancient trees, there was the warm feeling I’d always wanted to recreate. It’s a unique location, off a busy street, and close to downtown but built so far into the woods that the cars are only noticeable if you crouch down and peek through tree branches. Life up on the hill feels a little like Shangri La.
I called the school as soon as my son was about to turn three. I knew I immediately wanted to enroll him in the place that had resonated so deeply with me. I potty trained him quickly to get him enrolled. The pee accidents still happen, but some kids just do that. The good news is that the school no longer requires potty training for enrollment. We agreed to send him there for preschool, and I thought we would keep him there forever. My husband agreed to send him there until he was old enough for public school, but the agreement wasn’t something we really talked about. I assumed that like everything else I would be able to change his mind.
School pick up was, interesting, maybe inconvenient but not everything in life is designed to be easy, but it builds character and glutes and that’s just facts. I adapted to walking up that steep and long road during heavy snow when my minivan would give out halfway up and I would be forced by the elements to have to back very slowly down the hill and park on the main road. I would hoist my youngest onto my shoulders and hike, feeling grateful for the workout but honestly displeased with the snow.
At Christmastime there were no Santas or forced themes, but there were kids sitting at picnic tables out front, knotting wire around rocks and handing them out to parents as ornaments.
I took the kids out to explore the trails, and they would get a few opportunities to go on them with their teachers and memorize a few trails. It was my preschooler who showed me how to use some of the trails I’ve never been on.
Every day I walked up to the door to pick up my big kid and he ran out, excited to see me, holding art projects and books in his hands, showing me his latest invention or spewing a ton of crazy stories about alien robot dinosaurs.
The parents met on the playground and chatted, when the kids came out at mid-day they would run to play structures and have built-in play dates.
In the micro chasm of preschool half day pick up I have seen families have new babies, talked about anything and everything with other parents, broken up spats between kids, chased my own three kids and watched them grow as they learned to navigate the playground equipment, the stairs and the big slides. They fearlessly took on the woods, the bugs and the salamanders. They played in the snow, only staying indoors on the most unlivable of northern New England days.
The school day wore them out for me. I would bring them home ready for naps. They played with all their might, playing chase or super heroes or some made up game that no adult could possibly follow, running back and forth across the hillside.
I picked my Five year old son up and drove him home on his last day at Neighborhood Schoolhouse, with three exhausted and played out kids in the car I felt stressed, but happy and emotional at watching the end of this truly awesome childhood era. My son from the “way back” quietly called out; “Mommy, why is today the last day of school? I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough to go to my new school.”
And at that I allowed a smattering of tears to flow down my cheeks.
There wasn’t going to be a way to hold them back anymore.
With the wet heat of an overdue cry stinging my eyes, I assured him that he had learned so many wonderful things and he would be so ready to take on his Kindergarten year. He’s learned the basics of reading and writing, without any academic pressure to perform. He was able to pace himself and every time we sat down to read he recognized more and more words, and towards the end, he has been adding and subtracting numbers. My heart pumps with pride knowing that we made a great choice for giving our kid a healthy start to his formative education.
I walked our dog tonight on the trails that lead up to the school. She’s familiar with the scents of those woods and eagerly pulled me towards the trail that leads to school. I was tempted to walk the whole way but felt myself abruptly overcome with emotion at the idea that I had to say goodbye to something I felt so deeply connected to, something that fit better than any pair of jeans I’ve ever tried to wear. I lead the dog back down the trail and let myself cry like no one was watching. My husband didn’t understand why I came home with red eyes, and I had difficulty explaining my attachment and my strong reaction, but when a place resonates with you, you react strongly to it. I said goodbye to my playground friendships, and my son said goodbye to some children he’s known for nearly half of his very short life.
It represents some form of an idyllic childhood, simplified. Where preschoolers and elementary kids experience nature and friendship, and education seems to find its way into that innate curiosity on its own.
On a side note; I haven’t seen a single kid since I was in fourth grade be forced to reenact a civil rights abuse, so either times have changed for the better or my acting ruined racially tense improv for everyone.
We may have to move on to establishment education, white-painted bricks, and state curriculum but the two years we spent on the hill in the woods will always be worth the money, and the time. Unfortunately, not even my tears could make my husband change his mind about the educational plan he has for our son, not any more than my tears could make money appear in my bank account.
Soon, my heart won’t feel as stung by this sense of loss.
But there are few places that evoke such a sense of closeness and security and I encourage anyone to look closely at the happy little faces playing under the Hemlock trees and think that maybe, this could be a dream for their kids too.
This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.
We unloaded the kids from the minivan after our weekly family date night at the pizzeria. After we shuffled them all inside and started to wash the tomato sauce off of them in the tub, we sat them in front of the TV to watch their favorite show; America’s Funniest Home Videos. My two year old calls it “People Falling Down” and my one year old calls it “Cats”. Both are accurate.
With them snuggled in and clean I thought I could make a rare pre-bedtime escape. I whispered to my husband so my kids wouldn’t hear me; “I’m going to go out for a walk tonight. I’m tired of breathing recycled air in the gym. And I smell like a Gyro anyway.”
He followed me to the Mudroom to conspire with me out of the munchkins ear shot. He’s actually a really supportive guy when it comes to getting me out of the house. He gets that it’s a 24/7 zoo, complete with feeding times, outdoor schedules and so much poop. SO. MUCH. POOP.
He stipulated though, that I should stop at the market for a gallon of milk. Which would require a traverse through a section of town lined with bars.
I expressed my trepidation about taking a stroll at dusk, especially through that street. Because this is a town with an unstated and unofficial curfew and a burgeoning heroin crisis. The quiet townsfolk and families all retreat to their houses for the night, leaving the young, the drunk, the uninhibited and the downright crazy to run the streets without the pretense of being glued to societal norms, like urinating in toilets.
I am rapidly beelining toward middle age, hopelessly yet happily driven home at Nine pm by my internal clock, with only the draw of folk music or a contra dance to lure me out past my witching hour. I have become unfamiliar with the locals, I don’t know who to avoid and I admittedly just feel safer avoiding everyone. You get a little distrustful in old age I guess.
My husband’s response was to brief me in self defense, probably as a joke. But my jittery nerves saw an opportunity to prepare for the worst, so I took it.
My husband stands just a few inches taller than me, and maybe 50 lbs heavier. With three feet of kitchen space between us I thought he should be showing me self defense a little closer. For accuracy.
“Come pretend to tackle me! Show me how to do this!” I was just a little excited, like a kid wrestling his brother. I cajoled my husband into coming into contact with my extended arms, which he grabbed with two hands. He instructed me to swipe outward with my arms and reverse the grip of the attacker.
So I did.
Oh boy, I fucking did.
What happened next was so reflexive, and so primal that I even scared myself.
I used my arms to thrust his hands away from my wrists, and out to the sides. Then while he was recovering his balance I swooped in with my right fist closed and decked him in the jaw.
It cracked. We both heard the bone as it crunched under my knuckles. I was so sure I would be in deep deep shit with him for that punch. It was pretty unexpected, I mean, this isn’t a dojo, we were just being silly and practicing some lame defense stuff that would never work on a guy with a weapon. But here I was, with a sore hand and a husband with his mouth hanging so far open I thought a bat would come flying out.
He rubbed his jaw with his palm pretty gingerly and said, “Shit. It’s good to know I can still take a punch.”
And then I buckled in laughter. When I stood back up my husband grabbed my shoulders and said “Go for your walk. I if anyone messes with you they’re going to regret it.”
And I made it out after dark, alone. On the return trip past the row of bars I walked right by two men fighting and threatening to call the cops on each other. I steadied myself and walked right past it, unscathed and uninvolved but laughing as quietly as possible about that one time when I punched my husband in the face.
I lost my mind today, as I’m prone to doing. But I usually keep my crazy under lock and key behind the wooden door of my house. I save my crazy for the special people who love me and are legally bound to me. Today I lost my mind on a perfect stranger on a public street. I’ll admit that I was pushed into reacting by fear and frustration by someone who unbeknownst to me has an insurmountable health issue, and that I reacted as poorly as a person can when their back is against a wall.
The best and craziest part is that when I blew my lid at him he was inside his house sleeping and I was really just screaming at a cluttered second story porch from the bottom of the dirt driveway. The bad part for my credibility is that I attracted witnesses, and when another one of my neighbors asked me why I was running around acting like a child I just about dropped dead of embarrassment.
I was caught red handed, with a wooden handled wire garden rake shaking my furious grip as I dragged the trash and litter and broken glass out of my garden and into the adjacent driveway of the five unit apartment building in my neighborhood.
Small towns in New England that were founded before cars and roads were developed will often have strange side streets, and dead ends that used to just be horse and buggy trails leading to farmhouses with acre lots and outcroppings of smaller houses that were all a part of the same farm. They were developed into multiple owner lots with the same leaky, old farmhouses from 1850 sprouted on half and quarter acre lots. Squeeze in a couple of rental units built in the 1970’s where property owners saw an opportunity to make income off renters because farm land was less profitable, and what you have present day is a really ugly mish mash of blurred property lines. And a lot of neighborly quarrels over land and appropriate usage of it.
When purchased, our house had some fences dividing the property we were purchasing from the neighboring lots. It was an old fence, hand built and nailed together probably in the 1950’s. We were able to brush off a lot of the unsightly activity across the yard because of the five foot fence. We had a very warm, rainy and atypical winter season. A driving rain took the fence down without much fight. Ever since that fence came down we have been exposed to the elements of our neighbors.
All of them are heavy smokers, but no fence prevented the lingering smoke from trailing over to our house, and personal habits aside they are mostly just normal tenants who mind their business and drive in and out without much noise.
SAVE FOR ONE.
One man, in his fifties I assume, drives in, slams around the driveway erratically and gives zero credence to personal property. Unless it’s his. And it’s all his. He has sticky fingers that man. He walks around, or drives in his 90’s model pickup truck and steals recycling bins from other people’s yards. He collects junk and hoards it. I suspect it’s all free stuff from the side of the road. He piles it up on his second floor porch and he’s “decorated” the driveway that adjoins our garden with fake flowers, broken china and broken, useless clay pots as well as regular “unfancy” trash. I’m told by his landlord that the inside of his living quarters aren’t any better off.
Last summer we listened to this crazy man and his greasy ponytail have daily altercations with another tenant in his building. He was not even human in his unreasonable anger. He screamed profanities in a very booming voice, and every “FUCK YOU, YOU MUTHERFUCKING FAT ASS PRICK” that he screamed at the other guy seemed to reverberate off of the hills and carry on into the woods until the crows scattered from the tree tops. Apparently there was a physical fight between the men leading the less crazy guy to flee. I know this guy is a physical threat to humanity because I was eating ice cream at a picnic table outside of a neighborhood market with my kids when he pulled up to the sidewalk in his pickup truck, jumped out and cold hard decked a man in the head who seemed to just be innocently walking down the street.
We politely sat down with the randomly assaulted man at our picnic table while the shop owner phoned for the police.
My super fun neighbor just eerily jumped back into his truck and drove off.
The downstairs tenant whose porch is underneath his seems like a nice enough lady, she has a toddler of her own so I relate to her that way. I’ve actually only seen her in passing, until yesterday.
The beautiful early spring weather drove all of us neighbors to our yards for the annual New England ritual of raking leaves and throwing away whatever garbage surfaced when the last of the snow melted.
She came over while we cleared the last of the fallen fence scraps and introduced herself to us after six months of just spying on each other from twenty feet away. She explained she was spending her day cleaning out her crazy neighbors’ trash because he refused to do it himself. We obviously knew exactly who she meant.
We each went on with our individual projects on what was now just “no man’s land” at the broken fence and at the end of the day we finally had a clean view from our yard.
All of a sudden at dinnertime we heard someone rummaging through what sounded like glass and cans.
I looked outside and saw the bedraggled man with a very oily pony tail stub and a trench coat dumping out entire cans of garbage all over the land we had just finished cleaning up.
My five year old bolted from behind my legs and ran down into the yard to play. The man spotted me before I could drag my son back into the safety of the house. He started screaming at me “HEY YOU! WHO THE FUCK TOUCHED MY STUFF? SOMEONE THREW AWAY ALL OF THE SHIT THAT MATTERS TO ME WHAT THE FUCK WHO THE FUCK TELL ME FUCKING WHO!”
My eyes almost welled up in the panic I felt trying to get to my son who was standing in the yard, ten feet from the man berating me. I was on the porch still, probably thirty feet from him and twenty feet from my kid. I ran to grab my child and told the man that the neighbors were all cleaning today. Someone in his building had picked up his belongings and we had nothing to do with it.
The man blew up further, spreading trash around the dirt with his hands and ripping the dirty, browned, stained, disgusting things he was “saving” out of the pile and “organizing them” by lining them up on top of more garbage all the while screaming profanities at the top of his lungs. He immediately marched to the door of the woman I had met earlier that day and started screaming about his precious things.
I felt incensed for her. I felt intensely terrified and also frustrated that our invisible property line was now strewn with nails, broken glass and moldy decorations. I went inside for the night, hoping he would calm himself down and pick up his garbage before my kids could get a hold of it and hurt themselves.
I woke up to find the trash was all there. None of it had been removed.
In a fit I threw on my running sneakers and a bra and ran outside. I grabbed the nearest tool, the rake.
I was just shoving garbage back over into the driveway, raking with fury. The trash was bouncing and spraying into the parked cars when I had intended to make a pile. I was apparently screaming his name and telling him to come clean up his shit. That must have been what drew the attention of the neighborhood. I didn’t want the trash to just be scattered, I wanted to make statement. I grabbed a bucket and used my bare hands to grab anything and everything out of the dirt. I filled the bucket and screamed up at his window. “GET OUT HERE AND DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT!” And when he didn’t, I dumped it out into the back of his pickup truck. He might not notice since his truck is already full of junk. I’m praying for that.
The neighbors came out and called a meeting with the landlord who showed up that afternoon. I was informed that the man has been arrested three times this year alone but nobody can do anything with him, because he’s terminally ill with AIDS. Maybe if I were terminally ill I would be a huge jerk too, but maybe; no probably not.
The saner people who live on my street told me I was acting crazy. And I was. I own it. I had to stand up to that guy once and for all, or at least tell his window what I thought of him, and the guy’s landlord measured for a new fence and offered to pay for it. Overall I didn’t completely loose by being a derailed crazy train, but I don’t think the neighbors that I actually like are going to be inviting me over anytime soon.
I can’t wait to see what happens when that crazy guy looks in his truck and finds out I provoked him.
And by can’t wait, I mean I’ll be hiding inside all day.
Reasons I’m sending my kindergartner to public school:
1. My husband is making me.
I used to firmly believe in parents taking action and investing time into making sure the public school system stays not just adequate, but educationally competitive and safe for children and families of all income levels. I used to think I would steadfastly concentrate on integrating my kids with the mainstream education system and making sure that they succeed with my parental involvement.
And then my precious kid had to actually enroll and all of a sudden it was really a big decision and a huge change in my attitude.
Right now I hate integrating into the mainstream system. I want to live in the private school bubble. It’s cozy in here. The families are very dedicated people who love their kids and they always show up. They participate, they talk, they get along well and schedule play dates. We’re like-minded people interested in saving the environment with reusable sandwich bags and organic produce.
Public school is a giant unknown. It’s a heated political talking point. Are we funding public schools well enough? Why isn’t public education equal for all socioeconomic backgrounds? Is common core the devil incarnate or is it just misunderstood among Gen X parents who learned materials a certain way and can’t unlearn what has been ingrained? Are standardized tests going to reduce in frequency and punitive income damages for teachers? Or hopefully just vanish.
And then there’s friendships and playground politics and best friends and bullies.
I don’t know how I feel about cresting this gap between little kid childhood and big kid childhood. It’s all terrifying. It’s too many variables. Starting public education is taking the first step in letting go of your kid and putting them into the hands of perfect strangers. And they will stay there, in that organization for twelve years.
Twelve years that I hated. Twelve horrible, important and formative years.
School ebbed and flowed for me with awesome times and really uncomfortable ones. I fell behind in school more than I want to admit. I lied to my parents about homework from the minute I was assigned it. Homework should just go pound sand, and I still firmly feel that way. I don’t want my kids to hate school and see education as a chore. I want super nerdy kids who freak out over microscopes and new findings in space. I want music theory to excite them. I want philosophers and dreamers.
Private school is great for the encouraging, “be who you are” style of learning. It’s a place where art matters as much as math and my kids are encouraged to go hunt rocks and research their Geological matter and then bring the rocks to the art table and turn them into wire wrapped ornaments. That’s a brilliant, inclusive and idealistic education.
I love that. I love that to the tune of three hundred dollars a week for half day tuition.
Record scratch. Hold up.
I’m a writer and a social media marketing manager so let’s all have a good laugh at my income. My husband is my boss. And I mean that in the most feminist way possible. He actually pays me a legitimate paycheck for my loosely termed “work” but make no mistake friends; his ownership of a successful business is the only reason I drive new cars instead of bikes. The kind with pedals.
My husband and his good credit went to take out a loan for tuition and then the roof on our house started to leak and our basement flooded and the fence in the front yard collapsed in a torrential rain downpour. So now we have teenagers who jump over the scrap fence posts and smoke pot behind our house. They think we can’t see them, because teenagers are essentially very dumb.
We have more to worry about than keeping our children in what I deem to be the best school that matches my educational philosophy. The physical roof over their head is one important matter.
Essentially the only reason I’m staying true to my initial promise to dedicate myself to public school is because I can’t afford to be special. Sustainability and financial security are going to matter in the long run. So I’m being honest; I’m not gung-ho here we go about public school anymore but I respect the dollar and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.
At least for the sake of staying married and keeping my debt to the confines of Home Depot.
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I would do just about anything to avoid calling my doctor. It doesn’t matter if I’m calling a physician or OBGYN, I absolutely hate having to deal with a receptionist who puts me through to a nurse who is never available and then I have to listen to the eight hundred myriad of options on the phone prompt just to leave a voicemail for a stranger that says something like, “Hi, it’s me again. I have another yeast infection. I am dying. Send help. And wine.” Because I am the utmost professional.
It may speak to some of the issues with health care in our country that I have to call repeatedly to get medical help for simple issues like prescription refills.
It may speak to my agoraphobia that I just don’t want to be weighed and touched by nurses and have my blood pressure taken and discuss my dads’ high blood pressure and the embarrassing number of drinks I have in a week, and be looked at by the waiting room weirdos for something that can be taken care of long distance.
Every time I go to the doctor I leave feeling fat and bothered and I am almost always asked to pee into a cup for a test that I will never get the results from.
I bit the bullet though, when I was nearing a mental breakdown. Staying home with kids is hard work, not the hardest work, because honestly, building bridges or spaceships is probably so hard that it makes me look like a wuss. The staying at home parent gig is hard because of the mental isolation. My oldest companion is five and whiny. My youngest companion is a baby who falls down a lot. There’s even a two year old at home with me who hits the baby and says “MAMA UP” a lot.
Nearing a breakdown? Par for the course.
But I am a respectable enough human to know when my insanity is normal and when my insanity is dangerous. I’ve put off the warning signs for a quite a while, but I was hitting my mental panic button and called the doctor like a responsible lady should.
“Hello, my name is Cindy, how can I help you?”
“I am calling to make an appointment.”
“Are you a patient here?”
“What is the visit for?”
“…Uhhh…errr…eczema.” Yeah genius, way to think on the fly. Now nobody will know how crazy you are and you’ll just walk into the office and bombard your doctor with questions about your mental health. Totally fine. I’m sure passive aggressive agoraphobics do this on the regular.
And there I sat, on white paper having just been weighed in a fully-clothed high-heeled nightmare.
“My shoes alone added ten pounds” I said to the nurse.
“I’ll make a note.” She replied through a halfhearted attempt at a smile.
“I got excited to leave the house and dressed fancy.”
“Blood pressure’s good, the doctor will be in shortly.” And just like that, the only compatriot I had in this sterile, whitewashed, and florescent patient mill is gone. I suddenly suspect my blood pressure is higher.
I sit and crinkle on the table and nervously wonder how I am going to segue from eczema into my anxiety without getting kicked out for being a liar pants.
Naturally, the doctor went on about eczema and wanted to know at the very end of our appointment if I had any other questions. At which point I blurted out, “I think I need therapy. Can you refer me to therapy? I have a problem. I can’t stop talking. I can’t clean my house. I can’t remember anything. I can never pull myself together and I’m always in a haze or a fog. I drink six cups of coffee a day to just feel normal.”
And then the doctor sat down, slowly opened up his laptop and said, “I am going to ask you some questions. I think I know what is going on here.”
I answered each question like a complete rambling idiot, and dotted all of my I’s with tears.
The doctor confirmed that I had easily diagnosable ADD.
Oh good, easy peasy.
Why was I not flooded with relief?
He had me fill out forms and pee in a cup and said they’d call me in a month with a prescription because it’s a controlled substance and I’m breastfeeding and blah blah blah the words he spoke muddled together in my addled mind and all I could think about was crying and screaming and breaking things.
I felt the opposite of comforted.
So I called my husband and fell apart in the parking lot because I know now why I can’t function and where my anxiety stems from but I feel hopeless and bereft and cluttered. I feel cluttered everywhere. From my overwhelming sadness and my constant stream of jumbled thoughts, and my messes and the receipts piled up in my minivan and the random baby sock in the cup holder. I am filled with sudden fury and I want to throw everything away. I allow myself the fantasy of a tantrum. I imagine the satisfaction of tossing socks and receipts and random charger cords out the window as I drive towards home. I want to run into my house and just throw everything on my counters into a garbage bag.
The Home magazines full of luxuries I can’t afford and loose change and markers without caps. The earing missing it’s other half, the last tea bag out of the box that has no other home. The spool of ribbon I used last year that is sitting in the corner, behind the paper towels because, what do you do with a little spool of ribbon? The only things I know how to do are make piles of everything or throw everything away. There has never been an in-between stage of organization.
I want to declutter and live a life that is free of the mess that I feel contained to. But it’s a mess that I can’t escape because it runs through my brain and it follows me like a haunting. When the kids are out of control, I am powerless. I shrink underneath the shroud of what ADD can do. I lose focus, and I lose the ability to process in simple steps, what is taking place and how to address it.
I park outside of the post office only to drive away without ever mailing my package, because I am again, blocked by the fog and the failure to process procedures. I become overwhelmed and driving away becomes easier.
I have forgotten three birthday parties this year and gave up trying to schedule them, because every time that I RSVP “Yes” I don’t remember that I’ve missed the party until everyone is talking about it on Monday and I am filled with instantaneous regret, and I resent myself for not being able to be more stable for my kids.
Here I am, with the diagnosis and no access to the cure. And it feels, useless.
I enjoy parties, having guests, cleaning up the house and pretending that it always looks that nice. I have always loved hosting, making people feel loved and welcome in my home, putting the expensive cheese on the one nice plate and using an opportunity to dress up.
I even totally love kids parties, getting to eat cake that I don’t cook, giving an excited kid a fun gift for $19.99 or less, and letting my crotchfruit run amok in someone else’s space is a special change of pace.
As much as I desire super duper fun times and dress up and the good thick cut pepperoni, and matching Thomas decor and streamers, I can’t muster even an ounce of the energy, the drive, focus, motivation or the money to front three kidaplaoozas every year.
Given my new conundrum, my options seem to be:
1) Get rid of two of my children
I could host the dope parties from the days of yore like I did when I had one kid to provide for.
My other two kids would be missed, but seriously, one time I made two birthday cakes, invited fifty people, and made them all wear Halloween costumes.
My child was turning one, not being coronated, and why was I so bossy?
2) Give one kid a great big party because he’s used to it, and give the other kids little pathetic parties until they’re old and ruined enough to notice and just stash the extra cash for their future therapy fund.
3) Give my oldest kid a severely, corporate downsized party this year so that his expectations aren’t inflated for the future and also give all three kids equally small but meaningful parties where we actually have time to interact with our guests.
For my petite prince’s second bash, I rented out a farm. A fucking farm. We had a petting zoo, a corn maze, ponies, hay rides, apple cider and all the spoils of having too much time.
Those were probably better times.
I like option three.
I am currently so very fed up with providing daily childcare for my rugrats. I’m winded from a perfectly mediocre day when we have no plans at all and I change back into my stretch pants when I get home from the grocery store. I’m a pair of muddy, ripped toddler pants and a potty training failure away from hiding in my lazy Susan corner cabinet with a glass of Cabernet.
Organization isn’t going to be my claim to 2015 fame.
Neither is a hardy party.
Frankly, I feel I’ve birthed enough children at this juncture to firmly make a logical case that every day is a party. Just ask the chicken nuggets and sprinkle cookies that have been smooshed in the seat cracks of my minivan. They’ll tell you, we have a great time.
I’m slightly worried and massively shrouded in mom guilt because there’s no chance that my five year old won’t notice that he isn’t getting three hundred and fifty thousand toys and having a hundred people run around painting pumpkins on our lawn. But my plan of action is to blame his siblings for being born and taking all of our money. He’ll understand, five year olds are notoriously empathetic and fluent in the nuance of sarcasm.
*puts five dollars in the therapy jar*
I know other families that also put together magnificent parties for their children, and the adults have fun too, and why shouldn’t they?
I’ll attend with bells on and a toy from Target costing appropriately $19.99.
I know other families that in five years have never once invited my family to a party for their kids and I can finally let go of the politics of party planning and say, “I get it”. I do.
There are no hard feelings about who invites who.
We’re not Taylor Swift. We don’t got bad blood, yo.
There’s no social commentary I can make about excessive parties for kids. Some people get a ton of joy from blowing Manolo Blahnik dollar bills at pink frosted bull shit castles and updos for four year olds. Some people put Pinterest Gold Star Viral Award level energy into creating one of a kind parties on a tight budget.
I can’t do it for all three of my kids, I can’t even afford to set the precedent, or plant the seed that my kids will each be having a big birthday party, and the bottom line is that this is one of the sacrifices my whole family had to unwittingly accept in order to expand into the giant love ball that it is.
Full of cheap pepperoni and one shared bathroom.
There’s the possibility that something special will happen, that by coming to expect less my kids, my whole family even, will appreciate more.
They’ll probably just whine about presents or being bored and ask to watch every episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates that we have on the DVR.
I have outgrown the need for a giant “prove how much I love my kids” party and instead I’m opting to pay the huge electric bill and keep the lights on.
Happy fancy pants birthday.
They’re going to have to face the reality that while birthdays are special, the world doesn’t stop spinning.
I also have to take ownership of my habit of trying to make my sons parties about me, and fancy Pinterest cakes and matching decor. And yes, showing off.
Well, I fold. If I had stopped breeding a kid or two ago I could have huge fêtes in discotheques but we all know that spoiling kids with discotheques and fêtes leads to feelings of resentment when they grow up. And midnight abuse of chips ahoy.
Do what works for you. I’ll be watching a Jake marathon for his special day, and eating pepperoni and chips ahoy mini sandwiches.
Don’t you dare judge me.
I’m sitting in the bathroom, basically locking myself in solitary confinement while I type on my phone. I’m not hiding from my kids, no, that would be cliché and no different from what I do every day. Hiding is my norm, but tonight I am hiding from something a little more dangerous and harder to avoid.
Tonight I huddle in the bathroom and hunker down in my safety bunker because I need to prove to myself that I can go a day without drinking alcohol.
Sounds like borderline addict behavior yes?
Which is why I must sit here tapping on my phone, because standing in the kitchen nervously unwrapping dessert after dessert wasn’t helping me win out the fight with habits and cravings, neither was it helping me fit into a pair of pants. Fall is coming, not that I want to feel confined to the fashion industry’s fascist buttons and oppressive skinny jeans, damnit.
Do you ever try and tell yourself that you can’t have something? And then you obsess over having that thing because now you know you can’t have it and wanting what you can’t have feels so desperate and thrilling?
I never do that with wine.
I’m about to drop an atomic over share bomb:
I drink every single day. Not like, a French affair with baguettes on white linens and Cabernet among candles and laughter.
Like, stressed out hair pulling, oh shit, today was hard, these kids wear down my strength and will power. It’s 5 pm now! Socially acceptable happy hour!
Oh man, my glass is empty already? Well the kids are done in the bath and it’s bedtime anyways!
And then obviously there’s:
Yay! Goodnight munchkins! Kiss kiss!
Mommy is going to go be alone and watch educational programs about indigenous housewives.
Every night. It’s not even a cute routine. It’s a full blown ritual, minus a goat sacrifice. There’s never been a night when I skipped it. Except for pregnancy. There’s variations though, sometimes I don’t have number 3, or sometimes I start past the kids bedtime and I only have one glass, and then it’s easier to justify, but being honest, because truly there is nothing left to lose, I drink 3 glasses most nights.
Judge me. I deserve it. I’m probably an alcoholic. The bright side is that I’m self aware, in control of my functions and faculties and I never drive or go out or start bull shit fights with my husband. I’m like, the happiest, mellow drinker ever.
Which is why I keep it up every day and ended up in the bathroom terrified to go out there, past the kitchen, past the wine that is so smooth and fun and delicious.
I’m smart enough to know that doing something every day and struggling to break the cycle is a good indication that I need to do exactly that. And it’s hard and I do not like it. But maybe, maybe, if I get past tonight, I can get to the weekend and have Saturday wine and tell myself, “Hey Chrissy, you need to chill girl. Wine is awesome, and unless you want to end up in rehab or dancing on the table, you’d better scale your shit back to a reasonable level, because 3 drinks a night is a fuckton. And that’s a real measurement.”
Coincidentally I woke up today, like every other day and said, “girl, you’re going to eat carrots again and quit stuffing Frito’s in your mouth hole all day. Health matters!”
And then I ate two magic bars. Because it’s like wine. If I can’t have it it will be all I want.
There’s probably truth in something I heard before, that things aren’t a problem until you make them a problem.
But that is coming from a woman locked in her bathroom trying to avoid her own bad behavior.
Best to start addressing it now.
The blogger locked in her bathroom gaining ten pounds.
It’s hard as parents to know when a child is crossing the proverbial line from being willful, high energy and strong towards being potentially diagnosed as hyperactive or having ADD. Preschool is difficult; it’s too soon to tell. Kids are still learning their boundaries, mastery of school skills is only starting and kids are barely capable of changing their own clothes, let alone handling themselves with the control of an adult. But a parent knows their kid, and a parent knows a gnawing in their gut and “waiting it out” is utter torture but “overdiagnosis” may also be a very real issue.
We carefully look for milestones in kids from babyhood through toddlerhood, and we try and encourage the development of interests through preschool. Maybe sometimes with a lot of outside pressure from family, online communities, the knowledge of a failing school system, or friends kids who are ahead of the curve and add just a little guilt to your plate through no fault of their own.
Teaching the ABC’s from scratch is shockingly difficult when you’ve spent thirty years completely accustomed to them. What I am most frustrated by is how easily my son gives up on himself. He begins with a bright spark, his eyes light up and he asks a wonderful, curious question that I either can explain or have to google. (This is probably the greatest application of the internet.)
Understanding that my child is learning differently than I do isn’t the hard part, he has a skill set for building with blocks and Legos at a level that I lack the aptitude to master. At different points in life we all find our thing. I don’t want to pick battles over activities and interests with my kids because the simple act of existing with them is hard enough.
I am a pitiful teacher; I’m too wordy for a four year old. He gets bored with how I’m explaining things and says, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” or the worst, “I can’t do it”. And that’s how we are completely stunted at writing the letter “T” for Teddy and the rest is a wash behind his big brown, brooding eyes. I haven’t found my way into his head yet.
My son shuts down very easily. He rarely takes interest in sitting still to observe or absorb. He has two modes: frenetic, wild, running, screaming, jibberish baby talking or silently and contentedly building fantastic creations out of magnets and Legos. Those moments are stunning and brilliant and they make my heart swell. I’ve learned to sit back and watch him as quietly as I can because when I speak I ruin his concentration and he’s instantly frustrated again.
My son is sensitive, he’s a crier. I never foreshadowed myself being upset with a child for the act of crying. I myself cry very easily, but my son cries every time he’s confronted. If I don’t handle every situation with absolute delicate care, he crumbles. Even in times when he is the assailant and tormentor. Because even though he is sensitive he is not innocent. I catch him hitting his little brother, stealing toys, refusing to share and using his body inappropriately and defensively.
Sometimes I’m awesome. Sometimes I say the right words, separate the kids or remove the toy they’re fighting over.
Sometimes, I scream.
I feel awful and regrettable and mean for screaming when he acts out, and then he cries at my reaction and I scream again because in some ways, I wonder if he’s crying to get out of the confrontation, but honestly, I think I know in my heart that he’s crying because he’s overwhelmed. I cry when I’m overwhelmed too, I should have more compassion but sometimes that well runs dry.
We assert that he should to sports, or karate or organized physical activity because learning how to be a part of a team is healthy and good preparation for a future in society.
He spends practices with his shirt over his head, standing in the middle of the room spinning in circles.
I am embarrassed. I am also ashamed that I could be embarrassed by my son. I have to be stronger for him and be his defender, and do it in a way that acknowledges when his inconsistent behavior is a distraction. It’s tricky and I admit that I like the days when we skip practices, in fact, my husband and I argue about whether he is ready for classes or not.
If he’s like me, he will never have a genuine interest. But to my husband’s stern point, you can’t just raise a quitter.
Having my son at home with me during the day became nearly impossible this year. I had my third baby and I absolutely relish quiet time. My son seems to thrive on destruction and jumping off of the couch screaming his head off about Spiderman.
Meals are an absolute nightmare. He takes food off his plate, smears it across the table and licks it off. Or he throws it on the floor, or mashes it in his hands and eats like Mowgli. He sits for ten minutes, announces he’s full, and wants to be excused. Ten minutes. He eats almost nothing; he weighs 38 lbs. and has for a full year.
I don’t want my son to spend his whole life in time outs.
I don’t want him to feel dejected in public school.
I don’t want his siblings to continue to copy his behavior and follow in these footsteps.
I don’t know what to do with my son.
I said the words that have been eating me alive for the last year. I do not know what to do. He is hard, so hard that I don’t cope with him being home all day and I shell out for day camp just to keep him busy and active and to give myself some space.
I walk the line daily and waffle back and forth. “Is he a normal four year old?” “Is every single thing supposed to be a struggle?” “Am I supposed to have to say something six times before I start screaming and he finally listens?” “Is something wrong with Teddy?”
I think I might be failing my child and I have to figure out what’s right before it goes more wrong.
I hear you all in the ether talk about lack of discipline, spoiled kids, lazy parenting, and making up excuses, more spankings and all other ways of refusing to admit that sometimes we get a hard hand and not everything is in our control. We do the best we can do and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what that is. It’s anything but lazy, it’s an absolute struggle.
I typically don’t make a habit of writing open letters on the internet or writing any scathing responses to internet articles, so consider this opus an exception to all of my rules.
The Elite Daily has published some rotten piece of rubbish that seeped under my skin and hurt me in a place I didn’t think was even going to be reachable. I have dedicated my adult life to my family and it’s anything but fabulous. Read all about how fashionable and luxurious it is to be a Modern Mom like me here, and get your own torch flame blazing.
The idea that motherhood can somehow be glamorous is smashed into pieces by the realities of actual living, breathing modern motherhood. I’ve never cared about matching outfits with my kids, because they require changing four times throughout the day. Wearing heels serves absolutely no point and a nude peep-toe isn’t going to earn me cool points while I chase my kids around the public pee infested pool, what counts is that I kept my two year old from nose diving into the shallow pool and ruining the potential for a beautiful, living childhood.
My sunhat keeps my wrinkles from rooting deeper at a faster speed, as I’ve just now gathered enough courage at the age of thirty-one to stand confident, pale and a shameless size fourteen. I learned a lot in my foolhardy twenties, and the importance of sunscreen hadn’t embedded itself in my stubborn young head until the evidence of premature aging rippled across my eyes. It’s not about looks; it’s about preservation and my new aversion to chemotherapy.
I embarked on a journey of having three kids in four years. I didn’t set out to do it with intent, although that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. The point is I am here now, and I am immersed in the culture of being a mother in the age of the millennial.
I can’t speak for the people who identify with comparing selfies on Instagram with Kim K. I cannot speak for the people who shop tirelessly for the perfect matching mother-toddler swim gear. I can’t speak for everyone.
But I’m more than willing to wager a wife-bonus that for every woman out there creating perfectly pinterested parties to upload to social media there are more moms like me, who struggle to prepare four lunches through hard-earned sips of coffee while the naughty kid in the bunch is throwing ham on the floor to “Fee Da Ants Mwammy”.
The moms like me read every article on the internet about GMO’s and we roll our eyes because we get that it causes cancer but we also can’t afford preschool tuition on an Organic eating plan. I would like to be able to heat my house in the winter as well, because when I bitch about freezing my ass off I only get two “likes” on Facebook, which I would think an uber cool millennial mom would “get”.
A modern mom is concerned with finances, just like the mom who came before her, and the mom who came before her. Imagine a time when we had avocado colored refrigerators, laminate floors that probably leached cancer into our lungs and moms who hunched over the dining table with a calculator and a check book. That’s today’s mom, and that’s yesterday’s mom. We care about the future, so we plan for it. Even though it kills us that we can’t buy the amazing retro sundress we saw at Mod Cloth because it means saving up for the deck we hope to build in five years.
Modern Mothers are more responsible than we’ve been given credit for. We work harder to be proud of who we are and stop shaming ourselves over our weight, or our five o’clock shadow. We admit to not showering every day and we confess that we actually like having sex with our husbands.
Modern Moms are killing it, but not in the ways described in the elitist self-centered article.
We embrace feminism, we get to choose birth control and we discuss it in private Facebook groups where we also lament breastfeeding and wiping our kids’ butts. We confess things to one another about motherhood, we admit to it being hard, to knowing that we have to be done having kids because sometimes, motherhood is too emotionally challenging. We talk about guilt and how expensive preschool is. It’s seriously really ridiculously expensive.
We find tribes, and we find ways to relate to the people around us and we don’t want anything to do with mommy wars.
We care more about politics, the environmental future, the figurative climate and the literal one.
We talk openly with our kids. We discipline them with a little more understanding than a beating had previously offered in my up and coming generation.
We hide in the bathroom when we can’t handle breaking up one more sibling argument.
A drive thru has saved my ass in more than one situation. And while we all would love a home cooked meal every single day, sometimes it’s best for our egos to not watch our kids throw our handmade spaghetti and meatballs on the rug and refuse to take even one bite. And so pizza happens.
We are a generation of well-read women who stay on top of current events and enjoy glasses of wine and discussions about politics.
I stick my kids in front of Disney for an hour so that I can type out a blog post in response to the idea that Modern Motherhood is superficial, and that we are unimportant unless we are fashionable, thin, white and of moderate wealth and privilege.
I work too damn hard at being a mom, paying attention and being a self-aware human being to let that kind of pop culture egocentrism endure.
This is my Alamo.
WE ARE BETTER THAN WHAT THEY ARE SAYING WE ARE.