Halloween Fun With A Three-Ager

It was supposed to be fun. Simple. My three-year old daughter talked about being Marshall from Paw Patrol all summer. Her big brother wanted to be Chase. How cute is that? I was giddy imagining my Paw Patrol crew sitting in a pumpkin patch. Maybe they would even sit still for a picture? And both smile at the same time with their eyes open?  Would this finally be the year that I have a Halloween picture worthy of a Facebook post?

Pffffft. Rookie mistake. This is my second time around with a three-ager. I should have known better.

When the costumes hit the stores one month ago, we were the first to arrive. I’ve never shopped for Halloween costumes in September before. After years of scavenging for scraps in sad piles of picked-over costumes at the last minute, it was amazing to go to the rack and see exactly what we wanted in exactly the right size.

The Chase costume was front and center, so I threw it in the cart. When I spotted the Marshall costume IN THE RIGHT SIZE immediately behind it, I gleefully pointed it out to my three-year old daughter. Instead of showering me with gratitude like she should have, this child crossed her arms and scowled at me.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

Um, what? I stared at her. She couldn’t be serious. This kid’s been chattering about being Marshall ALL SUMMER LONG. Not a day went by without her asking, “Mommy, can I be Marshall for Halloween? Can I be Marshall? CAN I BE MARSHALL?  I WANNA BE MARSHALL!!! MOMMY, I WANNA BE MARSHALL FOR HALLOWEEN!!!”

Message received. Here’s your freaking Marshall costume, because your Mommy is awesome. So, where’s my thank you? Where’s my “I love you” and “You’re the best Mommy in the world????”

Nothing. There was nothing but an accusing stare. Like I screwed up. I couldn’t help feeling defensive. “But you’ve been talking about being Marshall all summer?”

She shook her head and frowned at me.  “No, I haven’t.”

WHAT? Her certainty made me question my sanity.  Had I imagined all those painful conversations about being Marshall?

Okay. Time to be practical. We’re at the store with all these choices. Just get her something else. “Then who do you want to be for Halloween?”

She pointed to the Mickey Mouse hat on her head. “I want to wear this.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? “You want to be Mickey Mouse?”

“No Mommy. I just want to be me.”

Okay, that’s cute and all, but Marshall was going into the cart in case she changed her mind. Unfortunately, she didn’t agree with my contingency plan. Her face turned red as her high-pitched shrieks hit the ceiling.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL!! YOU. CAN’T. MAKE. ME!!!”

Then she burst into tears. People in the aisle gawked at the scene. I wilted under the gaze of a judgmental baby and put the Marshall costume back on the rack. I was obviously a shit parent for wanting to buy my child a costume that she wanted ALL SUMMER LONG.  We walked out of the store with one Chase costume and a pile of my shattered pumpkin patch dreams.

Two weeks later, my daughter spotted something else in the costume aisle at the store. “Mommy, look! A MINION! I wanna be a minion!  I WANNA BE A MINION! Can I be a minion??? PLEASE???”

It was the first time since Marshall that she expressed interest in something other than “just being me.” I pictured a Minion next to Chase in the pumpkin patch. That would still be cute. There was only one Minion costume left on the rack.  It was 3T-4T. Her size. This was obviously meant to be.

I bought it, but she refused to try it on until that weekend. The hat didn’t fit. And what should have been a 3T-4T costume looked like it was two sizes smaller. When I returned it, the store was out of Minion costumes.

Gritting my teeth, I accepted that my daughter would “just be her” for Halloween. Until she shrieked with delight and pointed. “Mommy, I want to be a pumpkin!”

There it was. Once again, at the front of the rack. A big, fluffy, orange pumpkin costume in just the right size.

This child HUGGED the pumpkin costume. She HUGGED it and SQUEEZED it and PETTED the orange fur all the way home like it was her long-lost kitten. And she chattered about being a pumpkin like she was excited about it.

Until today. It’s ten days before Halloween. I asked the kids to try on their costumes. The Chase costume fits my son perfectly. And he’s happy with it.

My three-ager took one look at the pumpkin costume and wrinkled her nose.  “Mommy, I don’t want to be a pumpkin. You can’t make me.” She crossed her arms and looked me in the eye.  “I WANNA BE MARSHALL. CAN I BE MARSHALL? PLEASE?????”

#SendVodka

Six Years Later, I Can Finally Smile Again

Six years ago, my mom passed away. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since she had been disappearing into her illness for over a decade. But it was still a shock when I received the call. My greatest fear finally materialized.

Every year since then, I post something sad about missing her. It’s still true. I still have moments where the pain knocks me to my knees. And while time hasn’t healed all wounds for me, it has offered the gift of distance and clarity. I am grateful that I can look back on memories of her and smile.

One memory in particular made me smile this year. I was close to my son’s age, maybe six or seven years old. My mother, the brave soul, took my toddler sister and me to India without my father, who kept working.

I barely go shopping for one hour and keep it together with my two kids, so I can only imagine the horrors of managing two little kids, plus enough luggage for two months, in the airports and plane bathroom for what feels like a two-day flight. By the time we reached my grandmother’s house, my mother must have reached the limits of her large reservoir of patience.

The day after we arrived in the middle of the night, I remember her sitting in the foyer, with a tired smile plastered across  her face.  She spoke with the flood of guests who “dropped in” to see my grandmother’s “American” daughter. And of course, like any other little kid, I kept interrupting her conversations because I needed my mother’s attention RIGHT NOW.

She lost her shit. My poor mother, who was always kind and patient, grabbed the colorful folds of her sari, jumped up from her chair, and chased me through my grandmother’s house in sandals. I was shocked, but amused. I had the same arrogance as my 6-year old son. “Mom will never catch me. I’m too fast.” So I sprinted down the long hall and she followed me. I ran by the kitchen. So did she. I ran through the dining room. So did she. I ran into our guest bedroom. So did she. I thought I would lose her by running across the bed. So imagine my surprise when she jumped on the bed and kept coming after me. I scurried out the door, into the yard, where I left my mother. I can still picture her, standing in the doorway, holding up her fist and shaking it at me, telling me what she’d do if she caught me interrupting her with a guest again. I hid from her for the rest of the day.

And so today, I’m smiling. For the first time since she died, on the anniversary of her passing, I’m finally smiling when I think of her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of that memory.

To My Precious Snowflakes: Mommy Loves You

To My Precious Snowflakes,

Mommy loves you very much. You are the organic apples of my eye, the gluten-free sprinkles on my SAHM sundae. I cherish every cup and kick aimed at my head. It all goes so quickly, especially when I duck for cover. My heart swells each time I think of your delightful shenanigans. 

Bless your little hearts for cleaning those brand new books in the bathroom sink yesterday. Dirty Elmo board books have no place in our humble home. Your stealthy teamwork saved us from the scourge of bookstore filth. And siblings who wash books together, play together.   

Little Boy, I admire your curious mind. Not every child would remove a vent cover to drop his LeapPad down the heating duct. Of course you wanted to find out what would happen. Who wouldn’t? Mommy was honored to spend thirty minutes fishing it out of the duct in the name of science. 

Darling Son, your burgeoning artistic abilities amaze me. Especially when you showcase them with permanent markers on the canvas of your face. Unfortunately, I didn’t give you enough paper. So, why should you have to walk across the room to get more? Your baby sister was right there. It made perfect sense to continue your Jackson Pollack scrawls on her.     

Little Girl, your theatrical flair leaves me speechless. No one can knock food to the floor like you can. There is no better way to tell Mommy that you’re all done. And of course, fork color matters. Silver is bad, blue is good. I should have read your mind, but I failed. Poor little thing. You tired yourself out by shrieking bloody murder for forty-five minutes. I gave you the blue fork, but it was too late. That terrible silver fork touched your lunch. Of course you couldn’t eat it. The pasta was ruined.   

Sweet Angel, Mommy can be a monster. It’s cruel for me to give you a red cup when you ask for it. And all those times you asked me to drive you home and I did. What was I thinking? I don’t blame you for screaming during the entire car trip. Who does Mommy think she is, giving you exactly what you wanted?

Driving around town with both of you and listening to the soothing chorus of “WHY, MOMMY, WHY, WHY, WHY?” from the backseat is the highlight of my day. Especially just as I’m about to make a left turn. Why should a delivery truck traveling towards us at fifty miles per hour during rush hour traffic hold my attention? You need to know how to spell “milk” RIGHT NOW. I don’t blame you for yelling at me while I’m mid-turn. Mommy’s heart palpitations aside, nothing trumps the question of a curious child. Nothing. 

Each night, we wrap up our long days with a spirited two-hour discussion before bedtime. Your favorite book is “The Ten Little Monkeys.” We’ve read it SO MANY TIMES that Mommy sees it in her hallucinations. Oh, those crazy monkeys! Look at them jumping on the bed and getting hurt! And how creative of the two of you to act it out EVERY NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED! 

Thank goodness you didn’t pick up your toys from the floor like I asked you. You saved your strength. Using the couch like a trampoline takes a lot of energy. And how brilliant of you to add your own spin to the story. You literally spin yourselves dizzy before running towards the fireplace. And what makes running towards sharp edges even better? Doing it with your EYES CLOSED! And almost face-planting on the coffee table! You sure showed Mommy and Daddy how creative you can be! 

Thank you for sharing those howler monkey protests when Mommy and Daddy throw each of you over a shoulder to haul you upstairs. They would follow me into my dreams if I slept at night. But I don’t want to miss a moment with you. So I spend the rest of the night watching my snowflakes breathe.

I love you always,

Your Devoted Mommy

When “Co-Sleeping” Goes Wrong

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I always thought that someday, when I had children, co-sleeping would be one of the highlights of parenthood.  It’s the perfect way to spend quality family time together.  Who wouldn’t want to wake up with a small child nestled in the crook of your arm?  The image is intoxicating.  Dark butterfly lashes resting on chubby baby cheeks.  Little fingers and toes curling up beneath the covers.  Soft sweet breaths on shared fluffy pillows.  Oh, the cuddles!  Oh, the memories!

I was mistaken.

Co-sleeping with little children isn’t for the faint of heart.  I know, because we tried it this morning for ten minutes.  My pulse is still racing six hours later.  I’m not sure how other parents deal with this through an ENTIRE night, unless they drink heavily.  (The parents, not the children.)

Allow me to paint the picture from this morning.  The bedroom was dark.  My husband won my temporary gratitude by getting the kids and letting me lie down.  Both children popped awake at the crack of dawn because it’s the weekend and that’s what they do.  I was enjoying the peace and quiet, when the door cracked open.  A ray of light cut through the darkness and hit me squarely in the face.  There was a figure in the doorway.  It was my husband.  He carried my 2-year old daughter in his arms.  My five-year old son came bounding into the room right after him.

No.  NO.  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!  Panicked, I thought about hiding.  They hadn’t seen me yet.  The room was dark and their eyes were still adjusting.  Unfortunately, before I could slip off the mattress and belly-crawl under the bed, they spotted me.  A chorus of high-pitched “Mommy’s” ensued.

“Mommy, I want to lie down next to Daddy.  I want to lie down next to Daddy.”

“Mommy, I have Pooh!  I want Tigger!  Tigger!  Tigger!  I want Tigger!”

“Mommy, I don’t want to lie down in here.  I want to go downstairs.”

“Mommy, I want Mommy!  I want Mommy!”

Groaning, I rolled over and faced my family.  My son leapt onto the bed and flopped around like a tuna hitting the deck of a fisherman’s boat.  My husband deposited my daughter, AND POOH-BEAR, AND TIGGER, on the bed next to me.  Both of the stuffed animals are about her size, so it was almost like having four kids on the bed with us instead of just two.  Delightful.

My daughter refused to lay down until I moved over to make room for her stuffed friends on my pillow.  The spacious bed suddenly felt like a postage stamp.  I nearly slipped off the edge when she hit me on the head with Tigger and ordered me to wake up.  She had the nerve to look adorable, so I felt myself weaken.  Maybe this would be the morning when the “co-sleeping” magic happened?

Through some miracle, my husband and I coaxed the kids to actually lie down.  The room was silent.  I tightened my arm around my daughter and placed a kiss on her dark head.  Yay!  We were like the commercials on TV!  We were co-sleeping and it was bliss!  Well, maybe not technically co-sleeping, but we were all lying down in the same bed, and it was peaceful.  I reveled in the moment.

That moment lasted for 5.46 seconds.  My son slipped out of my husband’s grasp and did a flip that would make a ninja proud.  It placed him squarely in the opposite direction as the rest of us.  His head lay hear the foot of the bed and his feet were an inch from my husband’s face.

“Nifty Gilifty!”  My son pulled the sheets over his head.  I knew what was coming.  I’m no stranger to Daniel Tiger and his freaking little blue owl friend.  I grabbed my daughter and pulled her onto my pillow before the first scissor kick landed on her face.

While my son pretended to swim, my daughter sat up.  Completely unperturbed by the chaos on her left, she turned and shoved her dainty foot in my face.  “Piggies!  Mommy, I want piggies!”  I gently pulled her toe out of my nose before sneezing.

Suddenly, I smelled something.  Gagging, I gasped out.  “Who passed gas?”

My son laughed uproariously.  A glance at my husband told me that he was trying not to laugh.  “You’re welcome,” my tiny daughter replied, shoving Pooh bear in my face.  “Pooh pooped.”

My son sat up, craning his head from left to right, while doing raspberries.  “Look, Mommy!  I’m a water fountain.”  My daughter giggled and performed raspberries with less finesse.  A spray of saliva landed on my cheek.

“Well, you wanted family time,” my husband grinned at me, as I grabbed a tissue and wiped the moisture from my face.  “This is family time.”

I suppose it is.  Oh, the precious memories.

My Scheduled “Carefree” Mom Moment

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It’s summer time, and in the interest of keeping up with the FB Joneses, my husband and I took our children out of the basement for some fresh Midwestern air today. I scheduled a very “go with the flow” morning of activities. First, day camp for Evan. Next, an outdoor lunch with minimal exposure to the elements. And finally, a visit to a local water fountain (see photo below), with designated water-frolicking time.

After watching the kids shriek with delight at nearly getting splashed by the water jets on the splash pad, I had this crazy idea that I should be playful and carefree too. Shouldn’t my kids remember me as more than a housekeeper, fruit cutter, and Daniel Tiger DVD pusher? Laughing, I grabbed my son’s hand and we ran into the center of fountain. We narrowly missed getting nailed by a water jet. Evan was delighted. Mom is NEVER carefree. Look at all of the water jets that surround us! None of them can hit us in the middle of the splash pad! How exciting!

The fun lasted for all of thirty seconds. My son wanted to get out of the middle, but he didn’t want to get hit in the face by the water jet. I told him I would run with him.

“C’mon, Evan,” I tugged on his arm. “It’ll be fun. We made it to the middle without getting hit. We can make it to the other side too.”

Evan shook his head vigorously. “No.”

Laughing, I wrapped my arms around him. “You’re already wet. Let’s both try to run through the fountain. We’ll just do the same thing again. I’m right here with you.”

Eyes wide, he shivered. “No.”

Frowning because this wasn’t part of my schedule, I said, “Buddy, we can stay here for a little longer. But the only way to get out of the fountain is to run through it to the other side.”

“No.”

We stayed in the center of the fountain for a few minutes. I studied the pattern of the water jets. 4 jets, 3 jets, 5 jets, pause. 1 jet, 2 jets, 5 jets, stop. 5 seconds pass. Repeat pattern. Certain that I had broken the code, I grabbed Evan’s hand. “Okay, buddy, I have the pattern. Let’s count and run through it this time.”

What I failed to consider was one five-year old’s resistance. The pattern repeated itself, just like I expected. For a split second, there was no surge of water. All water jets were dormant.

“Now, Evan! Let’s run NOW!” I yelled and tugged his hand.

He ran two steps and stopped right over the water jet hole. In a few seconds, he was going to get reamed by the water jet.

“Evan, MOVE!!!” I yelled.

“No,” he shook his head, eyes wide.

Knowing my son’s intense dislike of getting water on his face and not wanting it to turn into a full-blown fear, I took two steps and pushed him off the hole. Right then, as I stood directly over the hole, a stream of water emerged.

“Son of a,” I shrieked, as the freezing cold water hit me in the groin like a bidet gone wild.

My husband and toddler daughter both stood safely twenty feet away from the fountain’s reach. I was soaking wet. They laughed at me. Once I made it to the other side, I laughed too.

Evan eventually made his way out of the center of the fountain, WITHOUT MY HELP. Vowing never to sacrifice myself to the fountain bidet gods again, I limped around campus and made it to the car with sopping wet pants.

Well, at least my kids now have one FB worthy moment of their “Carefree” mom. Someday, I may schedule another appearance.

To My Little Boy

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To My Little Boy:

Today you said goodbye, without a worry or a care. You waved and walked away, while your baby sister tried to keep up with you.

Three years. We have been safe and cozy in the nurturing arms of your preschool for three years. Three wonderful years, when I watched you transform from a needy toddler, who cried out for me from behind the window of your classroom, into a confident five-year old, who is so happy to see his friends that he barely acknowledges my existence when I leave the room.

Even though it is forever etched into my memory, your toddlerhood is gone. Those pinchable chubby cheeks have hollowed out into boyhood. The soft pastel colors and gentle farm animals on your clothes have been replaced by graphic tee-shirts and neon superheroes. I already wonder if I should invest in a farm, because even at five-years old, your appetite occasionally surpasses your father’s.

My mother’s heart is breaking, but I am so proud of you. I marvel at the ferocity of your spirit. The path you are paving for your younger sister is strong and true. She already watches you, soaking up every word and gesture like a sponge. You don’t realize what a wonderful teacher you are, but I do.

She will follow your preschool footsteps this fall, as you begin your own new adventures in a new school. As always, I will be there for you. I will be there when you take your first steps into your kindergarten classroom in September. I will be there to cheer you when you fly high on success. I will be there to comfort you when you stumble in defeat. I will be there as we both travel into uncharted territory. No matter what, we will do this together.

Little boy, little boy, little boy. My little boy. I am so proud of you. I love you.

Dear Toddler, I Have A Problem With You

Dear Toddler,

I see you.  You’re standing there with your big eyes, little feet, and sticky Hobbit hands, flashing that impish grin at me.  You know that you’re adorable, but guess what?  I’m not falling for it.

I’ve got a lot of problems with you and now, you’re going to hear about them.

You’ve had two years to figure this shit out.  Two.  A person can get an Associate degree in two years.  So, what have you been doing with your time?

Let’s start with an obvious one.  Diaper changes.  We do this EVERY SINGLE DAY, several times a day.  Nothing about it should come as a surprise to you.  So, why do I need an exorcist every time I put you on the changing table?  I CAN’T CLEAN YOU UP when you arch your back, kick me in the face, and scream bloody murder.

If you hate diaper changes that much, then here’s an idea:  COOPERATE WITH POTTY TRAINING.  According to meme studies supplied by online strangers, you’re already behind your peers.  This is your own fault.  You lack focus.  It’s not that hard to aim and drop something into a toilet.  You’ve done it with my phone.  And people train cats to do it.  I know.  I’ve seen videos of cats flushing a toilet.  I’d like to believe that what I begat is smarter than a cat.

Speaking of cats, let’s apply some common sense here.  A tail is not a penis.  Please don’t yank it. And coating the cat in maple syrup and flour will not turn him into a pancake. It will not make him like you. Do you see anyone else doing that?  Don’t be a pioneer. Either pet the cat or ignore him.

Did I just mention pancakes?  Let’s discuss meal time.  Being a toddler is hard.  People always tell you when to play, snack or nap.  It’s a rough life.  But when your Highness experiences meal fatigue, could you please leave the plate ON the table instead of whipping it across the room like a drunk?  You’ve mastered signing AND saying “All Done.”  Why don’t we put these newfound skills to work at meal time?

Now, let’s talk about these tantrums.  I’m going to be brutally honest.  You get upset over stupid shit.  And I know that you think I’m a god, but I can’t control certain things.  Like cloud coverage.  I’m sorry that the sky is too blue for your Majesty.  And I don’t know why the neighbor decided to drive HIS big, red truck to work today without consulting you. But none of these offenses justify your strip show at Target.  I don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl.  Trampy toddlers come in either gender.  Have some self-respect.  Stop flashing your pull-ups in Produce.

Speaking of Target, and the Starbucks attached to Target, and the drive-thru attached to the Starbucks nowhere near Target, let’s talk about coffee.  Being a Mommy requires coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.  I gave up caffeine AND booze for both of you during pregnancy.  That’s a grand total of TWENTY MONTHS.  I’m a saint, so I don’t need your howler-monkey protests now that I’m hitting the ‘BUX again.  Do something constructive while Mommy caffeinates.  Read Dickens.

One last thing.  Do you remember the time you spotted that Calliou doll at your aunt’s house?  And how you asked me for one?  No.  Just, no.  I’ve heard about this bald-headed bastard.  He’s the gateway to whining.  I’m not letting him near the house, so watch PBS instead.  Learn math.  Get a STEM job.

Well, I hope this helps you get your shit together.  Here are some GMO-filled Cheerios.  Or maybe they don’t contain GMO’s anymore.  I don’t know. Just eat them and fend for yourself for a few minutes without falling down the stairs. Mommy needs to hide and stuff her face with gluten-filled goodies.

With much love,

Your adoring underpaid servant

To the Man Who Called Him A Retard: His Name Is Landon

Earlier this week, a friend of mine expressed outrage over a comment posted on her friend Courtney’s Facebook page. I stared at the words of the forwarded screen shot:  

“Hey, sorry ur kid is retarded, but God works in great ways.  🙂  Enjoy.”

My heart plummeted. I immediately flashed back to the first time I heard this word. A little boy named Ricky stood alone under the monkey bars. He was surrounded by a group of boys who were pelting him with pebbles and throwing dirt on him. The chant, “RETARD, RETARD” echoed across the playground.      

I was six years old at the time, so I didn’t really understand the situation. I went home, chanting with delight, “RETARD, RETARD. Ricky is a retard.” My normally sweet, gentle mother turned on me with anger. “What did you just say?” she barked at me.  

I didn’t understand her scowl. “Retard. There was a retard on the playground.”   

“Don’t use that word. It’s a very mean word,” she said, bending down to my eye level. I cringed under her direct gaze. “He’s a person with a name.  It’s Ricky.”

My mother’s voice echoed in my head as I pictured Courtney’s beautiful little boy in the same situation. His dirty blond hair covered in filth and his crystal blue eyes streaming with tears as a group of kids torments him for being different. Is this his future?  

Courtney’s little boy has a name. His name is Landon and he is five years old. He has autism, but he’s more than his diagnosis. Landon loves Minecraft and is an epic Lego builder. Landon is brilliant with numbers and has the makings of a future engineer. Landon asks his mother what’s wrong when she’s sad and comforts her by telling her that he loves her.

Landon. His name is Landon.    

People who use the r-word may tout the “free speech” argument. They may ask, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a word. Retard. DON’T BE SO SENSITIVE. IT WAS A JOKE.”

There was nothing funny about the little boy on the playground. Standing alone in the center of a ring of spectators. LIKE A CAGED ANIMAL AT THE CIRCUS. Mocked. Humiliated. Alone. No one should be treated like this. NO ONE. Especially not a small child. And most definitely not by an ADULT who should know better.

Words have power. They can convey messages of hate or love. Your message is your choice.      

I don’t want see Landon or any other child suffer for being different. I didn’t help Ricky back then, but I can do something about it now. All of us can. We can choose our words with care. And we can stop being bystanders.

There is a website called “R-Word” (http://www.r-word.org). Its mission is to eliminate the use of the “r-word” for several reasons:

The r-word ISOLATES people with cognitive differences. It implies that they are not fit to associate with the rest of the population due to their differences. Obviously, this is absurd.

The r-word DEHUMANIZES people with cognitive disabilities. It is easier to bully someone who doesn’t even have the dignity of a name. Cruelty thrives on anonymity.  

The r-word HURTS people with cognitive differences. It implies that anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability is stupid and has nothing to offer to the world, which is beyond ridiculous. So why even use it?       

Visitors on the R-word site have the option to make the following pledge:  

“I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”

My choice is clear. I choose Landon and Ricky. I made this pledge the day I finished writing this piece. What is your choice?

 

A “Sancti-Mommy” Visits The Mall

Earlier this week, I took my little one to the mall for our daily morning stroll.  As we passed the playground, my gaze fell upon a small girl child.  She was wandering around like an aimless urchin.  Maybe she was an aimless urchin.  I don’t know.  I didn’t have time to dwell on that possibility.  One of her feet was bare and there was a vending machine only ten feet away her.  Before chilled air could wrap flu tentacles around the little tyke’s foot, I rushed towards the playground.

The only adult in the play area was a woman sitting on a bench.  Her eyes were on a book instead of her child.  She looked up as I approached.  “You’re doing it wrong,” I told her kindly when I spotted the missing sock next to her.  I grabbed it and quickly placed it on the small child’s foot.  There was a large diaper bag beside the woman.  I took the initiative to rifle through it and pull out a hat.  I gently placed it on the little girl’s head.  My chest swelled with pride as I walked away.  I could hear the woman’s expletives of gratitude echo across the playground.  After all, a covered child is a happy child.

Buoyed by my random act of kindness, I searched for more opportunities to help strangers with children.  Fortunately, the mall was crawling with unfit parents.  I spotted a pair of them pushing a wailing baby in a neglect buggy.  Happy children do not cry in public places.  Mine never do, so this couple clearly needed my help.  I tightened my arms around my precious guppy, before marching in their direction.

They stopped talking when they saw me.  I knelt down beside the baby and buggy.  “You poor little hugless child,” I murmured in a soothing voice, gently stroking his hair.  “I’m sure someone loves you.” Neither person moved when I unbuckled the little boy and picked him up.  The infant stopped crying and looked at me.  “Perhaps your child would cry less if you carry him,” I suggested, before handing him to his mother.  The couple stared at me.  The woman’s cheeks flushed crimson with embarrassment.  “It’s okay,” I assured her in a confident voice.  It masked how uneasy I felt leaving the hapless mite in their care.  “Now that you know better, you’ll do better.”  The man sputtered something unintelligible as I continued to patrol the mall.

My mind whirled as I scanned my surroundings.  So many people needed my help.  But who would reap the greatest benefit from my intervention?  Suddenly, the stench of cinnamon hit me like a brick wall.  Of course.  The food court.  What weak-willed parent can resist the lure of the nugget?  I pulled my scarf over my nose and headed in that direction.

I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.  Rows of tables littered with trays of garbage.  My stomach sank.  So many parents were shoveling GMO’s into the open mouths of their unsuspecting children.  I walked past a few gluten peddlers before spotting a dire situation.  A helpless adult male sitting beside a shrieking child.  I looked around, but there wasn’t a mother in sight.

My pace quickened.  The man obviously needed help to defuse the tantrum.  The little girl stood next to the table, red-faced, fists clenched, howling at the top of her lungs.  I couldn’t blame her.  She was probably protesting the nuggets.

“Hi Sweetheart,” I said softly, kneeling beside the little girl.  The man looked startled, but then visibly relaxed when I winked at him.  He know that I was there help.  “Why are you sad?”

“No eat,” the little girl stamped her foot and shrieked.  “Me no eat.”

“You’re such a smart little girl,” I cooed, as I tousled her curls.  “You know that your daddy is trying to poison you.”

“What?” The man sputtered, while the little girl stuck one unclean thumb in her mouth.  Her eyes lit up with interest.

“Well, I’m going to help you, sweetheart,” I smiled at her and picked up their trays.  “Let’s put this where it belongs.”  I walked over to the trash can and threw both plates in.  I pulled out my hand sanitizer and squirted some into my palms.  “Garbage belongs in garbage.”

The man gaped at me, while the little girl smiled and clapped her hands.  I grinned back at her.  Sometimes, children know better than their parents do.

Parenting is hard for some people.  It takes a village for these people to raise a child and I am a part of that village.  Because when you know better, you do better.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is satire.  It is fiction.  Please do not verbally torpedo me for the actions of a fictional character.  Thank you.

 

 

A Letter To My Firstborn Son

To My Little Guy,

Almost two years ago, your father and I bid you farewell as we left you alone with your grandparents.  Even though I would see you again in a few days, I cried as I kissed you and walked out the door.  I understood the significance of that moment.  Your world was about to change.

Three days later, we returned home with a tiny interloper.  Suddenly, you weren’t the sole focus of our universe.  You had to share your place in the sun with someone else.  Your baby sister.

It has been a rough journey for you, my fierce firstborn child.  You don’t get all of my attention anymore.  Sometimes, you have to wait.  And sometimes, when I’m taking care of your sister, you feel as if I don’t notice you.  But I want you to know something.

I see you.  As you stand beside your little sister.  She’s not yet two years old.  At nearly five years old, you tower over her.  But your head still tilts up when you talk to me.  I know that one day, our gazes will be level and eventually, you’ll tilt your head down to speak with me.  I’m not ready for that day.

I hear you.  As you watch your favorite shows.  Your childish lisp makes me smile when you belt out the “Hot Dog” song from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Your sweet voice embodies childhood innocence when you sing the theme song from Winnie the Pooh.  I know that one day, your voice will be deeper than mine is, and you will enjoy mind-numbing, eardrum-shattering music that I don’t understand.  I’m not ready for that day.

I smell you.  Your boyish scent lingers in the car as we drive to school.  No matter how often your face is washed, you always smell like the strawberries and cinnamon bread you love to eat for breakfast each morning.  I know that someday, I will walk into your bedroom, and wonder if something died.  I’m not ready for that day.

I taste you.  Your salty tears wet my face as you wrap your small arms around my neck and sob out your Pre-K woes on my shoulder.  Right now, my embrace is enough to solve your problems.  I know that someday, the world will break your heart again.  And my hugs and kisses won’t be enough to soothe your pain.  I’m not ready for that day.

I feel you.  When we cuddle before I kiss you good night.  The warmth of your body and the rapid beating of your heart before bedtime elicit my primal maternal vow to protect you with my life.  I know that someday, you will push me away when I try to hug you.  You won’t want my cuddles, or my kisses.  I’m not ready for that day.

I love you.  I love hearing you laugh and seeing you run outside on the playground with your friends.  I love the way your dimples pop out when you see me outside the window of your classroom at the end of the school day.  I love how your face lights up when your father walks into the house at the end of his work day.  I love how gentle you are after you grudgingly accept your little sister’s hand in yours and walk with her through the mall.

And so, my dear little son, I know that life is hectic.  I know that your sister gets half of my attention now.  It seems as if I don’t notice you, but I do.  There are so many wonderful moments with you that are permanently etched in my heart.  Nothing and no one can take them away.  Because you will always be my one and only firstborn son.  And no one can ever take your place in my heart.