Parents

This movie gave me nightmares. Straight up.

Sometimes, during reflective moments, I look at my son and think, “I can’t possibly be this kid’s mother. When is his REAL mother going to swoop in and rescue him from me?”

Sometimes, during frenetic moments, I look at my screaming banshee son and think, “I don’t know what you want from me, kid! Here, just take my wallet! Also, my eardrums are bleeding.”

And sometimes, during funnier moments, I look at my little comedian and think, “This kid is hilarious. I MUST be his mother.”

And then, during nap time moments when he is neither moving nor speaking, I look at my little angel and think, “My mothering game is so TIGHT right now. For the love of god, kid, DON’T wake up for the next 4 hours. Mommy has to go stand under the shower and space out for a while.”

My husband makes fun of me for what I’m about to admit, but I heavily rely on making references to obscure 80s movies to make my point during most of our conversations. I may have a legit clinical disorder. As someone who grew up without television, I don’t why he even bothers talking to me. He never gets any of my references and it aways derails the conversation into me yelling, “WHAT? You never saw I’m Gonna Get You Sucka? Well, that’s YOUR problem, not mine.”

I think he married me just to keep me around as an amusing oddity, like having a kangaroo in the house as a roommate. A kangaroo…..with benefits.

Wait, no. Scratch that, it doesn’t work.

So when I referred to us as the parents from the 80s movie Parents, he looked at me like I insisted Doc Brown crashed his time machine into our living room, and he wants us to hop in for the good of our future. In other words, he didn’t know what the hell I was babbling about.

So, let me explain: the parents from Parents were seen from their child’s point of view as creepy and secretive with an overly cheerful facade that he was perceptive enough to see through, right to the nightmarish truth.

But in all honesty, we’re actually NOTHING like that. We keep it real, you see. TOO real, in fact. So on the surface, this was a poor choice of movie to compare us to. But, it’s the underlying idea that children don’t know what their parents are up to after they’ve been put in their cribs for the night, so the concept is loaded with mystery. I used to wonder what MY parents were doing when I wasn’t around. Partly because I was a weirdo only-child with no one to bounce my ideas off of. It also didn’t help that my parents thought this creepy movie was HILARIOUS, like they could personally relate to the parent’s struggle of keeping their nosey kid out of their dark double life. Trust me, this movie was NOT FUNNY.

I’ve now changed (upgraded?) stations from the suspicious child to the weird parent, and that simple concept BLOWS MY TINY MIND. I never thought I’d be a parent henceforth for the rest of my life. There’s no graduation ceremony to declare you ready for the GIGANTIC SHIFT in your life like a bar mitzvah, something that you’ve studied, prepared and trained for like a Rocky montage. Instead, you’re suddenly a parent, and you are NOT qualified for the job, you have no experience, no references, no vocational training for any of it. Yet, here you are, responsible for this other person’s LIFE, like it’s no big deal.

I don’t so much “parent” as I “blindly grope my way through the darkness” of parenting, and I can admit that. My husband, on the other hand, has gracefully ice-skated his way into the roll of father and he does triple-axel twirls around me while I fumble around and face-plant on the ice like the novice that I am.

“Don’t say “no” too many times, or he won’t respect you as his mother,” he says.

“That’s not his “I’m hurt” cry, it’s his “give me attention” cry. The difference is SO obvious.” he says.

“He’s trying to tell you that he doesn’t want eggs for lunch, he wants macaroni. Can’t you make out the babbling non-words?” he says.

And I’m like, since when did YOU become an old pro at this? We’ve both been parents for the exact same length of time, and yet somehow he is LIGHT YEARS ahead of me.

Damn farm animals

Note: this is NOT a picture of MY kid

Not long ago, I was a stoic and self-possessed person. Not unlike the Terminator, I was all cold and steely to the touch, not able to comprehend basic human emotions. Like, EMPATHY.

Damn hippies with their empathy.

YUCK.

And you know what? I LIKED being a Terminator. It was an easy way to live. I was easy, breezy, beautiful, TERMINATOR. All I had to worry about was myself, and making sure I gave Sallie Mae her pound of flesh tribute once a month (don’t play with Sallie Mae about her student loan money, she will send her goons to your house to take a kneecap as payment for every month she doesn’t get her money. TRUST ME).

But the simplicity of those days are OVER. Because now I’m married with children. I’ve got these people in my life now that I care about (*shudder*). I’ve got this husband guy running around, and he’s all attractive, and funny, and caring and dependable. And he sticks around despite the fact that I drive him mad with my neuroses. So I can’t help but to be IN LOVE with him. Jeez. And now there’s this other person running around my apartment, this toddler guy I gave birth to. And HE’S all adorable and shares my DNA, so I am programmed by mother-nature to care about his safety and well being. Yikes. And now, ever so slowly, the thick coating of ice that used to encase my heart has melted away and left a quivering, open wound of a heart in its place. And I. DON’T. LIKE IT.

So, when I was offered the chance to take some pics of Brandon being swarmed by diseased farm animals at a petting zoo, I was like YO, SIGN ME UP. Because I’m a SUCKER for that cutesy stuff now. Yeah, I said “diseased” farm animals, so before you whip out your trusty pitchfork, let me explain.

Hindsight is 20-20, as they say. I am a novice parent, and sometimes (maybe, most of the time) the obvious does not occur to me. Like the fact that farm animals are filthy, transient, scavengers whom have dookie perpetually pouring out of their exposed buttholes. And those shit encrusted buttholes are at exact eye-level with with a one-year-old. So, this begs the question: At any point, was Brandon overcome by the urge to plug a curious finger into a goat’s shitty butthole and then immediately touch his own face?

Probably.

Sadly, I can’t say for sure because I had to take my hawk-eye off of him for a few seconds now and then. Like when I was rudely side-swiped by an unaware llama who didn’t appreciate the notion of PERSONAL SPACE. The only thing I DO know for sure was the horrible aftermath of the petting zoo debacle, when my kid was sweltering with a 102+ fever ten hours later.

Damn farm animals.

I shook my fist at the sky and cursed our fate at 2am that night, because trying to nurse a sick toddler back to health TOTALLY SUCKS and is fraught with fear, bumbling incompetence, hallucinations (both audible and visual), and pickled with an extreme lack of sleep for both child and parent. It also lasts for DAYS. I rushed him to the doctor once his temperature peaked into the “he could have a seizure” danger-zone above 104 while chanting don’t die don’t die don’t die the whole way there.

Beautiful sleep after a dose of nearly vomit-inducing Tylenol. Note: my trapped arm.

Beautiful sleep after a dose of nearly vomit-inducing Tylenol. Note: my trapped arm.

After she gave him the once-over, the doctor assured me his fever had NOT been triggered by the now infamous petting zoo butthole cage match. You can stop blaming yourself, she said sympathetically. I was like YESSSS! Because up until then I had mentally logged this incident on my growing list of times he narrowly escaped death because of me. Turns out, it was just your run-of-the-mill virus that vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. He was fine less than 48-hours later.

Damn farm animals.

I still haven’t realized that he’s not the faberge egg I anticipated a baby to be. These kids bounce right back!

A comprehensive list of my toddler’s personality traits.

1. He’s abusive
In every facet of the word. Physically. Emotionally. Verbally. Even spiritually.
Seriously, he beats us. By “us” I mean my husband and I. Someone send help, QUICK. He gave me a nice gash across the neck once. The next day, a concerned co-worker pointed at the gash and asked me what happened. I think she suspected my husband was to blame for the perceived domestic abuse.
“This is what happens when you burn dinner,” I said. “My husband warned me before, but I just don’t listen.”
What ACTUALLY happened was: my son enthusiastically snatched at my neck while demanding a hug, and a jagged fingernail gouged a trench across my skin. I’d been neglecting trimming his nails for days, so I’M probably to blame for that one (SEE? there I go blaming myself like a victim does). Seriously though, his little talons reach prison-shank-grade sharpness 24-hours after they’ve been trimmed. I really need to get on a better schedule about keeping them dull.
One day he bashed my husband across the face with house keys. It was hard to watch. I don’t think MY presence helped the situation, because my reaction was to yell out, “DAYYYYUUUM!” like an audience member at a rap battle.
No one told me we’d be victims of his throttlings like EVERYDAY. The worst part is the fact that he’s not inflicting any of the abuse on purpose (he’s still grasping the mind-blowing concept of cause and effect), so I have to temper my gut reaction when attacked. Especially since my gut-reaction is to immediately UPPERCUT my attacker.  I think there’s a biblical law against uppercutting a toddler. Thou shalt not uppercut thine toddler, or something to that effect.
But I’m not entirely sure, so I should check my bible.
2. He’s practiced in the art of torture
Specifically: sleep deprivation. It’s his specialty. He is a staunch advocate of using sleep deprivation as a cruel means of interrogation. I don’t know what more information he’s trying to squeeze out of me, I’ve already told him everything I know. Someone should tell him that torture has been outlawed by the UN and he should rethink his stance on human rights violations. I would tell him myself, but I’m too afraid of the repercussions.
3. He is a demanding and merciless despot
 Brandon likes eggs for breakfast.
So I acquiesce and make them lovingly for him, as is my want, because I am a domestic GODDESS! (just kidding, I totally suck at homemaking). I’ll sweat over a hot frying pan, probably sweating DIRECTLY INTO the eggs, thoughtfully seasoning those bad boys with a delicate blend of exotic spices, and then top them off with a light sprinkle of artisanal cheese like I was Gordon F*cking Ramsay up in here. Then I chop them up into toddler friendly bits and present my meek offering to his royal highness as he sits in his high-chair holding his scepter (and by “scepter” I mean a bright orange kiddie spoon). “I hope these eggs are to your liking, my lord. Please don’t have me killed,” I say, making sure not to make eye contact.
And what does this kid do after the first bite of my eggs? The same eggs I’ve been making for him everyday. My eggs, which are THE BOMB, and he always gobbles up without protest? He spits them out. He lobs a handful of the eggs onto the ground. He screams. He sobs. He starts doing that jerky, bucking, contorting he does when he wants to be let out of his highchair. Defeated, I try not to take his food critique personally, and I resign myself to removing the offensive eggs from his presence. But then, he does something unexpected. He snatches at the eggs before I can take them away, and starts devouring them, two fistfuls at a time. Confused, I take a quick step back and allow him to inhale his food so he doesn’t de-glove the skin off of my hand. I guess he just wanted to remind me of my new place in this hierarchy.
He likes to keep me on my toes.

the mustard incident

As I sat in bed this morning, Brandon entered the room to greet me. We exchanged pleasantries, and he walked past me heading straight for the bathroom. He entered the bathroom, busied himself in there for roughly 20-seconds, then exited.

Upon his exit, he was holding a bottle of mustard.

He flashed a broad, toothy/gummy grin as he walked past me again, affectionately bear-hugging the bottle of mustard to his chest and then they disappeared around a corner together.

Let me tell you something: I am not in the habit of storing mustard in my bathroom, or any room outside of the kitchen. Because, I run a normal household, goddamn it. We are normal people, and being normal does NOT include storing perishable food stuffs where we defecate. ESPECIALLY mustard. So this begs several questions, the first being: when the hell did a bottle of mustard materialize in my bathroom? I’ve been in and out of that bathroom at least 10 times since last night, and not ONCE did I spy a bottle of mustard. Which leads me to my second question: how did Brandon know there was mustard to be had in the bathroom? I didn’t know it was in there. How did HE know? What else does this kid know that I don’t? He entered and exited bathroom in less than a minute, leading me to believe he went in there SPECIFICALLY for the mustard. He was on a mission, a mission involving mustard, and he knew exactly where it would be. The smile he gave me spoke to a confidence he had in knowing there was mustard in the bathroom, right where it was supposed to be. Not unlike the confidence someone has when they leave something in a familiar place, and then come back to it later, because that thing was right where they left it. Where it always is. Of COURSE there’s mustard in the bathroom, Mom. Duh. That’s where it’s supposed to be.

Two seconds later, my husband calls to me from the front room.

“WHY DID YOU GIVE HIM A BOTTLE OF MUSTARD?” he asked.

“I DIDN’T,” I yelled back.

“WELL, THEN, WHERE DID HE GET IT?”

“THE BATHROOM”

[….silence….]

“OH REALLY? MUSTARD IN THE BATHROOM?” he says.

I don’t have any answers, and frankly, I’m getting annoyed because now my husband has adopted this tone in his voice that suggests I’m lying. Which is stupid, because who lies about mustard? In fact, his accusatory tone makes me not fully trust that HE isn’t behind this somehow.

“MAYBE YOU GAVE HIM THE MUSTARD!” I yelled.

“WHY WOULD I GIVE HIM MUSTARD?”

“WHY WOULD I GIVE HIM MUSTARD??”

[….more silence…]

Aaaaand now we’re at a stalemate. Which is annoying because we’re both too proud to give in and admit one of us is being childish (him). But now I’m legitimately mad because HOW DID WE ALLOW MUSTARD TO DRIVE US INTO A STRAIGHT UP YELLING MATCH? The day I let some mustard test the endurance of my marriage is a dark day.

We never did get to the bottom of the mystery of the mustard, but we did eventually kiss and make nice. I think it’s safe to assume Brandon stashed it in there for future use, days (maybe even weeks) prior to its discovery. But I’m not fully on board with that theory either, because it suggests that I am a shitty housekeeper who doesn’t even know when condiments have been hidden in her bathroom for days on end.

the time I called poison control

I have a habit of multitasking throughout the day. Re-tarring the roof while folding the laundry. Vacuuming while breastfeeding with no hands, and the like. Some days it’s putting on my make-up in the bathroom mirror while giving Brandon a bath. It’s something I do fairly often: hurriedly slather on my warpaint for the day while he frolics in the tub 6-inches away from me. Usually, it happens unremarkably and without incident. But not yesterday.

The scene of the crime.

The adorable scene of the crime.

Yesterday, while putting the finishing touches on my eye-liner, Brandon became curiously quiet for a moment. A few seconds (SECONDS) of silence had passed after I noticed a lingering lack of noise. “He’s quiet…… too quiet,” I realized. My reptilian brain screamed “something’s not right” when I looked over my shoulder and beheld…….. abject horror. There Brandon stood, waist deep in water that was once crystal clear, now murky green and floating with turds. Turds in the water. Turds on his skin. Turds on his hands. Hands in his mouth.

I wasn’t sure what to do first. I noted the immediate need to get the turds OUT OF HIS MOUTH, and that seemed simple enough, but it required me to navigate a complex series of obstacles faster than he could swallow. If he hadn’t already.
The look on his face said he was having a great time. His literal shit-eating-grin spoke it in volumes, as forest green strands of poop snaked between his teeth. His smile suggested this was the best bath-time ever, and this would surely be his first memory.

Meanwhile, I’m all like COULD YOU STOP TRYING TO MURDER YOURSELF AT EVERY TURN? At least wait until your father’s shift.

Up until yesterday I wasn’t sure if eating shit was a viable means to kill yourself, so you know, I started panicking. Brandon was pretty amused by my panic. At least ONE of us won’t recall this incident at our therapists office (I don’t actually have a therapist, but it couldn’t hurt at this point).

I figured, at the very least this was a surefire trip to the ER, followed up with questioning from Child Protective Services.

I didn’t know what other tool to use, so I jammed a finger in his maw and tried to fish-hook as much poop out of there as I could. But was that enough to stop the impending e.coli infection? I had no expert to turn to. My mom and my husband were both at work, so no help there. And my fingers were too clammy with sweat and poop to type out “does eating poop kill you?” on my phone’s touch screen. So I told Siri to call Illinois Poison Control. At least THEY could talk me off of that ledge, right?? Well, kinda.

The poison control lady had to cut me off because I felt compelled to share the whole story leading up to the poop eating. I just wanted her to know that I’m not a neglectful parent, so there’s no need to put me on some watch list because my kid ate poop.

“Eating feces is considered non-toxic,” she said.

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER? That can’t be right. Don’t you always hear about swaths of people getting sick because poop got in their bag of triple-washed spinach? “Are you SURE?” I asked, daring to question the experts.

“Are YOU sure it was HIS poop?” she asked.

Of course it was HIS poop. What kind of operation do you think I’m running? “Yes,” I assured her. At the very LEAST I know whose poop my kid is eating. WHAT THE HELL DO I LOOK LIKE?

“Well, that’s a relief,” she said.

Oh. I didn’t think relief was the appropriate emotion to go with here. But go on, poison control lady, I’m listening. “Eating your OWN feces is non-toxic,” she explained. “Just watch him closely for the next four hours and give him some water.”

Just give him some water and THAT’S IT?

………some WATER??

Okay, I can do that.

NOT TODAY, CHESTER

Last night, I was host to a heart attack.

At 10 at night, I got a text.
A text from a number I did not know.
Within the text was a picture.
Do you want to know what the picture was of?
It was a picture of my son.
There was NO follow-up text from the mystery sender.
Just a picture.
Of MY kid walking around in a park.

You best believe I promptly texted back with,”um, who is this?”
The answer I received read, “Your little bumblebee was at the park today.”
Aaaaaand, that was it. THAT all they said.

……..OK, so NOW I’m PISSED.
I text back, “YO, WHO IS THIS” really trying to choke down the urge to get ignorant with this mystery stalker.
The answer I received was another picture of my kid walking in the park, but from a different angle.

Okay, so at this point, I’m like utterly FURIOUS.

My husband is in bed with me like, “who the hell are you angrily texting? Why are you out of breath? Who are you threatening to call the FBI on? I’m talking to you, ANSWER ME, DAMMIT.”

But I can’t hear him over the roar of me cursing at my phone and angrily doing a reverse phone number search on google.  But THAT wasn’t getting me anywhere. At this point I’m so enraged, I’m channeling Tony Montana, like YOU WANNA PLAY ROUGH? OKAY. So I do what I should’ve done several minutes earlier and simply called the mystery phone number. THAT would’ve saved us both a lot of grief, and restored the years that were taken off of my life with this unmitigated panic-attack.

My Step-Grandmother-In Law answers the phone, and she is laughing her ass off at my buffoonery.

Relieved and shaken, I was like, “jesus woman, I WAS ABOUT TO RAIN A BARRAGE OF DEATH THREATS DOWN UPON YOU.”
She says, “you still don’t know who this is? why don’t you have my cell number saved?”
I’m like, “you’re 80-years-old, you’re not supposed to have an iphone.”

I only have the number to the crusty rotary phone she STILL has mounted to her kitchen wall since the 1970s. Then I text my mom the abridged version of the story, and she texts me back the “laughing so hard at your dumb-ass I’m crying” face. And she says, “you thought Chester the Molester was stalking Brandon at the park and taunting you with pictures, eh?”
I was like, “NOT ON MY WATCH, CHESTER. NOT TODAY.”

dumbo’s mom was so gangsta

So I decided to reacquaint myself with kid’s movies now that I am in the charge of a kid, and it only took a few minutes for me to realize THEY MAKE ME UNREASONABLY FURIOUS AND I AM NOT EMOTIONALLY EQUIPPED TO HANDLE THEIR PROFOUND LEVEL OF SADNESS.
I decided to plumb the Disney vault of racist golden oldies in search of a heart warming, PG good time. Why? I DONT KNOW WHY, CUT YOUR JUDGING EYES SOMEWHERE ELSE, YO. I am aware that I could’ve literally picked ANYTHING ELSE. As I flipped through netflix’s meager leavings of a movie collection, I came across Dumbo. Seemed harmless enough, right? Simple. To the point. Short as hell (forreal, it’s like an hour long). An innocent elephant with a physical deformity has to make it through life without becoming suicidal despite his handicap and we all have a good laugh at his expense. Right? WRONG, SON. I wasn’t ready to have my heartstrings manipulated to the point where I felt like I was watching Requiem for a Dream and needed to take a soul cleansing shower afterwards. When I was a kid, I was too busy watching gangsta classics with my dad like Big Trouble in Little China or Full Metal Jacket. You know, the foundation of any little girl’s movie repertoire.
Anyway, let me introduce you to the players of this aspca nightmare:

This gangsta

This gangsta

This cross section of bigots

This cross section of bigots

THIS LITTLE FRECKLE-FACED BASTARD

THIS LITTLE FRECKLE-FACED BASTARD

And the titular character himself

And the titular character himself

Dumbo has to navigate this stupefying technicolor maze all alone after being ripped away from his nurturing, protective mother because she got thrown in the clink for protecting his adorable ass. This movie is a conglomerate of my worst anxieties, pressurized and refined into a cartoon nightmare diamond. WHY ARE YOU SO HELLBENT ON TRAUMATIZING EVERYONE, DISNEY? Granted, there is a happy ending, Dumbo and his moms are vindicated and reunited, BUT ONLY AFTER A LONG SERIES OF ONE INJUSTICE AFTER ANOTHER. And then you’re supposed to just forget all the trauma at the end and be like, yay! They made it out alive! SCREW THAT NOISE. I DON’T FORGIVE, NOR DO I FORGET THAT EASILY, DISNEY. I had to take a Crying Game shower when it was all over, reassess my new rank as mother and really scrutinize how swiftly and/or mercilessly I would CHOKE another little kid for assaulting MY kid. OR ANY OTHER FOOL. There was an endless lineup of jerks waiting to take a shot at Dumbo for one flimsy reason or another, and I don’t appreciate the fact that a mere cartoon has the power to drive me into a homicidal rage. I’m at an emotionally sensitive time in my life, and this was clearly the WRONG movie to watch.

I learn from my mistakes. I take inventory, and I move on. But not before I put a jabbering rant about it on the internet.