Well, I’ve been sarcastic and seemingly bitter in this space in the past. And of course, I’ve offended people. But I make no apologies — I’m not bitter, just tired. More than half of the time, I’m amused and laughing, but there are also times when I’m exasperated and grossed out and on the verge of a breakdown. But so are Nate and Sam, so that evens the playing field.
Just to assure everyone that I’m not totally angry, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite aspects of Mom Life, but I’ll warn you: sarcasm is bound to surface. It’s innate.
It’s always time to eat — Three meals day plus two snacks?! With an emphasis on sugar? Sign me up! Twice! (I should probably eat double since I have two kids.) Admittedly, I don’t always eat every time they do — I don’t think I’m growing at quite the same rate — but I do enjoy living vicariously through them, watching them chow down on chocolate chip cookies and Cheez-its. Or the other day when we quadruple stacked Ritz crackers, stuffed them all into our mouths at once and then chased them with a slice of Swiss cheese. And the amount of frosted mini-wheats we go through is astounding. Just ask our frosted mini-wheat vendor — he’s able to afford to send his kids to boarding school thanks to us. Color me jealous.
Preschool Logic — Nate truly believes that if he eats green food, he’ll turn into a Ninja Turtle. He also believes that if he eats Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that are shaped like Ninja Turtles, he’ll grow three big fingers, a shell, and a yellow belly, just like the Ninja Turtles. I know Kraft has recently faced some scrutiny over the contents of it’s mac and cheese, but I’m pretty sure it’s not laced with green ooze. Regardless, Nate continues to develop his ninja skills, his prowess, and his valor. We’re not going to argue with him — it’s an admirable discipline. “I love food. It fights the germs for you!”
Overhearing conversations like this — “Come on, Sam! Let’s go club some snakes!” WTF. I also like hearing Nate talk to the TV. Sometimes he introduces Sam to the animated characters he watches. “Good morning, Man In the Yellow Hat. This is Sam. And Wally. My mom is in the kitchen [hiding].” Other times he cheers for them. “Good job, Kai! Good fighting!”
Upon hearing that there were eight murders in Baltimore over the weekend, Nate declared triumphantly, “Well, ten is more than eight!” I’m a former math teacher, so I looked into it. He’s right. Ten is more than eight. So, things in Baltimore could be worse.
Teachable Moments — I’m not going to argue that my kids are the smartest kids in the world or even that they’re eligible for the gifted and talented program at your local remedial school — let’s review: Nate thinks he’s morphing into a giant reptile — but I will say that I’m working hard to teach them everything I know. We recently had a conversation about tampons while using a public restroom. But I’m pretty sure he zoned out when I got to the words “heavy flow.” Everything is a life lesson to these guys. And they retain everything I tell them. We work on letters and colors and shapes, vocabulary, and overall old man sagacity. Just today we were working on practical, age-appropriate ’s’ words: Sam, sunshine, splinter, snack, sensei, sword, sugar, and Sean Connery.
Chess Game — Simultaneously, I’m also constantly at war with Nate and Sam, and I must prove to be the smarter. I’m constantly thinking ahead, anticipating their perceptions of the words that come out of my mouth as to not put myself in precarious situations. For example, I can’t mention certain dessert foods before or during a meal because they’ll obviously need to eat the cookie or the lollipop or ice cream AS. SOON. AS. POSSIBLE. I can’t say the words “brush teeth” in front of Sam before Tighe’s finished up his morning routine in the bathroom because he’ll immediately drop everything and haul ass up the steps to clean his little pearly whites. I also have to make sure they don’t encounter weapons, the toy section at Target, or each other, again for fear of putting myself into a situation where I have to lay down the law. We don’t need more toys! And we definitely don’t need any more weapons — Sam’s head is already more dimpled than a golf ball. Tighe and I spend a lot of time in the evenings, after both of our adversaries are in bed, strategizing: “We will not buy him anything.” “No more chocolate after 3pm — too much caffeine!” “We must say ‘no’ more frequently.” “Should we beat them?” “Why do we keep getting rejected from these boarding schools?”
And sometimes I win these battles with no pre-planned strategy at all. The other night, for example, I was putting Nate to bed. We had already read three books, which is my limit. We had already changed his underwear several times for no comprehensible reason. We had changed his pajamas twice because he was trying to dress thematically: superheroes and dinosaurs, superhero dinosaurs. We had discussed at great lengths the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats of each possible combination: ceiling fan on or off and door open or closed. As I motioned to leave the room, he slid out of bed and stood next to his pillow, eyeing me with a menacing look. “I’m out of my bed,” he said. It was both a declaration and a threat. “Good for you,” I said flatly. I was exhausted, I needed to leave before I did something I would regret, like inviting him downstairs to watch “Game of Thrones” with us. But I managed to restrain myself. I didn’t say another word. Neither did Nate. We stared at each other, assessing one another’s resolve and fronting our best poker faces while frantically searching our brains for the next move. I came up with nothing, so I inched out of the room, slowly pulling the door shut behind me. I tip-toed down the steps, confused and on edge. I waited at the bottom for the thudding of his footsteps, the creaking open of his bedroom door, and for his voice — I anticipated a battle. After a minute, nothing. After two minutes, still nothing, so I sat down on the couch. I had won? I had won. I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared myself for my next set of foes: Cersei and Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones.”
Friendly Little Reminders that Gremlins Live in Your House — Like at night, when I’m finally laying down my head on my soft, welcoming pillow after a long, physically and emotionally draining day, pitting my rational arguments against their absurd brand of logic, and out of the corner of my eye, I notice little bits of Pop-Tart residue dotting my pillowcase. Of course! Because Sam, safely standing up in his high chair at breakfast, trampled his shoe into the remnants of his strawberry breakfast pastry and then came up to jump on my bed while he was brushing his teeth — another gold medal for safety! We also apparently keep a football shaped piggy bank in the laundry room, an overdue library book about ninjas under the dog’s bed, and a sparkly yellow bouncy ball next to the bathroom scale. These items have been in their designated locations for many weeks, and no one has thought to move them — we just accept it because we’re all tired and irrational, but I like calling it “creative” or “visionary.” My fun finds today include a bagel in the washer, missing puzzle pieces everywhere, four hard-as-rocks fruit snacks under the coffee table, and peanut butter crustiness on my laptop keys. Gross. And unhygienic. But also sweet and rather endearing — nice little reminders that not only have I sacrificed my abs, sanity, and free time to raising these monsters, but also any type of accolades from Better Homes and Gardens. I don’t cry when I think about these shattered dreams, but…
Toddler Mood Swings — Nate arose from bed the other morning in. a. MOOD. He planted himself on the steps and screamed, “Mooommmmy!” again and again and again and again while the rest of us ignored him. First of all, we were watching Sports Center, and it was hard to hear my husband’s expert “I was born in Philly” analysis of the Phillies' losing season over the sound of the siren-like wailing. Second of all, my name is Erin. Please don’t call me Mommy. You can call me Erin — and he often does, particularly when he’s “in character” of Batman or Kai the Red Ninja or Raphael. I’ll also answer to Ma, Sweet Mother Dearest, Mama, Mom, or Great and Reverend Maternal Figure, but not Mommy. It’s sounds so cantankerous and infantile. Anyway, the wailing continued for several long minutes, until the moment when he suddenly stopped, and calmly, without saying a word, walked to the bathroom and emptied his bladder like a little gentleman. He emerged from the bathroom and immediately threw his arms around me and apologized for screaming. “I love you, Mom.” Aww, he is human. Or a sociopath. Either way, I am loving hugging him right now and hearing that he loves me.
This is an important post for me, a reminder of sorts as we brace ourselves for summer vacation. Yes, that’s right, Nate’s preschool — all of six hours per week — is now finished until August. It doesn’t sound like much until you eliminate it. Already this week, he’s asked for a tattoo, claimed chronic lower back pain, and had to ride home from the playground naked. And don’t get me started on his new ninja “friends.” Those little six-inch plastic figurines are causing me more trouble than overly aggressive cops cause the inner city gang world.
The teacher in me is set on working on letters and numbers and has already started making flashcards and creating fun “grab-bag” games. The lazy spider in me — isn’t that an Eric Carle book? — just turned on the TV for him. Meanwhile, Sam just pulled down The Bedford Anthology of World Literature from the shelf. And it’s only Book 1: The Ancient World, Beginnings-100 C.E. Yeah, we’re talking authors such as Hammurabi, Plato, Homer, and Confucius. It’s gonna be a long summer. Now, to find a reputable tattoo parlor…