Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kids Are Murder

It's a jungle in our household. Enter at your own risk.
         The last thing I remember is a blinding white light. I don't know if that means I passed out, but I do know it knocked the wind right out of me and I found myself on my butt.
When I "came back from the light", I was sitting on the floor, legs spread out in a V and a searing pain emanating from my left knee and making every part of my brain throb. When I could form a thought, I remember realizing that it seemed so oddly sweet and strangely terrifying at the same time that my  4-year-old daughter was stroking my hair, whispering "shhhhhhh, you're OK. It's OK Mommy" and kissing my forehead.
It took me a while to process exactly what was happening, but then it finally hit me. I had broken my leg by slipping on an errant shoe on the floor, and my young daughter had been there to witness it all and deal with the aftermath. Imagine her trying to help me up off the floor and prop me up as we hobbled to the car. I'm sure it was hilarious if you weren't screaming inside from the pain.
Before you get all sympathetic about my little accident, allow me to explain that it was 30% my fault for being so clumsy, and 70% the fault of that mini Florence Nightingale. I had asked her repeatedly to put her shoes on so we could leave for daycare/work. I had begged. I had pleaded. I had threatened. I had screamed like a shrew who could not be tamed.
Finally I stomped across the floor like a giant in a blind rage to grab the kid's shoes and forcibly put them on her. That's when it happened. I slipped on my own shoe that had been waiting patiently by the front door, hyper-extended my knee, the lights got brighter and then those lights went out. The bright side of the situation is that this child knew instantly that the situation was dire, and believe me those shoes were on her feet before my mouth started to work again.
I relay this story not to garner sympathy for my poor, battered leg (although I still am able to hobble and whimper if the need arises, like if I am faced with having to help someone box up and move).
No, really this story is about how for me this was the big one that almost caused the big sleep. As with many maladies, Chris is the one who caused me to have a broken leg, which incidentally created a blood clot that later dislodged and almost killed me.
Truth be told, this wasn't the first time that this kid gave me a close up and personal brush with death. She came out of the gate this way, forcing an emergency c-section when my blood pressure dropped dangerously low from the trauma of trying to evict this child to leave my warm and cozy womb.
And I suspect it also won't be the last time I almost shake hands with Mr. Reaper. Visions of teenage driving lessons are dancing in my head, not to mention the sleepless nights during which I'm out of my head with worry and nearly overdose on chamomile tea (or wine should the situation require it) to soothe my frazzled mother-of-a-rambunctous-teenage daughter nerves.
I foresee dangerous times ahead.
So instead of being nice to my child because someday she will pick out my nursing home, I use a different strategy of guilt, guilt and more guilt. And then I'll throw in a little more guilt to jab her conscience.
I remind her of her murderous streak quite often and sometimes out of the blue, just as we're laying down and the world is quiet and hazy, she will whisper to me in a creepy melodramatic voice, "I'm sorry I made you break your leg and that you almost died." And when she says this, I smile and say, "You should be sorry. Next time you should just do what I tell you."
Horribly shocking? Yes. Therapy-inducing? Probably, and most likely not the only reason she will need a therapist to get over her time with me. So why would I blame a little child? Why would I remind her of it whenever she gets out of line? How evil and mean!
I can't specifically blame this one on her....but
I'm sure she contributed. Positive of it.
Yeah, I'm not as sweet and nice as I look. But there is also an underlying reason that I keep this incident at the forefront of our memories. It's because we both need to remember how much we almost lost in a split second.
"Yes," I tell her. "I almost died. And you're the reason. And it's also because of you that I will have this ugly scar and stretch marks across my belly for the rest of my life. And it's because of you that I carry around this extra 10 pounds (along with a few other ones that really don't have much to do with you, but that is not the point). And it's because of you that I have these deepening wrinkles around my eyes from sleepless nights and a hoarse voice from yelling at you to go back to bed. And it's because of you that I have this irritable stomach that knots with worry."
I also blame my daughter for making me sicker in the 8 years since her birth than I was in the previous 30+ years of my life combined. She must have sucked out every single bit of immune system I had inside me and in the past few years I dealt with near constant sinus infections, sore throats, flu-like illnesses, pink eyes, bronchitis, etc. You name it, it seems like I just can't fight it off any longer.
You see what she does to me? I have to let her know what kind of havoc such a child has wreaked on my life.
And I have to tell her all of this - repeatedly - so that I can also let her know I would endure all of this and worse in a heartbeat. I would break every bone in my body. I would take a bullet for her...maybe not gladly, but a bullet nonetheless. I would gain so much weight and so many wrinkles that I might as well create an online dating profile substituting Jabba the Hutt's picture as my own.
Concocting a mother-killing poison perhaps?
Although I can't blame EVERY physical accident or ailment on her, I can point to quite a few in which she at least set the ball rolling. But I think any mother would withstand a little bit of pain, fear and scarring just for a few minutes of joy. Otherwise we would certainly eat our young within minutes and not go through any of this misery.
So in the tradition of generations of mothers before me, I use guilt as a weapon. I remind her often, "This is what you have done to me and what I have had to endure because of you."
It does sound sick and wrong. But I remind her because how else would I be able to remind her that I would do it all again?
        Is it too much to ask, though, that she just put on the freaking shoes the first time I ask?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bribery Can Get You Everywhere - If It's Done Right

I'm gonna type you this love poem. And when I'm done, you'll be in my power
Because my life is so exciting, I was engrossed in a Dateline NBC special the other day when the doorbell rang. Before I could pick myself up off the couch, the bell was followed by frenzied knocking. My lovely daughter was away driving the next door neighbor crazy at a birthday party, and I assumed she was making another visit home to update me on the awesome toys her neighbor friend was receiving that I must match in a few months.
            Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and found not a giggling, dancing, greedy child, but a tasty looking piece of chocolate cake on my front doorstep. Hmmm. Weird. But tantalizing nonetheless.
I looked left – nothing. I looked right – no one.
            I assumed it was meant for my daughter. Like most kids Chris doesn’t eat cake at parties because she’s too busy playing and mainlining full-sugar candy from her goodie bag. Then she later complains that she didn’t get a piece of cake as if drinking half your body weight of fruit punch isn’t enough of a head start on diabetes. So, I figured she finally learned to snag a piece for later and was giving it to me for safe keeping. By the way, that would have been a huge mistake. 
Breakfast in bed? No. Movie ticket bribe.

            Still, I was making no assumptions. There was no name on it. I mean, who could resist a free piece of cake that’s apparently been delivered by the angels at the most perfect time? So I picked it up and had the fork half-way to my mouth when I figured I should probably make sure this cake wasn’t one big fat joke. Not that it would stop me from enjoying it, but it might make me pause long enough to brush it off if I knew it had recently made contact with dirt or bugs.
            So I yelled for Chris and heard giggling. I yelled again and she popped her head around the side of the house.
            “Hi Mommy! I got that cake especially for you because I know how much you looooooove cake,” she said with a smile. Then she skipped away to go play and inhale some more sugar.
            So with the green light I inhaled the cake, which had the wrong kind of frosting but was tasty just the same. But the entire time, I also had an uneasy feeling. Something didn’t sit right and I could feel the chocolate confection sitting like a ball in my stomach.
I know my kid. And I know this was no gift cake brought to me with loving joy. This was most likely bribery cake. You see, whenever Chris does something good, I’ve learned from experience that there is usually another shoe waiting to drop.
Yep, right after my birthday dinner Chris begged for her friend to spend the night.
            For example, she doesn’t just clean her room to earn her allowance or so she doesn’t have to live in filth. She cleans her room in a pre-emptive strike against my list of reasons why she can’t have a sleepover. And Chris doesn’t eat her vegetables because she’s so happy to be eating healthy. She gags them down because she believes that will put her in good standing to enjoy dessert.
            So you can imagine my unease knowing that this sugar bomb was left at my door with me specifically in mind. There was something up and it wasn’t long before I knew the real reason behind the cake. An hour or so later Chris showed back up at the door with her friend Kayla in tow (knowing from experience that it’s harder to say no when they’re ganging up on you) and asked if I would drive them to a park across town.
            When I laughed and said she must be crazy, you would have thought that blood was dripping from the knife in the child’s back and creating bloody frowny face drawings on my chalk-covered stoop.
“But I brought you caaaaakkkkkkeeee!” she cried.
            Of course. Bribery cake.
            If you have kids you’ll understand. There comes a point when a hug, a kiss and ‘I love you’ makes you instantly cringe and wonder where the broken vase is hiding. An offer to help unload the dishwasher is a clue that a bad report card is just around the corner. There always seems to be an ulterior motive involved.
            Chris still hasn’t got it quite right yet because she always seems to break the first rule – don’t let the bribee know that you are trying to bribe her. Just like the kid she is, she can’t hold onto a secret long enough to make the bribe do its intended duty. Like on birthdays, for example, when she tells me days in advance that she’s working on something special for me. Oh and, by the way, maybe I should remember just how much I love her present when she asks me if she can stay outside a little later with her friends. Fail.
            She’ll get it soon enough. As a friend pointed out to me, she’s still learning the nuances of a good bribe. Until then, I’ll enjoy her failures and fear the day when her skills will be so fine-tuned that I won’t know her loving kindness is all a ploy.
She learned from example. The only way we could get this thumb sucking to stop was by bribing her with pierced ears.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Much, Exactly, Is Too Much?

Fancy a spot of tea? We've got you covered.
             My mother emailed me yesterday with a quick message that read, “Chris decided she wants to host a tea party after you get off work tonight. Sound good?”
            “Of course,” I replied, smiling at the thought of cookies dipped in lukewarm tea in plastic cups and maybe a feather boa draped across our necks with big earrings dripping from our lobes. Duh. I should know by now that such a party is lame for the females in our house. We do theme parties. On steroids.
            Last night I walked into Grandma’s house where Chris has been spending her summer days and immediately felt a flowery hat being plopped on my head. A flowing scarf was draped around my neck where it clashed with the gym clothes I naively thought I would sweat all over after an obligatory few sips of tea. That did not happen since I ended up too stuffed with tea party goodies.
Even Grandpa has to suffer through our craziness.
            I was escorted into the kitchen and given the fancy rundown. The table was set with a lovely vase of flowers on a dainty tablecloth and surrounded by fine china and decorated napkins. Bowls of Strawberry Romanov graced each setting. Nearby was a tray of homemade scones with clotted cream and lemon curd topping, a plate of cucumber finger sandwiches, and a fancy teapot filled with steaming liquid. Undoubtedly the teapot was one Grandma carted back from her trip to England – because it NEEDS to be authentic.
            As we nibbled on the delicacies Chris had slaved over all day, Grandpa remarked that if only it wasn’t 104 degrees outside we could make the afternoon more authentic by dining on the lawn as a cricket match played in the background. Or maybe cheer on some polo players.
            It’s not the first time we’ve had such a tea party. Mom and I stayed up into the wee hours to watch Will & Kate’s nuptials a few years ago. We enjoyed some biscuits (that’s cookies to you uncultured folk) on that long night and laughed at how fun it was to have a full-on British feast.
See, we don’t just clink our teacups and call it a day. We go completely overboard and fall into every stereotype imaginable. That’s how we roll.
Please enjoy the train ride and excuse us while we beat the birthday train theme like a dead horse.

            It doesn’t stop with the London loving. We go overboard with every party we have. It seems like once we get a theme in our heads, we can’t stop the fabulous ideas. For instance, Chris’ last birthday was a BBQ party in the yard. So of course she had a hamburger-shaped cake complete with matching “Chris-py Fries” made out of cookies and invitations shaped like a BBQ grill.
            A couple of years ago when her birthday was at a train park, of course she got a train cake complete with cars of toxic waste, gold nuggets, logs and circus animals.
            Then there was a flip flop birthday with a flip flop-shaped piñata, a beach scene cake and flip flop picture frames in goodie bags decorated with…flip flops.
It may be a bit much, but it's the
coolest pinata you will ever see!
            It’s not only Chris who gets a full-fledged theme shoved down her throat.
            When my niece turned 16, we had an Academy Awards/movie party for her birthday. The glittery event featured a red carpet leading to the front door where her movie poster face welcomed guests, star-shaped cookies, theater popcorn containers and Oscar statue party favors.
            When my nephew graduated from high school he didn’t just get some Star Wars plates and streamers. No, no. He got a Millennium Falcon-shaped cake, Chewbacca cookies, a Death Star piñata and Light Sabers made out of pool noodles. Plates and streamers? Those are for wimps.
            I know it all sounds utterly delightful. And it is. Really if you enjoy being bombarded by a theme until you think you may throw up from all the matchy matchyness, we are your party planners.
But I can’t help but wonder if I’m saddling my child with another therapy-inducing personality trait. Will she spend the rest of grade school thinking a book report about the civil war isn’t complete without a period costume and hardtack snacks? Can she imagine a Halloween in which the entire family, including the dogs, isn’t trick-or-treating in an outfit that would be found in the Bee Movie (yes, last year we were worker bees, a honey bee, a queen bee and a bee keeper)?
Not just a cool cake. But thermal detonators too.
            It all hit home the other night when Chris told me, incredulously, that one of her friends didn’t have a vocabulary quite as large as her own. In fact, she told me, she had to explain to her friend what the world “overboard” meant. “Say it’s my birthday and instead of just buying me a cake my mom makes me a special cake that’s really huge and she decorates everything with tons of balloons and stuff and it’s all the same theme, that’s going overboard,” Chris explained.

            Does that mean we should reign ourselves in? I’ll work on that. As soon as we finish this year’s “Cats! Halloween Extravaganza!” 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Car Horrors

Don't want to disgust you with pictures from my gross car. So here's a cute baby picture of Chris to distract you.

  Raise your hand if, like me, you’ve found these puzzling and frightening things in your car. Or maybe something even worse:

  • One CheezIt Cracker, circa “your guess is as good as mine”
  • One black Sharpie marker with lid miraculously snapped on
  • Handful of random McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, most broken, jammed between the seat cushions
  • A $5 bill that would have come in handy yesterday at Starbucks
  • One balled up, dirty sock from when my kid who wears a monstrous size 4 shoe used to be a size 2
  • Various KidzBop CDs, all of which have a scratch on the one song which is semi-tolerable
  • One pair of toddler sunglasses missing one lense

            Sound familiar? I could go on all day about all the interesting science experiments that have been found underneath the seats of my car. You may even have heard the screams not long ago and worried that there had been a volcanic eruption nearby and people were running for their lives. Mainly because you heard the shouts of “Run for your liiiifffe!”
            Don’t worry. There wasn’t a natural disaster nearby. But unfortunately, there was lots of screaming coming from the vicinity of my garage that morning.
A few car items that make you wonder why: plastic lei, lottery ticket,
bee pillow from Chris' baby crib, ballet outfit from 1 1/2 years ago.

            You see, we took the dogs for a ride to the dog park last week and they had trouble wading through the piles of trash in the backseat so they could get out of the car to go run. And seeing how I could now write my name in the dust piled up on the dashboard, I knew that time of year was upon me – car cleaning time.
            Most of the car wasn’t horrible. I made piles of toys, random child leggings, and bags of gum wrappers and other miscellaneous trash. Then I set about giving the dustbuster a workout by vacuuming out months of gravel, French fry bits and dog hair.
            After a while of cleaning, I could put it off no longer and I steeled myself for the horrors I knew were about to come. I know you probably think I’m embellishing, but you weren’t there. You didn’t see how I had to dance around the garage like a prizefighter trying to psyche myself up for the main event. There was lots of deep nasal breathing and lots of positive talk like, “Come on Osborn, you can do this! It won’t be that bad! Just get it over with!”
            After a while, even I started to think I was being ridiculous and reasoned with myself. “I mean, come on? When was the last time she even ate any food in the car?”
            Well. That soon changed. As soon as I moved Chris’ car seat to take a brave look underneath, it was more like, “Gross! When was the last time she even ate in the car? Dear God! What is that? Is that…is that…moving?”
            I danced around some more and shook off the heebie jeebies and ran into the house to search for some gloves with which to peel the melted gel fruit snacks off what were once gray fabric seats. Now they're spotted gray and black seats. And I’m really just guessing here when I say fruit snacks. There’s really no way to know without the benefit of a microscope.
Guarantee you whatever is in this lunchbox is now
embedded in my fabric car cushions.
            Honestly, the only reason I can think of that there is not a constant line of ants marching from the garage door to the car door is that pest control is a little luxury I will scrape together my last dimes to purchase. I’m sure when the pest guy makes his visits to our house he peeks into the dirty car windows and knows that he must give us the high strength stuff because the bugs will be attracted to the half-eaten chicken nuggets we’re carting around in the backseat of our automobile.
            I know I sound disgusting for driving a portable trash can. I really do have good intentions of keeping the car clean. I really do. Every time I go through the totally gross-out stuff I swear up and down that it’s never going to get that bad again. And then I lecture my kid all the way to school to take a good look around the car and see how clean it is and to make sure she does her part to keep it that way. And then when we get home after school I tell her to pick up her junk out of the car and usually get the exhausted response, “But I’m so tired,” as if she’s just run a marathon and I’ve asked her to run another 5k.
            I understand the feeling of exhaustion. I get it. So I give myself a pass and give up on the car save for the few times of the year when the dogs are in danger of sticking to the seats.
I live by the proverb “kids will remember the quality of time you spent with them, not the cleanliness of your house.” Sure. That’s why I don’t clean all the time, not because there are too many good books to read. Frankly, keeping an uberclean house is not at the top of my priority list. In fact, if my kid gets a vegetable or two with her meals I count that as a pretty stellar parenting day. I can’t do it all!
            Nevertheless, I do wish our car never gets to the state that it was in on that particular morning last week. Honestly, I can’t describe to you the fear always I feel before pushing that car seat to the side to see what’s underneath.

            I don’t really know how to justify all this filth. All I can say is I don’t think it’s going to get better until my daughter goes to college. And I don't think they can create a CarFax that can fully describe the horrors my car seats have seen. So when the time comes my plan is to just torch the sucker and start fresh.
Someday she will drive herself. And I can have a clean car. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's Not Bragging When It's A Fact, Right?

I'm sure very soon we will have to invest in a trophy case with a kid who is just this fantastic.
          We had a particularly rousing game of Just Dance 4 on the Wii the other day. After spending a good 10 minutes proving just how white and out of shape I am, I handed Chris the nun chucks and sat down on the couch to see where my hundreds of dollars of dance lessons have gone – spoiler alert – Chris must have skipped the dance lessons and spent the money on candy because she’s nearly as uncool a dancer as her mother.
Anyway, while I was watching her awkwardly and robotically “dance”, I noticed something I had never seen. Just Dance prints the words to the songs at the bottom left of the screen! It’s like karaoke sans the microphone! And we actually have a microphone at home! Of COURSE I’m going to sing along to that stuff now. Look for me soon singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” at your neighborhood karaoke bar now that I’ve learned the tune from a kid’s video game.
            After belting out the 80s disco hit, I looked at Chris and said what we were both thinking, “Wow! I sang that song really, really well! Oh, and you danced pretty good too.”
            Hands on knees as she tried to catch her breath, she rolled her eyes at me and retorted, “Mommy, don’t brag.”
            Don’t brag? Helloooooooo, Pot….I am your mother….I am a kettle….and we’re both a little on the dark side. Ha! Get my Star Wars/Old-timey Idiom Mashup? Yes, my child has a little bragging problem at times. No idea where she picked up the dirty little habit.
            Sometimes Chris has a little trouble looking in the mirror. She can instantly point out a braggart without understanding that she does it just as well – so well! In fact she is so much better at bragging than you!
Even in the backseat she's a rock star. Of course.
            I suppose part of it has come from her parents and teachers who offer nothing but good will. We only want her to have a healthy self-image and grow into a strong and confident young woman, so we heap on the praise when she does something spectacular. In Chris’ case, there’s no denying that she’s fairly smart. She will definitely surpass me one day in the brains department, but right now she is just a slightly-above-average 7-year-old who has somehow gotten the impression that she’s a genius. And it’s not bragging to make sure everyone knows it, she informs me. It’s not bragging when it’s a fact.
            During a visit with Urgent Care doctor a few months ago, I learned exactly how far Chris’ self-image had come. Not content to sit on the sidelines, she tried answering all the questions the doctor had directed at me.
            “How long has she had these symptoms?” the doctor asked me, the educated parent.
            “Well,” Chris interrupted, “At school I was trying to listen to the teacher and my stomach kept hurting so I asked to go to the bathroom but I didn’t have to poop so that’s not why it was hurting so I came back to class and told the teacher that my stomach still hurt and she sent me to the nurse and I told her that my stomach still hurt and she called my mom and told her that my stomach still hurt…..”
            The doctor’s eyes glazed over. That may be why she made the mistake of saying, “Well! You’re very well spoken for a 7-year-old.”
            “Yes,” Chris affirmed without a blink. “I am the smartest kid in my class. I am already reading chapter books that are for third graders and my Grandma said that I know lots of big words.”
            Flummoxed, the doctor had no choice to reply, “Well, that’s really great. Keep up the good work.”
            She then called Chris to the examining table to take her blood pressure, look in her nose, etc. You know all those things that somehow affect a stomach ache. As she prepared to peer past the ear wax that undoubtedly clogged Chris’ ears, she fingered a ringlet and said, “You have very beautiful hair.”
The curls that brought down the doctor.
            Instead of doing me proud and murmuring “Thank you” as I have instructed her a thousand times, Chris instead knocked the wind out of the doctor when she said, “I know. I get that a lot.”
           The doctor actually asked her if she had a dictionary at home so she could look up the word "humble."
            Oh geez! If she didn’t think we were a conceited family before, it’s now been fully confirmed.
            Recently Chris competed in her first ever team event for cheerleading. I had seen these girls at practice and thought that unfortunately they didn’t have a shot in the dark at winning. Because that’s unusual for Chris so far in her charmed life, I tried to prep her on the drive there by reminding her that sometimes you don’t win things and you have to remain a good sport. Sometimes you try hard and you’re just not good enough but you should be happy for the winners.
            By some stroke of luck, the kids placed second, earned a medal and a trophy and a chance to compete at the state level. Of course Chris was certain that she carried the team and seemed pretty put out when she told me her trophy was made of plastic and that she had thought a winning trophy would be made of solid gold.
            Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being confident in your appearance and abilities. A little bit of conceit is a good thing, in my opinion. But it can go too far when you start believing that things are always going to come easily to you. Fortunately I don’t think all is lost with Chris yet.
            Last summer I had a conversation with my cousin after Chris had had like a day of swim lessons. She told me she would never be able to play water polo because she just couldn’t get swimming. She sunk into a deep depression as she hung out at the shallow end of the pool and I told my cousin I was worried she would be one of those kids who is always a quitter when things got too hard. Then I left him to babysit and drag her around the pool while I went shopping.
Keep your eyes peeled for your newest
Olympic swim team member.
            When I returned, though, he surprised me by showing me how well Chris could swim across the pool after one afternoon. He told me she must have overheard me and decided she was going to show me. So with severe determination Chris forced my cousin to spend the entire afternoon in the pool turning pruny until she got it down. So she’s not a quitter after all. That’s fantastic news that she can rally and give it some effort when it’s required.
But unfortunately, we’re back where we started. According to Chris, all that hard work has paid off and she is ready for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team. She’s just that good. Get used to it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Slow Down!

We're not ready to stop the ride or get off. We (and by we I mean mom only) just want it to slow down!

It's 4 a.m. on a Wednesday and I jump out of bed as usual with good intentions of stretching, and watching the sun rise with a cup of coffee in hand while inhaling deeply and smiling foolishly as if I'm in a Folger's commercial.
But you know that doesn’t happen.
What really happens is that I trip over a pillow that has been kicked to the floor during the precious few minutes I’ve had to sleep, swear quietly so as not to wake the little giant known as my daughter and pray I can have just a few freaking minutes to myself before she demands cereal we don’t have in the pantry. So instead of using this time to meditate and garner my strength, I tiptoe downstairs where I begin to lovingly stroke my Chinese boyfriend - otherwise known as "remote control".
It seems like yesterday, but time
is going much too quickly.
“My precious," I think.
I could spend this time doing some yoga like poses and becoming a better person. But as I am going through withdrawal from being forced to watch kid-friendly programming 90% of the time, I decide instead to rot my brain. I time it just right so that I can quickly hit the volume down button as the TV is powering up because you know my child must blast the Disney channel at ear-splitting setting #25 so as to be able to hear the oh-so-important programming over her own constant commentary on how much she loves "Just Kickin' It" and that despite never setting foot in a dojo she could totally ‘kick it’ herself.
It’s not long before I start to feel guilty and it’s not because I’m using this rare down time to drool on the couch while an episode of "2 Broke Girls" softly murmurs in the background. I’m feeling little pangs of guilt as my eyes flick constantly to the stairs and my ears strain to hear the pitter patter of little feet on said stairs.
I am feeling guilty because I should not be watching such a show in my house with a child around. Hilarious as it is, this particular episode is about HERPES and I can’t concentrate and enjoy the single gal hilarity as I am contemplating how I might explain STDs to a 7-year-old should she wake up.
            I am feeling guilty because this is yet another thing a young kid should not have to think about or even hear about.
            Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time remembering way back to when I was Chris’ age. I don’t know if I am blocking some trauma or if I was really naive, but I really don’t remember knowing as much about the “real world” as my child does now. Ultimately I have decided that things just move much faster these days.
            Chris is very tall for her age and at seven she could easily pass for 10. As funny and amazing as it is to watch her growth spurts, we’ve joked often about plying her with coffee and cigarettes, and piling bricks on her head to stunt her growth. Add to this height the fact that she has been raised around adults and talks (or fakes it) like she is wiser than her few years, and I wonder what kind of supersonic roller coaster ride we’ve boarded.
These cute two-pieces used to be much
more cute and a lot less scary.
            Recently we had to go swim suit shopping. First of all, this is yet another area in which things are moving much, much too fast. Chris gravitates – as all the other young girls apparently do – towards the string bikinis that barely cover her private bits.  So buying a suit is understandably an epic battle to balance age-appropriateness with size availability. Because of her size, very soon we will have to leave the Hello Kitty section and shop in the junior department. If you're not familiar, let me just point out that as the girl’s sizes get larger the amount of fabric shrinks in order to ensure that young teenagers appear as cute and sexy as possible. Fantastic.
            It is a Herculean task to find a kid-friendly swim suit that fits Chris’ very long torso. This leaves me simultaneously overjoyed and dismayed that she can’t fill out the top of a larger suit that is long enough for her body. And I refuse to buy one of these itsy-bitsy bikinis that have ruffles strategically placed to accentuate curves. 
We finally found a two-piece that I agreed wasn’t too racy because it was a sporty suit for athletic-type pre-teens, which is perfectly fine in my opinion. As she tried it on, Chris proved that her mouth is older than her years when she said, “This top feels funny. I don’t like the way it fits. The bottoms, however, feel delightful.” She's spending too much time with Grandma.
            All I could do was stifle a snicker and tell her we’d have to try another store with other one-piece suits.
            The adult choices for much-too-young children don’t end there.
            The other day I found myself ranting in the children’s shoe department because roughly half of the girl’s summer sandals have wedge heels. These are basically high heels, and in my opinion there is absolutely no reason a seven-year-old should be wearing high heels unless they are the dress-up plastic kind she wears with a Disney dress for Halloween and cause her to complain about her aching feet and thus give me hope that she will forego the future pain for sensible footwear.
            Of course Chris is gagging for a pair of these sandals and I have told her no so many times that even I am not beginning to understand why she is the only kid she knows who doesn’t have a pair. I was beginning to wonder if I might have Amish tendencies when I noticed a mother lingering nearby with her infant in a stroller and was convinced she was gathering evidence to report me to the fashion police.
            But when Chris began her begging anew, the woman slowed her stroller and shocked me with some solidarity.
            “I wouldn’t buy you those high-heeled sandals either, honey,” she told Chris, who fortunately didn’t roll her eyes at a stranger’s unsolicited advice. “You’re much too young for those shoes and they will make your feet hurt anyway. I won’t buy them for my little girl either.”
            Granted her little girl was probably around 12 months, but I appreciated her words nonetheless.
            In fact, I wanted to jump up and down in relief that I wasn’t Amish after all. I am just a mother who realizes that time flies much too quickly. One second they’re wearing an adorable princess two-piece suit with a swim diaper, and the next you’re praying the strings don’t pop off when they dive in the pool.
It’s too fast.
Let’s turn back the clock about 30 years so Chris can get a little taste of what real childhood is like. We can start with the sandals. Then we’ll talk about my TV programming.
Until then, I will continue to wake up at 4 a.m. so I can keep her from the real adult truth.
Maybe she can wear high heels for this event. Maybe.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fremdschämen - Look It Up

Yes, living a life this way can be embarrassing. It's even worse when your parents write about it.

            If you’re an avid WhatMyKidSays reader, you may have had a hard time getting out of bed because you noticed I haven’t blogged in the past few weeks. I suppose I’ve hit a bit of writer’s block. And possibly since Chris hit her 7th birthday she’s not nearly as funny as she was the first six years of life. Or possibly since she hit her 7th birthday I’ve hit a funk realizing the time is going by too quickly.
            We also had a discussion in the car the other day about the blog and Chris told me flat out that she hates it and wishes I never wrote another word about her because it’s sooooooooo embarrassing. I lied a little and said nobody was laughing at her – just laughing at the funny things kids say – but she wasn’t buying it and made sure I knew what a horrible parent I was becoming.
So cute. But she seems
more angry than humiliated.
Honestly, I did pause for a minute and wonder if I was causing irreparable emotional and mental trauma to my child. In fact, I’m sure since the internet is pretty much here forever there will be all kinds of trauma in about 10 years, right around Prom time when she might sit down and actually read some of the crazy stories about her life.
Ultimately, though, I decided this is my revenge. People keep telling me that with a mouth and personality like Chris’, I am going to be in for some serious trouble in a few years. So, yes, this is my pre-emptive revenge and despite her protestations I probably won’t stop.
It can be humiliating when you
don't know how to eat cake.
I do completely understand Chris’ feelings of embarrassment, though. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed myself sometimes that this child is what I created. I recently learned a new word – fremdschämen - which is a German word meaning external shame. In essence, it stands for the embarrassment that others feel on your behalf, vicariously even, for the humiliating things you may have done or said.
For instance, I am fremdschämen that Chris loves to paint her fingernails in bright prostitute colors (no other color description is available or even necessary because you get the picture – her nails look like a hooker’s talons). But it's not like she cares that much about her appearance since I have to beg, plead and threaten to get her to brush her teeth. And she has worse gas than a sailor living on a ration of canned beans.
I am fremdschämen that when she took her first swimming lessons Chris swallowed so much water that the instructor couldn’t help but sarcastically comment that she would never drown because she could burp so well. Chris didn’t get it and replied, “I know. I’m really, really good at burping.” It’s a skill she might not find embarrassing, but which causes me much embarrassment when she’s in the middle of an important book report in front of her class. I have visions of her giving a valedictory address and turning it into a rendition of Will Farrell’s ‘Elf’ on soda.
I am fremdschämen that when I sent Chris with money for her school’s book fair, she returned home with “Bieber Fever”, a pictorial about the life and times of Justin Bieber. Complete embarrassment. Again, she has no idea that 7-year-old girls are pretty much the only people in the entire world who don’t recognize the humiliation factor of crushing on The Biebs.
It should be embarrassing to be in love with a frog. But, alas, she's not embarrassed.
I am fremdschämen that because Chris has lived her entire life in Arizona, she does not believe that snow falls from the sky, but that it gets trucked in to areas where kids play, like the zoo. On a trip up north last year she was so devastated that no white stuff was on the ground that she begged me to “call them and tell them to bring the trucks!”
I am so, so fremdschämen that I duck down in the driver’s seat on afternoons when I pick her up from school because Chris can’t leave the circle drive without hanging halfway out the car window yelling goodbye to all the friends with whom she has literally just spent the last eight hours. And if they don’t hear her she will yell louder, wave her hands in the air, and hang farther out the window until her mostly clean shirt is covered with a layer of dirt that once covered our traveling trash can.
Speaking of clean shirts, I’m fremdschämen that Chris can’t eat a meal without dripping something onto herself and am sad to inform her that I know from personal experience that she might as well purchase a bib to carry her through the next 50 years. I can always tell what she has had for lunch but she doesn’t seem to care that her clothing is usually a walking abstract painting.
And I’m fremdschämen that Chris is stuck in this family, where we think it’s hilarious to point out one another’s embarrassing habits. My mother always had this saying about adversity, “it builds character.” I always used to tell her, “I have character coming out of my ears.”
I believe blogging about things that Chris finds embarrassing, or the things that she doesn’t find embarrassing but make me cringe on her behalf, is going to help her builds tons of character too. She should be thanking me, right? Right? I will keep telling myself this until the therapist asks her to confront me for ruining her life.
The first bikini will probably be a source of embarrassment soon.