Your Kid Is “Special,” Deal With It

Sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out to be a mom. I thought that I’d be better at parenting than I am. I thought I’d be a super content mother. And I never thought I’d be thinking Are you fucking kidding me? so often.

Yesterday, when my two-year old managed to open a pencil sharpener and dump two years worth of pencil shavings all over himself and our kitten, I found myself (once again) questioning the sanity of having children.

The thought went through my head again this morning when that very same toddler dumped a Danimals sugar drink smoothie over his head and just sat there watching it drip down his face.

After I got that cleaned up, the little guy was still hungry, naturally, because none of the yogurt ever made it to his mouth.

So, I served him up some bacon and ketchup and asked my eight-year old daughter to watch him closely so I could go to the bathroom.

Clearly that didn’t work out so well. I ended up washing the ketchup out of his hair in the super dirty bathtub. Do you know how long it takes to get that vinegar smell out of hair? A long, long time.

To cap that off, in the time between drying the little guy off and finding clean clothes in the laundry room, he crapped on the living room floor. Again. As I said, he has no remorse. He is a repeat offender.

I keep telling myself: You signed up for this, so stop your whining. I mean, really, aside from being messy, my two-year old is an easy kid. He’s a sweet pea.

I think what shocks me at times is the fact that I skipped so optimistically into parenthood.

I had no inkling that I was rolling the dice in a genetic crap shoot. Never did I consider that my children could be anything other than “normal,” even though I am a total freak and I come from a long line of odd ducks.

(I was also blissfully ignorant of the fact that I would never sleep well again, poop by myself again, have unstained clothing again, take regular showers, have a day free of worry again…)

The fact that my daughter isn’t the typical kid took a while to really sink in. She was a super cute baby, but not cuddly. She didn’t make eye contact, she didn’t engage with the other toddlers. She bit my mother on the nose when my mother tried to go in for a hug.

I always wanted to have a daughter. My mom and I were tight, and I had fantasies of pedicures, lunches out, shopping, girl talk. I wanted a sweet mother-daughter relationship.

But my girl didn’t have the ability to relate in the way that I wanted her to. She was the child who toddled away from the other kids and sat examining the bark of a tree, a pile of leaves, or a wooden fence for as long as possible.

It seemed that my girl was in her own little world most the time. She wanted to taste everything with her tongue (walls, doorknobs, toys) and to feel everything with her chubby little fingers. She could stare at a leaf swaying in the breeze for an hour. But show interest in people? Not so much.

Now, eight years later, my daughter has come a long way. She has had lots of therapy. She has friends, and though they often confuse her, she really loves them.

Her little world often doesn’t include me unless she needs a snack or someone to yell at or needs to tell someone about a glitch in a computer game.

To her I am the über dork. I am embarrassing. I am a pain in the ass. The way I give her attention pisses her off.

Don’t ask me about my day! Why are you so interested in me?! The smallest comment can set her off on an hour-long screaming fit.

Every time my girl walks by me I want so badly to scoop her up and kiss her. When she sits beside me on the sofa I want to cuddle her up. But for the most part, affection is not her thing.

What I am finally learning is that I have to let my daughter define our relationship. I am looking for ways she shows affection, Ruby-style.

I am learning to redefine my idea of a mother-daughter relationship. It is hard some days. But I can see the amazing gifts my daughter brings to the world. And, I can see that I need to grow alongside her rather than just bitching and moaning as she continues to develop and change.

It might take many bottles of wine, and I will probably be thinking Are you fucking kidding me? every day, but I’m in for the long haul. Kvetching included.

You Are Covered In Kitty Litter and Other Thoughts About Family Life

This past weekend deserves an honorable mention in the Our Life Is Crazy Hall of Fame.

Back story: I’ve been sick for a week. Thus, my poor housekeeping skills are at an all time low. It looks like a bunch of sticky crap has exploded on all of the surfaces and walls of the kitchen.

The two-year old launched an entire bowl of Fuse Beads off the kitchen table. So there’s that. You can never completely clean up a Fuse Bead incident of that magnitude.

And let’s not forget the three loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded and the wet clothes in the washer that are starting to smell suspect. How many times can one wash the same load of clothing? Apparently many, many times.

I’m not even sure that the clean laundry should be considered clean at this juncture. Every time I open the laundry room door our dog bum rushes the laundry baskets, jumps in and kicks everything out. He does this weird snorting and circling thing in the clothes once his stubby legs have landed him in said baskets. I suspect he may be urinating on the clean clothes.

If the dog has been pissing on the clothes I will only be able to whisper obscenities because I’ve lost my voice. This has thrown my daughter (who is on the Autism Spectrum) for a complete loop.

She keeps growling: Stop. Whispering. At. Me. Stop. Whispering. At. ME. I guess this a welcome change from Stop. Yelling. At. Me. Really, I’m not one who yells a lot, but any tone of frustration in my voice causes her to think that I’m going to lose my shit.

Granted, I am generally going out of my mind, but I really do try to keep that masked by a tone of kindness and understanding. Bah ha ha ha ha grinding teeth while entertaining ideations of drinking an entire bottle of wine.

So as I mentioned in an earlier post we decided to appease my daughter’s soul-crushing reaction to finding out that there is no tooth fairy (You are the worst mother ever and you’ve ruined my entire life), and put an end to her three-year long Adopting a cat will mean that all of my dreams have come true campaign by getting her a kitten.

If you have ever spent any length of time with a kid who has autism you will learn that they tend to obsess, and obsess hard.

So, for the last week Ruby has been talking non-stop about getting the kitten. She brought a whole pile of cat care books home from the library and explained to me at great length how to read a cat’s body language.

She made lists of things we need to purchase for the cat. She chewed over a slew of names (Blackberry? Dina? Dingleberry?). She could barely sleep.

When the big day arrived we all went to the Cat Adoption Team shelter together. Ruby’s excitement was at a fevered pitch. She hopped from cage to cage extolling the virtues of each cat.

This one is so friendly! (The cat was cowering in the corner of a cage, eyes dilated, fur on end.) This one is so playful! (The cat was clawing at the cage as if gunning for blood). This one is very sleepy! (The cat was geriatric, sleeping, or dead, would not rouse even with poking).

Meanwhile the two-year old had eaten about ten of the complimentary double stuffed cookies offered at reception. Geeked up on sugar and arms filled with cat toys he ran up and down the aisles yelling: Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! I touch! I see! Give me kitty!

We ended up chosing an adorable, sweet, feisty black fuzzy three-month old kitten that was recommended by Extreme Cat Lady Volunteer on Duty. Before we could leave, Extreme Cat Lady adoption counselor insisted on giving me thirty minutes of instruction about kitten care. And kitten food. And kitten poop.

We finally got the kitten home, got her set up in the bathroom, assured Ruby fifteen times that the kitten would indeed always be hers. The kitten, now known as Alice, was pleased as pie about her new digs.

Food? Purr! Litter box? Purr! Small toddler holding her by the neck? Purr! Toys? Purr. Two children fighting over her? Purr. Small toddler freaking out that older siblings are petting her? Purr.

Awesome, I thought. This kitten is bullet proof.

Then we unleashed the dog. The dog sensed something was awry and ran to bathroom door. He went pug style crazy. Snort, snort, snort, snort, cough, cough, snort. The kitten, having heard the monstrous pug noises blew up like a little puffer fish and began hissing and growling at the sound of the dog.

I decided I had to escape the madness for a couple of hours. As I drove back home to pick up my husband for date night, I got a call. He sounded unhappy. Very unhappy. He had just experienced a Major Toddler-Kitten Incident.

The Major Toddler-Kitten Incident went like this:

In a moment of total insanity, my husband left the two-year old alone with the kitten and a full box of kitty litter. He returned a few minutes later to find the entire bathroom, toddler, and kitten covered in kitty litter, kitty litter dust, and kitty poop clumps.

He then stripped toddler down to a diaper, disposed of kitty litter covered clothing, and left the half-naked toddler with our older kids so he could quickly walk the dog (who had just eaten and is a ticking fecal time bomb after food ingestion).

While husband was walking the dog, the toddler freaked out. The freak out caused him to take a huge poop that blew out the diaper. Meanwhile the babysitter arrived to complete chaos and no husband in the house.

What I thought as my husband told me the story:
Seriously? You left the toddler alone with a kitten and a box of kitty litter? And, You left the toddler alone with the older kids who don’t know their asses from their elbows? 

What I said: Oh man. I’m so sorry.

By the time I pulled into the driveway everything appeared to be in control. My husband warned me to stay in the car so the two-year old wouldn’t flip out again. The babysitter had everything in control.

My husband finally joined me in the car, ready for date night. He smelled like a cloud of kitty litter and toddler poop. He had the look of a lunatic. We stared at each other, laughed, and nodded in silent agreement. Yes, this is our life. Kitty litter. Toddler poop. Dog pee. Chaos. Love.

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Things You Never Wanted to Know About Your Father

My father and I recently had a conversation that made me barf into my mouth a little. It was about sex. About his feelings regarding sex. It’s been about a year since my mom died and dad has begun to dip his toe into the dating world. Or rather, he has begun to skinny dip his body into the dating world. It’s a weird situation. I want him to be happy, I want him to have companionship and to have his, um, needs met. But I don’t know if I want to hear about it.

My family has never been one to hold back on details of anything. Not that I talked to my parents about the details of their sex life, but my dad would always be super excited to go away for long weekends with my mom. When they would return he would crow across the dinner table, “We had sex in every city!” My brother and I would cover our ears and yell, “ARG, NO!”

My dad is an interesting fellow. He is an engineer. He has an MBA from Wharton. He was in the military. And he sometimes has the maturity level of a zit-faced sixteen year old. He can also be pee-your-pants funny and very kind (when not unwitting stepping on someone’s toes due to his quirky sense of humor). He has many friends, plays hearts and bridge, and has a weekly poker game with a bunch of 90 year men at a local nursing home. I love him dearly.

During my childhood I remember my dad leaving for work before the sun was up, and returning for dinner every night at 6:30 on the dot. We all ate dinner together. I don’t have many other memories of him other than sitting on his lap and learning how to count change, fighting over math problems, and his helping me write my Bat Mitzvah speech (which, the rabbi said, was legendary). Basically, my mom ran the show at home. And I was a big time mama’s girl. Most of my childhood memories revolve around my mom, my grandmother, and fighting with my brother. My father was always present, but more as side-kick to my mom.

When the time came that my mom required in-home hospice care after a long battle with breast cancer, my father and I were suddenly thrust into a new relationship with each other. I had the unique opportunity to get to know him on a much more intimate level. I saw what a marriage is in the truest sense. I saw my dad’s tender side, his vulnerable side, his stressed out side. I saw him as a real man, a real person, not just that one-dimensional guy in a suit who sat down to dinner every night at 6:30.

Since my mom’s death, I’ve been hanging out with my dad more often. I’m watching him make his way in the world without his rudder of 48 years. Like I said, he’s dating. He’s often like an excited, love-struck boy. This is where the vomit in the mouth part happens. He is an over-sharer. On one hand, I sort of like hearing about my dad’s exploits because I want to be someone he can talk to and I like that he talks to me. But I also sort of hate hearing about his dating life because, obviously, he is my dad. I mean, it’s awkward, right?

This all leads to the greater question: How do you relate to your parents/or parent now that you are an adult? Have you transitioned into more of a friendship relationship, or does your parent still hold a strictly “parental” role? And, for goodness sake, how much do you know about your parent’s love life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

F*ckYouVeryMuch, or Why Retail Jobs Blow

“Do you have that book? You know, it was reviewed on NPR a few weeks ago. I think it has a blue cover. Not dark blue, more of a sky blue. There’s an image on the cover of an, um, elephant? Or maybe it’s not an elephant, maybe it’s something that looks like an elephant…I’m not sure what it’s about, but it sounded interesting. Do you have it?”

I love my job. I am thrilled to have a job. I’m around books! What could be better? I like helping people. I like shelving, sorting, organizing, and setting up for events. I enjoy meeting writers, avid readers, the occasional insane person, and most of all I love my coworkers. And, I’m around books!

There is one thing, however, that totally perplexes me about working in retail. It is the strange thing that comes over some people when they enter a retail environment. It’s as if they are suddenly on stage and performing A Display Of Obnoxious Behavior in Three Acts.

I’ll start with Ms. Loud Cell Phone Talker. She is the one who walks around the bookstore chatting away on her cell phone. She appears not to care that other people are browsing quietly. She appears not to see other people around her at all. She is likely to be discussing her children. Or how bad the strawberries tasted this year. This is the person who won’t put down the cell phone to complete her transaction. She continues a long inane discussion with whomever is on the other end of the line while throwing bills and change at me. Then, just as I hand her the bag she hangs up the phone and begins to ask a succession of complicated questions, completely unaware of the group of customers lined up behind her.

Next up is Mr. I Am Much Smarter Than You/Mr. Stump the Bookseller. He’s the one who comes up to the counter with a smug look and says, “I bet you haven’t heard of that book by Yale University Press about explorers of the Nile?” He’s the one who then launches into a dissertation about Lake Tanganyika and the kingdoms of Buganda and Bunyoro and how your little bookstore couldn’t possibly have such a book. When questioned, he won’t know the author of the book. He will think it was published sometime in the last five years.

Then there’s Mrs. You’ve Disappointed Me Already. She comes up to the counter with a chip on her shoulder before you’ve even made eye contact. She has lost her coupon and believes it is your fault that she can’t be responsible for her own shit. She demands, loudly, that you make an exception for her because she is a very loyal customer and comes in every Saturday and has for the last twenty-one years. She insists that you are holding a book for her, but it will not be there. She will claim that some incompetent person put it back on the shelf.

Let’s not forget The Annoying Parent. He is the guy who allows his child to come behind the counter and play with scissors. He is the one who allows his child to pull twenty-five books off the shelf and leaves them scattered around the children’s section. He may say, “Thelonius, please don’t dooooo thaaaat,” in a whiny voice, but won’t move from his chair to stop the child from running up and down the aisles of the bookstore while yelling, “Fart booger booger booger poop fart booger booger poop!”

And finally, the always special, Mrs. You Are My Servant While I Am In This Store. She is the one who comes up to the counter with demands. She wants you to escort her around the store for twenty minutes of “suggestions.” Only she doesn’t really want your suggestions, she wants to shoot down your suggestions. She is the one who never makes eye contact, never says please or thank you, and inspires you to imagine a name tag that says: Hello, I Am Not A Robot.

So, as the holidays approach, I invite you to share your customer service tale of woe, and if you don’t have a tale to share, just remember, be nice to the people across the counter. F*ckYouVeryMuch and have a great day!

The Third Child

Yesterday I realized that my two-year-old Theo has truly turned the corner and is now a legit No-MINE-No-No-Mine-NO-No-NO! two-year old. Perhaps it is because he is our third child and I’ve been sufficiently beaten down by his older siblings that I find his new attempts to assert himself pretty darn hilarious. For instance, Theo believes he is in charge of our pug, Ozzie. Theo insists on walking ahead of Ozzie while yelling “Me first!” He commands Ozzie to, “Go potty, go potty, go potty” as Ozzie is in the process of urinating or pooping. And, Theo loves to run around the house with a chicken nugget held snuggly in his chubby little hand so that Ozzie will chase him. Luckily Ozzie has relinquished any alpha male tendencies in the hopes that a few bits of soggy chicken nugget might fall in Theo’s wake.

There are many times, of course, when Theo is holding up the tiny deadlines in my head, that I have the passing thought that he is torturing me. This happens when he decides that he would like to sit on the potty (for a long time) just as we are trying to leave the house. (He’s not potty trained. He likes to sit on the potty and grunt. He likes to sit on the potty and read. He likes to stick his hands in the toilet water if I step away. And he likes to throw books in the potty.) The thought that, hey, maybe this kid is a real jackass occurs when we are trying to rush to the bus stop and he refuses a jacket, or shoes, or socks. It occurs when he hides the computer mouse. And the remote. But then he’ll do something adorable like fist bump every kid at the bus stop (even Ozzie), or imitate one of the big kids reading a book, or give my husband one of those choke-you-to-death neck hugs that is oh, so sweet, and I think hey, this kid is pretty great and this guy is a keeper and I’m so glad we had a third kid. So, for today, he’s safe with me. We’ll see what happens when he wakes up from his nap!