The Parenting Moment: A Lesson In Discipline

Isla and Mom

I have the most beautiful nine-year-old girl in the world: a delightful compilation of everything simple and pure. For the most part, my daughter is a brilliant, charming, funny and thoughtful human being, but last night she wasn’t herself. Last night, she chose to raise hell (and my blood pressure) by transforming herself into a little smartass and forcing me to choose my weapon of discipline.

 

Truth be told, the incident didn’t happen at night; it occurred during the wee hours of early morning. I was nearly unconscious from a recent Lunesta party when I heard the first scream… “MOMMY, get in here!” My first thought was, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Why can’t she just handle shit without waking me up?”

 

I stared at the clock in a fog of confusion and noted the time. It was 1:27 am exactly. That’s when the footsteps commenced and thumped their way into the Jack and Jill bathroom we grudgingly share.

 

“I can’t sleep!” She cried from the porcelain throne.

 

“Well, what do you want ME to do about it?”

 

With a hint of perplexity and just enough attitude to warrant a bare-ass spanking, she pointed toward a glowing light on her bed and advised me of her intentions. “I can’t sleep, so I am watching Bewitched.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” I scoffed, snatching the DVD player from the mattress and stomping out of the room. “Go back to bed.”

 

This, of course, was the beginning of World War III between a tired mother and her strong-willed child. There were outcries, wall kicks, death threats and door-slamming fits of rage that lasted well over an hour—until she finally crossed a line and crushed my soul.

 

“I hate you!”

 

And there it was: the three words that every parent knows they will hear at some point but never expects. I sat on my bed for a moment to collect thoughts and suck the tears back in. By now, my body was full of so much rage and sadness that I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I put the pillow back over my head or split that DVD player in half?

 

When the door opened again that one last time and our eyes met, it was evident that she felt remorse. “I’m sorry, mom. I didn’t mean that.” But as a mother, I felt it was time to step up my game and teach her a lesson that she would never forget.

 

“Mom… NOOOO! I can’t believe you just broke my DVD player!”

 

“I can’t believe you just broke my heart.”

 

End of story.

The Boogeyman And Other Failed Mysteries

boogeyman

Children are often afraid of the dark, but where does it stem from? Every night for the past two weeks, my daughter wakes up screaming. She hears things: a creak, a footstep, a partial sneeze and it is all coming from her closet. I am a newly single mother and, frankly, a bit leery about opening a door where someone may or may not be wielding a knife on the other side, but I do it—for her—while secretly cursing those obnoxious cries for help. Still, I could not understand why, at age nine, she was suddenly afraid of the boogeyman.

My mother suggested she might be suffering emotional trauma: a symptom of divorce, but I didn’t want to hear this because that would make it MY fault and, well… fuck that. I have enough on my plate already without the added pressure of feeling guilty. Even so, I could not stop thinking about what she said. What if it WAS my fault and, instead of doing something to help, I was looking for an excuse to be right? Downplaying my daughter’s anxiety was not okay with me, and I knew I had to do something. I decided to speak with her one afternoon while driving home from school.

Me: Honey, I want to talk about what’s been going on lately.

Her: *Stares blankly into space* Can I have a snack?

Me: *Tosses a bag of grapes into the backseat* I know you’ve been having trouble sleeping, and I think maybe something is bothering you. I have a feeling I know what it is.

Her: *Rolls eyes* Grapes? Got anything better?

Me: No, just eat the grapes.

Her: *Eats grapes* What do YOU think is bothering me?

Me: Wait—so something IS bothering you then?

Her: What do YOU think?

Me: Come on. Be serious.

Her: Nothing, mom. Nothing is bothering me.

Me: You can tell me.

Her: Why do YOU think it is?

Me: Well, you mentioned your friends were talking about getting robbed at school the other day. And now, all of the sudden, you are concerned about burglars.

Her: I’ve always been worried about that.

Me: True, but lately, it seems to have gotten a lot worse. Can you tell me what’s REALLY on your mind?

Her: *Gazes out window* What do YOU think?

Me: *Takes a deep breath* *Imagines mom’s face when I tell her she’s right* I know it’s been hard since your father and I s—

Her: Goosebumps.

Me: What?

Her: Goosebumps.

Me: Goosebumps? You mean the show you’ve been watching on Netflix?

Her: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. The one about the zombies freaked me out.

Me: Wait, I’m confused. You mean to tell me that the last two weeks, where I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night and check behind beds, doorways and shower curtains was because of a TV show?

Her: Yep, Goosebumps; spooky stuff.

And there you have it: for once I was right, and my mother was wrong. Imagine my short-lived joy when she picked up that phone and pretended not to care.

When Grandma Gets A New Wig And Thinks She’s ALL THAT

Always Test The Produce | Photo cred: Chris Chabot on flickr

Seeing my mother in action is like watching a rerun of I Love Lucy after a few margaritas. She just does shit that makes you laugh without even trying. One of the things she insists on doing—religiously—is to walk around wearing the female equivalent to a man’s toupee. For whatever reason, my mother has been wearing hair hats for as long as I can remember, but every once it a while, they betray her. Recently, her eyes fell on a flaming red wig with spiked edges. I image you could achieve the same effect if you were to mesh Liza Minnelli’s short tresses together with Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov’s disheveled mess from Orange Is The New Black. It wasn’t exactly my taste, but my mother was seeing stars. She was certain that this new look was going to cast a bewitching spell over men that would cause her to become irresistible and, at seventy-four-years-old, my mother was eager for worship.

When she entered the store that afternoon, her confidence was through the roof. She knew she looked good because the reflective glass on the supermarket doorway said so, and because she was wearing her Galina ‘Red’ wig. As she perused the shelves in search of nothing particular, she noticed an attractive gentleman staring at her from across the room. Uncertain as to whether or not she was his focal point, she nonchalantly inspected the aisle and confirmed there was no one else around. “I still got it,” she thought to herself while gushing over his gallant appetite for lust, “I told them this wig was special!”

As she maneuvered her way around the produce department, caressing the fruits and vegetables and breathing in their delightful aroma, she had forgotten all about her mysterious friend; until she glanced up and saw him again. He was still there, ogling her with a beckoning steel-blue gaze. “Who was this man?” she wondered. “And why won’t he take his eyes off me?” Determined to confront her unshakable stalker, my mother began the lengthy journey toward the imported cheese section where he was standing. It was her belief that this bold move was going to force him to run for the hills—brokenhearted and terrified, but when their eyes locked one last time, halfway between the condiment section and health foods, there he stood; transfixed, like a deer in headlights. Only, this time, he confused her by waving.

What. The. Fuck.

One of my mother’s strengths is her ability to see the humanity in everyone, so she did what she thought was right: exposed her pearly whites and promptly waved back. She sauntered past the bakery with her eyes to the ground and eased her way over to a wheel of cheese right next to his brazen frame. “This is it,” she imagined, “it’s do or die.” And that’s when she met The Most Interesting Man In The World: a life-size, cardboard cut-out of the Dos Equis guy with a springboard arm inviting strangers to come on over and grab a chilled beverage to pair with an exquisite fromage.

Escalator Boot Camp For Kids

Escalators are scary when you’re little. They’re even scarier when you are a mom and have to balance a stroller in one hand and a kid in the other. It’s sort of like dropping your keys in a thunderstorm while wearing high heels a week after giving birth; there’s a good chance you might fall, but you do it anyway because it’s quicker than taking the stairs.

I don’t know what the protocol is for training toddlers to mount a moving stairwell, but my kid wanted no part of it. She was scared shitless and rightly so. I never told her about the girl who got her arm caught in one when I was growing up or the lady in China who fell to her death after saving a little boy because I didn’t want to freak her out, yet somehow, it happened. For years, I have hoisted her up or located an alternative method of transport whenever traveling to higher (or lower) grounds: eight years, 72 pounds, and a whole lotta attitude.

Over the holiday break this year, I decided it was time to prepare my daughter for the future. She was going to learn how to ride an escalator on her own—even if it killed me. I chose Dillard’s as a practice field because the store near our house usually didn’t get busy until later in the day and I didn’t want her to feel pressured or overwhelmed. We showed up when the doors opened at 10:00 am and started slowly with one foot barely skimming the surface. She would tap the metal grate with her faux Ugg boot and then pull it back to safety. “See,” I smiled. “I told you it was nothing.” For the next ten minutes, we stood on the P1 platform and practiced touching the step with one foot. She was beginning to get the hang of it, and once her terrified face eased up, I knew she was ready for more. “You’ve GOT this!” I cheered. “How about keeping your foot ON it this time instead of taking it off.” Still hesitant, she continued to pat her foot on the ascending stair. “But Mommy,” she cried, “I’m scared!” Just then, a three-year-old girl blew past and climbed her way up, backward, toward the shoe department. It was a slap to my daughter’s face and we both froze, laughing at the irony. “It’s time,” I whispered, “Just DO it,” —and she did. She grabbed the railing with two hands and held on for dear life while verbally applauding her success. “Did you see me? I DID IT, MOM! I can’t believe I did it!”

I would like to thank Dillard’s for not kicking us out that day. We spent four hours riding up and down the escalators and didn’t buy a thing. That night, she took her father back to Dillard’s and did the same thing. The next day, she begged me to take her again. She was hooked. She needed a stairwell fix to get her through the day, and no other store would do. I told her we could go on one condition: that we only stay for an hour and bought something while we were there. Though our escalator training camp was a huge success, it didn’t come without a price. My daughter locked in on a pink ruffled dress, and I walked away with a little more pain than I ever thought possible. Who knew that standing still on a moving stairwell could be such a tough workout? Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until your kid’s eighth birthday to teach them. Your body will thank you.

When Will The Whine Go Bad?

​My kid whines a lot about shit that doesn’t matter. I think she just does it to see how far she can push me before my head explodes all over the kitchen floor. She complains about everything: brushing her teeth, bedtime, getting ready for school; even down to the seams on the toes of her socks—pretty much anything that will buy her a few extra minutes of complex negotiations.

 

Last week, her class went on a field trip to the beltline; a fancy way of saying that they went for a walk. She was wearing sneakers that day and the comfiest pair of unicorn sweatpants that you’ve ever seen. I packed her a healthy lunch for the journey which included a turkey sandwich, some delicious red grapes, and a zip lock bag full of veggie sticks, along with an ice-cold bottle of city tap water to guzzle down whenever the desert sun of the Atlanta skies was too much for her to bear.

 

When I picked her up at school that afternoon, it was obvious that something was wrong. But when I asked what was it was, she shrugged and said nothing.” The second time I questioned her, she glared back at me with one eye and then rolled it in a tiny circle like she was visually chasing a fly. Again, she said nothing. When we got to the car, I gave it one last try by tossing out a few unrelated questions to rule out a friend war and then I asked about the field trip. The next thing I knew, she was Lindsay Lohan—three days after the paparazzi snapped a picture of her eating a Big Mac in the backseat of a Prius—tears were everywhere. She proceeded to wail, uninterrupted, for a solid four minutes while complaining of aches and pains: her feet hurt; she was sweating hot, and starving. It was like a scene out of Shawshank Redemption, and I waited for her award-winning performance to end before gently placing a thermos full of chilled watermelon in her delicately troubled hands.

 

The next morning, all of the parents received an email from the teacher encouraging us to use our holiday break as an opportunity to get off our asses and play with the kids outdoors. Though he addressed it to the entire class, it was clear that he wrote it for me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Apparently, the grievances my daughter had over foot pain and hunger had been shared with him while they wandered down a popular urban pathway as a dry run for a much longer walk in the future. I pity the fool that gets to hold her hand during that trip.

 

I love the confidence that our teacher has in my child. He thinks that she will complain less if she spends more time doing things she doesn’t enjoy; like walking in the hot sun on an empty stomach. What he doesn’t (yet) know is that she never touched her lunch that day. Why? Who the hell knows? She was probably too busy complaining about nothing, but it turns out that the deprivation component of her ailment was very real because she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

 

Kids like to complain. It gives them a sense of purpose, but the nagging drip of a whining little girl is one of the worst sounds in the world. I keep thinking it will end one day that I will wake to the sound of birds singing outside my window and my child whistling along in harmony. The funny thing is that I also keep thinking I’ll win the lottery. I wonder which one has better odds of happening.