Clichés, Like Fairy Tales, Can Come True

I've been mentally and physically beat up by enough adults to know that there is absolutely nothing more horrid you can say to a kid than, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." The only people who say that are narcissistic sociopaths. If an adult says that to you, you're most likely going to carry whatever scar is left on you for the rest of your life.

I've never said it to my kids, and then few times I've even thought it's been appropriate I've stepped back immediately to reassess the situation, because those 11 words mean someone doesn't have a firm grip on the situation at hand,  and that someone is probably me.  

Except for today. Today I found the way that something can actually hurt me as the parent more than it hurts him as the kid, and I had to do it. The problem with having all these pre-conceived notions about what is and isn't good or appropriate parenting is that parenting isn't a finite thing. Children change every day, and so do the rules that govern engagement with them. 

So, my son messed up. The details of that mess up are not mine to share. (This is why keeping a mom blog for a decade is hard, friends.) No one is dead or detoxing or in jail or pregnant, but there was a mistake made at school. It was pretty big. I found out about this mistake because moms always find out, kids, and I asked about it. When I asked about it - correction, several minutes and excuses after I asked about it, I was handed a piece of paper on which the school had tried to notify me of the mistake 11 full days ago. That piece of paper had been forgotten....um, no, errr, lost...well, um....you know...it was in the WAY BOTTOM of my bag, mom.

I checked. His bag does not have hole in it's heart that goes all the way to China. There is no door to another dimension in the bottom of his bag. His bag is not the 13th Doctor's Tardis.  

I have this rule that I've always had in place - if you tell me the truth, and tell it right way, you get in no trouble. This is the most awesomely terrifying rule for kids, because no matter how many times they try it and it works, they will never believe that this time this thing they've done won't land them up shit creek. It's a leap of faith for them, a calculated risk, and I have never faltered from it even when I've re-heally wanted to. I value truth more than I value punishment served for wrong-doing. Coming clean the first time, owning up to your shit, it's hard business. They have to learn to do it, or they'll grow up to be conniving jerks. So I have no earthly clue why, the older they get, the more they try to lie their way out of things. I guess it's just part of being a teenager. 

Anyway, we had a problem. I was righteously mad at that problem; mad enough, in fact, to consider laying down some pretty severe consequences. You see, he has this ski trip coming up next week, and even though this child was born and raised in Colorado and then spent 3 1/2 years in Vancouver, he's never once been snowboarding. He's waited his whole life for this trip, and now I had to consider taking it away from him.

But I really didn't want to. I know what this trip means to him. I know how hard he worked to sell candybars and tchotchkes to pay for it. I know that he's dreamed of this his whole life, and I know that I wasn't able to provide it to him even when we lived in two of the greatest places on this continent to do it. It is more than just a trip - it's a lifetime of waiting and wanting and doing without while watching all his friends have and jeez, anything but the trip, you know? I needed a reason, one excuse, to not take it away. I searched. I searched my rational mind and my irrational heart and after long enough, I found it.  

I sent him to his room, emailed his teachers, and calmed down a bit. He seemed sufficiently concerned about the situation, he seemed to grasp the severity of the actions that led him to this place, so I called him to me and instructed him to go to school the next day and sort this out with his teachers. He was to apologize for disrespecting them in the way he did that landed him in this mess, and ask them to work with him to find a way to correct the situation and better himself as a student. He was to express his dedication to his education and his respect for the work they do to provide it, and then he was to come home with an action plan.  I know this works, because we've done it in the past. He agreed, apologized, promised to do better, and after I took every screen away from that child for the conceivable future, i decided to myself that enough was done to handle the situation, and the ski trip could still happen. 

This morning, we rehearsed what he'd say, and I sent him off to school with a hug. And then that child came home today having done not one single thing he was supposed to do. Of course, he didn't tell me that. He distracted me with having remembered to bring his lunch box home today, whee!, like I had forgotten or something. So I asked. Want to know what he said? 

"Oh, I thought I could just stop doing that thing I'd done and it would be fine."

Riiiiiiight. 

So now we have omission coupled with blatant disobedience and to make matters worse? The thing he did to get himself into hot water? HE DID IT AGAIN TODAY. 

Since I had already taken away his phone, computer, and TV for like ever, this pretty much left my options as a responsible parent in dire need of getting the severity of the situation through his teenaged skull at:

  • Sell him to traveling carnies
  • Take the ski trip away

This incident aside, I'm actually quite madly in love with him, so that takes the circus off the table. He's left me with no other option. I have to take the ski trip away. Now, I know this is going to sting. Tuesday at school is going to su-huck nuts for him, when he's in class knowing his snow club is on the mountain. He's probably not going to have the opportunity to snowboard again any time soon - we live in Northern California, and we have five kids. Snow trips aren't exactly in the budget.

He's going to regret this for a long time, but me? I wanted him to have this opportunity so goddamn much. I feel so much guilt all the time for not having been able to provide this for these boys when it was right there in our backyards. I feel so much guilt for so many of the things they had to live without when they were little. I wanted to give them the world, and I never even came close. This was something of a redemption for me. At least one of my kids would step foot on a mountain in winter while they were still kids and know what conquering it felt like. They're Colorado boys; it's in their, in our, blood.  And i'm taking it away from him. 

This, my friends, is going to hurt me much more than it hurts him. 

It is breaking my heart. And I still have to do it. 

Is Too a Word

This post is sponsored by Clorox® Ick-tionary. Just FYI for the FTC.

My kids' last day of school is today and I really can't even wrap my head around the fact that this year has already ended. I mean, we JUST moved here before the school year had started and if the school year is over, that means that I like OFFICIALLY live in Arizona or something, doesn't it? Even my seven year old daughter remarked that this year went by really fast, and nothing at all ever goes by really fast for seven year old girls. One minute, I had a bright eyed and bushy tailed 1st grader, and two eager boys ready to enter jr high and high school all shiny and Axe'd to the gills. Now I have three large kids all somewhere on the pubery-spectrum, and all completely over it. 

My house is about to smell *awesome*.

My children are all of the age when cleanliness is next to impossibleness. I keep telling my sons that no one makes out with the smelly boy, but they don't care. At 15 and 13, they'd rather be hung by their putrid toes than face the shower. For a while there, they were both showering really super regularly, but then I decided to move my daughter into my room so that the boys could each have their own room, and the daily (sometimes even twice-daily) showers came to a screeching hault. I can't imagine why. 

Even my seven year old daughter is so totally over bathing, and this is the kid who just last year would take baths for days. I could plop her in the tub and go write an entire novel; she'd stay there, happily waterlogging away, for as long as I'd let her. 

Of course, every blessing usually turns into a curse, if you just wait long enough. Case in point.

(That, my friends, is called a Poop-edo, or a Tubtanic, or how to get your seven year old son out of your one year old daughter's bathtub with little to no effort on your part.)

Those days of her daudling away hours in the tub are long gone, just like this school year is, but she takes swimming lessons so she's at least getting a decent chlorine-dunk twice a week.

Her brothers both take MMA. With adult UFC fighters.

MMA.jpg

You can't even imagine the smell. 

So I'm pretty excited to spend all day, every day, for the next 70 days or so with them in our adorable, but not terribly large, house in the middle of the god-forsaken desert during summer. 

And I haven't even started thinking about the trail of tears these children leave behind them everywhere they go. My son was home for 27 minutes today and it took me an hour to clean up the mess he made in that time. And then I remembered that it would have only taken me 16 seconds to yell at him for making it, and then I could have spent the rest of that hour watching him clean up after himself and knitting scarves for the winter THAT NEVER COMES HERE. I am slow, but I get there eventually.

Anyway. I've gone off topic. The topic at hand is the fact that my children are kind of gross, a-little-more-than-un motivated, and out of school for the summer, and (I think) competing for title of Best Mess Maker in Least Amount of Time. I call this The Alice Coup'r.

Or maybe their no-showering teenage-goopy butts are stuck in a tiny little house with me all summer long, because lord knows it's too hot to check the mail before 2:37 am, and what they are about to do to my poor house can only really be described as Stick(y)holm Syndrome

Life with kids is epicly icky. It is also very, very  funny. My car has had crabs, I've stood fascinated watching a child vomit out of their nose, I've attempted to catch vomit (#7), I've smelled wet sheets that were wet for all the wrong reasonsWe all have.

(Well, maybe not the sheets bit. I think you're probably smarter than that. Please be smarter than that.)

And that's the beauty of the internet - we get to laugh at each other. With. I MEANT WITH.  Clorox®, with the help of some of us who've been there & done that, created the Clorox® Ick-tionary – a wiki-style dictionary that we hope will become a new language of how we talk about messes and icky situations parents face, conquer, and laugh about.

It's kind of hilarious, really. From Board-‘oeuvres to Petrifries, if it's happened to you, it's going to show up in the Ick-tionary eventually. There are coupons for cleaning supplies to make your children scrub their black fingerprints off the walls with, interactive games to play (Match the Mess, which is kind of the safe version of Sniff the Stain, which I've done. In underwear I've found on the floor. I have no idea why. I am an idiot.) and new words to read every week. Each week will have a featured words - this week's featured word is Hippocratic Oaf (aka Germpocracy), which is something I won't be again for a long time because there is no more school to send my kids to even though they have Green 11's

You can actually submit your own awesome words for messed up stuff to the Ick-tionary at www.icktionary.com. I think I'll have a few words up there eventually (this one is me!), but I don't think anything is ever going to top Secret Garden.

Me More Than You

I started working from home about six years ago, after I moved to Canada and got everything I ever asked for. Everything I ever asked for was, of course, to be able to stay home full time with my kids (and not totally suffer for it - I did in fact stay home full time with my sons and we ate sogoddamnmuch Kraft dinner and it was worth every bite). IN Canada, I actually wasn't allowed to work. Visas are weird. So is being a full time stay at home mom in a new country where you literally don't know a single person except the people directly to either side of your condo and you only really know them because that one night that you left the country in the middle of the night with your kids in tow, they'd offered to hold you while the cops beat your door in with sledgehammers to retrieve your children from their deee-runk! father. 

Can you tell I haven't been writing in a while? All of that should have been seven words. Man, when the levee breaks, I tell you WHAT.

So there I was, after a year of being a single mother with three very small kids and a potentially-ex husband in an entirely different country while living off of my two nights a week at the bar tips and a pathetic amount of assistance from the kids' dad in an 800 sq ft apartment, standing in the middle of the most gorgeous place on Earth in a quaint townhome and nothing at all do to but take care of it, and those kids.

I hated it, of course.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, the right someone was able to find that post, and he offered me a small little side gig that paid out of America, so Canada could shove it in my house-shoes and smoke it, and my days of working from home commenced. 

They quickly expanded beyond the confines of that small little side gig into a real live big girl job with a title and a teency bit of supreme executive power and a'ight stock options and a lunch hour and everything

Before all of that I waited tables. I loved waiting tables. I was really good at waiting tables. I gave waiting tables a lot of shit, but you know what? Waiting tables was something I couldn't do at home, and my kids never once asked me to stop serving that Côtes du Rhône and help them fold a duct tape wallet RIGHT NOW OR EVERYTHING WILL END.

My family has never really figured out what working from home means. They get mad if I won't let them play games or get on the computer after school because GAH, YOU ARE ON THE COMPUTER. The kids' dad used to expect to come home to dinner and a clean house, and I was like ARE YOU GOING TO COOK AND CLEAN? and he was like I AM WORKING and that my friends is THE POINT. I don't leave, so they don't think of it as work. One of the kids once said that their dad deserved to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of helping me with the dishes because he worked all day every day. 

Brains sure are hard to scrub off of popcorn ceilings. 

They think I type all day, and that is not an exaggeration  I took my two sons to Mom 2.013 Summit with me this year because I wanted, no, I needed them to see exactly what it is I do all day. They were like YOU GET FREE STUFF FROM PRETTY GIRLS IN SUPERHERO COSTUMES ALL DAY?

arm & hammer heros.jpg

My plan clearly needs some rethinking.

They did get a bit of a glimpse, or at least some context, into what I do at the computer all day, and I think it may have helped some. Of course, that didn't stop TXU from calling me yesterday to tell me, not ask me, to bring his homework to him that he'd left in his overnight bag from his dad's. This is where you point at the monitor and judge me, because you know that if I bring him the homework, I'm the problem, right? Well, I am, and I did, but only because A) I could and B) he'd worked all weekend on that homework and I have divorce-guilt.

Had he left it on the computer, that may have been another issue entirely. Which is exactly what he did this morning. 

So it's 7:38 am and he is ringing my damn phone of it's non-existent hook, and I just keep ignoring his call because he wants SOMETHING and I am not in any state to deliver ANYTHING except coffee to my face at 7:38 am, and he gets the point eventually and hangs up. And then he calls me from the school. And then he starts texting me.

wfh.jpg

Can you get it to me by 8:03 am?  My boss would be hard-pressed to say that to me.

But the thing is, he worked SO HARD on that music. I should know, I listened to him play and replay and note and re-note and play and play and zomgmakeitstop until he had all the music written out perfectly. He's so squirrel! with everything in his life that when he really focuses, when he sits down and does something all the way start to finish, I just want to hold onto it because I know that he must really truly madly deeply love the hell out of it. I knew what would happen if I said no, I wouldn't bring it - he'd panic, then he'd get angry, then he'd get upset, and then he'd have a shitty day. I don't want to be the cause of his shitty days. I also don't want to have to drag my seven year old daughter out of her morning routine to go rescue her brother who could finish his work (bravo!) but couldn't get it from the desk to his backpack (boo!).  

So I told him no.

And I heard it. I heard him run through panic, then anger, then sadness. And it broke my heart, but I had to do it. At some point, these kids all have to be let to fall on their own, of their own, and they have to figure out how to get back up on their own, by their own. Their mother isn't going to be there with their homework and a cape all of their lives, and if I keep letting them think I will, then I am the problem.

Turns out, he explained what happened to his teacher and she is giving him until tomorrow am to turn in his assignment. I had nothing to do with this conversation. I'd be willing to bet, however, that he learned a way more valuable life-lesson during that negotiation than the reiteration of my unboundaried love for him would have reaped. And it only hurt us both a little.