Phonophobia: Fear of loud sounds, including voices–including your own–especially Shelly Mazzanoble’s.
Does anyone like hearing their voice? I cannot stand it. (True confession: Even though I co-host the Dungeons & Dragons podcast, I can’t listen to a single one, which sucks because we’ve had some really great guests on there. And I tend to do a great imitation of Bert from Sesame Street that I’m pretty sure would blow my own mind.) I also don’t love seeing myself because in my mind I’m waaaaaaaaaaaay better looking than that goofy, wildly gesturing, large-eyed creature with the grating voice before me.
If you also can’t stand my voice or the sight of me perhaps you should stop reading now. If you think you can stomach it, below is the link to my performance as part of this year’s Listen to your Mother Seattle show. (And if I had any technical skills I’d be able to change the frozen image below so that it’s not one of me looking like I’m mid cat-call to some poor significant other in the front row who’s covertly watching a MMA fight on his phone throughout the show. Not covert enough, Bucko! LISTEN TO MY GRATING VOICE!)
Here’s what people are saying about my performance!
“Wow. You said pussy and nipple in like the first 7 seconds. Wow.”
“So, I’m still not sure. Do you like being a mom?”
“I love your necklace.”
So, you know. Those are pretty enticing reasons to watch this.
The show was tremendous fun and the cast– wow, oh wow. They were all truly stellar. I encourage you to listen to all of their stories. I think you’ll love their words as well as their voices. My necklace is pretty badass too.
My baby boy is three today! How did this happen? Well, kind of like this (give or take a few momentous occasions.)
10/23/12: Pregnancy test is positive. Stress eat a wheel of brie and 3 pounds of raw cookie dough
10/24/12: Am certain it’s a girl. Settle on a name.
2/19/13: Mom finally concedes and buys little red dress for future granddaughter.
2/20/13: Find out from ultrasound it’s a boy.
2/20/13: Mom returns dress.
7/10/13: Sent to hospital without lunch for induction. Really pissed about missing lunch.
7/10/13: Really pissed no one will give me one of the infamous hospital chocolate milkshakes. What the hell am I paying for here?
7/11/13: Happily trade milkshake for epidural. Really, really love epidural. Ask for a glass of wine.
7/11/13: 9:09 PM. Anesthesiologist says, “Congratulations! You’re not pregnant anymore.” Think that’s a really weird thing to say.
7/11/13: 9:10 PM. Immediately fill with dread and anxiety. OMG, there’s a baby here! We’re really doing this!
7/11/13: 9:12 PM. Miss being pregnant. Still love epidural. Ask for a milkshake.
7/11/13: 9:22 PM. Hold Quinn as he stares at me with big, blue eyes. Both agree to try not to kill each other.
8/11/13: Call boss and ask if I can come back to work early.
8/15/13: Would love to dress Quinn in cute onsies, but scared of actually touching him. Wonder if anyone would notice he only wears ponchos.
9/23/13: Kid is really cute, but wonder when those maternal instincts are supposed to kick in.
10/22/13: Eagerly anticipate returning to work. How relaxing will that be!
10/23/13: Return to work and cry the whole way to daycare.
10/24/13: Wonder why babies get really, really adorable the day after maternity leave ends.
10/25/13-7/10/16: Blur, blur, blur
7/11/16: Wake up to three year-old son jumping through streamers and asking who hung up all the Paw Patrol decorations. Says, “Awwww. That’s nice!” when we tell him the Birthday Fairy came.
7/11/16: Cannot imagine life without this adorable, funny, kind, polite, friendly, smart, entertaining, genius* child in our lives. Would not trade a minute of being his mom—not even for all the chocolate milkshakes and epidurals in the world.
I keep hearing “Oh, that’s the best age!” regardless of what age he is, but this time I’m inclined to believe it. He’s actually quite funny and charming. He loves slapstick humor and stories about monsters and bad guys (who rampage other people’s stuff. Never his.) We have real conversations. He has definite opinions. He tells me he likes my ponytail and hates my cardigans.
Every day I find myself questioning the things he’s learning, as in “Holy cow, who taught him that amazing thing?” (Usually the answer is daycare.)
I try to write down the adorable things that come out of his mouth, but always forget because they’re usually followed by something horrifying and cringeworthy. Those things I always write down.
Lately I’ve been paying attention to the words I find myself stringing together in response to my dear, sweet child. Things I never thought I’d have to say. Things I never thought I would have to explain. Things I never thought would be compared to a bounce house.
Here are just a few of the highlights of the past few days:
Because I don’t need a penis, that’s why.
Honey, please don’t call that nice family, “butt guys.” We don’t even know them.
Don’t say “doody butt.”
Don’t say “booty butt.”
Don’t say “booger butt.”
Don’t say “butty butt butt booger butt guy.”
Would you want your name to be,”Toilet Butt?”
Yes, GOD DAMMIT is potty talk so stop saying it.
No, you can not say GOD DAMMIT when you’re at home. It’s potty talk here too.
How did Jacob get a toilet on his head?
Honey, please stop licking Princess Leia.
I don’t think the dog wants you to rub your butt on him.
No, I don’t want to tickle your nipple.
Can you tickle your own armpit, please?
Is that shaving cream on your penis?
No, your penis is not a bounce house.
Because people don’t like it when you point at their bodies and say, “I can see your penis.”
No, I don’t know what superpower Naked Toddler has. Do tell.
Mommy did not say that. You must have imagined it.
Stay at home mothers and fathers are freakin’ rockstars only without the exceedingly high paychecks and entourage. Actually scratch that. They’re more like the entourage– managing, protecting, catering to and anticipating the demands, follies, and triggers of petulant, oblivious egomaniacs. 24/7. It never stops. It goes on foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…
Quinn and I were both home sick yesterday and now I have a renewed appreciation for my job and my mom who stayed home with my brother and me (and let me tell you, we were assholes.) I was kind of looking forward to our time together. He’s extra cuddly and prefers his lazy-ass mom over his funny and physical dad when he’s not feeling well. I had a DVR stocked with cultural pillars such as Southern Charm and The Real Housewives of Dallas. I had a boatload of magazines to catch up on. Aches and chills be damned! Today was going to be a good day.
“Say what?” Asked every stay-at-home mother and father ever.
I love my kid which is exactly why I pay other people to hang out with him during the day. It’s his best chance of survival. Trust. I can’t be on my game 100% of the time. I am not to be counted on on every day, all day. I am irresponsible and distracted by shiny objects and reality TV. If I am within twenty feet of my bed, I will fall into it. I am powerless over the lure of a warm duvet and sateen sheets.
Case in point, our day began in bed where my delusions of grandeur had me believing we would spend most of our day like good, little sick people. A little Daniel Tiger on the iPad for him and quality Bravo television for me. And then I remembered this wasn’t daycare and Miss Tobi wasn’t coming around with blueberry muffins so if my child was to eat, I better muster up enough energy to pop four mini waffles in the toaster and open a packet of string cheese.
“Can we watch Scooby-Doo?” He asked when I handed him his breakfast.
“Scooby’s not on the iPad, honey. How about you play a game or watch some Thomas instead?”
“I do want to watch Scooby-Doo!”
I could sense tensions were mounting. Did I really want to get into it this early in the day or did I want to stay in bed surrounded by magazines and sugar free syrup? Choose your battles, right?
“Oh fine.” I Netflixed Scooby and settled in with my Vegetarian Times. Hey! I’m home, I’ve got time. How about I make something inspired and healthy for dinner tonight? Something like Freekeh-Lentil Salad with Artichokes and Preserved Lemon. Yum! I’d have to go to the store for Freekeh, but that would be a nice, leisurely post-nap outing for us. I’m sure I’d be feeling better this afternoon and fresh air would be good for us. Sick days are the best!
“You’re seriously cray cray, lady!” said every stay-at-home mother and father ever.
“Can I go downstairs?” Quinn asked.
“Right now? Scooby just started!”
“I want to go downstairs!”
97% of his toys were downstairs and yet I was sure I could convince him to stay in bed and fall back asleep.
“Please downstairs right now!”
Here’s the thing about my kid. While at times it appears he has no boundaries like when he whips open the shower curtain and asks what the hell that thing is or when he takes food out of his mouth and puts it on your plate, he clearly has a respect—no, a fear—of perceived boundaries. For example, he will not get out of his bed. Not a crib— a bed. He gets in it on his own, but when he wakes up he always calls for one of us to get him. It’s like there’s an invisible force field that keeps him rooted there. We didn’t teach him this. In fact, we encourage him to get out of bed so neither of us has to get him on weekend mornings. But he won’t. I’m told I should be thankful, but again—lazy mom.
So dear child wants to go downstairs and doesn’t quite realize he can get off the bed and walk down the hall and go down the steps—AND HOLD THE RAILING FOR GOD’S SAKE ALWAYS HOLD THE RAILING— so he whines and kicks and rolls over on top of my face until I agree to take him downstairs.
“Oh fine,” I said. There is TV and magazines down there too, I guess.
We play the current favorite game—Tower— where you stack a combination of Jenga blocks and Duplo bricks in a pile and then throw Matchbox cars at it. I build the tower. He throws the cars. We do this 4,032 times until he finds a new attraction.
“Want to play trains with me, Mommy?”
Oh boy! What I want to do is laundry or organize my summer clothes or Google Freekeh because WTF is it, but if your kid asks you to play and your mind doesn’t immediately launch into the ultimate parental guilt trip anthem then you are a bit of a dick. One day my little boy will be too busy to take me to Walgreen’s to stock up on Metamucil and Icy Hot or sit next to me in my 94 degree home and marvel at how Pat and Vanna have been hosting Wheel of Fortune for 329 years and hardly look a day over 75.
We do this for the next 2 years (or 8 minutes, whatever. Time speeds by in dog years when you’re home sick with a toddler who is also supposed to be sick, but sure isn’t acting like it) before moving on to the next game: Tackle. I’m not a fan of this game.
“But Buddy, Mommy doesn’t want to be tack—”
After a few more body slams and moonsaults, I was desperate to get him off my back— literally— so I broke the glass and pulled the emergency alarm.
“Hey, do you want some ice cream?”
When I went upstairs to get the ice cream I realized it was almost lunch time. Time flies when you’re getting repeatedly kicked in the kidneys! Well ice cream isn’t the worst lunch but I should probably try to balance things out. Perhaps fish sticks and a side of orzo? Noodles with an alfredo sauce? Grilled cheese with rosemary ham? Nah, we didn’t have any of that.
“MOMMY, I’M HUNGRY!”
I threw some Club Crackers and a Weight Watchers Giant Fudge Bar on a plate and hightailed it back to the basement.
Just as I was getting settled in on the couch with Us Weekly, we heard it. The telltale sign that something amazing was happening outside and we were about to miss it.
“MOMMY! GARBAGE TRUCKS!”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…
So back upstairs we went to stand on the front stoop and watch the garbage man empty our trash and the trash of seven of our neighbors. Truly amazing experience. We are forever changed having witnessed this.
When the truck was out of sight, I convinced Quinn to watch a Curious George movie which was sure to buy me 56 minutes of quality magazine time.
“Mommy, I need water.”
Oh right. The carb paste and diet chocolate I fed my child for lunch isn’t going to wash itself down. I’m totally nailing this caregiver thing.
I gathered up all the dirty towels I could find determined to do at least one chore today and threw them down the stairs getting them about 18 feet closer to the washer. Mission accomplished.
Six minutes into Curious George, Quinn wanted to go outside and play with Puppy.
Great. Just what the child and dog needed—time to play outside. Sigh…
On our way outside nature called.
“I need to poop, Mommy,” Quinn said. “RIGHT NOW!”
I rushed him into the bathroom and got him situated with a Star magazine and pack of wipes.
Business complete, we pulled out all the bath toys and played with them on the bathroom floor for the next 30 minutes.
“You know,” I began. “These are much more fun in the bath. How about we play another game? Like guess what cartoon is on PBS right now?”
“Great! Let’s get you a snack.”
But I forgot that “get you a snack” to a toddler means “open seven different food items and refuse them all” The kitchen floor was littered with granola bar and gummy fruit wrappers, which I would have cleaned up had I not been interrupted.
“Let’s fill my surprise eggs!”
Little boy blue and the man on the moon…
First, let’s discuss “surprise eggs.” If you don’t have a toddler you might not know about this bizarre phenomenon running rampant on YouTube.
There are countless videos of adult hands cracking open these eggs and vocalizing what’s inside. These videos have MILLIONS of views, (of which Quinn has accounted for at least 462,945.) When we’re not watching videos of strangers opening surprise eggs, we’re filling and opening our own surprise eggs and therefore have a zillion empty egg parts strewn across our home and 87,356 tiny toys to go in them. Sometimes Quinn pretends he’s the host of his own YouTube show and will make you sit and watch as he slowly opens eggs and says things like, “I wonder what’s in this purple egg. Oh look, it’s Shaggy!” I fill the eggs, he opens the eggs. We repeat. Forever. I am Sisyphus and cheap plastic Easter eggs are my boulder.
When you comin’ home, Dad, I don’t know when…
Surprise eggs cracked, it was finally nap time and I cajoled Quinn to lay down with promises of stories about bad guys. He fell asleep mid-way through a story about a dinosaur who poops on everything, which was my only indication that he was actually sick. This kid loves it when dinosaurs poop on everything.
Once he was asleep I had designs on my own nap but spent two hours and twelve minutes listening to Quinn cough instead. (Second indication that he was really sick.) As soon as he woke, he asked for popsicles and a tennis ball for Puppy to fetch. I was so grateful he didn’t choke on his phlegm, I shuttled him to the backyard with the whole box of frozen delicacies. Only Quinn wouldn’t put down his Popsicle to throw the ball so it kept bouncing into the giant containers of potted bamboo, forcing me to plunge my bare arm into the bowels of dead leaves and spider webs to retrieve the stupid ball Puppy had no interest in fetching.
Next Quinn decided the front porch was where all the action was and he really wanted a cereal bar. No, dummy, not THAT strawberry cereal bar. Or THAT strawberry one. THAT strawberry cereal bar. Good thing we opened three strawberry cereal bars to find the right one.
In lieu of eating the cereal bar, Quinn removed his crocs and threw them into the garden, the whole time asking if it was okay to throw his Crocs in the garden.
“Because birds will eat them and they will die. Do you want birds to die?”
“I don’t know.”
“No, you don’t. We do not want birds to die.”
“Because birds are beautiful and we love them.”
Puppy decided to eat the wayward cereal bar. As I tried to pry it out of his jaw, a pitiful wail emerged four inches from my left. Wanting to see if birds were eating his Crocs, Quinn leaned over for a better vantage point. Only he positioned his head between two balusters in the railing. Yep. You know it! Kids getting their heads stuck in a railing! That shit really happens– with mothers FOUR INCHES AWAY! Naturally he was panicky and crying because you don’t have to be a responsible grown-up charged with the caring and protecting of a small child you grew in your body to know this was not good. Know what else is not good? Me in a crisis.
But the Universe and all that is divine clearly loves my child because I was cool as a Tuck’s pad and somehow freed him with nary a scratch, bump or bruise on either of us.
“That was scary!” he said.
“And that is why you should always listen to your Mommy!” I said, because I never miss a teachable moment.
He moved on because toddlers are resilient but I was shitting my PJ’s (OMG WHY WAS I STILL WEARING MY PJ’S?) and needed to stop shaking so I could send rapid-fire texts to Bart asking when he was coming home. Clearly I am not to be trusted with a child. I TOLD YOU!
In the next 45 minutes we did the following:
Played in the driveway
Scolded Quinn for being too close to the street
Scolded Puppy for being too close to the street
Scolded Quinn for calling a family of three walking by “Poopy Head Underwears”
Tried to stop Puppy from eating 3 peanut butter crackers and the plastic wrapper they came in
Googled “what happens when your dog eats plastic wrappers?”
Went to the backyard
Went to the side yard
Went to the neighbor’s yard
Went back to the driveway
Sat on lounge chairs and pretended to drive to work
Took all the tennis balls from our yard and threw them in the neighbor’s yard
Freaked the eff out because we didn’t have any more tennis balls
Clocked over 14,000 steps without leaving home
Bart came home to a frying pan full of onions
“Here’s dinner!” I said. Damn, I’m productive.
He asked how I was feeling and I told him I was too exhausted to answer. I had more energy 6 seconds after Quinn was born.
“Maybe another sick day tomorrow?”
“Oh hell no!” I shouted. I could not wait to go back to work and relax.
When you coming home, son, I don’t know when…
Oh STFU, Harry goddamn Chapin. You clearly never spent the day with a toddler.
“Word,” said every stay-at-home mother and father ever.
I had a truly magical experience yesterday as I took the stage at Town Hall Seattle alongside eleven fabulous, courageous, amazing storytellers. Together we comprised the 2016 Listen to Your Mother Seattle cast and in all honestly, we kicked ass.
It was hard to believe that by showtime I had known most of these women for less than 24 hours and yet, I felt the kind of kindred connection I hadn’t experienced since meeting my dorm mates freshman year of college. (A similar amount of booze may have been involved too.) These women made me laugh (oh man, did they) and tear up (more than once.) I can honestly say I am a better mother because of it. It was inspiring to say the least. Everyone’s story was so beautifully told and while all different, we were all connected by one common thread: motherhood. Is there anything stronger than that? So yeah, when a mother talks, you should definitely listen.
If you have a chance to see a Listen to Your Mother show in your town, do it. Man, woman, mother, father, or child, you will be moved and inspired. You will also see some of the most fabulous footwear in your life.
I know this will come as a shock to you and I don’t want you to panic, but there’s an asshat on the internet.
This one comes in the form of that big Dum-Dum* who thinks maternity leave is a big, fat vacation. I know, I know, didn’t the internet talk about this like days ago? Haven’t way more articulate people ripped into her already? (Yes and yes for example.) Why are we even helping promote her stupid book anyway?
But I can’t stop thinking about her Dum-Dum remarks. This has to be a publicity stunt by her publisher, right? I mean, no self-respecting woman who came to this Earth by way of a mother could seriously have those antiquated, far-fetched, Trump-like thoughts, could they? WTF does this little Dum-Dum think new moms are doing on maternity leave? Why is it she thinks she deserves in on that action– without the whole “having a baby thing”, of course.
First, a little background in case you managed to avoid this Dum-Dum and the ire of smart, educated, supportive men and women around the world. This dumbass “worked hard” as an editor at a “popular magazine” and was “jealous” when her co-workers with kids “left the office at 6:00 to tend to their children.” Unless this Dum-Dum thinks, “leaving the office to tend to children” is a euphemism for “going to drop loads of discretionary income on a wild night on the town” I’m totally confused by her envy.
But jealous she was and she parlayed her covetousness into a novel and then coined the World’s Most Annoying phrase: “Meternity leave.”
What the snot sucker is “Meternity Leave,” you ask? Great question. Here’s how the Dum-Dum describes it:
“A sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.”
A sabbatical-like break! NAILED IT! That’s exactly what maternity leave is like! I mean, what the hell do new mothers do with all that free time!
Wait. Maybe she’s right and new moms are totally screwing up this precious time being all stressy and maternal and KEEPING THINGS ALIVE and not shaving their body parts. Let’s see how the dictonary defines a sabbatical:
“Any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.”
Yep. She NAILED IT!
I was definitely granted an extended period of leave (12 weeks) from my customary work. And I definitely acquired some new skills and training. Let’s see, I learned how to function on 2 hours of sleep, dress an 8 pound human in tiny polo shirts and jeggings without breaking his bones, and figured out the best app (of which there are many) to track another living thing’s poop and pee. I was trained in the art of coaxing a magical, life-sustaining elixir out of my body simply by attaching my sore, chaffed, cracked, swollen body parts to a hospital grade, high-speed suction machine at least EIGHT TIMES A DAY. I got to spend hours upon hours with nice doctors, nurses and occupational therapists trying to figure out why my child couldn’t eat like a “normal” baby. Life skills, baby!
Rest? Well, that’s probably not a big part of a sabbatical so we’ll move on.
But wait, maybe she was looking at a different definition of sabbatical. Like maybe this one?
“A period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.”
Oh yeah! That’s more like it! Travel? We did that! Almost daily to the pediatrician’s office and a few times to the nice lady doctor who snipped tongue-ties in her home. Sometimes I even made it to a Weight Watchers meeting.
Research? Did that too! How do I increase my milk supply? Will I ever bond with this tiny human? Will a tongue tie kill my baby???
“Focused on another part of my life that didn’t relate to my job?” Hells to the yes! Wait, unless my job was caring for a tiny, helpless newborn. In that case, FAIL. But, nope. This Dum-Dum sounds like someone who has never cared for anyone but herself so I’m pretty sure “another part” means something like “doing your nails, learning a new language, taking a cooking class in Portugal.” In that case, NAILED IT again! Damn, Dum-Dum! Are you sure you’re not a mother?
Well, shoot. There’s that rest thing again. Obviously I screwed up my sabbatical– I mean, maternity leave–oopsie again. I mean Meternity leave.
My mom recently asked if I remembered those early days of motherhood. I do, but mostly because of the old pictures stored on my phone. The memories I have aren’t the ones I thought I would cultivate before I had a baby. Quinn was born in July so naturally I had visions of lazy days by the local saltwater pool and sipping coffee on flagstone patios with my unemployed friends. Quinn and I would grow closer in those 12 weeks than we were the 40 weeks and 3 days he occupied space in my belly.
Imagine my surprise when the mere thought of changing his diaper or putting a him down for a nap sent me into an anxiety-ridden inferiority complex.
Every time I hear our neighbors in their backyard I’m taken back to a time in the seemingly darkest part of the night, when I paced back and forth in the living room awkwardly trying to comfort a crying baby back to sleep and not wake Bart who had to get up in a few hours to go to work. I remember having the windows closed even though it was mid-August and hot because god forbid anyone hear the sounds a baby makes. I heard laughter, saw the raising and lowering of plastic martini glasses, smelled cigarettes and barbecue. Life was going on all around me. Talk about envy.
I remember watching a lot of Bravo television. Like a lot. (Which is totally what I would do on a real sabbatical.) I remember sitting in the living room in the middle of the warm, sunny afternoon with the blinds drawn so my neighbors or the lawn guy wouldn’t see my bumbled attempts at nursing or worse, me attached to the breast pump.
I remember being awake at 4 AM and watching Quinn lying on the blanket I picked up at a garage sale for $1, cooing, eyes wide with delight at the new things surrounding him. I remember thinking “this is my life now. This is how it will always be. Upside down and turned around. I want to sleep so bad.”
I remember binge-watching Orange is the New Black with my husband, trying to relax and pretend things were normal again but really we were waiting on pins and needles for the alarm to go off. Every time Quinn woke up, we were sure we’d never get him to sleep again.
I remember really wanting a glass of wine, but the math of trying to figure out when was the exact right time to have alcohol between pumpings and how long I had to drink it was too exhausting.
I remember wanting to close my eyes, but I dreaded being woken up.
I remember thinking everyone else was way better at this crap than I was. I remember how I used to not care about things like that (see: admitting math is too exhausting) and mad that this bothered me now.
I remember feeling incredibly alone even though my husband was right there and my friends were always on call.
I remember feeling disappointed when my doctor declared me perfectly sane and said all these feelings were “normal.” Sigh…I guess this was just me then.
But it wasn’t just me. I mean, it was and always will be. It was normal and healthy and scary and terrifying and thankfully temporary. But it wasn’t a sabbatical.
So yeah, Dum-Dum, Meternity time sounds like a hoot. Self-reflection up the ying-yang. I do hope that one day Ms. Dum-Dum finds someone willing to procreate with her so she can make her co-workers pureed-pea-green with envy when she clocks out at 6 for some R&R with a newborn. And I really hope she spends her meternity time self-reflecting on the ginormous asshat she once was.
*Edited because when I read this back the word I used to describe her was too mean even for me. So you know, I’m all class, baby.
We all know newborns are–shall we say challenged in the art of sleeping through the night. I mean, come on babies! It’s not rocket science. It’s so easy even a baby could do it, right? It’s so easy I could do it in my– well, you get the picture. (Taking candy from a baby is actually much harder than I was lead to believe, however.)
Did you know that toddlers can occasionally mess up this very natural, instinctual body function too? Older does not always mean wiser when it comes to the art of shutting ones eyeholes.
Blessedly our child is pretty good at this sleep thing (knock on wood, knock on wood so freakin’ hard) which is why I’ll probably never get mad at him for doing terrible future things like flunking biology or stealing nips from Mommy’s clementine vodka.
“Did you eat Mommy’s Weight Watcher chocolate caramel mini bars? Delete an entire season of Southern Charm on the DVR? Put a top rack only platter on the bottom rack of the dishwasher? Did you?! Well, that’s pretty shitty, my child, but at least you still sleep through the night.”
Those days of waking up every 2, 3, if-we-were-lucky-4 hours a night were rough. Ugh, the worst. Dark days, I tell you. We thought they were far behind us, but then this past week happened and reminded us again of why Quinn will be an only child.
Here are just a smattering of the reasons our sweet angel woke us up in the middle of the night last week:
He wanted to know what we were doing
He needed water
His sock monkey fell out of bed
He can’t find his mimi (binky) in his bed (because it was in his mouth)
The covers fell off of him
The covers fell off his sock monkey
He doesn’t like his sock monkey
He doesn’t like covers
His leg itches
His other leg itches
He can’t find his shadow
Mommy left the water cup in his room
He wanted to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox
It was wake up-time. (It wasn’t. It was 4:33AM)
He wanted to know if it was a school night
He didn’t wake us up. We woke him up.
We didn’t wake him up, for the record. He’s clearly a liar, but for that he won’t get in trouble. So long as he stays asleep.
I’m was in Florida visiting my parents accompanying the golden child on his annual spring pilgrimage to see his grandparents. I was there eight days before my dad finally hugged me and said hello.
As per usual protocol when visiting grandparents vegetables are eschewed, bedtime routines are blown off, and hands are forever coated in a sticky, gunky, sugary type substance that resembles a combination of frosting and maple syrup and most likely is comprised of frosting and maple syrup.
There is also no shortage of rewards and incentives on a typical Grandparent visit.
If you put on your sunscreen you get 38 Paw Patrol books.
If you can show us how to log into Netflix on Mommy’s phone without waking her, you get a 17 pound chocolate bunny.
If you can fit all 826 jelly beans into your mouth-hole without spilling any we’ll take you to Build-a-Bear.
Thus, the weeks post-vacation we enter the “Recalibration Phase” where Bart and I explain that the completion of basic human functions like brushing teeth and pooping in a diaper instead of a newspaper in the corner does not warrant a reward.
One night on vacation (where the aforementioned things did net a reward) said child received an especially exciting gift. While my mom and I pawed through pawed through merchandise at the Sak’s Fifth Ave outlet (if you like long lines, apathetic dressing room attendants, and cashiers who appear to be too strung out Canadian Sudafed (a.k.a. THE GOOD STUFF) to scan a coupon then this place is for YOU!) my dad whisked the child away to the blessed and strategically placed Toys R’ Us outlet. During my search to find someone to let me into a dressing room, my dad sent videos of the holy child running through aisles packed with toys featuring his most beloved friends from Paw Patrol, Thomas the Train, and Daniel Tiger. There were giant stuffed dinosaurs, plastic construction trucks, and oversized Star Warsdolls action figures. My dad chased after his grandchild like he was the paparazzi chasing a drunk, wardrobe-malfunctioning Jessica Simpson through the streets of Cabo. My mom and I looked at each other and noted how much trouble my dad was going to be in.
“Should we pull the car around to the loading dock?” I asked. “Or do you think they have someone to help get a pallet to the car?”
When we met up again, Quinn was hugging a Thomas Track Master expansion pack containing 47 pieces of shit we’re going to lose three days after we return home.
“MOMMY LOOK WHAT GEKKY* GOT ME! MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY LOOK LET’S GO HOME AND PLAY RIGHT NOW WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
Seriously I never saw him this excited about anything. It was the same reaction I had about 14 minutes prior when I found a pair of Joe’s skinny cargo jeans for $39.99. SCORE! MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY LOOK WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! LET’S GO HOME AND CHANGE OUR PANTS RIGHT NOW!!!
Now, if you know anything about this Thomas racket, you know how there’s 3 different types of tracks and the trains that go with them. Of course the tracks and trains are not compatible with one another. Of course not. They’re close enough to completely frustrate a child because his train won’t stay on the track although it looks like it should and confuse a grandparent because why the hell would there be THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF IDENTICAL LOOKING TRACK? But because I’m a Thomas the Train savant, (and I work in marketing and have written my fair share of misleading box copy,) and I have witnessed an abyss-opening tantrum because some asshole copywriter made me think I had purchased something whole and complete only to later find a crucial component was woefully absent, I knew enough to check the fine print to see if this particular product came with at least one train.
“Of course it does!” my dad shouted. “Why wouldn’t it?”
Oh Dad. Have you totally forgotten this whole parenting thing?
“Look, Mommy!” Quinn said. “There’s Gordon and James and Percy and Edward and THOMAS!”
Indeed there they were. Photographed right under the words: ALSO AVAILABLE.
“There is no train in this box.” I hated having to tell them this. It was like when I had to tell my dad scarfing 12 inch Meatball Marinaras seven times a day was not considered the Subway Diet. “He can’t play with this. We don’t have compatible trains.”
“He needs a train,” my dad stage whispered so the kid cradling his new Thomas track wouldn’t overhear us talking about this grave oversight. “He has to play with this.”
“Umm,” I said, looking around. Store clerks were shutting doors. Pretzel makers were pulling in sandwich boards.
“GET HIM A TRAIN RIGHT NOW!” my parents yelled in unison.
The mall closed at 9:00 PM. It was 8:56 PM. Of course Toys R’ Us was at the opposite end of the mall.
“GO!” the grandparents shouted, shoving credit cards and wads of bills in my hands. “GET US A TRAIN!”
Clutching my Saks shopping bag I took off, running past Banana Republic and Calvin Klein and ooooh, Le Crueset. I didn’t know they had one of those here. I would love a good deal on a French oven. But how would I stuff that thing in my suitcase– Oh right! On a mission!
I got to Toys R’ Us with at least 32 seconds to spare. I found the Track Master compatible trains of which they had Percy, Emily, Sampson and James. Hmm…he does like Emily and who doesn’t love that pompous asshole James. No freakin’ idea who this Sampson character is. Can’t really go wrong with Percy, right? He’s Thomas’s best friend. He’s sweet and earnest. And this particular model talks (which I will later regret as I’m still hearing Percy’s “I must deliver the mail ON TIME” affirmations in my dreams.) so it’s the obvious choice, right?
I returned the car where Quinn was misbuckled in his car seat and still clutching the box of track but none the wiser.
“LET’S GO HOME, MOMMY AND PLAY TRAINS!”
It took my mom and I an hour to put that damn expansion track together. 49 minutes of me swigging wine right out of the bottle while throwing plastic pieces around the living room and 11 minutes for my mom to sit calmly and quietly with the instructions and complete the project. Quinn was wildly in love with the track and watching Percy chug up the hill commenting about what a God damn busy engine he was and down the corkscrew hill worrying about getting the mail delivered on time. When it was time to put on his pajamas and do stories Quinn insisted Percy came too. Grandpa laid next to Quinn, shooting the shit, talking about trains and how useful Percy was because he DELIVERED THE MAIl ON TIME. With no track in bed, Quinn improvised and used his Grandpa. Percy chugged over grandpa’s belly, to his shoulders, up the back of his neck to the top of his thinning hair. Percy is a dedicated little engine with a strong desire to please. He is also a battery operated masochist who promptly grabbed each precious strand of my dad’s hair in his spinning wheels and ripped them from the follicles like the wretched, should-be-banned-in-all-states Epilady torture device of the 80’s. (Someday I’ll tell you about my one and only run-in with that bitch and how no hair dares to sprout on my left ankle bone.)
“HELP!” my dad shouted. “MAKE IT STOP!”
Although I was sitting right there and plainly saw Percy gathering and eating hair, and heard my dad call for help for the first time ever in my life it didn’t make sense to me. What was going on? What was my dad asking me to do? Could that be a toy train devouring my father from the noggin down?
Here’s the deal. I’m no good in crisis. Once when we thought Bart had shut Quinn’s finger in the car door, I ran behind our yard waste bin, clasped my hands over my ears, bobbed back and forth and screamed, NO NO NO! until Quinn came outside to ask if I knew where the Pirate’s Booty was. And other times when bad things happen I laugh. I know it’s wrong. My brain tells me it’s not an appropriate response. I want to help. Yet, I laugh. In this case, my response was the latter. I laughed. All the while my dad was yelling to turn the damn thing off!
Oh right. The train!
“I don’t know how to turn it off!” I laughed. This Percy had a different off switch than the Track Masters I was used to and I couldn’t locate it because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Also my find motor skills were compromised due to laughing so hard.
“STOP MOVING HIM!”
“I’m trying to find the off switch!”
“IT’S A KID TOY! HOW HARD CAN IT BE?!”
“Bust my buffers! I’m a really busy engine!”
“SHUT UP, PERCY!” We both yelled.
I finally found the switch but the damage was done. Each of Percy’s wheels were wrapped around my dad’s sparse locks like a tight perm on a roller. Every time I moved the train, I pulled my dad’s hair.
“MOM!” I yelled. “We need help!”
And because I get my caring, compassionate nature from my mother, she basically told us to eff off, she was busy playing Words with Friends and she hates April Fool’s Day.
“It’s not a joke!” I laugh-yelled, thinking what an awesome joke it would have been. Her refusal to help make things even funnier. I mean, I could seeher sitting at the dining room table like 16 feet away, punching letters into her iPad.
“GOD DAMMIT, PERCY!”
“Seriously, Mom, we need you!” Oh this was too much. I was doubled over, busting a gut and dislocating my shoulder because every time my arm moved, my dad winced in more pain. Finally the two year-old sought and received help. The little Lassie-in-training ran straight to Grandma Juju and demanded she put down her iPad and come help his Gekky.
“Oh fine,” she complied. “But this better be good.”
“Hold Percy right here,” I said, putting her hand firmly next to my dad’s almost scalped scalp. “Be right back!”
Quinn threw his arms around his grandpa and started whimpering.
I returned seconds later with my phone and began snapping photos for this year’s Shutterfly retrospective. Naturally. This is why you should never ask me to be your emergency contact. Or your partner on Naked and Afraid for that matter. While you’re pulling maggots out of your butt crack, I’ll be Instagraming that shit.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOUR CAMERA? REALLY?”
I did this for you, people.
Once satisfied with my photo documentary, I resumed the task of untangling my dad’s precious strands from Percy’s determined wheels. It was an effort in futility which my mom recognized immediately. Quinn was sobbing and clinging to my father’s neck and of course that made me feel terrible. I’m not a total monster. I laughed harder.
“Mommy’s not really crying,” I tried to explain. “I’m laughing so hard tears are coming out.”
“BECAUSE YOUR MOMMY IS HEARTLESS!”
“Oh! Mommy just peed a little!” I told Quinn. “See? Funny, funny!”
My mom returned with scissors. She would make a wonderful Naked and Afraid partner if it didn’t involve being naked. Or afraid.
“Move,” she directed and got to work.
Percy was freed seconds later. My dad was relived. Quinn stopped crying. Facebook got an earful.
For a minute I thought Percy’s fate was sealed. He was the train who hurt Gekky. He would be cast off, banished to the Rubbermaid bin of misfit toys along with slip proof baby kneepads and Touchy Feely Elmolester. But the next day the great debacle was all but a distant memory. My dad combed his hair in such a way the shoring was barely evident and Percy was back to DELIVERING THE MAIL ON TIME. We were just sitting down to coffee and homemade biscuits when Quinn approached his grandfather, Percy in hand. My dad’s face paled a bit when he saw the little engine that could pluck a bitch coming towards him.
“Gekky?” Quinn asked. “Can you get the hair out of Percy’s wheels please? It’s gross.”
I mean rude, right? Leaving your hair all tangled up in a train’s wheels?
This may be the most exciting thing to happen to me since I discovered pretzel M&Ms were only 4 Weight Watchers points.
Listen to your Mother is a national show featuring live readings from fabulous women about motherhood. This is the second year it’s in Seattle (thank you, Jennifer and Jill!) and this year I GET TO BE IN THE CAST.
You guys, if you know me at all you know this is right up my ally. I live for this stuff. Stage. Audience. Reading. Surrounded by fabulous women writers and mothers? Umm, yes, please. I’m in. All in. I could not be more excited to be part of this event and incredibly grateful to Jennifer and Jill for inviting me to participate. It is going to be a great show. You need to come and bring your favorite moms.