Dear Mamas, Y’all B!tches Crazy

His mother puts him down and the child wails. He immediately spins around and lunges toward her wanting to be held. In his frustration the boy spins around again, screams and pounds his fists into his father’s thighs. The man reacts quickly, jumping back from the boy, embarrassed in front of the crowd. He bats the kid’s head back and forth like a cat with a ball of yarn. The boy wails louder. The man yells, “Yeah boy! Keep that shit up and I’ll knock you upside the head again!”

The boy can’t be more than eighteen months old.

It’s at this point that I stop staring, because clearly this man’s stupid and I don’t want to get into a confrontation. We get a few steps farther away. The kids run up ahead toward the next zoo exhibit. I turn to Rob and say, “See? We’re doing just fine. Our kids are going to be fine.”

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The next day I’m watching my son’s gymnastics class. I love gymnastics, love watching him, hate listening to the other parents talk to each other. I grew up doing competitive gymnastics so listening to people ask ridiculous questions without knowing the proper terminology drives me bat-shit crazy. “Why are they having them hop on all fours on the beam like that? What’s that flippy thing they’re making them do on the bars?” Aaaaaah! Do us all a favor, go sign your kid up for soccer and get the fuck out of the gym.

Sorry, that was unnecessarily intense. But hey, so am I. Also, don’t talk to me while I’m practicing my floor routine.

Wait.

What?

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Anyway, the parents at gymnastics are also annoying to listen to because frankly most parents have no idea what they sound like. They talk ad nauseam about the activities their kids are in. They do the humble brag. They talk about obnoxious mind numbing things every parent says while making small talk. “Well, it was weird because it just started as a runny nose, and he had a fever of 103 the first night. But then he was totally fine the next day. But then he woke up this morning coughing really bad. So I called the pediatrician but they could only get him in with the PA, and not until 2:00. Hello!? That’s right in the middle of nap time. I mean, why don’t they keep any other slots open for sick visits. God, it’s SO annoying, and . . .”

Oh my God. Please shut up. Just shut up.

I just sit and watch my boy, silently.

Then I get sucked into a conversation with these two women about the gym I go to. There are two major gyms in town. Both offer two and a half hours of childcare a day. I tell them how my husband was joking that I should join both gyms. That way I could hangout in the cafe at one and work out at the other. Then this conversation occurs.

Her:  Oh I actually know someone who does that. (Turning to her friend, dressed completely in Lululemon) You remember Sara?

Friend:  (rolling her eyes) Oh, yeah. I do.

Me:  Wait, you know a stay-at-home-mother who actually does that? So this is real. There’s someone out there who’s pulling this off?

Her:  Yeah, but it’s because she’s a really bad Mom. Like she should have never had a second kid let alone the first one.

Friend:  God, I don’t know how she does that. I mean when I teach Pilates I feel guilty even putting Everly in the daycare for two hours. I don’t know how you could have your kid in daycare for five hours a day!

Mmmmmmkay.

Alright folks I’m gonna give it to you straight here. Now I don’t know Sara but I bet she’s not a “really bad Mom.” Sara, who puts her kids in daycare for five hours a day. Sara, who maybe “shouldn’t have had kids.” Sara, the Mom who probably should have gone back to work immediately. You know, like the majority of mothers. The ones who have to put their kids in daycare much longer than five hours a day because they didn’t have the option to stay home. The mothers who were probably sitting right there within earshot.

This is fun! Hey, while we’re at it let’s say some other obnoxious entitled shit like, “Why even have a baby if you’re not going to raise it?” Or my personal favorite, “Well, I just think a mother is supposed to be with her babies.”

Yes, please tell me again where a mother is “supposed to be.” Tell me where a woman belongs. I love that conversation. I love talking about a woman’s place, especially with other women. It just feels right, wholesome.

Wait, hold up. While we’re chatting let me kick off these fucking rock star boots and get my ass back in the kitchen.

Let me just tell you that putting your child in a clean, well run daycare at an upscale health club is not child abuse. If you think this is child abuse you have lived an incredibly sheltered life. Talk to an ER nurse, a police officer, or a social worker and you will hear stories that will leave you wishing you could scrub your brain out with bleach. Now, I’m not saying that we should all slack off and console ourselves with, “Hey, at least I’m not shooting up heroine while my baby eats dog food.” What I’m saying is you’re not that important. I mean, sure, mother is God in the eyes of the child, blah blah blah. Pressure pressure pressure. But ask yourself this, when you look back on your favorite childhood memory, does it involve your Mom? I’m guessing not. It probably involves your best friend.

Not enjoying being around a whiney three-year-old all day doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother. It means you’re not good with preschoolers. Maybe you’ll rock the hell out of raising angsty teens. And let’s stop throwing around that label, “Bad Mom.” Because being a bad mother is just about the worst thing a woman can be. So if we’re calling a woman that’s found a loophole in the gym daycare matrix a bad mother, what do we call the ones that lose their children to the foster care system?

But really isn’t the bigger issue here that these gymnastics parents are just a bunch of entitled whiney little rich kids? I wanted to slap the Starbucks out of their manicured hands and yell “Y’all bitches crazy!” Then jump up on my chair and start stomping around like I was Kanye West.

What?

Anyone want to come with me to my son’s gymnastics class next Monday and talk shit about other moms?

Someone Hit Pause: I’m Just Going to Need a Minute

I lay awake. The pillow feels all wrong. “Is this my pillow?” I wonder. I enter that weird space between waking thought and REM before my eyes snap back open in the darkness. My heart races, and I see him.

He’s a tiny newborn too jaundiced to latch without falling back asleep. He makes the tiniest whimpering sound (like a puppy) as my mother holds a cold washcloth to his feet, attempting to keep him awake. The cold washcloth, it tortures all of us. Then he’s eighteen-months-old with full red lips and blonde hair curling at the base of his neck, all sweaty from a nap. He looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. And then I see him running at age two, in those tan corduroys I loved so much. He bounces down the cobblestone sidewalk at the shopping center where I took him to Gymboree. He jumps on and off the planters, holding my hand for balance. He giggles as older shoppers look on with sweet smiles. My belly is big with his sister. We go to a café where he gets mac ‘n cheese and a cookie, our weekly tradition. He dips his bread into my soup and eats only a fourth of his cookie. He forgets about the rest.

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He’s now four and a half.

I could tell you that those Friday afternoons in the café feel like a different life. It was a different life, but it really does feel like it just happened last week.

Just recently I noticed he has become long and lean. I try to playfully pinch the fat on his cheeks, but there is none. Before he gets into the tub I look at his body from behind. His legs, butt and back look just like his tall broad shouldered Daddy.

His breath stinks now when he wakes up in the morning. His feet smell now too. He will be five in a few months.

Five. An age that for me has always signified the entrance into actual childhood.

And here I am at midnight, restless.

I’ve been here everyday since that morning the doctor pulled him out of me with forceps, my whole body shaking from the pain, from the relief. My boy and I have been together everyday, but somehow I feel as if I missed it. Missed it all.

I lay in the dark and tears start to stream down my face. I wish I could hit rewind.

I remember when he was just a baby listening to other mothers talk about No Child Left Behind, standardized school testing, and opting out. I stood there with him in a baby carrier and thought kindergarten was a million years away. I thought to myself, “They’ll have all this stuff figured out by then. Education will improve, or at least I’ll know more by then.”

At the eleventh hour we have decided to enroll him in public kindergarten in the fall. I don’t know anymore now than I did then. It was always my intention to keep him at his private Montessori school for kindergarten. I wanted to delay. I wanted to keep him little. I told myself it was what was best for him.

But we’ve had to admit it’s not what is best for him.

There’s something about it that feels final, like there’s no turning back. The school district handbook freaks me out with its chapters of state and federal laws. The charts on minutes spent in school. The intense focus on bullying. The idea of not just fire drills but now the drills they must learn in case of a violent incident.

I want to fold him back into me. I want to keep him home. I want to move far out into the country and homeschool him.

Only I don’t.

Not at all.

I CANNOT teach this child. He is far too much like me.

When he has a “bad day” at school I listen to his preschool teachers with understanding. I try to be a grown-up and not make excuses for my child like those idiots who think their kid is blameless. But every damn time I want to say, “Oh yeah? Really? Did he, really? Well screw this place, we’re outta here!”

I want to burn rubber in the parking lot and never look back.

But I know he is to blame. So instead I listen. I swallow my pride. I ask for advice. I take him out to the car and ask why he’s had a bad day. We talk about respect and listening. I hold him while he cries broken with shame. I kiss his face all over and remind him that he had a bad day but he is good all the way through. From the top of his head to the tip of his toes. We talk about having a better tomorrow.

I can see the teachers inside watching me stand next to my car for ten minutes as all the other parents load kids up and drive away. I feel like I’m being judged. They probably think I’m too soft on him. They probably think his defiance is the result of my parenting.

But they don’t know my boy.

We drive home and listen to Joan Jett. I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation.

We do dinner, bath time, PJs, and read books. I lay in his bed and we talk more about listening and respect. We talk about what his father and I expect from him. I ask him what the best part of his day was. He often answers, “Being with Mommy.”

I kiss him. I smell his hair.

And then hours later as I lay in bed I have the deep desire to sneak back into his room and snuggle him while he sleeps. While he’s still little.

While it’s still ok.

I know five is nothing. I know kindergarten will pale in comparison to him getting a driver’s license one day, or getting drunk for the first time, or smoking a joint, or getting his heart broken. I know we have many more “bad days” ahead of us. Days that will be light years more difficult than the first day of kindergarten.

I know.

But my first baby becoming a boy? This one is going to take me a minute.

I just need a minute.

Resting B!tch Face, You Have Served Me Well

Before resting bitch face was a thing invented by the internet, I was rockin’ it. I was in sixth grade when a boy informed me that I looked pissed off all the time. When I was fourteen one of the most delinquent boys in my high school casually informed me, “Oh, you scare me. I wouldn’t fuck with you.” Throughout my childhood old men felt the need to tell me “Smile! You look so sad.” Women would never tell a girl to smile. Women know it’s not a girl’s job to smile continuously like they’re in a beauty pageant at all times, but I digress.

Imagine my delight the day an old man came into our family’s restaurant and asked me “Who died?” and I was able to reply “Genevieve.” One of the waitresses had just been killed in a car accident. Damn, it was satisfying to watch the man-smug vanish from his stupid face.

Anyhow, my point is that I’m what some may call unapproachable, and delightfully so.

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Having a super good time here, seriously.

This quality has never served me so well as it has during motherhood. Why? Because I have never (and I mean NEVER) had a stranger make a snarky comment to me about my parenting.

Let me tell you a few stories from the lives of some of my smiley and approachable mom friends.

My childhood best friend is a gorgeous woman, tall, thin and blonde. [Yeah, it was super fun growing up with her] As a teenager she was repeatedly approached by modeling agencies. She could’ve done runway. She also became a mother at twenty. So, yeah, super approachable and young, as a new Mom. Just about every damn time she left the house people felt entitled to criticize her parenting or lend advice. Like a lady at Target who saw her daughter standing a whole six inches off the ground on the bottom shelf of a display and came whipping around the corner from a different aisle to scream, “You’re a terrible mother! It’s people like you that end up with injured kids!”

This kind of crazy happened to her All. The. Time. Lord help her if she failed to strap her kid into a grocery cart, or if her toddler refused to wear a coat. Even recently, a man at Chipotle felt the need to question whether it was “appropriate for a boy that age to still be held by his mother” while she was holding her seven-year-old. Sadly, for that man he didn’t realize that my girl might be pretty but she’s a stone cold bitch when she needs to be. She looked him right in the eyes and replied, “A child is never too old to be held, and I will hold my boy until I’m physically incapable of doing so.”

She lifts weights, so he might be fifteen by the time that happens.

Recently another friend of mine had an unpleasant interaction with another mother while shopping. Her two-year-old started fussing to get out of the stroller. Yeah, like you’re going to get any shopping done with a two-year-old running buck wild through Old Navy. So she was handing her snacks, trying to calm her and hurrying to finish up and get out of the store. This is when some ‘well meaning’ mother approached her and pointed to the stroller saying, “I think she wants to get out.” My friend was thinking to herself, “No shit, I can hear her. She can talk. I know why my own kid is whining.” The lady’s comment caught her off guard though, so she responded by pretending not to hear her. At this point the lady continues, “Excuse me? Excuse me? I think she wants to get out.”

So my friend turns to her with a blank look on her face and says, “Yeah, I know” and kept shopping.

Disgusted, the lady turns to her own kids (about ages seven and nine) and says loudly, “I NEVER did that to you guys!”

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Congratulations super-helpful-parenting-advice lady! You get the mother of the year award for never using a stroller for its intended purpose, containment. You’re a better mother than anyone who’s ever done anything differently than you, with different kids than yours. And way to go using another mother as an example to explain to your children what a better mother you are. Aren’t they lucky to have you as their mom, and not the evil lady with the stroller? You’re the best!

But you’re also a stupid asshole.

My friend was enraged, obviously. She was annoyed even days later. Clearly, that’s why she told me the story. Frankly, I was enraged just hearing it. That’s probably why I’m writing about it. But my friend, she had the best response to this lady ever.

Of course, she didn’t get to use it.

You never think of the perfect thing to say when you’re in the moment. But I’m going to tell it to you now in case you ever find yourself in the same situation.

You turn to the lady and say, “Listen, it sounds like you’re probably a much better mother than I am.” Then you lean in and whisper into her ear, “but your kids are really fucking ugly.”

And that my friends, is how we stay classy.

But seriously, no matter how approachable a woman is, unless she’s beating her kid don’t ever talk to her about her parenting, because I’d bet a lot of money you sure as hell wouldn’t approach a man.