Monthly Archives: May 2010

Scout

“I want to do the Boy Scouts,” Zachary tells me.  He has been telling me this for quite some time now, although since the Scouts don’t start until first grade, he doesn’t actually know anyone in the Boy Scouts.

I give him my standard reply each time. “I’ll have to talk to Daddy about it.”    Usually, things like this are his choice.  If he wants to try an activity, we’re game as long as it works with the schedule.  But the Boy Scouts are different.

“Why?” he wants to know.

“Because the Boy Scouts are a discriminatory organization.  They don’t let gay people be Scout leaders.  Daddy I will have to talk about whether we are comfortable with you joining a group like that.”  He knows what I am talking about, because we’ve had this discussion before.

On the one hand, the Boy Scouts instill things like self-sufficiency, teamwork, and a love for nature.  Awesome.  We like self-sufficiency, teamwork, and nature.

Well, I love nature.   My husband loves s’mores.

On the other hand, the Boy Scouts is a discriminatory organization.

From what we’ve heard, individual dens or covens or whatever they call them may not subscribe to that philosophy.  The Boy Scouts are decentralized enough that the experience is really defined by the particular group to which a child belongs.

My husband and I tossed it around for awhile – like, for the last year – because we really would like our kids to have character-building experiences like scouting.

However, discrimination is not the kind of character we’d like them to build.

We just can’t stand tall and be paying dues to an organization that discriminates, no matter how much camping is involved.  We just can’t.  We can’t tell our kids discrimination is bad and then wink twice while driving them to scouting meetings.  We can’t look our gay friends in the face and tell them, “Our kids are in an organization that thinks you are too depraved for a leadership position.”

Zach’s friends might join the Scouts.  He might feel left out and resentful that we are not allowing him to be part of the group.

Parenting isn’t always about making our kids happy.

Working 5 to 9

Trust me when I tell you that you should buy the next issue of Bitch.  Actually, you ought to be subscribing to Bitch, but if you’re not, you should buy the next issue, because I have a piece in it.  It’s a Q&A with actress and writer Jamie Denbo, who is funny as hell onstage but over-the-top hilarious in an interview.

I loved doing the piece, not only because it gave me a chance to catch up with an old high school buddy, but because Denbo gives very good interview, and what she has to say is smart.  The Q&A covers comedy, sex, and – of course – being a chick in a man’s world.

What did not, however, make the final draft were a couple of interruptions.  First, my husband, exasperated at trying to get the kids to bed in the next room, decided to take Benjamin up to the attic to sleep.  (Don’t worry – it’s a very nice, finished attic.)

“Hang on a second,” I told Denbo.  “Honey, don’t take him up there.  That’s what he’s trying to get you to do.  He wants to go up there so he can stay up for two more hours and explore.”  I went back to the interview.  “Sorry.”

Denbo was laughing on the other end of the line.  “Please, don’t apologize.”

Fifteen minutes later, she told me to hang on a second.  “Hi, big girl,” she said to her toddler daughter, who launched into a description of a merry-go-round ride that her father had just taken her on.  Denbo’s husband (actor John Bowie Ross) started up Hairspray for the little girl, but there were several more interruptions to come – Denbo’s cell phone, my toddler daughter needing a kiss, Denbo’s infant son waking up.

After every interruption, we picked right back up in the conversation.  That’s just how we roll these days.

*******

Several months later, I came downstairs at 5:30 AM to write.  I was working on an article for an alumni magazine about an entrepreneur who started a fair trade company.  (That interview was interrupted when Lilah got up early from her nap and then had a poopy diaper.)  Now I was trying to transcribe the interview so I could start writing the article.

I had been aiming for 5:00, but Zach has been having trouble falling asleep lately as he often does during a cognitive burst, and he had kept me up late the night before.  So, I only got in a half-hour of work before I had to shape a few cookies from the sun-butter, whole wheat dough I made the day before and put them on a cookie sheet.

While rolling the cookies, I noticed the sink was dirty.  Part of the nighttime cleaning is to wipe down the sink and counters.  Since I’ve been going to bed so early, I’ve left the evening cleaning to my husband, who both goes to bed and gets up later than I do.  He is less committed to wiping down the sink than I am, and – feeling myself getting annoyed – I forcefully reminded myself that I am less committed to things like filling out school and camp forms than he is.

I emailed my husband with the subject header “Please”: “put cookies in oven for 11 minutes at 375 degrees. bring up laundry from cellar.”  Then I stretched and left for a half-hour run.

When I came back, J had fed Lilah and changed her diaper.  I fumed because J had not washed the tray from the cookies.  He went to shower. Children were waking up all around us.  The cookies had cooled so I packed lunches.

I went up to shower.  When I came down, Benjamin had eaten, Lilah had yet another clean diaper, and the cookie tray was clean.  J left for work while I started pulling clothes over children’s heads.

*****

My Facebook status update read: “I blame Betty Friedan for my lack of free time.  Also Gloria Steinem.”  My inbox was suddenly flooded by comments from women who – despite being committed feminists – knew exactly what I was talking about.

We decided to blame Dr. Sears, as well.

Rolling

Monday morning, I was upstairs brushing my teeth, trying my best to ignore Benjamin throwing a tantrum on the landing and Zachary screaming about something from the dining room.  We had twenty minutes before we needed to be pulling out of the driveway, no one was dressed, and only two of the children had even started breakfast.

I spit and rinsed, then hollered, “What is it?”  Zach responded, sobbing incoherently, and I stomped down the stairs.  “What?!”

“I have throw up,” he wept.

Shit.  He hasn’t thrown up in months, but he has a long history of vomiting up breakfast.  He has a very strong gag reflex, and a little bit of post-nasal drip in the morning is likely to bring up a rerun of breakfast.

“OK, don’t move,” I told him.  Not that I had to.  He’s been through this so many times that he knows the drill: contain the wreckage before cleaning up the child.  I grabbed a rag from the table, then thought the better of it.  There was an entire cup of orange juice vomit all over his pjs and chair.

This was a job for the Emergency Paper Towels.

Normally, we only use rags, which get thrown in with the rest of our wash.  We keep the EPTs for power outages, when we don’t want to be cleaning with rags that won’t get washed anytime soon.  And for special cases of Copious Vomit.  There were only four towels left on the roll, and I used them to stop the spill before it left his chair, tossing the cardboard roll onto the table.  I managed to get the child out of his bottoms, but he pulled off the top – smearing upchuck all over his face.

“OK, now you’re going to need a shower,” I remarked, lifting him carefully and heading for the stairs.  Zach, who cannot stand to get his face wet, does not do showers.  But I was not drawing a bath with less than 15 minutes before we had to leave the house.  I sidestepped his brother, still tantruming on the landing and stood Zach in the shower.

Five minutes later, everyone was at the now-cleaned-up breakfast table, with one child freshly showered and dressed.  “What’s this?” Benjamin asked, picking up the empty paper towel roll.

“It’s a paper towel roll,” I told him. “You can have it.”

“No fair!” Zach shouted.  “I never get a long one.”

Now, I would like you to know that I bake my children whole-grain muffins and they want Cheerios.  I make them fresh waffles and they ask for Goldfish.  I buy organic, local produce, and they want bananas from a continent-and-a-half away.

I have made the ordinary exotic, and I have made the exotic ordinary.

Which might explain why Benjamin spent the entire day finding eighty-seven different ways to play with an empty paper towel roll.

Scenes from a playdate

Three boys popped themselves out of my minivan as I unbuckled Lilah from her seat.  “Do you boys want to play outside for a few minutes while I make lunch?” I asked.

“Yes!” shouted Benjamin, not-yet-four and full of excitement that a six-year-old was over for a playdate.

“Nah,” said Zachary, prompting his friend to reply in the same vein.  Crap.  I was sort of hoping they would stay out at least long enough for me to run to the bathroom.

They filed into the mudroom, kicking off shoes and moving quickly into the kitchen to make space for the next child.  “Come on,” Zach urged his friend.  “Let’s get away from Ben.”

There was no place to get away from Benjamin.  The house is small, and the child was persistent.  I had not so much as opened a jar of jam before I heard wailing from the next room.  “Get him out of here!” shouted Zach.

This was Zach’s first playdate with Elliot.  He and Zach were spinning their wheels, trying to figure out what to do together, as they hadn’t yet developed a rhythm to their play.  Zach’s room is so tiny that it is hard to open the dresser without banging into the bed, so there is nowhere to play up there.  All they have is outside – which they had already rejected –, the small living room, and the adjacent sunroom.  Where Benjamin was.

For me to make lunch would mean walking away from the children, all of whom were required to be in the same space.  And as soon as I walked away, Zach turned from playing with his friend to fighting with his brother.  No one wanted to see a repeat of our last two playdates, during which Zach had gotten so anxious that his brother’s presence had sent him into a tailspin.

I managed to sit Lilah and Benjamin at the table long enough to shove a slice of cheese in each child’s hand.  That meant I was left with two things that somehow had to be done simultaneously: feeding the younger children and helping Zach and his friend find something to do.  Were I to turn away from feeding Benjamin, he would be down from the table and in his brother’s face, triggering a meltdown.  Were I to turn away from the older boys, Zachary’s anxiety would kick into high gear as he tried to control every detail of the playdate.

I dumped some hummus on both plates, then turned to the older children.  “Would you like to play Guess Who?”

“Yes!” Elliot replied.

“No,” Zach moaned at precisely the same moment.  “The other kid always wins!”  The truth of the matter is that the kid who goes first pretty much always wins, but try explaining that to a kindergartener.

Seven minutes later, we had somehow managed to arrange a game of Guess Who, with Zach and Elliot on one side and Benjamin partnered with me on the other.  Since I had to keep excusing myself to reheat pizza and spread peanut butter, that meant that poor Benjamin was pretty much holding his own against a five- and six-year old.  He asked three turns in a row if the mystery person was bald.  Fortunately, he was so thrilled to be playing with the big boys, he could not have cared less whether he won, lost, or contracted pertussis.

After the children were fed, I sent the older boys into the kitchen to roll cookie dough into balls and place it on a sheet.

“I think we’ll have nine,” Elliot told Zachary.

“And there’s three already baked in the cake stand,” Zach pointed out.  “So we’ll have twelve.”

“Great!  We’ll have a dozen!”  I made a mental note to congratulate their teacher on her math instruction.

An hour later, the boys had eaten cookies, Benjamin and Zachary had argued over a broken toy, Lilah was weeping on the couch, and I was pacing by the window, hoping Elliot’s babysitter would arrive to pick him up so that I could put Lilah down for a very overdue nap.  Then it took five minutes for Elliot to get on his shoes while he and Zach both tried to convince us the playdate should go longer.  I waved goodbye and whisked Lilah up for her nap.

“Will you read to us?” whined Zach eight minutes later, as I came back down the stairs.

“One minute, baby.”

It was an hour-and-a-half later, and I still needed to pee.

Idling

Being completely and totally inept at all things technical, I once tried and failed to set up some sitestalker thingamagig to figure out who visits my site and from where.  Somehow, it managed to reflect that absolutely no one ever visits this blog, which I know to be patently untrue, because I click over at least once a week.

However, WordPress does kindly provide a probably somewhat incomplete list of the search terms people have used to find my site.  Normally, I just find those amusing.  And a little scary, since there seem to be an awful lot of people searching for Emily Rosenbaum, although maybe that’s because there’s a reality TV chick and a very prominent sociologist with my name.  Anyway, a recent uptick in certain combinations of search terms leads me to the conclusion that folks here in this very small town have learned that I have a blog and are actively searching for it.  And presumably reading.

That’s fine, of course, as there’s nothing I like more than increased blog stats.  There is a downside, however, to folks here in Rockwelland reading my musings.

I have to see them twenty minutes later in the school parking lot.

I have always aimed for brutal honesty here at Wheels on the Bus, with allowances made for the privacy of my family.  So, I don’t talk about my sex life,.  I don’t talk about my husband’s work, our arguments (not that we ever argue), or really anything about our relationship.  He’s a wonderful father and a supportive husband, but the man deserves his privacy.

I also try to respect my children’s privacy.  I am fine with the occasional poop post and a few years ago I included the requisite mocking of my toddler son’s interest in his willy, although you’ll note that for some reason I do not talk about my toddler daughter’s private parts at all.  I don’t know why that feels more invasive, but it does.  (Although, I guess that anatomically, it really is more invasive.)

A lot of my earliest writing had to do with my anxiety over Zachary.  He is complicated, and parenting him requires more ingenuity than I have on most days.  Over the years, I have used this space to figure him out.  I have made understanding my son’s psychology a bit of an obsession, and I continue that dedication to completely smothering my firstborn.

I just don’t think it’s right to do it in a forum being read by his friends’ parents.

Of course, I will continue to write about him, and I will try to be as honest as I can – as long as it is only my own psychology hanging out there like a big old moon in the bus window.

There is, however, an upside to knowing that people in this little town are interested in what I have to say.  It provides me an opportunity for the following public service announcement to those parents I will see in the school parking lot:

Please, for the love of Mike, when you are talking to your friends, picking up your kids, combing your hair, writing the great American novel on your iphone, or otherwise not actually driving somewhere in your automobile, turn the fucking thing off. That’s my air, my children’s air, and your children’s air that you’re belching foul toxins into.

And thanks for reading.

Discipline

I have a discipline problem.

Zachary screams and talks back to me, every now and then even pinching me.  He intentionally wakes his sister, tortures his brother, and this week hit a friend at school.  His favorite game is to get his brother to misbehave, then sit back innocently and watch him get in trouble.

Benjamin smacks his sister for fun, breaks things, and calls people “stinky butt,” a term I fear he learned from his brother.

Lilah, bless her little heart, is delighted that she understands my directions and – other than getting pissy when I refuse to change her clothes for hours – is incredibly obedient.

I can yell, I can take away privileges, I can send them to their rooms.  And it works.  On Zachary.

Benjamin?  He won’t stay in his room.  He feigns nonchalance when I take away TV time.  He laughs maniacally and breaks things.  And how the hell do I send him to his room when he hits his brother’s friends in the kindergarten line in the morning?

I truly fear this kid will end up in juvie.

You may have heard about the mom who had her friend in the sheriff’s department pretend to arrest her five-year-old because he was lighting fires.  The neighbor was shocked, but I wonder what the neighbor would have thought if the house had gone up in flames.  My guess?  Everyone would have been aghast that the mom hadn’t found a way to stop her kid from starting fires.

Really, to my mind, there is only one question: where can I get a friend in the sheriff’s department?

We call him “Cotton Eyed Joe,” because we have no idea where he came from

Benjamin is in the backseat, still in the preschool afterglow.  “Mommy,” he says.  “I really, really want a pet dog.”

I am accustomed to these statements.  Last week, he wanted a pet bull, which he was going to keep in a bull cage in the living room.  Currently, there is a circle of rocks in our yard, just in case any passing penguins want to use it for their nest.

“A pet dog,” he repeats.  “And a bull, and a cat, and a T-Rex.”

“A T-Rex, huh?” I reply, half-listening.

“Yes, but you can’t let the T-Rex cross the street.”

I start to focus in on what he’s saying.  “Why can’t the T-Rex cross the street?”

“Because of the cars.”  He looks out the window and sighs, satisfied that we have settled the matter.