Sign here to end the abuse

It shouldn’t happen to a child but it does.

Every summer, across the country, thousands of privileged, middle class kids are forced to attend institutions known as “summer camps.”

The travesties they endure in these cleverly disguised tear factories cannot fully be depicted in writing. Suffice it to say, “campers” are coerced into such “fun” activities as swimming, making crafts, playing games and singing songs, all when they would much prefer to be at home rolling around on exercise balls.

Forget what you think you know about pediatric suffering. Forced labor, starvation, domestic violence — nothing can quite compare with the indignity of lanyard making and games of “Hot Potato.”

The choice is obvious: children should be allowed to play video games for eight hours straight or trail two inches behind their beleaguered parents mumbling, “Bored, bored, bored,” every single day of summer vacation if they prefer, instead of being subjected to the hyper happy ministrations of attentive teenage counselors with names like “Tinkerbell” and “Meatball.”

Until recently, experts were divided as to who was most at fault for the existence of these licensed pits of despair.

Some blamed the school system for ceasing to hold classes for 12 weeks every year. On further scrutiny, it became clear that teachers forced to direct and focus the energy of the nation’s children year round would, in professional parlance, “lose their s—t.”

Others faulted parents, who selfishly refused to drop everything — or cease employment — for three months to direct and monitor the activities of their children every waking minute of the day.

Still others, mainly those who raised their children decades ago or don’t have children of their own, have repeatedly claimed this concern over filling children’s time is ridiculous. This group of experts, many of whom never removed the cigarettes from their mouths while putting their children to sleep in lead-based-paint-coated cribs, have said children should entertain themselves, playing outside with friends, roaming the woods, riding their bikes.

Of course, in this day and age this option is only available to parents who live on quiet cul-de-sacs with trusted neighbors not listed in the sexual offender registry who are within walking distance of woods not being used as shoot-up galleries by junkies. And then only if the children wear helmets, are slathered in factor 70 and checked thoroughly for ticks in the evening.

Even those who do enjoy such a prime real estate location would more than likely find any efforts to encourage this enjoyable independence in their children stymied by bystanders — mainly those who raised their children decades ago or don’t have children of their own — who would report them to authorities for neglect. (Click here to read about the arrest of a mother who let her 9-year-old walk to the local park unattended, or here for the woman investigated because she let her three children play in their own backyard while she folded laundry inside.)

Still, children shouldn’t be forced to suffer just because modern-day parents pretty much suck balls no matter what decisions they make.

Sign here to stop the madness. And consider our other petition against the indignities endured by teenagers whose parents drop them off right in front of the movie theater instead of around the corner, BECAUSE THAT IS SERIOUSLY F—KING EMBARRASSING.

 

camp-fun
Seriously, this s–t needs to stop.

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate guide to hosting your child’s birthday party

 

Six weeks out: Select a date, time and venue.

Tell your child it’s time to plan their birthday party. They will no doubt have tons of ideas and it is your job as the Person in Charge to effectively steer them in a direction which is both realistic and affordable. I wouldn’t call crushing dreams a perk of motherhood but — oh, ok, I totally would.

Explain that the kid in his class who had laser tag, a magician and a bouncy castle at his party was, in fact, compensating for something, perhaps the fact that his parents are dead inside and don’t really love him.

If you have venue options, list them now. In our house those venues are limited to home or the YMCA. We once looked into having a party at the science museum and discovered it would cost more than our wedding.

(That’s not saying much since we eloped and our wedding cost $300. Still, keep in mind that you are planning a children’s party, not a ceremony that legally binds you to another human being.)

If you must book a venue, you’re already about two months too late. All the dates and times you want will already be taken, and you’ll be lucky to get their 5 to 6:30 slot on a Sunday.

Party planning tip: Some parents will tell you now is the time to choose the theme for the party. This is a HUGE mistake, at least if your children are as fickle and obsessive as mine. Because I can guarantee that even if your child insists that she loves Dora the Explorer and definitely wants a Dora the Explorer party and let’s make everything Dora the Explorer, the night before the party she will loudly announce that Dora the Explorer in fact sucks balls and Elena of Avalor is the only character who brings any real joy into her life.

Four weeks out: Draw up a guest list.

Numbers will depend largely on where the party is held. My children know if they choose the YMCA, the sky’s the limit. If they want to do it at home, they are limited to eight friends. This is for the very simple reason that, in this day and age, many parents will stay at the party with their children. Some seem to think the the entire family has been invited. This means that for every child invited, you can expect between two to five guests, depending on how many siblings exist and whether grandma is visiting.

Three weeks out: Send the invitations.

Personally, I always do electronic invitations, not because I’m a huge ecowarrior but because I am lazy.

Some people will finalize the theme now so the invitations will match. Big mistake. I just go for a generic “Holy Crap! So-and-so is turning (fill in the age)!” in primary colors.

Two weeks out: Choose a cake

Really organized parents will have done this much earlier, especially if they want one of those fancy cakes that are popping up at kids’ parties these days. (Think fondant and hand painted edible flowers.)

I either buy from a grocery store bakery or make one, especially since my kids have really strange requests when it comes to cakes. This year my son wanted his to feature the star of the “My Big, Fat Zombie Goldfish” books. (Which are awesome, btw.) Try asking Costco if they make a zombie goldfish cake before being removed by security.

One week out: Finalize the guest list and shop for decorations and favors.

Hahahahaha, omg, I’m totally kidding. I mean, you can look at who has RSVPd but technically you’ll never have a real guest list until after the party. This is because some religions forbid people from RSVPing. At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for not clicking “Yes” or “No” on an evite.

After reminding your kid this is it, no going back on the theme, load up a basket with themed cups, plates, napkins and banners. Place a balloon order. Look at the final bill and realize this party will cost more than your wedding.

Two days out: Start getting the house ready.

Of course, this is only the case if the party is at home, which is in itself a major argument for having it elsewhere.

Have your children assist you in putting away stray toys and cleaning up their rooms, even though their rooms will be off limits during the party. Realize you have become your mother.

The night before the party: Stuff the piñata.

Smile a little to yourself because “stuffing the piñata” is one of those domestic chores that sounds vaguely dirty, like “icing the buns” and “beating the rug.”

Stuffing the piñata. Giggle.

The morning of the party: Hang the decorations.

This is when you realize that birthday banners are either way too short or two long. Too short and you can’t find a doorway to hang them from. Too long and the guests will be clothes-lined when they come through the door, even though they are only four feet tall.

Two hours before party starts: Clean in a blind panic.

As tidy as the house seemed before, you are now seeing it through the eyes of a guest.

Decide the kitchen counters need to be clear of items. Realize the books on the shelves look sloppy. Ask yourself why you never noticed what looks like a blood stain on the skirting board.

When you are finished, realize your house hasn’t been this clean since when the previous owners showed it.

At the party:

If you are at a venue, everything will go swimmingly.

If you have the party at home, you can expect the following:

All four children who RSVPd will arrive, all with their parents, some with siblings. In addition, the other four children WHO DID NOT RSVP will also show up, along with their parents and siblings, forcing you to make do as best you can, grateful you bought extras of everything.

One particularly obnoxious pint-sized sibling WHO WASN’T INVITED will sniff at your homemade cake and declare “This is way too small.” Consider whispering in his ear “Nobody likes you.” After all, there would have been PLENTY OF CAKE had this little tax write off’s parents not INVITED their extended family WITHOUT RSVPing.

When it comes time for the piñata, explain to the children there is extra candy inside the house, so there is no need to kill each other over the chance to pocket the last roll of Smarties, which suck anyway. They ignore you and proceed to reenact various scenes from “Lord of the Flies.”

Cut the cake into postage stamp sized slices so there will be enough for everyone. The kids will finish in one bite and lick their plates, looking at you plaintively as if they are in an ad for UNICEF.

Some people will advise that now is the time to open gifts but I never do this at the party because my children are terrible liars and will give their honest and ungrateful opinion on every gift, even the good ones.

One minute after the last guest’s extended family has left the party:

Vow never to have another party.

Frankie cake
Zombie goldfish cake, anyone?

 

What Parents Say vs What Kids Hear

 

Kids only hear half of what their parents say. It’s, like, science.

It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat yourself or how clear you think you have made yourself, on a daily basis your children will reveal that they’ve comprehended about a third of your message.

To keep things really amusing, they have an enormous capacity to fill in the blanks of what they didn’t hear.

The following is a list of scenarios all parents are familiar with that demonstrate the difficulty of attempting to communicate with children. Budding, perceptive, brilliant minds, my a—.

Scenario 1:

You are upstairs, outside or just generally out of earshot but your kid needs to ask you/tell you something urgently. When you hear them*, you say/holler:

“If you need me come upstairs/outside/within earshot because I can’t hear you. I’m in the shower/killing a cockroach/burying something the cat killed!”

They hear:

“Stay exactly where you are and yell really loudly so I can be of assistance. Please make sure the panic in your voice is disproportionate to the matter at hand. For example, if you can’t find your favorite cup, scream like someone has broken into the house and we need to call the Special Victims Unit. However, if your sister has fractured her arm and the bone is protruding at a sickening angle through her skin — and, oh yeah, she has passed out — sit lazily at the bottom of the stairs and call out, ‘Mooooommmm.’”

Scenario 2:

Your child wants to know how to spell a word. Unfortunately, it is not a word you’ve ever heard and you’re not sure it exists. For example:

“Mom, how do you spell ipsbefluffle?”

You: “What word?”

Child repeats unintelligible word.

You: “Use it in a sentence.”

Child: “I sure love ipsbefluffle!”

You say: “I don’t think I’m familiar with that word. I can’t help you.”

They hear: “Repeat it ad nauseam until we both get so frustrated we hate each other.”

Scenario 3:

Your child asks for your help, usually with some impossible and detailed task, while you are very obviously in the middle of doing something else that requires your full concentration.

Child: “Mom, can you untie this knot for me/translate this article into Pashto/assist me in hacking into the city government’s database?”

You say:  “Just a minute, I’m cooking dinner for 20 people/on the phone with a customer service representative after being on hold for 40 minutes/defusing a bomb!”

They hear: “OMG, I’m totally kidding! Ask me again immediately.”

Scenario 4:

Child wants to wear an article of clothing that is in the laundry because she wore it yesterday.

Child: “Where’s my rainbow skirt?”

You: “In the laundry.”

Child: “Why?”

You: “It’s dirty.”

Child: “Why?”

You say:  “Because you wore it yesterday when you face planted in the mud on the playground. Find something else to wear.”

They hear:  “If you ask me again in five minutes I’ll pretend we never had this conversation and suddenly make the desired outfit appear out of thin air.”

Scenario 5:

Your child wants something they absolutely cannot have: a cell phone, a Nintendo DXL, a taser.

You say: “No.”

(Or, if you are me: “Hell no.”)

They hear:  “Talk to me some more about this cell phone, Nintendo device, taser. What are its various features? How will your life be improved upon obtaining this object? List the kids in your class with awesome parents who let them have one. Don’t forget to ask me if we are poor.”

Scenario 6:

Your child is reading the signs along the side of the road as you drive. She comes to a word or a series of words she doesn’t know and asks for your help. As much as you would love to help her, you have no idea which sign she is looking at and can’t investigate further because you are driving. A f—king car.

You say: “I can’t really help you right now because I’m driving.”

They hear: “Point rigorously at the sign in question and I will figure out which word you are talking about even though I am operating a large death machine and then we will all laugh and be merry.”

Scenario 7:

One of your children is doing something to annoy the other. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a punishable offense. For example:

Child 1: “Child 2 is bothering me!”

You: “What is she doing?”

Child 1: “Looking at me!”

You say: “Ignore her.”

They hear: “Go into more detail about this injustice. How does it make you feel? Is it making it difficult to exist with any sense of security? Please list any and all things in living memory your sister has done to irritate you. Use complete and long sentences. Don’t forget the pointless details!”

Scenario 8:

Your child has been at school all day, learning exciting new things and interacting with friends and you would love to hear all about it.

You say: “What did you do at school today?”

They hear: “If you answer with more than one word, something terrible will happen to someone you love.”

Scenario 9:

Your child has an impossible wish, to be instantly four inches taller, or three years older, or — in the case of my son — a brunette.

You say: “I’m sorry. I wish I could help you but I can’t.”

Or even: “Your hair is lovely. But if you want to change it when you are older you can.”

They hear: “Tell me again and I’ll think up some way to stretch out your bones, speed up time, remake your genetic code. The whinier you get, the happier I will be to assist you.”

Scenario 10:

Your child is unable to locate a random and pointless object, so they try to recruit you for help even though there is no reason why you would know where it is.

Child: “Mom, where’s that gas station receipt?”

You say: “Where did you leave it?”

This is probably one of the most utilized answers in our household. The children (and my spouse) are constantly asking me where their things are, as if I run around snatching up objects and hiding them in random places like some sort of demented elf from a Bavarian fairy tale.

In reality, I have no idea where they put their stuff unless I happen to trip over it. By asking, “Where did you leave it?” I am both giving them a good starting point for their search and making the passive-aggressive point that they need to keep track of their things.

Unfortunately, they hear:

“Ha ha! I totally know where it is and once you are in bed I will take it out and enjoy its use. However, if you ask me 5,000 more times and berate me for losing something that belongs to you, I will divulge its location.”

Scenario 11:

You are conversing with one or more other people when your child desperately needs to speak with you. (If your children are like mine, they never actually need to speak with you until you are speaking with someone else. Then it’s a verbal pile on.)

You say: “I am speaking with someone right now but if you hold on a few minutes I will be able to assist you.”

They hear: “Exclaim ‘Mom! Mom! Mom!’ repeatedly. Be persistent! I really do not want to be talking to this person. Don’t forget to keep your voice at that irritating monotone you never use otherwise.”

Scenario 12:

You child asks you a question that would stump Confucius. For example, “Why is rain wet?”

Now, you can either start out at “That’s a good question. I don’t know.” Or you could go into a long and detailed explanation about accumulation and precipitation, only for them to reply that’s not what they were asking, and eventually end up at “I don’t know.”

Either way, your child won’t be satisfied. Because when you say “I don’t know,” they hear “I do know. I know exactly what you mean and what you’re asking and I understand all the complex philosophical thoughts going through your sweet head but I will withhold any answers because it gives me a supreme sense of satisfaction to keep you ignorant. However, if you ask me 5,000 more times I will eventually give in and let you partake of the wisdom.”

 

*I’m using “them” instead of “him” or “her” just to keep this simple, even though it’s technically incorrect. Sue me.

Six “truths” all parents know about dance recitals

1. The idea of a recital is better than the reality.

Don’t get me wrong, it is beyond fantastic to watch your little tyke in the spotlight, wearing an enchanting costume and appearing more groomed than you’ve ever seen her (or him) in her (or his) short life.

But your joy will deflate into butt-numbing despair as troop after troop of pint-sized Pavlovas stumbles on to the stage for their turn.

Heading into Hour 3 of this extravaganza, you will die a little inside when yet another class assembles to perform an interpretive dance to the extended version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

2. These things are ridiculously expensive.

On top of the tuition you’ve paid all year, you will be expected to fork over for a costume, and, in some cases, a recital “fee” to cover the cost of a venue.

For my daughter’s show, those charges were $95 and $75 respectively. I paid less than $95 for my prom dress. Some of the older students had three or four different costumes, so I can only imagine what their parents had to pawn to cover the cost.

Add in professional photos and the obligatory bouquet of flowers and you will walk away from the theater feeling like you’ve been mugged.

3. The otherwise normal and lovely staff at you child’s dance school will turn into lunatics.

I can’t even imagined the pressure these people are under to put on the perfect show. In addition to the fact that parents can be over demanding a-holes, the whole event serves a marketing purpose for the school. Personally, I wouldn’t want the fate of my business to rest in the hands of a 3-year-old’s ability to execute the perfect jazz square to “Hakuna Matata,” but that’s just me.

The woman who runs my daughter’s school is lovely and kind and speaks to the children in a calm voice and makes each one feel special.

During the week of rehearsals leading up to the show, it was as if she ate guano for breakfast.

Her staff shrank in her presence. She yelled at a mother because her 4-year-old child’s ballet shoe lace had come undone. She screamed at the narrator, who I believe is her grandson.

The night before the big show she sent out an email at 10 p.m. that was so desperate you could almost smell the gin on her breath through the screen:

Please, please, please, send your child in with CLEAN tights — no rips, holes or stains.

Please make sure your child’s hair is slicked back OFF HER FACE. Stage makeup should be applied in advance.

PLEASE BE ON TIME.

The subject line was “Listen Up, You F—king Idiots: I’m Not Going to Have My Business Ruined Because Your Children Are Borderline Feral.”

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.

4. You will find yourself getting a little offended by something.

Maybe this is just me.

In my daughter’s show, several classes danced to parts of the overture from “The Sound of Music.” Because presumably we wouldn’t get that, even though it was printed in the program and introduced by the narrator, there was a segue number featuring a pack of teenage girls dressed as nuns pas de boureeing across the stage.

I’m not particularly religious, but when I saw this during dress rehearsal, I had to push my mouth shut. It just seemed a little irreverent, even though the nuns were executing lovely adagio moves and not break dancing. All I could wonder is, what’s next, a rabbi kick line? Imams executing the perfect splits?

In addition, at least one number in every dance recital will feature little girls looking really… unlittle girlish.

When a pack of 8-year-olds in harem pants starts twerking, you know that someone’s lost the plot.

5. The best place to be is backstage.

This year I volunteered to supervise my daughter’s class backstage. Was it stressful? A little. Boring? Not at all.

Me and the 14 six-year-olds in my care had a blast, even though it takes a lot to keep kids that age from rioting when they’re hyped up but have to wait two hours for four minutes on stage.

After rousing games of “Simon Says” and “I Spy,” they were edging towards “Lord of the Flies” territory until I remembered my son’s favorite Internet page featuring kid-friendly Christmas jokes.

Or so I thought.

“What’s Santa’s favorite sandwich?” I read from my phone.

“What?”

“Peanut butter and jolly.”

They giggled.

“What does Tarzan sing at Christmas?”

“What?”

“Jungle Bells.”

They guffawed. Shouting to be heard, I called out:

“Who is Santa’s least friendly elf?”

Then I read the answer and my eyes went wide.

“Who?” they all asked.

“Um, Jeff. It’s Jeff,” I lied.

They pretended to get it. I switched off my phone. The real answer was “Gof—kyourself.” Seriously.

6. No matter how broke and exhausted you are by the time it’s over, you will look forward to the next one with great anticipation.

Because parents are suckers.

how-students-can-prepare-for-dance-recitals_1798_40057736_0_14115220_500-640x427

Dear Family: You hereby have my permission to flush

 

To my lovely family,

It has come to my attention that you all have a major concern about drought in the area. Or that you all suffer swift and devastating short-term memory loss immediately after having evacuated your bladders and/or bowels. Or worse, that you believe the horrible Toilet Monster — a Kindestod-type character that could have come straight out of the Grimm brothers had indoor plumbing been their contemporary — will rear up and visit havoc upon our household should you part with your bodily waste.

Well, as a representative of the management in this establishment, I am here to confidently assure you that you can rejoice and rest easy: Nothing bad will happen should you choose to flush the toilet after using it.

Seriously, trust me on this.

I know, I know: It can be a bit intimidating to push that handle, what with the barely audible noise it makes as it performs its essential function. It can be difficult to say good-bye to a substance to which you have absolutely no emotional attachment.

But believe me, it’s better in the long run.

And despite what you seem to think, I will NOT be angry at you if you flush. Let’s just clarify that right now. Nothing would delight me more than to use a toilet that hasn’t already been “marked,” or to live in a house that doesn’t have the vague and constant whiff of a port-a-potty.

While we’re on the topic of actions that would not make me angry, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing your used dishes to the sink. It’s crazy but true. The kitchen table will not suddenly collapse should it be freed of its burden. After all, it’s the legs that keep it standing, not the peanut butter smeared, crumb littered plates resting on its surface.

The sink will not open up and swallow you whole should you choose to place your dirty dishes therein. The sink LOVES dirty dishes. In fact, you can hear it sobbing gently every night after I have whisked the dirty dishes from its maw and deposited them in the dishwasher to be rocked and scrubbed to sleep.

It misses those dishes. Don’t make it sadder than it needs to be.

Also, every time you grab my shirt and use it as a handkerchief and/or hand towel, my soul dies a little bit. Just so you know.

If we’re out of something that you use but I don’t — shredded wheat, blue cheese, chia seeds — it is perfectly acceptable to tell me. It would not make me feel inadequate to find out I didn’t guess this. In fact, I would prefer to know you need more of a certain item BEFORE I go to the store than to hear you ask if I picked up said item AFTER I get home. As efficient as it would be for me to perform a complete inventory of the fridge, freezer and cupboard every single time I go to the grocery store, I don’t. Instead I rely on the GROCERY LIST I place IN PLAIN SIGHT on the KITCHEN COUNTER to determine what we need. No special password is required to make entries on this list. Simply pick up the giant novelty pen with feathers on top for easy location and jot away.

Speaking of food, if you are standing in front of the fridge, door open, head inserted, looking for something, and I am engaged in an activity in a different room or on a different floor of the house, you will probably have better luck locating said item than I will. Contrary to popular belief, being born without man junk does not give one a photographic memory or the ability to recall at will the location of every item in the fridge, freezer, pantry or someone else’s sock drawer with pinpoint accuracy.

At the very least, try moving some items around and looking for longer than 10 seconds before asking me to solve the Mystery of the Missing Mustard while I am upstairs attempting to unclog a toilet that hasn’t been flushed in 24 hours.

And so help me, if you use the last of the mustard, don’t put “Mustard” on the list and then ask if we are out of mustard, I will cut you.

Don’t get me wrong family, I love you. Usually. It is only by having frank discussions about these things that we will keep our sanity. Or what passes for it.

Taking your children to the theater: a 28-step guide for parents

  1. Notice an ad for a live theater production aimed at children.
  2. Feel immediate guilt. You don’t do cultural stuff like this nearly as much as you should and your children need to, like, get intellectualized and stuff. Also, what else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.?
  3. Visit the show’s website. Read testimonials from parents about how amaze balls the production was. Doubt that little Connor instantly became a math prodigy after watching dinosaur puppets, but still reckon the show might kill a few hours.
  4. Click on the “Buy Tickets” button.
  5. Recover from aneurysm induced by ticket prices and scroll down, looking for seats that won’t cost the equivalent of a new set of tires.
  6. Discover that the only somewhat affordable seats will place you in the back of the highest balcony or so far to the left or right of the stage you will have an obstructed view. Ponder if your children will even notice.
  7. Feel immediate guilt and scroll back up until you find a happy medium. Back row of the orchestra section is perfectly acceptable.
  8. Click on tickets. When the computer asks if you want to donate money so an underprivileged child can go see the production automatically click on “Yes.” Wonder if there’s any way you could actually take the underprivileged child yourself, since you can already tell by the fact you are spending so much money that your children will hate the show.
  9. Recover from second aneurysm induced by final total. Taxes and “occupancy fees” — whatever the hell those are — have added an extra $50. Wonder if it’s worth it.
  10. Feel immediate guilt. You caught your youngest trying to stick a pencil in the cat’s ear the other day. You need to get these kids some culture, stat.
  11. Buy the tickets.
  12. Feel immediate guilt for spending so much money.
  13. Tell your spouse about the event but do it in code so the children don’t pick up on it. Children are programmed to think everything is about to start five minutes after they learn about it, so if you mention it now they will lose their s—t and ask you every hour when the show starts. Even if you say “Next April,” they will persist.
  14. The day of the event, 10 minutes before you are scheduled to leave, tell your children about the show. Your children will announce they don’t want to go, no matter how well you play up the event in question. (“It features live dinosaurs!” “I hate dinosaurs.” “You love them.” “I’d rather just stay here.” “And do what?” “Roll around on this exercise ball.” “It’s LIVE motherf—king dinosaurs!”)
  15. Force march everyone to the car and then into the theater.
  16. Look around the audience and wonder where the underprivileged kids are. These children all look distinctly privileged (yours included). Note that some of the little girls are wearing outfits that cost more than your monthly car payment.
  17. Explain to the children why you aren’t sitting closer to the stage.
  18. Enjoy the first 10 minutes of the show, when the puppeteers bring out baby dinosaurs. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
  19. Explain to your children that, even though they have raised their hands whenever the narrator asks for volunteers, it doesn’t mean they will get the chance to go onstage.
  20. Comfort your children when a giant prehistoric dragonfly puppet gets too close to them.
  21. Point out the legs of the puppeteer moving the triceratops that just lumbered onstage, because it is kinda big and your kids are starting to lose their s—t.
  22. Clutch your screaming, sobbing children and escort them to the exit when the giant T-Rex puppet crashes through the scenery and roars at the crowd, prompting roughly half of the audience to erupt in terrified tears and more than a few patrons to soil themselves.
  23. Wonder how the show’s producers sleep at night knowing that they have literally scared the crap out of a bunch of toddlers.
  24. Vow not to try another trip to the theater for a long time.
  25. Smack your forehead when your son spies a poster in the lobby for the theater’s upcoming double bill Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci and asks, “Can we go see this?”
  26. Remind him that he called your Gilbert and Sullivan CDs “garbage” and explain that real opera is a million times worse.
  27. Feel immediate guilt for dissing opera.
  28. Go home and let your children roll around on an exercise ball.

That mom in the viral BBC interview video? That mom is all of us.

By now you’ve probably seen the clip shared ‘round the world of Professor Robert Kelly being interrupted mid-Skype interview with the BBC by his two adorable children:

Kelly, an associate professor of international relations at South Korea’s Pusan National University, has been commended for keeping his cool during the whole affair. He neither broke contact with the camera nor smacked the child with a brick, as some might have done. The children have been praised for being so darn freaking cute.

But I think we are missing the true hero of this entire episode and that is the frantic mother who comes slamming into the room and hustles the kids out with the speed and dexterity of a special ops commando.

This moment, now forever cemented into our hearts and YouTube viewing histories, is pure gold because it perfectly and silently sums up parenthood.

While the rest of the world is busy being articulate, well-groomed and capable of discussing weighty matters such as the geopolitical ramifications of leadership change in South Korea, parents are a bunch of lumbering, frantic maniacs scrambling about on what amounts to a never-ending suicide watch over creatures who have the speed and determination of pumas but the common sense of dog turds.

(At least one commentator has already described the scene as the “patriarchy in a nutshell,” but honestly, I can just as easily see a mother in the interview seat while a beleaguered dad scampers after the tiny offenders in the background.)

Any parent watching that scene can hear her inner monologue:

“S—t, s—t, s—t! I turn my back for one minute to clean up the cat barf the toddler was using to finger paint the baby and she runs in and interrupts what was probably the most important analysis to take place of Park Geunhye’s ousting EVER. Crap, crap. Am I still in the shot? I’m still in the f—king shot. Just. Gotta. Get. This. Door. Shut.”

This woman is a maternal goddess in my book. Some might deduct points for the fact she “let” the kids slip past her to get into Dad’s interview den, but in my opinion those people are heartless douche bags who can go eff themselves.

Kids are slippery, stealthy, crafty little Houdinis at that age. For all we know that adorable toddler hamming it up over Dad’s left shoulder just undid five “child-proof” locks and drugged the dog before creeping into that room.

The fact that Mom caught them in the act at all makes her a g-dd—n hero, in my opinion. My kids would have managed to pop the top on a value-sized bottle of aspirin and waggle their naked butts at the camera before I caught on that they weren’t, in fact, watching Backyardigans in the living room like I thought.

Hell, even her form is impressive. The speed that sends her practically sliding across the floor, the skill that allows her to corral the toddler and yank the baby’s walker out of the shot, the physical strength that allows her to crawl practically combat style back to the door to yank it shut?

If retrieving interview-destroying little people from Dad’s study were an Olympic sport, this woman would win mad gold, y’all.

What is even more impressive is that she accomplished it on four hours sleep, tops. She has the deadly toddler-baby combo on her hands, which means she is on call round-the-clock, dealing with the demands of two insatiable — but adorable — little maniacs.

Pair that with the fact that Dad was probably sweating bullets over his appearance on the BBC, she’d probably been on high alert all morning. No doubt she helped him pick out his suit, gave him a pep talk, tidied the bed and neatly stacked the books in the background — all without having showered or eaten — before assuming kid duty so Dad could get his brain on in a live international broadcast.

Even if she is, as some have suggested, a nanny, she is AWESOME. I adore her. If I ever get to meet her I’m buying her the biggest box of Chardonnay Rite Aid sells.

How my ‘career’ prepared me for motherhood

The other day, my son threw open the door to his room and called out, “Shop! Shop! The shop is open!”

I took my cue and went in to browse. My son pointed me toward the bed, which was strewn with an array of random objects.

“The stuff in the way back is all clearance,” he explained. “But those items are final sale.”

“Good to know.”

I left the “shop” with a snow globe, a teddy bear, a single sock, two pencils, a cat toy, three books, a pillow and an earring I had lost months before, apparently behind his bed. Apart from the pillow, everything had been packed into two carrier bags.

The total had come to $5,000.

“Where are we? Venezuela?” I had asked.

He nodded seriously.

“Yes. Yes, we are.”

While swiping my imaginary credit card (he wouldn’t accept imaginary cash) he asked me to put my name and email down on his mailing list for special offers.

What can I say? The kid knows his retail.

When his dad arrived home from work, Jack scurried back up to his room.

“Shop! Shop! The shop is open!”

My husband, good sport that he is,  went to have a look.

“Sorry, sir, that’s the wrong door,” my son said.

My husband stood looking confused.

“You have to climb over that barrier first,” my son said, pointing to absolutely nothing.

“I climb over the barrier,” my husband said. “Okay.”

“Now you have to duck under the other barrier.”

He ducked.

“Now you go down the slide.”

He slid. Or pretended to.

“Am I in the shop yet?” he asked and my son nodded.

“The items in the back row are clearance. They are final sale.”

My husband’s haul came to $10,000.

“That’s outrageous!” he cried.

“It’s a game, dear,” I reminded him.

He shook his head and paid, although I could tell his Scottish sensibilities were gravely offended.

“You know, your business model could use a little work,” he said, eyeing the store hours sign that read “Open: 10-11, 4-5.”

“And the entrance doesn’t make it easy for your customers to get in.”

My son shrugged and skipped down the stairs to play something else.

“Actually, I know a few stores that operate like this,” I said. “They’ve stayed in business for years.”

And herein lies the difference between my husband and me. Since finishing university he has always worked in the corporate world, where things are (for the most part) practical and make sense.

My background is in journalism. Did I wield my Fourth Estate powers as a hard-hitting correspondent for a major news network, uncovering corruption at the highest levels of government?

Let’s just say that no one got the results from the 4-H show unless I got to work on time.

As a small-town newspaper reporter I got to see it all. In some cases, twice.

Name a strange situation and I’ve been there. Think of the most outrageous lie someone could tell and I’ve heard it.

I once interviewed a woman who hoped her vast collection of Strawberry Shortcake memorabilia — rumored to be the largest in the world — would be enough to draw customers to the bed and breakfast she’d spent her life savings opening.

I spent several freezing hours making conversation with a cop next to the body of a man who had committed suicide by jumping from the highest building in town, a 6-story parking garage.

I nodded knowingly when an elderly woman hooked up to an oxygen tank and sucking back a beer at 2 p.m. informed me that the crappy post-industrial town she lived in was “God’s country.”

I’ve been cursed at by an Episcopalian priest, hugged by a prison warden and informed by a Somali refugee that I needed to gain weight. (Lovely woman, she was.)

It’s quite a job, one many ambitious young reporters use as a stepping stone to the big city dailies. That was a transition I would never make as I had little aptitude for the profession, in part because I have the world’s least developed news sense.

Here’s an approximation of the sort of conversation I had several times a week with my editor:

Me (hanging up the phone): “Gotta run! Someone’s found a frost heave in their driveway that resembles Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine. Should I bring a photographer?”

Editor: “We just got a tip that one the selectmen in [name of a town I covered, usually ending in -burg, -boro, -bury, -ford or -ton] has been arrested for embezzling municipal funds. He planned on using the money to run away with the police chief’s wife.”

Me: “Hmmm, tough call.”

Editor: “Not really. Cover the selectman story.”

Me (shrugging): “Okay but what’s my angle?”

So when my son pretended to open a store with crappy hours, inflationary prices and an impenetrable entrance, it all felt familiar. I was immediately transported back to one of countless “Make Downtown Relevant Again” meetings I used to sit through in any number of towns that ended in -burg, -boro, -bury, -ford or -ton.

The objective of each meeting was to draw visitors to the long neglected main retail drags people were bypassing to shop at the big box complexes opening up everywhere in small-town USA.

I distinctly remember the owner of a shop selling things no working class family needed or wanted — hand-thrown coffee mugs for $25 and monstrous-looking wire lawn ornaments hand-twisted in India for $75 to name two — lamenting she couldn’t compete with large retailers.

Because a journalist is never supposed to “get involved” in the story, I refrained from suggesting she’d have better luck selling things that more than five people in town could afford to buy. Or that her restricted hours 11-4, NO JOKE, might make it difficult for prospective customers who worked 9-5 to avail themselves of her pricey goods.

So I sat through meeting after meeting while artist coops and fair trade jewelers scratched their heads and fumed about losing customers to Walmart.

This resistance to logic was in no way limited to retailers. The upside of encountering these attitudes is that I never need to negate things when it comes to imaginary play. (I mean, not that I would.)

Your shop is at the end of a water slide? Cool!

You are a ballerina zombie who was brought back from the dead to fight evil? Rock on.

You made that pie out of dog s—t and rocks and you want me to have a slice? Ha-ha! Nice try. Put it down and wash your hands.

thomas-sign-e1488378491338.jpg
The sign my son made after I tried to shop with imaginary cash.

Five products that fail to deliver on their promise to parents

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
-The Princess Bride

Parents need to print out the above quotation and staple it to their foreheads. Because we repeatedly fall for marketing pitches that convince us certain products will make our existence as parents easier. They never do.

Here are five that have earned my seal of disapproval:

1. Nighttime diapers claiming not to resemble diapers

Produced for older children who are still having trouble mastering overnight bladder control — and there’s no shame in that — nearly every brand on the market claims to “look and feel like real underwear!” This is presumably so kids can go to sleepovers and not feel embarrassed.

It would work but for one simple reason: the second urine hits this diaper-in-disguise, it swells up like a marshmallow in a microwave. Unless your kid can convince his pals he has a ripcord in his drawers that he pulled in the middle of the night (“Got ‘em on Amazon”), everyone’s going to know he or she wet the bed.

2. Any lotion/cream/oil/belly balm that guarantees it can “reduce the appearance of stretch marks.”

Unless you’ve won the genetic lottery, your postpartum stomach will forever resemble the jowls of a depressed geriatric.

You want to know what reduces the appearance of stretch marks? Clothes.

Perhaps the marketing folks could start exploiting that. Cotton could go from being “The fabric of our lives” to “The fabric that lets you forget you can grasp a section of your stomach in your hands and pull six inches in any direction.”

3. “No more tears” shampoo

F—k you, Johnson and Johnson. Just. F—k. You.

4. Training pants that claim to make potty training easy.

You know what makes potty training easy? Having a kid who wants to be potty trained. All training pants do is make it easier for your child to pull down her pants and pee on the sofa while you’re in the other room.

5. Thermometers that claim to work.

Thermometers, whether of the forehead-swiping, ear-sticking, or tongue-tucking variety are presumably meant to give us a reliable approximation of our child’s temperature EVERY TIME WE USE THEM. This way we know whether to hit the “Oh crap!” panic button and call the doctor.

But unless you buy the $700 hospital-grade version, every parent will at one point be awake in the middle of the night with a feverish, sweating child and a thermometer that gives the repeated and cheerful reading of “97.5!”

 

If manufacturers really wanted to do parents a favor, they would mass-market the following products:

-A mute button. I’m kidding. Unless the technology already exists.

-A gage that shows how full your children’s bladders are since they can’t be trusted to relate these things reliably themselves.

-Five extra arms. One with a kung fu grip.

-A device that delivers controlled doses of chardonnay into your blood stream with the push of a button.

-A pill that immediately erases whatever dumb kids’ song that gets stuck in your head. (Get bent, Fresh Beat Band.)

Look back and laugh

You know when you’re going through a tough time and people say, “You’ll laugh about this one day”?

I’m kinda having one of those moments right now.

My last post here was about my daughter undergoing invasive scans to check the size of her cancerous tumors. Implied in that was all the pain this child has suffered since she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma as a baby, from the surgeries to the debilitating rounds of chemotherapy, the nights in the ER with sudden fevers to the non-stop vomiting and diarrhea.

So you can imagine something minor would leave her primary caregiver, me, completely unfazed.

Not even close.

Yesterday afternoon, when the same surviving cancer rock star daughter was closing the car door, she managed to trap her pinky in it.  As in, the door was ALL THE WAY SHUT, and she was shrieking and trying to pull her hand out.

And what did I, mother of a cancer patient, veteran of some seriously scary s—t do? I freaked the f—k out.

“NO!!!!!” I screamed, rushing to her and yanking the door open. Her pinky was slightly bent. And purple. Not good signs, but nothing major, at least compared to the botched biopsy they did on her skull five years ago.

“My baby! My baby!” I wailed, completely out of proportion to the situation at hand, hugging her tight.

“Jack!” I yelled to my son. “Get in the car, we’re going to the hospital.”

A skilled bystander in many a medical crisis, my son said, “Yay! Can I bring my iPad?”

Let me tell you I drove like I was heading to the Hazzard County line, Roscoe P. Coltrane in hot pursuit.

“Move! Please, move!” I called out to absolutely no one who could hear me. “This is an emergency.”

“Mom, you forgot the radio,” my son reminded me.

I punched the dial distractedly.

“No, not this song.”

In a Linda Blair voice I shouted, “I can’t change it, I’m driving! Your sister is in terrible pain!”

He glanced over at her.

“She looks fine to me.”

In truth she did. She had calmed down a lot and just sat sobbing quietly.

This didn’t stop me from screeching into the emergency room parking lot practically on two wheels, scooping my daughter up and running for the entrance.

“Mom! Wait for me!” my son called.

As always, the ER receptionists were calm and collected, which always drives me crazy. My daughter was quickly triaged and brought back for an X-ray.

“No shots?” my daughter asked everyone we encountered, from the receptionist to the janitor to a woman sitting with her sick baby in the waiting room.

“Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” the X-ray technician asked me as she draped a lead apron over my daughter.

“I would kick my husband’s a—,” I replied.

“I’ll take that as a ‘No,’” she said.

Back in the waiting room, my daughter asked if she would need a shot and then demanded to know where the gift shop was and if they sold stuffed animals. This kid knows her hospitals.

In next to no time, she was seen by a doctor, who, after assuring my daughter she wouldn’t need a shot, declared the pinky not broken, just swollen and tender. She wrapped it in a splint and told me to take her to an orthopedic surgeon in a week’s time to check for permanent damage.

My daughter was disappointed she didn’t get a cast, and downright aghast that she didn’t get to ride out on a wheelchair, which is how she usually exits the hospital.

“At least you don’t have to get any shots,” I reminded her.

All told, we were home in time for dinner, bath and bed.

And when the house was finally quiet, I had to laugh. Not because my daughter had been hurt, but because it was such a minor incident compared to everything she has gone through. If this is as bad as it gets from now on out, we’re going to be fine.

At least, we will be if I can learn to CALM THE EFF DOWN.