Seven things you need to stop saying to redheads

Having red hair is like walking around with a giant flashing arrow over your head. It’s statistically unique so people look. They comment. They get really friggin weird.

What they don’t do is reflect on the fact that none of us natural redheads chose this attention-grabbing hair color and it is no more strange to us than having fingers and toes. I mean, you all are the ones who look goofy, what with your non-neon locks and healthy skin tones, not us.

In the spirit of living up to my birth-assigned reputation as a dour Titian maiden, here is a list of things I — and many other gingers, I’m sure — would love to stop hearing from complete strangers.

  1. “You look just like my cousin/friend/ex wife.”

Because nine times out of ten, we really, really don’t. We know this because in the age of cell phones people will often bring up a picture so we can see for ourselves.

What we’re thinking when you show us these unsolicited photos is: “Your cousin/friend/ex wife is cross eyed and weighs 400 pounds. And has a harelip.” We no more resemble her than a plate of spaghetti topped with marinara sauce, which is also red and white.

But because most of us have manners — and souls, despite what you may have heard — we reply, “We could be twins.”

2. “I bet you wish your kids had been born redheads!”

Obviously, this only applies to those of us gingers with non-ginger children, but it always gets my ire.

For one thing, people usually say this in front of my kids, which is just a recipe for making them feel like crap because they have an unaltered version of the Melanocortin 1 receptor protein. I mean, geez.

Would a ginger brood have made for cute Christmas cards? I guess. But I’m just grateful to have two wonderful, relatively healthy children who can tan.

My response to this question is always, “They were both born with red hair.” (Because they were.) “But it changed into this beautiful blond color which I think suits them perfectly. Don’t you agree?”

Passive-aggressiveness for the win.

3. “I heard that redheads are going extinct/are all descended from the same person/have a high tolerance for pain. Is that true?”

I dunno. I look like a search engine to you? As for the pain, I can very confidently say that is B.S., unless I happen to be the only redhead without this particular super power. I gave birth to two kids and trust me, it hurt like a b**ch.

And if you launch into a tutorial about recessive and dominant genes, I will cut you.

4. “Does the carpet match the…?”

The ellipsis indicates you would never get to the end of this question because my foot would be implanted so swiftly and firmly in your a** you would be coughing up my shoelaces.

5. “You must have a temper on you!”

See above.

6. “It’s a shame redheaded men aren’t attractive.”

Are you kidding me? For one thing, don’t assume I’m gonna respond in the affirmative just to maintain a level of camaraderie with someone who just dissed my tribe. Ginger4Life, people.

Furthermore, SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There are scores of gorgeous redheaded men out there. Eric Stolz? Damian Lewis? Dale freaking EarnHOT Jr.??? These men are stone cold foxes, although I have no idea if they are impervious to pain.

7. Do not imply we are related to Satan.

You would think this one would be obvious. Sadly, it’s not.

From a shrill woman in front of the Food Lion who called me his mistress, to a wild-eyed street preacher in Scotland who called me his daughter, I have many times been linked to this most fallen of angels.

This superstition is wildly unfair as I don’t even like the guy. I would best describe my religious proclivities as Jedi, with an emphasis on the light side of the Force. So to be associated with someone who embodies all that is perverse and evil is really just the pits.

I am no one’s mistress, I am happily married. My father is a lawyer, which technically is as close you can get to being Satan without the requisite change of address, but still.

Please, people. Give us a break.

For the last time, I don’t look like your cousin.

 

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.

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The very real emotional void filled by my cat, who is a major a–hole

 

My family doesn’t have a great track record with pets. Until recently, our one and only foray into animal ownership was with neon colored fish who kept dying at the worst possible times.

While everyone kept telling us a dog would be therapeutic for the children, I was concerned it would be less-than-therapeutic for me, since I would no doubt bear the brunt of feeding, walking and cleaning up after the thing.

I’ve wanted a cat for years, but my husband is “allergic” to them in that he hates them.

He managed to get over his “allergies” when the children and I fell in love with a sweet white cat with dazzling green eyes who began lolling about in our garden shortly after we moved into our new house.

“Can we keep her?” my kids asked.

I desperately wanted to say yes, but didn’t want to “take” her if she belonged to someone. We put up posters around the neighborhood and tucked hand made fliers in people’s mailboxes. I joined the neighborhood Facebook page and posted her photo but heard nothing.

So, one day I scooped her into a cat carrier and took her to the vet. It turns out she was microchipped and did belong to someone, who didn’t seem at all surprised to hear she was out making eyes at another family.

“She just never bonded with us,” her owner explained, when I called her from the vet’s office. “She comes in at night when we are asleep to eat but otherwise she avoids us.”

I realized I was holding my breath. My children were crazy about this sweet cat, especially Jack, who would spend hours sitting by her side and talking to her.

I was hugely relieved when the woman said we could keep the cat, who my children had named Stella.

To say Stella has brought joy into our house is an understatement. The children adore her. They argue over who gets to feed her, they are thrilled when she chooses to sleep next to them.

As a mother, anything that makes your children happy that isn’t bad for them has a special place in your heart.

But I’ll admit that I have selfish and slightly unhealthy reasons for loving this cat. She is, after all, the baby who will never grow up.

My children are still at the age where they like me. I know that will all change. As part of their growth and development they will need to break away from me, and nature’s preferred method seems to be a spontaneous and organic lobotomy that convinces adolescents their parents are lame idiots who exist merely to embarrass them.

Oh sure, they’ll pass through this phase. (I hope.) But it will never be the same as it is now, when they throw their little arms around me and tell me I’m the best mommy ever, or fall asleep cuddled up next to me, or run to me in excitement to show off the drawings they’ve made or read me the stories they’ve written.

I get that it’s all a part of a healthy emotional development, that without this rebellion they could end up living in my basement as adults, making suits from the skin of slaughtered invalids.

I get it. It doesn’t mean I like it.

Raising children is like being madly in love with someone you know will some day break up with you. You just hope that, in the aftermath, they’ll still want to be friends.

But pets? Pets are different.

As long as I keep the Meow Mix coming, Stella will like me.

With Stella, my kisses won’t suddenly become “lame.” I won’t embarrass her for reasons unknown. I won’t be pinpointed as the cause of her irrational fear of clowns, just because I happened to jump out of the closet in a Bozo suit dripping fake blood and screaming her name as a prank those five nights in a row back in kindergarten.

Of course, because cats are part angel, part a—hole, there are times when I wish we could rethink this unhealthy relationship. While all cats chase and kill small animals, Stella is somewhat of an overachiever in this regard.

Not a day goes by when the carcass of a bird, mouse, rat, lizard or squirrel doesn’t turn up by the back door. Unless I bury their corpses incredibly well, she will DIG THEM BACK UP and play with their rotten, maggot-infested bodies. And then come inside for kisses smelling like death.

One day I discovered she had tucked a couple of lizard corpses under the front door welcome mat and so I tried, unsuccessfully, to sweep them into the bushes. Because their lower halves had been flattened into the front step, their heads flopped back and forth like windshield wipers. I finally managed to scrape them off with a trowel.

It almost made me reconsider the wisdom of making her my emotional crutch.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll forever be a sucker for that adorable, contempt-filled face and sociopathic spirit.

 

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The little lady who’s going to help me deal with my children growing up. Here she is striking the classic feline pose known as “Get that effing thing out of my face.”

 

What the fudge? 5 reasons to hate KidzBop. (If you really need them.)

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My children were recently introduced to KidzBop, and I’m ready to cut someone.

For those fortunate enough not to get the reference, KidzBop is a series of CDs/radio station/musical empire made up of children singing sanitized versions of the latest pop hits. Its popularity is based on the fact that a) apparently children get a kick out of hearing other children sing, and b) parents feel more comfortable letting their children listen to music in which all profanity and references to sex and drugs have been omitted.

I know what you’re thinking: what a g——mn f—king brilliant  idea.
And it totally is, the producers deserve a lot of credit for their genius. Part of me will always grateful to them for keeping my kids entertained in the car so I didn’t have to spend every trip to the store playing “I Spy,” especially since my daughter makes up her own rules.

Charlie: “I spy something that starts with ’b’.” 

Me: “Bus?” 

Charlie: “No.” 

Me: “Bush?” 

Charlie: (giggling) “No.” 

Me: “Building?” 

Charlie: “No.” 

Me: “I give up. What is it?” 

Charlie: “A kite!” 

Me: “I hate you.”

That said, there is plenty to hate about KidzBop. For example:

They remove the one element that makes pop music tolerable

Many of the children on these albums have beautiful voices. Others are related to the producer. Therefore songs that were mediocre in their original form because of an artist’s ability to turn crap to brass with great vocals become downright unbearable in the KidzBop cover. As a bonus, you can be guaranteed these songs will be your children’s favorites, meaning you’ll have to listen to them over and over.

Their lyrical changes are arbitrary. And suck.

In the song “Summertime Sadness,” they change “I got my red dress on tonight” to “I got my new dress on tonight.” This makes sense if they are concerned with the color’s association with sex and passion, but then in Taylor Swift’s “Style” they change “I got that red lip, classic thing that you like” to “I got that red dress, classic thing that you like.” So which is it, KidzBop? Is a red dress tawdry or not? Or, is it tawdry, but red lips are even worse? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, KIDZBOP?

In Swift’s hit “Blank Space,” they change “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” to “Darling, it’s a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Because presumably that one attribution would alert children to the fact the song is about a bats—t crazy chick who fools men into sexual liaisons only to make their lives hellish because it’s super fun.

I got news for you, KidzBop: although “Blank Space” is a dark, inappropriate song (unless you peel back the layers and see it’s Swift’s way of poking fun at the tabloid version of herself) the lyrics are so opaque that most children have no idea what it’s about. Hell, my kids have seen the video — which, as I’ve mentioned on this site before features a lingerie-clad Swift sticking a knife into a cake filled with blood — and think it’s a lighthearted comedy about a girl who likes ponies and smashing things with golf clubs, both of which seem totally normal hobbies to them because they are 6 and 7.

KidzBop, if my children can see the story play out right in front of their eyes, and not have the slightest idea what’s going on, what makes you think they need you to change the lyrics? You could have recorded a video of the KidzBop kidz singing the original lyrics in clown costumes dripping with blood and my children still wouldn’t pick up on the fact that “Blank Space” is about some seriously dark s—t.

Sometimes their changes make the lyrics even less appropriate.

Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” is an amusing and empowering take on the issue of body image, in which the singer proclaims she’s proud of being a curvy woman. She even gives different body parts code names, meaning kids can actually sing along without figuring out that the whole song is about T and A. (That is, unless THEIR DAD explains it to them.)

However, there are some parts that could be considered racy, and KidzBop went ahead and changed them. Only problem is, they made them worse.

In the original version, Trainor sings:

“My mama done told me

‘Don’t worry about your size.’

She said ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”

In the KidzBop cover, an adolescent boy croons:

“My mama done told me

‘Don’t worry about the size.’”

When I first heard this I almost choked on my coffee. Wait, are we still talking about butts here? Because it sounds an awful lot like they just suggested —

“She said ‘Don’t let it keep you at home in your room at night.’”

Well for crying out loud, KidzBop, you just made a crude but fun song downright filthy. Because what other body part would make a boy withdraw to his room at night in shame because it is too small? A PENIS, that’s what, KidzBop.

Even my son realized something was up and asked:

“Worry about the size of what?”

“His face,” I answered.

Yeah, KidzBop, you’re lucky I’m quick on my feet. If he had been even a couple of years older he would have been cracking up because you just threw a d—k reference into a song about T and A.

They bother with songs that, just, no.

Some songs have a few inappropriate references. Others are just a whole boatload of substance abuse and humping. And like a drunken frat boy who who doesn’t know his own limitations, KidzBop continuously goes around punching above its weight.

Let’s take that memorable Pit Bull classic, “Timber,” a tale of two club goers circling each other in hopes of a casual sexual encounter. (Actual lyric, “I’m slicker than an oil spill. She says she won’t, but I bet she will.” RO-MAN-TIC.)

Instead of saying, “Whoa, there’s just nothing kid friendly about this song. I’m going to comb through some of Taylor Swift’s B sides for more material,” KidzBop tells itself, “I can do this,” and records a cover that is basically the second verse and the chorus ad nauseam.

Gone are the lyrics detailing how Mr. Bull prefers his women “Face down, booty up,” and “Twerkin’ in their bras and thongs.”  Instead, they skip any context and go right to the bragging verse, in which a bunch of prepubescent kids inform us they’re “Blessed to say, money ain’t a thing.” Oh good. Because I was worried about how Kyle was going to pay his bail when he hits 18, ages out of the KidzBop franchise and knocks over a 7-11 to make his life seem interesting.

Go home, KidzBop. You’re drunk.

KidzBop trains children to sniff out the inappropriate

One day at the grocery store, my son stopped in his tracks.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “That song just got the words wrong.”

One of his favorite tunes was playing over the PA, except it wasn’t the KidzBop version. He stopped and looked up at me, appalled.

“What’s a thong?” he asked, wide eyed.

It became like a game to him, his brow furrowed in concentration as he picked out each reference to sex, drinking, genitalia and violence.

And this is perhaps why I hate KidzBop the most. Before my children discovered KidzBop, they happily listened to pop tunes without paying any attention to the lyrics. Now they are like heat-seeking missiles when it comes to the inappropriate, prone to shouting out questions such as, “Why did she open the front door naked?” and “Why does the woman call the man on his cell phone, late night when she needs his love?”

KidzBop, if you were a person, I’d kick your ass.

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Those awkward first (play)dates

cropped-image4.jpgPlaydates are a necessary evil of modern childhood. It’s not like the old days, when kids ran wild through the neighborhood with their friends and then booked it home when the streetlights came on.

These days many parents are afraid to let their children roam outside unattended. This is either because a) they have seen too many Lifetime movies about child abduction to think rationally (that’s me), or b) they find themselves stymied in their attempts to encourage a healthy independence in their children by well-intentioned, idiotic bystanders who confuse perfectly acceptable parenting practice with abuse. The woman who got arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play at the park without her comes to mind. As does the woman who was reported for allowing her three children to play in their own fenced-in backyard while she did laundry inside.

Thus, for many kids, spontaneous social interaction with their peers has been replaced by what amount to appointments, planned with the skilled coordination once reserved for military maneuvers. (“We have swim lessons at 10 but we could do 11.” “We have a birthday party at 11. How about 2?” “Her brother has occupational therapy at 2 and then T-ball.” “How does November look?”)

Of course, you can always play with your children yourself, but if other households are anything like mine, that involves some seriously weird s—t. My son’s idea of a good time is to chase me around the house pretending to be the ghost of a dead piano teacher. (“You must practice!”) Or there’s the one where we leave mean notes for each other, a game that started one day when he scrawled on a notepad, “Dear Mom, I hope you get fat!

Pretending to be indignant, I wrote back:

If I get fat, I’ll sit on you until you barf!

Giggling, he wrote:

If you make me barf, I’ll put it all in your bed!

I wrote:

If you put your barf in my bed, I’ll wait until you are asleep, sneak into your room and spit into your open mouth.

Eyes wide, he looked up.

“Are you serious?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Am I?”

As you can see, the need to get my children around normal people is very real.

But the problem with setting up a playdate for your child is that you are often forced into a date too. Since few parents are willing to drop their kid off at a stranger’s house, you and a rough acquaintance are obligated to make conversation while your children bang around the house and occasionally come streaking through the room butt naked in a fire fighter’s helmet.

To be fair, it’s not always bad. Sometimes, you meet the other parent, hit it off right away and think, “Wow, we should have drinks sometime,” or, “I bet you’d be great in a bar fight.”

Other times the whole thing lags, the conversation falls flat (“Have you lived in this house long?”) and 45 minutes into it you awkwardly check your watch and say, “Well, we should get out of your hair.”

The worst is when you know in advance that you’re not going to like the other parent. I recently endured this when my son set up a playdate with a boy we met at the park. To call his mother uptight would be a kindness. What else can you say about a person who screams like a banshee when she catches her 7-year-old scaling the jungle gym and then follows it with a manic singsong, “Sweetie, get down from there! Ladders aren’t for climbing!”

Huh?

Since they were coming to our house I had the added displeasure of having to clean, which meant shoving every toy, piece of paper, marker and stuffed animal in sight into the hall closet.

When they arrived the boys took off upstairs, leaving me to make constipated conversation with this woman in the kitchen. It wasn’t long before the boys ran in saying they couldn’t find our Candy Land game.

I went to look upstairs while they searched downstairs. Not surprisingly, the box was in plain sight on the book shelf in Jack’s room. The same room the boys had just been playing in for 20 minutes.

“Found it!” I called from the top of the stairs, and then stopped when I saw the boys digging through the hall closet while the mother stood nearby, staring at several pieces of paper. She then looked at me, her expression wary and confused.

Looks like I wasn’t the only one who had found something. In her hands were several of the notes Jack and I wrote to each other.

“Oh, those!” I said, running down the stairs to see her clutching one that read: “Dear Mom, I hope you die soon!” in magenta marker.

“That’s just a little joke we have with each other,” I said, as Jack grabbed the Candy Land box from my hands. “See, in the next one I tell him that if I die I will come back as a ghost and scare him until he pees his pants. Ha-ha!”

Her eyes grew wide.

“It’s really just a joke,” I mumbled. “I mean, like, that other one? I wouldn’t, you know, actually defecate in his shoes.”

To suggest that the playdate ended poorly would be an understatement. To speculate that we won’t be having another playdate with this young man any time soon would be sensible.

At the end of the day, that’s probably for the best. I know at least 10 other moms who are much more fun to hang out with, moms who would have laughed those notes off and maybe even joined in the game.

Maybe not.

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Six reasons you don’t want your child getting that “super” head lice going around. (If you really need them.)

The number of states battling outbreaks of “super lice,” (strains resistant to the insecticides in over-the-counter treatments) has grown to 25, according to scientists with the American Chemical Society. This means more and more parents will be battling mutant vermin for control of their children’s heads — and their own sanity — in the coming months.

If you’re not already suitably terrified, let me help you out. My 5-year-old daughter recently became infested with super lice and generously passed them along to me. It took us two months to get rid of the little bastards, and to say the experience was a nightmare would be an understatement. And I sat through the movie Ishtar.

Here are six reasons why you should be stocking up on wine and soiling yourself at the thought of your kids bringing them home:

1. Like glitter and drunk party guests, they are nearly impossible to get rid of.

You will try any and everything to get rid of them, but, like the bad guys in the movies, they always come back. That’s because they are impervious to most methods of extermination and reproduce constantly. By masturbation. (Okay, I made the second part up but that’s how it seems.)

2. All methods to get rid of them are equally distasteful.

Your choices include putting insecticides that probably won’t work on your child’s head (gulp) and/or massaging essential oils into his/her scalp. Apparently, lice don’t like the smell of tee tree oil mixed with rosemary and peppermint oils, which is frankly not surprising since the result is a scent I call “Satan’s Butt Crack.”

Another option is to coat your child’s hair with cheap conditioner and rake through it with a nit comb to get all the bugs and their potential offspring out. Raise your hand if your child enjoys getting his/her hair washed, let alone combed for an hour every day. If you did raise your hand, use it to hit yourself because you are LYING.

The method that finally worked for us involved 16 ounces of Cetaphil and a hair dryer. My daughter lives in fear of noise-making appliances, so you can imagine how much fun that was.

3. Despite what you may have heard, your child can pass them along to you.

Can’t get lice after puberty? Lice don’t like curly hair? Hair washing prevents the spread of lice?

Anything you’ve heard along those lines is a myth. As someone who is extremely post pubescent and has lots of curly hair, let me be the first to tell you they will come for you. And guess what: they prefer clean hair.

It’s a short crawl from your child’s head to yours during a cuddle, and the more adventurous bugs on your child’s head will gladly make that trip. As a consequence, you will wake up feeling something crawling on your head and find bite marks on your neck and ears.

Which brings us to:

4. It’s beyond disgusting…

There are bugs crawling through your child’s (and possibly your) hair. You will sometimes see them moving. When you comb them out, they will attempt to crawl away. ACROSS YOUR KITCHEN TABLE.

5. …and kind of embarrassing.

There’s nothing like having body parasites to make you feel like an unwashed social pariah. It’s just so century-before-last, as in, surely we curtailed this problem when people began bathing regularly and women got the vote. It’s like having a condition only a character in a Dickens novel would have, like scurvy or fatal syphilis.

6. Once they are gone you will spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder. Literally.

Every time your child scratches his/her head or you detect your own follicular tickle, you will become convinced that the nightmare is starting. All. Over. Again.

If you are unfortunate enough to become infested, I recommend something called the Nuvo Method. It ain’t fun but it was the only thing that worked for us.

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We’re no angels

The second people find out you have a child (or children) with special needs, many of them want to assign you saint status. There seems to be this idea that parents of special needs kids are mild, patient, long-suffering angels put on this planet to make other parents feel like crap if they lose their temper because the kids drew on the dog with a Sharpie. Again.

Well, you can all relax: with few exceptions, I’ve never met a special needs parent who is meek, perfect or mild. If anything, being in this situation brings out the badass in you.

Take, for example, my friend Bonnie (not her real name). The youngest of her three sons has cerebral palsy. Pity her. No, seriously, I dare you. She’ll brush it off with a, “I put on my big girl panties a long time ago.”

Every week Bonnie brings her youngest to the local YMCA for aquatic therapy. He can walk but not long distances and he’ll use a wheelchair that looks like a stroller to get to and from the pool.

Last week she pulled into the last available handicapped parking spot — she has a tag and it’s prominently displayed — and began unloading his wheelchair.

An older woman pulled up behind her and asked, “Are you coming or going?”

“Coming,” Bonnie replied as the nursing assistant who helps her during these appointments unbuckled her son from his seat.

“Well, are you handicapped?” the woman asked.

“No,” Bonnie replied, “but my son is.”

This woman, who is apparently beyond any social redemption, then said, “He’s handicapped but rides in a stroller?”

“Ma’am,” Bonnie said, and as anyone knows, when a southern lady uses the word “ma’am,” she is either being polite or fixing to kick your ass, “that’s a wheelchair, not a stroller and you are being a bitch.”

With that, the lady drove off in a huff. (Oh, don’t cry too much for her. She found a parking spot and made it to water aerobics just fine.)

In my opinion, this incident illustrates perfectly why special needs moms are not, in general, shrinking violets. We wouldn’t last very long on the job if we were.

Because, despite the overwhelming majority of kind and caring strangers out there, there will always be Buick-driving a-holes such as Betty — which is her real name, I would give her license plate number if I knew it — who think it’s acceptable to do things such as question whether we deserve the special parking spot.

Or suggest that autism doesn’t really exist. (That one was said to me.) Or “inform” us that children with neurological conditions would just get better if we spanked them. (Said to a friend.) Or tell us that we are poisoning our child with chemotherapy and we could easily cure her cancer with an all-juice diet. (Said to me.)

It would take the patience of a saint not to get ticked off by such behavior and I have yet to meet a special needs mom who qualifies for saint status. (Unless you’re talking about one of the ass-kicking saints, like Joan of Arc. She was cool.)

Also, it’s not just us on the receiving end of people’s rudeness. When we take our children out in public they are often subject to ridicule or contempt. We stand up for them to teach them they are worth standing up for. The few times I’ve lost it with strangers the message was really for my children. I want them to understand that they shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by the comments of strangers, it’s the strangers who should be mortified. (Yes, it’s not lost on me that on occasion, I’M the one embarrassing them with my behavior. I’m working on it.)

Hell, I’ve been criticized for not being hard-nosed enough. “You need to be an advocate,” has been said to me more times than I can count. And I have assumed some really ugly masks in the name of advocacy.

I have stood in the school district main office screaming like a lunatic because no one could tell me where to get help for my children. I have yelled at doctors who ordered another blood draw on my daughter, when both her arms were already black and blue, because they wanted to run a test that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

There’s probably some happy medium between pushy and abrasive and meek and mild but I haven’t found it. Like all parents out there, I’m figuring this out as I go along.

And that’s my point: being a parent is hard, period. All moms and dads give of themselves selflessly every day (and a lot of nights) and no one suggests they are saints.

One of the problems I have with this automatic saint status is that it comes with a hint of pity. And while this pity comes from a good place, it’s hard not to take it in a bad way. Because even though it isn’t the intention, the pity implies that my children are burdens I am patiently suffering through.

Oh. Hell. No.

My kids are my heart. They’re my joy. I love them beyond all reason and even when they’re a challenge I’m grateful for them. They aren’t my burden, they’re my privilege.

None of this makes me worthy of pity or assigns me saint status. It just makes me a parent.

llll