Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fuck 'em If They Can't Take A Joke

Apparently my last couple of postings scared the crap out of everybody; and I thought it was comedy! Whoops! But the flood of concerned emails has been downright heartwarmimg. Here are a few faves.

Mommy-pal Kiersten gets Babyweekly, an e-newsletter that had this mind-boggling wisdom to offer on stressful moments, and she forwarded it to me thusly;

“I thought you’d get a kick out of this."

There's a reason parenting is called the toughest job in the world, and everyone has bad days. But if you feel as if you are at the end of your rope or you might take your frustrations out on your children, take a break. Put your child(ren) in a safe place (such as the crib) and take a moment to calm down. Have a friend or relative stay with them while you visit friends, sleep, take a hot bath, or go to the gym-whatever will help you recharge. Even a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for your state of mind. Reach out to others if you are at your wit's end-never take your frustrations out on your child.

Amazing, Kiersten and I agreed, how it’s all so simple!


I also got this concise and compassionate note, which I loved, from the wise and stylish Cousin Flora, a nodding, knowing….

“Ah yes, I remember those days….hang in there.”

From my devoted once-and-future shrink Ruth:

“I’ve been following your blog. Listen, Super Mom, or Super Jew, or whatever it is you’re trying to do over there; how about coming in for a few sessions?”

And finally, my favorite, from Fabulous Friend Kelly Kay Griffith, regarding Chapter 5, the car-screaming-episode:

“Jesus Christ. Are you alive?”

I have the nicest people! My kingdom for a podium at which to stand and wring the hem of my ball gown as I look with dewey eyes upon you all, proclaiming, “You like me! You really like me!”

Meanwhile, I am making arrangements for the fates of my detractors, the worst of whom is a relative who called Papa the Red to insist that Minky appears to be “overwhelmed” and “having problems,” and who FAILED to call Minky directly to offer support, or perhaps a few hours of free baby sitting (you see, the trouble with advice articles is REALITY,) that Minky might go and have a hair cut or a cup of coffee and a newspaper or, heaven forefend, an evening out with poor old B. No… that was not offered. Only belittlement and superiority were offered. So helpful!


But more to the point; any parent who asserts that they have never had something comparable to the afternoon of screaming I had with M, or a bout of clop-cup-en-vant such as was caused by the nightly game of Musical Sleep Deprivation that went on here, is either:

Drunk again
Not taking care of their own kids

But who cares about them, especially when I have the champ that is Papa in my corner, whose response to the relative was:

“You don’t understand. She’s not writing to complain. She’s writing to tell the truth. She’s writing to tell other mothers how it really is, and to not be alone.”

I could stand up clapping and do one of those cool, macho, long whistles right now, or in lieu of that, I could hoot like TV talk show audiences do; “Whoooo-hooo!” I say to Papa, “Tell it, Mister! Tes-ti-FY!”

I LOVE that man.

And as for the arrangements; I’ll probably go with this week’s special at my x-husband’s drive-thru contract service, ‘Bludgeon King.’ They get it done with your choice of a marble ashtray, Cricket bat, or my all time favorite… I love writing this almost as much as saying it… the Ball-Peen Hammer.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life With M, Chapter 5

We went to the beach with Papa, and probably shouldn’t have; it’s awfully hot outside. M and Little H’s cheeks turned a near-pulsating red within minutes of setting up our spot there. But I had promised M, and Papa, and couldn’t bear to reneg. They’d have forgotten about it eventually, but I couldn’t have tolerated the guilt, or the boredom of another long, long, sweltering afternoon.

They three sleep most of the way back and wake up in foul moods on Queens Boulevard. We drop off Papa and begin to search purgatory for a parking space; we circle, and circle, and I start to get jittery for caffeine and a snack; it had been too hot to eat lunch.

M and Little H are hungry, too, and need a drink. “Bwown dwink,” M announces, meaning chocolate milk. “Bwown dwink. Bwown dwink.” Little H just whimpers for a nurse.

“We will definitely get a drink at home, guy, we just have to park our car. Try to be patient,” I say, deliberately leaving no room to negotiate.

“Bwown dwink,” M insists. “Bwown dwink! Bwown DWINK!” He wants it right now, but he’s playing, too, his tone teasing.

“We’ll have it upstairs,” I say, seemingly unable to control my compulsion to answer every utterance he makes. It’s not a discussion, he has to wait, so why can’t I shut up?

“Bwown DWINK! Bwown DWINK! Bwown DWINK!” he yells, grinning in panicky sadism; he doesn’t believe me. Why? “Bwown DWINK! BWOWN DWINK! BWOWN DWINK!”

I hit the brake and turn to the 5:30 position, steadying myself by grabbing M’s car seat, and not M’s arm. “Please stop saying it, sweetheart, mommy’s trying to park the car and then we will go up and have the drink. Can you please wait quietly?”


“Thank you,” I say, and hit the gas a little, continue to search for a space, my fingers tapping the wheel because I know it’s coming-

“BWOWN DWINK! AAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” M screams in mania, mouth open and smiling with cruel glee. “AAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!” he screams again, this time so loud that Little H bursts into terrified tears, and I yell out in shock from the actual pain of noise slicing through my skull.

I pull over with a screetch and turn abruptly again to grab the car seat, all in slow motion; my rage at his screaming shoots down through my arm and the impulse to finally, just this once, slap him, is powerful; I don’t do it. I know I won’t. But I feel like I could.

Nevertheless I let out a bellow of anger so loud and alien I’m not sure it’s come from me at first; I sound like a man. I stop us all cold. M is momentarily stunned, and looks at my reflection in his backward-facing car seat mirror.


I don’t mean it, but the standoff is quiet, and I seem to have gained leverage. None of us move. After a moment, M’s frightened face relaxes, he smiles, laughs at me, and screams again. I put the car in park and bang my head on the steering wheel 17 times. Little H cries and cries.

“I quit,” I mutter, and pretend that it’s so, just for this moment. I am totally at sea. I’ve lost my way. I have no idea what to do with us now. But a parking space opens up, and I take it. I don’t say another word. M screams a few more times, looking for my hilariously angry expression in his reverse-view mirror, but I don’t engage him. I start to unpack the car, yanking out the double stroller and smacking it against the curb, it springs open with a flourish, hanging toys and cup holders flopping brightly out like flowers from a top hat. Diaper bag over the right handle, my mini knapsack purse over the left, M’s sandals in the bottom basket, smash the towels in there, too; the plastic bag of wet bathing suits and the beach toys can cook in the damn car for the rest of the hot afternoon for all I care right now. Fuck it.

I go around and extract weeping Little H from her deep car seat, and immediately she begins to calm down. I love her so. She is so sweet, so good natured, so passive; I wish I could protect her from this, whatever it is that goes on between me and M. “I’m sorry,” I whisper into her peachy ear, and I bounce her gently around for a moment before laying her back in the rear of the double stroller.

M watches all this closely and on his face I see a new confusion. “Boobee,” he says sweetly, trying a different tack. “Mommy,” he goes on, smiling at me. “Mommy mommy, boobee. A bink a bink, see mommy, go upstas, pway, mommy pway? Wead books!”

As I pull him from his car seat he gives me kisses on my chin and neck. I kiss him back one time, and sit him in the stroller’s driver seat, and I crouch, and look him in the eye. “You know that the rules are no hitting, no pushing, and no screaming. When we go upstairs, you’ll have a time-out in the crib, because you screamed. Got it?”

He nods, and looks away.

In the elevator, Little H falls asleep again. And inside the apartment, I leave them both in the stroller for a moment so I can pee in peace. I splash cold water on my face, take a deep breath. I undo M’s stroller straps and let him out for a moment. As I turn to take my beach shoes off, he runs around the open back of the stroller and slaps Little H on the head. She screams, and cries, and I shout, “That’s it! That’s it. TIME OUT!” He was getting it anyway, how do I make it mean more? I yank his binky out of his mouth and throw it on the floor.

I stick him in the crib and go back to the stroller, scoop out Little H, rock her on the sofa till she’s calm, meanwhile M cries like hell.

I nurse Little H, while M cries. I change her diaper. I set her up sitting in her Boppy with a baby video to watch and a heap of little toys. I wash M’s binky, and go back to him.

“Bink!” he demands on sight of it, still crying.

“You can have your binky when you say sorry to me for hitting and screaming.”

“No! Bink!” he says, and cries again. We go around and around with this for a while, I leave once or twice, he cries more, I come back, and eventually we get it together.

“Sowwy, mommy.”

“Okay,” I say, and we make it up with hugs and kisses and a bit of boob. We talk it over. “I’m sorry that I yelled at you,” I tell him. “We both have to work on keeping our voices down. Let’s both try to be quiet like butterflies, for the rest of the day, okay? And gentle.”

“Buddafwy,” he says, leaning exhausted against my chest.

“I love you,” I tell him, and he nods. “Pway,” he says, and climbs off my lap, runs out to the living room, and I’m after him like a shot, because I just feel in my bones what’s about to happen, but I don’t make it in time, and as I careen around the corner into the room, he smacks Little H on top of her head, she lets out a shriek of insult and pain, I lunge for him, and we start the whole goddamn thing all over again.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Life With M, Chapter 4

I sit on the playground bench next to my pal, a Russian grandpa who takes care of his granddaughter all day. The granddaughter, a little older and a little taller than M, is ‘sharing’ his trucks; meaning the two have been peaceably dividing the trucks between them for about twenty minutes and are now eyeballing each other in preparation for a good cathartic fistfight. M grabs, the Russian girl swings and lands one truck on M’s head, he shoves back, snatches away the truck of contention and comes flying at me in dismay, and I open my knees and fold him back into my body, my arms all around him, his yowls muffled in my sand-bag breasts. I hold him.

He should defend himself, but this time he really started it. “Why did you grab that truck from her?” I ask him. “You have enough. You were sharing so nicely.”

“NO-O!” says M, up into my face, as if I’m missing the point, and I probably am.

“Okay,” I say, “but we brought a lot of trucks. That’s your friend. Can you play some more?”

“No,” M says, burying his face in my thigh now, and anyway the grandpa is prying trucks from the little girl’s hands and getting ready to leave. My heart falls, and I imagine the grandpa to be disappointed in me, for some reason. I like this friend for M, she gives him a run for his money. She cries angrily and stamps her foot. M watches. I can’t tell if he cares.

“I’m sorry,” I say to the grandpa as he steers her away.

“No worry,” he says, “see you.”

Little H, busily chewing a velour duck till now, starts to cry.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Life With M, Chapter 3

We’re in the playground, as usual, M, Little H, and I. It’s beastly hot outside, so we leave our beast, the dog, behind at home. It’s also late, after 6, and B will be home soon enough to take the poor old thing out (not me, the dog!) for a drag around the block.

Just now is when the playground becomes approachable again. The sun is setting in earnest, and the treeless place titrates down a few degrees. People come out of the brickwork, spilling from lobbies and rolling strollers up service ramps of bulging apartment buildings all around. Kids swarm in, mothers drag behind with thier limp hair and perspiring smiles, fathers with loosened ties and sweaty suit jackets flap down the block to meet them. The playground comes back to life.

“Ice-ee twuck! Ice-ee twuck!” shouts M, pointing. Doodl-y doodle-y, doo-doo-doo, the monkey chased the weasel…

“You’re late,” I say to the ice cream guy, kidding around. “Gimme a flying saucer, I’ll pay ya tomorrow.”

“Why you so nice to me, lady, hah?” he says curtly, kidding too and handing over the treat.

“Pity,” I say. “Really, tho, I ran out without-“ but he dismisses me, saying, "Go, go, mommy..." My credit is good and he’s got a line of hot little hands waving crumply bills at him.

I pirouette back to M who is strapped into the stroller, waiting for the flying saucer, which I pass over his head, making space ship noises, "Zhhhhhhnnnnnnnnnnrrrrrmm! BEEP! BEEEP! BEEP!"

“Ice-ee, ice-ee!” he says, breathing fast and reaching out for it, kicking his legs with excitement like he used to do on sight of B coming through the door at the end of the day. The treat is barely out of the wrapper as M reaches up, high now, his arms are getting long, and grabs it from my hands, starts nibbling away at the black, damp cookie part, licking the white ice cream investigatively, touching it to the tip of his nose and then looking at me, eyebrows raised, as if to say, 'Ice-cream-nose; does it work on me?'

I slurp the middle of his face and he shoves me away; I’ve gone to far, gooney mommy that I am. I sit on a bench, relishing the sitting, watch kids fly around with their ice creams. Little H sleeps in the back of the stroller, her round, pink face hot and peaceful. M eats.

And then is distracted. A bigger kid has run by and caught his eye, a girl, 5 or 6, pretty and birdlike and boney and definitively un-American looking, with golden colored skin and light hair, as if she has been to the beach, or camping. She has hazel eyes and large, gray-white, crooked teeth, an open-mouthed but cautious smile. She wears purple cotton pants, dirty white sandals, a ‘Dora’ t-shirt, the ubiquitous uniform of little girls, but there’s a sophistication to her face, her posture, something harder, something of memory. She has only one hand.

“Wha-SAT?!?” M shouts, pointing at the stumped, waxy wrist. “Wha-SAT! Wha-SAT!” He demands to know, eyes bugging out in alarm.

‘That happens?’ I imagine him thinking, ‘You knew about this, mommy? Where the hell is that kid’s HAND?’

Landmines, I imagine, but say nothing, of course. She has already seen us, the girl, and she pushes her little sister on a swing, steady as a metronome, watching us, the little sister a baby version of herself, in tact.

Can my eyes speak for me at all? I try carefully and hard to smile the right way at the girl, to convey to her that she is lovely and unusual and strong. But in his outrage, M drowns my silent admiration out.

“Wha-SAT?!? Wha-SAT?!?” His pointing finger, like his father’s are, long, articulated, practically scorns.

“Let’s go see,” I say. There has to be a way in.

We roll on into the swing area and M climbs over the stroller bar as I mop off him with wipes the last of his flying saucer. Shoeless and shirtless, all frayed, uncut blonde hair and tan limbs, he could almost be the middle brother to these girls; but he’s more primal than they, and fatter. M grips the bottom of the swing next to the baby sister and hangs from it. I pull and push him up into it properly while he gives the bigger girl a side-eye; up close, he’s not so blatant, not so brave. But he’s still looking, and he’s looking at me, too, and she’s looking at me, and I don’t have the answer or even the right question.

“I like your 'Dora' shirt,” I say to the girl, synchronizing our pushes. I pat my shirt front, then point to hers.

“No,” she says kindly. No English, she means. Then we all four look straight ahead instead of at each other, and keep swinging.

There is no way in.