Rantlets: little rants of the day (iii)

Greetings, people within a few zip codes who are hoping to buy a house: I have a proposition for you. Buy my damned house. I’m tired of cleaning it, I’m tired of having bastards who aren’t you traipse through it, I’m tired of explaining to my son why we’re still here while Daddy is in San Francisco, I’m tired of lowering the price, and I’m tired of feeling rejected everytime someone who is not you says they’re going to write and offer then backs out when they find out all banks are people with DICKS who made a fortune at our expense and now won’t give anyone any more money, when they were practically cramming it down our throats before. They all suck. The other buyers suck. I like you. Please buy my house. Now.

Attention, ants: I freaking tired of this b*llsh*t. Get out of my house. Now. I’m tired of being all natural and organic with you. I know I carry out the spiders and the beetles and that one frog who got trapped between the slider and the screen, and I would willingly do the same for you if there weren’t eight hundred trillion of you. Plus, you freaking scurry any time I try to scoop you up. I’m tired of making little cinnamon and baking soda lines to discourage you, I’m tired of wiping down your trails with vinegar to confuse you, and I’m sick of telling my son that the new, last-ditch resort ant traps are “little houses” for you and your colony so you can “have your own house instead of using ours.” Eat the freaking poison, take it back to your stupid queen, and get the freak out of my house. You have the old oak stump, you have my cypress, you have the hose near the back patio, and you have the whole state of California to invade. Get the f*ck out. Now.

I decided today while we were out running that if you walk your dog by hanging onto its leash while you ride a bike, I hope someone pulls the skin off your big toes and makes you walk through lemonade for the rest of your life. How freaking dangerous can you be? Why not tie its leash to the bumper of your car and take it for a really slow drive? Are you so lazy you can’t walk with your freaking dog? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Do you keep it cramped in a tiny apartment all day and then get pissed that the poor thing is full of energy? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Are you convinced it needs to run but can’t be bothered to run with it or take it to a park where it can run with other dogs? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Do you notice a theme, you borderline-abusey a**hole? Are you so out of shape you can’t even walk with a dog? Put down the Tw*nk*e, back away from the computer, and spend some time playing with your dog!

Hey, toddler. It’s a simple question. I’ve asked it four times. I know I could just pick one of the two choices and start doing it, and that you’d holler and choose the other and we could go about our business, but I’m tired of that game. Answer me. If I have to ask it again I’m going to lose it and you’re going to have to explain the ringing in your ears to your eventual parole officer, and I’m gonna have to answer to the other natural parents at our hippie granola meeting. So I’m gonna ask one more time, and you’re gonna answer. Got it?

Rantlets: little rants of the day (ii) (the animal edition)

Um, ‘scuse me, creators of children’s characters? Would you please have some basic decency and stop selling your characters’ likeness to companies that make nutritionally despicable foods? You know kids like your little animated or puppety monster whatsit thingie. You know kids should eat food that occurs in nature. Do you read the ingredients on the crap your animated or puppety monster whatsit thingie is selling? Crimminy, isn’t your soul worth anything to you?

Cats!…Cats! Who did this? I asked the kid, but he doesn’t have claws and this reeks of clawed beastie. Don’t pretend to be taking a bath. And even if you were, it’s not like you can’t listen while you’re licking yourself.  Are you listening? Rolls of paper towels, even rolls of recycled paper towels, cost the planet trees and are really expensive and are not disemboweling toys. While we’re at it, would it kill you to barf on the tile or on the cork instead of on the teeny, tiny little rugs we have scattered through the house? There’s like a million-to-one ratio of cleanable to non-cleanable surfaces here, and you have to choose the spray-blot-blot-blot-spray-blot-blot-rub-curse-scrub-curse-trash surface rather than the wipe, spray, wipe surface? I’m gonna stop feeding you if you can’t keep your barf and your crap in their proper places. Even my two-and-a-half-year old has mastered that.

Speaking of people who send their pets to the shelter if they make a mess–are you freaking kidding me? Someone should send you to the shelter for being an a**hole. If you parent an animal, you’re supposed to care for it, teach it, and love it. You’re not supposed to give up on it. I hope society gives up on you and you wind up living in a van down by the river. And when that happens, don’t try to adopt a pet so you’ll have comfort. I’m gonna tell ’em all what a jerk you are, and how many dogs you sent to the pound just because they didn’t do what you told them the first time. And they’re going to eat you up.

When did we become the laziest people on earth? As a nation, we’re grossly obese, we expect the world to be 71 degrees at all times, we want instant food (then instant weight loss), and we can’t seem to manage life unless everything is single serve and disposable. (Not you, Jon and Kate Plus Eight. You get a pass. Something had to give. Glad the lollypops are organic.) But when did it get so bad that people just leave their grocery carts next to their car? Is it that hard to complete the cycle? Drive (lazyass!) to the store, wander around slumped over the cart (stand up, lazyass), push paid purchases out to the car, put bags into the car, and drive off? When, for pete’s sake, did we stop pushing the carts back to the corrals? I mean, that moment seems to have passed. But now people don’t even move the carts out of the parking space. Not up on a curb, not with the ten other carts one aisle over. Just leave it right there in the middle of the freaking space. No wonder the world hates us. Put your carts back, you lazy f*ckers!

Rantlets: little rants of the day

Hey, recycle professionals: I know life is hard, what with your being promoted from garbage man to waste management engineer. But you’re making enough money to break down the boxes for me. Seriously. I’m doing my part just by separating the twenty types of recycling mentioned in the eight-column spreadsheet you send us every year. “Please break down boxes” my ass. You do it. (Better yet, I’ll break down boxes as soon as you bastards start promoting composting as a way to eliminate billions of tons of waste every year…oh, wait. I forgot. You get more money when we throw stuff away. No wonder you want us to break down the boxes–so we can put more stuff in the can. Gotcha. Now that I know, I’ll change my answer: “Please break down boxes” my ass. You do it.)

Okay, people. This is easy. When you hear a siren, pull the fuck over and stop your car. Not slow down and look around. Not modify your trajectory a bit to the right. Pull over and stop. You selfish prick, there is an emergency somewhere, and since you’re too much of an a** to go help, the least you can do is get out the way.

Hey, parents of more than one kid at the playground: I’m sick of doing your job for you. Please pay attention to all your kids. You made more than one, so you really should parent all of them. I know that little one is cuter than the old one–believe me, I know, since I’ve just spent a freaking hour with your least favorite over here–but I’m sick of making sure the ignored and older kid doesn’t crack open her head, crack open my kid’s head, or drive me nuts with the ten hour stories you are clearly not listening to at home, since she needs to prattle on and on and on and on to me. If you don’t want to watch these spawn, hire someone who does.

Groceries and building blocks

While we were at Trader Joe’s, Peanut dictated his grocery list. He usually draws it at home before we go, but we forgot. So he proclaimed, loudly, while ticking off on his fingers, and with a great sing-song rhythm:

“Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, soy, water, blender juice, bread, little bread, pizza.”

When we were building with blocks, he told me he was making a new house. I asked what he wanted his house to have.

P: “Garden. Flowers. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, pick, eat eat eat. ‘Matoes. No like ‘matoes. Pick throw.”

M: “Sounds like a nice garden, with flowers and lots of berries. Do you want to have a kitchen inside for cooking?”

P: “No. No kitchen no bathroom no dining room. Pick eat pee poop garden.”

Well. sounds like we’ll be a big hit once we move.

On another note about building blocks and toddlers, I’m kind of sick of the build-it-just-to-knock-it-down thing. I’ve tried casually suggesting he build his own stuff. That works until he sees what I’m compiling, and he knocks it down. I’ve tried getting him to collaborate with me. He just knocks down what little I’ve built. Seriously, dude, it would be nice to maybe get this thing more than two blocks high, or maybe get some structure to it. No offense or anything, but you’re not much fun when it comes to playing blocks. Sure, watching you have fun is pleasurable for a while and all that, but this gig is getting boring. Mommy used to have a job where people liked what she did and didn’t instantly knock it down. In fact, when mommy did work at a place like that, she quit. She prefers work environments where lots of people collaborate to build things, or work independently then show everyone the fruits of our labors. Mommy kind of wants a job like that again. Whadya say?

Toddler or Anarchist?

With whom would you rather share your home—-a toddler or an anarchist?

Hmmm. Tougher choice than it seems. Unless you have (or have had) a toddler. In that case, you know pretty much where this is going.

Two-year-olds can be loving, can be interesting, can be wonderful companions. They also, though, often strive for independence and control over their own ideas and bodies, usually in wildly disproportionate episodes of writhing, screaming, and sobbing. In short, they are trying on independence without any of the skills it takes to button the cuffs of social diplomacy.

Anarchists, on the other hand, just want coercive government to go away. They have social skills, and their tactics are often in direct response to the perceived threat to their independence. You don’t have to baby-proof a house for an anarchist. They have better things to do than chase your cats, break your favorite coffee mug, or pee on your phone.

Like toddlers, anarchists come with all manner of agendas and methodologies. Like toddlers, anarchists can be loving, interesting, and wonderful companions. Unlike toddlers, anarchists aren’t out of their illogical, irrational, freaking minds.

Two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut kissed me at least 45 times each hour, for all 14 hours he was awake. Big, full, lip-on-lip, sweet Peanut kisses. Most of the kisses accompanied by my favorite sentence from 19 months on: “Peanut…Like…Mommy.” Score one for toddlers. It was a good, good day.

Further two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut walked into sporting good store, after agreeing that, yes, this store has some no-touches, so please ask mommy before you touch. He asked, then defied, on four items, each time looking right at me as he touched. I said, “no, thank you. No touch.” He said, “Please” as he touched again. I said, “No. No touch. Please listen to my words.” He touched again and repeated “please.” I shook my head and gently removed his hand. He cried “No Mommy move Peanut hand!” On the fourth item (sunglasses…why, oh why do they put those at waist-level instead of up by our eyes, where they should be?!) he threw a fit. Reaching for it…”I said no touch. If you touch that, we will leave the store.” Touch. Scoop up and take outside. Screaming, crying. Sobbing really, with tears streaming down his face. “One minnow!” (see the one minnow post. priceless. for all other toddler moments, there’s MasterCard.)

“Nope. We’re all done.” Cried on the sidewalk in my arms for, no joke, ten minutes. My biceps were on fire. I tried silence. I tried gentle talk, offering different options. I did not offer (or acquiesce to) a return trip into the store. Crying, crying, crying. Cried a few times as people walked by, I’m sure, just to inform them of my bad parenting. His words, not mine.

Anyway, toddler loses that one. (It was still a good day, btw.)

No specific anarchist data for same day, but passed several pedestrians in San Luis Obispo who were undoubtedly familiar with the tenets of at least one anarchist, and they seemed a welcome, quiet change from a two-and-a-half-year-old. Anarchists do not frequently scream or cry or try to grab things that society asked them not to touch. Anarchists break things and destroy property to reject the notion of property. They are rebelling. I can get on board with at least the idea, if not the reality, of this sort of rebellion. Two-year-old rebellion I do not support, as it makes absolutely no sense. (Yes, I know it does. Yes, I know why they try power battles over everything at bedtime and whenever you really, really need to get somewhere. Yes, I know why very gentle and well-behaved children turn into screaming banshees when you’re on the phone. Yes, they make sense. But not in a grown-up logical way. In a animal kingdom kind of way. But seriously. Let me have my little diatribe here. I need an outlet. Heaven knows I need an outlet.) Where anarchists may destroy property to protest capitalism, toddlers touch stuff that’s not even interesting. They don’t try to possess, or refuse to think in terms of possession. They just touch stuff to touch it. And especially if told no.

Give me an anarchist any day. I understand how infuriating and terrifying it must be to control so little of your world (unless you’re Peanut, of course, who controls more of his world than 99.8% of other two-and-a-half-year-olds do, and therefore should really cut me some freaking slack. We don’t use coercion in his world. He doesn’t even have a right to anarchy. Peanut protesting coercion is like white, middle class kids complaining about how hard their lives are, and turning to drugs because they’re bored. Get a job. Volunteer. Shut up. Go work for Amnesty International for a while.) I do not understand the battles pre-preschoolers choose. Don’t get it. Score one for anarchists.

Two-year-old evidence from today: walks through the kitchen and 1)opens the trash can for no other reason than to peer inside. Thrice. 2) Reaches on tiptoes into the sink to grab the sponge, wet, and throw it on the floor. 3) Grabs a fistful of straws from the choosing cup (I know, I know–my fault for leaving it on the table) and drags them along the wall. 4)Unwinds the whole paper towel roll. Again. 5) Screams bloody murder everytime one of Parker and Skylar’s horses fall over, even though they fall over because he accidentally knocks them down. His fault, but gravity’s response is physically painful to him. When I empathize and tell him that, yes, it’s frustrating when you work hard to stand up a horse just to have it fall down, and that maybe we should try again, he hits me.

Please send me an anarchist for Christmas. Or Channukah. Or Memorial Day. What a great co-brand that would be: Hallmark offering anarchists for Mother’s Day. “When you care enough to give mom a break, send an anarchist.”

Anyway, each of these incidents of strange but typical toddler behavior got a casual, measured, supportive, and corrective comment and a plea to “please don’t do that” because fill-in-the-simplest-reason. Except the hitting. That got a time out.

Here’s the problem. By incident number four I actually said, “Please don’t do that because…can’t you just be civilized? We have the same rules every day. They don’t change. It’s the same rule Sunday as it is Thursday.” [“Thursday,” he cries, “Movie!” He’s right. Thursday is movie day. One half hour of some video that is not geared toward kids. It’s the only way I get to see Planet Earth. But that’s not the point. The consistency of rules is. Or so I thought. Not in his world. Consistency, choices, whatever. He doesn’t really care that we have always been careful with our “no”s because we saved them for genuine danger. He thinks we’re restrictive no matter how many ways we use to suggest activities other than the disgusting, irritating, or destructive one he’s chosen. Please, please. An Anarchist for the weekend. Please. On a toddler for disestablishmentarian trade program?]

An anarchist might look in the trash to find food, subverting the establishment’s insistence on exchanging money for sustenance. Not just to look in there, and not just after I helped her wash her hands. An anarchist might throw the sponge at a representative of government, to suggest any number of metaphoric or literal needs to clean up. But probably not just to piss me off. An anarchist might…okay, seriously, what self-respecting anarchist would drag straws along the wall or unroll paper towels? And therein lies the reason I’d probably choose to live with an anarchist over a toddler–they know the rules and break some to make a point. Toddlers have heard the rules, figure they’re the center of the universe and not subject to the rules, and just do things to get a reaction out of those who watch them. Kisses make mommy sigh with happiness, and ridiculousness pisses off mommy. Gonna try each twenty times today to see what happens. And they quite enjoy that power.

Anarchists push society’s buttons to make us question assumptions. Toddlers push our buttons because it’s fun. I just want to scream at Peanut: “Have some principles, at least, like those comparatively upstanding and logical anarchists. The world is not your plaything, and my rules are really just society’s rules. So put on some pants so we can leave the house, pick up the sting ray so mommy doesn’t hurt her foot again, and please put your plate in the sink or I’m going to have to remember that all the things I’m teaching you will make you thoughtful and logical. Just like an anarchist!”

Who, looking at an infant, would think anarchy would be a positive trajectory?

Well, it’s a serious improvement over two-and-a-half.

One minnow. Couple mice.

Ah, parenting a two-year-old. Good, good times.

I’m spending a lot of my time these days wishing I hadn’t taught him this, that, and the other. Mostly the dialogue bit. As K.D. says, why did I ever teach this kid to talk?

I long ago introduced compromise to Peanut’s vocabulary, a negotiating skill that gets me out of feeling like I’m caving, and gets him in a position that he thinks is powerful. “Mommy says all done and you say more. So let’s compromise. One more minute, then all done.” Yet for every time that a compromise works, there’s another time that I rue the day I taught him the concept. It’s not like knowing how to compromise will give him any social advantage later in life, or anything.

After an hour and a half at the library, he wanted more and I wanted to go. I was cranky, I was hungry, and I just couldn’t drink one more cup of pretend water from the library’s new play kitchen. I can’t. I’m pretend waterlogged.

So.

“Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“You want one more minute to play?”

“Huh.”

“And after one minute, when mommy says time to go, you’ll say yes?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. One minute.”

[dum dee dum dee dum]

“Okay one minute is all done. Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“One minute is all done. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“I did compromise. You had one more minute. Now all done. Time for car.”

“One minnow. Couple mice. One minnow. One minnow library. One minnow books. One minnow ‘tend kitchen.”

“All done library. Time for lunch. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“Mommy did compromise. And, need I remind you, you compromised, too. You said that after one minute if I said time to go you’d say yes. You have to uphold your end of the bargain or compromise won’t work.”

(At this point, a previously kindly-looking elderly lady is giving me a look. Not completely nasty, but appropriately sprinkled with “are you crazy?” Because, seriously, I talk that way to a two-year-old when I’m flustered. Not good parenting, granted. See previous posts for self-aware declarations that I have a long way to go—my methods aren’t ideal, but they aren’t soda in a sippy cup and regular beatings, so…)

He’s almost crying now.

“Mommy, couple mice. One minnow.”

I try not to laugh. I would honestly LOVE to trade a couple mice for one minnow, rather than have this conversation. But mice squish easily and I don’t carry around a pocket full of freaking fish, so, let’s go.

Here come the big guns:

“Well, you can choose to take one more minute, but I’m leaving. I’m hungry. It’s time to go and time for lunch.” Turn, walk.

“MOMMEEEEEE. Come! Coming!”

I turn around and sweetly say, “I know. I’m waiting for you.”

I suck. I’m awful. But I’m noticing a lot of parents using the same tactic. If you don’t do it my way I’ll abandon you. Raising some good, well adjusted citizens, we are. Nothing keeps marriages, companies, and democracy together like threatening dissenters with abandonment.

But it got me to lunch, so I’m okay with it today. I’ll search for alternatives tomorrow.

“No Mommy clews sraw.”

Peanut’s accelerating search for independence and control is really quite awesome.

Yesterday he was coloring and asked, please, for a cup of water. I got a cup, half-filled it with water, debated a lid, and reached for a straw. My hand collapsed back toward my body, slapped back by my half-addled brain that reminded me grabbing a straw would get me in big, big trouble. (If I ever make the mistake of taking on one of his roles, like pushing the blender buttons or putting the clean silverware away, or hanging the key on its hook, or pushing the car alarm button, I am chided very quickly and borderline hysterically. “Noooooooo! No Mommy turn. No. stop. my. turn!” Country Mama swears this sounds like, “no suck my toe!” and is still deciding whether to question the conversations Spouse and I have with Peanut when she’s not there.)

So now I know that anytime I’m fetching a drink for Peanut I have to let him choose his own straw. And not just ask what color. Offer the whole selection, and not touch any of them. Peanut had already forgotten the water (a welcome change from the normal script wherein he asks thirty-two times even if mom has patiently said yes to the first thirty-one). So I asked. “Peanut, would you like to choose your water straw?”

He turned to me and let a gorgeously bright smile spread across his face. “Yes. Pl-ease.” He seemed so happy that I remembered what was important to him. If felt quite yummy to be so appreciated and to know what was important in his life.

Sure, it drives me nuts that I’m usually asked (nay, told) to patiently watch him touch them all and play a bit and choose one (while every cell in my body screams, “It’s just a freaking straw! Pick one! If you’re really thirsty the color won’t matter!)

But today it was really nice to watch him feel completely in control of what goes in his body, how it goes in, when it comes out, and where it comes out. It seems that all the work it took to show him we respect his wishes and choices whenever possible finally made him realize that we do respect what he has to say and what’s important to him.

Aaaah.

Can’t wait until he does the same for us.

Arrested moment of reflection

The instant Peanut goes down for a nap, I fire up the computer. My goals are always to check email, to read the news, and to do some writing. Often I spend the whole time at amazon, but that’s an entry for another day.

Today the first thing I check is the CNN homepage. Staying at home with a small person makes me feel frighteningly isolated, and I often worry that nobody would tell me if the sky were falling, or there were a terrorist attack, or we’d finally gotten rid of the electoral college, or Kurt Vonnegut died (I’m still not over that I didn’t know for a few days about that one). Ten minutes into nap (not right away because I have to pee some time. When Peanut was a baby I never had time because I had to much to do. Now I don’t have time because..well, because I have too much to do. And because he barks at me, in two-year-old-ese, Mommy No Pee!! I don’t let him tell me what to do, of course, but I like to do what I need to do without someone hanging on me, whining at me, yelling at me, and watching me. Label that what you will.)

Anyway, ten minutes into nap, when I finally sit down, the lead story on CNN announces Randy Pausch’s death. I’m sure you’ve seen the lectures on YouTube , or the Oprah special, or something. If not, please do. I’m not generally a “live your life as though today was your last day” because I’m not that smaltzy and because even the people who believe that don’t really live that way all day. It’s a goal, fine. It’s a lovely sentiment. It’s just not me. But Dr. Pausch’s lecture was compelling in his message to his children. Well written, funny, warm. Parental. Not patriarchal. Not pedantic. Just darn parental.

And I’m sorry, so sorry, for his family that he’s gone.

As I read, I begin to think about the lecture, its meaning, my family, my life; and I get about 3 seconds into a life-affirming and potentially attitude-altering moment when my cats start going at it. Not just the afternoon wrestling, but serious, fur flying, yowling, painful fight about a foot from my ear. So much for thinking about what my family will mean to me when I’m dying—I’m deciding how to handle the little bastards’ intrusion into my hour of peace.

I coo at them, gently berating them to be nice to each other because, as I remind them, they’ll be dead some day and then they’ll regret treating each other so poorly. Not the best parenting, I know. But I use them as practice. I have to get out all the sarcasm, the clichés, and the detritus so I’ll get to the good stuff by the time Peanut needs perspective on why we don’t beat the tar out of each other while mommy is trying to freaking think about life and death.

If I was living the lessons of Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers: a calm approach to caring for yourself and your children, I might have just observed the cats’ altercation, gently redirected them to more pleasant activities that respected their need to engage in physical activity, and guided my thoughts softly back to Randy Pausch, his family, his students, his life, my life, my family, my goals, my dreams, and my aspirations for making the world a better place. But I’ve only gotten a few pages into Napthali’s book and haven’t really internalized the whole “living each moment fully” central tenet of Buddhism. My moments for reading are few—during Peanut’s nap or nighttime slumbers, but only after I’ve tidied, washed and put away dishes, dragged Peanut’s bathwater out to the garden (screw you, Al Gore, Bono, and all the rich people who have “people” or technology to handle their grey water), swept, done a load of laundry, packed lunches for the next day, checked email, returned phone calls, paid bills, done client work, cleaned visible dirt, changed the litterbox, regretted not working on videos and photo albums, exercised, snacked, washed, brushed, and changed. So maybe in a few years, when I’ve read a few more pages, I can react more appropriately to the rude interruption during contemplation of Randy Pausch’s words.

Maybe I’ll think about how to live more fully tonight after I do a few things around the house. Or maybe I’ll save all the work for tomorrow, so I can spend all of Peanut’s waking hours doing chores instead of interacting. While I’m at it, I can regain my focus on writing, thinking, and being a whole person instead of being awash in the confusion, frustration, and giddiness of being a newish mom. I could push our toddler to the back burner and make some headway on my projects. But that would mean I hadn’t learned anything from Pausch’s lecture, and what kind of student would that make me?

(Okay, seriously, they’re going at it again. I can’t even wax semi-philosophical for a stinking blog without the cat bastards intruding into my otherwise tenuous grip on adult thought. Why, why, why didn’t I just adopt a newt?)