I’m confused.

I’m a bit confused, I must admit. When you were new to this world, we had to eat dinner in under 3 minutes. As you grew, we got even faster, because without at least two hands to supervise your every antic, we were in way too much trouble to even make dinner worth it.
And now it takes you 90 minutes to eat the tiniest dinner we can concoct.

I’m also stymied on this: I know my parents wished upon me a child just like me—nay, worse, if possible, in every timbre. So is that why you have that thing about licking applesauce and yogurt off your spoon one cc at a time? Is that why your temper is absolutely off the charts? could this be why you hold grudges for over a year, even if that means more than a third of your life? Is that why you drive me batshit insane? Because I thought it was that you took after your father.

And clear something up for me, if you would…why do you feel the need to use what I say against me? I can’t handle tantrums or whining or freaking out in general (from you anyway, since I’m brewing my own over here), so I told you to take a deep breath and explain your point of view carefully instead of flipping your Dr. Jekyl switch. But that doesn’t mean you need to answer a “no, we don’t have candy corn for dinner,” with “[big sigh] Mommy. I understand you don’t want me to have sugar right now. But how about just one piece?” What the hell kind of freak of nature are you? How can I resist a calm and reasoned response? You know me better than that. Let’s be honest: I really need you to be of moderate intelligence, like me and Pa, because we are simply not up to the task of someone who listens and modifies his attacks based on our weaknesses.

And maybe it’s my lack of a full compliment of firing neurons, but I’m not quite clear on why, in a fit of frustration with your nonsense, I ask, “you wanna rumble?” having never used that word before, and you intone “and ramble in blackberry bramble” from a book we haven’t read in several months. Do you have a perfect memory for words? Why, then, does it seem impossible for you to remember what I said just three minutes ago? You do something forbidden. I gently correct you. You stop. I thank you for listening. And three minutes later it happens again. And I’m again patient and you’re again responsive. So why does it happen again five minutes later? You just proved you can remember what I say when you want to.

Do you want to rumble?

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Peanut University

Things I learned today:

A small child galloping through the house shouting “I’m helping; I’m helping” is absolutely irresistible. And probably not helping.

When a flashlight is pointed directly at a fetus in utero, the thing squirms as though it’s never seen light. This does not surprise parental units, but older siblings experiencing this find it hilarious.

If you explain to a three-and-a-half-years old person that you REALLY hope nobody teaches the cat how to open the bedroom door, and he asks why, and you tell him because the cat doesn’t know how, he will IMMEDIATELY think to teach the fetus. And he will explain to the fetus, incessantly, how to open a door, ending every lesson with “and then get into bed and cuddle mommy and daddy but don’t jump on the bed.” I guess those instructions are now part of the canon, repeated as they have been every morning for nigh on two years.

Here is how to build a ben: (Yes, before I give you the instructions, it’s *ben*. Took us almost 15 minutes to figure out what the hell he was saying, asking him if he meant bench or bin or is there another way to say this and no I don’t know how to build one but I’ll help if you can you just show me?)
Spread out all the long sleeve adult sized T shirts on the living room floor. Allow approximately one cat-sized space in between each “so we don’t have any dammits when the cats walk across the floor.” Take the sticks you collected the week before (you just ONLY use rain soaked sticks) and layer them on the shirts, weaving a perpendicular pattern until all the sticks are gone. Then add some rocks from the collection your mother didn’t know you had in your dollhouse. Leave the results out until you “need” to have cocoa, then bundle each ben in a heap on the couch until after nap, when you build them all again.

This University-level education has been brought to you by Peanut University: The Leader in All Things Bat-Shit Insane but Kind of Funny Nevertheless.

This week in Peanut 9/29

Peanut told me yesterday that his rules are:

No holding hands in the street
Yell every time Daddy talks
Only give people money when you want to
People can only skateboard everywhere
Pinch the cats every day
Everybody wears only fancy pants
Only eat yucky things
No pants; only nude
You have to eat grass if you say no to things
No eating cereal, ever
and
Get under the blankets even if you’re too hot

I asked when he thought he got to make the rules.
When he’s 46, he says.

*****
P: Thank you for making me lunch, Mommy.
M: Wow. Thank you. That is really nice to say. That makes me feel good.
P: I know. That’s why I said it.

After the cat got sick all over his bed: “If he does that ever again, I will just poop in his bed.”

Parading through the house, banging pots: “Here I go on a outing without Mommies or boys and it’s fun and you can’t come!”

In the tub tonight: “My penis has wings!”

[Update: Spouse, who was manning the bath, has informed me that Peanut was playing ring toss with inflatable rings and was marveling at the RINGS not WINGS. Not sure which is funnier.]

My new philosophy

In order to connect with my inner child and to empathize with my son, I will behave like a three year old for the next month or so.

From now on, when frustrated, I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs and throw things. The volume and number of items thrown will be inversely proportional to the adult-perceived importance of the incident. If my shoes won’t work I’ll shriek and fling them. If my toys won’t work I’ll scream and throw everything within my grasp, hoping to break something. If the car won’t work when I’m late for something important, I’ll whine a bit but get over it quickly.

This month, if I see something really disgusting in the gutter, I’ll pick it up. And if it seems particularly dirty, I’ll try to put it in my mouth.

From here on out, if someone looks at me sideways, I will hit them.

Food will be used primarily for wiping on my shirt and on my parents.

For as long as I can, I will whine for other people to do everything for me. If someone won’t blow my nose within 0.2 seconds of my asking, I will scream until the snot comes out through my ears.

As much as possible, I will wait until something important is happening, either in a conversation, at a gathering, or at home, and will shriek “Listen to me!!” even if people already are.

I will choose 6am as the time for ringing my scooter bell incessantly.

If someone suggests I bathe, wash my hands, or brush my teeth, I will throw myself, writhing, to the floor. If they try to help me, I will scream until their eardrums rupture. If they don’t help me when I can’t do it, I will scream until their eardrums rupture. If they suggest that basic hygiene is necessary for inclusion in American society, I will kick them.

If anyone threatens my desire to have brownies for every meal, I will kick them, too.

Whenever someone else looks away, I will make a beeline for the last thing they forbade me to do, and I will touch it. A lot. And probably lick it. Because I can.

For the length of this social experiment, if anyone states that I may not wear my jammies every day until the end of time, I will writhe and flail about impotently as I whine that I don’t want to wear clothes. Ever.

If anyone dares use the telephone or computer while I am awake, I will break either their technology, their favorite knickknack, or their eardrums.

I will wear a jacket and rain boots when it is 90 degrees. If things cool off to, say, 50 degrees, I will don shorts and flip flops.

All of these behaviors are subject to change if anyone, and I mean anyone, figures them out. At that point, I reserve the right to do whatever obstructionist, violent, vocal, or illogical behavior necessary to get people out of my way. Unless I need them. Then I will use whatever technique necessary to get them to do my bidding.

Ow! Not in the eye!

Sweetie? Pumpkin butter? Love? Mommy doesn’t want to talk about this right now.

Why?

Well, first of all, Mommy is driving. We are hurling at 70 miles an hour toward home after a long day of doing everything you want, and the only thing keeping us from smashing this steel cage into a cement barricade or another car full of humans is Mommy’s ability to keep her brain in control of her hands and feet. And honestly, the neurons are firing quite a bit slowly since you were born.

Mommy is trying to concentrate. Also confounding us just a bit, honey, just a tad in our quest to keep Mommy’s thoughts and actions on the same basic page, is the fact that, while rolling my eyes at your question, the same question you’ve been asking all day, and the same freaking question I’ve answered, I swear to Aphrodite, twelve times already, during that process I managed to lodge a contact lens somewhere deep in my barely functioning brain. Okay, honey? So not only am I operating a motor vehicle hurling down the highway, limbs dead with “when-do-I-get-ten-seconds-of-time-to-myself?” fatigue, and a brain hobbled by your awesome attempts to understand the world, I am also gouging my eye out trying to get to the lens, to relieve the pain and fix the fauceting from my eye and potentially restore the level of vision usually required for the tasks in which I am engaged.

So, sweetheart, it all comes down to this: there is a thin piece of precisely machined plastic wedged into the Why Is Harold with the Purple Crayon Happy When He Gets in the Boat part of my brain. It’s unfortunately inaccessible at present, lovekin. I also can’t freaking see anything, doodlebug. Mommy is blind, Mommy is tired, Mommy is flying home HOPING TO MAUD that Daddy is there so she can drop your adorable little body into his arms for the five minute break that is bathtime.

I know it’s been a long day, pumpkin, but that’s not my fault. Traffic is not my fault. The sun in your eyes is not my fault. My not being willing to answer the same emotive question thirteen times in one day is, I swear to all that is holy, not my fault. You see, I was only given enough patience to give twelve remarkably similar answers to the same question. Blame your grandparents. I can guarantee you they only answered eleven times, because they roll their eyes at your Mom now every time she answers you twelve times in a row.

So please. I’ll say this again, politely. Please put a sock in the exploring-the-emotions-of-cartoon-characters part of your darling, kissable little mouth while I try to get us home safely. There are, like, fourteen freeway interchanges between us and home, buddy, and I think we’re gonna wind up in the wrong county if I don’t pay attention right now.

Ah, dammit, now we’re on the bridge.

Did you just ask why is there water? Because we’re on a bridge.

Why is it a bridge? Because I made a mistake.

Why did I make a mistake? Honey, mistakes are…

Tell you what. You take your purple crayon and think fast and soon we can be climbing aboard a trim little boat, too, and you can tell me why that makes you happy.
Because I’m all out of answers today, bug. I really am.

on that note…

This week’s Peanutisms:

“Mommy. Don’t EVER give me plain goat cheese again. I only want my cheese without herbs.”

“I want something really new that we haven’t had in long time.”

“Mommy, Daddy. ‘P’ peanut. ‘P’ pee. ‘P’ punkin. ‘P’ pree. ‘P’ I don’t want to do this game anymore.”

“I just don’t want one baby. They’re too little.”

“Mommy, you picked me so many blackberries that I need to go poop.”

Roller coaster of optimism

Standing in shower, rushing, because there have been three solid minutes of quiet rather than shrieking and screaming and interruptions and fits.

In walks a thumping Peanut. Draws back shower door.

P: I’m eating cheese!
M: Heeey! That’s a big deal, buddy. You opened the refrigerator and took out cheese and opened it all your self?
P: Yep.
M: you should be proud of yourself.

And I close the door. And decide to brave shaving. He’s occupied, proud, and not screaming. I mentally wrote a blog post about lovely children and wonderful strides in growth and independence. A heartwarming “You go, Peanut!” post.

Stomping. Door opens again.

P: I’m eating one egg!

And he’s standing there, with a quarter-sized hole in the shell, licking a raw egg.

Oh, my god, I was thrilled with your independence for, like, one whole minute. Now I realize you don’t know very much, even though you can open doors, and with each development there’s a whole lot of hazard and a whole heap of nastiness in store.

Am I supposed to say, “At least I shaved?”
Or “how did you get just the corner of a raw egg opened”
Or “thank god you didn’t eat it like a mongoose?”

I think so.

Real costs of having a child

Several online calculators, such as the one at babycenter and reuters explain the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18. (You can adjust the results if you adopt a child later in its life, or get rid of the no good lout before it turns 18.) Never mind, for now, that the babycenter estimate for my location is almost double the national average. Or that we could buy a house with cash for what it costs to feed and clothe and attend to a small person (even if we don’t buy anything Disney, anything they ask for, or a wipe warmer.)

The calculations overlooked a few things, though, and I thought I’d help remind them of the necessary expenses of raising a child:

Booze: Includes the extra amount you’ll spend annually on alcoholic beverages purchased at grocery, convenience, and specialty stores; dining at restaurants and pubs, and bars due directly to the hell  that is life spent in the same house with people under the age of 18.

Clothing: Includes the extra amount you’ll spend annually on clothes as you eat yourself out of size after size, hoping that the cookies and booze will make your children more tolerable.

Entertainment:Includes the cost of finding anything, anything at all that your children will watch so they don’t keep opening the shower door and screeching that they need you the one stinking day a week you really want to shave; and the cost of porn purchased, rented, or paid-per-view to make the embers of your marriage spark for a moment or two.

Medical:  Includes the amount you’ll pay to ensure you never, ever, ever have more children.

Crossroads

I’m at a defining moment in my parenting career. I’ve espoused ideals about raising the next generation to do better—be better—than previous generations. To raise a thoughtful, intelligent, wonderful creature. And if that really is my goal, I have to step up to the plate now. Because it’s go time.

But I’m not sure if I’m up for it. Picking our battles, and all. Limited resources and energy, and all.

I mean, if I’m the only one in the house who wants the seat down, and there are 812 battles a day as it is, do I really want to fight a three year old over leaving the seat up? To tell him, patiently, every day for the next 15 years that it needs to be down?

Spouse, who has always put it  down, would prefer it up. Peanut uses the whole seated apparatus more than the rest of us each day, and is new to the gender politics of leaving it up. And is a pain in the ass to reason with. The twin male cats use biodegradable  litter that gets scooped right into the toilet, which is easiest with the seat up. Four to one, my friends, are not odds before which I wither. Four to one, ladies and gents, is nothing for a spitfire like me. Four to one, dear readers, is the odds I am playing against my summoning the reserves to pick this battle.

Seriously, I should put up or shut up. I spend my whole life railing about men who left the seat up. Who raised these insensitive, lazy louts, I wailed?

Well, it seems, maybe, possibly, probably—Me.

En garde.

Okay. I’m here to pick my battles. I’m done, little tyrant. Things are gonna be different because I’m here to declare, on national blogovision, where I draw the line.

This is pretty simple. Listen to me. Listen to my words. Listen to me, you f—ing little freeloading ball of attempts to become an individual. You can have all the opinions you want, you can make most of the decisions. But f—ing listen to me! Not the third time, not the eighth time, not just when I give up on my parenting willpower and patience reserves and yell. Listen to me the motherfucking first time, you parental hostage taker.

Trash stays in the trash can. Why is that so hard? Don’t touch trash. Don’t grab it, feel it, shake it upside down. It’s trash, you little eating-whining-pooping robot. It’s the same trash I’ve gently steered you away from since you could move under your own power. Please touch something else. Please step over here. Please go around. Please put down the f—ing trash. Because I’m picking this battle.

We pee in the toilet. Not on the floor just because it’s funny. Not in the cat box. The litter box is for cats. Yes, I know you can meow, but you’re not a cat. No you’re not. No you’re not. Fine, you are, but your kind of cat uses the toilet. Yes it does. Yes it does. Oh, I see. This is not your house and in your house the rules are different. Okay. Then go there. Because in this house we pee in the toilet and only in the toilet. You’ve been out of diapers for more than a year. You know full well what your body can and cannot do. And choosing to piss me off by pissing on my floor is a big ball of not okay.  I’ve chosen this battle, as well.

We use gentle touches with the cats. Would you like it if someone hit you? Kicked you? Pulled your tail? Well, they don’t like it either. And I’ve been telling you this for months. Redirection isn’t working. Positive reinforcement isn’t working. Clear explanations aren’t working. Empathy lessons aren’t working. If you can’t be gentle you don’t get stories or toys or breakfast or lunch or dinner and I may just lock you in your room until college, you little AP expermient gone horribly, horribly wrong. Don’t hurt the cats. Be friendly with the cats. Or I will teach you the word rue. For I have chosen this battle, as well.

We use gentle touches with daddy. Would you like it if he hit you? Kicked you? Well he doesn’t like it either. And I’ve been telling you this for months. Don’t make my retype the whole cat admonition, just replacing your father’s name for the cats’ names. I don’t want to say it again. I didn’t want to say it the first two hundred times, calmly, gently, in short declarative sentences at eye level with explanations when necessary. Don’t. Hit. Or nobody will like you, including me. Unconditional love is a myth they tell kids who watch TV and you don’t get more than half an hour a week, so don’t come crying to me about how I’m supposed to love you no matter what. I picked this battle, too.

That’s it. I picked my battles. Know what they come down to?  Listen to me. When I have to say things twice I sweat. When I have to say things three times I twitch. When I have to say things four times I yell. And when I have to say things five times I lose my shit and contemplate horrible things including your sale to the gypsies, my escape to the tropics, and choosing a soulless career in any one of the three hundred jobs I had before you sucked the life and brain out of me just to get away from you.

Go to the trash, would you,  please, and fetch mommy’s sanity. Sweetie? Would you please help Mommy and get her self esteem out of the trash? Peanut—please go take my selfhood out of the trash and bring it to me.

Jayzus. Do you hear me? I need you to listen to my words…go get my life out of the crapper.

The Child-Sized Laws of Motion

First Law: net inertia. Subjects at rest tend to stay at rest until you settle in. Then they spring into action, usually of the death-defying (or at least social-convention-defying) sort. Conversely, subjects in motion will tend to stay in motion until such time as you enjoy their motion. Then they will stop.

Second Law: F=ma. The relationship between the force needed to cajole a small person into even the most pleasant task is Force=(minutes needed to perform task without small children)x(age, in years, you feel after the task is complete). Exempli gratia, force required to put on child’s shoes=(.25)x(57)=14. Units may vary. 14 minutes, 14 different techniques, 14 different pair before they finally agree to leave one on, 14 threats to leave without said child.

Third Law:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You get dressed, they glitter paint the cat. You prepare breakfast, they remove all the tape flags from your research books. You strike up a conversation with the clerk at the market, they strip down naked and run away laughing.

You don’t see how those are equal and opposite? You must possess logic and reason, then. Ah. You must not have children.

Warning: fugitive at large

Police in the Bay Area are looking for the perpetrator of a heinous crime: teaching a three-year old to say, “Whatever, Mommy” in response to her urgent requests to “listen to her words”.

The authorities have a few suspects in their sights. First, the father of said three-year-old, who has been known, in both times of calm and of rage, to tell his wife, “Oh, whatever.” Also on the suspect list is grandma, who has been witnessed on numerous occasions to roll her eyes and sigh, “what-eeeever.” The select few who have seen both these suspects use the epithet in question have also been known to shoot her disparaging looks while intoning, “oh, right, like you’re perfect.” Police are afraid that if they don’t capture the Whatever Bandit, the toddler might become a snide, sarcastic preschooler.

The suspects were reported to police by the child’s mother, after she gave him a timeout and told him he could say ‘whatever’ to the cats or the ants that are overtaking the house, but not to people. When asked why she was so shaken by the child’s response to her requesting that he pull the drain plug at the end of bathtime, she answered that she is terrified that preschools won’t admit him, after the two year waiting list finally clears, because of his tween-y behavior.

“I’m just desperate to get him in the care of some responsible, child-development expert who will reinforce the gentle discipline we’ve tried to teach,” she says. “Or anyone else who will have him. If they refuse to admit him because he rolls his eyes and bleats his little falsetto ‘whatever’ to teachers, what the hell am I going to do?”  The bags under her eyes tell a tale of strained patience, as do the nervous tics we noticed while reporting this crime.

When asked if she, by chance, could have used the term, “whatever,” even in passing, she adamantly denied it. “Of course not. I’m very careful with my words. We say ‘you’re doing it yourself’ not ‘good boy;’ we say ‘you must have worked hard on this, you should be proud of yourself,’ instead of ‘I love this!’; and we always use ‘I love you and I don’t love hitting’ instead of ‘you’re going to go live with your uncle if you hit again, you terrible little terrorist!’ But if you don’t believe me, whatever.”

If you have any information about the whereabouts of the reckless cad who taught this small child such language and its appropriate use, please call your local FBPI (Federal Bureau of Parental Insanity) branch. They are willing to let drop the whole “who taught him to yell ‘dammit’ every time he drops something” issue, since they know it was reinforcement by both of the aforementioned parents that solidified that one.

Preschool science fiction

It’s a scientific fact:*

A three-year-old playing by himself can methodically work through the most intricate toys and attempt the most gravity-defying physical feats if he is in his room pretending to nap during quiet time.

Yet he cannot manage more than three minutes by himself without apocalyptic levels of crying and frustration if you are in the shower.

* (in our house. your results may vary.)

Whatever you do…

…do NOT cave in when they ask, after opening stockings Christmas eve, for just one piece of chocolate.

Grandma, you’ll rue the day you put candy in our kid’s Christmakkah sock.

That toddler had a small chocolate Santa (sure, enormous considering his size, but, still, after a full dinner and the whole confection he asked for more, which is a sign it was less than the one ounce of chocolate he gets each Friday). And he has been singing to himself in his bed, at full volume, in a tykebuddy-in-full-winter-garb-lit room, for 78 minutes. And counting. Invented songs, y’all. Not Christmas classics or Summer Lovin’ or something. Total improv genius he is, btw.

I know that theobromine is not caffeine. But I’ve seen the structure and I’ve seen the effects. And that shit is identical in a three year old body. I’ve drugged my child with mass marketed toxic substances. I’m totally gonna be the cool parent in high school. (For those who know me, ba ha hahahahaha ha. That’ll be the day.)

New rule. No chocolate within eight hours of bed. Unless you’re mommy. Then chocolate only if accompanied by liquor. Mmmmm. Hot chocolate with liquor.

Gotta go so I can be loaded while listening to the toddler carolling.

At least someone values my labor, even if the exchange rate sucks.

Peanut was playing with his Chrismakkah tea set today. (First night present. There are ten days of Chrismakkah because that’s the maximum number of token presents we feel like wrapping.)

I noticed he had spilled water on the floor. “Oh,” I said. “You haven’t cleaned that up. Would you like a towel?”

He walked across the room to the coin purse his uncle gave him. He took out a penny.

“Here, Mommy. I pay you do it.” He offered me the Lincoln.

Well, that is how it works. Sigh. I took the penny. “Okay.” And I cleaned the water.

He looked at me, evaluating. “You keep that money, Mama. I give it you, you earn it.”

True dat, little boy. Now hand over the $1.224 million you owe me for every other minute of cleaning up after you.