Monthly Archives: August 2018

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen

It never ceases to amaze me how similar talking about raising kids sounds to the plotlines of horror movies.

“I woke up, disoriented, only to discover his face was mere inches from mine, his milky breath washing over me. I screamed while his face twisted into an evil smile.”

“I slammed shut the bathroom door but when I looked down I saw two pairs of sticky hands slowly reaching out for me from underneath.”

“It was a dark and stormy night. I grasped for a diaper but my hand met with nothing but air. With dawning horror, I realized we were out. My terrified eyes met hers and that’s when she unleashed hell from below.”

“The restaurant only had white milk, no chocolate, and there, right before our very eyes, they transformed. Their bodies and faces contorting into inhuman angles and expressions. Where once small children had been were now hideous monsters, their banshee screams filling the night air.”

But that’s the devil’s bargain you make when you create life. In exchange for building a creature of pure adorableness, that adorableness is wrapped around the brain of a psychopath.

This is also why, once you reproduce, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide anymore. They will FIND you. Thinking of having kids? Forget reading parenting books. Start with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Homegirl tried to warn us.

Just like in any good horror movie, among the nooks and crannies of my own haunted house, there is now only one small corner I can retreat to when the monsters get too terrifying. Thanks to a heavily fortified baby gate, the kids are barred from entering the kitchen. However, from the vantage point of the baby gate, they can see pretty much the entire kitchen. Which is why, of course, they hang out right there by said baby gate, moaning and growling and straining to get in like zombies if zombies wore duck-covered footie pajamas.

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But there’s that ONE corner in the kitchen. It’s dark and dingy and usually dirty BUT they can’t see me.

The first time I discovered the power of this secret corner, I was trying to make dinner. The kids were tired and cranky and out for blood. I was at the end of my rope but couldn’t escape. Or so it seemed.

I reached for something in the fridge, their high-pitched cries making the blood in my veins turn to ice, when one of them shouted “Momma! Where are you? I can’t see you!”

I crouched down and froze. They can’t see me, I thought to myself. Holy crap, they can’t see me. Maybe they’ll stop hunting me if I ignore them long enough. Stop breathing so hard, you idiot! They’ll hear you. Just don’t move. Don’t blink. Don’t exist.

And IT WORKED. Soon enough they got bored and actually started playing with their toys, their devious plans to drive me insane momentarily forgotten. 

Because that’s the thing with kids. Or at least my kids. Out of sight, out of mind. If they can’t see me, they start to function like actual humans, able to do things without my immediate presence or assistance. However, if I am in the room, they magically forget how to do even the most basic of things, like operate a blanket and stack blocks on top of each other and hold a book.

Better yet, if I hide out in my dirty little kitchen nook long enough, they’ll eventually get bored enough that they’ll attempt to interact…WITH EACH OTHER.

Which is why I now leave a book or magazine in my corner. I also leave small adults-only snacks back there, like the secret expensive chocolate and Doritos, because Doritos are only for people who can eat ketchup without getting it in their hair. I’m also thinking of having my husband build me a little wet bar back there. I know a recliner won’t fit but maybe a small chaise lounge or something.

Who says horror stories can’t have happy endings?

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There will be blood

Welcome to my very first guest post! This week my hilarious and wildly talented writer friend, Melissa McCue-McGrath, has taken over and shares her experience of all the super fun shenanigans that can ensue when you’re a woman just casually bleeding in a field. 

The most woman-thing-to-ever-woman happen to me happened at the “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” taping at Tanglewood a few weeks ago. For the uninitiated, “Wait Wait” is NPR’s weekly news quiz and, as of 2016, a necessary spoonful of sugar to help the news-medicine go down.

My husband and I were enjoying a date night, our first in nearly a full year. We were planning on going out for drinks with some friends after the show taping and then go home to take advantage of the whole kid-is-sleeping-over-at-a-friends-house situation. We were very much looking forward to the entire evening until I went to the bathroom and discovered that my period started a week early. This wasn’t a uterus version of, “Knock-knock, is anyone home?” with a little light spotting. This was Kramer from “Seinfeld” bursting through the door. It was go-time. This was not a drill.

Instead of going to the bar to meet up with some friends and hopefully run into the panelists, including Mo Rocca and his amazing mom (girl can rock a pair of cat eye glasses like WOAH!), we had to first find a way to a 24-hour anything so I could handle my bleed-mergency.  There is no cell service or WiFi out in Lenox, MA, which made it impossible to know which direction to drive for supplies. None of this mattered yet, however, because we first needed to locate the car in one of several field parking lots.

I was doing the “play it cool but try not to bleed everywhere” shuffle. Ladies, you know this doesn’t work. Men, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We don’t have control over how this works. It’s basically a faucet that once is switched on, you wait 5-7 days until someone in maintenance hits the menstruate switch to off.

Thank you to whatever Gods are in charge of keeping Meghna Chakrabarti’s voice on point (pun intended) and Terry Gross’s line of questioning unparalleled, we found the car in the second multi-acre field we looked.

Still shuffling in the direction of our car, I noticed a group of women giggling near a blue all-wheel-drive Subaru, the official car of every New England state (and Wisconsin). I instructed my beloved to stay put, which he did.

With a hushed voice, a lowered head, and a lot of stiff gesticulations, I uttered the only thing I could: “Um, I need a little help.”

One woman grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the center of the circle.  They all circled around, laser beam eyes at my husband, and dropped their voices.   Woman #1 asked, quite seriously, “Do you need help?”

“No – he’s good.”

It was at this point, the curtain dropped, and we all laughed. The woman still holding my wrist from pulling me into the sacred coven pointed to the woman directly across from me and said, “Oh, Michelle can help.”

Michelle then pulled out her Sherpani purse, opened it like one of Howie Mandel’s boxes from “Deal or No Deal,”  and casually blurted out, “I have them all, sweetie. What kind? Super? Plus? Regular? Do you prefer a pad or a tampon? Pink or yellow?”

“Give me the biggest one you got. We have a long ride home.”

“Here, Hon. Take two.”

My eyes had finally adjusted to the greyish-black that can only occur when the night sky is blanketed with a light cloud cover. I looked around and saw five women…

…and a dude. His eyes were as big as saucers.

I then rewound the tape in my brain. From his perspective, he saw a woman briskly walking away from a quiet, small-framed blonde man, asking for help, communicating, “No, I’m not getting murdered” and his friend opening a purse with a million feminine products. That purse must of looked like the Weasley’s car in Harry Potter – much bigger on the inside than on the outside because the only explanation all those products could fit is wizard magic.

He was so quiet, so dumbfounded, so in awe of what goes on behind the curtain of womanhood. There were no questions asked, no actual language about my “condition” – it just happened. We must be telekinetic! Women can just speak with their minds.

Because here’s the reality about being a woman in 2018. If a woman walks up to a group of women she doesn’t know in the middle of the night, there is a 50% chance that she thinks she is in serious trouble and needs you to call the police NOW. There is also a 50% chance she needs a tampon. There is a zero percent chance of any other option.

Since it was so dark, I couldn’t see if his face turned as red as…well, let’s leave that analogy alone. I could only assume it did. I then did what I would do in any situation when meeting someone first time and it’s uncomfortable: Immediately make it worse for the other party.

I grabbed his hand and said, “I’m Melissa.”

“Greg.”

“Hi, Greg. Yes, I got my period tonight. It sucks. So very nice to meet you.”

It’s not on me to be uncomfortable for getting my period. It happens. Monthly. It’s supposed to. So, if he’s uncomfortable, fine. He’s around literally five other women. Hell, because of me, they all likely started to instantly cycle. His night was going to get a lot more descriptive. As a woman, we have to protect our own, and find a way to be powerful, and not be ashamed of our actual bodies. It starts here. In a field parking lot after an NPR news quiz.

This must look quite strange to a dude in the circle, the coven, but there’s nothing like telling your husband, “Yes, dear, they wanted to call the cops on you. Once it was clear we didn’t have a code blue but literally a code red, you were no longer on their shit list. They thought you were cute, once they realized you weren’t trying anything illegal or unconsented.”

Both these men got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman in 2018. My husband totally understood it, but poor Greg. He must think women are inSANE for jumping to the immediate conclusion that the other dude was perhaps going to cause great harm, but I, for one, am glad they did. I’m glad women will often take care of their own in exactly the way we are trained to, that we’ve learned to, that we sadly still have to. Because once the onus is on men to not rape instead of the woman to not dress in a way that’s theoretically “asking for it,” or once men can hear the word “period” or “vagina” without feeling taboo, then we’ll be in much better shape. In order to get there, we women have to handle our shit, use our language, and let men see all of it. Maybe they’ll see why we jump to the very real conclusions we must to stay safe and powder fresh.

Maybe next time I’ll get to meet Mo, Faith or Alonzo. Until then, I’ll keep a few extra supplies in my bag in case a woman approaches me. I’ll keep one hand on the emergency call button on her behalf, one on the Tampax Super Fit. I’m ready to help her whenever she needs it.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer living outside of Boston. In addition to dog training and writing books about living with urban dogs (Considerations for the City Dog, 2015), Melissa keeps a blog, Letters to Little, where she writes letters to her daughter, Aislyn, with the intention to share it in 20 years. It starts off with a lot of poo, (as these things often do) and wades into deeper waters including inadvertently introducing her Kindergartener to The Mariner’s Revenge Song (a dark and grisly revenge-murder song on the high seas), school lockdowns, and explaining the song Get Lucky as a song about watching a meteor shower instead of staying up all night getting stoned and boned.

Everything can be found at melissamccuemcgrath.com.

 

Meatballs for breakfast

One day, not long ago, my daughter went down a slide and rammed right into the back of an older child who had gone down the slide before her. It really hurt, the boy was quick to tell me, and my daughter should probably apologize for it. I agreed and turned to her, saying “Mae, can you say you’re sorry?”

Her response? To stare defiantly at both of us. She stared so long, in fact, that it got down right uncomfortable. So, feeling the need to avoid confrontation at all costs like the good born-and-bred midwesterner that I am, I told the boy, “she’s pretty young, she probably doesn’t understand, but I’m sure she’s very sorry.”

The incident was soon forgotten by the kids and they went back to playing because, ah, youth. But it stayed with me. This wasn’t the first time she had reacted this way when asked to apologize for something. It was then that I realized my 2-year-old daughter refuses to say she’s sorry. For anything.

And part of me doesn’t want that to change.

Last week for dinner, we had spaghetti and meatballs. Every morning since then, whenever I ask her what she wants for breakfast, she yells “meatballs!”

“Meatballs? Really?” I respond.

“MEATBALLS!”

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I don’t want this to change either.

Now that my kids are two and four, life has pretty much devolved into one long WWE match occasionally interrupted by baths and trips to the library. When her brother hits her, my daughter does a feral growl and hits him right back. When they argue, she doesn’t back down. When he gets angry, she doesn’t demur or try to smooth over the volatile situation. If someone is pushing her or pulling her or tickling her in a way she doesn’t like, she loudly screams “NO!” and “STOP!”

Minus the hitting, I hope to God none of that ever changes.

At 2-years-old, she cares nothing for your opinion. Or mine. At 2-years-old, there is no piece of furniture, no piece of playground equipment, no object in nature (including large, slow-moving animals) that is too high to climb and conquer and then jump off of. If it were up to her, she’d be naked all the time. Because at 2-years-old, her body is her own wonderland.

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As her mother, this is all pretty exhausting to deal with on a day-to-day basis. As a woman, however, it’s exhilarating to watch.

All too soon, despite my best interventions, the world is likely to teach her that she needs to change these things about herself. That she should apologize for taking up space. For getting angry. For even daring to have an opinion.

The world will start whispering to her that her body is not her own anymore. That those mountains are not hers to climb and conquer anymore. That being pretty and nice is better than being loud and fearless and strong and curious.

That yogurt is an acceptable breakfast. Not huge chunks of meat.  

Then again, maybe not. Because I’m watching. I’m taking notes. My young daughter is teaching me how to be a female in this world, the kind of female I want to be. And my hope is that I learn enough so that I can return the favor. That when she’s a young woman and the world is trying to crush her into some shape, some role, she doesn’t fit into, I’ll be there to remind her who she really is.  

And then when some poor soul makes the mistake of telling her “stop being so bossy” or “hey, smile!” or “you know, you could be prettier if only you’d…” she laughs so hard in their face that she almost chokes on her breakfast meatball hoagie.