Monthly Archives: July 2019

Comic books didn’t prepare me for this

I’ll be honest. I never gave much thought to my lap. Which is sad really, considering it is the most powerful part of my body. 

Oh yes, that squishy fleshy chair I can make appear and disappear at will is literally the seat of my power. (Pun COMPLETELY intended). 

I don’t mean this from a muscular standpoint. Or politically. Or even aesthetically. No. I mean from a supernatural perspective. The second I even attempt to sit and form this lap, it mystically summons, from far and wide, small children.

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Small, bony, wiggly children. With their weaponized elbows and butts and knees. Who then must sit on my lap immediately and are willing to fight each other to the death for the privilege. (A fight to the death that happens, you guessed it, right there on my lap).

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing while in possession of this lap. Eating? Clearly the appearance of my lap at the dining room table meant I wanted to eat this taco while maneuvering around a toddler’s head. Working on my laptop? Obviously by sitting I was inviting my kindergartner to hop on up and “help” by maniacally pushing buttons and erasing everything I’ve written. Disabling a bomb? Pffft. Whoever heard of someone doing that WITHOUT a pile of children on top of them?

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Likewise, environmental factors matter little. A Fourth of July party in 101 degree temperatures with a humidity equivalent of one thousand swamps? Hey mom, seems like a perfect time to sit on you and sprawl out every inch of my 40-pound frame, unfolding like a sticky octopus. 

There is one very important rule, however. Whatever you do while sitting on my lap, the one thing you absolutely MUST NOT DO is sit still. Because that would be ridiculous. 

But it’s not just my lap. This is a latent superpower pretty much all moms discover they have, which is why you rarely see a mom sitting. We know that as soon as we do, our laps will be swarming with children. Most likely our own but it’s far from unusual to find someone else’s kid squatting there. Like a beacon, it calls to them. 

Small child No. 1: “Do you feel that? A mom in the close vicinity is getting ready to sit and relax.”

Small child No. 2: “Oh no, that won’t do at all. We can’t allow her to enjoy herself. Let’s go!”

*pitter-patter-pitter-patter-pitter-patter*

See, that’s the thing about laps. It’d be one thing if this was all based on love. If these children just wanted a good cuddle. Who doesn’t love a good cuddle? But that is not what the majority of lap sitting is. No. This is about ownership. Property rights. My kids sit on my lap to stake their claim. “This exhausted worn out husk that was formerly a person is my property!” their bony butt declares every time it plops down. And it’s always a plop. Never a gentle perch. Or even a moderate plonk. Although sometimes, when you least expect it, it’s a flying leap. 

And once they’re on there, very little can pry them off. Property is, after all, nine-tenths of the law. 

“GET OFF!” I’ll roar.

“Wiggle even harder!” they hear.  

“I have to pee!” I’ll plead.

“Let’s move this party into the bathroom!” they assume. 

“Can I just have five minutes to myself?” I’ll ask.

“Fine, fine, clearly what you need is for us to now migrate to your back and put you into a chokehold,” they reason. 

Every once in awhile though, just when I’m reaching my threshold and wondering if woman can live by standing alone, these kids legitimately need a lap. A nightmare scared them. A friend hurt their feelings. A day at the beach exhausted them. 

Or, the best possible reason, their love suddenly grew too big for their little bodies to contain and they had to release it by getting as close to me as humanly possible. 

Which is why we moms put up with all of it. Why we risk the bruises and the plops and the lack of any semblance of personal space. Why a mom’s lap is always open.

Because when words and band-aids and security blankets fail, a mom’s lap can tell them, instantly and in no uncertain terms, that they are loved. And they always will be. And it’s all going to be ok. 

And in the end, that’s a pretty amazing superpower to have. 

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Lord and Lady of the Flies

When I was in high school, I read “Lord of the Flies.” Good book, I thought, but totally unrealistic. Kids aren’t like that. 

And then…well, then I had a child. 

Worse yet, after having that child, I decided to have another child. Meaning I now had children. Plural. More than one. Creating, blindly, siblings. Because in my baby fever, I was so obsessed with if I could, I never stopped to think if I should. 

And now every day of my life is spent pulling apart two feral creatures who are trying to rip each other to shreds. Where literally nothing is off the table. Eye gouging. Throat punching. Collar bone biting. Oh yeah, collar bone biting. I mean, I love my kids but they’re barbarians. Of all the things I was woefully unprepared for as a parent (and there are a lot), the savage sibling fights is the one that perplexes me the most. 

Part of this might be because I spent most of my early life as an only child. My mom had me when she was young so it was only after 17 years that I finally got a sibling. By that point, I was more like the fun auntie than any kind of sister. My role was to roll out of bed, play with him for a little bit and then run off with my friends to hang out in a cornfield and definitely not illegally drink bad, warm beer.  

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So I never got the traditional sibling upbringing. Oh, sure, I grew up with a lot of cousins. No shortage of fighting there. But it was different. With cousins, there’s more of an involuntary manslaughter vibe. With siblings, it’s premeditated.  

Were they born mortal enemies? I do remember on the day my daughter was born, my son’s little toddler fingers immediately found the soft spot on her skull and he tried pushing it in. Looking back, that should have been a pretty big red flag of what was to come. On her end, she had a kung fu grip on his curly red hair starting as early as four months. By five months, she started in with the head butting. 

For awhile I comforted myself with the idea that it was all typical sibling rivalry. But it’s not like I favor one over the other. I ignore them both equally. Is it the age difference? Everyone told me, oh, two years apart is the perfect space between ages. I can only assume now they meant the perfect ages to inflict similar wounds on each other. 

And now they’re old enough to use tools for their nefarious purposes. They can turn anything into a weapon against the other. This one time my son nibbled on a Dorito until it became a neon orange shiv and then he stabbed his sister with it. She once threw a giant rock at his head, straight up Fezzik from “Princess Bride” style. He pushed her into a pool last summer. Last Thanksgiving, she jumped off the couch and landed directly on his face. While wearing skates. 

As for reasons why they fight? Well, breathing is a popular one. Her leg accidentally touched his. He got the purple sippy cup. They both got the EXACT same numbers of M&M’s. One day they both punched each other in the face because they got into an argument about goats. It was literally kids fighting kids over kids. 

I’ve seen barroom fights in dive bars that were more civilized than the clashes that break out at the dinner table night after night. 

Truly, we don’t give kids enough credit. We treat them with such gentle hands, talk about how innocent and loving they are. But I’m pretty convinced my kids would slaughter each other if only they could figure out how. Thank god they have awful hand-eye coordination and hardly any upper body strength because nothing stops these fights. I’ve tried intervening. I’ve tried bribery. I’ve tried distraction. I’ve tried “let’s sit down and talk about our tiny murderous feelings.” No matter what, five minutes later, one is chasing the other with a hammer (where the hell did she get a hammer?) because he called her stuffed kitty cat stupid. 

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It’s exhausting. Which is why I’m currently trying the benign neglect method of our ancestors, just pretending I don’t hear the screams of attempted bloody murder, but making sure I’m close enough should I need to rush anyone to the emergency room. 

Say what you will about the parenting methods of the 70’s and 80’s, but I now know why they always sent us outside. 

Plausible deniability. 

 

A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

It’s a tired old trope and yet still remains a true one. When it comes to so many ventures, it’s all about location, location, location. 

Which is the one thing my 5-year-old son’s recently opened restaurant has going for it. Situated conveniently right in the heart of my living room, this one-couch eatery specializes in unique dishes that are as creative as they are inedible. 

Aptly, or perhaps ironically, named Restaurant, the place has what can only be described as a homey vibe with a shabby chic aesthetic, heavy on the shabby. On entry, you are greeted by a riot of colors and smells, none of which are food related. The cleanliness also left something to be desired for this particular reviewer but the other patron, an elderly canine named Buffy, didn’t seem to mind. 

The owner and head chef (and host and server) Riker revealed to me that he had only recently taken an interest in the culinary arts. Prior to opening Restaurant, he had his sights set on becoming a ninja astronaut. Alas, the lack of experience and passion showed. The service alone was, to say the least, wanting. 

“What do you want to drink?” he demanded soon after I sat down. 

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

“You don’t have Diet Coke at this imaginary restaurant?”

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

“Actually, we don’t have coffee. Do you want tea?”

Deciding to try my luck instead with their wine list, I summoned the sommelier, who happened to be the owner’s younger sister. At only 3-years-old, she was on the younger side of wine experts and it quickly became evident she had only gotten the job because of family connections. 

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

The conversation quickly went off the rails from there. Resigning myself to the fact that I would just be thirsty throughout this entire meal, I was surprised, and somewhat wary, when the chef eventually presented me with a pink teacup that sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” incessantly. 

“Here’s your coffee.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have coffee. Also, this is empty.”

“OK, it’s root beer.”

Restaurant’s signature dish is pizza. (Although entree options are subject to change with little to no warning). With no menu in sight, I decided that would likely be my best bet. Even bad pizza is still pizza. Or, at least, it had been up until now. 

“I’d like to order a pizza, please,” I informed the chef. 

“Oh yes, pizza. Pizza has sauce and cheese. And crust. And…um…do you want mushrooms on it?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to have mushrooms on it.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works.”

“It is.”

“Oh.”

The kitchen, a converted bedroom in the back of the house, came alive with the sounds of clanging toy pots and pans and what definitely better not be my expensive William Sonoma kitchen utensils stolen from a certain drawer. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ruminate on this long since my dish arrived quickly (under two minutes, in fact, by my count). On the down side, it resembled nothing even vaguely pizza-like. The crust looked like a slab of cardboard (mostly because it was cardboard). The sauce looked suspiciously like Play-Doh covered in dog hair but at least it was red. I was informed by the chef that the “cheese” on my pizza was definitely cheese and not a blank piece of paper. And yes, there were mushrooms as well. Plastic mushrooms. Plucked straight from the toy aisle years ago in the Kmart region of the Northeast. 

“Here’s your pizza!” Chef Riker announced while delicately placing the dish down on my crissed-crossed lap.

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

Wanting to retain a fragment of my professionalism, I did as I was told.

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

But the chef had already disappeared, pitter-pattering off to do more important chef stuff one can only assume. Or perhaps to scold the improper behavior of his sommelier, who was at this point crawling around on the floor meowing and yelling “Momma! Look! I’m a kitty cat!” 

Unsure what to do next, I sat there uncomfortably while my fellow patron at Restaurant started barking and making quite the ruckus. Likely because his pizza didn’t turn out as he expected either. 

To my relief, Riker soon returned with a towering stack of Legos.

“I forgot your dessert.” he apologized. “Here you go. It’s ice cream!”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the ice cream was as unpalatable as everything else had been. 

“So, what do you think of my restaurant?” Riker asked, standing there with hope in his eyes and a stolen whisk in his hand.

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”

Buffy.

I’m writing this now, ahead of time. Before we know. I felt it would be easier this way. That I would be more level-headed, less emotional this way. Although I’m already crying so that pretty much backfired. 

Then again, is it ever possible to write about your dog without tearing up? 

The vet said we should start with a chest x-ray, which is scheduled a few days from now. To see if it has spread. There’s a small chance that the tumor on the roof of his mouth is benign but I know that even if it is, this is still probably the beginning of the end. He’s almost 14. The average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years. We’re already living on borrowed time. 

Whatever the diagnosis, I’m a bit at a loss of what to do. Soon there will be decisions to make. Hard decisions. 

And yet, just like he always has, he trusts me. 

The thing that haunts me the most in this awful limbo between knowing and not knowing is an equally awful question. Did I give him a good enough life? It’s only now, as we head toward the inevitable end, that I’m fully realizing the nature of our relationship meant he depended on me and my family for everything. We were his world. But just like the world at large, we were a bit of a dumpster fire.

All the mistakes. There were so many. I didn’t socialize him enough as a puppy. I fed him the cheap stuff. I wasn’t consistent on training. There should have been more fetch and less binge-watching Netflix while sneaking him french fries. 

I took him on a thousand walks. It should have been two thousand.

And yet, in spite of it all, he loves me. 

I was 24 when my roommate showed me a recently rescued bedraggled ball of fluff that smelled like hot garbage. 

“You did say you wanted to get a dog.” the roommate said. 

I picked the ball up and looked in its terrified brown eyes. Sold. Instantly. I kissed the top of its furry stinky head. Regretted it. Instantly. 

“It’s a boy, you say?”

“Yeah,” he replied. 

“Remember when I said if we get a dog I’m naming it Buffy?”

The roommate smiled. 

“Buffy it is then.”

(And that is also the story of how the roommate eventually became my husband). 

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It was this male dog named Buffy who forced me to grow up. He was so smart. Part border collie. He was constantly outwitting me. He was also anxious. Fearful. Edgy. Understandably so. He had been dumped in a field in late fall. And we suspect he’d been abused before then. 

But that also made him fiercely loyal and loving. 

He even eventually forgave me for leaving him for days and then returning home with a baby in tow. And then managed to forgive me again, a few years later, when I did it all over again. I spent months ignoring him while trying to keep these tiny interlopers alive. Months yelling “stop licking the baby!” and “drop it, that’s the baby’s toy!”

And yet, he patiently waited to be noticed again, sneaking onto my lap on those rare chances when it was free. 

It’s often said that we don’t deserve dogs. That they’re too good for us. For this world. But what I find amazing about dogs is that they keep inspiring us to try. Even though we humans are basically giant bags of meat and flaws, we keep trying to deserve them. That’s how strong a dog’s love is. Strong enough to make selfish and self-destructive humans look in the mirror and say quietly to themselves “today I’m going to be the person my dog thinks I am.” 

And even though we fail in this, over and over and over again, whenever we look into their eyes we vow to try again the next day. 

My hope is that some day, some beautiful, bright day, we will finally learn all they are trying to teach us. But until then I want to say thank you, Buffy. For all the lessons. I was a horrible student. And yet, through it all, you never gave up on me. 

I’ll be damned if I give up on you now. No matter what the future holds. 

And when we finally do know what that future holds, I promise to be there until the very end, my friend. 

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