Category Archives: Parenting

How I Spent My Spring Quarantine

 

How I Spent My Spring Quarantine

By Aprill Brandon

During my spring quarantine, my family and I went to a lot of places. It was neat. My favorite place was the back porch. We blew bubbles. We drew lots and lots of chalk drawings too. We ate snacks out there. There were a lot of snacks. Doritos were my favorite. I got to eat a whole bag all by myself! The kids drank lots of root beer. The parents were allowed to drink wine whenever they wanted no matter what time it was because there are no rules anymore. 

We also traveled to the front yard. We blew bubbles and did more chalk drawings. I drew a naughty stick figure on the sidewalk but my husband covered it up. He is lame sometimes. I drank wine from a coffee mug because more people can see us in the front yard. One day we saw our neighbor, Shanna. All four of us started excitedly shouting at her at the same time. We hadn’t seen many people since March. She looked scared. 

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After that we tried playing soccer in our yard. But then we remembered that none of us like soccer because it is stupid. 

We also did a lot of cool things inside. We learned to play the card games “Go Fish” and “War.” It was fun. Then my children started fighting and calling each other cheaters. Which was so dumb. I was the one cheating. My husband says that is wrong. He is so lame. 

My kids also learned how to climb everything inside the house. I worried a lot that they would get hurt. They told me they would not get hurt. I was tired so I said ok.  

I hung out in the attic a lot. I told my family I was “writing” in my makeshift office. But really I was watching “Stranger Things” and reading Stephen King books. I ate a lot of snacks up there.

Sometimes we would get bored during quarantine. One time, when we were bored, we played Twister. I heard something in my knee go pop! Now it hurts to walk up stairs. My husband says I need to be careful because I am 38. He’s so lame. I’m not going to let him borrow the roller skates I ordered off Amazon when I was drunk even if he asks really, really nicely. 

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Another time I was bored I cut my own bangs. Everyone said I shouldn’t. But I did. My face looks crooked now. My friend Cara D. said she liked them though. 

One time we were so bored I let the kids do finger painting. It made a huge mess. The kids were happy but I was sad. They did not help clean up at all. My son’s teacher told me my feelings were valid. She is a nice lady. 

I think our dog is bored too. One day he pooped in the middle of the living room. It was gross. Then he did it again the next day. I think he wants us all out of his house. Probably because we are loud and won’t share our Doritos with him. 

We watched so many movies during spring quarantine. We also fought over which movies to watch a lot. I usually won because I am the bossiest. 

We also got to eat in the living room in front of the TV a lot, which was super neat. We ate a lot of cool things, like pizza topped with french fries and mozzarella sticks, and pizza that had barbecued chicken on it. If I could I would eat pizza for every meal. It is my favorite food. My husband says we have to feed the kids fruit occasionally. I wish he wasn’t so lame sometimes. 

Things are very different now but some things are ok. My husband wears his robe to work every day. It makes him happy. Although sometimes he yells the Big Curse Words at the computer. 

I wear my pajamas every day too. So do the kids. We also yell the Big Curse Words at each other but no one hears us so it is ok. I love my family. Especially after drinking wine and eating snacks. 

In conclusion, I had a great time on my spring quarantine. But I would not want to do it again. Except the pizza part. 

The End. 

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It’s been a mother of a year

Hey, you know how every year us mothers significantly lower our expectations when it comes to Mother’s Day? How every year you all just skate by on your adorableness, doing the bare minimum? It’s only Mom, afterall. She’s so grateful for anything and everything. Her love is completely unconditional. 

Well, not this year, you filthy urchins. There are now conditions. 

Oh sure, when you were born we played the saintly martyr when you kept us up all night, every night. We faced the fact you wouldn’t let us eat a single hot meal for an entire year with gentle stoicism. And we showed incredible grace and restraint by not throwing you out the window the first time you screamed “I HATE YOU” into our faces. 

We did all that because we love you. And you’re amazing. And we’d die for you. 

But this is 2020, you little wretches. We are done being humble and doting and noble. There is no more “oh, it’s enough of a gift just to be your mom.” It’s not. Not even close. We have spent two months stuck inside this house with you. Two VERY LONG months. With no sleepovers at Memaw’s house, no daycares or schools, no playdates, no library storytime, no playgrounds to give us even one tiny bittersweet gasp of freedom. There is only the constant drowning in your endless waves of needs and demands in a house that is growing more ramshackled by the day. 

Time to step it up, you bitty hellions.  

First things first, do not try to pass yourself off as charmingly incompetent and present us with burnt toast and water mixed with coffee grounds for breakfast. Here’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Careful, it’s heavy. Now start studying. That hollandaise sauce better make us cry tears of joy. 

Speaking of studying, your report card is one big lie. You are far from a delight in class. Which is why the card you give us this year better contain a heartfelt three page letter about how friggin’ gorgeous and phenomenal we are, which you will hand deliver to us on a silver tray that also contains a Bloody Mary. 

While we are on the subject of food and drink, you always want to be fed. Note we did not say “want to eat.” Note we did not say “always hungry.” No, you want to be fed. You want us to make you something. 

Well, guess what we want? 

A swimming pool. 

Start digging. 

And no, we will not watch you dig. A full one third of our lives is now devoted to “hey, mom watch this!” and then watching this. It doesn’t matter if we’re cooking, or if we’re showering, or if we’re on fire. We must watch. We must watch and then watch again and again, every time acting just as delighted as the first time you jumped off the couch and onto the couch cushion. 

Which is why we’re gonna need a life-sized chocolate sculpture of ourselves. 

Then there is the issue of the farts. We have smelled all your farts. All of them. On a constant rotating basis. There is just a constant low hanging miasma of fart essence wherever we go in this house because there is nowhere else for you to fart. So there’s tiny baby farts and gross boy farts and gigantic dad farts and ancient unholy dog farts, all mingling together and creating horrifying new scents. 

Buy us our own island. 

Oh, you can’t afford to buy us our own island? Well, we are the sounding board for every single thought that crosses everyone’s mind. We don’t get to have our own thoughts anymore because we’re too busy listening to all of yours. So you best find someone to bankroll this entire operation. No one’s cuteness is getting them out of this. We are on Week Eight of this crap. Ain’t no one cute around here anymore. 

We moms have not only kept this household going in a global pandemic, but, more importantly, have kept everyone from killing each other. We are freaking warrior goddesses. 

BUY US AN ARMORED UNICORN TO RIDE ON. 

So, in conclusion, we love you all so much. More than life itself. You are the best thing to ever happen to us. Don’t mess this up or we’re setting your room on fire. 

 

Excuse me, is this thing on?

Q: What has a twitchy eye, a whiskey in each hand and a brain that is slowly melting?

A: A mother who is stuck in quarantine with little kids who just discovered jokes. 

Want to hear another one?

Q: What do you call a Memaw who sends her grandchildren a book called “200 Silly Jokes for Kids”?

A: Estranged. 

Perhaps you think I’m being too dramatic. Well, let me ask you this. Why are teddy bears never hungry? Because they’re always stuffed. 

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Prior to now, my children thought the entirety of humor was centered around physical comedy and its subgenre of curse word outbursts. Fall down after getting hit in the privates and scream something with four letters and my kids would worship you as a comedy god. But now they know jokes exist. They know jokes exist and they are the best thing on the planet and they must know all of them immediately. 

If you’re wondering if children’s jokes have changed since you were a child, I can assure you they have not. I happen to be an expert in this field. I just heard 200 of them. 

Why do fish live in salt water? Because pepper makes them sneeze.

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho cheese. 

Why did the rabbit go to the barber? He needed a hare-cut. 

Then we got to the Knock Knock chapter. 

“Knock knock…”

*blank stares*

“Knock knock…now you say ‘who’s there?’” 

“Who’s there!?”

“Boo.”

*hysterical giggles*

“No, now you say ‘boo who’.”

“Boo who?”

“Why are you crying?”

“We’re not.”

I tried to tell another one only to have my daughter inform me very seriously that she already answered the door. 

Then we came to the inevitable part where they stopped asking me to read them jokes from the book and instead wanted to tell me their own jokes. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Imagine how painful it is to be there for hour one. Luckily their act came at dinnertime and included half a large pizza minimum. 

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“Hey, mom! Why did the rainbow not have blue?” my 6-year-old son excitedly asked. “Because it was too tired to make blue!”  

That was his best one. And I only consider it his best one because I’m hoping he was making a profound statement on depression that went over my head. 

At least my 3-year-old already has a distinct comedic style, which is impressive considering her age. 

“Why did the cat fart on the unicorn? Because she had to poop!”

“Why did the chicken go on the road? Because he’s a poopoo peepee head!”

“Why did the poopie poop on the diarrhea pee? Because farts!”

Perhaps I’m being too hard on them. Humor is my terrain afterall. I should be more understanding of how hard it is to master. Not to mention its appeal, especially in hard times. The reason I myself became a humor writer is because I was having panic attacks at age 12 and the only thing that could calm me down was reading Dave Barry’s column. I couldn’t breathe, the world was ending, but oh, look, boogers and an exploding whale carcass! It was how I learned that if you can laugh, the world becomes a little less scary. If you can poke fun at something, it loses some of its power. 

These kids haven’t seen a playground in months. They haven’t been able to hug friends or family. There’s no school, no vacations, no spontaneous “let’s get some ice cream!” Just a scary illness and a world that has forever changed before they even really got a chance to know it. 

So, I will laugh heartily to as many poop punchlines as they need. No matter how many whiskeys and large pizzas it takes on my end. Because if laughter is the best medicine, then we need all the jokes we can get right now. 

Which is why I asked my kids if they each wanted to give me a joke to end this particular column of mine.

“What do you mumble mumble giggle poop mumble? A chicken with a lamp on an egg!” –Mae, age 3

“What is a walkie-talkie with no one talking to you? There’s peanut butter in it!” –Riker, age 6

I wish you could see how hard they’re laughing right now. 

 

Honey, I screwed up the kids

We are living through historic times. Unprecedented times. And with any luck my family and I will make it out of these times and, many years from now, my great grandkids will gather around and ask to hear all about the time Gam Gam lived through the Great Coronavirus of 2020. And I will tell them, my voice dripping in rich sepia tones, tales of staying up late into the night writing novels to stave off the insanity, the feasts I cooked to stave off the boredom, the endless books the children and I read to stave off the despair. And how we all hugged each other a little tighter each day to remember why isolation, as hard as it was, was important. 

I will tell them all these things and many more because I am going to lie. Lie so hard. All the lies. 

Because here’s the thing. Saying I ate my weight in delivery pizza and wine while battling depression and insomnia just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

“And late one night, children, Gam Gam had so much to drink that she went on Amazon and bought roller skates for herself, completely forgetting she was 38-years-old and this activity would likely kill her. Oh no, I wasn’t a hero. Just a proud patriot doing her duty.”

This is all assuming, of course, that I eventually have great grandchildren. That I don’t screw up my children so thoroughly during this isolation period that they are able to eventually turn into semi-functioning adults who have families of their own. 

It ain’t looking too good so far. My kids are looking to me for structure, for guidance, for how to handle all the Very Big Feelings they are going through. And I, in my raggedy pajamas and roller skates, am looking back at them while eating an entire wheel of cheese and crying a little bit. 

There’s a reason why they say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s so that a child has multiple people to model for them how to survive in this world. People who don’t have a special Math Homework Cocktail she invented. 

It also doesn’t help that we can no longer do the things all those “parenting experts” hammered into our heads that we absolutely had to do in order to raise happy, healthy children.

Get your kids out in nature as much as possible!

Our yard is the size of a postage stamp and the parks are overrun with everyone else whose backyards are the size of postage stamps. 

Kids need unsupervised and unstructured play time!

Fantastic. Will you tell them that? Because they won’t leave me alone and I have nowhere to hide.

Be the calm in their storm! 

I respond to tantrums in only one of two ways anymore, depending on how little sleep I’ve gotten. It’s either dramatically screaming back or responding calmly that I will set their tablets on fire if they don’t knock it off. 

Limit screen time!

My son spends roughly three hours on screens doing school work, which means his younger sister is also in front of a screen for three hours unless I want to deal with a three hour long tantrum. And then when my son is done with school he wants more screen time because his screen time was school screen time, not fun screen time like his sister, so he gets fun screen time, which means his sister gets more screen time because I don’t know what I’m doing and can never seem to win these arguments. 

All of this, of course, with no end in sight.

Then, one morning after another sleepless night spent pointlessly worrying, I was helping my son with his reading assignment online. Every time he completed a task, a small snippet of a song would play. Just maybe ten seconds or so long. I happened to look over at him at that moment and saw that he was crying. 

“What’s wrong, baby!?” I asked, immediately assuming it was the stress from the schoolwork and ready to set the laptop on fire if so (I might have a problem). 

“It’s just so beautiful.”

“What is?”

“The song. It’s just a really beautiful song.” And a few more crocodile tears squeezed out. 

It wasn’t a beautiful song. In fact, I’m pretty sure it included bagpipes. But I started crying too. Because as I looked at him, I remembered that my kids have complicated emotions and deep intelligence and vast interior lives that I’m not privy to (even though on certain days it feels like they do, in fact, tell me every single thought in their heads). That they are strong and resilient and adaptable. That they are fantastic creatures that can be moved to tears by the beauty of music. 

And I realized it’s going to take a lot more than this to ruin them. All of them. The kids will be alright after all.  

 

St. Momma’s Academy for Wayward Children

Greetings and salutations new students! I am pleased to welcome you as the inaugural class of St. Momma’s Academy For Wayward Children. I’m looking forward to a most maddening semester with all of your beautiful, perfect faces.  

Just a few details and tidbits to go over before I hand out the MAE, I SAID STOP LICKING YOUR BROTHER syllabus. Firstly, we have a unique schedule here at the academy. Classes start promptly at Whenever Momma Has The Energy and ends exactly at Momma Is About To Use The Big Curse Words. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will all be served whenever I get around to it and the menu will always be macaroni and cheese because I have given up already and so help me if you keep rolling your eyes at me, Riker, I will make you write a 1,000 word essay on how pretty I am. Now, at St. Momma’s Academy, you are allowed to go to the bathroom whenever you need, however, this does include the caveat that you cannot go at exactly the same time as Momma. 

Alright, well, once I pass out these syllabuses (syllabi?) I feel we have put in a good day’s work for today already and I’ll see you all tomorrow. Now take this packet and go away. Farther. No, farther. FARTHER. 

Music 

Introduction to the Quiet Game

This semester we will explore why silence is sometimes just as important as musical instruments. 

Art 

Stick Figure Technique and Design

I can only teach what I know, tiny scholars. 

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Science

ARE WE ALL GOING TO DIE!?: An Exploration of Modern Pandemics

This course will explain all the scary things you are hearing on the news and will mostly consist of reassurances that mommy and daddy and your grandparents and everyone you know and love will most likely not die any time soon. 

Math 

Fantastic Fractions

We’re just making a crap ton of cookies and I’ll let you guys hold the measuring cups and hope you learn fractions via osmosis. 

Physical Education

The FUNdamentals of Squirrel Chasing

First kid to catch one wins $20 and a cookie. GO! 

Reading

Accio Phonics!

We will be reading all the Harry Potter books together. No! Stop whining. I said, WE WILL BE READING ALL THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS TOGETHER. 

Home Economics

Advanced Beverage Science

The morning class will focus on how to operate the coffee maker while the afternoon class will learn basic cocktail recipes. Lab work will be evaluated daily. 

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Writing Economics

Exposure Don’t Pay The Bills

This intensive course will explore why Momma makes little to no money as a writer. Extra credit given to any student who offers hugs when the professor inevitably breaks down in tears of rage. 

History 

The ‘90’s Were A Hell Of A Time, Kids. 

We’re just going to look through Momma’s old photo albums while I drink whiskey and you guys drink apple juice in fancy glasses. 

Media Studies

History of 1980’s Cinema

This mandatory elective will be M-F afternoons until possibly bedtime. Homework assignments include multiple viewings of “The Goonies,” “The Princess Bride,” “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal” and “Willow,” among others. Any complaining results in automatic failure.  

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Quarantine Letters from the Home Front

March 12, 2020

My Dearest Husband, 

It feels like yesterday I held you in my arms, only for us to be ripped apart by this cursed virus that is sweeping across the country. What I wouldn’t give to see your face again. Alas, I know you must do your duty, though it is a most difficult one, and figure out how to turn our diminutive bedroom into a viable home office. 

Though only a door separates us, it may as well be an ocean. For you are a world away, valiantly battling the Zoom app with its broken video link and internally struggling with the weighty decision of whether you care if your boss sees you in your pajamas, whilst I stay on this side, taking care of hearth and home in my yoga pants. We are walking an unknown road together yet apart, my love. But never doubt where my heart lies. 

The children send you their deepest affection and this drawing of a pirate ninja unicorn. 

With All My Love, 

Your Devoted Wife

 

March 13, 2020

My Darling Husband, 

I thought perhaps I saw a glimpse of your unshaven face shuffling around in your robe early this morn and my heart leapt at the sight of it. But by the time I called out, this specter had already refilled his coffee mug and disappeared back into the murky depths of the bedroom. Oh, my beloved, when will the world return to normal? I fear we will not come out of this as the same people we once were. 

To distract myself, I am helping our eldest learn to read. His teacher has been most accommodating, sending numerous worksheets to be printed out at home and link after link after link of educational things we ought to be doing. I admit it is most overwhelming but I find courage within myself by imagining how burdensome it is for families across this nation of ours and knowing I must do my part as well. 

Eternally Yours,

Your Faithful Bride

 

March 16, 2020

Dearest Love, 

I am trying, somewhat in vain, to remember how hard all this must be on our children. The world has gone mad and if their mother cannot make much sense of it, what chance have their young minds?

Yet, I still do not feel that is a reasonable excuse to steal all my lipsticks and paint the dog in various vibrant and long-lasting hues. Oh yes, that is indeed what your children just did. The little one also blew a raspberry in my face when I divulged to her that there would be no cookies for breakfast. 

Well, as you can imagine, it took everything I had to spare any and all rods. But as it says in the scriptures, children are a gift and a reward. Although if I do recall correctly, Jesus never had any children of his own and God stopped after one. 

I feel my delicate constitution cannot take much more of this, dearest. Which is why I drank all your beer. 

Love,

Your Temporarily Jovial Spouse

 

March 17, 2020

Dear Husband, 

As I write this, it is late morning. A dreary, rainy morning sure to turn into a dreary, rainy afternoon. Already the children have broken a chair and the hound has vomited on the rug before deciding to poop in the only room that has carpet. ‘Tis not quite the auspicious day I was hoping it would be. 

But I strive to take heart in the small things, such as it being the Day of Saint Patrick. I felt it only appropriate to participate in the festivities, if but alone. And early. 

Relatedly, we are out of wine. Also the vodka from the freezer is gone. 

P.S. Did you eat my leftovers? They were clearly labeled with my name, darling. If you wanted eggrolls, you should have ordered some for yourself when I asked what you wanted from Golden Dragon yesterday. 

Signed,

Your Hangry Wife

 

March 18, 2020

Husband,

Supplies are low and morale is flagging. I had to squash a coup d’etat when word got out that there were no more fish sticks. I know it is a fraught journey to the grocery store in these awful and uncertain times but seeing as how I am hungover (you know my delicate constitution) I feel it is essential that you go. 

I will miss you, oh husband of mine, as you embark on this treacherous voyage. But how lucky am I to have such a considerate partner who leaves behind dirty socks all over the house as a constant reminder of his presence in our life during these troublesome days. 

Regards,

Wife

 

March 20, 2020

To Whom It May Concern,

I’m going for a walk. I threw an entire box of Cheerios on the floor so the urchins should be occupied for awhile. I am uncertain of when I shall return. 

P.S. The children set the kitchen on fire.

 

My very particular set of skills is finally needed

Being a stay-at-home parent is an underappreciated job. Luckily, it’s also a job which results in a lot of expertise that has very little value outside your immediate family and involves absolutely no social standing.

Which is fine. We don’t do it for the glory. We do it because childcare costs in this country are ridiculous and out of control. (And, like, for love or whatever). 

All of which is to say that society places little worth on the ability to spend all your time with your family without murdering them, not even once. 

And then came the coronavirus. In times of great uncertainty, in times of dire need, leaders can emerge from the most unlikeliest of places. Which is why, as this pandemic is sweeping across the country and everything is closing and everyone is realizing they will be forced to spend all their time in very close proximity to their own families, with no escape, nowhere to run, me and my fellow brethren are finding that our skills are finally in demand.

Fellow caregivers! It’s our time to shine, baby! *ties hair up in messy bun and straightens sweatpants*

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Alright, now one of the most important things to remember is don’t panic. They’re just your family. You will survive this. Probably. I’ll be honest, I don’t know your family. But I’ve been stuck at home with mine for six years now and other than an extremely bloated wine budget and premature aging, I’m only mildly psychologically damaged. 

First things first though, what are you doing? Putting on real pants? Aw, that’s cute. I mean, if it makes you feel good go on ahead but, honestly, you’re probably going to regret it. Real pants just remind you that there is a real world out there, a real world that you are no longer a part of. You need something with stretch, with elastic; something that won’t judge you when you are stress-eating leftover chicken wings above the sink. 

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Of course, one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make is that within these walls during the day, time will cease to have meaning. Mornings will fly and the afternoon will be frozen. Minutes can feel like hours and hours can feel like regretting the decision to ever have children in the first place. For example, it should be mathematically impossible to watch “Frozen II” 43 times in one day and yet there it is, still playing in the background, for the 44th time. 

At least now with all this extra time we can sit down to a nice, big, family breakfast, I hear you thinking. But nope. You’ll try, of course. At first. But your eggs taste like poopy butt and you did the hashbrowns wrong (there’s brown on them!) and she just wants CHEERIOS and he wants butter with a side of bagel. NO! UNTOASTED! NOW IT’S RUINED!   

Time to start your workday. When I’m not getting yelled at for my poopy butt eggs, I moonlight as a writer so allow me to share what I’ve learned about working from home with children. Prepare for your productivity to go down immensely. Possibly to zero. Even if you have a home office with a door. Doors don’t stop children. Nothing stops them. Also, children can sense when you need to concentrate and/or are on an important call. This is when the little one will crawl on your laptop like a cat and the older one will burst in naked and fart on you while giggling manically. 

Hey, remember back in your former life when you had the autonomy to go to the bathroom whenever you needed to? Yeah, that’s gone. Even if you ask every single person in that household if they have to go to the bathroom before you go in there, and everyone says “no,” someone will still bang on the door within eleven seconds demanding to be let in because IT’S AN EMERGENCY and THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO GO THEN. 

If you want a snack, you either get real good at slipping in and out of the kitchen unseen or you make snacks for everyone. 

Sound? What sound? Oh, that? That’s just the 3 p.m. sibling screaming match. Right on schedule. Now, wait for it…hang on…in just a moment…yup, the elderly dog’s fevered barking in response. There’s an encore of this performance at 4 as well. And 5:15. Sometimes 7. 

Oh, don’t look so disheartened. Look, you will want to kill them at some point. Likely multiple points. This is totally normal. I mean, don’t. Kill them and whatnot. It will reflect very poorly on your parenting. But it’s completely valid to feel like you want to.

Here you go. You’ve earned this. I call it a martini but it’s just straight vodka in a martini glass.

And just think, only five more hours until bedtime. 

Tissue? 

 

Lord of the Remote

I don’t like to think of myself as dramatic, but every once in awhile a scene like the one described below occurs and I have to humbly accept my imaginary Oscar for best dramatic performance in a domestic situation. 

Son: Hey mom, can we watch “Lord of the Rings”?

Me: (dropping everything in my hands) I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT SINCE YOU WERE BORN.

Son: Mom, are you ok?

Me: (grabbing special edition extended DVD boxed set) Sit down and prepare not to do anything for the next 13 hours!

Son: Can I go to the bathroom?

Me: No. 

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I’m kidding, of course. I let him go to the bathroom. 

Once. 

The point is, we really are living in a magical time. A time where technology makes it possible for us to share everything we’ve ever loved and obsessed over with our children. EVERYTHING. Most of it at the click of a button. Even more amazing is that it’s something we already take for granted even though this instant nostalgia wasn’t around even a mere generation ago. 

I have no idea what my mom’s favorite TV show was when she was growing up. This is mostly because as her child I was genetically inclined to think everything she liked was dumb and therefore of no interest to me. But also she had very few outlets to share these things with me. Reruns and VHS tapes were pretty much it and that was only if some balding, cigar-chomping, TV executive (I’m just assuming they were all like that in the ‘80’s) decided they were worthy of reruns and/or VHS immortality. 

Meanwhile, my children have seen my favorite childhood TV show, “David the Gnome,” so many times they could write a passable doctoral thesis on it in multiple crayon colors. (Alas, my favorite childhood movie, “The Neverending Story,” didn’t go over as well because us ‘80’s kids were built of stronger stuff and didn’t get hysterical every time a beloved horse character committed suicide via swamp quicksand). 

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It’s not just movies and TV shows either. Thanks to the Nintendo Classic Edition, my kids and I have spent hours playing Mario Bros. together, side by side, just like I used to do with my cousins. The only difference now is that I’m finally the best player and my generic Mountain Dew has been replaced by generic Merlot. 

I’m basically getting to relive the best parts of my pop culture past while bringing my kids along for the ride. This is an extraordinary power and like all extraordinary powers, it’s super fun to abuse!

Take, for example, the fact I’ve been trying to force the Harry Potter books onto my firstborn for years. Pretty much once a week we have some version of the following conversation:

Me: You ready yet?

Son: For what?

Me: (in bad British accent) ‘arry Potter! 

Son: No.

Me: How about now?

Son: Nope.

Me: Now?

Son: Please stop, mom.

Me: Accio Interest!

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And THEN, after buying multiple Harry Potter Lego sets and T-shirts and light up wands and a sorting hat and discreetly playing the movies in the background and leaving the books scattered all over his room, my son brought home a worksheet from kindergarten and under the question “What is the title of a book you want to read?” he wrote “Hrry Pottr Nubrw 2.”* 

Did I trick him into wanting to read the books? Did I gaslight my own child? Did I grift my own flesh and blood?

Yup.  

It’s just, my kids have the WORST taste in entertainment. It’s all “Little Einsteins” and “Paw Patrol” and “Muppet Babies” but not the awesome old “Muppet Babies,” the new ones with the weird penguin. 

They don’t even like the good Disney movies. All the Disney movies ever made right there at their fingertips and they keep requesting “Sleeping Beauty,” the one where the princess is worthless and does nothing and has one job, not to touch a spindle, but what does she do? She touches a spindle because she’s human garbage. 

So, while I would never dictate what my children can and cannot like, because that would be wrong,** all I’m saying is that while they are still too little to figure out our three remotes and the convoluted sequence of magic buttons you have to hit in order to make them obey your every command, I’m merely going to gently guide them in the right direction. 

The right direction, of course, being “The Goonies.” 

*First, so cute, right? Second, I have no idea why he wants to start with the second book in the series but gaslighters can’t be choosers. 

**Right? It would be wrong? Or…no, no, it’s wrong. 

When your kids have too much scream time

I had always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t follow the crowd. As the type of woman who blazed her own path, made her own destiny. I was a lone wolf. Who was also a unicorn. Who moonlighted as a succubus on days when she was feeling grumpy. 

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Then I met my stupid adorable future husband and we started dating and everyone said “get married!” and we were like “ok.” Then after we got married, everyone said “have a kid!” and we were all “sure, who needs a disposable income?” Then after we had a kid, everyone said “have another one!” and so we did mostly because we were too tired to think of reasons not to. 

Then, when we were drowning in tiny, adorable, self-destructive gingers, those same people had the audacity to tell our exhausted, disgusting, overwhelmed selves that we couldn’t plop those kids down in front of a TV so we could get a moment’s peace in the diaper-stained tsunami that was now our lives. 

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Oh, and not just TV. This was a moratorium on all screens. Phones. Tablets. Laptops. Laptops that turned into tablets. 

“No screens! It will destroy their brains!” everyone shouted while sending torch and pitchfork gifs to our phones. 

And that’s where I finally broke with the crowd. Because do you know how long a day is when you are stuck at home with small children? It’s 57 hours. And that’s just before noon. I had no idea what to do with them. I’d read books, I’d build forts, I’d play hide and seek even though they hid in the same damn place every. single. time. (Spoiler alert: It was inside the fort). Then I’d look up and realize 12 minutes had passed. Which is when I would pull down all the window shades and put on “Sesame Street” with the volume super low, the kids pushing their faces against the television in order to actually hear Elmo. 

“It doesn’t count if no one but me knows” I’d whisper to myself while creepily rubbing my hands together villain-style. 

Look, I know too much screen time can have negative effects on children. I’m not saying everyone is wrong. I’m just saying they need to acknowledge that the alternative can be just as awful. That without any screen time, everything devolves into scream time. Mostly by the parents. 

Kids are more than capable of destroying their brains the old-fashioned screen-less way. Take this innocent little exchange between my kids I overheard the other day:

6-year-old: Ok, so put on your cape…

3-year-old Ok.

6-year-old: And then I’m going to push you off the bed…

3-year-old: Ok. 

6-year-old: And we’ll see if you can fly!

Me: NO! 

Or this one…

6-year-old: Did you get them?

3-year-old: Yup. 

Me: Get what?

*crickets*

Me: GET WHAT?

6-year-old: …nothing.

Me: *gets up and confiscates the big pair of scissors and three steak knives the 3-year-old is hiding behind her back*

6-year-old: Well how are we supposed to play pirates now?

And for everyone who claims that video games make kids violent, I’m not necessarily disagreeing. But I am saying that so do sticks. My children are constantly picking up sticks and using them to beat each other relentlessly. This usually escalates until they are using full on tree limbs to bash each others skulls in, which is when the park magically closes and we have to head home. 

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The thing is, sometimes you need screen time to make sure your children stay alive. To make their savage little butts sit down for a hot minute and kill pixels instead of each other. 

And sure, maybe it will eventually turn their brains to mush. I, of all people, am likely to find out considering both of my kids can quote the entire “Princess Bride” movie verbatim. But honestly, have you ever heard a 3-year-old yell “He didn’t fall!? Inconceivable!”? I’d argue it’s cute enough to warrant a reasonable amount of brain mush. 

In the end, I think, it’s all about balance. Let your kids play on their tablet guilt-free. Enjoy the quiet and peaceful non-homicidal atmosphere without beating yourself up. And then have them turn the tablets off so they can use them to hit each other over the head. 

When life hands you spoiled milk, make bathtub gin

Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is and then immediately cancel any plans you had for the next three days. Because that’s how long they will take to answer you. Because parents are worried about everything.

For instance, among my top worst nightmare scenarios are:

A serial killer named Meatclaw kidnaps my children.

My daughter dies of scurvy because all she’ll eat is plain noodles. 

My son turns out to be awesome at soccer and all my weekend days have to be spent sober and pretending to like soccer.

My grandchildren will have to participate in The Hunger Games in the dystopian future, which they will lose because no one in my family knows how to shoot an arrow OR how to do a fancy side braid.

I get cancer and die. My husband, overwhelmed with grief, gets tricked into marrying my vapid, bimbo nurse Trixie after my funeral and she then raises my kids to be the kind of humans who genuinely enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.

Prohibition comes back and I am arrested for Googling “how to make bathtub gin”.

And none of those things address the daily onslaught of new things we as parents are told to be afraid of, like haunted YouTube shows that possess children and studies that prove babies who didn’t learn Mandarin in utero will never get into college and that helicopter parenting is causing rebellious kindergartners to start snorting pure uncut sugar.

Of course, it’s not all death and delinquency and illicit moonshine runs. The mundane can be almost as terrifying when you have kids. For example, at some point on that mental list that every parent has, probably down around No. 37, is the nightmare of the missing sippy cup.

Oh god, the dreaded missing sippy cup. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s been on the back of your mind for awhile, the fact that you can’t remember the last time you saw it. And even though you’ve been known to struggle with anything above second grade math, you instantly do some fancy algebra in your head and deduce that there are two in the dishwasher, one in the cupboard, two they’re currently drinking out of and one being used as part of a load-bearing wall in the Fortress of Generic Blocks in the living room. 

Which leaves one completely unaccounted for. And after some more fancy mental calculations, you realize it’s been unaccounted for since Tuesday. And nope. Not that Tuesday. Last LAST Tuesday.

That’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that, unlike all of the tiny missing socks (which is about 1/3 of the total tiny sock population) and all those missing pens from the junk drawer, which I imagine are living blissfully together on some tropical island with all 12,000 of my missing bobby pins, sippy cups never stay lost. Oh no. They will mysteriously show up again. Right when their contents have ripened to their peak of nightmarish horror.

And despite the fact that when you asked your children to help you find this very same cup two weeks ago and they just did a series of figure-eights around your legs while repeatedly asking “where did it go? huh…”, it always, inevitably, reappears in their little hands when it makes its grand re-entrance, not yours.

Then, when that moment comes, that moment when one of your precious angels that you spent 36 hours bringing into this world on the sheer power of creative curse words alone runs up to you with a brightly painted cup of toxic sludge, a million more horrific questions run through your mind:

What unholy concoction is now in there? And has it gained sentience yet?

How much spoiled milk can a 30-pound body take before permanent damage occurs?

What strange alchemy must take place to turn apple juice that shade of green?

Or…wait…I think this used to be orange juice?

Does grape juice ferment into alcohol after so long? And if it does, how much prison kiddie wine did my child just drink before he alerted me that he found the missing cup?

How worried do I need to be about mold, because there are no less than 11 blog posts littering my Facebook feed at any given moment about the dangers of mold growing in sippy cups?

The good news is that there is hope. More than hope, actually. There is a foolproof method to never losing another sippy cup again. And that method is to only let your child drink water from here on out.

A sippy cup full of water has never, ever been lost in the whole, long, sordid history of parenthood.