Did I Tell You The One Where Christmas Break Would Not End?

1476175_10202797128275919_1196886460_nTeachers everywhere were rejoicing. Of that I have no doubt. It started all extra-nice. (See above photo for evidence.)  It was snowy outside, warm and cozy inside, and the boys loved each other. I was having visions of piling up on the soda, toasty warm, watching our favorite movies, reading our favorite books. Cocoa would be in hand, complete with marshmallows. Zach in his footed pj’s, Evan in his flannel sleep pants, me in sweats.  The world shut out, and the ones I love shut in against the cold. There was no school for me, and only my 3 scheduled days of work per week. It was going to be great.

Then this happened:1480549_10202798469749455_592936327_nIt snowed. I love our street in the snow. The houses look so cute and cozy, the neighborhood becomes a Thomas Kinkade painting. We put up the Christmas tree together. This year, Zachy was really able to  participate, which was adorable. I kicked the OCD into low gear as he put the ornaments too close together, and somehow resisted the urge to tweak them ever-so-slightly the entire time that tree was up.

This year, I even managed to somehow get all of the Christmas presents for the boys wrapped before anyone knew what they were getting. This was about as successful a Christmas as I could’ve asked for, considering some of our previous misadventures. The whole next day, the boys broke  played with their new things. Then Evan remembered how fun toys can be when you are only 3, and Santa brings you things like racetracks for toy cars or little train sets. And it dawned on Zachy just how cool big-kid stuff can be.

Magic: Over. Bubble: Burst.

Next thing we knew, there were fights. “Mommy, Evan did________.”, squealed Zach. “Mom! Zach has my _______.”, whined Evan. And so it went all the way up through the end of their Christmas break. It seemed like the longest one in the history of winter breaks. I seriously thought I was going to die. To make matters worse, I was fresh out of school. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that distraction. With me home more, John felt he deserved a break, and left most parenting matters to me. I’m certain the grey hairs on my head have multiplied as a result.

The eve of their first day back to school, I was working the ICU. It really is a good thing my patient was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t hear me or tell on me. The tv in his room was turned to the news, where I saw the update where the boys’ first day back was called off due to weather.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I’m sure my wail reverberated off of the walls of the ICU, into the adjacent waiting area and throughout the rest of the hospital. Nurses from outside the room rushed in to see what had happened, as I’m not generally an alarmist at work.

That day. That day I had been dreaming of, hoping for, wishing on….My hopes were crushed. My spirit broken.

The fighting a home got worse as cabin fever started in. Snow kept dumping on us. Just when it would start to clear up, more would come. And then it didn’t. The boys were finally going to go back to school. I was relieved, and by that time, I think they were as sick of us as we were of them causing chaos.

And then that “Polar Vortex” bullshit happened. Anyone remember the “I can’t put my arms down” scene in A Christmas Story? Well, we will never have a modern-day version of that. They cancelled school because it was too cold. For not one day, but days-yep, plural. When we were kids, our parents would just bundle us up. We waited a little closer to last minute to go to our bus stops. But our bus stops weren’t at our driveway, either. Generally, we had to walk. If it was dangerously cold–as in losing digits to frost bite despite gloves or mittens—my mom would crank the heat in the car to warm it up while I was getting ready and then drive me to the bus stop, where I would sit in the car until the bus was in sight. The lowest it got here was 2 degrees, and I am sure that I remember it getting a lot colder. As a matter of fact, I just googled that and discovered we had temps as low as -25 in 1985 in Cincinnati. But they closed school. There was no snow or ice on the ground, no slick roads, no frozen pipes at the school. It was just cold.

It seemed like winter break was never going to end. John and I were never going to have a single moment of peace. Armageddon was going to strike, Hell was freezing over, and we would have to home-school the children from now on. I was on the verge, man.

Finally, on January 10th, the boogers got on the bus and headed back. They were out of school for 29 days in total. I sincerely hope they tack the extra unplanned missed days onto the end of the school year. I am now on a mission to treasure every moment of silence until June, and promise to never take a peaceful moment for granted for as long as I live.

Finally,

Dear Interviewer

Dear Interviewer,

I don’t know your name or even very much about your business. I take my heating and air-conditioning for granted, though my husband has spent a couple of nights a week studying these systems so he could learn a trade, any trade, to make him employable. You’ll meet him tomorrow. You are one of the first to even give him a second glance, and that is my fault. He is a good man, a smart man. He has abilities and skills that are very different from mine. 

You see, years ago, he recognized that I had some talents and abilities that were going to waste. He was in school at the time, and he went to talk to his dean about getting me into classes despite the fact that I was in default on a federal student loan after having dropped out of college when my mom died. And that I was being held back simply because I didn’t have enough money to resolve the issue. And that dean called me in and we came up with a plan to get me out of default, and I learned that I can still shine. I didn’t look back. And my generous, kind, loyal husband put his goals on the back burner so I could continue to shine. 

And then we moved when I found a good job far away, causing him to abandon those goals he had set for himself. And I made a decent living. But when expensive childcare became an issue, he listened to me when I said, “It would be so much easier on us, financially and physically, if you would just stay home with the kid.” And he did. He put away his old-fashioned ideals of the manly-man supporting his family, and he became about the car-riders’ line at the local elementary school, Cub Scouts, karate lessons, and any other thing that comes with having a young child. When people would have the knee-jerk action of turning to the dad first to ask what he did, he would say he was a stay-at-home dad. But even I could notice that his shoulders always slumped just a little when he said this.

And then we moved again, where I had an even better job and higher education opportunities. And he enrolled in a school for this or that, taking a class at a time. I think he just needed something for himself. Anything. But still he kept that role of homemaker so I could do well, better, best. First, it was so I could pursue my dream of going to medical school, then there was another baby. His days were no longer only filled with carpools and extracurriculars, but again with diapers, keeping me in clean breast pump parts, teething. Still, he kept on.

Then it was, “John, I think I want to go to business school instead.” And his reply, that he would support me in whatever I wanted to do. And there was a BBA. When I decided I wanted an MBA, he was there cheering me on. He told me I could do it, that I was awesome. He stayed with the kids, washing my scrubs in preparation for my weekend shifts at the hospital while I sat in accounting/ finance/ marketing/ whatever classes. And he picked me up. On test days, he’d always have a motivational song on cue for when I would get into the car.

And all of this time, it was one class at a time for him. Scheduled around my work and class schedule, of course, because he always put me first. And then he was finished, but somehow even that was dwarfed by my completion of grad school one week later. And he never complained.

So tomorrow, you will meet him. He really wants this job, and I want him to have it. You are going to see his resume and application and ask about the 7-year gap in employment. Like most others, you will probably ask why a man didn’t work to support his family. It seems that, despite how progressive we think we have become as a society, we are still very much old-fashioned. And John, well, he just isn’t good at singing his own praises. This is what I would want him to tell you:

He worked. He worked harder than he ever has in his life. He honed time-management skills. He learned cleaning. He learned to keep others happy, multitasking. He perfected the art of motivational speaking, of problem-solving, of making sacrifices for the improvement of the team. And he was successful in all of those roles. After all, with him backing me, I did everything I set out to do.

So, Interviewer, tomorrow, I hope for a couple of things. I ask that you look at him as the man he is: the man who was brave enough to serve his country, put in his 40 at a job he hated in order to pay the bills, and the man selfless enough to give up what he wanted for his wife and kid(s). I ask that you not be like all of the others and you give this loyal, hard-working, awesome man a chance instead of simply seeing a long period of unemployment.

If you could see him like I do, you would know that you would not be sorry.

Sincerely,

John’s Wife

Grocery Woes

8019650_f520Hang with me here, because I swear I have a point. Off the top of my head, breakfast items I purchased for the house include the following:

  • 2 packages of whole-wheat English muffins
  • 1 pound of turkey bacon
  • 12 yogurts
  • 2 boxes of Pop-Tarts (don’t judge me!)
  • Multiple types of fruit–berries, oranges, clementines, apples, grapes
  • 3—yes, 3–boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (they had a bundle pack that was discounted)
  • 1 Bag of Bagels–I buy the minis because they are more like a normal serving size, so I am estimating 12 were in the bag.
  • 18 eggs
  • 4 boxes of Nutrigrain-type cereal bars
  • a container of oatmeal
  • 1 box of Grape Nuts

I ate, I think, 2 English muffins, maybe a couple of pieces of fruit. I went to work for 3 nights and got off on the following Monday, and all of it–everything on the above list–was gone. What else didn’t survive the weekend? 3 boxes of granola bars, 2 boxes of low-calorie snacks I bought for myself, 2 boxes of snack crackers, an 18-pack of Jell-O, 2 gallons of chocolate milk, a whole pound of turkey breast. In one weekend. And that is just the quick items.

So it goes like this: I get paid, I determine a grocery budget, and I go to the grocery store. There isn’t a lot to go around anymore because my boss has cut down on our ability to work overtime, so I have to stretch what I do have. I clip coupons, I price match, I shop sales. I usually do pretty well, coming home from the store with the back of our SUV filled with grocery bags. On the last trip right before Christmas break, I spent $350 because I knew the kids would be home all day everyday. It would be more than enough for anyone.

Except for this family.

I never dreamed I would say this, but I cannot afford to feed this family anymore. More specifically, I cannot afford to fee Evan. The kid eats something and immediately goes back for more. All day long, this is how it goes. So my trips to the grocery store are decimated and when I come home from work after a 3-day stretch, there is nothing left and we spend the rest of the week running to and from the store, buying miscellaneous items because there is nothing left in the house. Which is decidedly unfriendly to the environment and to my wallet, as gas is fricken expensive. I have even had to let some bills slide to buy more food because they ran us out and we cannot starve for the rest of the week..

I should add that this does not just happen when I am gone. Last night for dinner, for example, John made chops, veggies, baked potatoes. When he made the potatoes, he made a whole bunch of them because they were smallish. I split one with Zach. John had one. Evan cried and carried on until he ate the rest of them. If we order a pizza, he eats more than all of us combined. One night, I made a pan of baked ziti–lowfat, of course, for John–and we all got a spoonful while Evan ate the rest of the pan.  He’s starving, he says. He cries.

We have tried everything. We’ve explained how obesity runs in our family, as well as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. We’ve had discussions about genetics and how John’s dad had to have open-heart in his 40’s and John had all of those blocked arteries this past summer in his 30’s, so Evan is pretty much doomed if he doesn’t amend his eating habits. I can’t make too much of an issue of it because I don’t want to make such an unhealthy connection with food, as this can also lead to problems.

What do I do? And the reason I am asking? Well, after the “polar vortex” that we have had that expanded the kids’ winter break, I am broke. We literally have no money. I have fed this child until our wallets, pockets, bank accounts are completely empty. And there is no food left. I have resources and I can get groceries, but the point is that nobody else will get to eat them. And even when we are diligent, when we watch the food supplies all day, being careful about what Evan consumes, our efforts go to waste when he sneaks into the kitchen after all have gone to bed and hoard entire boxes of stuff into his room. In the morning when he wakes, we have found empty boxes of snack crackers, granola bars, anything that he can easily take and snack on all night.

Do we have to sleep in shifts? Put the food under lock and key? Start buying by the meal instead of stocking the kitchen? And then when he cannot get what he wants, we deal with one of his meltdowns where he turns over furniture, gets violent with his brother, breaks our things intentionally.

I am at my wit’s end. I do not know what to do or how to do it.

And I’m hungry.

Not Ready

28809_1470325484751_4630848_nI remember the day like it was yesterday. It was just yesterday, right?

We tell new parents all of the time that they shouldn’t blink, that it will all go way too fast. Evan started middle school a couple of weeks ago. That hit me hard. Not as hard as the day I found myself sobbing in the school gym as he turned and looked at me as he was walking away from me and toward his kindergarten teacher. I remember the clothes he wore: khaki shorts with a brown leather/ orange grosgrain belt coordinated perfectly with his orange polo from Baby Gap. He was small. He was my baby. He still is.

But then we had another one. I wrote countless times how I didn’t think I could ever love another like I love Ev. And I remember kvetching that I couldn’t possibly be pregnant again, that it was a cruel joke with the worst possible timing. I had no idea that the child would completely consume me. That he would become very much a part of my very being. I could tell you I love him, but those words seem so paltry and inadequate. If you cut me, I would hemorrhage Zachary.

So today happened. It’s a day I’ve done before, many years ago. Except Evan was starting kindergarten, not preschool. But somehow, this is worse. This is so much worse. He’s only a year younger than Evan was when he started kindergarten, but still. He really is my baby. And I just watched him. I saw the spark of excitement in his eyes, the amazement that that big yellow school bus was stopping for him this time. I watched his chubby baby fist grasp the rail and climb onto the first step of that bus, guided by his father while I tried to hold it together. That first step, incidentally, was almost waist height on him. The bus driver motioned me onto the bus, smiling in understanding and reminding John that moms just do this while the assistant helped Zach to his seat. And he turned and looked back at me as I blew him a kiss, all smiles and happiness at his new milestone reached. At independence and new days filled with macaroni art and learning to sing new songs. At things that would no longer involve me.

I turned and got off the bus and they pulled away. I turned back to watch him go as my heart splintered. Because I worry that these strangers entrusted with his well-being won’t understand how amazing he is. They don’t know how he almost wasn’t here, that he is a connoisseur of chocolate milk, that “bobberries” are really strawberries and are his favorite fruit,  that he simply must have an Eskimo kiss before his nap. But also because, having done this about 8 years ago, I know. I know that Tomorrow, he will be starting middle school. He’ll have earbuds in his ears and not want to cuddle. He will be too cool for me. I will become Mom, no longer Mommy.A Mom is, after all, different from a Mommy. Moms ensure you do your homework and take care of you when you are sick. Mommies kiss boo-boos to make them better, read bedtime stories, are given the gift of crayon scribbles that may as well be fine art. It will be Tomorrow.I know it from experience.

I’m not ready for Tomorrow. And I know that is where Today leads.

I’m just not ready.
1239614_10201960273115063_1972389987_n

This Could’ve Been My Kid: Toddler Boy Called A Faggot At WalMart For Wearing Pink Headband

http://www.mommyish.com/2013/07/31/toddler-boy-called-a-faggot-at-walmart-for-wearing-pink-headband/

Anyone remember Evan and his affinity for all things pink and sparkly? I didn’t really care, but I was worried for him simply because of people like the man in this article. Because people are ridiculous. And dumb. And virtually intolerant of anyone or thing different from themselves.

I remember those days. I remember having to tell my son that, while there was nothing wrong with him wearing or choosing whatever he liked, that there were people in the world who didn’t understand that and would be mean and cruel to him as a result of his different tastes. That didn’t make it okay, but as his mother, I felt it was my duty to protect him from any potential threat. I would rather he learned that lesson gently from me at home as opposed to the way this innocent little boy learned. So he expressed himself in the house, but not out in public.

Right or wrong, it was such a story as the one above that motivated me.

If I reflect back on that time in his childhood, I feel guilty. His personal preferences have always reflected his quirky, spunky nature. He is not the same as everyone else. He knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. He may have outgrown the pink, sparkly phase, but he has shown other differences. That’s fine with us. His unabashed exhibition of who he is for all who care to get to know him reflect a comfort in his own skin that many of us only hope to have at some point in our lives. I hope that time all those years ago didn’t quelch any part of that within him.

If it did, I am no better than the oaf in this story.

We all have our heads crammed full of what we should be/ think/say/do…
You’re a girl. You can’t throw a ball.
You live in the city, so you have no values.
You’re rich, so you must not know what it means to work.
You’re a man. You aren’t worth shit if you don’t solely support your family.
What do you mean, you can’t cook? Aren’t you a real woman?
You’re poor so you must be lazy.
You’re straight, so you hate homosexuality. You’re gay, so you’re a deviant.

We are who we are. That’s the world I want for my kids, in a nutshell. A toddler in the midst of discovering he is separate from his parents can wear a damned headband-pink, green, sequined, lacy-if it makes him happy. Evan can be obsessed with history instead of XBox. We can choose for my husband to stay home if it works for us. And, yes I suck at cooking anything aside from 3 specialty dishes, but I can rock out some corporate finance while keeping you alive, so that’s okay, right?

Our preferences don’t make us better or worse people. We are not less simply because we have our own strengths and weaknesses that are distinct from the person sitting next to us.

Someone needs to teach that man a lesson.

Bitchypants

What I Said I Would Never Do and Then Did Anyway

Kid-With-Cell-PhoneKids and cellphones. It drives me crazy. I work with someone who literally bought their two-year-old an iPhone. No, I’m not kidding. I am being completely serious. I didn’t have a cell until a couple of years ago. It just wasn’t a need of mine. When it became a need, I went and got one. But a little kid? Call me crazy, but when you are too young to be left alone for a second, when you are chauffeured around to every destination, go no places on your own, you have no need to be reachable at all hours and in any locale. And besides,  the only person who should need that type of contact with you at that age had better be a parent, and aren’t you with one of them?

Read: “No, Evan, you CANNOT have a cell phone!”

I did, however, let him have a Facebook account and email, with the password known to me and the username set as the email address, so every stinkin’ time he gets a like, a comment, a message, a friend request, I know about it. It’s a pain for me, as my phone vibrates non-stop almost, but it is necessary to keep him safe from himself and from others who prey on kids. And as a result of these other internet uses, he inherited an old smartphone of ours that no longer has service. He could still use the wi-fi functionality at home to email his new friends. (A long story that will have to be told at another time.)

So this has been going on for some time now. Fast forward to now. Well, to a couple of days ago. He is currently at his grandfather’s house for his annual summer visit, when he gets to fly planes and boat and jet-ski to his heart’s content. See evidence here:evan fliesSo this past Saturday, he calls. John answers the phone. I can hear the worry in John’s voice. He’s asking what is wrong. Then I see John roll his eyes, say, “Oh my God, talk to your mother!” as he thrusts the phone at me. Evan is completely hysterical. I can barely understand him. I get him calmed down and then it starts to become clearer: the phone he was using–my old one–finally bit the dust. He is 4 hours away. He cannot email his friends or anything, and he is going to be down there for awhile due to some health issues John is having. (Oh my GOD, that makes it sound like John has the plague–he doesn’t. You’ll understand later.) I assure him we will find a solution, hang up the phone and go to work on this little issue.

I could do any of the following:

A. An iPod Touch. It has wi-fi and messaging capabilities. Maybe Grandpa could take Evan to get one and I could reimburse him. Nope, they’re too expensive, so I can’t ask someone to do that for us.

B. Send Grandpa to get Evan a cheap pre-paid cell and reimburse him for that. Ehhh. Wouldn’t that give Evan a long-distance phone number?

C. Call our cell carrier and see if they can sell me a cheap smartphone to have shipped down there to Evan. Hmmmm. And that is when it happened.

They tell me that I have a family plan, and that if I add a line, they are giving away free iPhone 4S’s.

Shit.

And that, since we have unlimited talk and text, Evan could call and text however much he liked and it wouldn’t run up our bill.

Double Shit.

And that they have this service called Smart Limits that allows us, as his parents, to limit what he is allowed to do on his line. For example, he would only be able to make purchases with a credit card and not simply by billing to the cell bill. We could limit who he calls, who calls him, how much data he can use (the other sure-fire way for me to one day get a $800 cell bill in the mail!).

Triple Shit. Evan got a cell phone. 

An iPhone at that. Which may have been free to me, but is still a $500 phone. And I don’t think it was a bad decision. He’s starting middle school in the fall. He’s still a little awkward, but he’s blossoming socially. He’s making friends. Just before he left, he was outside playing with some friends and lost track of time because nobody wears a watch anymore and none of the kids had phones. He’s getting to the age where he will be old enough to drop off at the mall to hang with friends or be permitted to have a house key and let himself  in after school. Not quite yet, but soon. It was time.

Of course, he could completely make a fool out of me. I wired money down to him with orders that, as soon as the phone arrives, he is to take it the local AT&T store and buy an OtterBox for the damned thing. This will minimize the chance that it will be destroyed on accident. Given how badly he has begged me for this for a couple of years, it isn’t likely that he will destroy it on purpose. And the smart peeps at the phone company have limited his ability to drive me to financial ruin with the thing. So I have moved forward with calculated risk.

And besides, he is growing. How is he going to prove he can be responsible without the opportunity to prove it?

6 Rude Things: My Version

middle276 Rude Things Moms Let Their Kids Do (Tsk Tsk) | The Stir.

Yes, I read this one. And I got pissed. I’m not sure why, but I did. Maybe it is because I have had so many encounters with unbelievably rude “adults” that it gets hard to swallow the critique of children. Yes, it is important to teach our children manners. And common courtesy. And how to behave in social situations. It is important that we not allow the carelessness of out children to infringe on the rights of others. But adults are not above these same guidelines. And before we can lecture our kids on manners, we have to set proper examples. So here is my list of some of the rude things adults do that completely get under my skin. And since they limited their list to 6, I will, also.Because I am a polite bitch.

6. When you see a mom bustling through a parking lot in rain/ snow/ sleet, don’t jump on the gas pedal to avoid waiting for her to cross the damned street. Just because you haven’t procreated, or you have and are fortunate enough to not have to go to the store with your children does not excuse you from common decency. Think to when your kids were small. All you needed was some milk, eggs, and maybe some random ingredient for dinner. You had to wrangle a squirming toddler into outerwear, wait behind him as he tried to climb into his carseat, because, hey, he can do it himself. Now it is cold, it is wet, and you are trying to hurry, carrying the 30-lb. mini-me through the massive parking lot, you get to the crosswalk and are about to make it into the store when a string of traffic passes while you helplessly watch rude assholes who can’t pause for 5 seconds to let you cross. And did I mention their cars are warm and dry while you and the little one look on in the freezing rain? People, if you are in so much of a hurry that you cannot do one this one thing, you have no time to go to a big-box grocery store, anyways. (The principles of this one can be extrapolated to apply to lot stalking as well. You see me with a toddler and another child. It is cold. You also see the cart full of groceries. There is a vacant spot 2 spots down from mine. Don’t sit and look annoyed/ honk/ etc. while I try to convince the oldest to get in an buckle up, strap the baby into his carseat, load all of the groceries, and put the cart away. It takes time. Don’t rush me. I’m sure when you had children back in 1952, all you had to do was toss them into the floorboard and speed away. We have better standards now.)

5. Treat my child’s cheeks as if they are magnetized, and that magnet, for some unknown reason, seems to get stronger during Godforsaken flu season. This one is simple. Quit touching my child. Yep, he has chubby cheeks. Yep, they’re friggin’ adorable. I made them. I know. He gets them from me. He also has the cutest little button nose. But after using enough public restrooms in my day, I have seen enough nasty assholes completely bypass the sink and head straight out of the door without washing their hands. And I have learned that these assholes  are generic in appearance, and thus cannot be identified among the rest of the population. And even if you are not one of them, how do I know that you are not harboring influenza/ MRSA/ syphilis/ scabies or any other nasty shit I find in my line of work? And then you touch my child’s face? Or his little hands, which he does not realize have he capacity to transmit the damned plague and thus puts them in his mouth without thinking? Shame on you.

4. Drawing assumptions. You know what they say, right? Assuming makes and ASS out of U and…. Scratch that. The saying is wrong. It just makes you an asshole.  What is it about seeing a mom/ dad/ both with young children that brings out this tendency in people? And we assume a lot of things. I have had people assume a lot. I have heard whisperings about morality .John and I do not wear wedding bands–John’s ended up down a bathtub drain many years ago and mine fell off of my finger and wasn’t found until John stomped on it with a steel-toed work boot many-many-many years ago. And, well, we just never replaced them. We keep meaning to and then forgetting. I assure you we are very-much married–12 years this very week thankyouverymuch. And even if we were not, it is none of your business. There are many types of families out there, and who are you to assume you have the right to judge any of them? Maybe I am “shacking up with my Baby Daddy”. What of it? This is in the same category as many other rude assumptions, like that I want your parenting advice. Or that, simply because my child is having a bad moment, I do not teach them manners.

3. If you visit a kid-friendly establishment, quit going with the expectation that there will not be children present. Kids will be there. And no matter how well-behaved, kids are growing, learning beings. In order to teach a child manners in a dining or other public establishment, there has to be some practice involved. Kids can get squirmy, fidgety, over-excited, over-stimulated. They are, by nature, impatient and self-centered. When they are hungry, they want food now. When they are stuck in line to pay for the jeans their mom or dad is buying them because they outgrew their old ones, they don’t generally like to wait in line. They never want to wait their turn, even if they have been thoroughly trained that this is something they must do. Expect that. They are children, for shit’s sake. You, on the other hand, are an adult. We expect that you have learned patience, as you have had ample opportunity. And we parents can teach and teach our children, but sometimes those lessons are forgotten, despite our best efforts. Are we never supposed to leave our homes because you might decide to go to one of the places we go? So just stop. Stop getting huffy when a kid whines for a candy bar in the grocery checkout line, when a toddler gets frustrated because he is hungry and has waited too long for his food. Stop acting like my children are infringing on your space at a kid-friendly business when, in all truthfulness, you are treading on our turf there. Or better yet, when one is at Chuck E. Cheese, expect for kids to get rowdy and excited, and just stop acting offended by playing children. You are at Chuck E. Cheese, for crying out loud. You are being ridiculous. In return for the improvement of this behavior, I will continue working on my children’s manners. I will request to not sit in the booth next to you so they can eat their kids’ meals freely while you enjoy your seniors’ country-fried steak or whatever other old-people shit you order. And I will not be so rude as to infringe on the swanky restaurant you visit for date night with unruly children. I will stick to places that give out crayons with the kiddie menu because I am civilized. (PS. Remember this experience on the day Obama passed through here, blocking roads for hours?)

2. STFU. If you don’t know what this means, Google the shit. My kids–and yes, even the little one–have issues. And this does not mean I do not discipline them. It doesn’t mean I don’t parent. I have to continue with my teachings that “no” really means no. That they cannot get everything they want. he end result is some tears and maybe some meltdowns. What I do not need from you is for you to turn around in line and instigate by making sure the kid knows that you would buy them the sugary candy if you were me. Or for you to turn around and tell me that you would beat them into submission. or that I need to control my kid. I prefer to raise a child who does not need to be “controlled” but rather has the self-direction, self-control, and logic to understand that behaviors have consequences, that we must earn what we want to receive. It is difficult to teach them this. It is especially difficult with mine, with one having a probable ASD and the other being largely non-verbal until recent months. But they still have to grow up in this world, to learn to function. And so I have to say no to some things. Regardless of their reaction, you have no right to put in your unsolicited comments to me or to them. It is none of your business. And if you would hurry up and quit the long-winded conversation with the blue-haired cashier, we can pay for our shit and get the hell out of there where not a soul will witness their meltdowns.

1. Quit acting as if my kid is the only child you have ever seen misbehave. And sometimes they aren’t even really misbehaving. We are learning more and more that some of Evan’s behaviors that could have been construed as being bad or bratty or manipulative really couldn’t be helped all along. Not all of them, but some of them. So you do not need to tsk-tsk. You do not need to gawk. There is no need to give dirty looks. And even though Evan looks like a typical kid his age, he isn’t so quit fucking staring at him. He is remarkable. He is probably smarter than you. But he has different reactions to some things. We’re working on it. Always working on it. What about you? And while we’re at it, even if he were to be completely like his peers, sometimes the best kids with the best parents can misbehave. And for you morons to turn around and stare like you have never seen this happen, to treat us like we are in some sort of freakshow, is completely unacceptable behavior from an adult. Because, in all honesty, your tendency to react like that makes me want to give in. Buy him the toy/ candy bar/ toilet scrubber he is so irrational about just to get you to leave us alone. Because the only other options are to deal with your lack of manners or never take him out of the house. I refuse to keep my kid like a caged animal because you have some sort of problem. And the same goes for the baby. He went through this shrieking phase. It was awful. And you people would hear me and see me trying to get him to be quiet. Telling him not to scream. Yet you would still stare and give largely the same reactions you would give to Evan and one of his meltdowns. And Zachy is obviously a little guy.

Maybe, instead of preaching on the bad manners of kids and the seemingly-awful parents who fail to teach them manners, maybe we all need to step back and consider others for a minute. Because ALL of these situations I have mentioned have happened to us. Some happen more than others. Some happen all of the friggin’ time. I am not perfect. My children are not perfect. But we are good people. We know right from wrong. My kid, who might have a mini-meltdown over a candy bar he didn’t get may turn around and gladly give his most prized possessions to a needy child or weep over a homeless man on the street. Later, on the same day as the meltdown, he may be so polite and well-behaved that strangers come up to us and comment on the polite young man we are raising. And the bottom line is that he is a child. He is being taught more and more everyday. Some lessons stick right away, while some take repetitive drilling. Some seem to stick and then he adopts the bad habits of his classmates, putting us back to Square One. He is, after all is said and done, still forming. You, on the other hand, are running out of time to let your asshole-ness wear off. And if you are so apt to help me parent, what with your assumptions, unsolicited advice, and comments, perhaps you could be more efficient by stopping the rudeness and serving instead as another example of good manners for these kids.