Summer, I say “UNCLE!”

With the kids around all the time I’m going to seed. I haven’t been working out, eating well, or, you know, showering on the regular. And my hair? It’s gotten bad. It’s been so long since I colored it, that I’m no longer on the root touch-up regimen but in desperate need of an all over do over. Also, I pair my monthly at-home hair coloring with deep cleaning the upstairs bathrooms and bedrooms. I couldn’t possibly just sit and relax for the 30 minutes I have dye in my hair, so I do a speed deep clean. In this way we avoid living in complete upstairs squalor and I have nice hair to boot.

I probably don’t have to tell you, but we’ve been living in complete upstairs squalor.

One look at myself in the dirty mirror this morning and I decided that today had to be the day. After breakfast and some outdoor play time, I gave the kids second breakfast and put on a movie.

“I’m going upstairs to shower. Don’t touch each other or do anything generally terrible.” (It’s best if they don’t know just how much unsupervised time they’re actually going to have.)

Hair dyed, tubs scrubbed, and bedrooms picked up I return downstairs. Before I reach the living room, Sally comes running to me.

“Mommy, can we paint?”
“Are you asking because you want to paint, or have you already been painting?”
“Ummmmm.”
“Not in the living room! Tell me you aren’t painting in the living room!”
“Ummmmm.”

I round the corner. Sure enough, the paints are open; wet painted papers are strewn everywhere; water-logged paint pallets overflow; and there’s a huge puddle of water-color water on the stainable wood of the coffee table.

“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”
“It was Sally’s idea to paint.”
“Was not! You got the paints down!”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
“Come on, Sally. Let’s go play outside.”

I turn on them. Full of fury.

“What were you THINKING? When have I EVER let you paint in the living room? You both should have known better! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? NO! NO! NO!”

I continued random nos, and should have known betters, as I sopped up the water with paper towels. I’m pretty sure there was a visible swirling cloud of expletive symbols circling my head. $#%@#!! The kids stand nearby, possibly paralyzed with fear.

“You know, this table might be stained forever!”

And if I didn’t already feel like killing the little buggers, Luke says in a calm sweet voice, while holding his sister’s damned hand,

“Mom, aren’t people more important than things? Aren’t we, your children, more important than the coffee table?”

Are you freaking kidding me with this, you manipulative little shit?!

“Not right now you’re not! GAH!!! I don’t really mean that BUT I’M REALLY MAD so I’m about to say it again! NOT RIGHT NOW YOU’RE NOT! GAH!!!! AGH! NOW GO OUTSIDE BEFORE I SAY EVEN WORSE THINGS TO YOU!”

And that’s how I lost at parenting today. You?

UNCLE

A Startling Development

Something strange keeps happening around here. On multiple occasions lately, my husband and I notice ourselves having fun. Actual fun WITH OUR KIDS! Not, “oh it’s fun to watch my toddler feed a goat” fun, I mean genuine fun. The kind we generally only have without our kids.

This is incredible news, people!

We like our children!

I think that the ratio of Needy Little Buggers to Funny Little People is starting to tip in favor of the latter. And thank God for it!

We just returned from a mini beach vacation. The water was a balmy 58 degrees, so I can’t attribute our good time to the restorative nature of warm salt water. I guess it could be the restorative nature of cold salt water, but I’m going to take a leap and give credit to the kids. They are becoming less and less unpleasant.

Occasionally anyway. I wouldn’t want them to be perfect. If they were, I never could take pictures like this:

time out with a view

We enjoyed catching crabs, finding starfish, flying kites, building sandcastles, and jumping in the freezing waves together. We had full 20-minute stretches where my husband and I could talk to each other while watching our kids play adorably together! We could fit all this in between snacks and sunscreen reapplications thanks to our growing kids’ larger stomachs and willingness to wear sun hats.

Sure, we had a couple of meltdowns and a few instances of sibling assholery, but the good outweighed the bad, by far, despite overly long car rides, less than ideal sleep situations, and that special brand of exhaustion born from full summer days spent outside.

I didn’t know if I’d ever get to this point. Our baby and toddler years felt long and punishing. Gone are cute pudgy legs and wet baby kisses, diapers and colic, and inflexible toddlers made more impossible when naps are disturbed. I feel the heart-squeeze of nostalgia, but mostly I feel lightened by relief. Here are my long-limbed, capable, humorous, adventuring huge personalities, who can almost wait five minutes until dinner. Hallelujah!

Sorry, Gotta Go!

We’re always the first to leave. I cut short outings and parties and gather my troops while we’re all still having a great time. See, I pre-empt misbehavior and meltdowns. I’ve dragged my kids kicking and screaming out of too many parks, parties, and pools, and I’d like nothing more than to never have to do it again.

My kids get hungry, tired, overwhelmed, and overstimulated. While your kids happily play together for the 5th consecutive hour, not noticing that it’s already 7:30 and dinner hasn’t been served, I can see the wild look developing in my kids’ eyes by hour 3. I know what’s coming and it’s not pretty. Regrettable things will be said. Repeatedly and loudly. I’d rather you not witness that. I’d rather you not see me have to physically restrain my unrestrainable boychild. I’d rather you not see me roll my eyes at the pitiable tears of my girlchild.

If possible, I’d like you to think that we’re a nice family. I’d like you believe that my daughter isn’t almost always crying over something or other, and that my son isn’t always a hair-trigger away from a meltdown so staggering in its suddenness and violence that it can only be compared to a tornado.

If I stay too long, you’d see my daughter stub her toe or bump her head. You see her cry her big tears and frown her perfect big frown. And then you see me barely care about it and assume that I’m a colossal jerk. And I might be. But what you don’t know is that my daughter stubs and bumps something so often that if I stopped to genuinely care about it every time, my entire family might starve to death and would certainly never have a clean shirt to wear. Her tears are a constant companion. At some point, eyes must be rolled. Call me when there’s blood.

If I stay too long, you’d see my son talk back to me and say things that are stunningly obnoxious and rude. You’d hear my teeth-clenched, low-voiced warnings – much like a snarling cat. (I’d save any yelling until we’re safely in the car.) You’d think that he’s out of control. You’d think that his parents are deficient in some, or many, ways to have a child act that way. And we might be. But unless you have a child who falls far on the spirited end of the temperament spectrum, you just don’t understand. I lead our lives with one wary eye on him at all times. I can tell when it’s coming and I’ve gotten pretty good at heading him off. I can corral and get us out of there before there’s a full volcanic eruption, just a few ashes burped up into the atmosphere. Let me leave you thinking that’s as bad as it gets.

When I do a good job, our party companions don’t even know that the tides have turned for my family, just that suddenly we’re departing. They might catch some attitude coming from the kids, but they’d never guess at what would happen if I don’t get us out of there immediately.

Ironically, it’s my kids’ inability to behave as well as your kids that make us great dinner guests. Go ahead and invite us over! I promise that we’ll never be the guests who overstay our welcome.