He wins every time

“Mommy, can we please use your makeup?”

“No, kids.”

“But please? We asked really nicely. We want to play nicely together.”

“That’s sweet, and you did ask nicely. Thank you. But the answer is still no about my makeup. I’m sure you can find something else to play nicely together with.”

“But we really want to use it and we never get to and we’ll be really careful and we’ll be good for the rest of today and we’ll go to bed really early and not come back downstairs and we’ll be good tomorrow too.”

“I’m sure you’ll do all of that anyway because you’re such great kids. The answer is still no. I’m not going to change my mind.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“This isn’t open for discussion. I said no.”

Luke has a hard time with no. Many kids do, I realize, but every other kid on the planet (I’m pretty sure) will drop it eventually. Not Luke. He will take this to the nth degree. I don’t want to engage. I have a nice evening planned and I don’t want to have to take it away. I want to drop this so we can move on. So I’m staying calm, remaining firm, and not giving him any reasons why. That’s what I’m supposed to do, right? That’s what the books say.

“Please?”

“No. Please stop asking me.”

“But why?”

“This isn’t open for discussion.”

“But just tell me why. Why can’t we?”

“I’m not changing my mind and you’re going to make me angry. It’s time to drop it. Luke, really, stop.”

“But just tell me why?”

I don’t answer. It’s over if I don’t say anything, right?

“Mom? Mom? Mom? You can’t ignore me. What if I got a knife and cut my head off, would you ignore me then? Mom? Why? Why can’t we use your makeup? Why? I don’t get it. You’re so mean. Mom? We’ll be really good. We just want to play together. Isn’t that what you want? That we play nicely together? If you don’t let us use your makeup I’m going to punch Sally in the face and break her things and it will be your fault. Would that make you happy?”

“Luke, this is me warning you. I’m starting to lose my patience. You need to stop yourself. Now.”

“Just tell me why!”

“This is the last warning. I’m getting angry. Do you understand?”

My voice is still calm and even. I am going to diffuse this fucking thing if it’s the last fucking thing I fucking do. He storms away, knocking a book to the floor. I let it slide, not needing to lock horns with him now over picking up that book. I hope this is over. It’s not. He comes back with a note that says: “You are a jerk.”

“Go to your room.”

“No, I’m sorry. Why? I didn’t say anything. I didn’t mean it. It’s not about you. No, please no. Please, please, please no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“I’m angry now like I warned you. Now go to your room please!”

Speaking sternly, but still not yelling. I’m going to fucking win this fucking thing!

“No I’m really really really sorry. Here, I’ll write another note about being sorry.”

“Luke, go to your room!”

“Jerk.”

And there it is, folks. The last straw. He hasn’t budged towards his room. He is staring me down. Calling me a jerk to my face and defying me. I’ve been here before. There is only one way to get him to actually go to his room. The only thing that works. Why did I put it off for so long anyway? I scream at him:

“YOUR ROOM NOW, LUKE! GO! GO! GO! NOW!”

“I hate you! You are such a jerk!”

He stomps off to his room.

And this is how it goes here. I can’t win. No matter my intentions or mood to start, no matter how calm I remain through so much disrespectful behavior, he eventually pushes me over the edge. Every time. If I didn’t blow up then he would have escalated further – hitting his sister and destroying stuff. He will always get the reaction he wants eventually.

He wins again and I lose. Of course his win is a loss for all of us.

Snow Delays with Aunt Flo

As if the 2 hour delay wasn’t bad enough, the school bus ran late. We sat in the car at the end of the street, sheltered from the cold and snow. Naturally, the kids take the opportunity to push buttons, turn dials, and rummage through all the car’s compartments.

“What’s this?” Luke asks holding up a tampon he retrieved from the glove box.

“Oh, that’s just something for mommy.”

I give him my standard response. Like all kids, Luke has been keenly curious about tampons forever. Mysterious dispensers in public restrooms and the sometimes colorfully wrapped objects in my purse have driven him crazy for years. He suspects it’s candy, and therefore unfair. I deflect and dismiss like a pro. But this time we were stuck in the car together with nothing to distract us.

“But what do you use it for?”

Sigh. I look for the bus. Nothing. I briefly explain the biology of a menstrual cycle. Both kids look appropriately appalled. Then the questions start.

“So I’m going to have a baby when I’m 12?” Sally asks.

“No! No. No. No. Um, no. Definitely not. No.” I stammer for awhile. “That’s just about when your body starts going through changes. Maybe you’ll be 11 or 14. It’s different for everyone. But you won’t have a baby then. Nope. No. No.”

“Am I going to need to wear one of those things you wear?” she asks while holding her hands in front of her chest mimicking imaginary, gigantic, future breasts.

“A bra? Yes.”

“But why? What’s it for?” Luke asks.

Sally jumps in, “It’s to hold them up so they don’t pull you down and knock you over. But then you’d fall on them and they’d bounce you back up.”

“Really?” Luke asks me.

“Well, not exactly. They don’t knock you over or anything. And they couldn’t bounce you back up.” I lose a moment wistfully remembering my pre-kids breasts. Or could they? “But it does sort of hold them up and keep them in place.”

“That’s super weird.”

“Yeah, it is isn’t it?” I look for the bus.

“Why do you keep this in the car though?” Back to the tampon.

“In case I need it. I keep all sorts of things in the car like band-aids, tissues, jumper cables.”

“So you could be driving and all of a sudden…”

He mimes a flood erupting from his loins. I look for the bus. I explain more about menstruation. I look for the bus. They both become pensive.

“You have a thousand eggs? So a woman could have a thousand babies? ”

“Yes. No. I mean women have a lot of eggs but a woman could not have a thousand babies. Woman can have many babies though. More babies than most women end up having.”

“You should have another baby! I want a cute little baby!”

“Babies are cute. But you wouldn’t like it when I’m super tired and grumpy and yell at you two for being too noisy and don’t have time to pay attention to you because all my attention is on the baby.”

“But you already are grumpy and yell at us.” Touché.

“It would be worse.” I look for the bus.

“Can you just decide to have a baby one month instead of a period?”

“Well, not exactly. Remember when we talked about this? That it takes both a mommy and a daddy to make a baby?”

“Yeah, but you and daddy already did that.”

WHERE IS THE FREAKING BUS?

“Well, um, we’d have to do it again.”

“Oh.”

“The bus sure is running late!”

“You’re going to bleed out of your penis!” Sally expertly tells Luke.

“No I’m not! It’s just for girls. You’re going to lay an egg every month! Ha ha!”

“She will not LAY an egg! Well, yeah, I guess she sort of will.”

Two sets of eyes grow huge with fear and disbelief.

“They’re tiny though. Don’t worry about it. And, Luke, your body will do weird things too. Where is the bus?”

“Like what?”

I think of all the weird things it will do. I say, “Your voice will change.”

“Yeah, well that’s not nearly as bad as bleeding out of your vagina and laying eggs.”

Yeah, tell me about it. You also will get more handsome as you age and you’ll be paid more. I’m peppered with a few more questions as we wait out the last of the 25 minutes for the late bus. As the bus finally pulls up I realize that I’m sending my kids off to school full of strange new information and ideas with which they can embarrass teachers and horrify friends. Essentially they’re fully loaded, ticking mis-information bombs. I quickly remind them that they can come to me with any questions but should not talk about this at school with friends and teachers. They assure me they won’t and they’re off for a very abbreviated school day.

Parenthood involves so many strange and uncomfortable conversations, and there’s nothing like being trapped in a confined space to inspire kids’ curiosity. Certainly, I’d prefer them get their facts from us rather than their friends. But is it too much to ask that next time it’s Tim not me?

Snow Delays with Aunt Flo

Good Parent, Stupid Kids?

We’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. in our house lately, and it reminded me of this post from 2012 when I tried to teach my kids about race while they were hungry. Always a mistake. In honor of MLK day, I once again give you The Story of the Eggs:

In my house hard-boiled eggs are made by at least the half-dozen. Each kid would eat boiled eggs until explosion or yolk-asphyxiation occurs, so I have to cut them off at three each. This morning I had a mix of white and brown eggs. As I put them in the pot, the fighting started.

“I want just white ones!”

“Me too!”

“Actually, I want brown ones.”

“Me too!”

(I know this sounds like agreement, but trust me, it’s fight seeds.)

I decide this is a good time for a lesson. A friend of mine did this with her kids, and from her story it was a meaningful revelation for all short people involved. I was about to embark on an early morning good parenting moment. Go me!

Once the eggs had boiled and cooled a bit in ice water, I began my fantastic parenting, holding a brown egg in one hand an a white one in the other:

“Are these the same or different?”

“Different!”

“How are they different?”

“They’re different colors.”

“Right. The shells are different colors. This shell is white, and this shell is brown. Are people sometimes different colors too?”

“No!”

“Uh, really? Aren’t they sometimes different colors?”

“No!”

“Um, for this to work, I need you to think about all the people you know. Do they all look the same?”

“No!”

“Right, people come in different colors like these eggs, right?”

“Right!”

“Whew. OK. So, do you think these eggs are the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“The same!”

“I want the brown one!”

“No I want the brown one!”

“Just wait. We’re learning something first! Let’s see if these eggs are different or the same on the inside.”

I crack and peel the eggs. The kids are fighting over which color they want. I hold up two peeled, perfectly white eggs:

“So, are these the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“I want the brown one!”

“Can I have some salt?”

“PAY ATTENTION! We’re learning here! Do these eggs look the same or different?”

The kids have no freaking idea what I want from them. They just want to give me an answer that would make me shut up and hand over the eggs.

“The same?”

“Yes! They are exactly the same on the inside even though one was white and one was brown on the outside. So, what does that tell us? Did we learn anything?”

“Can I have salt, Mama?”

“NO! You won’t get anything until you learn this lesson! Does the fact that this brown egg and this white egg look exactly the same on the inside tell us anything about people?”

“No!”

URG! Remember, one was white?? And one was brown??! And people are different colors too!? But on the inside the eggs are the same??? What do you think different color people are like on the inside?”

“Yucky!”

“Bloody!”

“They have hearts!”

“They have poop!”

The kids are now in hysterics. I’ve lost my audience, which I never really had to begin with. Fuck it. Just eat your eggs, kids. Thanks for the learning moment.

Good Parent, Stupid Kids