Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mommy, Daddy Cursed at Us

As I stood in the doorway of my twin, almost eight year-old sons’ shared shit hole (read: bedroom), I felt overwhelmed.

Clothes, stuffed-animals, toys, a deflated queen-size air mattress, pillows, all of their bedding save the fitted sheets, books, shells, rocks, a tennis racket, a couple baseball trophies…and who knows what else… literally covered every square inch of carpet on the floor.

There could be a kid trapped under there somewhere…or worse…

“STITCH!  Stitchy.  Stitch!”  I yelled, panicked.

I quickly heard the king rise from his bed on the floor of our room and begin to trot down the hall toward the sound of my voice.


“It’s ok, Stitchy.  You can go back to resting.”  I gave him a pat on his head as we now stood together staring at the insurmountable mess that filled the boys’ room.

Stitch turned toward me and our eyes held for a moment.  I knew what his look meant.  I could see the disgust in his eyes.  I knew exactly what he would say, if he could say it:

“I can’t believe we are forced to live with these two degenerates.”

“I know, Stitchy, but its summer,” I told him as we sat down on the floor together and I commenced scratching the top of his head.

“That’s no excuse," I imagined him continuing.  "And by the way, how about you move that scratching to behind my left ear?”

“When they get home from camp this afternoon, I’ll make them clean up before I let them do anything else.”

He looked up at me again and raised one eyebrow as if to say: “I’ll believe it when I see it, lady.”

What has it been?  Not even two weeks since school got out?  And they’ve been in camp a lot of that time.  What the hell happened?  How did the wheels fall off so quickly?

Jeff had put Vince and Nick on a strict morning routine for the 10 days from late April to early May that I was away in Germany.  He couldn’t wait to tell me about all the new “house rules” he had instituted.  We had barely pulled out of the airport and onto Sepulveda Boulevard toward the 405 Freeway when he started:  

“I just sat them down, and I told them, honey.”  He was so smug.

“Really?  Told them what?”

“I told them: you know that lady who picks up your dirty clothes from the floor of your room?  Well, she’s gone now.  And you know that lady who brings your clothes downstairs to the laundry room?  She’s also gone."

He was so pleased with himself.  It never occurred to him that referring to his wife of 13 years who also happened to be the mother of his children as "that lady" (after "that lady" has just returned from a 10-day trip half-way across the globe) might not be the best call.

"And you know that lady who washes and dries and folds all of your clothes and puts them away in your drawers?  Well, she’s gone, too."

He wouldn't stop.  I glanced at the speedometer then out the window as we entered the freeway on ramp but after those long flights, I was way too tired to open the door and attempt a tuck and roll.

"So if you want your clothes clean, you better gather them all up and bring them downstairs to the laundry room yourself; or they’re not getting washed.”  He smiled triumphantly to himself.

“Congratulations.”  I rolled my eyes at him.

“I’m not kidding,” and he continued.  “I had them on a strict morning regimen, too.  I got them up at 6:30, then they showered before they came downstairs for breakfast.  Then, after breakfast, back upstairs to brush, floss and rinse.  Then clean their room AND make their beds.  AND clean up their bathroom.  Then they would come down and practice piano for fifteen minutes and could shoot baskets on the driveway with whatever time was left over BEFORE we WALKED to school.”

Stab me now.

I turned to the boys, oddly quiet in the back seat: “Did you guys really walk to school?”

“Yup!” They both beamed back at me, in unison.

Jeff smiled, “We WALKED to school EVERY DAY.” 

He then glanced up at his rear-view mirror to catch the boys’ eyes, “Wasn’t walking to school fun?”

“Yes!” They both craned their necks up to meet the reflection of Jeff’s eyes in the mirror.

“Well, congratulations.”  I rolled my eyes again.

“Hey, you don’t need to get pissy,” clearly Jeff caught my second eye roll.  “I’m just saying, it’s okay to EXPECT THEM to do certain things.  You know, to not do EVERYTHING for them.”

“Really?  Is that how it works?”  I asked.

The car was quiet for a few moments.  Then, from behind me, Nicky leaned as far forward as he could and broke the silence.

“Mommy, Daddy cursed at us while you were gone.”

“WHOA!  Wait a minute, Nick.  What are you talking about?”  Any trace of arrogance suddenly vanished from Jeff’s tone.

“It’s true, Mommy!  He did.  More than one time.”  Vincie chimed in.

“Is that so?” 

I turned to Jeff who was now shaking his head and staring out the windshield over the steering wheel.

“Traitors,” he mumbled under his breath.  Soon, he began searching his rear-view mirror for the eyes of his little foot soldiers, “Traitors.  You’re both traitors.”

I sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction.  “Well, honey.  Any other pearls of parenting wisdom you’d like to bestow upon me before we get home?” 

One of Jeff's fellow Dr. Spock devotees.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Walking With Them

“Only 5 ½ more days of second grade!”

Like most children, my seven-year olds are counting the days until school is out.  I guess I am, too.  Sort of.

“Next year is third grade,” Fun Mom tells me like it’s some kind of revelation.  “You know what that means?  That means we’ll be half-way through elementary school! Next year is the half-way mark.”  Her tone is a little melancholy.

Oh, shit.  I never thought of it that way.

“Don’t say that.  I can’t think about that right now,” was all I could say in return.  The thought was a little overwhelming.

My family moved into our little slice of suburbia when they boys were not quite three years old for several reasons, the majority of which of or pertaining to raising our sons.

“It really is a terrific neighborhood.  It’s perfect for raising kids.  I’ll take you over to the park and elementary school after we’re done looking at the house.  You can even walk your kids to school!”  Our real estate agent’s words are still fresh in my mind, five years later.

I remember I had this image of Vince, Nick, Stitch and I walking to school together every morning…then life crept in. 

When Kindergarten started, I was in the throws of a demanding, full-time client that had me traveling like crazy; then there were rainy mornings; then there was more work; or dentist appointments; or we were finishing up homework; or just running late.  I found myself in the car, in the driveway, with a scowl on my face on far more mornings than I’d like to admit. 

Then, in an instant, there were just 5 ½ more days of second grade.   

These past couple weeks, I have made a point of walking whenever we could.  20 minutes of my day.  10 minutes there and 10 minutes back.  One or both of my sons usually hold my hand part of the way.  Nothing is better than the feeling of one of those hands in mine.  Nothing.

Sometimes we talk about what’s going on at school that day.  Sometimes we talk about summer.  And sometimes:

“Mommy, can you hold my backpack so I can kick him!?!” 

That happens.

Only 5 ½ more days of second grade... and I'm hanging on to every step. 

We've been sneaking in some Lego time, too.