10 Things My Four Year Old Doesn’t Give a Shit About

This list may or may not have been written during moments of frustration over the past few months…

Sleep. Okay, I can’t really complain about my kids when it comes to sleep because relatively speaking, they have all caught on to the idea that normal humans sleep at night.

But Calvin’s of the opinion that sleep is for the weak and really only gives in when his body can no longer remain upright.

He stopped napping at two years old. Despite the fact that he doesn’t stop moving from the time he wakes up. Which is probably why he passes out at a reasonable time. His body simply runs out of gas.

But if it were up to him, he would be mastering his ninja skills into the wee hours. And lately, he has apparently leveled up and been rewarded with extra energy, because he is now fighting sleep harder than before.

He runs and flips and zooms his cars when the rest of us are wearing down. We all want to snuggle in bed and he is all “Peace out, fuckers. Imma just stay here and burn the house down.”

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“So you think I’m going to go to sleep?  Here’s what I think about that.”

Potential injury. He is my daredevil child. From the moment that he was mobile, he was trying to climb. From the moment he could walk, he was trying to jump.

I never leashed any of my children, but with him, I’m wondering why I didn’t.

He darts in grocery stores or parking lots. He runs toward swimming pools sans floaties or other life saving devices. He is forever doing “tricks”, which involve cartwheels and handstands near brick fireplaces and coffee tables. He jumps off of furniture and finishes with a somersault.

Every five minutes, I am bracing myself for our first trip to the emergency room.

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He thinks he’s Spider-Man.  He is not.

What anyone else wants. He thinks that he’s the king of the world and that what he wants is paramount to what anyone else wants.

His show better be on TV or be prepared for a meltdown. The family is having chicken for dinner? Nope, he wants spaghetti. I want to listen to Dave on the car radio? He wants Twenty One Pilots.

Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean that he gets what he wants. And we don’t give in to his tantrums. But that’s just it… it’s all a battle of wills. We win, but not without a bit of torture.

He’s a four year old tyrant, hellbent on being in charge of the house. So we have to deal with the fallout when we break the news to him that he is not, in fact, the sole decision maker in the family.

Inside voices. As soon as he found his voice, he has never stopped using it. I always say that his body and his mouth are moving from the time that he gets up until he passes out. And he is LOUD. Whether he is playing with his cars or throwing a fit or chasing his sisters, he is almost guaranteed to be yelling or providing us all with movie quality sound effects.

My hope is that once he starts kindergarten, he will figure out what acceptable volumes are. Otherwise I will probably hear him all the way on my end of the building.

Clothing. More often than not, my son is missing at least one piece of clothing. Modesty isn’t something that he is concerned with.

In his defense, he does get hot easily and is prone to sweating. Probably because his activity level is on overdrive.

But nonetheless, he could at least be wearing appropriate attire. The most common item of clothing that he has done without? Pants. Also underwear, but almost definitely pants. He could be wearing a sweatshirt, but his bottom half will be almost bare. It doesn’t matter if it’s 80 degrees or 20 degrees, he doesn’t have any interest in wearing a full outfit.

We are usually able to wrangle him into something presentable when we leave the house, but at home, you never know how much of Calvin’s body you’re going to see.

Most of Delanie’s friends have seen his penis. He doesn’t care and over time, neither do they. They just expect for him to be half naked when they come over.

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In his defense, I told him to put his underwear on…

Tidiness. If you come over to my house, you can expect to see his cars everywhere. He can’t just play with a few at a time, he needs at least 30 to accomplish whatever race or crash he’s trying to create. He loves arranging them on the coffee table, but he also makes them fly across the hardwood floors and you have to tread lightly unless you want to step on one and go flying.

And lately, his toy explosions have extended to Legos, and we all know how dangerous those suckers are. So our house has basically transformed into a death trap. Be warned.

Public scrutiny. The girls would be punks at home, but when we were out in public, they behaved like angels.

So the first time that Calvin threw a tantrum in public, I froze. Totally appalled and embarrassed and helpless. I didn’t know how to navigate this foreign territory.

What would people think? That my child had been possessed by a demon? That he had been previously raised by wolves?That I was the most unfit parent they’d ever seen?

I have since developed a thicker skin and deal with his fits in a more experienced manner. Like the one time when he wanted to be carried while I was pushing the grocery cart. Walking was unacceptable, as was sitting in the cart. So here I am, pushing the cart with a screaming toddler hanging off of me like a damn monkey. And I somehow managed to do it without completely losing my shit.

Where’s my award for Mom of the Year? Because I earned it in that moment.

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The world is Calvin’s personal toilet.

The word “no”. In Calvin’s world, everything is up for negotiation. Every request is met with a “but”.

So while he hears us when we tell him not to do something or that he can’t have something, he’s just not willing to accept “no” as an answer.

With the girls, in the worst of times, they would reluctantly follow directions. They didn’t defy or refuse. (At least until Delanie became a preteen.) So reasoning with a slightly evil munchkin is not something that I have a lot of experience with. He’s not going down without a fight. And even then, the fight is more of a game to him, which is completely exhausting to us.

Consistency is key, yeah yeah yeah. And nine times out of ten, I stick to my guns. But there is the occasional moment when I am on the brink of insanity and just have to give in. You know that Mom of the Year award that I potentially earned? This is the moment when it was ripped from my hands.

Education. Kids of this age are tiny sponges, absorbing the world around them and seeking mental stimulation. You know what Calvin has absorbed? The names of various models of cars. The most effective ways to beat up his sisters. Every way to drive his mother up the wall. You know what he hasn’t absorbed? Books. Letters. The ability to properly hold a pencil or crayon. The girls were far more interested in these things. He’s listened to too much Pink Floyd, practically yelling “I don’t need no education!”

I’ve already established that he doesn’t stop moving from sun up until sun down. So why would I have ever thought that he would let me read to him? He starts kindergarten this year and as an educator who works at the school that he’ll be attending, I feel like a failure. People try to reassure me that it’s okay and normal and blah blah blah. I wish that made me feel better. It doesn’t. I can only hope that when he gets to school, he will see that the other kids are doing this shit and he’ll follow suit.

Or he’ll be the next Jackie Chan. After all, he’s well on his way with his plethora of ninja moves.

Time. Yours or anyone else’s. Like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he doesn’t care how, but he wants it now. The world has to stop turning when he wants his drink refilled or his Lego man put into its helicopter perfectly. His time is more important than yours. Apparently this should be common knowledge, damn it.

Oh, it’s only 12:30? But he wants to watch Rusty Rivets! But wait… it doesn’t start until 1:00? That’s unacceptable! Calvin’s clock says that it’s supposed to start whenever he wants it to! Calvin’s clock doesn’t follow any rules!

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And just when I thought I was ready to throttle him, he goes for the dapper look.

My son is proof that no matter how many years of parenting you have under your belt, you still don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. That even if you’ve done an average or, dare I say, above average job with some of your children, you may feel like you’re failing most of the time with others. That children who were created from the same combination of DNA are still somehow completely different.

But as difficult as he can be, I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.

I Know a Balance Exists, I Just Haven’t Found It Yet

I’m fully aware that I’ve been quiet over here, but there’s a (somewhat) good reason for that! I got a job! As an instructional assistant at my middlest’s elementary school, the school where my oldest spent six years of her life and the school where my youngest will start in less than two years (*sobs*). And so far, I am really, truly loving it.

But I also have yet to find that magical work/home life balance. So I’m sort of spinning in this spiral of chaos and confusion and dirty laundry, desperately trying to grasp a few moments where I’m not completely exhausted and can manage to get things accomplished around the house.

Lots of moms work outside the home and manage to keep a clean and organized house, cook dinner, transport kids to activities, and still practice some semblance of self care. I know it can be done. But it’s sure as hell not happening around here. At least not yet.

I should also add that between the time spent staying late at work and/or working from home in the evenings, my husband is working 60+ hour weeks. I can’t expect him to pick up the slack. If we were working the same number of hours, I’d be all “Get your ass in the kitchen and make dinner tonight! Mama’s tired.” Some nights he even has, which sort of makes me feel like a jerk. But as it is, I just don’t have another adult available to share the burden of housework.

I think what it boils down to is this… I have been a stay at home mom for over nine years. NINE YEARS! My family doesn’t exactly remember a time when I wasn’t here to do every little thing. So I think they might be having a harder time adjusting to my new life as a working mom than I am.

Filling my days when I stayed at home was not difficult. There was always plenty to do… the husband and kids made sure of that. Now I’m short eight hours each day. So I need to make those few hours I do have each night (barring total exhaustion) extremely efficient.

How do I do that? Enlist the help of my three minions, of course! Which in their eyes, makes me the absolute worst mother in the world. “WHY did you have to go back to work?!?”, they shout through tears. “Because not only are you guys getting freaking expensive, but your brother is driving me insane and I need to get out of this house,” I reply.

My response is 100% accurate, by the way. Yes, the girls are getting more expensive as they get older. We have been making it work, but not without a lot of stress that I would like to lessen on both of us. But the larger part is that being home all day, every day with my son was pushing me to a place that I didn’t like. And honestly, I’ve only started feeling that way over the past nine months or so. I’ve had two kids at home with me at a time without a problem… just having him here should be a walk in the park. But no. More like a walk across hot coals. Powering through it as quickly as possible with your eyes on the finish line the entire time. I was bordering on needed a straitjacket.

All three kids have a chore list. Of course the Ninja’s is minimal, but the girls have legit housework to help with. Because this is the only way that things are going to get done. They may hate it. I may hate having to enforce it (especially when it’s not done as well as I would have done it). But it’s a necessary evil. And a good life lesson. Not only do these entitled little turds need to learn some responsibility, but they are now realizing just how much I did as a stay at home mom. How worthwhile and difficult and valuable that choice is.

My going back to work has been a struggle on all of us, but ultimately, I think it’s making me a better mom when I’m home. I have more patience. I appreciate my time with them more. My knee jerk reaction when they do or say something distasteful isn’t to throw them out the window. I don’t actually do that, but OH how I’ve wanted to. All good things.

And my job is great. I’m on the same schedule as my kids, I love teaching other kids (and I’m already getting attached to them), and I have the best co-workers in the world. I have a purpose outside of my home and outside of the lives of my own kids. That’s pretty rad.

But no, we haven’t found a balance yet. But I think we will. I hope we will.

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They’ll Be Women One Day

I have two daughters. Two little girls. And you know what I recently realized? That one day, assuming there is no shift in gender identity, they will grow into women.

I know, you’re probably asking “What did you think they would grow into? Monsters?” No, no, I didn’t think that. And only partially because they don’t need to do any growing to become monsters, they already are.

Yes, I always knew that they would be women one day. But what really hit me is that they will be women in this world. A world that values women below men. A world where women are not viewed as equal or capable or worthy of the same pay as men for doing the same job. And it broke my heart.

When I first heard the word “feminism” as a kid, it was attached to all of the stereotypes that have been floating around for years. Bra-burning, hairy-legged man haters. This is not to say that this is what my parents or teachers or other family members believed, it was just the stigma that had always followed the term. To be honest, we never really talked about feminism or women’s rights in my house. So I had very little basis to form an opinion of my own. It wasn’t until college when I actually started to understand the reality of the feminist movement. How the world had already evolved, how it was continuing to evolve. The number of women in the world who were sticking their necks out to make life better for all women.

Of course things are better than they used to be. Better than they were even ten years ago when I first became aware of the feminist movement. But they’re still not good enough. And they won’t be until hate and condescention and inequality are no longer part of the equation.

But I look at my girls and to think of them working themselves to the bone in school or college or at their jobs and not being compensated adequately, in the same way as a male for the same work and effort, downright disgusts me. This is not the world I want for them. Being born with two X chromosomes and a vagina shouldn’t mean that you drew the short stick right out of the gate.

Oh, and let’s talk about the social treatment of women. The sexual harassment, the cat calling, the rape culture. Women are not weak. Women are not objects to be judged and compared. Women are more than breasts and curves and physicality. I shouldn’t have to worry about my daughters being called awful names or attacked when they’re walking down the street simply because they are women. But I do.

Being a woman can be a pretty wonderful thing and I am teaching my girls to embrace that. To be proud of who they are and to not let preconceptions and stereotypes break their spirit. But when they get out into the real world, they won’t be able to ignore the fact that those preconceptions and stereotypes are the way of society, of the job industry. Stomping our feet and screaming “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR!” isn’t going to change anything. We are the change. I am raising daughters and a son who will be the change. Daughters who won’t tolerate second best and a son who will respect women for their brains rather than their bodies. Children who will teach others that the current treatment of women is unacceptable.

I feel like a lot of what I’ve just written is common sense. Or at least that it should be. So maybe I just reiterated the thoughts of every woman out there. But it still needs to be said. Shouted from the rooftops, even. Until things change for the better.

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They’ve grown so much already.  They’ll be women before we know it.

Getting Through Father’s Day, When Your Father is Gone

This is my fourth Father’s Day without my dad, who passed away in April of 2012, and I keep asking myself when this day is going to get easier. Part of me thinks that the answer is “It’s not.” Because Father’s Day, when your father is gone, is a not-so-gentle reminder of what you’re missing out on.

And damn, am I ever missing out on a lot. Is HE ever missing out on a lot.

On days like this, when his absence weighs more heavily on my mind, I waver back and forth between being sad, angry, resentful, and nostalgic. I wish that the latter took precedence over the rest, but maybe one day it will. Maybe that’s how people get through it every year.  I’m going to at least give it a try.

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Look at that handsome fella’!

I was lucky enough to have had my dad in my life for nearly 29 years. And I can honestly say that I can count on one hand (and not even use all five digits) the number of negative memories I have with him. The rest? Amazing. Hilarious. Fun. Joyful. Every moment full of the most pure kind of love, both his for my mom and I and ours for him.

I’m an only child and was my dad’s pride and joy. I was smart, well-mannered, and wise beyond my years. I can credit my parents for a lot of that, because they raised me in a home where I always felt safe and supported. And as I grew older and saw how some of my friends’ families interacted, I realized how charmed my life actually was.

My earliest memory of my dad is probably the two of us rough housing in the living room, which involved him sitting on the floor and me running from one end of the room to the other, into his arms. He would fall onto his back, lift me into the air, and then tickled me until I was gasping for breath. I loved every second. It was our Sunday night routine, after I’d had my bath and had gotten into my pajamas.

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A mid-eighties family shot.  Before wood paneling was considered hipster.

He loved music, a true hippie and child of the 50s and 60s. By the time I came around, his long hair was gone and his partying days were over, but he never lost his passion for music. He had a full stereo setup and would fire up his turntable and pull out the Hall and Oates Bigbamboom album so that we could dance around to “Out of Touch”, which quickly became our song. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Cream, Elton John… the list goes on. Music that defies time.

A man child in every way that counted, he would buy boxes of fireworks each 4th of July and put on his own show. Sometimes I think he got more enjoyment out of having my mom shake her head and lecture him about being careful. Who was she kidding? If there were no immediate risk of losing a hand, he wasn’t having fun.

He was a better Santa than the one from Miracle on 34th Street, coming up with insane and creative ways to keep an intelligent kid like me from losing her belief in the jolly old fellow. One year, when I was 8 years old, he went as far as writing a note from Santa to say that my dad had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace while he waited for Santa’s arrival, but that Santa had stepped on him when he came down the chimney. Santa, being the caring guy that he was, fixed my dad’s foot up and sent him back to bed. After I read the note, I rushed into my parents’ bedroom (they were still asleep in those wee morning hours) and pulled back the covers, only to see a bandage on my dad’s foot from his run-in with Santa. That bought him a few more years of magic, no doubt about it.

The best dad a girl could ask for? That’s an understatement.

He was also the best grandfather that my girls could have asked for, passing on so many of our traditions to them and creating a bunch of their own. When he found out that our first child was a girl, oh man, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if you tried. He looked at her as another version of me, before she was even born. Turns out that he got his wish, because Delanie is just like me in almost every way.

Our biggest regret is that he never got to meet his grandson. He loved the girls, but I know that he would have had a blast with Calvin. I think that he left his imprint on him, though. The cleft chin, the love of baseball, finding joy in even the smallest thing. That’s when I look at my son and remind myself that my dad is still here with us.

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Less than two years before he passed, in Jamaica celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.  Radiating joy, like he always did.  And finding humor in all things dirty, like he always did.

So on this day to celebrate fathers, if yours is still around and you like him at least a little bit, give him a hug and tell him how much you love him. For those of us who can’t, but desperately wish we could.