When The Mommy Taxi Runs Behind

This is how a Monday morning can go when a nine year old lives in the house.

I was running behind. It had been a very long weekend and I was reluctant to go to work. Or even get out of bed. But out of bed I must because being late isn’t a viable option for the third grade. His taxi must still run on time even if the taxi driver is out of gas.

This meant that when I stepped out of the shower and saw that it was 7:15 – the tail end of my 7:00-7:15 window for departure, I turned on the turbo thrusters. I quickly wrapped the towel around my torso and sought out the child.

“Hal,” I said in a brisk tone, looking approvingly at his completed state of dress, “Mommy is running behind. I need you to make sure you are completely ready to go because when I’m ready, we’ve got to fly out of here. Ok?”

“Ok.”

I then turned back to my bathroom where I put on my clothes, deodorant, makeup, hair cream, jewelry, and glasses before grabbing my cell phone off the charger and heading down the hall less than five minutes later.

Hal, on the other hand, went to the living room, lay down on the couch, and tried to start up the new video game he had on his laptop computer.

I flew through the living room calling out, “Ok, I just need to grab my lunch. It won’t take any time. We need to go or you’ll be late to school!”

I then grabbed my already-prepared lunch items and headed to the front door with them. He looked up from his laptop and said, “Mommy, something is wrong. I don’t have Subnautica or Steam anymore. It’s asking if I want to buy it!”

Standing by the front door, dropping the food into a tote bag, I responded, “Well, we’ll have to look at it this evening. We need to go now so you aren’t late. Come on! Close the laptop!”

He closed the laptop and slid off the couch. Then he walked unhurriedly into the dining room and looked at an unopened bag of French bread on the table. Without any sense of the urgency I was exhibiting by the front door, he pointed to the bread and asked, “Can I get some of this to eat?”

“No! I told you to make sure you were ready to go so we wouldn’t be late! That includes eating breakfast. We need to go NOW.”

“I just want to take some with me.”

“No! We. Are. Going. To. Be. Late. You should have thought of that earlier.”

“It would just take a minute for me to open the bag and tear off some bread,” he muttered tearfully as he picked up his backpack and headed toward me.

“True. And that’s a minute you should have taken earlier instead of trying to play a game on the computer!

This is the disconnect between parent and child. The child can’t believe the parent won’t let him take a minute to grab some food on his way out the door. The parent can’t believe the child ignored all the indicators that he needed to take care of business sooner.

And no amount of pointing to the clock in the car and discussing the situation closes that gap in perspective. Instead, the child sits in the backseat staring angrily at the back of the parent’s head while the parent oscillates back and forth between incredulity at the child’s cluelessness and guilt at making him skip breakfast.

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Biding His Time

My middle child knows how to maximize his opportunities.

Yesterday, he lost a molar in the cafeteria.

But losing a tooth in the cafeteria doesn’t really get you anything.

So he put it back in place in his mouth. And waited until he got to class.

And then when he was looking for a break, he pulled it out of his mouth, exclaimed that he had just lost his tooth, and asked to be excused from the room.

Smart kid. I was too much of a goody-two-shoes to even think of such a thing.

Open House Punch

My son punched me in the mouth. Hard. He didn’t get in trouble for it though.

It was Tuesday evening. We were at the Elementary School Open House. He was smarting off in some way as we headed down the hall, so I reached out and poked him in the butt cheek with my compact umbrella.

He turned around and started throwing defensive Ninja moves my way. I bobbed and weaved as I looked for an in to jab my umbrella at his belly or swat his behind with it. He was good though. He blocked every thrust. So I acted like I was done messing around and then poked him when he turned away.

He then announced that he’d be giving me a slow-motion punch. I grinned as he moved his right hand in a large, wide arc toward my face. He slowly and lightly brushed my chin, turning my head equally slowly away from him. I reached out and jabbed him in the belly with my umbrella.

We messed around for a few more minutes as we waited for Daddy to return with Hal, who had disappeared. Again. He went for another slow-motion punch. I took the opportunity to quickly jab him with the umbrella. For some crazy reason, this took him by surprise. His surprise caused him to speed up. The speed up meant he slammed his fist into my mouth instead of slowly grazing my chin.

I grabbed my mouth/side of my jaw. Jane exclaimed, “Daryl! You just hit Mommy! Mommy, are you okay?!” Daryl just stared at me, wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open. I rubbed my jaw. He began to giggle nervously and apologize. Although he did suggest that my sudden jab to his abdomen might have contributed to the situation.

Which is why, by the way, he didn’t get in trouble. It’d be awfully hypocritical of me to punish him after all those times that one child or another has come to me in tears and I’ve responded with “Well, if you are going to insist on rough housing, someone is bound to get hurt.”

Daddy showed up while I was still holding my chin. He had failed to locate Hal. We walked to the other end of the hall. No Hal. We split, he and the kids heading outside to the portables. I checked the cafeteria. No Hal. We rejoined in the hallway. Hal hadn’t been outside either. The search was getting more frantic and more desperate until a mom I know asked how I was doing and I asked if she had seen him.

“Oh, I saw him a minute ago. He was rolling around on the stage.”

The stage. At the end of the cafeteria.

I was tired of him disappearing like this. I am tired of him disappearing like this. While my husband was gone on his recent trip, we attended Daryl’s basketball game one Saturday morning. Hal disappeared. I looked all over the gym. I went outside. He was nowhere to be found. Then someone said they had seen him at the next building over.

I was extremely firm and serious when I dragged him off the stage this time and sat him down in a chair and looked him square in the eye, all the while resisting the desire to rub my jaw just a bit more. I didn’t yell but I was so serious that he began to cry. He wasn’t happy when I insisted he’d hold my hand the rest of the night either. He made sure I knew it continuously as we headed back down the fifth grade hall and visited Daryl’s teachers.

Open House.

Other parents should be so lucky to have it as good as I’ve got it.

And, yeah, my face is still sore.

DWI: Driving While (an) Idiot

I have a new theory about why teenaged drivers are so bad. I know the conventional wisdom is that they are young, inexperienced, and think of themselves as invinsible. Their frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls impulsive behavior, is not yet fully developed. I think all of these are probably contributing factors. But I can’t help but think that so many teenaged drivers are bad simply because they are emulating what they’ve learned from their elders.

I’ve been driving my kids to school for three weeks now. It’s usually my husband’s job and I’ll be very happy when he resumes the role of complaining about the idiots at the Middle School. I can go back to just mumbling about the ones at the Elementary School I drive past on my way to work. It’ll be a vast improvement.

The road in front of the middle school is very wide – wide enough for a car on each side to pull over and still leave plenty of room for cars going both directions to pass at the same time. It’s also not a major road. The only traffic is comprised of parents dropping off their children.

And many of these parents have no respect for other drivers and some have an alarming lack of concern about the safety of their children. There’s a crosswalk. It doesn’t have a crossing guard but everyone knows it’s there and tend to watch for people walking in it. The sane parents pull over to the curb near the crosswalk. Their kid gets out and uses the crosswalk. Maybe the parent sits and watches until the kid makes it across the street, and then they pull out and continue in the same direction their car was already pointed.

Yesterday, one mom just stopped in the middle of the road, as many are prone to do, but she took the disregard for all the other drivers a step further when she continued to sit there long after her kid had finished crossing the street. I can only assume she was watching her kid walk all the way into the building. If she’s that concerned (or maybe fears the kid will try to skip?), perhaps she should park in the parking lot and walk him in. She could hold his hand for good measure if she’d like.

I was able to pull over and let Jane out by the crosswalk. By the time Jane made it across the street, the other mom still hadn’t left. I had to come up on her right side and go past her while she still sat in the middle of the road. I don’t get it.

The man today took the cake though. He did pull over – I’ll grant him that much. But he did it way before the crosswalk. I was coming up behind him and was getting ready to go past him when his daughter popped up behind his car, preparing to cross the street clogged with parents bringing their children. I sat there wondering if she was going to go and finally decided she was (wisely) waiting on me. So I started to go on by. At the same time, a car was approaching from the other direction.

At that exact moment, with his daughter standing behind his vehicle and cars approaching from both directions, this dad decided to execute a quick U-turn in the road. Of course, he was trying to do it from a dead stop in an SUV and he’s apparently not that skilled at it, so of course, he wasn’t able to complete the turn. That left him stopped perpendicular in the road; blocking me, blocking his daughter, blocking (and nearly hitting) the car coming from the other direction.

We all waited for His Highness to back up and complete his U-turn before we went about our obviously-much-less-important-than-him ways.

Jane thinks there’s no point in us griping about these people. She thinks we should just wait patiently for their idiocy and selfishness to clear out of our way. She’s obviously never been behind the wheel.

As I pulled away from the Middle School this morning, I switched the audio system back from Aux (we had been listening to Jane’s iPod) to FM. We caught the radio DJ saying, “You just have to forgive young and stupid.”

“What about old and stupid?” I asked. Daryl laughed.

A friend who teaches at the High School assures me it’s not just the Middle School parents. She has dealt with parents blocking her access to the teacher parking lot so they can let their teenaged driver extract band instruments, etc. before walking into the building. The teacher friend then waits as the mom walks around the car to the driver’s seat. Nevermind that the front of the school is the intended location for parent drop off.

I guess this makes sense though. If the parents haven’t matured by the time their kids make it to the Middle School, odds are that their kid transitioning from eighth to nineth grade won’t do the trick either.

So, see? Maybe all the bad teenaged driving is related to all the bad grown-up driving.

Three Strikes and You’re Out?

I pulled out of the elementary school parking lot yesterday morning after dropping off the kids. I nodded to the crossing guard and watched my speedometer to make sure I didn’t speed in the school zone. I saw a police SUV parked on the opposite side of the road. As I drove by, he pulled away from the curb, did a U-turn, and turned on his lights as he came up behind me.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I thought. I’m not speeding. I didn’t pull out in front of anyone. Registration and inspection are current. What gives?

Take a deep breath, I responded. It might not be you.

With that, I pulled over, took that deep breath, and held it until the officer went by and pulled over the woman in front of me.

That was close. Silly thoughts. I can barely remember the last time I was pulled over. It was years ago – before my youngest child was born. Why should I let the flashing lights cause my heart to race?

Fast forward to that evening. I dropped the boys off at basketball practice. I had just enough time to pick up a few items from the grocery store, which I did. As I drove away from the store, I saw a line of cars stopped in my lane at a traffic light. The light had been red for awhile so I judged that it would likely turn green just before I got there. Not wanting to wait for the cars to resume their progress, I changed lanes.

Lights immediately began to flash behind me. No way this is for someone else.

I had no response to that. I knew I was right.

With a sigh and a heightened sense of the irony of the situation, I pulled into the next parking lot. When the officer approached, I handed him my license and proof of insurance as he told me what I already knew. I had failed to signal my lane change.

I always use my turn signal. Well, ok. 99.99% of all turns and probably 95% of all lane changes. This seemed patently unfair. And then the thought came: What budget is this ticket going to come out of?

My husband answered that one later: “Your pocket money, of course,” he said. “You screw up – you pay for it.”

Lucky for me, the officer just returned my license and insurance card and encouraged me to use my turn signal next time. Relief.

But isn’t there something about three strikes and you’re out? Maybe I should stay home today. Just in case.

Mr. Chubby Butt

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Meet Mr. Chubby Butt. He’s a pirate. And a frog. And frogs do not have butts. Or at least he doesn’t. Or if you call what he has a butt, it’s certainly not chubby.

No matter.

His. Name. Is. Mr. Chubby Butt.

Daryl read a lot of books this year and earned a lot of AR points at school for them. More points than anyone else in his elementary school including fifth graders, in fact. Nearly twice as many as the second place fourth grader.

He’s following in the footsteps of his sister, who had similar accomplishments. Their success in this arena has three major components:

  1. They love to read. I mean, a lot.
  2. Their reading level is very advanced (think graduating seniors), allowing them to read books with substantial points available.
  3. They are ridiculously competitive.

So while many of the other kids love to read or have a higher reading level or are competitive in some ways, none of them seem to have that same three-way toxic mix that mine have.

This causes the PTA some headache.  They have an “AR store” where kids can redeem their points for various little items.  Their budget and point values on items anticipate most kids getting less than 100 points, with the standouts earning around 200 to 300.

When Jane had well over 600 points halfway through her fourth grade year, they asked her to name her price.  She asked for, and received, a Kindle.  Later that year or the next, she got an Amazon gift card.

Her brother, of course, was not content to reside in her shadow.  He gave the winning fifth grader a run for her money while still in third grade.  In fourth, he tackled big-point books including Ender’s Game, Dune, and all the Harry Potter books.  And since he wanted to maximize his return, he saved all his points to spend at the end of the year.  Once again, the PTA was faced with a kid who would break the bank.

They offered him a “VIP Pass” to an upcoming event, a turn in the “money box”, or a Build-A-Bear animal.  He jumped on the latter but wanted to know how many points it would cost.  He also mentioned that he’d like an Amazon gift card.

The teacher and I went back and forth for awhile with her trying to tell me that he could have whatever he wanted, he just needed to name it.  And me trying to tell her that he didn’t fully know what he wanted.  He wanted to analyze his options once point values were assigned.

They finally set point values.  And he went shopping.  He got various little knickknacks for himself and his little brother.  He got a nice gift card to Wal-Mart.  And he got to build an animal.

He chose a frog with no backside and named him Mr. Chubby Butt.  And then asked me if I could help him figure out how to secure the belt since it was too big for such a skinny beast. A-hem.  That’s because he has no butt!  *sigh*

Home Room Mom

My husband took our youngest child to kindergarten orientation one morning this week. He came home with a folder full of learning materials and a very excited little boy.  He also came home with a story that’s become a minor source of irritation for us.  It wasn’t even a story that upset him particularly – more a little resigned aside about people that still haven’t figured it out.

He’s been a stay-at-home dad for four years now.  While he does run a business out of our home, his primary focus is on the kids.  Before that, he worked in a nearby town and almost all matters pertaining to the kids such as drop-off and pick-up or school functions fell to me.  Now they are all his.  He doesn’t do it the same as I would and I sometimes feel left out, but he does a good job.

He gets them to school each morning.  He picks the oldest two up from school and shuttles them to any after school activities.  He’s the one who first hears how the day went.  He’s the one to run stuff back up to the school when they forget.  He attends their music lessons at school.  He’s the one that would help with class parties or presentations, etc.  If anyone was interested, that is.

And so off to kindergarten orientation he went, with his kid and about 30 or 40 adults with their kids.  At one point in the proceedings, the PTA President stood up to speak.  She was our middle child’s Pre-K teacher some five years ago.

“She kept going on about Home Room Moms and about how we need people to step up to be Head Home Room Moms and I was just thinking, ‘Really?’  I mean, about a third of the adults in that room were men,” he said.

My husband is a very helpful and involved guy.  He is.  But if you make it clear you are after moms, you’ve lost his help.  He shrugs you off and decides that you aren’t interested in his help.  And why shouldn’t he?

If the roles were reversed and some guy was actively requesting help from men when it was something you could do, would be willing to do, would love to do?  I can already hear the indignant outcry from the feminist quarters!

My husband is a feminist.  A true one, in my humble opinion.  One who recognizes that feminism is about giving everyone a level playing field, about making opportunities available to everyone.  About not treating people differently because of their gender when gender, quite frankly, is irrelevant to the situation at hand.

Some men would push their way in, just like the women of old did.  They’d defiantly sign up anyway.  They’d push the issue.  My husband’s perspective is this: I’ve got plenty to do and they are the ones asking for help.  If they can’t figure out on their own that they are missing out on a source of help… not my problem.

Some people have figured it out, at least on a semantics level.  Over the years, we’ve attended many a Meet-The-Teacher night.  There’s always a sign-up sheet for people interesting in helping with the PTA’s involvement in that room.  If the sheet says Home Room Moms, we move on – me included.  If it says Home Room Parents, he puts down his name.

Now… progress is slow, to be sure.  He’s put his name down a time or two, but I don’t know that he’s ever been contacted.  But I think that’s more a matter of small-town cliquish behavior than anything.  Or perhaps the use of “Home Room Parent” was simply an attempt at political correctness and they weren’t sure what to do once a man actually did sign up.  Baby steps, I guess.

Then again.  This is 2014.  A third of those adults at Kindergarten Orientation were men.  A third of them!  There are men stepping up to the parenting table all across this country and some people still haven’t noticed.