Dear School’s, Get The Facts, Then Make the Call!

I got a call from the school attendance supervisor. She was kindly calling to find out if The Oldest was feeling ok today. You know, since he was absent.

The problem was, I had dropped that child off at school, with a hug and a kiss, not even two hours before! I watched him walk around the corner of the school toward his classroom as I do every day.

“He isn’t absent!” I shrieked. “I dropped him off this morning.”

“Oh,” she said, sounding like every person who has ever uttered words then wished for the ability to time travel to a point only minutes before so that they could not be having the conversation they are currently having. “Well, there must be some mistake. Let me check the class room.”

Then she tells me that if I don’t hear back from her, it must all be ok.

“I’d rather you call me back no matter what!” I told her. In my mind, I was watching my boy walk away that morning and wondering how I would survive if my last sight of him had been of the back of his camouflage coat and GI Joe backpack. If she didn’t call back, would it be because she found him, or because “procedure” dictates that she first notify the local & federal authorities, who would then interrogate The Middle about his “home situation”. Would they call the media next? Please don’t let them send that bitchy reporter who talks out of one side of her mouth. Do they interview my family & friends before they inform me? Oh, God, not my facebook friends. At some point, they’ll find the blog. I always knew this damn thing would be used against me at some point. It’s one thing to be a crappy mom; I shouldn’t spend so much time flaunting it to the world! They’ll fixate on me instead of finding my son! Who would believe me? How big do they make prison jump suits? Is there really a volleyball team?

The phone rang just as I was about to go into hysterics. It had been the longest 3 minutes I could remember.

“He’s here,” she said. “I was just talking to him when he was going to the bathroom.”

“Huh!” I replied, with an obvious question on my mind. Suddenly I had a new kind of concern.

“No,” she quickly corrected, “I meant I talked to him in the hall. When he was on the way to the bathroom. I didn’t go in”

I’m just saying—sometimes you need to clarify!

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What To Do?

My boys have been working on cleaning their room. Well, I wouldn’t really say they’re working on it because working implies that there is some degree of progress being made. And there has been NO progress. Not in two days. That’s right, I told them that they would have no tv or video games until they cleaned their room. That was five days ago. Then I told them that they were going to stay in their room until it was clean (coming out for meals and bathroom breaks, of course). That was Monday evening. It is now Wednesday afternoon and they have made NO progress.

The next weapon in my arsenal was to threaten them with the items they love so dearly. I told them that if they didn’t start making some progress I would come in and begin to relieve them of some of the clutter myself. Beginning with the DVD player. And still they made NO progress.

Armed with a trash bag I stormed into their room to capture my next vicitim in this viscious and unconscionable battle. As I rounded the corner I found my two oldest boys, not cleaning (which I totally knew) but sitting on the bed reading. Now, a part of my mind (the really tiny rational part) thought “Well, at least they’re reading”. But the bitchy, I-told-you-to-do-something-and-you-better-get-it-done-now, part of my brain (the great big throbbing, swollen part) didn’t give a shit what they were doing because the fact is, they were told to get their room clean–not read a book!

And then I heard what The Oldest was reading out loud as The Middle leaned attentively over his shoulder. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” That’s right. My kids were busy screwing around…reading The Bible.

So, what do I do? I’m kind of an asshole if I punish my kids for reading The Bible when there are so many more pressing issues for them to deal with, like locating the source of the smells wafting from their room. And, I’ve never been terribly involved in my religion (beyond having one and knowing what to do if I ever find myself in Mass with no viable exit strategy) but even I know that I can be subjected to some very bad karma if I mess with the good book. So, I decided to compromise. To make the punishment so miniscule that it would hardly matter, but would still matter a little to the people who have just turned my furious rampage into a slow steam. I grabbed a toy soldier, one of the Barbie-doll sized ones with articulating joints. Only this one has no lower legs and only one hand. And, he’s naked. And neutered. So he really had a lot going against him anyway. I’m pretty sure he’s an unfortunate victim of the Underground Escape Network . He either was injured trying to make a break for it, got caught up with the wrong group of escapees, or was captured by the wardens boys trying to escape and was hobbled. Either way, he was forced to make the sacrifice for the rest of the platoon–which, incidentally, is still laying in the mounds of crap on the bedroom floor of two kids who are working very hard at making NO progress.

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How Far Can You Go With A Blanket and a Slim-Jim?

I’ve been waiting for the day it would happen. In my mind, the day has evolved a number of different ways. It has been a happy moment in which my heart was filled with pride and joyful tears poured from my eyes. It has been a surprise, maybe born from frustration and impulsiveness in which my stomach sunk and I felt as though my heart had been pried from my chest. It has also been a last straw. When fury and defeat have conspired to make a decision that I never thought I’d make, to issue an ultimatum that would be met with the same hostility with which it was delivered.  Never, in any of the times that I imagined this day, did I think it would come so soon. But, yesterday, at seven years of age (seven years and 345 days to be exact), The Oldest decided to move out.

It started as a typical Wednesday. Well, a typical Wednesday when school is out for the rest of the week for parent-teacher conferences and my kids are hanging out in their underwear enjoying the first lazy day they’ve had in months. Anyway…at about 10:30 The Oldest and The Middle decided that they’d like to play video games. The rules are: no video games on school days (damn it, they’ve got me on that one) and not until after noon (I still have some time to get what I want out of them). So, I told them that–and they’ve heard this before–if they want to play video games, they need to get their room clean. The first 5-10 minutes went fairly smoothly, minimal snide comments and arguing. Then The Oldest went into his wanting-to-control-the-world shit, and started yelling at The Middle for ridiculous shit, you know, like how he’s breathing (we’ve all been there, right?). The arguing escalated and The Oldest smacked The Middle on the head, The Middle started screaming and chaos ensued. I confronted The Oldest, told him that it isn’t up to him to control what other people do and that he isn’t allowed to hit people just because he gets pissed off. I said my bit and left the room for them to continue their cleaning.

Ten minutes later The Oldest comes out of the room dragging a blanket with a pile of clothes in the middle of it.
What are you doing?” I ask.
I’m moving out”
Oh.” (I mean really, how do you respond to your seven year-old dropping that kind of bombshell?).
He was having some trouble getting the corners of the blanket tied around the pile of clothes.
Can you help me tie this?
No,” I was still a little shell-shocked at what was happening but I had the presence of mind to know that he was taking one of my favorite blankets, there’s no way in hell I’m gonna help.
I can’t get the corners tied,” he yelled at me.
Well, that put me right back into my usual state of mind. “Maybe you should take less crap, then.” I told him as I walked out of the room.

One minute later I heard the front door slam shut. The pile of clothes were left where they lay and The Middle began crying that he was gonna miss The Oldest. I tried to assuage his grief. “But, you’ll have a room to yourself and you can have the top bunk.” It didn’t work. As I was in the garage, peeking out the window watching The Oldest pace back and forth between the neighbors on each side of us, I saw The Middle run out to the fence. After a brief fence-side chat, The Middle came marching into the house and announced that he was going with The Oldest. He grabbed a Slim-Jim out of the cupboard and walked out the door, leaving me wondering how the hell it had all come this far.

My two little runaways kicked around in the back yard for a while. I think they were discussing their options. The Middle came in at one point and asked if they could take The Baby with them. He wailed when I told him, “No!

After about 15 minutes I decided to shut the game down. I packed The Baby into the car and backed out of the driveway. Suddenly they were at my window. “No, wait! I changed my mind,” they yelled, climbing into the car. I let them settle in and buckle their seatbelts. “Where are we going?” Excited smiles had replaced the angry scowls of thirty minutes before.

I smiled as I answered. “Next door.

OK, I know it was kind of bitchy, but the rest of the day was a joyful, quiet one with no arguing or fighting.

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Scream Free Parenting Works. For Some People. Apparently.

I came across it quite by accident, I assure you.  Really, I’m not one of those self-help book, “how can I better myself?” kind of people.  If I can’t get better through trial and error, then I’m prone to continue in the same, dysfunctional life patterns that have carried me through this far.  It isn’t an honorable way to go through life but the apathy comforts me.  In my perception, there is something insincere in most self-help books.  First, it isn’t really self-help if someone else is telling you how to do it.  Second, if the author of the book or developer of the program were really interested in helping people better themselves, they would just put the information out there instead of making us spend $30 for the hardcover, or wait a year to spend $15 for the paperback.
So, there I stood in my local library looking at the books on CD section.  Again, way outside of my normal pattern because I don’t listen to audio books.  Primarily because the only place I could listen to one is in the car, and secondly my ADD-ridden mind tends to drift and I lose huge sections of what was being said forcing me to repeatedly rewind.  And, if I’m driving a car, and already not paying attention, do I really need one more thing to distract me from the narrow strip of pavement that I’m maneuvering several thousand pounds metal and combustible fuel across?
With a business trip to the pacific northwest coming up, and a bit of a road trip once I got there to look forward to, I decided to try an audio book (I wouldn’t have the kids with me, which removes one of my distractions, so by adding the CD, I’m still at par on the old distraction tally sheet).  As I stepped in front of the metal shelves that hold the audio books my eyes rested on one in particular.  Do you know that angelic music that accompanies an “a-ha” moment of divine intervention in most movies?  I swear it was like that.  Faced with a wall of small square CD cases, my eyes settled on one in particular.  Scream Free Parenting.  Now, this audio book stood out for a number of reasons.  While I don’t scream at my kids, I have been known to get a certain kind of pissed off that leads me to yell.  It is a kind of yelling that I know all too well.  And I hate to yell.  Swore I’d never use this yell when I had kids.  So, as I stood there that morning, with my throat still a little raw from my latest tirade I wondered if I were being guided by a higher power.  I wasn’t really looking for a self-help/parenting book.  Fiction was what I was really after, but you can’t really argue with the planets when they line up just right, can you?  So, I checked out Scream Free Parenting (as well as a fiction audio book, because a business trip is really like a mini-vacation for work-at-home moms, and who wants to focus on self-help when you only have 30 hours to yourself?).
So, I’ve not only listened to the (entire!) CD, I’ve actually been implementing some of the strategies with my kids.  Don’t get me wrong–it isn’t easy.  In one week I’ve gnawed a hole through my inner cheek and bitten chunks out of more plastic items than the puppy has (sure is handy to have a puppy to blame that on!).  To anyone who doesn’t know better, it must seem like I’ve been stricken with some strange affliction that causes me to breathe deeply with closed eyes before every sentence.  I’ve also solved the problem of having spare liquor hanging around the house (notice I didn’t say that I’ve quite drinking, only that there’s no spare liquor around!).
I’ve only yelled once in a very stress-filled week, and it was for a very short-lived period, seconds really.  And I patted myself on the back for my reserve.  Then I surveyed the battle scene.  The Oldest and the Middle dutifully picking up every goddamn toy that I’d just tripped over (after having been threatened several times that if they weren’t picked up they’d be in the trash), looking back over their shoulders at me as they did so, eyes wide and glistening with tears as their lower lips quivering in defeat.
And I was 4 1/2 feet tall, and I could feel the wall against my back and how the sound of the yelling reverberated in my ears and rattled every bone in my body.  And how small I felt.  How very, very small and insignificant.  And I realized what an asshole I was to be standing there, patting myself on the back because I’d only yelled once this week.  This week.
So, now I’m off to the damn library to find that damn audio book again so that I can listen one more damn time and commit it a bit more to my damn memory.  And, while I know how important it is, how critically consequential, I have to admit that it pisses me off to have been showed my ass by self-help (audio!) book.

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