parenting

Why I don’t take my Kids ANYWHERE

There are some parents who have jam-packed activity schedules for their children. Every day. All the time.  They go to art galleries…museums…rock climbing…harp lessons…wildlife reserves…kayaking…wine and cheese tasting…flower arranging classes…skydiving…snake pit dancing… They take them everywhere and their children have lots of fantabulously exciting and intellectually stimulating experiences. I don’t actually KNOW any of these kinds of parents personally, most probably because they are far too busy taking their children everywhere to have a spare moment to talk to me. Or it could be because such parents would never deign to be friends with a loser like me because:

I don’t take my kids anywhere.  (Heck, I don’t even go anywhere myself. The cave is a scintillating place to be, why do we have to go out for?!)

But that’s because the few times that I do try to take them somewhere…really irritating things happen.

I decided to take the three daughters to the library. Sounds simple enough, right? Ha. First drama erupted when Bella decided her regular shoes were just not good enough to go the library in. ‘I want sparkly glitter shoes. Why don’t I have any pretty shoes?’  A five year old having a fashion crisis meltdown  is a horrible thing.

Then the trio couldn’t find an overdue library book. Much searching and yelling ensued. Much messing up of an already messy house was involved in this hunt for the elusive book. Bella cried because she couldn’t find it. Big Daughter snapped at Little Daughter because “its all your fault the book is missing. Why didn’t you take better care of it?” Little Daughter cried. Then Big Daughter asked, ‘Why don’t we just tell the library we lost the book and pay for it?”

“Do you have money to pay for it?” I snarled.

“No.”

“Well, then don’t make such ridiculous suggestions. Get out there and FIND THAT DAMN BOOK!”

After thirty minutes of emotional upheaval, the book was found. Hallelujah. We traipsed downstairs and got in the car. Which is when I noticed my car registration had expired. Just fabulous. The library parking lot is always riddled with parking cops, eager to hand out tickets and fines.

‘Don’t worry,’ the Hot Man said. ‘Go pay for the registration online and print out the receipt. You can put it on the dashboard when you go in the library.’

I went inside. I got online. I paid the registration. I tried to print the receipt. But I couldn’t. Because the printer had run out of ink. Just fudging fantastic!!!!

I went back outside. I slammed the door behind me. It didn’t make me feel any better. This day sucks. Who’s dumb idea was it to go to the library anyway?

For one tremulously wonderful moment, I contemplated cancelling the trip. Telling them all to ‘get out of my car, go inside and watch TV and don’t talk to me for the rest of the day. Not if you want to live…’  I thought about how crappy an ordinary thing like going to the library can be when one leads a messy, disorganized life like me. Those OTHER parents who take their kids everywhere can do that because their kids have sparkly shoes, they have a special shelf for library books so they never get lost (probably bar coded and GPS tracked for extra organizational wonderfulness points in heaven), their cars are ALWAYS registered on time, and their printers ALWAYS have ink in them (with extra cartridges stored for emergencies. Like the Zombie Apocalypse.)  This is the problem with taking my kids out of the house. It’s a reminder to me of what a loser parent I am. Why am I even bothering?!

But then I looked at three hopeful, patient, excited faces. In the car. Waiting. Anxiously. Because I never take them anywhere. Because a visit to the library is about as exciting as their lives get.

So I took them to the library and resigned myself to getting a ticket. What the heck, every other annoying thing has already happened…ticket me! Come on, do it!

And you know what? We had fun at the library. In spite of all my dark threats, there was no overdue fine to pay because little kids books don’t get fined apparently. Everybody got lots of books. All three of them found friends from school to talk to and look for books with. Bella played games and did puzzles. And I watched them all and asked myself, ‘Why don’t I do this more often? Its nice in here…’

Oh – and we finally caught a break – and didn’t get a ticket.

That night, I sat and read library books to Bella. She snuggled in beside me, listened avidly, laughed at all the funny bits and made me read the best books twice. Then she said, ‘Mama, this is so fun. I love you.’

Which of course had me all choked up on equal amounts of happiness, love and guilt.  And promising, yes I will take these children to the library more often. Possibly to the park. Maybe even rock climbing! (yeah, lets not push it. Keep it real Lani.)

And resolving to get some blasted spare ink cartridges for the printer, never be late with my car registration again, buy some sparkly shoes for Bella, and DON’T LOSE ANY LIBRARY BOOKS.

How about you? Please tell me I’m not the only one who dreads taking kids places?

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Hedgehog Lies

Hedgehogs live in New Zealand. I didn’t know this until I saw one creep, creep, creeping across the driveway and over the lawn. A spiky little splodge with feet. I shrieked. The hedgehog probably had a mild heart attack. (But it concealed it well and carried on about its creeping business.)

The children were entranced. Bella followed it around the garden. Talked to it. (It was a rather snobbish hedgehog and didn’t engage in conversation with a five year old.) I did a quick google search and told them all not to touch the hedgehog because they had fleas. And possibly rabies. And maybe even were carriers of bubonic plague. (I didn’t need Google to tell me that. Everybody knows that it was the fleas on the rats that carried the plague. Hedgehog has fleas? DING – think bubonic plague. Its elementary Watson.)

The children listened to me and kept their distance. But I could hear them still talking to the hedgehog. Making friends with it from a distance.  Arguing about whether or not to give it a girl or boy name.  Bella asked, “How do we know if it’s a girl or a boy?” How do we know indeed…

I assumed my “Very Wise Woman” expression, “It’s a girl hedgehog.” But I couldnt just stop there. Oh no. I had to go and get creative.  “This hedgehog is a mummy hedgehog.  She’s got some babies back at home and she’s very tired of looking after them so the Daddy hedgehog is babysitting so she can have a holiday. That’s why she’s visiting our garden. She wants to have a break from all her rotten little hedgehog kids that keep pestering her all the time.”

Bella was impressed by my hedgehog’ean knowledge. (Let’s face it, sometimes, I’m so clever that I impress myself.) She was moved to compassion for this precious, hardworking Mummy Hedgehog.  “Ooh look mum, she’s resting in a ball in the leaves. Poor Mummy hedgehog. Everybody be quiet and let her sleep. She’s on a holiday from her babies.”

I went back inside, rather pleased with myself. Thanks to my wonderful creativity, my child cares for nature and all its creatures. She will probably grow up to be an environmental warrior. A champion for animal rights. I am so good at this job.

And then the hedgehog died. Just up and died on my back lawn. The children came back from school and there it was –  as dead as a dead hedgehog can be. Lying there on a pile of dead leaves. Not moving. Not snuffling about. Not creeping. Just dead. I poked it with a stick. Nothing.

Bella was unconvinced. “Maybe she’s sleeping.”

I didnt think so. “I’m so sorry Bella, she’s dead.” Maybe it was bubonic plague.

I got Big Son to quickly dig a hole and bury Mrs Hedgehog before she could start decomposing in front of us. Bella was sad.  Way sadder than she would have been IF her big-mouth mother hadn’t told her a fanciful tale of hedgehog babies and a hardworking, harassed hedgehog mum on holiday.

It’s been two weeks now since the hedgehog’s mysterious demise and every now and again, Bella looks out the window and says, “I feel sad for the Mummy Hedgehog’s children. I hope their Daddy is looking after them good.”

So now, what am I doing? Telling this child big fat lies about what an amazing husband Mrs Hedgehog has/had. “He’s the best Daddy Hedgehog ever. Plays with them, takes them all for walks, digs up special treats for them to eat. He’s the greatest.”

It is very tiring to construct such an intricate web of lies for one’s child.

What do we learn from this?

Next time I see a hedgehog walking up my driveway – I’m going to run it over with my car. And chuck it over the hedge. Real quick before any kids can see it.

End of story.

Are You a Sicko Child-Snatcher?

Little Daughter’s school sent home a notice, warning parents about a ‘strange white male who tried to entice one of the students into his car while they were walking to school.’ They advised parents and students to be extra careful.

I’m not too worried because the Hot Man walks Little Daughter to and from school every day. Little Daughter IS worried – but not about the ‘strange white male’ who may or may not leap out of the bushes to abduct her. No, she’s more worried about her Dad.

Because the Hot Man is on fire. He read the notice and he is raging and roaring, ready to beat the crap out of any and all “sickos who dare to try hurting ANY kids.” He did this warrior killer man routine that involved lots of pacing, clenching of fists, vehement waving of arms and displaying of fists and accented by ferocious facial expressions. “I hope I see him. Just wait till I see someone trying to grab any kids on the way to school. I’m going to pull them out of their car, chuck them on the ground and hurt them so bad. Sick people who hurt kids that way make me so angry… I hope I find one! I’m going to look out for any strange looking man talking to a kid on the way to school. He’s going to be sorry!”

Little Daughter was aghast. “But Dad, what if you make a mistake and its like a parent of one of the kids? Or a teacher?” But her Dad is on a rampage and cannot be appeased. She turned to me and whispered, “Mum, what if someone thinks Dad is the dangerous one? They might report him instead. My Dad will get arrested and all the other kids will think I have a weird Dad.”

Which is why Little Daughter asked ME to walk her to school today.

Notice for Parents and teachers in Te Atatu, West Auckland – please be aware, there is a very vigilant brown man out on the street, looking out for sicko child-snatchers. We assure you he is NOT dangerous. Unless of course, you are a sicko child-snatcher. In which case, don’t even bother running because this vigilant brown man is very fit, fast and furious.

 

I Want a Penis

This morning, Bella wants to know, “What’s that thing called so you can stand up and pee?” She mimes standing there with an imaginary something in her hands, spraying imaginary pee everywhere in a really cool way. Explaining, “See, make it go that way. Make it go over there. Make it go over here.”

I smile with a confident cheerfulness I do not feel, “A penis.”

She nods sagely, “A penis. Why don’t I got one?”

I look around for her Dad but of course at mind-cringing moments like these, he is nowhere to be found. “Because you’re a girl and only boys have a penis.”

She is not happy. “What do I got then?”

More bright cheer because Im just soooo happy to be having this unexpected anatomical conversation with a five year old this morning. “You have something really special called a vagina. And a vulva! And you’ve got a cli…ummm…yeah, and lots of other really great things.”

She’s still frowning. “But I can’t stand up and pee like this with a vagina.” And she does that imaginary peeing-like-a-dude action, turning from left to right, directing imaginary pee here and there. In a really cool way.

Clearly this child has seen some rotten ‘cool’ little boys peeing somewhere. In a really cool way.

“No, that’s right. You dont have a penis so you can’t pee standing up BUT you’ve got a wonderful vagina and that’s much nicer. Truly.”

She says, with truculence, “I want a penis.”

Just fabulous. “No you don’t. A vagina is way cool. It’s the bestest thing!”  What a crappy feminist mother I must be. My five year old is spurning her femaleness already.

Bella spreads her arms out at me in wide-eyed grand supplication, and asks, “But Mama, what can a vagina DO?!”

Awwww hell… At this point I cant think of a damn thing – at least not anything as super cool as peeing standing up.  Because yeah, from a five year old perspective, a vagina?

Is pretty useless.

I am indeed a pathetic excuse for a feminist mother.

HIS Turn to Roll Around Naked in Chocolate Sauce…

I hated it when people assumed that because I was a full-time, stay-at-home mother – therefore I had oodles of time on my idle hands and I spent my days rolling around naked  in chocolate sauce, waiting for the Hot Man to come home for lunch…surprise honey! Not.  Indeed I have blogged at angst-filled length about this hatred and overwhelming loathing for such assumptions. (Read angst-filled, loathesome blogpost from a Demented Domestic Goddess here.)

But you know what I now hate EVEN MORE? When my husband takes over as the full-time parent and stay-at-home Dad for a few months so I can finish my next few books and people make even worse assumptions about him. Because he’s a man. And because I’m a woman. And because I’m ‘just’ a writer and that’s not a ‘real’ job anyway.

The Hot Man is the cleverest man I know. ( But thats because I havent met MacGyver. Or Dr Seuss. Both very clever people, or so I hear.) He can design and build everything from a fence, to a house, to a gymnasium, to a hotel, to a mini-mall, to a warehouse, to a school hall, to a church…you get the picture, right? The man is a building genius and makes enough money to get his wife all the Diet Coke and Doritos she could ever wish for. However, he’s on leave from his genius career because he wants me to finish my next book (before the Zombie Apocalypse preferably.) He said, “You’ve taken care of our family all these years so that I could pursue my career. Now its my turn to do the same for you.”

It’s not easy for anyone to switch jobs, especially not when the new job requires that you perpetually clean, cook and wash for a family of seven people with a perpetual smile and emanating love and happiness. The Hot Man is the driver, homework supervisor, head chef, laundry specialist, chief cleaner, President of Discipline and Order, Law enforcer, Peace keeper, family shopper, accountant, bedtime story-reader, prayer-time boss and more. He’s only been in this new position for a few months but he’s thrown himself into battle 100%, making it possible for me to sit on my backside all day and write. (and eat.)

Im very grateful that I have a partner who’s willing to take over in the home for a little while so I can get my books done. Which is why, its driving me up the wall when friends, family, strangers and blaardy idiots alike – get on the Hot Man’s case about his new (albeit temporary) calling in life.

They ask him stupid things like, “So what do you do all day? Don’t you get bored of sitting around doing nothing?” (I really want to hire an assassin to abduct such people and leave them on a deserted island WITH five children. And a cellphone. So I can call them up and ask, ‘What are you doing? Are you bored yet? Had enough of doing nothing?” And then hang up the phone and let the assasin carry out the rest of their contract.)

They say idiotic things like, ‘Aren’t you scared your wife will be the boss of you now?” Or “How can you be the man of the house if she’s the one working?” (Clearly these are people trapped in a time warp and nothing I say will save them from their stupidity.)

Other beauties he gets asked, are – “What if she leaves you because you’re staying at home all the time? She might not want you anymore because you’re not earning any money.” To them I say – there is nothing sexier than a man who has cooked dinner, read bedtime stories to a five year old AND offered to get you some ice cream. Not to mention, that unlike my lazy self – the Hot Man is combining full-time parenthood with training for a Half-Ironman event – which means the man cooking dinner in my kitchen is flexing some pretty impressive musculature while he cooks… check out the ab’s, woohoo!

It continues to bemuse me how much OTHER PEOPLE love to have an opinion about how me and the Hot Man have chosen to parent our family and structure our relationship. How badly OTHER PEOPLE just cant resist  butting in with their busybody selves. Especially when they want something. They want the Hot Man to drive an hour one way, every day – so he can do their renovations. And they get mad when he tells them he has to ‘discuss it with my wife first because she’s the one working right now and my first priority is the children.’ They demand to know, WHY does he have to discuss everything with his wife? And WHY can’t he just hire somebody to look after his kids so he can do their renovation job?’  Perhaps to such people, the raising of children is something THEY are happy to leave to a television. Perhaps they don’t understand how much time is required to actually listen to a kid when they come home from school wanting to tell you everything about what they got up to in the playground, who hit so and so, who drew a cat when they were supposed to draw a pig, or who called so and so a stinky bum… Perhaps they have no clue how much work is involved with making sure teenagers grow up to be half-way decent members of society – because they’ve never parented a kid. Or five. And I sure as hell don’t appreciate complete strangers trying to tell my husband how he should communicate (or NOT communicate) with his wife.

No, I am unimpressed. People – its the 21st century. You do realize that men AND women have flown to the stars and back? Right here, right now where I’m standing – we are fortunate to live in a place where men AND women can choose what they want to do, how they want to live, love and laugh, how they want to parent. You don’t have to agree with our choices, or like them. Just like I dont have to agree with or like yours. But it would be wise to keep your nosey-pokin’, busy-bodyin’, bossy-pantsin’ opinions to yourself. It’s called – being respectful of other’s and their choices.

As for me, now that I’ve finished ranting – I’m going to see if I can convince the Hot Man that he should roll around naked in chocolate sauce. (Not.)

She’s Sunshine on Crack

You know what irks me?

When Big Daughter wants to buy a new book for her Kindle she is sunshine on crack. ‘Hi Mum, guess what?!’ (gleeful. Like she has news that will transport ME into throes of ecstasy.)

Me. Suspicious. ‘What?’

Her. ‘The latest Rick Riordan book is out! The one we’ve been waiting for. Can I pleeeease get it? It’s only $7.99. Please?’  Exuberant smile. Joy to the world kinda smile. Heavenly hosts sing alleluia kinda smile.

I fall for it. I say yes. We are having a mother-daughter-bonding moment redolent with joyfulness. She is transported into an otherworld of delight. She disappears into her room.

And doesnt come out alllllllllllllll day. If I call her to come and contribute in some small way to our existence on this planet ( like wash a dish. Sweep a floor. Get cereal for a 5yr old.) she doesnt answer. Not until I have yelled her name enough times that it reverberates through the neighborhood. Then she stomps out with a sour face and a growl, “Why do I have to do it? blah blah blah.” There is no celestial smile. No gratitude. No mother-daughter bonding joyfulness.  There is no sunshine. Or any crack.

She reads all day. She reads late into the night. I tell her to go to bed. I know she’s rolling her eyes at me when I walk out. I turn off her bedroom light. I know she’s turning it back on the minute I fall asleep.

The next day, she is a log that won’t be woken. When she emerges from her room, she will spend the entire day being a mean, nasty person who is hateful to her siblings. (and to her mum who was stupid enough to buy her the book in the first place.) I will end up yelling at her a lot.  She will then probably write bad things about me in her journal because I’m a mean mother who is horrible to her. She will go to bed thinking about the wonderful day when she gets to escape from me and read all the books she wants all the bloody time.  And I will go to bed thinking about the wonderful day when she moves out and discovers that she CAN’T afford to lie her a** in bed reading for 24hrs straight. And I will get even more gleeful when I think about her one day having a daughter that will be a book addict with an ungrateful, mean attitude.  (Revenge. It wont happen overnight but it will happen.)

Yeah – so thats what irks me. Which is why when Big Daughter asked with a winning smile, if she could buy some fabulous new book today?

I smiled a smile of heavenly glory.

And said no.