Say ‘What?’ Again

Tonight I’m pondering one of my favorite scenes from one of my dearly loved pre-mom movies, Samuel L. Jackson’s rant in “Pulp Fiction” right before poor Brett meets his bloody doom.

What he said.

What he said.

I used to watch movies like that all the time. I think I saw that particular flick nine times in the theater. It’s still an epic film, but I haven’t seen it in the last decade. I’m shocked to see the movie is 20 years old this year, because that makes me old as hell.

Still, I clearly remember that scene because I know exactly how Jules feels as he dares a stammering white kid caught in a crime to “Say ‘What?’ again!” and other much more colorful suggestions.

Any time my children look at me with blank expressions and utter the w-word as I bust them, I want to strike down upon them with great vengeance and furious anger straight from my own fake Bible verse (McGinziel 2:16).

It’s even worse when Honey Bunny and Pumpkin team up on a heist. Like Jules in that restaurant booth, I want to help. I want to talk them out of their bad decisions, retrieve my wallet (mine just says “BAD MOTHER” on it) and deal with the dead body in my trunk while they run off together for more wacky hijinks.

Tonight they each managed to separately invoke the wrath of each parent, which is unusual. My husband is the more mellow, Vincentesque of the two of us, but I just heard the Wee Man ascend the stairs at a bawl. The Roo got her marching orders from me earlier tonight.

I try to keep us from ever getting to that point. I made a nice meal tonight, to include homemade semi-healthy, gluten-free brownies with hidden beets. No, not the delicious, soul- and body-killing stuff my mom would’ve made, but it was still my attempt at a good evening and a little extra love.

It didn’t quite go the way I planned, but it wasn’t a total loss. I got a hit of my drug of choice — the beet treats are nothing if not VERY chocolatey (Now that is a TASTY brownie!). I’m about to step away from this computer and head upstairs to chat with each of them about what happened and how to feel better before they go to sleep.

I used to bend over backwards to keep the peace. It’s a self-imposed duty like Butch’s determination to retrieve his father’s gold watch. But I’ve realized it’s not my job to make people happy — that’s impossible. I can’t make anyone feel anything. If I could, I’d make my kids feel like they’d consumed another plant-based brownie all the time so they’d be far less inclined to fight or kill my own sugar high.

But conflict isn’t inherently bad. It’s an impetus for growth. Anger isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes it’s even justified. And if I deal with my anger in a healthy way, my kids learn a lot from that, too.

So I’ll take a deep breath, listen to their outraged victim stories and gently remind them what they did to end up in their rooms. I’ll suggest ways to make amends and avoid similar trouble in the future. I’ll remind them they’re exactly who they should be and encourage them to be who they are. I’ll tell them how thankful I am to be their mom, how much I love them and wish them a good night.

And then I’ll come downstairs, hit the brownies again and decide this wasn’t such a bad night after all.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/hoyvinmayvin/5104399796/”>Profound Whatever</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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All I Really Need to Know About Relationships I Learned in Kindergarten

“I bwaked up with Sawah,” the Wee Man announced with appropriate drama.

“What?! Why?!” I could not imagine what a darling 5-year-old could’ve done to deserve dumping.

“She picked her nose in the hall,” he told me.

“Are you sure? Honey, I just don’t think she’s that kind of girl.”

But he was adamant. And he’s got a real prejudice against nose-pickers. He recently declared a favorite playmate “obviously evil” because of the friend’s compunction to pick his nose and eat the findings. So I know this is a relationship deal breaker.

More questions: Does he feel sad? Are they still friends? How did she react?

His answers: No, he’s not sad. Nose-picking is “gwoss.” Of course they’re still friends, he just doesn’t like her as a girlfriend now. And she didn’t react at all because he didn’t actually tell her.

Turns out she doesn’t know she’s his girlfriend.

So my son has spun up a fake romance, a perceived fatal flaw, a damning judgment and a stormy end to the fake romance. All this about a sweet little playmate who’s so shy her mom had to help her recite her nursery rhyme on Mother Goose Day. It’s a kindergarten version of what too often happens in my adult relationships.

How often do we make snap judgments based on limited information and write a whole crazy drama in our minds about the whats, hows and whys? I see it all the time with people I love — myself included. One person says or does something that strikes someone else as rude (or funny, sweet, pathetic — fill in the reaction), and it’s completely opposite of the intended effect. Person B then has a strong reaction, Person A is confused or oblivious and miscommunication/angst/hilarity/whatever ensues.

For some reason, we seem to prefer to make up stories rather than ask for clarification. Why are we so quick to over-react or get emotional? Maybe that person who just cut you off in traffic is rushing to save someone’s life. Maybe he really has to pee. Odds are, what he did has absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person or a desire to adversely affect your life.

So if you’re going to make up stories, make up happy ones. You mom didn’t love your sister more than you. She just appreciated your independence and trusted you to make good decisions without her input. Your husband didn’t leave his dirty clothes piled up on the floor to give you more crap to pick up. He’s just preparing a nest for the winter.

So I advised Wee Man to reconsider. Was he really sure Sarah picked her nose? Could he possibly be mistaken?

Thankfully, he came up with a new story. In this one, she didn’t pick her nose, so he can like her again. It gets better: He made her a very sweet card asking her for a (play) date. He hopes she’ll want to be his girlfriend in real life now.

Image

I’m so proud he’s not too proud to change his mind. I keep telling my kids they get to decide how they feel and what they think, so if they don’t like how they’re feeling they should change their thoughts.

It’s sound advice. I hope I follow it, too.

Church Chat

I try to not project my insecurities, prejudices and general psychoses on my children. I really do. But I often fail.

So when the Roo asked if we could go to church, I sent a quick SOS heavenward.

“Why do you want to go?” I asked.

“Because all my friends do,” she replied.

So I wasn’t thrilled that the request was prompted by pack mentality, but at least it wasn’t because she’d realized what sinners we are and we must immediately go cleanse our souls before Tio Diablo shows up to call us home. And the more we talked, the more I realized she has a genuine curiosity about that aspect of her friends’ lives rather than a compulsion to follow the herd.

I have a Protestant hangover that won’t quit. I attended a private church school throughout elementary. My family did the church thing while we were younger, then it faded to the background. In high school I usually attended on my own, often with real hangovers. While there were good times in the light of the stained glass windows, church rarely moved my soul or inspired me to new spiritual heights.

As an adult, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with organized religion because so many seem to use it as a weapon or reason to deny love to others. I want my kids to ask their own questions and make up their own minds about the bigger picture. I don’t want that to be programmed into their impressionable young minds. As the Roo once so eloquently told her devout Catholic friend’s entire family, “We don’t go to church because we don’t like people telling us what to think.”

Is there an echo in here?

So I had a very quick, intense chat with myself before wrapping up our talk.

Me to myself: Oh crap. This is what happens when you live so close to Focus on the Family. She’s been infected with the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in Her Heart. How do I keep her from going crazy cracker Christian on me?

Myself to me: Easy there, St. Prejudicia. Don’t teach your kid to discriminate against people who don’t think the same way you do. You and Jesus still love each other very much, you’ve just agreed to see other people. Fortunately he’s secure enough to not feel threatened by your attraction to Buddha.

Me to myself: But what if she likes it? What if she wants to go every Sunday and I have to give up my time in the Church of the Open Saddle?

Myself to me: If she likes it, that means she’s happy. Isn’t that our entire reason for being? And you’ll find other ways to sneak out to the barn and get your equine therapy. You may even like it, too.

So I took a deep breath and told her we’d hit the pew on Sunday. As a compromise to myself, we visited the local gay church. They were kind, welcoming and put on a pretty good show. The singers were amazing, the piano player was FAB-u-lous and the drummer was way too much.

Riley loved it.

bible boa

As for me, myself and I, it was a bit too traditional for our taste. I was a little disappointed that nobody stepped up to the mic with a feather boa and a Bible. But I’m willing to give it another try. And if somebody knows where I can get the sheet music to the gospel version of “It’s Raining Men,” please post a link in the comments section.

Smile, Goddammit!

This is my family photo. I’m the one who looks pissed.

Misery loves company. Way to set the tone, Dad.

I somehow stumbled across the Weekly Writing Challenge  from WordPress. I don’t know if I was surfing tweets, sifting through LinkedIn people I should know or deleting Farmville 2 invitations on Facebook, but I’m glad I found it.

I have no idea who these people actually are, but their sour faces are certainly familiar. The assignment for the challenge is to write a story about this picture — any story. The tale at the top of my mind is last night’s chat with The Roo about how we need to get along better.

Not that we’re cat-dog fighting, but I often feel frustrated with her at a faster pace and with less provocation than I do with her younger brother. I’m sure my therapist has a file full of good stuff to fill in the blanks on why, but I think it boils down to the fact that she is my blonde, 7-year-old clone. So we naturally butt heads.

I hate that. I want us to enjoy each other for the hilarious chicks we really are. But all too often, tempers and nostrils flare simultaneously. It’s like an estrogen smack-down around here over trivial things — far too often, I can’t even recall the trigger.

Earlier this week in a rare flash of genius, I came up with a new rule: If you can make me laugh, you’re not in trouble.

Anger is infectious. But so is laughter. If one of us manages to turn the mood around, we all feel better. And it’s my job to look for reasons to feel good about my kids so they feel good about themselves.

A few years ago, the elementary school my siblings and I attended asked my mom for  school photos of my brother, sister and me to feature in an ad. She couldn’t find a single one in which any of us were smiling.

At least we don’t have that problem.

Here’s our real family photo. This is what happens when you ask Wee Man to smile for the camera.

Hopefully the new rule will keep us camera-ready and out of trouble.

Do Not Desterv

It was a rough day before a long trip out of town. I was not at my best. The kids were not at their best. We’d run around all day trying to get last-minute things done. I forgot more than I actually accomplished. By the time we got home after 5, I was ready to huff, puff and blow the house down.

So I asked the kids to give me a few minutes by myself. While I was curled up in the fetal position rocking and moaning, The Roo got back to her normal sweet self. To ensure privacy during my mental meltdown, she posted a sign on my bedroom door:

This picture is worth a thousand misspelled words.

I love the spelling, despite my hyper-editing proclivities that often drive me to lectures on the difference between “further” and “farther” or explain to friends that their holiday letters are not from the Smith’s but the Smiths. I love that she used a paper towel, red marker and x.

But most of all, I love that she tried to help her poor crazy mom rebound from a meltdown.  I hope I can remember to do the same the next time she’s feeling desterved.

 

 

 

Cat-a-Tonic

In honor of Labor Day, my small people are working hard at one of those priorities that make sense only to people under 48 inches tall. They’re tag-teaming to build the perfect cat trap out of laundry baskets and beads.

Today’s cat trap, complete with doll blanket and kitchen towel.

“Put him in the wound pen!” the Wee Man just yelled.

Clearly the kitten needs more ground work. He’s only 3 months old, so he isn’t fully trained. Plus, he’s a Bengal cat, so he’ll never be fully trained. But I think Vetericyn, Ritchie Waterers and the whole Downunder Horsemanship gang would be proud that my 4-year-old wants to get the cat’s feet moving to engage his brain. He never even watches Clinton Anderson’s horse training videos with me (his sister does) so he’s clearly picking up THE METHOD by osmosis. If only he’d apply it to horses.

But for now, it’s all about cat-astrophes. Since this kitten came home last week, he’s been swaddled in blankets and deposited in various American Girl Doll accessories, added to Bat Cave adventures (luckily he seems to like lattes), nearly refrigerated, pillow-trapped into toy cubbies, pulled into the bathtub, and latched into plastic tool boxes. (That last one prompted an informative and overdue lesson on carbon-based life forms and their need for oxygen.)

But he’s also been cuddled, kissed, hugged, cradled, sweet-talked and universally adored.

This kitten is clearly a masochist. Here he is cuddled up in the arm of his oppressor. He was purring when I took this photo.

And now that Wee Man has taken a cat-catching break to tan under a reading light (That’s his story. I’ve mentioned before he’s weird.), Loco is watching with great interest from his perch just inches out of the range of the fluorescent light bulb.

There are many great things about our new kitten, but the best is he seems to love every minute of the constant and bizarre ways my kids try to show him the love.

There’s got to be a pithy parenting lesson in there. I guess I need to be more like the cat. I need to look past the discomfort of laundry bag traps and doll clothes and appreciate the fact that there are two hysterical kids sharing their love in crazy ways that makes perfect sense to them and no one else.

It’s enough to make me purr.

Message in a Bottle

I don’t think even the infinite vacuum force of a black hole could pull this wine bottle from my lips right now.

Yep, I’m drinking straight from the bottle.

OK, so there’s only about a quarter of a cup left, but it’s still satisfying to feel like a character in a spaghetti western watching from the dusty bar as the outlaws duke it out in the OK Corral.

Both are wearing black hats as far as I’m concerned — there is no “good guy.” They’re fighting over land rights: who gets to go in whose room. Wee Man is banging some toy against the wall, Roo is in her room screaming for him to stop. He says he’s only going to stop if she lets him in her room. She just declared he may only come in for one second, and it will be the last time in his life he ever enjoys the privilege.

It’s perhaps the dumbest fight they’ve ever had. But it’s raging on unchecked as I cuddle with my bottle of Apothic Red and type.

Typically I try to bring peace and order when my kids fight. But not tonight. I’m trying Wayne Dyer’s noninterference parenting. I heard him speak about it on Hay House Radio. He talked about how he recently presided over pool time with a mixed bag of grandson and a friend’s young children. Each time one came to him complaining of what another had done, he raised his hand and told the child he was a Taoist master, and he wasn’t interested. Eventually they stopped bugging him and peace was restored.

Dyer has been one of the best-known voices in self-help since the mid-1970s when he published his first book, “Your Erroneous Zones.” He’s since published either 1 or 2 zillion more best-sellers. He brings peace and love everywhere he goes. He’s my one of my all-time favorite authors.

Dyer has also raised eight kids, and they all seem to still like him. Granted, he has no hair, but he seems otherwise unscathed from his time in the parenting pit.

So right now I’m channeling my inner Wayne. I’m pretending like I don’t hear the nonstop screams, the toys flinging upstairs and the hateful words my kids are hurling like spears. The Roo just came barging into my room with tears streaming to regale me with dramatic tales of her brother’s evil deeds. I told her I didn’t care and she needed to work it out with him, please close the door behind her.

Now I hear her calling for Daddy. Funny, I just called the man myself. But not to tell him about how I’ll never let the kids in my room again. I just asked for him to stop on his way home and pick up another bottle of wine.