Monday, April 26, 2010

Keep the "crazy" under control

I have an (almost) eleven-year old girl and three boys, twins aged 7 and a 3-yr old. Honestly, most the time, I feel like Lynette from Desperate Housewives. Hearing my 3-yr old son sing “I love my mudder” at breakfast in the morning or the evening cuddle and prayers with the children—the one moment of the day when they resemble anything close to angelic--are all too brief. Mostly my day is like this:

Go onto the Internet to see if the crusty raised bumps in a circle on Twin A’s arm are ringworm. Educate myself on what ringworm is and how do you get rid of this. It turns out ringworm is a fungus and an over-the-counter antifungal cream at the pharmacy will take care of this. Of course you have to remember to put it on every morning and night for about 2 weeks to get results, in the meantime, he’s developed a new “ringworm” on his leg. Crap! More weeks of remembering to put the ringworm cream on Twin A, especially now that we are in later Spring, and I have to remember to put sunscreen on my fair-skinned children’s faces, arms and necks every morning.

Two years ago, when I had to take my daughter to the dermatologist to get rid of some pesky warts (that cream had to be applied morning and night for two months!), the posters of little baby with wrinkled granny face and melanomas or the toddler walking on the beach in swim trunks—with a header like “That tan he got at the beach when he was two is something he’ll keep with him for the rest of his life” made a real impression on me. The dermatologist explained to me that the “freckles” on the kids arms and faces are sun damage. My half-Spanish husband thinks my sunscreen obsession is complete horseshit. His mother and sister have never used a drop of sunscreen in their life and laugh about the British tourists in Mallorca—“Look, they come in two colors: Just arrived and just burned!” I would have loved it if our children had come out with more of a Mediterranean complexion, but considering three of them are as Melanin-deprived as I am, there must be some recessive fair skinned Galician Celt or Vosgeian French genes in the woodpile from his side of the family—so I wish he would be more supportive.

Back to the Internet to do more research, this time on impacted splinters. The 3-yr old got a splinter 6 weeks ago and I don’t think we got all the wood out. Meanwhile, he has a thick callous with a pinprick-sized hole on the bottom of his foot. The suggested remedies run the gamut from “put a piece of bacon on this under a Bandaid and leave it overnight. In the morning it will come out.” To a recommended intervention, cutting the callous out with a sterilized exacto knife. A lot of input from professional carpenters on the different reactions you get based on different types of wood splinters. None of this seems relevant or within my skillset. I talk to my husband about the splinter and the fact that my hairdresser almost died from a staph aurea infection he got in his foot and I guess I should probably call the pediatrician to get it out and he says: “You’re not seriously going to bother the pediatrician to remove a splinter. I had a splinter once for three years.” I retort: “You’ll regret this lack of concern when the baby gets deadly ill with a staph infection,” to which he replies: “Do me a favor keep the crazy under control.” Wickedly, I think how low I can go to win the argument: “How do you know you’re not crazy. I mean, truly crazy people never think they are?”

Why Can’t I be More Like…?

Alpha Catholic Mom: The woman at mass with her six beautifully behaved, children in coordinating outfits, politely listening to the sermon. This is the woman with the beautiful embroidered First Communion banner that looks like it was handmade by Belgian nuns, but of course she did it herself, not to mention she’s actually got her hair-brushed and looks well put-together, herself. Meanwhile, I’ve pulled my wet hair back because I haven’t had time to dry it, have screamed at the children three times that morning to get them dressed and out the door to church on-time, overcome the challenge of getting them past my anti-clerical, unreligious husband who asks them if they’d rather play video games Sunday Morning than talk to “Dear Baby Jesus”—ensues “Talladega Nights” Ricky Bobby impersonation. Once in church, my daughter gets up once to go to the bathroom, the boys making paper airplanes out of the hand-outs, tell me they’re thirsty and ask when it will be over at various points.


The Stepford Wife. The Stepford Wife is tall blond, slender and attractive. It would be easy to hate her, but she is also smart, has a cool sense of self-deprecating humor, and is absolutely nice to everybody. The Stepford Wife is very stylish. I bet she never spend the whole day in work out clothes…and then doesn’t even work out. She may have 3 or more children, but they do not seem to stress her out overly much. I never hear her complaining about the children, or if they do, it’s in a light-hearted way. I bet the Stepford Wife is never riding in a minivan (she’d rather be seen dead) and turns to her children who are fighting in the back seat and says something like: “If you don’t stop fighting with your brother right now, I will a) take away your TV and video-gaming privileges for the week b) no dessert or sugary snacks today c) I will slap you! The Stepford Wife is still pinching herself to verify her good luck at being married to her husband—the dear man. I’m sure she’s never screamed at him with vocabulary that would shame a fishwife from the top of a ski slope or had conversations that revolve around whose turn it is to clean up the dog vomit. My husband wonders a la “Jesse’s Girl:” “Why can’t I find a wife like that!”

I think of a Facebook cartoon that somebody once posted:

Male Prostitute (for women!)

You see a housewife driving by in a stationwagon and a man soliciting her: “For $50 I’ll listen to you all night.” Ha, ha, funny in a disturbing way, because it’s so true. The retort would be the old saw about:

The Woman Who Goes to a Fairy Godmother

…and says: “I don’t want to cook any more; I don’t want to grocery shop; I don’t want to be the one who always has to remember the children’s schedules and drive them to doctors, dentists, birthday parties any more, I don’t want to do the dishes or clean house, I want more pay for the same work…” And then the fairy godmother waved her magic arm and the woman turned into a man.

Like everything, this is a gross over-simplification, because I have other Facebook friends who are stay at home dads, who do every task I listed in the fairy godmother joke and others who clearly are doing a lot to participate in running the house and looking after the kids. I think the difference is being the person who has to organize everything in their head and make sure it gets done, even if other people are helping out and the person who can check out of most these responsibilities, confident that everything to run the household and take care of the children will get done, and if you have something to do, someone will remind you to do it, so you can whole-mindedly devote yourself to some creative or professional endeavor for hours at end without having to stop and write a post-it-note saying something like:

“Remember to call the orthodontist” because the dog ate the daughter’s retainer. “Call the drycleaners and schedule a pick-up”. The clothes are piling up and you need to make sure they haven’t fired you as a client because you can never be there in the exact moment in the 4 hour time window they actually show up to pick up the clothes, “Buy birthday present for Twin B’s friend.”

I finally decided to be “cool mom,” which means buying other children the toys they want, but you wouldn’t think of buying for your own children--for very good reason. I was interrupted from whatever I was doing this weekend by Twin B hyperventilating and wailing like a stuck pig because he had taken down the Lego creator set I bought for his best friends’ birthday party from it’s high, safe perch to “look at it.” Then, his baby brother found it and wreaked destruction. Now, for the uninitiated, Lego Creator is your basic parental nightmare. It is a creative toy and if Twin B ever goes to Caltech or MIT, I can feel a touch of pride that he ultimately, inadvertently got the Lego Creator set he always wanted. Why do I hate Lego Creator? It is because the sets come with a quadrillion tiny, unique pieces that a) your child loses within minutes b) the baby brother steals c) the dog eats (hopefully you don’t have take the dog to the vet for the $1000 operation to unblock his intestinal tract afterwards—thankfully baby brother is 3 now and doesn’t try to eat the tiny pieces)…and then you child comes wailing to you: “Waaaaaaaaaah, I cannot build General Grievous because I’m missing blah, blah (miniscule and indescribable) connector piece.”

Deep Thought: Since when do first graders have 2 hours of homework on the weekends? That is such a drag to supervise. It’s like your 38 and back in school. When I was a kid I didn’t have real homework until third grade; I didn’t put any serious effort into “remembering” to do it until fifth grade; and my parents role was limited to occasionally asking if I had done my homework.

These days when your first-grader has homework: “It’s your homework!” Of course you could leave it to the child to take initiative (at age 7) and remember to do it himself—which if you have a normal child--you can forget about. Take into account, that everybody else’s parent is helping them with their homework, so if you just left it up to the child to “learn a lesson in responsibility”—the teacher is clearly going to think your kid is a loser, with slacker, loser parents who will be really sorry when their child graduates from high school without even being able to get into community college.

Mother-of-Four Children-Under-the-Age-of-12 Fantasy

Sleep away Obedience Camp for Children: I see this as a sort of military themed spend-the-night camp run by former army sergeants, with beneficial activities like 6 AM forced marches and runs to wear the little buggers out, and other group activities to teach them the value of team work and discourage whining tendencies. If only there was a place where you could send your kids off for a month and have them shipped back to you as responsible, considerate, self-motivated, empathetic human beings—future responsible citizens, progeny who will do you proud! This is no doubt a Heinlein “Starship Troopers”-inspired fantasy that highlights my inner, Southern conservative, militarist streak.


carmela said...

And another post that made me cry of laughter... must remember not to read them on busy and quiet train in tokyo...

Bill Burke said...

Ringworm? Bah! Last year, lice was epidemic in our town. My kids and then wife got it. Try getting a 3 and 5 year old to sit quietly for 2-3 times a day for an hour while you pick their hair. And then after you do one kid, go pick your spouses hair (luckily lice don't like short unwashed hair).

Then, try controlling your temper when you find out that the kid your kid got lice from was from a sleep-over the previous week. The mother forgot to tell you that their family had lice very recently, and to top it off, she lectures you on how you should only use homeopathic remedies to kill the lice. You later learn that this woman's family has had reocurring lice over a 6 month period....The same woman who doesn't believe in immunization.

LOL, sry for the rant! Thinking about it still pisses me off!

Nathalie said...

Bill, I hear you. Those kind of parents who let their kids spread whatever kind of epidemic their kids have without warning to other people's kids--absolutely suck. I thought my daughter had nits for a while and spent a long time online reading about the joy that is getting rid of lice. We know a lot of boys who subsequently got the buzz cut post school lice epidemic, because all that combing was such a drag--of course my daughter has long, curly hair...Supposedly they have an electric nit zapping comb now?

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Hi Nathalie, Regarding sunscreens, the vast majority of them only protect significantly against UVB rays (i.e. prevent skin from burning). They do not protect (or do not protect that much) against UVA rays, which are the rays that cause melanoma cancer. European creams are a little better than the American ones for UVA rays but still not great. I wrote more about this here:

I put my kids in anti-UV suits. It saves a lot of hassle and protects against both types of rays. I imagine that people haven't picked up on them in Spain but in France, lots of kids wear them now.