Jugular

My 3-year-old is trying to kill me.

The 5 a.m wake ups.
The epic temper tantrums.
The refusal to use words and just whinge at me.
The flailing about when she is told ‘no’.
Telling me ‘no’.

(Tanget: The new rule in the house is that the girls are not allowed to say “no” to their father or me. If it’s something that is optional (i.e. a second helping of peas), they may say, “No thank you.” Last night I told Kate to stop crawling under her bed — where I knew she was going to poop in her pull-up — and to get on the potty. “No,” she said. “You’re not allowed to say no to me,” I reminded her. “No sank you,” she replied.)

Telling me no LOUDLY.
Yelling or screaming at me at all.

Oh, and the potty training thing.

Kate is done with diapers. She just doesn’t know it. She has horrible rashes from pooping four or five times in a short time (like, an hour) and needing to be cleaned up over and over again. That fifth clean up is an epic struggle akin to the gladiators fighting the lions. (Am I mixing my metaphors? Yes? Well, see point one above.)

The separation anxiety! Oh my hells. I thought children were done with separation anxiety at this age. Honestly, Kate has asked me to not go to work three out of four mornings this week alone. Which, while kind of adorable, is a little stressful when my gentle refusal to quit my job on the spot escalates to screaming and barnacle-type clinging as I am struggling to walk out the door with my mammoth purse, a packed lunch, and a traveler’s mug of hot coffee. At 7 a.m.

(The fifth morning this week she was still asleep when I got out of the house. However that was the same morning that Flora wanted me to sit with her and watch her eat her breakfast. One.Cheerio.at.a.time.)

Telling me I am a bad mommy.

That one hurts. A lot. Because, as many a parent knows, that is our deepest, darkest fear. That we are a bad mommy, and not in the cool way, but in the way that means that we are damaging our children, by time outs or yelling or supplementing with formula (or not any of those things), by staying at home or by working, by sending them to public or private school. The worst charge that can be leveled by society, at us: You are a bad mommy.

Which Kate tells me when she doesn’t get her way. When I tell her no she cannot have another piece of chocolate, or another 1/2 hour of television, or that it is time for her bath right now, or she has to sit on the potty. Or when I lose my temper and yell.

“You’re a bad mommy.” Arms crossed, lower lip pooched out.

And I know that I am not a bad mommy (although, yes, sometimes in the cool way), but oh my goodness I am tired of fighting with her.

Only 342 days until she turns 4.

Classic

J. D. Salinger died yesterday. There was some talk in my Twitter stream about “the book”, and some people admitting they didn’t like it, or didn’t get it, or didn’t read it.

I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school as part of my English class. Required reading, but as I pretty much read anything I can get my hands on anyway, the ‘required’ part didn’t set me back much. I think I re-read it, at least once, in college on my own.

And both times, I got Holden Caulfield. I identified with his disaffected brand of angsty teenager-hood, with his disdain of the “phonies”. Plus, I loved the vulnerability in the vision for himself as the character that gives the novel its name.

“‘Anyway, I keep picturing these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean, except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.'”
— Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye

But the “conversation” on Twitter reminded me that sometimes books with teens as their central characters don’t do well (or sit well) with adults. Think about Bella in Twilight. If I had read Twilight when I was 15, I would have loved it (I think). I could barely finish the book when I first read it a couple years ago, and I didn’t read any other books in the saga. Of course, on the other side of that, there are J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. If someone suggested to me that Potter were just a whingey teen, I would leap to his defense — because I loved the books (epic battle between good and evil, the power of love! yadda, yadda, yadda). Bella made me roll my eyes, and who is to say that Holden won’t do the same if I decide to re-read Catcher.

And as much I admired Salinger’s sparse fiction and realistic characters, I didn’t admire the man much. He was quite an oddball.

But he left a lasting legacy: Holden, the Glass family, Joyce Maynard. And that’s something to think about, at least.

RIP, J. D.

Public Service Announcement: Reprint

Sunday is my birthday.

I’ll wait while you all run to write that on your calendars.

Back? Okay, then. In honor of my birthday, I am reposting my PSA from last year.

Hey, Dan: Heads up buddy.

An open letter to husbands:

Your wife’s birthday is a very, very special day. And it should be treated accordingly.

It is the day that the beautiful woman whom you charmed (and/or conned) into marrying you was born.

It is the day that (in many cases) the mother of your children was brought into this world. Which means, also, that it is the day that your green bean supplier was born.

You like green beans, don’t you?

Go to the calendar — now, go — and mark the day of your wife’s birth on it. Big, bold lettering — use a sharpie, maybe a couple of stickers. Make it stand out on your palm pilot — have it play her favorite song on your work computer calendar.

On the day of your wife’s birthday, do something special. Actually, do whatever she decides she wants to do to make it special.

If it’s on a weekend, get up, and get yourself and the kids out of the house. Let her sleep in on her birthday. You and the kids can pick up her present now, or some cards, maybe even a birthday cake. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but chocolate will probably win you some points.

Do something that lets her know you are aware that it is her special day, and that you, too, celebrate the day that she was born. Send flowers to the office. Leave a wrapped present under her pillow. Make her breakfast, or lunch, or dinner.

Hire a babysitter and take her out. Or send the kids to your parents’ (or her parents’) house over night, and stay in. Light some candles.

Buy her a spa certificate. Or even better: schedule her a spa day on her birthday. Drop her off, and let her know you’ll come get her in a couple of hours.

Do not, under any circumstances, do something you want to do on her birthday. Do not buy her a present that you would like for her birthday. I understand that sometimes husbands get confused and think what they like is what their wives like. Please disabuse yourselves of this notion, stat. (Credit: BurghBaby)

And if your wife wants to go out to dinner with you and the kids, then go. Even if it means going up to the horribly crowded consumer mecca nearby. Entertain the children during the wait, eat at a family-friendly place. Take them to the germ pit at the mall and let your wife shop for a little bit. It’s her birthday.

If you are angry with your wife, put it aside. Please do not ruin her birthday by fighting with her — or fight with her early enough that you can get it all out of the way soon, before dinner or her spa day. You have a right to your anger, but she has the right to her special day. Work it out.

Remember: Birthdays are not just for children. (Credit: ClumberKim)

Also remember: Before you and the children came along, her birthday was a day all for her, a day that she probably set aside to do something on her own: go to a museum or a movie, or spend a day in a bookstore or a coffee shop, reading a book.

Christmas is about the kids (and baby Jesus); everyone does something special on Valentine’s Day; Easter is a weird day to give gifts; Mother’s Day… she tends to think that’s for your mother (you have to train the kids to treat her special on this one). One day out of the year, her birthday should be “her day”. You have the power to make it so. You can make it or break it, buddy.

Make it.

Let it all be about her and whatever she wants.

Love it. Love her. Show it. Celebrate it.

She deserves it.

What A Man

Before I leave my sick days behind us, I have a word of praise (or two) for my husband.

Dan was a good man — nay, a Good Man — throughout the bug’s dread hold on our household.

He stayed up with the puking Flora Monday into Tuesday. He helped me (as much as he was able) in my time of extreme stomach distress very early on Thursday morning.

He tended me — or at least checked to make sure I was breathing and brought me ice chips — on Thursday. At my request we “watched” some Lost together for a bit in the afternoon in a very darkened room. I say “watched” because both of us dozed off during the three or four episodes we tried to get through. He gave me the couch, and stretched out on the floor. That evening, he warmed up some vegetable soup for me, and gave me ginger ale (generously provided by my MIL).

He took care of the children Thursday night with absolutely no input from me. They could have had chocolate cake for dinner for all I know.

Over the weekend, he did a lot of cleaning. The Christmas tree finally got disposed of, and he vacuumed the needles up. He moved the furniture back to its non-holiday positions.

He broke down all the cardboard boxes for recycling, and fended off a raccoon in our back yard.

Sunday, he stayed home with Kate while I took Flora to a birthday party at a bowling alley. (As an aside: I love the birthday-party-at-a-bowling-alley in theory. Built-in entertainment, someone else doing the muss & fuss, beer if you want it. But bowling alleys are LOUD. Loud, loud, loud. And when you have a Flora and a Laura at the same party… well, some things are bound to get mixed up. Like whose turn it is to bowl, for example.)

He helped with baths and bedtimes without me even asking! And he let me veg with a book (almost) as much as I wanted to.

Of course, now that I’m feeling better, I’m probably going to have to make this all up to him. Somehow.

Sick Days Are for Morons*

Heads up, moms. I have discovered another facet of “mothers don’t get sick days”.

If, through some mixture of mercy and good husbanding, you do get a sick day, be warned: Your children will take this as a sign of your weakness, and stop listening to you. Full stop.

I was down for the count on Thursday. Dan, fortunately or unfortunately, was stricken by the same bug that I had, only it took a less taxing (and, arguably, more disgusting) form. He didn’t run a fever; he was able to eat. Whether or not eating was advisable is up for debate as well.

So Dan and I stayed home from our respective jobs on Thursday, with me in and out of consciousness, and Dan left to his own devices. He took on the children when they came home from daycare; I was so out of it, I couldn’t actually tell you if he picked them up or had his mother do it for us. I vaguely recall interacting with the children, although the level of that interaction escapes me. I did not provide caregiving; I think that’s safe to say.

While back on my feet Friday, I was in no way recovered. The fever held on; I wore pajamas all day long; eating was at a minimum. Fortunately, after my FIL (who had also been stricken by the dread bug) picked up the children (he was recovered), my brother grabbed them for a sleep-over at his house. (Have I mentioned that Dr. Bro’s wife, mother of four boys ages 8 years to 9 months, is a saint? Well, she’s a saint.)

I dragged myself (that fever was a bitch) to work on Saturday for various and sundry reasons we won’t get into here. At least I wasn’t in danger of directly infecting anyone.

Sunday, my temperature finally dipped back into the normal range. Unfortunately, by this time, my children had decided I was no longer queen of the castle.

Kate threw two epic tantrums on Saturday (one brought on by me requesting her to say “please” for a sip of ginger ale, and the other one brought on by my denying her requests for Cheetos immediately after she was “done” with dinner). Flora simply ceased to hear me. She didn’t hear my requests to pick up her toys; she didn’t hear my requests to help me make her bed; she didn’t hear diddly-squat (except for the phrase, “if you don’t, you can’t go sleep over Dr. Bro’s”, which only worked Friday night).

They also told me “no” quite a bit and yelled at me. This is a cardinal sin in my house. By Sunday night, I was convinced I had a full-scale up-rising on my hands, and wasn’t sure what reinforcements I had at my disposal.

This will not stand.

Now, it is also true that due to my weakened condition (and I am not being melodramatic), that perchance my patience was non-existant, and I did a little more yelling (if I had the energy) than usual. I asked them to ask Daddy more often. Heck, Thursday I didn’t even sit up in bed to talk to them.

Also, I cried.

I am hoping that reports of my abdication of the throne have been realized to be exaggerations, and I have no intention of giving up the “mommy is the boss” mantra that has been mine since Flora was born. This week will be quite a test.

Just in case, anyone know where I can get reinforcements?

*Irony alert.

Road to Recovery

I forgot how a high fever can make you feel: exhausted, out of it, sore as all get out. And tired. Lordy, how tired. I slept most of the day yesterday, and took a two-hour nap today.

I feel tons better than I did yesterday, but even being vertical for a little while wipes me out. I’ve spent most of my day at the computer, trying to do some work-at-home stuff (job preservation). Cream soup for lunch may have been a mistake, but as I haven’t heaved, I think the queasy feeling will pass. Even sitting up to watch TV is exhausting (although that may be because I’m watching Lost on DVD, and we all know how exhausting that show is).

I think the RPM household is going to hunker down this weekend for some good old recovery time. The girls seems to be okay, although still tired from their own bout with the bug. Dan had a horrible day yesterday, although he didn’t throw up, and I don’t think he ran a fever (I won’t tell you how the bug affected him, but it wasn’t pretty). I’m sincerely bummed because we are going to miss a chili cook-off birthday party with some of our new friends. But as I would like all my new friends to still be my friends, and I’m not sure they would if they catch what we had, it’s probably for the best. (The bug has already taken out Wednesday’s babysitter, who left loving the girls. I’m not sure how she’s feeling about them today. It’s a bad bug.)

We’re going to all get better, and come to next week with fresh heads. And bellies. Thanks for everyone who sent wishes for better health here and via Twitter. We’re on the mend.