Our friend M, who worked with the Mr., and whom we’d mostly just see in church, used to say, That LittleMan. He is so handsome and so adorable and angelic looking—but he just has that look, like he’s going to Break Bad at any second! M–child-free but from a very large family–was always good for an injection of humor and appreciation for newer parents and their desire to get it right.
In her New York Times Magazine blog, Lisa Belkin recently said, “I would wager that every parent has a moment when they realize they have become the parent they used to judge.”
Sing it, Sister.
When I read this post, a little Montage of Horror played quickly through my mind, kind of like a Winnie the Pooh story. With the perspective of a parent who is beyond the worries of my children biting or getting bitten, but still in denial of the notion of my children smoking behind the bleachers instead of playing in the game, I enjoyed a little laughing jag. Which I ended before it went too far, lest it turn into a crying jag.
Here are a few examples of Those Moments for me:
- Train Table Jihad, Part 1. In which LittleMan, who until that day, Did No Wrong, especially when in the company of the nice but pretty aggressive and too-passively-disciplined boys across the street, turned and bit one of those boys on the nose. Yaaah, the little bugger had it coming—he was going to some extremes in his not-sharing of his Thomas trains, grabbing everything out of LittleMan’s hands the second he touched it. And yaaah, J was only about two years old, and biting is very common at that age. But I was Duly Chagrined. We mothers left the room for just a minute, and in a flash, there was crying. Mom-friend across the street was very understanding about the whole thing (as was her way) but also visibly kind of smug that it wasn’t the usual suspect (her older son).
- Fun With Poop, Part 1. In which my little girl hid some poop for about a week and then sprung it on an unsuspecting new friend. Stretch was four years old and an old, old friend of hers (okay, not of hers, since they were merely acquaintances via lying near each other on blankets, from birth, at the weekly group for new moms that the local baby birthing hospital provided) had recently come to her school and was in her class. The moms were excited—what a coincidence, and the girls will be Great Friends (we’ll make them be friends, doggone it!). And the play dates began. It was only the second time or so that G was playing at our house without her mom staying. After playing upstairs in Stretch’s room for a while, the girls and I headed outside. When G’s mom came to pick her up, I offered her a drink (and I’m sure she later wished she had made it a Cocktail, and not just a water) and when I went inside to get it, G apparently had a word with her.
When I returned, G’s mom intercepted me in the driveway and gave me the deadpan, “Okay, I think there’s some poop in a box, up in Stretch’s room.”
WHAT? Noooo, C. What?
“No, really. G just told me that A showed her some poop in a shoe box, in her room.”
And when I asked A if there was any poop in her room, she cheerfully said, Yes, it’s in a shoe box, inside my Madeleine doll house! The only thing that mitigated the horror was that it had happened with G—and not one of the other Montessori moms. G’s mother has a real knack (as I saw much more, in the subsequent years) for underreaction (in the best possible way), humor and perspective. I think it’s because she’s English.
- Train Table Jihad, part 2, featuring the Incredible Hulk. In which LittleMan, at about age three, flipped over his entire train table (with quite a lot of trains and track parts on it) in frustration and ran through the debris and charged his own sister, who arguably had something coming–maybe not this—and who had likely Pushed Him Too Far, as she is wont to do. Apparently, he was at a loss for words.
- Fun With Poop, Part 2. In which Stretch, then about six years old, coerced a friend to “Just go and poop behind that tree!” in a public park, in order to avoid any inconvenient playdate buzzkill. And it worked! until we were told about it by the pooper’s twin sister. The twins’ mom, my friend S, had left the park for a short while, to let the appliance repairman into her house—so of course, it happened on my watch—I’m pretty sure her daughter would not have taken a poo in the park of her own accord. This happened at what is known here in Providence as The Baby Park. Aka the Dolphin Park, and if you’re an at-home mother of very young ones, sometimes The Nanny Park. Which is to say that this is a very popular and crowded east side park, and while I don’t think anyone saw any of these shenanigans, S (mother of the twins and younger girl) and I had a bit of shared, hushed horror just the same.
- Pantsing the Mommy. In which a 3 1/2-year-old LittleMan yanks down the skirt of his mommy (who, for the record, he was still crazy, crazy in love with–I just thought I’d add that) in front of God and the entire pre-dinner checkout line at Whole Foods and everybody. This was an accident, but it still made the cut in my instant Montage of Horror. It was summer, and, I’ll also add, I was in the process of losing about 18 lbs., and so whatever momentary flash of thong, ass and leg that anyone saw was pretty easy on the eyewitness eye. As opposed to, say, now. I was South Beach Dieting with my friend S (same mother of the pooping twin) and I think I had just come from the same park of the pooping incident. It might have been the same DAY. I was wearing a pretty short, black, jersey knit skirt and it was a hot day. Because of the weight loss, the skirt was a little bit loose, and when LittleMan grabbed some fabric as he spun around, killing time in that checkout line, down went the skirt. Down to the knees.
I see a theme emerging here: jihad, poop, jihad, poop. And really, most of our children’s moments, at least in their younger years, of providing us with those little perfect parent smackdowns, are all about jihad and poop. The biting years are behind me. Their infractions are still few and far between, but the stakes are higher each year. I already look back wistfully at those jihad and poop years.
When have you become the parents that you judge? What is in your Montage of Horror (or your parents’!)?