That Niggling Question

There comes a time in every mother’s life when she asks herself: “Am I raising a sociopath?”

Oh, you mean you’ve never asked that question? Never? So your kid has never said, with a sweet smile on her face, “That baby is crying!” And she looks, well, happy about it, or proud or something. Like she orchestrated the other child’s tears. And the look of horror on your face.

It wouldn’t bother me if this had happened only once. But any time there is a child crying, or even whining, in the library, at Target, the grocery store, a birthday party, anywhere, she says this. All creepily. She looks a little like Jack Nicholson when she says it (Nicholson in The Shining, Batman, whatever). And I put on my sad face, and say, “Yes, the baby is very sad. Poor baby.”

And Z just stands there, smiling.

So here’s a list of criteria for antisocial personality disorder (also called sociopathy), researched on that paragon of scientific truthfulness, Wikipedia, and how Z fits the mold:

1. Persistent lying or stealing. Do you have to go potty? No. Are you sure? No. Do you have to go? No. SHE GOES. Then there’s: Hey, that’s my DS! Leave it alone! Come back here! SHE RUNS OFF WITH DS.

2. Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others. See smiling while other children cry, above.

3. Cruelty to animals. All I can say is, Poor Clark. Her tail will never be the same.

4. Poor behavioral controls. We’re talking about a two-year-old, here.

5. A history of childhood conduct disorder. Already in the making.

6. Recurring difficulties with the law. Two words: time out.

7. Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others. Um, yup. Not only were my boundaries violated during the sixteen months of breastfeeding, but there’s the constant skirt-tugging. And the hug-attacks on her little friends that often leave them crying.

8. Substance abuse. Her addiction to goldfish crackers counts, I think.

9. Aggressive, often violent behavior. She bit me today. Then she said, “Biting Mommy.”

10. Inability to tolerate boredom. Wow. It’s like the people writing this list actually know my daughter. Were they here yesterday afternoon? [Checking home for hidden cameras right now.]

11. Disregard for safety. She runs everywhere without even looking at the ground. She almost fell into the fish pond at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver. She ran around with a fork before dinner last night.

Well, there you have it. I am raising a sociopath.

But she’s so freakin’ cute. And she’s my sociopath. And I love her so.

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Pee

Fantasy: The Ever-Suffering Mother sits on the couch with her NEW, BEAUTIFUL, FANCIFIED laptop, typing away at her Great Work of Young Adult Literature, putting on the finishing touches for her PUBLISHER (this is a fantasy, after all. Indulge me). As she types, she listens to the sweetest sound in the world: “Mamam! I went poop in the potty! I’m going to clean everything up now, wash my hands, and give myself a sticker! Don’t worry about anything. It’s all taken care of!”

The Ever-Suffering Mother sighs contentedly, shifts slightly to accommodate Clarkie, who naps peacefully on the Ever-Suffering Mother’s feet, and calls back, “Nice job, Sweetie! When you’re done, come in here to give me a hug before you finish washing the dishes and mowing the lawn!”

Here is our potty-training lexicon:

  • Go, go, go, go, GO!
  • Poop and pee go in the potty.
  • Tell Mama when you have to go.
  • Big girl underwear!
  • Just like Mommy and Daddy.
  • You may have a sticker after you wash your hands.
  • Good job, Z!

Your potty is covered in stickers. You have pull-up diapers. You even have big-girl underpants with some obscure (to me) cartoon character on them.

You tell me (sometimes) (when it is convenient for putting off bedtime) when you have to go.

So what’s the next step? What’s the next thing for a (lazy, often-inconsistent) mom to do? Am I supposed to keep on keepin’ on? Because if that means “keep on cleaning up pee in Z’s favorite spots in the house,” I don’t know if I’m ready for the Great Potty Training Experience.

Or is that “experiment”?

Everything with you, my precious, willful, sparkling daughter, is an experiment.

Viva La Clark!

If you haven’t met Clark, you’re missing out. This interview is my attempt to get as much of the full experience of Clark online as possible. She really is a personality and has adjusted well to inserting herself into our daily activities. For example, just the other day-

Clark: Are you ever going to start my interview?

BH: Yes, Clarkinzie. Just a second. As I was saying, just the other day she hopped from chair to chair –

Clark: The only good thing about this interview so far is you’re sitting down in one place and I can sit on you.

BH: Fine. I’ll ask questions. You answer.

Clark: If I feel like it.

BH: Ahem. How did you first join our family?

Clark: Well, really, if you remember accurately, it was more about you people joining my family. But I only invited you because the man you call Husband offered me bits of muffin on the street.

BH: You’re an indoor cat! What were you doing on the street?!

Clark: Don’t interrupt me. But I’ll humor you. At the time, if you recall, I was enjoying the freedom of napping on the sunny pavement whenever the fancy struck. As I was saying so eloquently before, I invited you into my family. There were conditions, if you recall. Would you like me to recount them?

BH: Can I stop you?

Clark: The basic requirement was that you feed me good things. The muffins disappeared, and I will go on a sleep strike if you don’t bring them back. Another requirement was that you allow me to sleep on your heads. There was a  hiccup in your end of the bargain when that ghastly creature [ed. darling Z] was born and my whole world crumbled around me [ed. we all had to make adjustments]. Now, however, I’ve reclaimed my place at your faces, at least when that thing [little Z] isn’t kicking us all out of the Family Bed (Of Pain). There are further requirements, but listing them all would cause the world’s internet system to crash from all the information.

BH: Tell me about your relationship with fruit snack wrappers.

Clark: They crinkle. They roll. They bounce. They skid across the hardwood floor and collect all those dust bunnies you’re too lazy to clean up [ed. that, despite all of your hard work, appear out of nowhere]. What’s not to love?

BH: How do you really feel about your dry cat food?

Clark: If the huge amount left in the bottom of the bowl every day is any indication at all, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. Although it is organic because you’re extremely paranoid after the pet food (and rightly so – we don’t want to take any risks with my health) scare of 2008, it still tastes like _____ [ed. This is a PG-13 rated website].

BH: What’s your favorite part of the day?

Clark: It’s a tie between the canned chicken coming out of the refrigerator, and when that noisy little cat-chaser [ed. spirited munchkin] takes her nap.

BH: What’s your favorite place?

Clark: Since you so cruelly refuse to allow me outdoors and into the street where I may nap [ed. and risk getting run over], [ed. and kill songbirds], I have to satisfy myself with sleeping on any part of your body that is still for at least one minute. If the blanket comes out, I am certain of victory. If you’re sitting at the table eating, or at this infernal computer typing, certain victory again. Barring a spot on an actual slave [ed. human], I will often curl up in the papasan chair or in the south-facing bay window in the bathroom.

BH: Thank you, Clark, for agreeing to this interview. To our studio audience, if you’d like more Clark, you can view a previous post: The Unsung Clarkie Underfoot. Clark, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Clark: It’s time for you to stop typing so you can pet me.

E Tea

We like to pass our finer points on to our children. Our striking good looks, endless patience, witty sense of humor. Unless you’re me, and have none of those things (okay, I’ve got the good looks and the sense of humor. Yes, I do say so myself). At any rate, if you are like me, you can also pass on both your tendency to hoard things, and the things you hoarded.

See my Photographic Evidence below.

Photographic Evidence A

This is my E.T. Tea Set, circa 1982. Utterly fabulous. I had to battle TWO black widows to rescue it from the clutches of my doll closet. The doll closet is a whole other picture, but I’m not about to venture out to the Love Shack (garage/guest room) at night to take a photo.

Photographic Evidence B

Here we have the companion to my tea set, a Read-Along Book & Record set. Not pictured are my “Gingerbread Man” and “Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” Book & Record sets.

Sadly, the records have disappeared. Not that I would know what to do with them if I had them. Z might use them for serving platters for her tea parties.

Photographic Evidence C

See the treasures I have unearthed! It’s The Cabbage Patch Kids! What joy!

Photographic Evidence...What Letter Am I On?

Vintage souvenir t-shirt from Great America (now Six Flags or something completely different. I’m hoping I never have to keep track).

Photographic Evidence Too Much

Is there no end to the wealth of wonders? This flowered cat is companion to…I kid you not…a flowered camel. Don’t ask me why.

I’m SOOOO glad I saved them though!

Photographic Evidence The End (Finally)

There are scores more books where these came from. [Hey look, it’s the Peter Pan book!] Her current favorite books include “Bedtime for Frances” (mine), “E.T. Read-Along” (mine), and “Peter Pan Read-Along” (also mine).

All of this, and more. As my parents will tell you, since they hauled it all to our garage as soon as we bought our house.

And these are just the things I found lying around. I didn’t have to search for them. There’s also the unicorn shirt which I desperately wanted a photo of, but Z happens to be sleeping in it right now. It screams 1980s.

If I can’t give my daughter good looks (like I need to; she’s beautiful on her own) or any of my other desirable qualities, at least I can give her lots of cool junk.

Lettuce Have a Moment of Silence

Not for anything you know, like, serious. My winter garden is far, far past its prime, and I’ve got to tear up the lingerers.

The Few, the Proud, the Romaine

The sad thing: I don’t know if you can see the little reddish bits in the background, but those are my red-leaf lettuce seedlings, looking super-scrumptious. But I just learned that lettuce doesn’t do well here in summer, and it’s hard to learn that something I’ve nurtured might not thrive. (Like my first novel. But when I actually think about that one, all I really feel is relief.)

But so much that I grow does thrive. I’ve got more tomato plants than the fields down the road (this is an exaggeration. Sort of), and carrots doing their carrot thing below the soil, and strawberries sunflowers and anything else I can make room for. It’s work, but it’s fun work. And Z loves the strawberries. Sometimes a little too early.

Mother’s Day is Sunday (in case you’ve been hiding under a rock and haven’t noticed all the cards, flowers, and the bombardment of advertisements thrown at you in every medium). I’m looking forward to having Saturday off, and then Sunday to enjoy my family. And yes, I’m hoping for a present. A little material recognition of how well I take care of Z, and how I keep our house tidy and the dishes done (okay, maybe not those last two).

At the same time I’m really grateful for Z. Sure she can be an Unholy Terror of Screaming Proportions. But she makes me laugh all the time. I’d get her a present in honor of Mother’s Day…except it would just be another thing for me to avoid picking up when I don’t clean the house.