The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: bad but fun parenting

I’m learning to love and/or fear my Elf.

The Elf on the Shelf. You either love it or you hate it.

I’m not sure where I fit on that spectrum yet.

My kids pestered me for one of these things for YEARS and I said no, no way, forget it, I don’t care what everyone else has, and aw hayle no. I knew my limits. I had heard all the stories at the bus stop about these things and all the messes they make.

Like I need MORE messes. Bitch, please. I have three kids, two pets, and the hairiest husband in North America. We’re all set, thanks.

I had read about the moms who sprinkle glitter all over their homes in a trail-like formation so the kids can track down the Elf by following the glittery trail around their otherwise immaculate open floor plan. Shoot, I don’t vacuum enough as it is. Last thing I need to do is intentionally add to the funk on my floors.

In my home, I was certain the Elf would get lost in a dog-hair-tumbleweed and we’d never see him again. Or with our luck, the dog would find him first, eat him, and poop out his mangled head for the kids to find in the yard one day, scarring them for life. No thanks.

And then there were all the overwhelming rules and tips I kept hearing. “You can’t touch them.” “They eat cookies and hot cocoa.” “You can catch one in a lollipop trap!” “They love to make snow angels in powdered sugar!”

You’re effin’ kidding me, right? Lord only knows what I’d wake up to if I intentionally spread powdered sugar on my kitchen floor overnight. Nothing says Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus like a swarm of disease-ridden vermin.

My friends tried to get me to drink the Elf Kool-Aid by espousing the incredible disciplinary value. One of my stepsisters even said she wished she could keep the Elf out all year! “Clean your rooms or the Elf will tell Santa and you’ll get coal in your stocking!”

Oh come on now. Really? My kids clean their rooms in exchange for the best prize of all: the opportunity to continue living here. This is what is wrong with kids today. They need to be bribed to do everything! I don’t need no stinkin’ Elf for this. I just tell them what my crazed single working mother shouted to me and my brother numerous times: “I swear to GOD…I will call Santa and tell him not to come. Is that what you want? Is it?! ANSWER ME!”

Hey, it worked. Santa always came.

But then last year Grandma “discovered” The Elf on the Shelf and mailed my kids one right after Thanksgiving. She was so darn excited about it that I just didn’t have the heart to say no anymore.

And when I saw how grateful the kids were for Grandma saving the day and providing for them what their mean old hag of a mother refused to do for years, I totally caved.

The kids named him Dobbie. (Original, I know. They wanted to name our Black Lab “Blackie” too.) And it was pretty cute to see them bound out of bed every morning last December to search for him.

I have to admit, seeing the excitement on their faces made me totally want to come up with more and better ways of cracking them up everyday. When I remembered to do it, that is. There were definitely more than a few mornings when the kids heard that “Dobbie must be really tired today. Poor guy!”

By far, their favorite memory of Dobbie last year was the morning they found him hanging from the ceiling fan, spinning around and around. Minimal effort. No mess. Laughing kids. That’s my kind of Elf action.

Dobbie’s been back at the North Pole all year, but he reappeared yesterday, ready for action.

Apparently, Santa runs a pretty tight ship. When Dobbie got here last night, he obviously needed to blow off some steam. Kinda reminded me of my Uncle Jeb when he first got outta the joint.

Turns out, Dobbie likes to party.

This is how I found Dobbie this morning. I was afraid of the kids telling their friends and teachers about Dobbie’s drinking problem, so I told Dobbie to do like I do and hide the evidence.

He didn’t like that idea at all. Apparently Dobbie had crossed the line from Happy Drunk to Belligerent Drunk.

I told him to get his shit together before the kids woke up and when I turned back around to see if he was cooperating, I saw this:

 

I’m a little scared of Dobbie now. But the kids thought it was hysterical. Even little Bucket Head was making jokes and speaking in a demonic voice saying “Who wants Dobbie to butter their toast? HA HA HA!”

Thanks Dobbie. Thank you for giving me a reason to slow down a little and have a moment of fun with my kids every day. I admit it, I used to hate you, but now I think you’re pretty cool. Just put that big knife away, m’kay?

warmly,

-Iris

The Space in Between

So yeah, I totally agree with you. The way I anal-retentively carve and lovingly salt-water-bathe apple slices for my children every day is borderline insanity at its finest. But lest you think I’m that conscientious about all my mothering tasks, you should really take a look at this…

"Peek-a-boo!!!" {Eewwww!}

That’s a public restroom, folks. And those are two of my three beautiful children, joyfully exploring the space in between the stalls: that magic box that exists only in public Ladies’ Rooms.

The very box where we deposit our used feminine hygiene products so they won’t clog the toilet. The box that millions of women touch with hands that have been just handling their dirty pads and tampons.

"Mom! My head totally fits in this hole!"

I can’t think of a more pathogen-laden germ hole in a public restroom than this magic box that is sooooo appealing to children of all ages.

So yeah… about these pictures. Before you call D-FACS, let me explain. Two things are happening here.

One, I have three kids. The first kid is the “practice kid.” You’d wrap that child in a plastic bubble if you could. You make him wear a helmet… everywhere. As a baby, when his pacifier would fall to the ground, you would boil it. You probably also had a number of back up binkies sterilized in your high-end diaper bag just in case this happened when you were out and about at a “Mommy and Me” infant swim class or story time at the library.

By the time the second kid comes along, you are a little more laid back. You know the drill and you’re not as freaked out by every little thing. If that pacifier falls to the ground, you quickly rinse it in the sink. You have a back up binkie, but you can’t find it. And P.U., how long has this dirty diaper been in my diaper bag?

Third child? Fuhgetaboudit. You are so tired and overwhelmed all the time that your previously high standards are out the window. When that pacifier hits the floor, you pick it up and dip it in your 32 ounce Diet Coke to wash it off, then you lick it. Good as new. Diaper bag? What diaper bag? You have one diaper, a stack of Chick-Fil-A napkins, and a juice box in the bottom of your purse. It will have to do.

So yes, I’m tired, I’m jaded, and my hygiene standards are low.

And if you’ve ever taken a 4 year old boy into a public restroom, you know how revolting and exhausting it is. They crawl on the floor. They touch EVERYTHING. They put their heads dangerously close to the toilet bowl to see what’s in there.

Like George Costanza, my 4 year old son must completely disrobe to drop the kids at the pool. And where do those clothes go when he starts ripping them from his body before I can free my hands to catch them? The floor. My apologies to this nice man who is likely to have a seizure if he reads this.

Your gentle pleas of “Honey, that’s gross, don’t touch that please,” quickly morph into verbal assaults of “STOP IT!” and “NO NO NO NO NO” and “OH MY GOD, GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THAT TOILET!” You fear that if you utter any version of “No” one more time, you will snap. You will. And it won’t be pretty. So you accept the things you cannot change and vow to give the kid the scrubbing of his life when you get home.

The second force at work here is the fact that I am a writer, a blogger, a digital expositionist. Bloggers see the world through a different lens. Suddenly everything in your life has an angle and a story to go with it. If you can capture an image of it somehow, even better. My friend Kate sums it up best in her brilliant post, A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging:

Get used to disapproving looks from other mothers when your child falls in the street and you scramble for the camera instead of picking her up.

Guilty as charged. Who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth like this:

"I see you! Wait...what's that smell?"

Hey, at least the box was empty, right? I like to believe that even I would have put the kibosh on this rousing game of Peek-a-Boo if it was happening above the rising fumes of a freshly deposited maxi pad.

There is a very wide space in between the mother I was 11 years ago and the mother I am today. Just like the wide space between my over-the-top apple prepping standards and my apparently lacking maternal instinct to shield my children from blood-borne pathogens. And frankly, I enjoy that space. There is a lot of wiggle room there. Room to breathe and to make mistakes. It’s a good thing.

So please, know that the mom who buys a special cleaner to wash potential poo off the kids’ apples, also lets her kids stick their FACES in the dirty tampon receptacle… and photographs it. Awesome.

The space in between… clearly enormous and inconsistent, but also somewhat  entertaining in a trainwrecky sort of way, no? Next time you are beating yourself up for a parenting sin, come on over. I’ll wrap you up, {deposit you in a metal bin}, and make you feel better.

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