Wednesday, July 25, 2007

dear moms of young kids around town,

If you catch me staring as your kid pitches a fit in the checkout line or at the playground, please don't think I'm feeling annoyed or being critical. I'm watching you to see how you'll respond; I'm looking for ideas, and also reference points. I want to see if you get angry, if you squeeze your child's arm with more force than necessary, if you take a deep breath and calmly lay down the law, if you grab the kid and bolt, if you ignore him. I want to know how you get to the other side of the breakdown. Because for me, one of the biggest parenting challenges is thinking quickly in those chaotic, loud, and uncomfortable moments, getting a handle on how to proceed instead of falling apart too, getting my guys, bottom line, to obey. And Christ, I have a hard enough time of it in the privacy of my own home.

These kids, they're like this tropical weather system, with energy building and forces colliding with zero predictability, though there are certainly warning signs some of the time. Even in the calm moments, I find myself wondering how long I have until the next big storm blows through. If I'm not yelling into gale force winds and trying to keep the roof on, I'm hunkering down.

There; I think I've exhausted that metaphor sufficiently, don't you? Shall we move on?

Mostly, I'm just really impressed that you've ventured out in public in the first place. I save all my errands for the day care days. And when I've got the kids, we tend to hang around at home. I bring them places only reluctantly; it's just too freaking stressful.

Stupid Daddy, in contrast, not only piles them into the car without a moment's hesitation, he runs errands with them in tow at Lowe's, or Target, or Radio Shack--places where tempting and breakable things abound. He takes them to the playground with an armada of ride-around toys, virtually guaranteeing that simultaneous meltdowns requiring immediate attention will occur on opposite sides of the park.

I don't know how he does it. I strongly suspect candy is involved.

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