The Movie Theater Experience. With Children.

Are you gonna say something?

I text my reply: No.

BANG.

Shit.

I quickly text him these words: And again.

He replies: Do you want me to say something?

I shake my head as I type: No. It’s fine. Whatever. I’m used to kids kicking the back of my chair, right? Happens all the time in the car.

The Interrogator whispers, “Mom, are you texting Dad?”

Me: “Yes, buddy.”

Interrogator: “But why are you texting him if he is sitting right there almost next to you?”

Me: “Well, because we don’t want to talk in this movie theater.”

We settle into our chairs at the Tuttleman Omniverse Theater just as the lights dim.

BANG.

Goddamn this kid behind me.

The opening scene shows a boat on the water. The Interrogator leans very close to my ear and whispers: “When’s it gonna happen, Mom?”

Me: “When’s what gonna happen?”

Interrogator: “When’s that boat gonna sink?”

Me: “The Titanic?”

Interrogator: “Yeah.”

BANG.

Motherfucker.

Me: “It already sank. It’s at the bottom of the ocean.”

Interrogator: “The real ocean or the ocean in this movie?”

Me: “Both.”

Interrogator: “Are we gonna see it?”

BANG.

Son of a bitch.

Me: “See the boat or see it sink?”

Interrogator: “See the boat when it sinks?”

Me: “After it sinks or while it sinks?”

Interrogator: “While it sinks?”

Me: “No, it happened already.”

Interrogator: “In this movie it happened?”

Me: “No. Before this movie.”

Interrogator: “Then what boat is that?”

Me: “That boat is full of scientists. They are going to take a smaller boat to the bottom of the ocean.”

BANG.

Piece of shit.

Interrogator: “What for?”

Me: “To see the Titanic. It’s down there.”

Interrogator: “Where are all the people?”

Me: “The scientists are getting on the little boat now.”

Interrogator: “No, Mom. Not those people. The people who were on the Titanic. Where are they?”

I frown, “They died, buddy. It was sad.”

Interrogator: “They died from going to the bottom of the ocean in the boat?”

BANG BANG BANG

Relentless bastard.

Me: “Most of them died because the ocean water was freezing. It brought their body temperatures down too low. And their hearts stopped working. It’s called hypothermia.”

The Interrogator leans closer: “Oh. I don’t want to get that. That hypothing.”

Me: “You probably won’t.”

His lips are on my ear now: “Don’t take me on a boat that’s gonna sink, OK, Mom?”

titanic

I nod my head, “I’ll try not to. Let’s watch now, OK?”

Interrogator: “But what happened to the bodies, Mom? After they died?”

Me: “Oh, I don’t know. Probably they became part of the earth again.”

BANG.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Interrogator: “Mom, this is boring.”

Me: “Wait, they’re almost at the Titanic. This is the cool part.”

Interrogator: “Did it sink yet?”

Me: “Yes.”

Interrogator: “Why didn’t we see it sink?”

Me: “Because it happened a long time ago.”

Interrogator: “A long time ago in this movie?”

Me: “No. A long time ago before this movie.”

Interrogator: “But why not in this movie?”

BANG.

For the love of Christ.

Me: “Because this movie isn’t about that. No more talking. Let’s watch.”

Interrogator: “It’s about the Titanic, Mom, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

Interrogator: “So I just don’t understand why we don’t see it sink. I really want to see it sink, Mom.”

Me: “Shhh. Let’s watch. They’re steering the little boat closer to the Titanic now. And that is very dangerous.”

Interrogator: “Oh, I know why it’s dangerous! Cuz of the angler fish.  And their sharp teeth, Mom. Angler fish have sharp teeth like this, Mom.”

BANG.

Should I shoot a dirty look behind me?

Interrogator: “Look at me, Mom, Look at my sharp teeth.”

I shake my head: “I can’t see your teeth in the dark.”

Me: “Use your phone to take a picture of my sharp teeth.”

Me: “After the movie. Let’s watch.”

BANG.

Dear God Almighty.

Interrogator: “Do you have any more of that licorice?”

Me: “I don’t.”

Interrogator: “Does Dad?”

Me: “I don’t think so. Let’s watch.”

BANG BANG

Would they even see me give a dirty look in the dark?

I point to the screen, “There is it! There’s the Titanic!”

Interrogator: “Where?”

Me: “That thing with seaweed on it.”

Interrogator: “That’s not a boat.”

Me: “It’s all that’s left of the boat. It’s been at the bottom of the ocean for 100 years!”

The Interrogator announces proudly: “I’m going to live to be 100 years old.”

I smile in the dark theater: “I hope you do. You’d better start eating your vegetables.”

I don’t have to see him to know his nose is crinkling as he replies: “I don’t like vegetables.”

Me: “You need them if you’re gonna be around for 93 more years.”

Interrogator: “Are you gonna live to be 100, Mom?”

I hope not.

Me: “I don’t think so, honey. Let’s watch the movie. Verb, sit down.”

Interrogator: “When we will see the angler fish?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Interrogator: “What if an angler fish broke through the glass of that boat?”

Me: “Oh, that would be awful. And scary.”

Interrogator: “Is that gonna happen?”

Me: “I don’t think so. Not in this movie.”

Interrogator: “How do you know? Did you see this movie already?”

Me: “No. Shh. Watch.”

BANG.

Jesus Christmas.

Interrogator: “Do you smell that, Mom?”

Me: “Smell what?”

Interrogator: “That smell.”

Me: “What smell?”

Interrogator: “I farted.”

On the other side of me, the Verb says: “Something smells not good.”

The Interrogator leans across me: “Guess what it is, Verb?”

The Verb pops out of his chair: “I give up.”

Interrogator: “It’s my fart, Verb. I farted in the movie theater.”

Me: “Verb, sit down.”

Verb: “Ewwww! Let me smell it again.”

Interrogator: “Wait, I’ll do another one…..OK, do you smell it?”

Verb: “Hahahahaha! Another one? I smell it! You’re sure good at doing those farts, Interrogator!”

BANG.

I wish I were on that fucking boat right now. 

Me: “OK, well, thank you for that. Verb, sit down. Interrogator, please stop talking. Let’s watch the movie, OK?”

The Interrogator leans his head on my shoulder. “Mom, I’m gonna miss you.”

Me: “When?”

Interrogator: “I’m gonna miss you when you’re dead.”

Me: “Thanks, honey. I’ll always be with you though.  You’ll carry me in your heart.”

Interrogator: “And then will you be in my belly? And then you’ll be born again?”

I shake my head: “Um, not quite. I’ll just stay in your heart.”

Interrogator: “Oh, right, cuz only girls can have babies in their bellies, right?”

Me: “Right.”

Interrogator: “That’s good cuz I don’t want a baby in my belly.”

Me: “Shh.”

BANG.

Please, baby Jesus, make it stop. Make it all stop.

Interrogator: “Mom, why’s this taking so long? When’s the Titanic gonna sink?”

Me: “Soon, honey. Hopefully really soon.”

On How Not to Disappear

I had a funny post lined up for today. But my heart has been on my yoga mat since Monday morning. I wrote this letter to my yoga instructor on Monday night, and I keep coming back to it…feeling like it’s a post.

Ang,

What’s the easiest thing for you to do once you’re a Mom?

Disappear.

I woke up this morning before 6. My husband had already left for work for the day.

I tiptoed downstairs and packed the kids’ snacks and lunches. I laid out their uniforms for school.

I woke each of them with gentle kisses and a quiet voice because loud, impatient voices put me on edge.

By the time they got to the table, each boys’ favorite breakfast was sitting at his spot.

I helped my 4 year old pull his shirt over his head, but only a little bit, because he likes to do it all by himself.

I told my 7 year old I was proud of him because he got himself dressed without needing any reminders.

I remembered to put my 9 year old’s medicine next to his plate.

When my 11 year old followed me into the laundry room, I listened to him complain quietly about his 9 year old brother and, instead of reprimanding him for complaining about his brother, I applauded his discretion and reminded me he can always come to me to vent.

I realized I had done everyone’s laundry but mine. So I strung together a multitude of curses as I picked through my clothes to find some pants for yoga. I whispered the curses instead of saying them aloud.

I drove the boys to school and could barely concentrate over the sound of my 4 year old screaming that he wanted me to “TURN AROUND AND GO HOME! I NEED MY WOOBIE SO I CAN SUCK MY THUMB!”  I did not drive home to get his blanket. I did not scream at him. I did not bang my head repeatedly against the steering wheel in protest…but I wanted to.

Instead I dried his tears. And I carried that 4 year old boy into school. For lots of reasons. But mostly because he asked me to.  And because I still can.

I drove 30 minutes out of my way to go to Costco so that I could buy 10 lbs of chicken. Who buys 10 lbs of chicken?  I did today. Because my 11 year old competes in Reading Olympics, and tomorrow it’s our turn to provide lunch for 15 fifth grade boys. He is obsessed with buffalo wings at the moment. But wings don’t travel well. So, I told him I’d make buffalo chicken sandwiches. I’ll be shredding that shit forever. It’s a bunch of work. But I’m doing this for my 11 year old because this is his love language. He isn’t overly affectionate. He’s guarded. But, it will make him feel loved and proud when he shares his favorite meal with his friends.

I swung by the pediatrician’s office to pick up my 9 year old’s prescription refill. I made an appointment for him to be weighed because this medication is an appetite suppressant. I had a fleeting moment of sadness that my beautiful child has inherited an attention disorder. And that the changes in diet and the behavioral modifications weren’t the answers. Then I remembered what an attention disorder looks like for an adult who isn’t medicated. It looks like more work than you ever thought you’d have to give to your marriage, to your job, to your friendships…and still coming up short. It looks like a lifetime of regrets. It looks like severe depression. Then I felt better about giving my son that medicine. Because we are giving him a chance at a better outcome than that. And my boy deserves that chance. Doesn’t everyone?

I dropped that prescription off at the pharmacy.

I rolled my windows down as I drove because today was a glorious day and I wanted to experience every ounce of its glory. My papers flew all over the minivan…the 9 year old minivan that is making an alarming humming noise but has to last us for 1 more year…but I didn’t care. I kept the windows down anyway. And I turned the radio up. And I sang.

I showered quickly, then cleaned and sliced 7 lbs of strawberries. Also for Reading Olympics. These boys eat like fucking kings.

I grabbed 4 water bottles, a vat of Goldfish, 3 lacrosse sticks, a frisbee, a basketball, and a football. I threw them all into the car and drove to pick up the kids from school.

My 9 year old had robotics class after school, but he forgot. When I reminded him, he got tears in his eyes and was disappointed that he’d forgotten…and worried that he’d miss something. I put my arm around him, and reassured my sensitive boy that the class hadn’t started yet. I took my 7 year old’s hand and pointed my 9 year old to his robotics teacher.

I hung by the monkey bars while my 7 year old showed me for the very first time that he is strong enough and brave enough to navigate them. Nothing comes naturally for him except for his smile. He has to work harder than all of his brothers. It makes me worry more about him. But it makes me love him with a ferocity that I reserve only for him. When he showed me that he could climb across those monkey bars, I wanted to cry. I wanted to jump up and down and lift him up and scream to everyone there, “do you know how hard he has worked for this? Do you know about his low muscle tone? And the occupational and physical therapy he’s endured to get to this point?” But I didn’t. I choked back my tears. I opened my arms. He flashed me that smile, then he leaned into my embrace. I whispered, “I’m proud of how hard you worked to climb across those monkey bars. I love to watch you climb.” I chose my words carefully because I’ve read books that suggest I should reward my kids’ effort, not their achievements.

When really I just wanted to say, “Nobody has ever loved anyone in the history of the entire world as much as I love you.”

on how not to disappear

I played tag with my 4 year old. I rolled up his pants because he was hot. I swept his hair off his head. I kissed the white scar that stood out prominently against his pink cheeks.

I let my 11 year old hang out inside school with a friend of his because he claimed it was too hot outside. It was a big deal to him that I trusted him to act responsibly, and it made me happy that he indeed acted responsibly.

I sat on a bench at the playground with a woman who is painfully shy and an absolute comedic genius. She is a dear friend. I laughed with her, and we watched our boys together, and we marveled at their friendships and their limbs growing longer, and the feel of the sun on our faces.

I collected my boys and all of their backpacks, and we drove home.

I stood at the counter to eat my dinner while I put their dinners on plates and listened to them laughing with their father. I was just distracted enough not to know what they laughed about, but tuned in just enough to appreciate the sound of their laughter.

I layered 7 lbs of chicken between two crockpots, slathered it in buffalo sauce, and topped it off with powdered ranch dressing.

I kissed each of them goodbye and drove back to their school…for the third time today…to listen to my 11 year old’s science teacher talk to the 5th grade parents about how he will approach sex education with our boys in the coming weeks. I decided I should tell my oldest son about my period…because I know this boy, and he hates to feel like he’s the last one to know something. If it comes as a surprise to him in class, he’ll be frustrated. I started to get distracted thinking about how I would explain it to him. But I caught myself and reminded myself to listen to my son’s teacher. And I’m glad I did, because I felt lucky. He talked about what a privilege it is to be a part of something so important in our boys’ lives. While he spoke, I looked around his room, and was surprised to find a snake slithering around in its cage a mere 2 feet behind my head. It freaked me out a touch, but mostly I felt lucky again. My kids dig snakes. And this is their science classroom. And there’s a snake in here. And that is sweet. And, speaking of snakes, can’t my son’s science teacher just tell them that their penises could fall off if they catch an STD? Because that’s the approach I’m considering taking with him.

I stopped at the Acme on my way home. Because I told my oldest son I’d make homemade ranch dressing to go with his buffalo chicken sandwiches. Because there is nothing like homemade ranch dressing. I threw in some green grapes as well. To go with the strawberries. Yes, for the fucking Reading Olympics.

I got home and went straight into the kitchen. I finished the dinner dishes, packed the lunches and snacks for tomorrow, and sifted the flour and cocoa for my 11 year old’s favorite cake. Because he also requested his favorite cake for dessert at tomorrow’s…wait for it…Reading Olympics. In the hopes of licking the bowl, he joined me in the kitchen while I put the cake together. I told him then about how a girl gets her period, and he told me for the millionth time how glad he is to be a boy. His 9 year old brother joined us, and he told funny stories about robotics today. He does killer impressions, and we laughed at the ones he did for us. He was particularly wound up because he too licked the bowl from the cake. The two of them made ridiculous faces at each other and laughed in a way that I remember doing with my siblings when we were kids. A way that I still do with them now. And I thought about how happy I am that my sons have one another like we have one other. And how, even though the morning started with my oldest annoyed at his brother, the night is ending with the two of them doubled over with laughter at jokes only siblings can truly appreciate.

I kissed them goodnight, shredded the chicken FOREVA, checked the cake with a toothpick, and finally sat down to write. I should be writing a piece for my blog. But I felt so compelled to write to you.

I am way behind on my blog. I had hoped to have a book chapter to my agent this week. A holy-shit-you-nailed-this-one-Bethany funny one. The laundry is piling up so much that I have to smell it to decipher the clean from the dirty. And I live with 5 guys, so that is unspeakably nasty. The Easter baskets are still sitting on the kitchen counter. There are Christmas decorations laying on the floor in my kids’ rooms, still waiting for me to walk them upstairs to the attic. My parents are coming home from FL tomorrow. They’ve been gone for 3 months, and my Mom asked me to have some things in their refrigerator for them. I owe my son’s psychologist an email. I owe my niece a birthday gift. I have to ship my nephew’s gift…2 months late…to Arizona. I owe my Mom a birthday gift…3 months late. We put our cat down last month, and I want to write a thank you note to the hospital for being so incredibly lovely to us and so gentle with him in his last hours.

I really considered not going to yoga this morning because my cup is overflowing so fucking much I can’t see straight. It’s so far beyond overflowing. It’s like a fucking geyser.

As my friend Nina says, these are first world problems.  First world problems. But my life, like most lives, isn’t without its problems.

Every minute of my day today was about someone else. Every single minute. Virtually every thought. Except for the time that I spent on my mat. I was present for my practice. I made an effort to take my warrior pose a little deeper in my front leg. And my legs are still shaky because of it. Instead of doing a regular handstand, I decided to push myself and revisit an attempt at the bad-ass one armed handstand. And my shoulder shook with the effort, but I heard your voice in my head saying, “shaking is good”, so I stuck with it.

The stress that I felt running up those stairs to class clutching a child’s navy blue golf shirt in lieu of a towel was gone by the time our class had ended.

My To Do List was just as long.

Time was moving just as quickly.

But my attitude was entirely different.

I floated through the remainder of the day with a sense of calm and thankfulness.

I still feel it now. At midnight. As I prepare to throw the remaining 3 lbs of chicken into the crockpot to cook overnight.

The people under my roof rely on me desperately. And I don’t want to let them down. I want to be available to them in whatever capacity they need me. It’s easy to forget about what’s important for me when I feel the pull of so many things they need.

What’s the easiest thing for you to do once you’re a Mom?

Disappear.

But today I didn’t get lost.

I didn’t disappear.

I didn’t forget about me.

I willingly took a break from the madness.

I felt full of gratitude today.

Because of yoga.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ang.  For being my spiritual bartender and introducing me to this amazing practice. For holding my hand in some spots. And knowing when to let go in others.  It is exactly what I need to anchor me during this, the busiest time of my life. At a time when so much of my life is about everyone but me.

My version of leaning in. Or maybe leaning over.

My version of leaning in. Or maybe leaning over.

XO, Namaste, and all that good stuff,

Bethany