Bon Appetit, Dick

Parenthood is not what I expected.

I had visions of Baby Bjorns, well balanced meals, family game nights, and children who sought my advice on everything. Some of those children were supposed to be female.

I got my Baby Bjorn. So dreams do come true.

But it was strapped to an aching back around an unfortunate pair of sizable love handles. Attached to it was a wailing child who needed to be nursed. A wailing child who repeatedly reached his clammy fingers into the peanut butter sandwich I was making for his older brother. And into the jelly sandwich I was making for his other brother…the one who wouldn’t eat peanut butter. And into the yogurt I had opened for his other brother…the one who wouldn’t eat peanut butter or jelly.

Well balanced meals consist of my leaning over the sink to eat slightly more chicken than my Weight Watchers points allow in the span of 45 seconds. I slam it down with my eyes on the boys, who still play outside. Because I know if I wait for them–to come inside, wash their hands, argue over who gets the Iron Man cup, and sit down–I will be ANGRY HUNGRY and singlehandedly ruin dinner. Dinner for them looks like white pasta with butter and salt in front of two kids. Cereal in front of a third kid. Three servings of rice pilaf and a small portion of chicken for a fourth son who refuses seconds of the protein because then he might not have enough room in his stomach to finish the entire family size bag of Spicy Nacho Doritos while the rest of us attempt to watch The Voice. During which I increase the volume repeatedly over his crunching until I reach the point when I finally bark, “you may only eat the Doritos during commercial breaks, or so help me Jesus I’ll shove the entire contents of the bag down the garbage disposal!” Because, for the love of Gooooooooooooddddddddd, I just want to hear what Pharrell has to say, but I cannot hear a mother fucking thing over my child’s incessant. fucking. Dorito. crunching.

But family game nights are fun, right?


I married a man who wins every game. Every time. Scrabble. Boggle. Rummy. Pictionary. Trivial Pursuit. Payday. Yahtzee. Parcheesi. Trouble in the Bubble. You name it…he wins it. Here is an experiment in human torture I’ve designed for you. Have a sunny disposition and a willingness to play any game that your spouse suggests. Try your best, yet have your ass repeatedly handed to you. Subject your kids to the same torture. Lose. Over and over and over again. All of you. Year in and year out. Not because you want to…because he is better than all of you at everything in the world. Do this for the next 20 years. Know that the average life expectancy for a man is approximately 75 years, but that your spouse’s male relatives seem to live a little longer. So, see if you can maintain that sunny disposition and willingness to play lose every board and card game for an additional 40 years, during which time your eyes, ears, and bowels are failing. After losing, try to compartmentalize your absolute hatred for every game ever invented in the history of the universe frustration and be really flattered, excited, and downright turned on when he wants to celebrate his winning streak by having sex with you.

Struggling with that? Yeah. Me too.

Back to the kids who, in my parenting fantasy, seek out my advice on everything. I yearn for my children to come to me with their problems, lay them out over the immaculate kitchen counter, and remain my captive, willing audience as I solve them with the perfect combination of experience, reason, and wit. All over a steaming plate of homemade brownies that I’ve coincidentally just plucked from the oven.

To be fair, my boys really do seek my advice on everything. And by everything I mean everything pertaining to the laundry or dinner. “Is my new shirt clean? Do you know what we’re having for dinner? I said I am wearing short pants…not LONG! You’re not going to make me eat that, are you? Did you lay out my clothes? Why do we have to eat this meatloaf when it’s so…so….so…meatloafy? You bought me these shorts, and they bother my skin! If I eat this, I know I will throw up. That was his shirt last week, why is it my shirt this week? I don’t care if it hurts when I poop, I said I want another yogurt!”

I had ideas about what it meant to be a parent before I had children.

Being someone’s parent in real life…it’s messy.

It’s both full of dialogue and simultaneously empty of conversation.

It’s hurting someone’s feelings and doing my best to win him back before the tears have even rolled down his cheeks far enough to reach his tiny jawline.

It’s forcing two brothers to remain in a room together until it’s worked out and in the same sentence explaining that I will be in the kitchen because I need a physical break from both of them.

It’s having a conversation with your child in which he believes he is being abundantly clear, and you are left having to apply a cold compress to your eyes in the quiet of a dark room.

It’s listening to my husband reprimand our child, disagreeing with what he is saying with every fiber of my motherly being, but biting my tongue so that I don’t contradict him in front of the kids.

It’s so much emotional work and so little positive feedback.

It’s one unwelcome, unexpected fiasco after another.

A few months ago, I made an announcement to B&B. “I’ve made a decision. I want to stop railing against the unexpected. Instead I want to try to embrace it.”

To emphasize my point, and maybe to remind myself that I’d had this epiphany, I hung a picture over our dining room table. It’s a picture my husband shot of an area in Philadelphia that is laden with graffiti. It’s one of my favorite pictures. There’s so much mess, and so much chaos. But, there’s beauty amid the chaos.

This says "bon appetit", don't you think?

This says “bon appetit”, don’t you think?

“Wow,” he remarked. “That’s a bold one. I don’t think most people would hang it in their dining room.”

“That’s why I like it,” I agreed. “Because fuck most people. It’s busy, and messy. And unexpected. Like us.”

The picture had been hanging in the dining room for a few days when the Verb decided to stand on a chair and inspect it more closely.

“Did Dad take this picture?” he asked.

“Mm hmm,” I answered.

“It’s kinda dirty, but I like it. Her lips are giant. And there are lots of like…words. Hey, I can even read one. It says ‘smile’ on this girl’s face! Mom, I can read it!”

I turned away from the dishes I was washing and gave him a smile of my own.

I knew this was the right picture to hang in that spot. Even my youngest son is finding the calm in the chaos and the beauty in the unexpected.

It was one of those parenting moments when I felt like I had nailed it.


I turned back to the dishes as the Verb asked me, “Mom, who is Dick?”

“Um, I don’t think I know anyone named Dick.”

“This girl in Dad’s picture knows Dick. It says so right on her nose! ‘She…suck…dick.'”

Yes indeedy.

So parenthood is not what I expected.

I said that already, right?


Who’s On Third?

Yoohoo! Houston! It’s me, Bethany!

Yep, we have a problem.

There’s a teenager in the house.

Waldorf is now 13.

And because, overwhelmingly, the response to an article I wrote for was “Read Masterminds and Wingman by Rosalind Wiseman,” I bought the book and have been reading it.

I think I’m not supposed to ask my teenage son direct questions. At least not about school the minute he gets into the car. On that I’m fairly clear.

I’m not sure if the same applies when I’m picking him up from a social event.

Which recently happened.

And I haven’t read all of Masterminds and Wingmen, so proceed with one eye opened. And keep the other eye on your delicious toddler who is right now pulling on your pant leg and sucking on zwieback while you try to read. Know that one day, this too will be your life.


“So, your brother had a really fun time at his party.  He told me he played violent video games.” I start with this nugget as soon as the host closes the door behind us.

See what I did there? I am talking to him, but not about him. And I’m speaking his language. The language of video games. Also, I don’t know if this is right or wrong. But we’re in it together now, so just roll with me.  

“Violent video games? Hmm. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that,” he replies.

“It’s disturbing to me, but he seemed excited about it.” Because duh. Violent video games are fucking disturbing.  

We cross the quiet street side by side and he slides into the passenger seat of my car. At 5’8”, Waldorf is three inches taller than I am. Unless we drive somewhere as a family, he has permanently staked his claim to shotgun until he graduates to the driver’s seat.

Am I supposed to ask him now if he had fun? Or am I not supposed to ask him? Is that question off limits altogether? Is it school I’m not supposed to ask him about or is it everything?

Wait, am I even allowed to talk?

I haven’t read that far in the book yet.

You see, I want to read the entire book, but FOUR KIDS.

He breaks the silence with, “Speaking of violence, I almost got violent.”

Oh, great. More violence. “Really? In a video game?”

“No. At the party,” he says matter-of-factly.

Well, now I’m going to make some extra turns and go home the long way. Because what the hell is this?

“Oh, dear.” Oof, that’s not the right thing to say. “What happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened. One of my friends was acting…out of control,” he is casual, but out of the corner of my eye, I notice he is flexing and unflexing his fingers as he speaks.

“Define ‘out of control’,” I say in an award winning attempt to keep the alarm out of my voice. Despite the fact that my throat is closing.

“Like a dog without a leash,” he replies without hesitation.

“Wow,” is all I can manage.

Because Wow

A. We don’t have a dog.

B.That’s quite a metaphor for this particular boy.

“Exactly,” he says as though he has illustrated his point clearly. Game Over, Mom. Discussion Closed, lady.

“Well, some dogs are OK without leashes. Like Josephine who walks across the school playground? But other dogs always need to be on a leash,” I point out.

I can’t see him in the dark, but I don’t need to to know that he is rolling his eyes as he turns to address my profile, “Josephine, if you remember correctly, attacked another dog on the playground last year. You saw it with your own eyes. Which proves my point.”

“What point is that?” I ask.


“Waldorf? Which point?”

“My. Point. That all dogs need leashes.” Again, duh.

I am so confused. Was there a dog at the party? Two dogs? Was his friend acting like a dog towards the girls? Pantomiming a four legged animal? Or acting like a metaphorical dog in a sexual manner?

“So, what does that mean in human terms? Being a dog without a leash?” I ask.

“You know what it means,” he fires back.

“Does it mean he was disrespectful? Was he inappropriate? Was he destructive in someone else’s home?”

“I don’t have time for specifics. You know what it means,” he snaps.

“I do?”

I do??




What Would Rosalind Wiseman Do?

“What do you think I think it means?” I ask. It sounds like something a psychiatrist might say. I don’t know whether that’s a stroke of genius or the kiss of death. But it’s all I have.

“Oh, it means what you think it means,” he says.


“What do you think it means?” Again with the shrink speak.

“What I think is different from what you think. But in this case, we’re both right,” he shrugs.

“We are?”

We are????

“Yes,” he crosses his arms and looks out the window.

I’m so confused. I’m so confused! Should I call the parents who just hosted my son and see if their dog is OK? Did someone let their dog out without a leash?

He interrupts my frantic thoughts, “Listen, when someone is out of control, there is only one thing that can happen, and you know what it is.”

“I do?”


“Can you give me a hint? Because I feel really tired in my brain and I don’t know the one thing that can happen when someone is out of control.” Help me. For the love of god, help me.

“All you need to know is I handled it,” he replies.

You handled it?” I ask.

“That’s what I said.”

“Did you handle it properly?” I ask.

“I know how to handle these things. I handle them all the time. It falls on me. And so…I do it.”

Don't worry, Ma. I handled it.

Don’t worry, Ma. I handled it.

Now the moment I publish this, I’m going to get a barrage of texts from my Mom friends. “Spill it. Who is the dog without a leash? You’d tell me if it were my son, right?”

Who it was and what happened are inconsequential.

There is a much bigger issue here.


We had a serious conversation. It appeared he felt that he needed to get it off his chest. And I love that he knew he could tell me.

But I am so very confused.


Later that night, after we send Waldorf to bed, B&B catches me digging through the bottom of a Lucky Charms cereal box.

“You don’t eat that cereal,” he says.

“I’m not eating the cereal. I’m looking for the secret decoder ring at the bottom.”

I relay the exchange I had in the car to my husband.

He laughs and remarks, “Good for him. Handling it.”

OMFG. Not him too.

“You’re not helping me. What does that mean?” I ask.

He shrugs, “I don’t know. Did he duct tape the dude to a chair or something? Pull him aside and tell him he was acting like a dick?”

I wave my hands frantically in front of me, “I don’t know! I need you to get to the bottom of it. I am so confused. He sounded like Luca fucking Brasi in the passenger seat of my car! But I’m not Don Corleone. I’M KAY!”

He smiles, “He’s figuring it out. Maybe that’s all you need to know. He had a conflict and he feels like he resolved it on his own. It’s OK for you to be Kay. Plus Luca Brasi is the enforcer. Which is bad-ass.”


It’s not OK.

Because Kay is the single most annoying character in The Godfather.

Even worse, Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

The good news is, I heard Rosalind Wiseman speak at my kids’ school last night. And she was fantastic!  I’m going to see if I can get a hold of her email address. Then I’ll ask her to do me a solid and clear this mess up.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading.

Also, I’ve moved on to Cracker Jack boxes.

Because I could really use that decoder ring.