They Call me The Gatekeeper

Parenting is a tricky bastard. It moves. It shifts. It misleads. As soon as you feel you’ve got a firm grasp on it, it turns to dust in your hands, blowing right through your over-confident fingers.

It leaves you frazzled. Wishing for a do-over. It makes a fool of you.

I have been a parent for only 12 years. Yet I recognize it for the nimble minx that it is.

When I think about the kind of parent I want to be, I picture a scene from a movie. Like Diane Keaton in The Family Stone. As loving as she is loved. Filled with compassion and joy. She radiates in the company of her husband and children.The dinner table scene? It gets me. Every. Time. It. Gets. Me.

But life isn’t like a movie. The dinner table at my house is more like a scene from Animal House than The Family Stone. There’s nothing romantic about a family dinner. Real life is a bunch of rowdy kids around a table making fart noises in their armpits. They say things like, “your meatloaf is disgusting,” and, “When’s Dad going to be home, he’s more fun than you,” and “I never remember what happened at school, who do you always ask,” and “I hate everyday Math”.

Oh…wait, that last statement was mine.

Have you ever seen Bridesmaids? Remember the part when Rita talks about her 3 boys?

Well, we’re almost there. Actually, we may even be there, but I may be a little bit in denial. The disgusting part has arrived, uninvited, on my doorstep. The scent that filled my home and defined my first decade of parenting is now gone.

Not a trace of baby powder left.

Armpits whizzing past me smell like hoagies.

Sneakers left by the front door stink like roadkill that has been left to bake in the sun for days.

Showers are taking FOR.EV.ER.

When I pick through the piles of dirty laundry to locate and wash the totally overpriced and quite frankly butt-ugly Nike Elite socks that are all the rage among middle school boys, I find washcloths. Oy. Doth my nose detect a waft of shampoo when the boys emerge from the shower? It does not. I don’t want to know what’s happening in there. I don’t need to know what’s happening in there. That’s why God put doors on bathrooms. To keep some mystery in the house. If my boys could be a little less European about how frequently they shampoo, I’d be super jazzed.

I’m saying things I never thought I’d have to say aloud. Things like, “I think it’s a bad idea to be naked in the same room with the cat.”

And, “Please remove your nose from your brother’s butt cheeks. You’ll smell that fart soon enough.”

And, “Dancing on the breakfast table naked sure looks like fun. But swinging your man jewels around like that is considered inappropriate in most circles. Also, I don’t really want your penis near my avocado smoothie.”

Did you grow up watching The Cosby Show? Remember when Heathcliff Huxtable would threaten his kids, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out”?

And your parents would laugh, and you’d think, “I don’t get it. Mom and Dad are laughing. I’m supposed to be laughing, so I’ll laugh, but I don’t get it.”

We’re officially there. And, son of a bitch four times over, I get it.

Indeed. I get it.

There are no prize-winning scripts in parenting. It’s just you, your children, and the great unexpected.

What will they do?

And what, pray tell, will you say in reply?

Just last week, I sat across the dinner table from Waldorf and said things to him I never imagined I’d say to my child.

“Listen to me, and listen to me good,” I hissed, jabbing my finger in his direction to hammer my point home.

“You are acting like a colossal dick. Your attitude is crap. You had better turn it around, or when your father gets home from work, he will fucking JACK you.”

Say what? Jack you? Like car jack you? And how big is the difference between acting like a regular dick and acting like a colossal dick? Is it measurable?

But I was on a roll. And there’s no stopping Mom when she’s on a roll…

“Look at my face,” I said. “I am The Gatekeeper. Every decision that is made in this house must come through me. If you don’t change your attitude immediately, I will remove everything fun from your life. I can do that. Because I am The Gatekeeper. And I control all the things. The fun things. And the not fun things…all the things. I control them all…”

In all of the Hollywood inspired visions I’ve had of myself as a mother, I never once fantasized about cursing my oldest son out. Or threatening him physically on behalf of my husband. And I especially didn’t picture myself reaching into the depths of 1984 to channel a character played in Ghostbusters.

Does Diane Keaton do that? No she does not.

Apparently, I do.

I’m a little worried about this new phase of parenting we’re entering in my house.

We haven’t even hit driving yet.

Or sexting.

Or driving while sexting.

One thing is for sure. This parenting gig is hard. It’s nothing like the way they portray it in the movies.

I know this. Because…

I’m just a girl.

Standing in front of four boys.

Asking them to pee with some precision.

76 thoughts on “They Call me The Gatekeeper

  1. It was the best of times….it was the worst of times…..That is parenting. You have now entered a new territory. Those days of midnight feedings and toilet training were just like boot camp. They were just getting you ready for going into the real battle…Good luck.

  2. “Please remove your nose from your brother’s butt cheeks. You’ll smell that fart soon enough.” I’m crying laughing. Why is it always about butts and farts with boys? Oh god, so not looking forward to the days when they are doing things I’d rather not know about.

    • And why don’t they ever outgrow it? My husband will pull a covered wagon any chance he gets. I can’t believe these were my babies. Thanks for reading, Kathy!

  3. Thanks for the belly laugh this morning, Bethany! Now I know what I have to look forward to in a few years. He’s already whipping it out in front of everyone when we’re outside hiking, so often that I feel like he’s trying to mark his territory. At home, though, he’s all: “I need privacy!!!” Go figure.

    • Aimee, my guys are the same way outside. We hit the playground after school every day. One of the first things they do is head over to a tree and urinate. In front of the entire carline, no less. I’ll never understand them. Thanks for reading…hope you’re well!

    • Thank you, Bethany! I never thought I’d long for baby powder. Sometimes, after my youngest has been bathed and fallen asleep, I crawl into bed next to him and smell him. Inhaling like my life depends on it. There is the tiniest hint of baby smell that still lingers on him. If I am still doing this in 10 years, my issues are bigger than I imagined. But it suits me now. Thank you for reading!

    • Tracy, you should see my house. The smell is indescribable. But the furniture is a wreck as well. They wrestle. Everywhere. I often wonder how a nice girl like me got mixed up with a crowd like this. XO

  4. LOVE IT!
    Just yesterday I responded to this statement “You are not the boss of me,”…
    “Oh,listen to me bitch, yes I am most certainly the boss of you. I own you and this house is mine and while you are under this roof, I am your boss.” Neve is 5 years old…to aggressive? I think not!!!

  5. Bethany, I was right there with you, laughing and sympathizing, until the part about dancing naked on the breakfast table. At that point, the similarities between 3 girls and 4 boys end.

    • I don’t know what it is with the boys and the naked thing. Even my husband. There’s no real need for me to stay on top of the laundry with as infrequently as they wear clothes.

      Thanks for reading, Laura!

    • Who says that? And what does it mean? I wasn’t even drinking. My animal instincts took over and they are frightening. Thanks for reading!

    • I ordered one boy and 2 girls. I got 4 boys. Totally out of my league. I hope he goes back to being just a regular dick. I get all crazy when he acts like a colossal dick. Clearly. Thanks for reading, Meredith!

  6. Oh, Beth — too funny, you are!! SO loved the Notting Hill reference!!

    Parenting — it’s hard, it’s funny, it’s ALWAYS changing! This, too, shall pass – coming from the old fogie of a Mom I am ! Your honesty and humor never fail to inspire…

    • Rene, I’m glad you caught it! That is probably my favorite movie line ever. I am not so excited about this next phase of parenting. I’m going to have to roll with it and choose my words more carefully. Or just keep doing what I’m doing and write about it to entertain the masses. Which works for me too.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. This was hilarious! “Asking them to pre with precision.” I lost it. I’m so not looking forward to threes years as my almost 6 year old already has enough attitude that most teenage girls would be envious. Seriously, thanks for the laugh on a day where it was so definitely needed.

    • So glad you laughed! I don’t know what’s wrong with them that they can’t make it into the toilet bowl. Thanks for reading!

    • Please do!! Except don’t call yourself the gatekeeper because that’s when the eyes rolled back in my son’s head and I lost all credibility with him. Good luck with boy #2! It’s a wonderful thing for a boy to have a brother. Thanks for reading!

  8. I don’t know if I should thank you or swear off your blog. I have 4 kids and only the last 3 are boys. The boys are 5, 3, and 6mo. I knew I would be in for some crazy times,but that was a little more graphic of a description than I was ready for. I guess I have already had a glimpse because last week, after an out-of-control dinner, the 5 & 3yo were running around all crazy (if I recall one was at least half naked) screaming, hitting, and being quite mouthy. I lost it and told them to stop acting like a**holes. I also remember my brother’s stink and am not looking forward to that times 3. However, I do have a two story house, in which my bedroom plus extra room is down stairs with two bedrooms are upstairs. Contemplating bunking all boys up and letting daughter stay down. Fear of possibly needing to condemn the second floor after they leave.

    • I think your instincts are spot on. Herd the boys together like cattle and burn it down after they leave.

      If they would just stop acting like assholes, we wouldn’t have to remind them to stop acting like assholes. My guys feed off of one another. Exponential chaos. The dinner table is the least civilized place in the house.

      Thanks for reading!!

    • It is like living on another planet with these boys. And it’s not my first choice of planets. It’s like my backup planet.

      Thanks for reading!

    • I am going into teenage years with one eye open. They other eye will be sealed tightly because I’ll be cringing. Thanks for reading, Julie!

  9. By the time my son turned 12 he was 6 feet tall, well over 200 lbs, extremely strong, and rebellious. He was also feeling pretty superior when he told me “You can’t MAKE me do anything.”

    I surprised him by agreeing. “You’re right, I can’t. But I can make your life miserable.” NEVER underestimate the power of the gatekeeper. Lol

  10. oh my god – CRIED laughing, you are my kind of mum. I am so stealing your lines. Only two boys here, but I totally relate…. the last bit – Notting Hill reference, ‘pee with some precision’. Gold. I just lost it, my stomach HURT from laughing so much. Love your work.

  11. Thank you for making me feel better about telling my son he was acting like an a-hole for refusing to let his sister get in the bathroom to brush her teeth last night.

  12. Bethany! So great to see/read a new post from you. Didn’t even know about the book and will order it today on amazon! Congrats x’s 1000. I laughed as I always do and with two boys and 8 yrs between them I get both ends of a spectrum and nothing in the middle – the surly/sulky pre-teen and the 4 yr old who NEVER stops moving/talking/whining/eating/destroying my house/tormenting the cats/ordering everyone around. Sigh. This is why I drink.

    • Lisa, our poor cat is going through such a crisis. It’s so quiet during the day, and on the weekends (when the 5 year old is here), she is ready for a feline breakdown! Oh, the moods of the 12 year old. I know we shouldn’t take them personally, but I can’t stop myself.

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes! Hope you’re well!

    • Yes. Be glad. People say “You should be thankful you don’t have girls.” I’m like, “Really? Have you smelled my house?” Also, I don’t have the first clue about what goes on with these people all day. They come home and talk about Minecraft to one another. I could use a female in the mix just so I could have my finger on the pulse of what’s doing with my sons. Thanks for reading!

  13. I REALLY need to stop reading blog this in my cubicle! My co-workers think I’m loosing my mind with all the giggling.
    I adore your stories and writing style. Your mom voice sounds a lot like the woman raging in my head when things go wrong with my 3 boys. I can usually keep it in my head, but some days I wish I could just fly off the handle with them and see what happens. Maybe they would be shocked into improvement 🙂

    • That’s what happened with the Gatekeeper! I never curse at or around the kids. I have kept my shit together for 12 years, but the dam just broke. I need to get to yoga stat before I say something I regret. Thanks for reading, Anne Marie!

  14. I have 2 boys, 8 and 4 – and I already feel your pain. The 4yo has been doing the naked jewels dance for a few months. Oy!

    I know it only gets worse…but your post made me laugh and cry at the same time… 🙂

  15. What you wrote about the gatekeeper is so true. I tell all my friends to use their power wisely. I always thought if I ever gave a speech to a group of women it would be on the power of the mother. Don’t know where or why I would ever give this speech but I’ve got it all mapped out in my head. Most powerful piece on the chessboard? The Queen. Jesus’ first miracle? The wedding at Cana, but, it was his MOM that told him to perform it. The list goes on and on.

    Have a good one.

  16. My not so proud parenting moment: My then 17 year old daughter was being particularly crabby, unreasonable, and self absorbed. Living with a moody, unpredictable, ticking time bomb of hormones and teen angst had gotten the better of me. (Such a drastic change from the confidant, happy child she had been for so many years.) Instead of being the mature, understanding parent, I put my face inches from hers and said “I’ve got 30 years of bitch on you.”
    That was certainly not a mother/daughter moment I had ever pictured!

  17. Dang this made me laugh. I always appreciate a glimpse into a life with boys because it’s so foreign to me. Many aspects I think I could handle but the smell? Nope.

    • I love to read. For a spell, I was reading crime novels. Invariably, they talk about the smell of a dead body staying with you. I would argue the same for the stench of feet and armpits of boys fresh off a soccer field. Thanks for reading, Amy, and for tweeting!

  18. OMG I’m laughing so hard.
    I totally want to be Dianne Keaton in The Family Stone. Fierce, loyal, gentle, loving…damn.

    I have to admit I just posted about enjoying the armpit fart phase. Because mine don’t have stinky armpits yet. We’ve just had the sing-it-with-me “close the lid, flush, wash hands; no part of that is optional” lecture.

    Your father will fucking jack you? That is priceless. That is so awesome I can’t stand it. Not because it’s a model of parenting. I know that, you know that. We both like the Keaton model. But because it’s so honest and raw and dinnertime appropriate. Geez with dinner and boys and bad attitudes and the end of my rope right at 5pm.

    Thank you for this.

    • Thank you for getting that I get it, but I was a freight train and there was no stopping me! I LOVE Diane Keaton’s character in The Family Stone. The quintessential mother. We need a prequel to it. What did her dinner table look like when they were teens and Tweens?

      Thanks for reading!!

  19. Oh how I can relate. I am the mom of twin boys 7, older brother 9 & older sis 19. I am glad to know the things mine do are normal. You had me laughing! I always tell the boys they can’t be naked around the dog.

  20. Bethany dear child – NOT to worry … there’s lots of hope … it’s just a matter of time … finally, it’s all over … and I just turned 68 !!!!

  21. Love, love, love! Beth I laughed so hard I cried while reading this one. I don’t have 4 boys but I have 4 kids. 1 boy age 10, and 3 girls 9, 7, 4. Bathroom times – you nailed it! Our kids bathroom has turned into a bookstore. Sorry, but it’s nice to hear that others dinner table is a nut house. I always threaten that I’m going to glue butts to the chair. My husband & I wave the white flag. God- thank you for this one. You are do funny & real. I love real.

    • I’m so glad it’s not just my dinner experience that can hardly be described as the perfect family bonding. It’s a shit show! Sometimes I eat quickly before we all sit down together so that I’m less irritable going into it. Thanks for reading, Freedom!

  22. You are so funny . . . I laughed quietly through until this–“I’m saying things I never thought I’d have to say aloud. Things like, “I think it’s a bad idea to be naked in the same room with the cat.”” and then I laughed out loud.
    Never stop. <3

  23. This brought me great joy- I had already done this with my 6 1/2 year old and 4 year old boys: but I didn’t have a name for it. Thanks to you I do! Yipee! (Crying in coffee)
    I can also get into a lower voice register I had no idea I had..

    • Oh, that’s a skill, Emily. That lower voice register…it’s like a rite of passage once you’re a parent. Thank you so much for reading!

  24. I have instituted “silent dinners” at my house. No one is allowed to talk except to pass more food. No one gets up and we get to eat in peace. My boys are 7 and 10 and they will eat more and I choke less because I’m not yelling or swatting.

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