God on High, Once is Enough

Imagine a Mom. A Mom with a deep crease in her forehead and saggy boobs.

You know.

A Regular Mom.

Imagine that Regular Mom has a husband and four sons. The poor girl is substantially outnumbered. No wonder that crease is so deep. So many boys. So little meaningful conversation. That Regular Mom with the deep crease and the saggy boobs longs to get the lowdown from her boys after school every day. How was that brownie I put in your lunch? Who did you sit with? Were your friends kind to you? Did you laugh today? What made you laugh?

But pfffft. Those boys of hers aren’t wired for chit chat. They come home from school, dump their bags precariously in the entryway where Regular Mom will trip on them, load their pockets with cheeseballs and head straight for the trampoline to beat the piss out of one another. So Regular Mom…that saint of a woman…heads into the kitchen to prepare seventeen different dishes that will be consumed by five males in the span of three minutes. She turns on Howard Stern–at least he’ll talk to her–and hopes that tonight’s dinner conversation does not include any sound, smell, or mention of flatulence. Just this once.

Regular Mom has a tough pill to swallow every March. Her kids have THE LONGEST SPRING BREAK EVER. Eleven days off from school.

In a row.

And that includes the weekends because oh yes they do so fucking count.

Many months ago, she researched what it would cost to fly that sizable family out to Arizona to visit her sister for a portion of that eleven day nut punch. A quick Google search showed that it costs too many American dollars to put six winter-weary butts on a plane headed West in the month of March.

Regular Mom’s parents don’t like shoveling snow, so they spend the cold winter months in Florida. Regular Mom did a quick Google search on the price of flights to Florida, and it turns out it costs too many American dollars to fly six people there in March too.

“Son of a motherless goat,” she said, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I do another eleven day staycation with crowd.”

Her offspring wouldn’t know a dinner conversation that didn’t include the word “fart” if it came up and bit them on their gassy little asses, but Regular Mom still wanted to connect with each and every one of her sons.

So she Googled the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge.

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Here is what she learned.

It costs $500 to:

  • frolic about in an indoor water park in ankle deep water that is arguably 50% urine from the bladders of other people’s kids,

  • spend the night in a smaller bed than she’s used to in one room that will sleep her entire family,

  • wrestle on a bathing suit unexpectedly three months earlier than she usually dreads doing, and

  • leave exhausted with the high likelihood of plantar warts in her near future.

So she said to her husband, “WHAT KIND OF A RACKET IS THIS?”

But Regular Mom’s husband said, “Think of our third son. That boy loves being in the water more than anything. Picture the look of excitement on his face when we tell him we’re going. It’s well worth the price of admission merely to see the happiness in his eyes.”

And Regular Mom thought her husband made a good point. Boy #3 is a patient soul with an infectious smile and a pure heart. So she confirmed the overnight arrangements with the vision of her elated third born son’s face in her mind’s eye. And a twitch in her actual eye from the exorbitant price of admission.

Regular Mom bought several pairs of new goggles on the sly. She crept up the stairs into the frigid, dark attic–a space not fit for a full grown adult which forces her to navigate all the clothing bins on her knees–to locate and launder the bathing suits. She packed the overnight bags surreptitiously. So great was her anticipation of her third son’s excitement, that she smiled and chuckled aloud as she prepared for their surprise overnight trip.

And when the time came to share the news with their four sons of the trip to the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge, Regular Mom and her husband assembled the children at the table.

“Please guess where we are taking you.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s New Jersey beach house.”

“No.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s Florida beach house.”

“No.”

“Arizona.”

“No.”

“Why not Arizona? I want to go to Arizona. You said we would go to Arizona one day.”

“Stop complaining. Keep guessing.”

“The Oreland Swim Club.”

“No, but close.”

“I don’t have any more guesses.

…This is a stupid game.

…Can’t you just tell us already?

…Can I watch a show?”

“OK, boys, Dad and I are taking you to…”

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. They smiled because a moment like this–when you make an announcement that elicits pure joy in the people you love so fiercely and completely–this is what makes all of the sleepless nights and the backtalk and the bad pre-teen Disney shows and the vomiting on fresh sheets at 2AM worth it. This is the moment.

“We are taking you to…

…GREAT! WOLF! LODGE!!!!”

Regular Mom craned her neck around her youngest son and looked expectantly at her third son, the sweetheart of the bunch, the boy whose smile warms her all the way to her toes.

“What?” he stammered, “WHAT?!”

“Yes!” Regular Mom nodded and clapped. “Great Wolf Lodge! The indoor water park! What do you think?!”

And her third son yelled, “I’M NOT GOING IN THE WATER! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And then he covered his crestfallen face with his hands, laid his head on the table, and proceeded to cry. Hysterically.

Not the happy tears.

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he looked back at her. And there was no need to speak. Because they were both thinking the same thing.

This, unfortunately, is what parenting is about.

Parenting is thinking you’ve got it so perfectly right…only to discover you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Parenting is the illusion of a whole lotta YES…and the reality of OH, HELL NO.

Not just one NO.

A series of NO’s.

NO’s that get progressively louder and borderline violent.

Welcome to parenthood! Jump in, the water’s great! We’re swimming in somebody else’s pee, but honestly. It couldn’t be better. Embrace the unpredictability!

They dried the tears of their third born son, hurried the children into the car just as the snow began falling, and drove North towards their destination. What should have been a ninety minute drive became ninety minute drive + sixty additional tense minutes. Because four kids.

They checked into the hotel. Donned their bathing suits. Scarfed down Uncrustables. Distributed goggles. And down to the water park the six of them schlepped.

When they were finally together as a family in the pool–before the lifeguard whistled at the oldest son for pulling the second born under water, and before the other lifeguard whistled at the youngest for taking a running leap into the pool and cannon-balling his tiny muscular frame onto the heads and necks of unsuspecting strangers, and before Regular Mom threatened her husband that if he dared to take one more picture she would rip that expensive lens off his camera and send it down the party slide in an oversized raft–Regular Mom and her husband shared a smile. They were surrounded by their children…no one crying, no one in trouble, no one demanding a snack, no one having to poop…and life was good.

Regular Mom stood contentedly in four feet of disturbingly warm water, waiting for her youngest son to launch himself into her arms, when she felt a tap on her leg underwater. She turned to find her third son breaking the surface of the pool.

“Hi, Mom,” he smiled.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she smiled back. Her smile grew bigger as she noticed his goggles weren’t properly suctioned. His eyes were swimming in little pools of water behind those goggles.

“Sorry I was in a bad mood about coming to Great Wolf Lodge, Mom,” he said quietly.

“That’s OK, buddy.”

“I thought we were going to the Lego Store, Mom. I really just wanted to go to the Lego Store. But this is fun.”

“I’m glad you’re having a good time,” What a precious boy.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely, buddy.”

He looked over both his shoulders, swam up almost on top of her and asked, “Mom, would you sacrifice yourself for me?”

What’s that now?

Regular Mom chewed on the inside of her mouth to avoid smiling, “Without hesitation.”

“Does that mean yes or no?”

“That means yes. And twice on Sunday’s,” she nodded, as she kissed his wet forehead.

“Twice on Sunday’s? What is that, Mom?”

“It means yes. I would sacrifice myself for you,” it took all her effort to keep a straight face. Especially with the chlorine rolling directly into her eyes.

He nodded his head. Looked over his shoulders once again. Emptied his goggles, dove under water, and swam off without so much as a glance back at Regular Mom.

Sacrifice myself? She wondered what he could possibly be talking about when her reverie was broken by her youngest son’s wet, flying body. Which struck her square on the side of the head.

“You were supposed to catch me!” he spat the words at her. Along with some pool water for good measure.

Once she regained her faculties and was no longer seeing two, three, and four of her children…oh, wait, that’s how many kids she actually has…she swam over to her husband.

“I don’t know what #3 has planned, but he just swam up to me like the Loch Ness fucking Monster and asked me if I would sacrifice myself for him.”

Her husband raised his eyebrows and nodded his head, “Really?” he asked. “That’s interesting. Because he asked me earlier if I know anyone who had fallen into a ravine and survived.”

Hang on, what?

“Let’s keep our eye on that kid,” Regular Mom said.

“And let’s not make plans to visit the Grand Canyon anytime soon.”

“Good call,” Regular Mom agreed.

Regular Mom, her husband, and sons enjoyed hours at the indoor water park. They stayed until well after their two younger sons’ bedtimes. They stayed until Regular Mom could feel the sting of chlorine on her eyeballs when she wasn’t even in the pool. She worried maybe the fine people of Great Wolf Lodge were vaporizing the chlorine and pumping it into the air supply to compensate for all of the peeing in the pools, and that’s when she gave her family the high sign. They trudged up the four flights of stairs to their room, and decided on sleeping arrangements.

The younger two, who were exhausted, would share the pullout sofa bed since it sat on the opposite side of a partitioned wall and offered a modicum of privacy and quiet.

The oldest boy announced, “I’m not sleeping with my other brother,” and both Regular Mom and her husband groaned.

Because that meant one of them had to share a bed with that action.

Non-stop kicking. Sideways sleeping. Talking in his sleep. Walking in his sleep. Night terrors. Hogging of covers. That’s what it’s like to share a bed with their second born son. He is a beacon of light during the day. And the angel of death in slumber.

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him,” Regular Mom’s husband grumbled. The light went out in his eyes as the gravity of the night ahead of him sunk in.

It had been a long time since Regular Mom had slept in the same bed with her oldest son. When he flopped on the bed as far away from her as possible without rolling onto the floor, she was reminded of how much he’d grown and how twelve year old boys pretty much altogether suck.

She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoon with you.”

He rolled his eyes, and replied, “As usual I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t touch me, old lady,” and then he flipped his head so she wouldn’t breathe on his face.

Regular Mom doesn’t pray very often. But, lying in an overpriced room with her family, sharing an undersized bed with her oldest son got her thinking. These are the people I love most in the world. They are my reason. Every day.

And Regular Mom was overcome with emotion.

Mostly that emotion was dread.

She lay next to her firstborn son–whose voice is deeper, whose shoulders are broader, whose feet are as big as his grandfather’s, whose upper lip is covered in peach fuzz, whose hormones are raging–and Regular Mom prayed.

“God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

It was just like Jean Val jean singing over Marius in Les Miserables.

Except it was nothing like that.

Because, it was night two of her period.

The night her uterus bleeds with the vengeance of five uteruses.

Uteri?

So her prayer went more like this:

Dear Patron Saint of Heavy Periods,

Please hear and answer my prayer. My son is 12 years old. It’s an uncomfortable age. That was a particularly awkward year for me. I remember flashes of sequins and a favorite pair of fluorescent striped corduroys.  Please, PLEASE do not let me bleed all over these white sheets.  I have nowhere to hide. If I leak, if my oldest child wakes in a pool of his mother’s uterine lining, he will be scarred for life. More scarred than I was by that awful haircut I had at 12 years old. And I’m still carrying that around.

So, um, Amen?  

Regular Mom only slept about 45 minutes total that night, so scared was she that she would bleed all over the shared bed and damage her son irrevocably.

So she lay awake all night long.

And early the next morning, when she shimmied her way out of bed, she smiled. It had been a perfect, leak-free, sleepless night. Her 12 year old son’s delicate psyche would remain intact. At least until the next family vacation.

Regular Mom’s husband had already left the reservation to take pictures get her a Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why's my coffee so cold?

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why’s my coffee so cold?

She made mental notes about the day ahead. There was packing to do and breakfast to make and hours more fun to be had. But for now, she would let her boys sleep.

Regular Mom crept over to peek around the partition at her two younger sons, who were just stirring.

“Mom, can you lay with us?” whispered the third son.

They made space for her between them, and she slipped under the sheets and wrapped her arms around her third and fourth babies.

“Mom, what o’clock is it?” asked the youngest.

“It’s still dark outside,” she whispered. “That means it’s the perfect o’clock for you to lay with Mommy.”

“Mom, are we gonna come here again? To Great Wolf Lodge?” asked her third son.

Regular Mom replied, “Well, we’re going to have fun at the waterpark again today. But I don’t know if we’ll come back after that. For our family, I think visiting Great Wolf Lodge once is probably enough.”

The two boys snuggled up against her, she kissed the tops of their heads and whispered, “This is the best part of my day.”

Her third son reached his arms around her neck and gave her an unexpected hug. He gazed up at her with that face that melts her heart and said,  “Mom, does that mean we can go to the Lego Store tomorrow? Because I really only wanted to go to the Lego Store this spring break.”

***

And that, my friends, is what spring break looks like in the life of a Regular Mom.

Just add nine more days.

Word.

 

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.”