I crossed another Rubicon, with my kid. Ugh. Parenting: it’s hard y’all.
Both my kids were running around in the twilight in blissful imaginary play. They were both wearing dresses (cuz that’s how we roll – and luckily the younger doesn’t mind being occasionally treated like a dress-up doll by his older sibling.)
So there was a lot of squealing and laughing and I noticed a
couple times my older kid lifted up her sibling’s dress revealing that he was
(Quick side note – can we all just agree that running around
commando in a dress is the way we should all be living regardless our gender
The younger one laughed but yelled “stop!” and kept running
But it happened a few more times, specifically just after I called them in for bedtime. And as they continued squealing and ignoring me and playing “lift the dress”, for some dumbass reason, in that moment, I was furious.
I read the riot act to my older kid about how she was crossing boundaries by exposing her brother’s hiny and this wasn’t ok and “you need to know that you are harassing him and you may be laughing right now don’t you dare laugh in my face about this it is very VERY serious. I know you’re laughing about it all, right now, but he said ‘stop’ and that means you STOP because you can’t go around lifting dresses how would you like it if I went around lifting your dress?”
At which point I did exactly that, exposing her…oh.
Welp…that didn’t prove my juvenile eye-for-an-eye point, at all.
She started laughing. And then I wanted to laugh, infuriating myself all the more, and rather than checking my anger, I channeled my giggles into greater fury.
“You need to realize this could get you in serious trouble.
If you lift someone’s dress at school or you do this when you’re older you
could go to jail. Yes, JAIL is where
you land when you lift up other peoples’ dresses.”
Man, I tell ya. I know seven year-olds are supposed to run around saying poop and laughing about butts and shaking wieners. It’s fun and funny. I laugh, too.
And I am 100% HERE for body positivity.
I don’t mean for them to keep body parts under wraps. Hell, walk around naked all day long, if you want (at home. Out in public would be a bit too much, obvi. I suppose I would head to jail, then.)
My entire point confession, here, is I was the one who snapped a little too forcefully and I crossed the line I thought I’d avoid for longer than this:
…that my kid started laughing in my face at my fury and that just sent me over the edge.
It’s human, I suppose. And it seems like a rite of passage.
But I felt so stupid, afterward. I tried to talk about it with her, after I’d banished her to her room, but she was buried in a book and just said, “Leave me alone!”
At bedtime, I covered her in kisses and re-visited the topic
that it really isn’t ok to expose body parts if someone’s screaming “no”, even
if they’re laughing. “The fact is, that’s violating someone’s personal
boundaries. Even if it’s your brother.”
But she was quickly like, “Yeah, Daddy, I get it. Stop
talking about it.”
We ended the night on a high note – prayers, a song, and a few “I love you’s”.
Hopefully I haven’t scarred her forever.
But I’m scarred – because of feeling that very first rage at
“hell hath no fury like that of a parent being laughed at by the kid they’re
trying to lecture”.
It was our “Day Out With Thomas”, when a rail-riding, full-size
“Thomas the Train” visits sleepy train stations with operable train
In our case, the Essex, CT, train station attaches some coaches to a
locomotive, followed by Thomas, and makes a 20-minute trip to the local
dump, and then back to the station.
Last year, our trip was idyllic. Ellison bounced along to the songs
during the ride, thrilled at hugging a dressed-up “Sir Topham Hat” and
riding a jankety fair rides dotting the parking lot.
This year’s day out started out euphorically. For the entirety of our
fifteen minute drive, Ellison chanted, “I want to ride Thomas!” The
cuteness drove me crazy.
At the station entrance, he skipped and chanted, “I’m so excited to see Thomas! Hooray!”
I love it when he talks like he’s reading a “Dick and Jane” book.
Colton was equal parts confused and excited.
We cheered Thomas’ arrival from the previous trip to the dump.
As we proceeded toward the boarding area, Ellison noticed a table
sponsored by PBS displaying swag and a gift basket of Thomas toys.
Ellison walked up and asked, “Can I have that?”
The PBS woman said, “It’s not for sale, sweetie, but your daddy can register to win it. Would you like a PBS pen, instead?”
“No, thank you,” he politely responded…sneeringly.
I gave my spam email and a fake address to the PBS rep woman.
As we turned to board Thomas, I saw tears streaming down Ellison’s face.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I ask.
“I wanted the Thomas basket.”
You must be kidding. I didn’t expect to be one of those parents with one of those kids crying during this supposedly idyllic day.
Also, Ellison didn’t usually begin tantrum tears silently. Usually his hands go to his wide-open mouth and his cry is deafening.
I knelt down and said, “Buddy, that basket wasn’t for sale. I’m going
to try to win it for you. But now is the exciting part. We’re gonna
Ellison whimpered and walked with fogged glasses (which adorably happens every time he cries).
We rode on Thomas for the 20 minutes in each direction to and from
the dump. The first five minutes are deafening: kids screaming and
parents frantically shouting to smile for pictures. It’s mayhem.
And then the passengers just stare at swamps and the back of
dilapidated houses located near the railroad tracks. The return ride is
Ellison sulked the entire time.
After disembarking from the train, I suggested we visit Sir Topham
Hat (some poor sot forced to dress in a stifling plush costume.)
I forgot that meant walking through a massive Thomas pop-up toy store.
Ellison’s head almost exploded as we entered the store. He sprinted
frantically around the displays grabbing and pointing. None of this
happened last year when he had no concept of acquisition.
Apparently capitalism ruined my son over the last year.
I was suddenly re-living my childhood with my mom. During our summer
road trips, my number one destination was gift shops. I’d beg her to buy
absolutely anything: toys, books, doilies, figurines, ashtrays. Didn’t
matter what. Acquisition was the name of my game. I’d hurry us through
museums, memorials and monuments to GET TO THE GIFT STORE. I’d present
crap as “educational” to help my case. Usually I came up empty-handed.
Mom was no impulse buyer.
Eighty-seven years later, I’m watching my son act like the Tasmanian Devil and asking myself, “What would Mom do?”
During the next few hours of bartering with Ellison, I looked around:
were ANY of the other parents having fun? Was I the only adult
infuriated with Thomas? Why have I become so bitter?
And then Ellison peed his pants. Again.
More tears, more internal rage.
Gavin: he’s 3. Give him a break. You need to be better about stopping to make him pee every 30 minutes.
Thomas soured me on any fairs. They’re chock-full of ways to make kids cry.
I should have managed expectations better. Do I say, “You can buy one
treat?” I suppose so. But why must I feel obligated to buy something,
anyway? Must I check asceticism at the door?
My mom never bought me shit from things like Thomas or county fairs
or street fairs or Disneyland. Because of that, I loathed festivals like
“Taste of Colorado”
or “Lakewood on Parade”. I was a diabetic in a candy store. But I
didn’t throw tantrums, cuz I expected nothing. I just wondered why we
bothered attending. Mom liked the free concerts. But Julio Iglesias was
not interesting to me as a 9-year-old (nor is he now.)
Back to my kids: how on EARTH do you manage DisneyWorld/Land/Hell? Seriously…tell me your secrets.
The day would have been more fun if we’d just gone to a lake and thrown sticks in the water.
We did exactly that later in the afternoon. And it was bliss.
When we sat down for dinner, Ellison was starving and shoveled kale
salad and asparagus into his mouth. (I know. Roll your eyes, now.) I
asked, “Has it been a good day, Buddy?”