I often wake up in the middle of the night, panicked that I still have a googlemillion things left to teach my daughter, and only 8 more years until she goes to college where everything I have taught her will be turned into a Bucket List of Things I Should Do to Freak Out my Mom. For example, I keep forgetting to tell her to, “always check for toilet paper before you pull your pants down.” Of course, I know this is important, and I am 44 years old – and I still forget to check.
In fact, I think I’ve had to ask my own daughter if she can “spare a square” a couple of times.
So, this not only means that I need to teach her a googlemillion things, but I need to repeat each thing a googlemillion times so it will finally sink in and she will make it to 44 years old without ever having found herself in a bathroom stall at Dairy Queen begging for toilet paper from her daughter.
My ineptitude as a mother reveals itself daily, but even I was horrified by my own failings a couple of nights ago when reading to 10-year-old Dimples from The Fire Chronicle before she went to bed.
“The universe is a mass of constantly expanding energy, and one day it will collapse upon itself. Like a cake left too long in the oven.”
“Why would you put a cake in the oven?” she derisively interrupted.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked. Then I thought, maybe she means after it’s already frosted and ready to eat. ”Not after it’s made. You know, when you’re baking it.”
Oh. My. God. My 10-year-old child does not know that cakes are made by baking them in the oven. *
I started hyperventilating.
“Where did you think cakes came from?” I managed to splurt out.
I think I blacked out.
Later that evening, as I surfed the net in search for some excerpts from Mommy Dearest to make myself feel better, I realized that I actually have made cakes with her before. It’s been awhile, but we did it together for a couple of her birthdays.
Okay. They were 5 and 6 years ago. But still.
This led me to the conclusion that it is a complete waste of time to try to be a good mother to your child before the age of 6. They remember none of it, show absolutely no gratitude, and by the time they develop any kind of memory retention, you will be too burned out to continue in the vein in which you started.
A better plan is to keep a notebook of important advice, which you can bestow upon them the first day they realize you have taught them absolutely nothing.
Here’s a list to get you started:
#1. Always check for toilet paper before you pull down your pants. Because one day your momma won’t be there to bring you some more.
Deuce. Cakes do not grow on trees.
III. When backing out of a Kroger’s parking spot, do not keep looking behind you, or your front end will dent your neighbor’s car, and you will then be faced with the dilemma of either leaving a note or driving away in shame and having that guilt on your conscience for the rest of your life.
This is just a suggested list. You can write whatever you want. But you might have to pay the price if you don’t include number III. Insurance for teenagers is expensive. I’m just sayin’.
“I’m just letting you know that Friday is going to be a Whole Day of No Obligation for me,” I informed my husband a couple of days ago.
He raised an eyebrow as if to imply that, in the World of Mrs. Cap’n Firepants, every day is one of no obligation. Since he was cooking dinner at the time of this announcement, I could somewhat see his point. However, I do actually perform some household duties on a regular basis, and have been feeling the need to boycott all of them since late October when daily obligations to family, home, and work seemed to have kicked into high gear.
“I am going to read all day in my pajamas. I might even not brush my teeth.”
“Okay,” he said. This is the same “okay” I get when I tell him I have a really great idea I have for a new invention, like bras that have interchangeable cups because no real woman has two breasts that are the same size. One of these days, I will divulge a particularly unique inspiration and he will leap up and respond, “By George, that is the most brilliant thing I have ever heard!”
So far, that day has not happened.
Despite my husband’s lack of enthusiasm for the project, I must say, that with the benefit of advance warning for all involved, including my 10-year-old daughter and the two Butts (our dogs), my second Whole Day of No Obligation has been a success.
I completed two books, and when my daughter bounced onto my bed complaining, “I’m bored,” I stifled my motherly/teacherly instinct to tell her that this would be a good time for her to clean her room, knowing full well that I would then be obligated to make sure the job was completed to my satisfaction – and I was not going to fall into that trap – and said, instead, “I’m sorry, but you will just have to entertain yourself as today is my Day of No Obligation.” And then I continued to read my book as she silently retreated. And I fervently hoped that she would not interpret that to mean, “So, go start practicing to be a serial killer who, when caught, will claim that you would have led a legally productive life if you had not had an erratic, selfish mother who refused your every wish and desire just so she could finish reading her book about serial killers.”
It is possible, I suppose, that I will have to reap the consequences of my DNO’s in the future. But, I think all in the household will agree tomorrow that their lives are much better for having given me a brief respite from laundry, entertaining, dog-bowl filling, and the general multi-tasking usually required of me on a daily basis.
Oh, and I did end up brushing my teeth. You’re supposed to enjoy your Day of No Obligation, and that is difficult to do when you have sticky teeth and a stale tongue.
Before you read on, in my defense, I would just like to say that trying to fight depression during the Christmas season, especially when you are a teacher, takes Herculean strength and not a few brain cells. Plus, I was a bit pre-occupied with the world ending and a few other things.
One more party. Last night, we had one last Christmas party to attend. And I was so looking forward to being done with them all.
The entire Firepants family was invited to this one. I had inconveniently scheduled a hair appointment right before the party, but I had planned ahead to make sure we could head over there as soon as I was done. White Elephant gift bought and wrapped. Dessert prepared. Address Google mapped.
Before my appointment, I reminded Dimples that she needed to find a “dress-up” outfit and something to use to roast marshmallows before I returned home.
(If you are new to my blog, I must inform you that I have an overactive Dorfenbergerthalamus that overheats and explodes if I am late to anything. This may seem random, but it’s a pertinent fact.)
I arrived home 40 minutes before the party.
“Dimples, do you have your dress-up outfit chosen?”
“I thi-in-n-k so.” This took 5 minutes to sort out.
“What about the marshmallow roasters?”
“No. I told Daddy, but he hasn’t found anything yet.”
I strode to the pantry and grabbed some barbecue forks.
“O.K. It’s going to take about 15 minutes to get there. Is everyone going to be ready to leave in 10 minutes?”
Cap’n Firepants spoke up. ”Yes, I’ll probably be ready. But we’re going to need to stop on the way to pick up some beer.”
“What?!!!!!!!!! You’ve been home for 2 and a half hours. Why didn’t you get beer earlier?”
“What was I supposed to do, take Dimples with me to pick up beer?”
“So, now you are going to take all of us to pick up beer?!”
5 minutes later – “Oh, I forgot I had some beer. So, we don’t need to stop for it.”
“Thank God!” This was not sarcasm. I was truly appreciative that we would not lose minutes picking up beer. My Dorfenbergerthalamus was beginning to smoke.
5 minutes later - ”O.K., everyone. Let’s go.”
Wonderbutt is coaxed into the Kitchen Corral. Mrs. P.I.B. gives us the panicked look she gives every time we leave. Armed with our required and optional party supplies, the Firepants family exits stage right.
10 minutes later, as we are flying past the airport, a sudden realization hits.
“Oh, crap. I forgot the White Elephant gift!” I exclaim.
To his credit, Cap’n Firepants, instead of letting the expletives fly, says, “Do you want me to turn around?”
I won’t list all of the options that rattled through my brain, but they included stopping at a convenience store and grabbing a can of Pringles or wrapping up the marshmallow forks in a car mat.
“Yes-s-s,” I reluctantly whisper as I sink deep into the seat and wait for my Dorfenbergerthalamus to go nuclear.
“Don’t worry, Mommy,” Dimples assures me from the back seat. ”According to my Girls’ Book of Glamour, it’s best to be fashionably late to a party. Twenty minutes is ideal.”
Yeah, tell that to my Dorfenbergerthalamus…
My daughter will be going to middle school (6th-8th grades) for the first time next year. In our area, there are several options for middle schools. We could sell our kidneys, and send her to one of the private schools, or send her to one of three middle schools which are free. One of them is our “home” school, and the other two are magnet schools to which she would need to apply.
I’ve broached the topic of the magnet schools with Dimples several times. Her response has always been that she wants to go to the same school as her friends. When I point out that the magnet schools specialize in topics that interest her, and that she is always complaining that school is boring, she re-asserts the vital necessity of attending the same school as her friends. When I told her the heart-breaking story about a boy who begged his mother to send him to one of the private schools where he could have a more challenging curriculum, promising to give up Christmas gifts until he was 18… guess what? Yeah, blah blah blah friends.
I worried that maybe I had somehow instilled in Dimples too deep a value of friendship, that by my own comments over the years I had given it a higher priority than things like academic achievement – or doing what your mother says is good for you.
The other day, the magnet schools presented to Dimples’ 5th grade class. Later in the day, I talked to one of the 5th grade teachers, and confided Dimples’ deep desire to remain with her friends.
“Oh, you know what the magnet school guy said to the kids about that?” she said. ”Ask your parents how many of their middle school friends they actually still keep in touch with.”
“Oh, that’s great!” I said. I don’t even keep up with my high school friends, so I could use that ploy again in 3 more years!
That afternoon, I prepared myself for the magnet school conversation, armed with Mr. Presenter’s clever rejoinder. I asked Dimples if she had enjoyed the presentation.
“Oh, it was great!” she said. ”But I could never go there.”
“Why?” I innocently prodded, ready for my cue.
“Because they wear uniforms, Mom, and they are so not fashionable. They have to wear khaki pants with yellow shirts! Yellow and khaki, can you believe it?”
And, for that I had no answer. Because I certainly can’t torture my daughter by forcing her to wear unfashionable clothes.
At least now I know that she has her priorities straight.
So I was telling the rest of the Firepants family about a recent post by The Bloggess about “The Elf on the Shelf”. I cleaned up the language a bit for the sake of my daughter, Dimples. I said, “It’s weird. The same day one of my students told me all about how he had woken up to find out his elf on the shelf had gotten in the pantry and thrown flour all over the kitchen floor, The Bloggess wrote about the same exact phenomenon. And her reaction was the same as mine. “Who the heck wants to clean that up? Why would I deliberately mess up my own home in the name of a creepy pixie when I already have a family that does that for me?” (That was my reaction. Hers was slightly more colorful, but definitely in the same vein.)
Dimples then said, “You should do a post about that, Mom.”
And I said, “Well, that wouldn’t be very original since I just read about it on The Bloggess, and she pretty much said everything I would say – only about 433 times better.”
And Dimples thought for a moment.
“You could have a Wonderbutt on the Shelf,” she suggested.
Now this could never happen. Because Wonderbutt would break the shelf.
But it did get me thinking.
“You know, I think I could get parents to buy into that,” I said. ”Listen to this, ‘Forget the imp that makes a mess; you need a Butt to ease your stress. All the old toys you want to throw out? You don’t need to scream and shout. Hide the Butt under their bed, and blame his appetite instead.’”
Actually, I just thought of that while I was typing. What I really said was, “What can we call him?”
And this is what we’ve come up with so far: Fool on the Stool, Messer on the Dresser, Destroyer in the Foyer, the Devourer in the Shower, the Puppy who Just Wants to Clean it Uppy, Jaws for a Cause (or Jaws for Claus), and the Evil Dog who Eats the Toys of Kids Who Don’t Listen to their Parents.
Personally, the last one is my favorite.
I’m thinking of putting it on Kickstarter. You know you want to invest…
How a Firepants Family Thanksgiving Goes Down:
The week before:
- Cap’n Firepants buys a 75 pound turkey that will be eaten by approximately 6 people.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants begs to go to a restaurant.
- Cap’n Firepants says that he loves to cook the Thanksgiving meal. It’s just the cleaning he does not enjoy. There is an implication there that Mrs. Cap’n Firepants does not like.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants begs to go to a restaurant.
The day before:
- Cap’n Firepants buys his favorite pecan pie from Bill Miller’s, and starts preparing items for the meal.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants despairs of going to a restaurant. Once the pie has been purchased, the wheels have been set in motion.
The day of:
- Cap’n Firepants begins to cook the turkey, cleaning the kitchen as he goes along.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants is thankful that she has married the greatest husband in the world, and that her anti-depressant seems to be kicking in.
- Wonderbutt waits in the kitchen for delectable bits to be dropped on the floor.
- The Globetrotters (the cousins, not the basketball team) arrive.
- The kitchen sink backs up, upchucking disgustingly dirty water into the ice machine and all over the kitchen floor. Decidedly unappetizing.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants begs to go to a restaurant.
- Wonderbutt tries to help by licking up the dirty water.
- The plumber is called, and valiantly arrives in record time so he can charge us time and a half and another half for working on a holiday. About how much it would have cost to go to a restaurant.
- The kitchen sink is fixed.
- Wonderbutt refrains from eating the plumber.
- Thanksgiving dinner is saved, and only twice as much cleaning needs to be done.
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants strongly considers feeding the leftovers to Wonderbutt, but is slightly concerned he will explode, forcing her to clean the kitchen for a third time.
The next day:
- Mrs. Cap’n Firepants begs to go to a spa.
Today, I would like to talk about Mother’s Day. Haha! See how creative I am? Everyone else is posting about Father’s Day, but not me. I do not bend to society’s norms. I do not do what everyone else does. I do not -
remember what I was going to talk about.
Oh, yes. Mother’s Day. So, I never mentioned what Cap’n Firepants gave me for Mother’s Day. (On a half-sideways note, I must say that I don’t really understand why husbands give wives anything on Mother’s Day. After all, I am not the Cap’n's mother. But, I certainly am not complaining about getting an extra gift.)
Anyways, despite the fact that I really meant it when I said that I didn’t want anything except to be able to sleep late, the Cap’n gave me a gift card to The Container Store. Now, I am pretty certain that it is no coincidence that The Container Store happens to be across the parking lot from the golf store that he went to that same day. But I was not unhappy with the gift because he wrote a very mushy note inside the gift card, and I have been asking him for about 10 years to write me a mushy note, and I would not have cared if he wrote it on a napkin that had been chewed up by Wonderbutt. And, no, I will not share the mushy note with you, partly because it’s private, but mostly because I’m not exactly sure what I did with it. But don’t tell that to the Cap’n.
Now, I do like The Container Store. But I did not realize at the time of receiving the card that it would save my marriage.
I have been referring to this summer as the Summer of Purging. And I am not referring to any kind of eating disorder. First, I moved my classroom to a new school, which necessitated some major disposing of unnecessary curriculum materials that had accumulated in the nooks and crannies of my previous room over 13 years. Now, I am in the midst of my normal Summer Closet Inspections and the Attempt to Save my Daughter’s Room from Being Overcome by Silly Slappy Hands. And, I am helping my mother-in-law scale down her belongings so she can move into an independent living facility.
Out of all the people I am dealing with, I appear to be the only reasonable one. Everyone seems intent on trying to save every last insignificant item from the Death Squad Judgement of Mrs. Cap’n Firepants. Even Wonderbutt snatched back a completely disemboweled toy I threw in the garbage the other day.
After a particularly grueling day trying to convince my mother-in-law that the entirety of her 1200 square foot apartment will not be able to be squeezed into her new 300 square foot room, the Cap’n and I then began to have a slightly not very reasonable discussion about the possibility of storing some of the apartment contents in our home. And I became pretty sure that I needed to initiate divorce proceedings immediately.
Then I remembered my gift card.
“I have some errands,” I announced to the Cap’n and Dimples.
I drove straight to the Mecca of Organization, and strolled down the aisles, leisurely admiring the order and color coordination of each section. Every time I turned a corner, I felt a bit more tension roll away.
After spending 2x the amount that was on my gift card, I was ready to return home with enough containers to control the mess that my life has become. And I told Cap’n Firepants that whatever doesn’t fit in one of the many repositories that I purchased can NOT COME INTO OUR HOUSE.
And we lived happily ever after.
When your nine year old daughter is invited to a birthday party in the middle of the afternoon, and it is located 45 minutes from your house, and the hostess of the party says, “You two should go on a date while she’s here – go see a movie or something – and you can pick her up whenever you want,” you and your husband do not say No.
And you probably don’t go on a date.
You drive around for awhile, and end up at a mattress store. Well, maybe that’s not what you would do. But that is where Cap’n Firepants and I ended up yesterday afternoon. We’ve been married 12 years. We know how to keep a marriage going strong, and it is not by arguing over which movie we should see and where we should see it and why should we pay this stupid amount of money just so we can listen to babies crying and men coughing up a lung right behind us.
When you think about it, the mattress store is really the ideal destination for a two hour break from your kid. Especially when you and your husband have been sleeping in separate rooms for the last two weeks because the mattress in your bedroom has been turning him into Quasimodo.
And the last time you took your daughter mattress shopping with you, she made you wonder why the Queen in the fairytale stuck a pea under all of those mattresses instead of piling the pallets on top of the princess so the Queen could have some peace and quiet.
Testing out mattresses with Cap’n Firepants can be quite amusing because he has a certain sense of decorum which cannot really be maintained when you are trying to determine if it is actually possible to jump onto a mattress without spilling a glass of wine. And when they don’t provide you with the glass of wine to test this theory, this just makes things more challenging.
“Go ahead, do a cannonball,” the salesperson told Cap’n Firepants.
“Yes, go ahead, do a cannonball,” I said, quite certain that it would take at least 5 glasses of wine (in his bloodstream, not perched on the mattress) to motivate the Cap’n to accept this challenge. He surprised me, though, by leaping onto the mattress – not at cannonball strength, but certainly with a bit less inhibition than Cap’n Firepants generally likes to show in public.
“O.K. I don’t want this mattress,” I declared, as the Richter scale pointer hit 9.8, and my head glanced off of the ceiling.
After dizzying lectures about foam density, breathable fabrics, and factory warranties, the salesman had me convinced that the only mattress that I should ever sleep on for the rest of my life – the one that would not only alleviate any back problems, but would prevent cancer and cure the uncommon cold – was the $10,000 one in the middle of the store.
“You could buy a car for that,” Cap’n Firepants noted.
“Who needs a car?” I asked, as I stared up at the ceiling from my bed on a cloud, and realized that, if someone paid me to write, I could not only work from home, but I could work from my bed until retirement. Heck, I might even decide not to retire.
The Cap’n, however, did not want me to give up my car for a mattress. And, for some reason yet to be explained, was not willing to give up his car, either.
This kind of put a glitch in this whole two-hour alternative to marriage counseling.
We ended up purchasing a “reasonable” mattress that, I’m pretty sure, will not balance a glass of wine, much less cure cancer.
And when we get a hole in our ceiling because I did a cannonball into bed, I am so going to blame him for not shelling out that $10,000.
Recently, I had to break some potentially unsatisfying news to my 9 year old daughter, Dimples. Friends of this blog may recall my story of the day I reluctantly admitted to her that I am, indeed, Santa Claus, and her subsequent reply, “Does Daddy know?” Her delighted response to my revelation was a great relief, for I feared that my confession might scar her for life. I should have learned then that Dimples is no ordinary child.
Unbeknownst to Dimples, I had been keeping a secret from her for the last three months. The reasons for keeping this confidential are complicated, and gave me no pleasure. But, I finally felt that the time had come to let Dimples in on what was going on.
(Before I continue, let me assure all of you that I am not pregnant, nor am I dying from some dreaded disease.)
I decided to take Dimples out for some frozen yogurt to soften the blow. After we served ourselves, we sat down, and I said, “I have something I need to tell you.”
“Is it good or bad?” she immediately asked, slightly frowning.
“Well, I guess it’s probably both.” I paused. ”Your GT teacher is leaving next year. She is going to move to the new school they are building.”
Dimples loves her GT (Gifted and Talented) teacher. I love her GT teacher. They have been together for three years now, and Dimples always has exciting things to report from their weekly classes. I knew she would not find this to be good news.
But Dimples smiled wide, showing both her famous dimples, and did a sitting jump in her seat.
“You’re not happy your teacher is leaving, are you?” I said, puzzled.
“No, but I’m happy you are taking her place!” she loudly cheered.
And she was right. I had been hired to replace her GT teacher, news that is still slightly daunting to me despite the fact that I will be forgoing a 20 minute commute for a now leisurely walk to school.
“How did you know?” I asked. She shrugged. But she was happy – thrilled, it seemed, that I would be teaching her once a week for her last year in elementary school.
Then she took another big scoop of strawberries and yogurt, and said, “Does Daddy know?”
Now, that would have been really funny if I had just told her I was pregnant…