Seeing 20/20

In a family with kids, weekends are less of an end-of-week vacation and more of an opportunity to sneak in a few more chores and errands (and tears).  That is why I spent the majority of a crisp, glowing Saturday afternoon under the rejuvenating fluorescent lighting in the eye doctor’s office with both bigger boys.  To them, it was an opportunity to get something (like buy something.  Something new.  They have a problem with material possessions).  Number One repeatedly stated that he wanted glasses because they’d look so cool with his long hair and braces (!!) and Number Two kept stressing that although he wanted glasses, he didn’t want those things that go in your eyes.  “Contacts?” I asked. 

 “Yeah, I don’t want anything touching my eyes.” He looked out the window in a Focalin trance.  I should have known at that statement and the defeated body language that there may be an issue in the near future, but I waved aside his discomfort and laughed. 

 “Only bigger kids and adults get contacts!  Don’t worry; nothing is going to touch your eye.  The eye doctor is the easiest doctor to go to.”

 “Am I going to get eye drops?” I could hear the worry and once again, I chuckled.

 Haha.  Kid stress is hilarious.

 “No.  Why would you get eye drops?  You don’t have pink eye.”  Oh, woe is me for my ignorance and failure to predict that what can go wrong, will.  Of course he was going to get eye drops – dilation is the only way in which an eye doctor can prescribe glasses for a child with impaired vision.  One guess as to how I know that.

 Their excitement over the possibility of glasses grew as we neared the mall, as did their eyes as we walked past the indoor bungee jump and it’s corresponding sign – ONLY $7.00 FOR FIVE MINUTES!!!  “Mom!  Can we do it? I know you’re going to take us after the doctor!  That’s a surprise, right?  If we’re good we get to go.” 

 Hmm.  Noooo.  Never crossed my mind.  And wasn’t going to happen.  “What is seven times two?  Sorry, no.  Maybe another day you two can convince Dad to bring you.”  Passed the buck.

 Let me interject a little something here: I am a big believer in fate and signs, though I don’t usually internalize those signs and allow them to help me make decisions based on logic.  Nope.  I see them – don’t get me wrong – and I count them as they lead up to whatever climactic outburst is in my future, but I rarely heed their unspoken advise.  Case in point:  

 Sign #1:  I went the wrong way on the way to the eye doctor. 

 Sign #2:  As we walked up to the reception desk, the receptionist asked if I received their message about my insurance (no, I didn’t get that message.  I may have a problem with phones) – yep, what can go wrong, will.  They couldn’t find us in the system and for sure the glasses wouldn’t be covered.  Sigh.  The exam will, though, she told us, so I breathed a little easier . . . until Number Two had to get the puff of air test. 

 Sign #3:  Unfortunately, he watched his older brother do it and even though Number One laughed, Number Two was whining and wiggling, saying, “Nooo.  No.  I won’t do it.  No.”  I saw this coming a mile away.  Four tries later, the tech was able to get his first eye.  Three more tries and the second eye was done, though not without tears.  I, being the no nonsense mom that I am, actually grabbed him by the temples and held his head still, threatening to hold his eyelids open if he wouldn’t stop closing them.  I was subconsciously practicing for the feared eye drops.

 The eye doctor came in and determined Number One could see at 20/20 or better – saved a bunch of money with that little blessing.  Number Two, though, was deemed to see at 20/40 and needed corrective lenses.  We figured as much, so not too much of a shock . . . until the doctor brightly announced these words: “Okay, we’re almost done – if your mom agrees, all we have to do now is put a few drops in your eyes so we –“

 And the climax:  “No.  No.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  Nooo!”  I watched with slight surprise as a fully medicated Number Two actually slid down the chair, hands on his eyes, crying already.  “No drops.  You said no drops.  You liar.  You’re a liar!!  I hate you!”

 “Hey, it’s gotta get done.  No chance of getting out of it.”  Ms. No Nonsense was in control, I kidded myself.

 I knew, based on my experience with Number Two’s fits, that with a little cajoling and perhaps even the dreaded bribe, I could get him to relax enough to just take the eye drops, so I tried offering ice cream.  I tried offering candy.  I tried begging (please, just let her put them in.  They don’t hurt.  Please.) and lost all self-respect.  The doctor tried begging.  I tried holding him down, but being twenty pounds and 7 inches taller than the last time I needed to hold him down really put a damper on my control.  He nearly banged his head on the corner of the table, and since I was struggling to keep his hands away from his face so the doctor could squeeze the drops in, he started kicking his feet, missing the doctor’s thigh by millimeters.  The whole time he continued to scream, “I hate you!  You’re a liar!  Liar!”

 Finally, I gave up the struggle and a light went on.  “He has oppositional defiant disorder,” I lamented, “do we have to do this?”  And that’s how I know a child needs to be dilated to obtain a prescription.  Every situation is a chance to learn something new.  “Is there a m-a-l-e  d-o-c here?”  As if Number Two was three years old and couldn’t spell.  The doctor looked at me, bewildered.  “It’s not personal, he just does better with men.  He usually just does what they say.  They’re gruffer.”  I felt like an idiot saying it, but . . . I was at a loss.  In hindsight, I should really be reading all those helpful articles I signed up to have e-mailed to me from a great ADHD website.

 Enter a male optician, 40ish, blonde, soft-spoken, and smiling.  Not exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted someone tall, dark and scary looking to sweep in and say, “Okay, we’re doing this.  One drop, two and we’re done.”  Nope.  What I got was a sweet child-like man who did not want to use force (probably the best thing anyway).  He tried bribing with candy.  He tried bribing with a mini field trip to the lab where he made glasses.  Still Number Two had his hands on his eyes, crying and kicking – looking a little ridiculous alone on the chair, fighting just the idea of something.  The optician spent nearly fifteen minutes trying to convince this ball of tears and squeals to just take the eye drops, during which time I dithered between feeling crappy about the doctors’ wasted time and feeling crappy for Number Two’s stress.

 In the end, I did what any other self-respecting parent would do.  I caved.  I asked for another appointment so that Dad could bring him and I could take my flaming cheeks and get the h-e-double hockey sticks outta there.  Yeah, I passed the buck again.  Embarrassment had never felt so deserved as I should have a) realized that special needs require special prep and b) had a plan in place for the tantrum I should have seen coming. But before I could go, the optician came up behind me and whispered conspiratorially, “I even tried to pay for a bungee jump.  No dice.  Sorry Mom.”

 Am I right to be doubly embarrassed that a perfect stranger offered his own money to convince my child to do what his mom says?  Was anything I did during this trip right?  Am I screwing up my kid? Maybe the answer to the latter is one I don’t want to hear, as just this morning I caught myself reminding (teasing, nagging) him that there are only three more days until he gets the eye drops.  And they might hurt this time. 

 

A single pair of shoes

This afternoon I sat in the kitchen, wearing my big girl panties in expectation of the brawl sure to happen as the boys walked in from school.  Immediately, there was arguing about a situation on the bus (yeah, this is everyday, nothing new here), followed by, “Take that off the floor – I tell you every single day to hang your backpack.  Why can’t you just follow the directions ONE TIME?” followed by, “Mom, this is my last granola bar.  I only had three already, just this one. Why mom, whyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!  I’m very starving!  I didn’t get time to eat!!!!!!!!!”  Followed by, “I said it’s time for homework.  Now pull your head out of your butt, take your finger out of your nose and pick up that pencil!” Then this is usually followed by more yelling (obviously not by just the kids), threatening and finally tears.  Tears always.   In the past month (and strangely it is roughly the amount of time school has been in session), I can say with complete confidence that I have cried every single weekday.   Sometimes it’s out of frustration, but most of the time it’s shame – shame at how I handled a situation, shame that I don’t know what to do, shame that I haven’t sought out the help we all need, and shame that I always know that there is someone out there in this same predicament who is handling all the same struggles with more grace than I’ve been faking – and they are probably the real fricken deal.  Graceful, that is. 

 I’m sure there are a lot of mothers of special needs kids (yeah, I consider ADHD and ODD special needs.  Sue me.) who may read this and think, “so what?  You’re not so special – we all go through this, and you are actually pretty lucky – the steady income from hubby’s job, the health of the entire family, etc.” and to that I say, “Hah!” And, “You’re right, I am lucky.”  But at the same time, those positives don’t necessarily deflect the negatives; they just make dealing with the negatives a little less stressful with room to breathe and focus on the behavioral issues and not hospital stays, babies crying, daycare scheduling, etc.  Actually, if anything, the positives may tend to magnify the negatives as one in a comfortable situation has nothing else to complain about, if you get my drift.  But maybe I’m just a complainer.  

 But here we were again in my kitchen, this time hours after homework.  My youngest was in bed for an hour already and it was only 8:30 (hey, sometime’s an introvert’s gotta prioritize – I need my down time free of having to formulate words when I don’t want to).  My two older ones were at the island counter, elbow deep in cereal and the proof was in the crumbs and mess all over.  I walked in with the intention of getting a cup of tea but was instead interrupted by half a milk footprint, a quarter cup of Special K with Red Berries crushed into the grout, the open milk gallon on the counter, refrigerator door open, and yep, there was the cat nosing all the way in the second shelf of the frig, as if the rest of the activity wasn’t enough.

 Son #1 (not as in NUMBER ONE! the favorite, as in number one, the oldest):  I have more milk than you.

 Son #2 (yeah, the middle child.  And the one with ADHD.  And ODD.): BOOCHYKABOOCHYBOOCHYKOWKOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!.  (This is screamed.  With a smile.)

 Son #1: Moooooommmmmmm.  His disgust with my silence immediately following his brother’s outburst shames me into action, though he acts as if I wasn’t standing right there, head pounding and cleaning up the mess they made.  

 Here comes my uncool moment . . . wait for it while they continue arguing and I turn and find an empty glass just sitting on the kitchen floor next to a pair of little shoes.  It might be the little shoes that push me over the edge, and why not? Something was going to eventually.   I had my bet on something son #2 did or said as is usually the case, but it seems he got a reprieve.  ‘Bout time.

 “AAAAAAALLLLLLRRRRIIIGGGHHHT!!!!!!  That’s it.  Snack is over.  Get upstairs.”  My teeth were clenched, so this came out as “Thatsh it.  Shnack ish over. Gt upshtairsh.”  I had noticed the open kitchen window nanoseconds before opening my mouth, so I made sure to keep my voice down. Wouldn’t want the neighbors to think I’m a screamer. 

 On our way upstairs, and yes I need to walk them up to make sure son #2 actually put one foot in front of the other and moved toward a goal, I pass at least five dirty socks, half a roll of toilet paper sitting on the catwalk ledge (I can only imagine), and another empty glass.  At least this time it was on the nightstand and not the floor. 

 My blood was rushing, my cheeks hot, my hands clenched (yes, all over that silly pair of shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor).  Son #2 flings open his door, which slams into the wall in the dark room, which is dark because his younger brother was asleep in there, and promptly wakes him up. 

 I wanted to scream, and shout, and let it all out Will-I-Am style but my brain was singing a PBS song (“When you’re so mad you could roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Works for kids, why can’t I try it?)  Don’t yell, don’t yell, don’t ye-

 “GO TO BED!  All of you, in bed, eyes closed, mouths shut.  No kisses.  NOW!”

 There is was.  The mean, spiteful, angry woman that hides below the translucent layer of momness just climbed right up and out and tada-d herself to my kids.  Did it solve anything?  No.  Did it teach a lesson?  Nah, not to the kids.  Me?  Hell yeah.  An hour after all that happened, I went into each room to kiss them anyway and found a bedroom window opened.  No biggie, normally, because my antisocial doctor neighbors practically never made appearances outside their home and always keep their windows closed tight against the dirty world.  Except for tonight, apparently.  As I closed the window, I noticed their office window was wide open, light on, a figure at the desk.  Great.  So if all the kid screaming didn’t convince them we were the epitome of immaturity and dysfunction, my unhinged banshee screams did.  And if that wasn’t enough to shame me for my ill-tempered outburst, there was that sweet, not-too-innocent nine-year-old, all curled up with his little brother’s light-up stuffed animal (likely stolen from him shortly after I left the room), snoring slightly with his mouth wide open. 

 All kids are images of perfection when asleep.  You can quote me on that one.  

When applying as a writer . . .

I decided to take an unconventional approach to querying for a writing position: I’m submitting a tongue-in-cheek cover letter to a few local newspapers and keeping my fingers, toes and legs crossed (Hubby not too thrilled about the last one!).  See below for a peek into the life of a DESPERATE woman who so badly wants to be PAID to write:

 

Subject: Writer to write and make you laugh

 To whom it may concern (but specifically to someone who finds value in nonconformity):

 Please allow me to introduce myself to you.  I am a married, stay-at-home mom of three boys – and yes, the stigmas of that position, as well as the number and gender of the children, are mostly accurate as I do wear pajamas most days, spend the majority of time yelling, and my kids almost never hear my voice or say please and thank you to the woman who gave them life.  My current job titles include, but are not limited to: chef, housekeeper, laundress, personal assistant to a handful (or fistful, depending on the day) of demanding and inflexible men, hostage negotiator, babysitter, party planner, life coach, nurse, child psychologist and bartender (though the latter two should never be confused with each other).  I would add that I have perfected the art of butt wiping, but I feel that may be a little too risqué on a cover letter for this classy lady. 

 Let me warn you that this may be a bit wordy, but if I am succinct, I am not funny.  If I am not funny, I should not assume that I have a snowball’s chance in . . . well, you get the idea.  I am interested in sharing my plethora of specialties with your publication in the form of written entertainment.  I am no longer able to entertain my current bosses with my biting wit and somewhat questionable sarcasm, as I am afraid they’ve all developed immunities to my charms. 

 I propose that I write a column documenting my somewhat hellish experiences with my little animals (one of which has special needs – always a fun addition of fuel to the fire).  They have a knack for creating drama everywhere they go and I have a knack for overdramatizing their antics, so we, as a team, would be tumultuously entertaining! My dream is to give you and your readers a front row seat to the disorganized hilarity that ensues every day.  A number of your readers are parents and, being one myself, I know stressed out parents would appreciate a tongue-in-cheek column about parenting and experiencing the area with young and rambunctious children in tow.

 Of course, nothing in this world is free, especially concerning an aging woman under the influence of little boys (ahem, someone needs to pay for my hair dye and wrinkle cream).  They suck every ounce of worth and youth out of me so I would expect some compensation for my hard work and certain misery while my boys embarrass themselves and me for your entertainment.

 I would also like the freedom to come in to work late and take random days off.   My current positions don’t allow any vacation days, so I hope I can count on you to assist me with that.  Aside from the pajamas and yelling, I am pretty professional.  I clean up well and impress when I have to. 

I have a small amount of experience leftover from my high school newspaper, but that was ages ago (honesty will get you everywhere?  Probably not, but at least I’m not embellishing my experience).  My most recent writing experience comes from a writing competition I won in Michigan, hosted by my former library district.  That’s write!  I took FIRST PLACE.  A few snippets of my work can be found below (please ignore the shameless plugging of my abilities – a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, especially when the girl won the very first competition she entered, and when her brain cells are dying at rapid speed).

 Wait.  Before I end this asking only for a column, let me be frank.  I’m not picky.  I just want to write.  And get paid.  I’ll be your admin if you need one (and I’ll write about that).  I’ll be the go-to gal for the boring function no other reporter wants to go to.  Heck, I’ll be a grammar goon or spellchecker or what-have-you.  Got a position in the mailroom?  Need someone to read and respond to your e-mails?  A research assistant?  We all have to start somewhere and I’m willing to start by cleaning the office if it means there is room to progress into the world of writing.   Be warned, though, that I will write about the condition of the office. 

 Please let me know via phone, e-mail, snail mail or hot air balloon if this situation is something that is of interest to you.  You can also expect to receive a second copy of this in the mail.  I like to cover my bases.  I want a writing job so bad I can taste it.  Strangely enough, it tastes a little like that Jell-O salad called Ambrosia. 

 Sincerely,

 Underwhelmed, underappreciated and under a pile of laundry in Sylvania