I wouldn't say I've spent the last 3 years on any kind of "scene," unless you call a working knowledge of the PBS Kids universe a "scene." If so, then I am a Dinosaur Train Club Rat. Daniel Tiger is my JAM!

I can count on two hands the number of times I've worn high heels in the last three years, and not one of those occasions was one in which I would have called myself "tarted up." No, I didn't rock a leather minidress and gallons of eyeliner at the casual Christmas party, or on a date night to see Anthony Bourdain, or a trip to the opera with a close girlfriend.

Don't worry - I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm used to my invisibility now. I'm even comforted by my superficial sexlessness when I buy mangoes at Trader Joe's, two little boys in tow. Ain't nobody grinding up on me at Day Out with Thomas the Train. I do not worry about the heavy-lidded barista slipping something in my Americano at Starbucks.

You're talking to a girl who had to start wearing a bra at 11. I tried to close my shoulders like a bird in a storm when the gray-stubbled long-haul trucker at the gas station licked his lips and blew me a kiss, the summer before 8th grade.

Sure, sometimes I miss the validation of an automatic over-the-shoulder butt-check when I walk by. But for the most part I'm relieved I'm not a hot piece.

I just got back from a weekend in Vegas where I was relieved when the roving bands of greased-up, Axe-sprayed, boner-tucked dudes paid me no mind. 

that's right
just
keep on floatin there
dude
bro
i saw some girls
with henna tattoos
and 40-ounce daquiri cups
just around the bend
go
go to them

My maxi dresses and wedding ring might as well have been a Maryknoll Nun's habit and crucifix. It was so great, to be left alone. Except sometimes when it wasn't.

For most of my life, I kept all of my eggs in a "pretty" basket, because I got a shitload of feedback on how important it was to be pretty. I will never forget the time when, in the middle of an eye-stabbingly dull conversation, a frat guy said, "it's a good thing you're hot, because otherwise nobody would ever want to talk to you. You're not really, you know, fun or interesting."

I said, "wow" and walked away as I bit my cheek and wished I were the kind of person who would say, "maybe you're the boring one, you dick," or throw a drink in his face. I felt so sad, but not because he'd called me boring. The sad thing? I secretly agreed with him. Exhibit A: he brutally cut me halfway down to the ground, and I voluntarily shrunk the rest of the way. I wasn't that smart compared to a lot of smart people. I wasn't that funny compared to a lot of funny people. But I could hike my boobs up and make new friends all night long. As they say, anyone can kick down a door. To get to some boobs.

But at some point, when I moved to New York and accepted that I was, if not an ugly duckling, at least a three-beers-pretty chipmunk, I moved all of my eggs, every single one, from the pretty basket to the interesting basket. I don't regret that move. I chose to let pretty go. There is no universe in which I'd rather be dumb and cute.

But a funny thing happened when I stopped gauging my worth by my appearance... I started to think my appearance was worthless.

I should have been thinking, "it doesn't matter if I look good, because I am a good and interesting person." But instead I've been thinking, "good thing I'm an interesting person, because I do not look good."

Sometime in the days since I decided that there were more important things than turning heads, I started to believe that I have to be interesting, because pretty is no longer an option.

That frat guy is still in my head, only this time he's saying, "it's a good thing you're funny and interesting because nobody would want to talk to you otherwise. You're not really, like, hot." God, I wish I knew his name. I would totally find him on Facebook and sign him up for taxidermy catalogues and erectile dysfunction newsletters.

There comes a time in every woman's life, or at least the time has come in this woman's life, when she looks in the mirror and says, "well shit. I have to start drinking more water." As if dehydration were the culprit, rather than time, just time, just days and years pulling bits of beauty down to the ground to lie like dust in our footprints.

The thing is, it's those days and years that make us so much fucking better than we were - funny, smart, strong, irreverent, bold, and yes, last and least, a little sad when we catch the first glimpse of the empty skin that hangs from our arms. Oh god... My grandmother has that.

And if my days and years have helped me to become anything, it's more aware of the inconsistency of identity and personality. Now more than ever I know how dangerous it is to try to cram your whole personality into one trait, to place all your eggs in one basket. Imagine if Michael Jordan felt that he were only a person of worth so long as he was the best basketball player in the world. I'll tell you one thing, the world would be a little bit sadder without those Hanes Tagless Tee commercials.

It was funny being in Las Vegas because even though I'm old enough to know better, the impulse to impress strangers lives deep and hard, a tulip bulb defying the frost to emerge through the cracked Earth at the first hint of sun. All it took was a bachelor party in suits and white smiles, and I sat up like a well-trained cocker spaniel. Hey! Here! Me! I'm still pretty! Right? Guys? Guys?


guys?


Walking through the casino at midnight on Saturday I felt a little schizophrenic. Simultaneous, contradictory thoughts wove a broken pattern in my head:

Those guys are so cute. I wonder if they think I'm cute.
It doesn't matter if they think you're cute.
I'm not cute anymore. And that's okay.
I'm not cute anymore. I'm really sad.
Is it over?
It's not over.
You should smile at them.
Don't smile at them.
You should see if you can get one of them to buy you a drink.
Girl, this is Vegas. Ain't no cute guy dropping $26 on a cocktail for a married mother of two in a burka.
God, I don't miss this.
God, I miss this.
Those girls look skanky.
Thank God I don't look skanky.
I wish I looked a little skanky.

I still care about how I look. I care enough, at least, to put on a hat if Chicken looks at me and says, "you've got scary hair, Mommy." I care enough to make sure that my shoes match and that my shirt mostly fits. Some people might call those efforts habitual for a functioning adult, but the only habits I call my own these days are for caffeine and putting my hand over the pointy edge of the table when I can tell Buster is about to stand up.

So I can't say whether I try because I still yearn to be pretty, or I try because I have a scrap of self-respect left after the great Target-pants-wetting of aught-nine.

Regardless, it takes effort to reach par on pretty these days, and I am simultaneously sad, and far too busy to wallow now that Buster has discovered that the "lock" on the snack cupboard is just a piece of painter's tape.

he called my bluff
crafty, that one
and highly motivated
by cheddar bunnies
also
just in case you were wondering
i already tried
two pieces of tape

Thank God for my kids. Thanks to them I can adopt a preemptive nonchalance when it comes to opting out of the unofficial hot-or-not-off that is the life of a woman.

Listen, I'm not a 10. Obviously. But you should know that I'm aware of my rank. I have gracefully stepped aside, to allow cuter buns than mine to beautify the world and make your day. I have two kids and give no fucks. 

Also I write a blog with, like, seriously 25 readers now. I have more important things to do than squats and my hair.

The best part? I believe me. I'm about ready to lose those eggs, and those baskets. I'm done being one thing. Nobody is just one thing, least of all me.

It's a good thing I'm a mom, because...



Oh shit.
We have to clean up the water you spilled, babe.

But I don't want to!

I know you don't, but we have to clean up this big puddle.


Why?

Because what if somebody we like walked in the water and slipped and hurt themselves?
That would be so sad.

Yeah. That would be so sad. 
But... What if somebody we didn't like slipped and hurt himself? 
Then it would be so funny, huh? 
So we should probly not clean up. 
We should probly spill some more. 
Okay? 
I'm just gonna spill a little bit more 
and then not clean it up.

right this way
ms deschanel
and please
won't you sing for me
perhaps
accompanied by a ukelele
by the way
i love your handbag
is that
a vintage typewriter case
yeah
i thought so
Chicken put a dinosaur in his pirate ship. 

I was like
awwww shit
now that is a boy toy -


A predator
sailing the seven seas
swabbing the decks with his scaly claws
swigging rum through his carnivore jaws...
Chicken names him
Ap
Trap
Raptor.

I worry sometimes
that I've bought too many trucks
dinosaurs
and pirate ships.

Since I am one of those moms who wants
perhaps
too much
for her sons to do whatever they want,
but especially
and publicly,
girly things.

Chicken picked the Barbie chair
at the kids salon!
Facebooking it.

Chicken wanted princess diapers
from Costco!
Tweeting it.
Proud of it.
Ready to defend it.

Waiting
patiently
for someone to say
"but he's a boy"
so I can respond
coolly
puzzled
"so?"

I wish
I wish
I wish a motherfucker
would.

But see
I live in Seattle
among so many attachment parents
so everyone's like
"his spirit is so open
of course he can sit
in the Barbie Jeep
of course he can
poop
on a princess."

I'm not gonna lie
I want to sniff out
some old-school gendering
so I can be like
I SAID GOOD DAY SIR
OR MADAM
OR WHOMEVER YOU FEEL IS INSIDE YOU.

I guess we'll have to go 
I don't know
South
or 
Middle East
or
to Ted Cruzistan
to fight the good fight
that I've imagined.

But then I see Chicken
with his sharks and dinos
and trucks
and trains
and planes
and tigers
and I'm like
man
he has so many boy toys.

Then I'm like
what a faker I am. 
I am part of the system
against which I dream of raging.
Subverting the system
merely feeds the beast.
It thrives on my loathing.

I'm like
here
here son
let me take your picture
with the pale purple toy oven
and apron
great
got it.
Equality!
Now
for reals
you'd probably rather have 
this machete
wouldn't you?

I'm a half a breath away
from turning myself in 
to the cloth-diapering crew
at the organic tea shoppe
who don't even tell people
if the long-lashed, capri-panted 4-year-old is a boy or a girl.

Why does it matter?
Would you treat Rain differently?
Rain is a child of the world
nothing else matters
except the content of
Rain's
character.

And even I am like
yo
I don't know who the enemy is
but it's not pronouns
k?

And then
in my darkest moment
I listen to my son
playing dinosaur pirate
with Ap Trap Raptor
and Triceratops:

"Ooooh I'm a dinosaur!
And I'm on a pirate ship!
Woo hoo!
It smells like bananas and brownies on here!

Hey! Hey! Hey I know!
Let's get all the dinosaurs in the ship
so they can say 
wheeeeee!
It's a brownie party!
Wa-hoooooooo!

Let's do it,
Okay?

Okay!

First we need some flour and sugar.
And probably some tea
with milk and honey.

Would you please
if you don't mind
Mr. Ap Trap
get the tea?

Of course, Triceratops!

Thank you, Ap Trap!

You're so welcome, Triceratops! 
This is going to be
such a lovely party."

My son,
my boy
is playing
dinosaur
pirate
tea party.

And I 
am blogging about it.
Proud of it.
That's my boy
playing
like
a boy
and a girl
and just
just
a kid.

Isn't he
unspeakably
beautiful?

The only way this could be better
would be
if I'd stop congratulating myself
for doing the decent thing,
for nurturing
(or maybe just
not actively suppressing)
my child's natural willingness
to play with
whatever the hell he wants.

Chicken
Ap Trap
and Triceratops
give no shits
about gender.

They
(like every sir,
madam,
and indefinite, long-lashed Rain)
want warm brownies,
sweet tea,
and a sunny day on the deep blue sea.
Hang up your spurs, cowgirl.  Can't nobody win today.

See, even there when I wrote cowgirl? My inner critic said, "that's diminuitive. Make it cowlady." Then my other inner critic said, "you're stupid shut up there's no such thing as a cowlady," and then the first inner critic said, "BECAUSE OF THE PATRIARCHY."

Can't nobody win, but especially not me.

Hey mom in a dirty hoodie with holes in the sleeves?
What are you trying to prove?
That you're above caring about how you look?
You're NOT.
You're making us all look like slobs. 

Hey mom with a blowout and a cashmere sweater?
What are you trying to prove?
That you're above us mere mortals?
You're NOT.
You're making us all look like slobs. 

Hey Chicken slamming the metal truck on the hardwood floor over and over again?
Seriously?
I thought I couldn't feel any worse today.

Hey Chicken taking me hand and asking "how can I help you Mommy?"
Seriously?
Now I know I can't feel any worse today.

Hey pizza for lunch?
That's the last thing I need.

Hey green salad for lunch?
That's the last thing I need.

Hey you, other parents in the waiting room, thanks for NOT HELPING ME drag my two boneless screaming toddlers toward the door.
No, no, it's cool.
I've got it.
I don't need your help at all.

Hey you, guy who opened the door for us and said, "looks like you could use a hand!"
Thanks for making it clear that it's obvious I'm struggling.
No. NO. It's cool.
I've got it. 
I don't need your help. AT ALL.

Hey Buster, thanks for WAKING UP after only 30 minutes this morning before we left the house.
You couldn't have slept just a LITTLE longer?

Hey Buster, thanks for FALLING ASLEEP one minute before I parked at the grocery store.
You couldn't have stayed awake just a LITTLE longer?

Hey Katie, you're such a dick. Leave everybody alone. Everything that's making you want to punch strangers in the solar plexus would roll off your back if you'd adjust that attitude 10 degrees toward the sunny side of the street.

Hey Katie, actually you're such a dick. Leave me alone. I'm in a bad mood today and the only thing that makes me feel better is fantasizing about punching strangers in the solar plexus. Adjust your attitude 10 degrees up your own ass, ya butt head.

Like I said. Can't nobody win. Of course, it is fucking Tuesday.

There's only one cure for this.


At the train table in Barnes & Noble.

Nanny: (gesturing to Buster) he's so cute!

Me: Oh, thank you.

Nanny: How old?

Me: 14 months.

Nanny: That's great. How fun.

Me: Yeah, it is. He's a challenge right now because he's running everywhere, but...

Nanny: Do you work?

Me: Uh... do you?

Nanny: What?

Me: Are you working?

Nanny: Yeah...?

Me: Me too.

Nanny: Oh! I thought you were their mom.

Me: I am.

Nanny: Oh... so... do you work, or do you stay home?

Me: Yes.

___

I'm sorry for being difficult. I know what you were asking.

And the answer is no.

No, I don't work.

I'm not at work right now. I'm here, at Barnes & Noble, with two toddlers, ON VACATION.

That's why I have my beach bag on my shoulder - wait, sorry, that's not a beach bag. It's an Ergo. With a toddler in it. Who is eating me. He's eating from my body. Because I find it restful and rejuvenating. Yes, that's why I've got that "sucked all the water out of my body" glow.

No, to answer your question, I don't work.

I'm just, like, so psyched to be here. I've been looking forward to this for months, crossing off days on my calendar, counting down to this day, when I would finally get to negotiate the fair distribution of train cars between my kid and 8 other kids I've never fucking seen before!

Seriously, I've been dreaming about it. I was like, omg what am I going to WEAR to the train table in August for the fucking debate over the terms of the Treaty of Train Versailles? I made a Pinterest board entitled "cute vacay train negosh outfits." I was going to do a maxi dress with some gladiator sandals and a straw hat, and like, some big earrings.

Wait, what am I wearing today?

Oh. Right. Not that.

People are so right when they're like, "you're so lucky you get to stay home with the kids." I am! So lucky! I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky.I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky.

I'm so lucky I can't stop crying about how lucky I am and how obvious it is to everyone that I'm so lucky that I don't have to work. Because, to answer your original question, I don't. Work.

Wiping corn kernels out of Buster's ass crack? So. Refreshing.

Reminding Chicken to sit on his bottom during lunch? Every ten seconds? My fave.

It's not work. None of it. Not boring. Not tedious. Not annoying. Not rewarding. Not challenging. Not scary. It's definitely not the way I identify myself to others. It's definitely not the source of my self-worth. Because it's not work. I don't do that. I just do this:


ohmygosh
please
pretty please
let me pick this up
i just
oh man
i would love to

I'm sorry for being difficult.

I know what you were asking.

You were asking do I have a career.

You were asking do I get paid.

You were asking do I employ a nanny.

You were asking so you could know who I am.

Or maybe you were just trying to start a conversation.

But regardless, it's time to stop asking people if they fucking work.

We all work.

Everyone with a child works.

Career moms work.
Stay-at-home moms work.
Career dads work.
Stay-at-home dads work.

I work.

And to be 100% crystal fucking clear:

I'm talking to you, mother who is also a lawyer/doctor/teacher/bikini waxer/receptionist.

You are not less of a mom because you work outside the home.
I am not less of a mom because I work at home.

We are the exact same amount of mom. Which is 100 fucking percent mom.

We all work. Sometimes we love our work. Sometimes we hate our work. But at the end of the day the thing that makes it work isn't whether we enjoy it -  it's whether or not it's voluntary. And it's not. Not for any of us.

You're not my enemy, and this isn't a battle cry against you. I'll be the first person to tell someone to fuck off if he or she belittles your hard work. I'm on your team. I want you on mine. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of your wrath, and yo, you are fierce.

So I'm just going to tell you what your nanny said to me today.
I hate telling people that I write a blog because I know what they think it's going to be.

A MOM BLOG.

Aw. That's so cute. 

They think I'm posting recipes, photo albums of my children's Sears Photo Studio sessions, earnest epiphanies about motherhood, humblebragging about how creative and patient and fun I am, and florid declarations of how precious life is.

OR they think I'm non-stop bitching about how busy, stressed, and messy life is, regaling my dozen or so readers with diapers most foul, humiliating public spectacles, and times I've said, "fuck it, go ahead, chew on rocks."

I do not relate to either one of those mommy blog tropes. I don't write this blog to perpetuate a myth about the warm, rainbow-filled paradise of motherhood, or to hop on the bumpin' bandwagon of too-cool mommy-glow subversion that has become all the rage.

I read other mommy blogs and community sites, and 90% of it is garbage. Let me clarify- when I say "it's garbage," the "it" I'm referring to is not:

1. The women who wrote these pieces
2. The stories told in those pieces
3. The children who inspired those pieces

The "it" that is garbage? IT is the avalanche of mom cliches that barrels down the side of Mount MommyBlog every single day.

Now, cliches only got to be cliches by being true for a large number of people, so it makes sense that people trying to communicate with a large audience might rely on them to tell a story.

But a cliche is just a people-pleaser, and who wants to hang out with that guy? He's bland, unsurprising, and routine. He never says anything I haven't heard a thousand times before. And if the experience of being a mother and knowing other mothers has taught me anything, it's that parenting is anything but bland, unsurprising, and routine.

Moms are basically a pile of unmatched socks, is what I'm saying - made up of the same basic matter, but none identical to any other. So while we share many of the same gripes, fears, triumphs and failures, we also need to tell our stories using words that honor that uniqueness.

So while those mom platitudes might, yes, apply to me, I'd like to take a minute to truth-bomb a few of my least-favorite mom cliches:


1. Moms Love Wine

I get nervous about how much I look forward to a drink in the evening, or how intentionally I have to hold the starting line at 5:00 pm.

When I open the fridge to make my boys' lunch, and the 3-year-old is whining and throwing Legos into the fan, and the 1-year-old is screaming and pulling on my pant leg, the half-drunk bottle of Sauvignon blanc makes that musical liquid sloshing sound and nothing has ever sounded more delicious than a really cold glass of chill the fuck out.

But I once read a great piece about why many poor people eat McDonald's - because it tastes good, and pleasure is valuable to people who can't afford to take vacations or go to the movies.

I feel that way about a drink at the end of a day. There is so much "have-to" in my day - the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning isn't have a cup of coffee or wash my face. The first thing I do is change a shitty diaper. Because I have to. So when 5:00 hits, I choose my pleasure. I choose the thing that's for me. But Katie, wouldn't it make you happy to go for a run? You don't have to have a drink. True. But you try cooking dinner on a treadmill. Let me know how that goes.



2. Moms Drink So Much Coffee

i love the smell
of salvation
in the morning
and also with lunch
and sometimes
at like 3:30
if it's been a long one

Because I'm fucking tired, okay? It's a hot cup of alertness and productivity, and it gives me a jolt of can-do-ism, 30 glorious buzzing minutes in which I can do the work of ten men while singing the score from Chicago. HA-CHA! WHOO-PEE!

Plus, I don't know if you heard, but coffee is the new water.

I just made that up, but let's make that a thing. You with me?



3. Moms Think They Have The Hardest Job In The World

First of all, I don't think I have the hardest job in the world - my job is way fucking easier than deactivating bombs in Afghanistan, following ripening crops across the country as a migrant laborer, or administering comfort care to toddlers with terminal cancer.

anybody who would rather
pick soybeans
than pick up a few sneakers
has never picked soybeans
for their whole lives
while trying to get american citizenship
so they can legally
pick more soybeans
forever
I do think a lot of moms wouldn't feel the need to defend the difficulty of their jobs if we felt like this world did any more than pay lip service to the role of a thoughtful, conscientious mother. Sure, sure, moms are the heart of the home. That's just another cliche, a patronizing one at that, a pat on the head for all us simple girlish folk. And it falls hilariously short in recognizing the unique struggles of each parent who flogs her guts out doing enragingly repetitive and terrifyingly important work all day and all night of every day and night of their lives.

Do you even know how many hours of my life I've spent sleepwalking to the nursery and falling asleep with a baby on my breast? Or reading parenting books, cutting grapes, applying diaper cream, seasoning chili, putting away plastic fruit, reminding children to say please, taking deep breaths to slow my heart rate so I can think clearly, adding a spoonful of "chocolate dust" (Nestle Quik) to my kid's milk, and trying to scoop out half-full answers from the interminable, onrushing stream of "but why?"

When I read that list, I know how it sounds to people who aren't parents. Annoying, sure, and tedious, but hard? And that's what makes it harder - the doubt of people who require convincing before they'll acknowledge that my job is hard, hard work. It is harder still when I dare to pick my head up and peer over the wall to tomorrow's agenda, where, guess what, I will have to deal with shitty diapers and choking grapes and whys to explain. Again. And again. And forever.

that being said
picking up
the same sneakers
from the same place
three times a day
every day
forever
that's still not awesome
yeah
not high on the list
of most people's three wishes
you know
from the genie
most people go with
wealth
world peace
healthy families
and then
maybe
a life sentence
of picking up other people's footwear


4. Moms Don't Have Time To Shower

This is like the go-to detail, the symbol we use to explain how much moms have to ration our personal time. I am so guilty of sharing with the world exactly how many days it's been since my last hygiene experience.

It's been six days. I never have time to shower. I just wish I could grab a shower. Ten minutes, that's all I ask.

Reality check... it's not that I don't have ten minutes. It's that any ten minutes I have is already spoken for six times over, and honestly, ain't nobody givin any kind of shit about how I smell. My kids love my musk. It's how they find me in a crowd. Our family's disaster meeting spot is "look for the flies."

You know that one commercial where they blindfolded the kids and made them find their mothers based on touch and smell and, I don't know, child x-man powers? Yeah we reproduced that at home, except the lineup was: oscillating fan, open closet door, recycling bin, me, can of olive oil. They went right to me. Well, Chicken did. Buster's a fan man. Children are so wise.

___

I guess if I had to close this post up (and, you know, I do) I would want to close it with a total reversal of my original argument (sorry. I'm the worst.)

I still think cliches are garbage. There's a better way to tell your story than with Hallmark catch phrases and schmaltzy platitudes. I still think each of us has a unique experience to which other moms can relate, and using canned language robs you of your uniqueness. 

Buuuuut I also think I'm picking on people who have taken a risk in putting themselves out there with stories that speak to the beating heart of their lives. And that pisses me off. Honestly, who am I to critique your writing? I am, after all, the author of this.

Self, chill the fuck out.

Moms, keep on keepin on, with your wine and coffee and not showering and having the hardest job ever. 

I'm just another mismatched sock on the pile.

I recognize you, but I've never seen anything like you before.

So tell me, in your own words, what's up with you lately?

hey
hey girl
(sigh)
fuck
i know
me too




thanks for making lunch for the boys
honey
honey?
what is this?
what
the fuck
is this?


Cutting grapes

It’s something moms blog about
A lot
More than they should
Probably

I mean
It’s been done

And yet
Here I am
Blogging
About cutting grapes

Wait
Let me start over

I'll ask you again
what
the shining fuck
is on this plate?
are you a sociopath?
do you feed whole grapes
to small animals?
for fun?
Cutting grapes

It’s more than just the cold, sweaty pebbles
Rolling off the board
Fuck
(pull it out)
(from under the fridge)
(blow on it)
Whatever
It’s fine

There’s something about how much time
Each grape needs

To pluck one green grape off its twiggy stem
Hold it in place with just
the tips of your fingers
(just your nails is even better)
And cut
Ugh, the knives are so dull
We should sharpen them

One Mississippi
Two Mississippi
Three Mississippi
That's one

It’s not so much time
I guess

I don’t know why
It feels
Awful
Cutting grapes

Like so many things
That aren’t even things
Until you have a kid
Cutting grapes
Is a conversation
Between exhaustion
And fear
That never ends

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck meeeeeeeee
I don't know if I have it in me
To cut grapes today
He’s two now
He can bite a fucking grape
What if I just say
In a sing-songy way
Chew
Chew
Chew
Okay, baby?

But what if he doesn’t
What will you say
At his graveside?
I’m sorry
I’m sorry
I was so tired baby
I should’ve cut the grapes
I wish I could have seen you
Grow up
I wonder
If you would have looked
Like your father
or my father
Your crooked smile
I wish--

FINE
I WILL CUT
THE FUCKING
GRAPES

And while you stand
Cutting grapes
You can’t help but inhale
Trying to breathe a layer of peace
Over all the things
That you could totally
Fuck
Up
And then
Be unable to live with
Forever

One Mississippi
Two Mississippi
Three Mississippi
That's two

After a thousand Mississippis
You have this cup
A small cup
Full of disarmed murder weapons
Glistening green marbles
Sinister in their smoothness
Cut in halves
Or quarters even
You can’t be too safe

How much time was that
Really
And how much time will it be
By the time he’s old enough
And his little brother too

That’s it I guess
Why it feels so awful
Cutting grapes

I resent how long it takes
To not kill my children
At lunchtime
- 1 - 

I asked Chicken to go play while I cleaned up breakfast.


I guess I should have been more specific.

- 2 -

We walked around the lake - that was for me. 

We stopped at the playground on the way home - that was for them.

But as soon as we rounded the corner, I knew I'd made a terrible mistake.

For some reason, I always think of public parks in Seattle as they are at 8 am on a rainy Wednesday in November. I always think, "shoot, I should have brought a towel to dry off the slides because we'll totally be the only ones there." 

And then when we arrive at the park at 11:30 on a sunny day in August, at the height of summer camp season, it looks like Caspar Babypants is about to headline the toddler fucking outdoor music festival - squeezed-out pouches litter the ground amid lost sandals, beach towels, broken sunglasses, and thousands of screaming, laughing, whining, nose-picking, head-scratching, toddler-tackling children. THOUSANDS.

Shiiiiiiiiiiiit. But I'd promised the boys they could play. Chicken got out and started running toward the swings. "Stop!" I called. "Chicken, STOP!" He didn't. There were so many kids... I couldn't help but think of the time I lost him at the park, the longest 30 seconds of my life. I ran after him and brought him back. "I need you to listen, baby. Or we have to go home. There are a lot of people here today." He said okay. I let go. He ran away. "STOP!" I yelled. He didn't. 

He screamed and arched his back as I strapped him into the stroller. I kept saying, "I'm sorry we have to do this, baby, but I asked you to listen, and you didn't, so now we have to go home."

Outwardly, I was calm and sympathetic. Inwardly, I was relieved. Thank God Chicken couldn't listen. I really didn't want to be there. Good thing he gave me a reason we could leave.

I AM THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD.

The whole walk home, every step I took sent me deeper into a shame spiral. Did I abort the park trip because Chicken wasn't listening, or because I didn't want to deal with the insanity of 37 juiced-up summer campers on a single merry-go-round? Was I blaming Chicken for my own unwillingness to dive into the fray?

We got home. 
We went upstairs. 
Chicken tackled Buster, who landed on a plastic stegosaurus and started to scream. 
I picked him up and, baby on my hip, and absently chanted "shh, shh, shh, hush-a, hush-a, hush-a," while I scanned the fridge for a 5-minute lunch.

- 3 -

Question: Is Buster old enough to use a spoon to eat his yogurt?


Answer: Unclear.

- 4 -

Me: OK, guys, let's saddle up. We have to go return these books to the library.
Chicken: Can we get more?
Me: More books from the library?
Chicken: Yeah!
Me: Hmmm...

(scene dissolves into a "okay, let's explore what that would look like" sequence:
I have just walked into the library with Buster on my hip and Chicken trotting by my side. Chicken beelines to the toddler-sized computer to bang on the keyboard and tap his chin while saying "hmmmm," as is his habit at the library.

I put Buster down so I can flip through a tractor book that Chicken might like. Buster runs away. I grab Buster, which isn't too hard since he can't move that fast while he's pulling books off the shelves one or two at a time and dropping them with a gunshot-smack on the ground. 

We return to where Chicken is now picking up the keyboard and dropping it from a height of 10-15 inches. When it lands, the terrible plastic thud-clatter wakes up all the hobos sleeping in the plastic armchairs.

I tell Chicken he has 5 minutes to pick a book. He holds his hand up at my face and says, "no, no. Twenty." I remind myself that I'm not 14 anymore and a "talk to the hand" gesture is no longer grounds for assault. I take a deep breath and say, in a voice that's just a touch too calm, "I said five minutes, Chicken. Five. Minutes."

He throws himself to the ground, screaming "nooooooooooo! Daddy said I could have tweeeeennnnntyyyyyyy!" The homeless guy masturbating in the corner shakes his head, sighs audibly, and gets up to finish his business elsewhere. Some people just can't respect public spaces, he thinks.

Buster twists violently out of my arms and lurches like a drunken sailor for the seat recently vacated by the happy hobo. I tackle him 6 inches shy of the warm, fragrant seat. He screams. Then he throws up a little bit. He ate cheese crackers and purple grapes. The smell of his stomach acid and the sharp cheddar cheese joins the musky top notes of stale beer, body odor, and the bright chemical plastic scent of new chair cover. This corner now smells exactly like a Chuck-E-Cheese dumpster.

Chicken has darted away and clings to the thick-stockinged legs of a librarian, begging for help. The hobo, smoking a cigarette and looking pretty relaxed now, actually, pipes up and says he noticed I was bothering the boy earlier. 

If I go to prison, at least it will be quieter...)

Me: ... yeeeeahhhh... I think it's a curbside drop-off kind of day, kiddo.


- 5 -

Chicken lost his shit when bath time ended.

This in and of itself is nothing to write Dr. Spock about. Chicken will lose his shit half a dozen times on a day when I've been reading a mindful parenting book and I just cracked a fresh box of Cheddar Bunnies.

But tonight it was different. This wasn't a pissy, "not what I wanted" scream. This was a scream of terror and heartbreak. "God, no! What are you doing? Please, no!"

I'd like to make it clear to all the fine men and women working in social services that all we did was gently help him from the bath and wrap him in a thick, soft hoodie towel so we could carry him into his bedroom, rub his skin with lotion, dress him in a fresh diaper and clean, dry pajamas smelling faintly of his wooden dresser, before reading him three stories of his choosing and tucking him into bed with a nighttime ritual that rivals a Japanese tea service in tenderness and complexity.

But he was inconsolable.

"My animals! My-my-my ocean animals..." He managed to choke out from between his chattering teeth as tears streamed down his cheeks and dropped, darkening his light blue towel to something deeper.

"What about your animals?" Ryan asked, stroking his hair.

"They - they - they need the water! They have to have water because it's their home! My friends gotta swim in the water and you let all the water out of the bath and so where they gonna swim?" His eyes squeezed shut as he curled up on the changing table, sobbing.

He thinks we have casually murdered his ocean animals. 
He thinks we destroyed their home and left them to die, alone, while we cheerfully read "Hop on Pop" in the next room.
He really loves those animals.
He is begging for their lives.

Ryan's eyes filled with tears. "Don't worry, honey. We'll make sure your animals have water to swim in, okay? We'll make sure they have a home."

It would have been funny if Chicken hadn't been so earnest, begging for the lives of his ocean animal friends. It would have been funny if I hadn't been the kind of kid who had a schedule to rotate which stuffed animals got to sleep on my pillow. I didn't want to play favorites. That's how feelings get hurt.

And that is how it came to pass that 10 plastic ocean animals found a new home on the bathroom counter, in a mixing bowl filled with water.


This is the meeting my sons had this morning, while I slept.

take a look at the agenda
see
if there's anything you need to add

C: hey man

B: hey how are you

C: glad you could make it

B: thanks for putting this together

C: how's the family

B: good, good... just, you know, same as your family

C: yeah. ok, so let's get started

B: sounds good

C: great, so obviously we're here to talk about mom

B: yes

C: and how we should kill her

B: mm hmm

C: today

B: right right

C: so obviously, i'm the senior guy here, but i think of you as a partner, and i want to welcome all of your... your input, your ideas, your gifts i guess is what i'm trying to say. i want you to know how much i value what you're bringing to the table.

B: wow, thank you. and thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this project. i feel like i've learned so much over the last year, watching, you know, the way that you engage with not just mom but like the whole organization. i really think of you as a mentor, and it means a lot to hear you say that you think that i’m, you know, ready to help you kill mom today

C: i thought we could just lay out the distribution of the various elements of killing mom. i project that we should aim for a day that's 50% annoying, embarrassing, filthy, and/or expensive-to-fix disasters

B: agreed

C: then 30% sweet moments of hope and adorableness

B: right. we can't go too hard too fast. she's gotta have hope that she'll survive, so she can really get to the place where, you know, a place where we can finalize that kill

C: right. and then 20% mortal danger so she's equal parts mad at us for scaring her, thankful that we're alive, and wracked with guilt for being a terrible mom

B: i think that sounds like the right balance. if i split my lip, refuse breakfast, and tip over the trash can all before 7:30 in the morning she's just going to get spooked and cancel the outing

C: and the outing is key. the failed outing will inspire that deep despair that will really make her wish for death. she needs to feel like she isn’t even a person anymore, like she can't even leave the house

B: right, like the house is already her tomb, so just go ahead and make it official

C: exactly. humiliation, isolation, despair... a failed outing is the silver bullet. so i think along those lines we just start like a regular day, but just a little crappier

B: so i’ll wake up at 5?

C: 4:30, 5. that's your purview

B: she read that article about dry drowning last night so i could integrate those elements into the wake-up, do some very alarming wheezing, gurgling, choking death rattle-type sounds, really strike that terror chord first thing

C: start her off with a solid adrenaline dump, outstanding

B: exactly. and then, what do you think, is it too early to have a diaper leak?

C: no, i can take point on that

B: pee or poop?

C: that might be a call we make on the field. see what comes out when I start pushing

B: right

C: so the morning, it's gotta be super adorable, make sure that she gets that first big hit of guilt about resenting the way the day started

B: you do that thing where you hug me and tell me you love me out of the blue



C: i'll do that, i'll read to you so she feels like a good mom for a minute. then i'll do the sharing-my-breakfast move

B: i can put together some big smiles and giggles. and i'll make sure my belly is out

C: the rounder the better

B: so we start low with the wheezes and pissing, go high with giggles and sharing, and then i say i play the wild card with a super-short morning nap

C: fifteen minutes?

B: yeah, or twenty. you could even wake me up

C: that's good, i'll wake you up

B: with the harmonica

C: obviously

B: and then for the rest of the day are we just alternating highs and lows, getting progressively higher and lower until she snaps like a russian carnival ride?

C: i think that's the way to go. if we just hit her with repeated disasters she's going to shut down and start a daniel tiger

B: exactly, or she'll start blogging

C: we can't give her time for that at all

B: or for pooping

C: or getting dressed or packing a diaper bag or calling nana. she's gotta feel like she's rushing all day, but nothing ever gets done

B: so while you're getting dressed i’ll rub strawberry jam on my clothes so she has to change my clothes again

C: and then while you're getting dressed i’ll rub strawberry jam in my hair 

B: repetition with variation and escalation, classic

C: any other elements we want to make sure that we include?

B: great, yeah, i brought some thoughts... there has to be some kind of catastrophic poop encounter – i'm really nailing the whole grabbing my poopy nuts thing lately

C: along those same lines, i can take my diaper off during nap and poop on the floor

B: or the rug even

C: oh god yes the rug

B: okay, so then i was thinking we should just be ticking all the boxes of, like, terror and wounds.  i can choke on a sticker for a minute. then throw a book at her face when she's not looking

C: i was seriously just thinking that

B: lock yourself in the bathroom and then make a thudding sound and then go quiet


this is great
no it's perfect
because
she's going to have to fiddle
with the doorknob
intensely
and intense fine-motor fiddling
is the #1 cause of mom rage

C: i can get lost for seven minutes at the park. will you bite her?

B: you don't want to?

C: you're in the bite sweet spot. if you do it, you’re big enough that it hurts, but small enough that you can’t be held accountable. if i bite her it's like a whole thing, we have a talk, we read a book, we role-play with a doll, it's… a procedure

B: understood, i can bite her

C: okay what else. i'll break an irreplaceable keepsake

B: she seems to really care about those ceramic handprints from when we were little

C: check. and i can say "mommy" over and over again but then i won't actually want anything from her

B: i'll go boneless

C: i'll scream that i'm gonna throw up in the car

B: when she's strapping me into the car seat I’ll wait until one arm is through the strap and then i'll roll onto my belly so i'm trapped in a half-nelson and then i won't calm down for twenty minutes

C: i'll throw the ipad and whine about my socks

B: if i poop at the store can you make sure that you splash in the toilet in the public bathroom

C: obviously, and while i'm splashing in the toilet can you try to roll off the changing table

B: i'll fully roll off the changing table

C: okay but remember safety is our goal

B: hahahahahahahahahahahaha

C: hahahahahahahahahahahaha

B: safety hahahahaha that's hilarious

C: i know, but you handed it to me, man. handed it to me

B: haha

C: ha 

B: okay and then we need to be nice enough that she accepts 100% of the blame for everything

C: that's where the adorable moments need to really land. so she remembers how much she loves us and feels like a piece of shit for losing her temper even though we have engineered situations that guarantee she will lose her temper

B: it's not personal, it's business

C: i'll make sure i say "i wuv you mommy," right after she yells at us. you coo and babble

B: oh i’ll coo and babble. we should play hide and seek

C: you should wave and smile at strangers

B: you should say please and thank you all day long

C: and right before she takes her first bite of lunch and i’ll whisper "mommy i wish you would pway wif me"

B: and can you say some really big words with a lisp

C: maybe some dinosaur names


dis is an a-pat-a-thaur-uth
dis is a ty-wan-a-thaur-uth

B: gold, this is all gold. but let me zoom up to 30,000 feet. how do we push her over the edge

C: i think we just organize a full-on climax of negative stimuli. you bite, i throw a block in her face, then you start screaming and tearing at her shirt trying to nurse, and then i'll yell in her face the same thing over and over again

B: are you thinking, like, two donuts?

C: exactly. two donuts two donuts two donuts two donuts two donuts two donuts mommy two donuts mommy i need two donuts, plus the screaming and the biting and block-throwing, at the end of the day... i think we're there

B: but we've done this before. she always remembers she loves us and she rediscovers her will to live

C: be audacious. innovate. commit. these are more than just words, man

B: no doubt, i agree with you. i'm just saying, we have already done literally everything we've discussed here today, and she's still tickling our bellies and making up songs about buying a carton of milk

C: i think the milk song is a sign she's cracking. today is different

B: what makes you so sure?

C: i heard them talking last night. they're out of coffee

B: holy shit

C: there is no coffee in the house

B: why didn't you tell me

C: i know

B: this changes everything

C: yep

B: ok what time is it

C: no idea

B: i'm gonna take a watery crap and then jump and land on my butt until the poop juice leaks onto the crib sheets and that $80 teddy bear that was a gift to mark the occasion of my birth, and then i say we attack this day with energy due the moment

C: good meeting. i've got a good feeling about today. just remember - abc

B: abc?

C: always be--

B: (wet gurgling sounds in diaper) right, yeah, i got it