I have been told by many people on the same Facebook thread that weekly family meetings are a great way for families to come together, communicate clearly, and take charge of the coming week.

So we tried it. On Saturday, July 28, at 3:00 pm on the dot, we gathered around the train table for our first family meeting. In advance of the meeting, I prepared an itinerary and some general goals.

you guys
i totally accidentally put an apostrophe in parents
it was supposed to be plural
now it's possessive
oh my god
oh my god
oh my god
i'm so embarrassed

i mean
i'm not going to rewrite the page or anything
i mean
i'm not going to go through the hassle of
changing the picture
ew
so many clicks

just wanted you to you know
i know
i see it


Meeting Itinerary:

1. Welcome

Introduce concept of family meeting and welcome all members of family.

2. Appreciations 

In which each member of the family goes around the circle and says something that he or she appreciates about every other person, including him or herself.

3. Week Ahead:

a) Menu requests
b) Upcoming events
c) Outing requests

4. Problem-Solving 

In which each member of the family has an opportunity to answer the question: "Are you having a problem that the family can help you with?"

5. Treat 

In which each member of the family eats a cookie.

Total Meeting Duration - 10-15 minutes

Projected Meeting Results - Immediate cessation of all hostilities between Chicken and Buster; Katie reverse-ages 10 years; Ryan stops daydreaming about getting stuck in traffic on his way home for dinner.


Meeting Minutes:

1. Welcome

Katie: Welcome to our first family mee--

Buster: (drives fire truck into the kitchen) HOOOONK HOOOOONK!

Ryan: Buster? Buddy? Come back and sit down please!

Katie: So we're going to start doing weekly family meetings--

Ryan: Buster, come have a seat with me. We're having family meeting.

Buster: No! NNNNNO!

Chicken: Buster's not sitting down.

Ryan: (sighs, gets up to bring Buster into the playroom, carries him back and holds him on his lap)

Buster: (screams and slides boneless from Ryan's lap onto the floor, rolls away like a Navy SEAL under a trip wire and scampers back into the kitchen) Dank you byeeeeee!

Katie: Don't worry about it. We'll just... it's fine.

Chicken: But Buster's part of the family!

Ryan: Technically, yes.

Katie: I bet if we start the meeting he'll come back in and join us.

Chicken: OK.

Katie: SO! Like I said, welcome to our first family meeting!

Buster: BE RIGHT BACK GONNA WASH THIS! (carries fire truck into the bathroom) 




2. Appreciations

Katie: So now we're going to do appreciations. I'll go first. Chicken, I appreciate the way you've been doing your morning checklist to get out the door. It helps me so much when you get dressed and go to the potty all by yourself. I'm really proud of you. Buster, I appreciate--

Buster: WOOOOOF! WOOOOOF! (slams fire truck down on top of plastic dog repeatedly) OOOOH NOOOOO! (makes crying sounds)

Katie: Um... I really appreciate your visceral imagination, buddy. I love that. Ryan, I appreciate the way you remind me to take care of myself. Thank you. And, um... okay, about myself, I guess I appreciate the way I've been working on not yelling so much. Okay! Who wants to go next?

Chicken: Me! 

Katie: Great! OK, go ahead.

Chicken: Mommy? I appreciate... um... you not yelling. And Buster likes books. And Daddy, I like all of Daddy. And about myself, I like my imaginings.

Katie: I like all of those things too, baby. OK, Buster, do you want to go around and tell everyone something you like?

Buster: VROOOOOOM

Katie: Buster, what do you like about Daddy?

Buster: No.

Katie: OK! Thank you Buster! Ryan? Go ahead?

Ryan: Chicken, I appreciate how you've been going potty so well, that's awesome. Buster, I like how you have been snuggling so much. Kate, I appreciate how engaged you are with the world and how much you advocate for the things you believe in. And about myself, I appreciate the way I've rebounded from a crappy week last week.

Katie: I appreciate that, too, babe. OK! Moving on!

Buster: GOT YOU! (tackles Katie)


3. Week Ahead

Katie: Is there anything anyone would like for dinner next week?

Chicken: Hmmmm... let me thiiiiiiiiink...

Ryan: I'd like to clean out the fridge a little bit, maybe do a stir fry to clean up all those stray veggies?

Katie: Stir fry, got it. Chicken, anything?

Chicken: (Leans back on arm of couch, legs crossed, his fingers inerlaced over the top knee) Stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllll thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinking.........

Katie: OK. Buster? Anything you want for dinner?

Buster: Dinner time? 

Ryan: No no, honey, it's not dinner time. We're just asking if there's a meal that you'd like to eat this week.

Chicken: (Upside down on the couch, tapping his finger on his chin) STIIIIILLLL THIIIIIIIINKIIIIING HHHHMMMMMMMMMM.

Buster: CAKE!

Katie: Cake. Check. Chicken? Last call, buddy.

Chicken: I'm ready. For breakfast, I would like rainbow sprinkle pancakes with sliced strawberries on the side. For lunch, spaghetti and noodles but the angel hair noodles and no vegetables and for dinner spaghetti and noodles but the fatter noodles and no vegetables too.

Katie: You know what? All of that is doable. No problem.

Chicken: Grrrrrreat.

Katie: Next, any upcoming events! Ryan?

Ryan: Nope, regular week here.

Katie: I have work on Wednesday so Grandma will be here to hang with the boys.

Chicken: She WILL make me spaghetti.

Katie: I'll take care of the spaghetti, babe. Moving on, OK, so any outing requests this week boys? Anywhere you want to go? Anything you want to do?

Chicken: I'd like to go to the Zoo and the Children's Museum and the Airplane Museum and do some art with paint and glitter.

Katie: Okaaaaaay... we can do... some of that.

Buster: Watch Chuggington?

Katie: Done. Yes. Chugs is on the list.

Ryan: Jugs is on the list?

Katie: CHugs. CH. CHUGS. Like Chuggington.

Ryan: Oh. Can I put jugs on the list? That sounds like a fun outing.

Chicken: What's jugs?

Buster: HONKA HORN! WOOOO WOOOOOO.


4. Problem-solving

Katie: Chicken, do you have any problems that the family can help you solve?

Chicken: Well... (farts) I don't like when Buster (farts) messes up the stuff I'm (farts) playing with.

Katie: Okay. Um, Chicken, do you have to poop?

Chicken: (farts) Nope.

Katie: Maybe we should try.

Chicken: (farts) I just asked my body and it said no poops just farts.

Katie: Sometimes farting is your body's way of telling you that it needs to poop.

Chicken: I'm only pushing air out of my anus Mommy, no poops. See? (Shows me)

Katie: Ooooooh! Yes! I do see that. Except... WOAH actually I do see a poop so STAND UP DON'T PUSH let's go right now, RIGHT NOW HERE WE GO.


POOP INTERMISSION

chicken: this is my sign
it says
privacy

me: great
let me just take a quick picture
for the blog


Katie: Okay! So, Chicken, we were talking about... what is that smell?

Buster: Looka meeeee! 

Katie: Did you poop, buddy?

Buster: No... 

Ryan: Come on, let's change your diaper.

Buster: NO! NO NO NO NO NO...


POOP INTERMISSION PART 2


Katie: OK, so Chicken and I were talking about this and we decided we are going to try to take turns when building with Buster, and if Chicken is working on something that he really wants to do alone he can do it in his room. Sound good, Chicken?

Chicken: Yeah! That sounds awesome! 

Katie: My problem is that Chicken won't walk on the hardwood floors or linoleum which makes it hard for him to get to the bathroom or into the kitchen. Chicken, can you try wearing your tiger slippers this week and see how that goes?

Chicken: Sure!

Ryan: My problem is that I don't like when the dishwasher sits empty all day and the dishes just go in the sink. 

Katie: I can make that a priority. Chicken, will you help me load the dishes too?

Chicken: Yeah!

Buster: ME TOO ME TOO ME TOO MY TURN

Katie: And... Buster can be captain of the spoons! Sound good?

Buster: POON!

Katie: SPOON. SSSSSSSSPOON.

Buster: POON CAP'N! POON CAP'N! 

Katie: This is happening.

Buster: I POON CAP'N! 

Katie: HEY Buster? Any problems the family can help you with?

Buster: Hassome cookies?



5. Treat





treat
=
fighting over a remote control
that doesn't even have batteries in it
chicken pretends it's a massager
buster pretends they're binoculars
#richinnerlife

Actual Meeting Duration: 40 minutes, but 30 minutes of that was poop intermission.

Actual Meeting Results: Two solid shits, plus the boys learned the word "jugs" and "poon."

#lifeisajourney
#callingitawin
Let's be real. Nobody is going to see Bad Moms for the edge-of-your-seat plot twists. But consider yourselves warned: Here be spoilers.

If you want to see this movie with fresh eyes, do not read this post.


When I first saw the preview for Bad Moms, I texted a bunch of friends right then and there, my phone screen lighting up the darkened theater.

OMG just saw preview for Bad Moms
looks amazing
can't wait
let's go see it at the theater where they bring drinks to your seat!!!

I was so excited to see a story about real, funny, flawed, foul-mouthed moms, starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn! Not that I thought this film would cause like a universal cultural shift and suddenly people would be nice to me in the grocery store, but I feel like studios have been giving more space to female-driven comedy films, and I was PSYCHED about this one!

To the sacred canon of Mean Girls, Bring it On, Legally Blonde, and Clueless we can now add a slew of hard-drinking, fucking-up, pratfalling weirdos, geniuses, and badass motherfuckers from such films as Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, Spy, Trainwreck, Ghostbusters, and, I hoped, Bad Moms.

But nope.

You guys, I didn't like Bad Moms at all.

I was hoping that this movie would be like really sharp parenting standup. Louis CK does hilarious bits about parenting - specific, relatableheartbreaking. That movie would be incredible - insightful and heartless and vulnerable and sidesplitting. When I think about that movie I imagine feeling it in all the parts of my body, from clenched teeth to aching heart.

Bad Moms was both toothless and heartless. The entire movie is a half-measure, an uncommitted gesture, tepid, watered-down. Not at all like parenting. Not at all. It's weird, almost like moms didn't write it or something.

It's a missed opportunity from beginning to end, from the heavy caricature of husbands as irredeemable layabouts and man-babies to the superficial and sketchy one-dimensional friendship of the three main characters.

There were so many things I disliked about Bad Moms.

I hated the way the screenplay sidestepped the complicated relationship dynamics between mothers who are also friends. Mom friends are happy for each other and jealous of each other. They are grossed out by each other and proud of each other. They roll their eyes at each other and defend each other fiercely. Mom friends are the only other people on Earth who know how hard your job is. They are the only ones whose judgment really wounds you, and the only ones whose love really carries you.

Mila, Kristen, and Kathryn had great chemistry and are all funny, smart women; I wished they'd had more to do than play frazzled, drunk, and hung over. I wish they hadn't just "gotten along fine." I wish Kathryn had been jealous of Mila's hot hookup. I wish Kristen had gotten really fucking mad and screamed inappropriately at her friends after they tried to give her helpful advice about how to bone up her husband's premanently squishy dick, when all she really wanted was someone to say "dude that sucks." I wish it had been messy. I wish they'd taken me on a real-life mom-life roller coaster with sharp turns, plummeting hills, and steep ascents, rather than the fucking uniformly predictable "Small World" glassy-pond version of motherhood.

I hated the way the movie gives the moms two kinds of scenes: scenes in the car running around with their kids, and scenes in which their kids have wordlessly vanished and they are doing sex and mischief. I know for a fact that I was not the only one in the movie theater thinking, "yo who is paying for these magic available-all-the-time babysitter elves?"

I don't think movies have to hew to reality, but I do think it would have been smarter, funnier, and truer to show Kristen Bell playing dress-up in the bathroom and talking about her husband's floppy weiner with a kid on her boob; to show Kathryn Hahn making delightfully x-rated innuendoes with the busboy at the pizza place while "helping" her son with his history homework. "Excuse me, what's your name? Have you heard of the Battle of the Bulge? Oh, I bet you have..."

Of course, I understand why the movie just couldn't do that, even as a clearly hyperbolic, transgressive shock joke. "Girls can do shots and make dick jokes, but they can't do it in front of their CHILDREN. This is a movie about MOMS, you guys. Moms don't DO messy, sexy, human stuff. Or if they do, they have the decency to hide it from their kids." The movie's central joke is too old to be funny anymore: "surprise, I'm a dominatrix once the kids go to bed," was tired in 1993.

#hocuspocus
#mom?
#funnywheniwas9

I hated the obvious, lazy jokes that any comedy writer worth his/her union dues would find a way to refresh for us. For example, yuk yuk, there are outlandish dietary restrictions at the bake sale! "No sesame or soy. No nuts. And obviously no flour or sugar or dairy or salt." But what if, instead of reeling off the familiar list of no-no's, Christina Applegate had instead given out pre-approved recipe cards to the moms with stomach-churning ingredient combinations like Salmon Kefir Kisses and Choco-Chickpea-Chicken Bars?

The filmmakers didn't even have the decency to see this gag through to the actual bake sale scene. Yo, if you're going to set up the fascist pre-bake sale PTA meeting as the last goddamn straw for Mila Kunis, then please have the decency to give me a visual payoff with grim platters of quinoa cupcakes, gray mushroom muffins, and cauliflower cookies.

I hated the way the only parenting they showed was "Have a great day at school! I love you," and "Honey, you need to fix your own breakfast today." Why didn't we ever see children do the bananas shit that kids do that drive mothers insane???

I hated the us-versus-themness between warring factions of moms. UGH, could someone please take a closer goddamn look at the social mores of motherhood? We don't ORGANIZE against mothers who disagree with us. We don't have TIME. We don't give a FUCK. I know moms I don't like. I know moms I cannot STAND and who cannot stand ME. You know what we do when we see each other? Wave from afar and move the fuck along. 

The eventual peace between Mila and Christina Applegate, who does a fierce alpha bitch, doesn't make up for the fact that the film picked the most obvious characterization of "tight-assed sexless mom," and the most obvious characterization of "cool mom who fucks," and then immediately made them HATE EACH OTHER for NO REASON.  #overit #thatjokedoesntlivehereanymore

Remember in Pitch Perfect 2 how Anna Kendrick keeps trying to talk smack to the statuesque German singer and she keeps accidentally complimenting her? OK, so that's an example of taking the played-out woman-on-woman hostility dynamic and keeping it FRESH and SURPRISING.

I hated that the husbands were across-the-board awful. Lotharios and control freaks, all of them stunted and ungrateful. Goddamn it, Bad Moms, I get why Mila needed to get single early on in the movie so she could make googly-eyes and eventually googly-junk with the studly single dad. But you could have made Kristen Bell's husband be a basically nice guy who was trying to be helpful but still fucking up and not understanding how to support his wife. You could have fucking demonstrated some understanding of why being a mom is hard even when your husband is not a douche gremlin. It's hard even when your husband is kind and thoughtful, but he does it in a way that demands your attention when you're just fucking done giving things attention today.

I hated, hated, hated the way the movie "shows" moms that they "don't have to do so much!" The prescription for an entire generation's anxiety and despair around parenting? Don't make your kid's lunch; get Arby's instead! You're trying to do too much! Don't try to be perfect! And stop judging yourselves and each other! Because YOU have done this to YOURSELVES!

This movie stops a half a breath away from, "CALM DOWN, LADIES! DON'T GET HYSTERICAL ABOUT IT!" This movie is like one hair's breadth from asking if we're all on our periods.

I mean, fuck you too, Bad Moms.

You know what this movie is like? It's like if the guys who wrote the screenplay for The Hangover wrote a movie about three hotties - a wholesome blonde, an exotic brunette, and a fiery redhead, natch - who get sick of following all the suburban rules and start drinking and flirting and being generally awesome. And then they got a note from the studio saying, "Make them Moms."

Oh wait, what's that?

The guys who wrote the Hangover trilogy also wrote Bad Moms?

Seriously?

I mean.

FUCK YOU TOO, BAD MOMS.

How fucking dare you? You foxed in my henhouse, motherfuckers. You, two men who have never been mothers, served me up a largely unfunny, oversimplified, insulting portrayal of what you think mothers are, and who you think they should be. Shockingly, you think mothers need more d. BAFFLINGLY, y'all think we all need to stop caring so damn much about NUT ALLERGIES. With striking originality, you have declared to us that our choices are to be "good" (silently selfless until death) or "bad" (irresponsible and DTF).

You patronized and belittled the most important thing in my life, and you didn't even make me laugh about it, you fucking dicks.

I went to see this movie hoping that I would spend 2 hours with some funny, smart people who understood why my job is hard, hilarious, insane, bipolar, schizophrenic, honorable, gritty, fucking important.

Mostly, I feel ripped off. The movie treated parenting as a password to my pocketbook, a shibboleth that drove me to get my butt in the seat opening weekend. "A movie about moms? I'M a mom! I should go!" But once I was in there, I realized that Bad Moms is not really about moms, parenting, or marriages. It's girls gone wild. But only a little, and only in the safest of ways. These are moms, after all. They can't do anything REALLY bad.

There was one scene that felt real to me: the pizza place where one minute the moms are trading horror stories about how their kids are monsters, and in the next they are crying about how deeply they love them. THAT, friends, THAT is what this whole movie should have been - warm, silly insight into the complex, baffling illogic of a mother:

This is crazy. This is wonderful.
My kid is an asshole. My kid is a miracle. 

I wish they'd leave me alone. I miss my kids.

But we didn't get that movie. Instead, we got the movie equivalent of a treadmill on your birthday. It's ostensibly a present for you, but it's really about what someone else thinks is your problem.

Thanks, Bad Moms. 

As if I didn't have enough on my fucking plate, now I have to write a fucking screenplay.
Chicken's birthday party was two days away.

Had the juice boxes.
Had the tiger streamers.
Had the favors.

One problem.

Where were 25 children ages 2-5 going eat pizza and cupcakes?

I had singular focus walking into IKEA.

I chanted it like a mantra, bouncing Buster up and down in the Ergo as we descended deeper and deeper into the churning bowels of IKEA.

where will the kids eat
where will the kids eat
where will the kids eat

Luckily, I'd had four cups of coffee (talk about churning bowels!) so my judgment was on point and also I could whip my head around so fast that it was like I had a 360-degree field of vision, even if I was having a hard time finishing a

Oh I know! 
I'll build a long kids' table out of a vintage door! 
That will be fucking amazi--
I'll get the door from one of those re-home supply stores
so all I need here are some legs and--
LOOK SCONCES!

List:
- table legs
- brackets and screws
- sconces!!!

Stay focused Katie. NO SCONCES. Think of the children.

Legs.

Legs legs legs... looking for legs... where are the...

Oh wow, is that kid table and chair set really only $25? 

I'll just buy 2-4 of these cheap IKEA kid tables and some cute decals to fancy them up. 

We don't have that much time to build an awesome vintage door table so... 
or maybe I'll just write down the bin number and keep these in mind, 
and keep looking for the legs for the awesome vintage door table 
because MANIFEST DESTINY!
OOH LOOK COASTERS!

List:
- table legs
- brackets and screws
- cheap IKEA kid tables
- cute decals
- coasters!!!!!!

NO KATIE. NO COASTERS. 
Gosh, but what are we going to do with 2-4 cheap IKEA kid tables after the party? 
That seems so wasteful. 
Maybe I'll just buy a cool outdoor rug and a bunch of pillows and we can do this thing picnic-style! 
That is the best idea! 
I'll have to go to the outdoor rugs and see if they have a good one that doesn't feel like it's made out of saran wrap. PLAN C, here we come!

In the meantime, I'll just keep an eye out for 
the Plan A Awesome Vintage Door Table legs and brackets and screws
and those decals for the Plan B Cheapy Decal Tables...
LOOK NORDRANA HANGING STORAGE!

List:
- table legs
- brackets and screws
- cheap IKEA kid tables
- decals
- outdoor rug
- outdoor pillows
- nordrana hanging storage!!!!!!!!!!!!

I resisted the siren song of the nordrana hanging storage even though it was seriously like the perfect color for our hall bath.

The outdoor rugs were actually made of saran wrap. OK, so Plan C was out.

Back to Plan A - Awesome Vintage Door Table? Nope. Scratch Plan A. In the forty minutes I'd been inside IKEA I came to realize there was no fucking way I would have enough time to build my own table before the party. (#churningbowels)

Back to Plan B - Cheap Kid Tables with decals. Not my favorite. But done is better than perfect. Says so right on my lower back tat. I put three tables in my cart and headed for checkout.

But as I left the aisle I saw these big table tops, slabs of particle board for only... 8 bucks? WHAAAAT! Suddenly my $25 table and chair set seemed like a boondoggle.

25 whole dollars? And for what? A chintzy bit of wobbly carpentry that isn't even set at right angles anyway?

These pieces of wood were bigger (check!) and heavier (check!) and cheaper (CHEEEEECK!).
I'd have been a fool to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime bargain!
I mean, who spends MORE money on a SMALLER table?
I'll tell ya who. Mid-century modern aficionados, that's who.
And EAST COAST ELITIST INTELLECTUALS.
Ugh.
The worst.

OK, so Plan A? OUT. Plan B? OUT. Plan C? OUT.

I went with Plan D, which was build two awesome DIY tables out of these amazing $8 table tops PLUS awesome decals plus really cool table legs!

Atta girl, Katie.

That's how a boss bitch hacks IKEA. YEAH. WHAT.

I should have been riding high, but as I walked out to the car, I felt as though something were nibbling around the corners of my mind.

It was only after unloading the party napkins, the awesome decals, the easel paper, and my two $8 particle board table tops that I realized what missing.

I turned around and looked back at IKEA, gargantuan and fathomless, looming out of the mist like the Cave of Wonders.


EKBY JÄRPEN!!!!!!!!!!
that's swedish for
birch veneer shelf
and
behold my churning bowels
depending
you know
on context


And like Gazeem, the throat-slitting thief whose early bloodless death establishes Jafar's villany and the mortal peril of the mission to get the lamp, I made this face:

you idiot
you forgot the LEGS
the LEGS KATIE
the part of the table that makes it a table
and not just
the floor
But unlike Gazeem, I turned around went the fuck home.

I'm not even tryin' to be the Diamond in the Rough y'all. I'm good.

I ordered some legs on Amazon. Done is better than perfect. Check my back tat. For real.

This happens approximately 321 times a day.

I'm in the kitchen imagining a different life for myself when I hear the following:

Buster: (screech)
Chicken: (rage grunt)
(thud)
Buster: (howl of agony)
(footsteps approaching)

Buster runs into the kitchen, mouth squared, nose wrinkled, cheeks purple. He's gone full orc. I pretend I can't see or hear anything that happens outside of this room, so I smile at him and say, sunnily, "what's up, buddy?"

He responds, "Chicken mean me!" Translation: Chicken hurt me and I'm here to call the law down on his ass.

I say, "Oh no, are you okay?"

He says, "NO."

(He is clearly okay. No bite marks. Both eyeballs still in-socket. Tooth count is good.)

I follow him back into the playroom where Chicken has buried himself up to his eyeballs in stuffed animals. His bright, brown eyes watch me warily as I approach. That's his first mistake... if you're innocent, Chicken, why'd you run?

Me: What happened, Chicken?

Chicken: Nothing.

Me: Buster ran into the kitchen crying. Do you know why?

Chicken: No.

Me: Buster, can you tell me what happened?

Buster: I wanna (unintelligible toddler sounds) train (unintelligible toddler sounds) knees (unintelligible toddler sounds) SHOES!

Me: Oh, I see. (turns to Chicken). I need you to tell me what happened.

Chicken: Nothing happened!

Buster: (unintelligible accusatory toddler sounds)



Here's what I always say at this point:

Chicken, I'm not mad. Just tell me what happened so I can make sure everybody is safe.

Here's what I WANT TO say at this point:

Chicken, even though nothing - and I mean NOTHING - is going to come of this, I still need you to tell me what happened, so we can untangle the process and come to a fair consequence.

I'm like small claims court, babe. I can't just be like, "shut up you're dumb." I have to TRY this thing. I have to HEAR both sides. I have to LISTEN to your STORY about how this fucking BLOCK is the most important BLOCK and then I have to NOD while Buster makes his SOUNDS about a BLOCK that is the same as 30 other BLOCKS in the bin RIGHT THERE. And then I have to RUMINATE. Sagely. And then I have to EJUDICATE the fucking CASE of the ONE BLOCK.

so
to be clear
this block
this one right here
is somehow different
from the
... (counts real quick) ...
17 other blocks
that appear to be
identical to this block

is that what you're saying
defendant chicken?

We have a sham of procedural justice in this house because anything else is INSANITY to model to you entropic savages. Justice is the hockey mask on the Hannibal Lecter that is YOU, Chicken. And YOU, Buster.

So let's ALL PRETEND REAL HARD RIGHT NOW THAT this is about one exchange with a block that has precedent and procedure for me to follow. 

Let's just all look the other way and imagine that Buster didn't lie down on Chicken's face, and that Chicken didn't bite Buster's chest, and that Buster didn't then punch Chicken's throat, and that Chicken didn't then kick Buster's belly, which sent Buster into my office where I was looking at fall moccasin booties.

You're both guilty and you BOTH deserve solitary but la la la la la I'm gonna see if we can just pull out a conviction for light assault, the sentence for which is "check in with your brother to see if he's okay," and "make sure to do the same fucking thing in exactly four minutes so we can shave a few seconds off our record time."


NEXT.
OK so we all know that if you're going to issue a consequence it should be a natural one.

Kid throws dinner, you remove the plate.

Kid throws a dinosaur, you remove the dinosaur.

Kid throws a punch, you remove the hand. #CivilWarParenting #drinkthiswhiskey #bitethisstrap #holdhimmen #isaidholdhim

okay let me set the scene
i said
i said
tables are not for standing
and then

yeah

I like natural consequences because they're intuitive, not punitive - it's not like "you threw a dinosaur so I'm going to MAKE YOU PAY, SUCKA." It's like, "you threw a dinosaur, which could hurt someone, so I'm going to help you make a safer choice by removing the dinosaur." Natural consequences focus on solving the problem rather than shaming the child.

Honestly, natural consequences are GREAT. They're a godsend, the best thing to happen to parents since squeezy-pouches. Truly, they are the ONLY kind of consequences any loving parent should ever impose. And they are SO EASY to come up with in the moment!

Right.

Katie! Katie, wake up! You're gonna be late for school!

Oh honey, natural consequences are a sweet, sweet, sweet dream.

And sure, some dreams come true. One time I dreamed I was standing in front of a room of people in my underwear, and lo, a few years later I was a theater major. Another time I dreamed fire ants were slowly eating me alive, and lo, Donald Trump is running for president. But in all my 32 years I have never had Jeff Goldblum personally deliver my room service carrot cake wearing a tuxedo with the bow tie pulled loose. SOME DREAMS WILL NEVER COME TRUE. And such is the case with the idea of always having "natural consequences."

Sometimes the natural consequence hurts you way more than it helps to solve the problem. EXAMPLE.

Problem: Kid throws a remote at the TV.
Natural consequence: No more TV.

OH GOD NO 
WHAT HAVE I DONE
I JUST TOOK AWAY TV
I SHOULD HAVE CUT OFF HIS HAND

Sometimes your kid just, what's the clinical term, "sucks for awhile." And the natural consequence is we all have to live with him until he stops sucking. EXAMPLE.

Problem: Kid is whining. Nonstop whining. Can't form words. Just bleating sounds. Like a kid. Not a human kid. A goat kid. A kid kid.

Solution: Well, you tell me, Crackerjack Mack. I know that the solution should be talking to him about his upset feelings, but faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahck when that kid whines back at you the convo goes south in a hurry:

Mom: Honey? Come sit down with me in your favorite chair and let's see if we can figure out how you can feel a little bit better, huh pumpkin?

Kid: Nyee mee mee mwah nyah nyee mee--

Mom: STOPSTOPSTOPITNOW. (Takes a breath). Whew, sorry about that kiddo! It's just when you use a whining voice it really makes me feel frustrated that I can't understand your words! Can you please try to tell Mommy what's wrong using your big boy words?

Kid: Meeeeeuw nyah nyah mee-

Mom: NOPE STILL WHINING STOP WHINING STOP NOW. (Punches wall, smoothes hair). Okay, let's try something a little different. How about if we just sit quietly together until you feel like you can talk and I feel a little more... calm, hmm?

(Moments pass)

Kid: Mommy?

Mom: Yes, love of my life?

Kid: Well... WAH WAH NYAH MYAH MYAH-

Mom: (bursts into flames)

Near as I can tell, the most natural consequence for whining is SILENCE. However you choose to achieve that goal is your business and my attorneys have advised me not to recommend any particular brand of tape.

And sometimes your kid does something batshit nutballs and the most natural consequence is to be like, "listen that was totally fucked up but also a really creative use of your environment to build a ladder, so... here's what I'm thinking. If you grow up to be a luminary I don't want you to be like 'My mom never understood me,' so I'm not going to punish you but I want a SOLID mention in any future acceptance speeches, got it? Also, I'm gonna take some pictures to share around but I'm definitely not, like, okay with this."

also
is that
did you take a dump too
okay
i'm gonna go wider
and get one with the dump in it

got it


And sometimes your kid embarks on a mission to see how far you can bend until you snap. And the natural consequence, darlings, is to snap.

EXAMPLE.

When Buster spit in my face, I was like "Natural consequence: I'm going to spit in your face MORE!" No, no, I didn't. I swallowed my foamy bloodlust and chose instead to speak calmly to my darling son. But hear me now, "American Academy of Pediatrics." I will abide by your tyranny while I have no other choice, but mark my words and the words of so many patriots whose voices cannot be silenced. These SOBs will get theirs. If we have to wait years, decades. If we have to wait until our children have children of their own, and we spend our precious time with our grandbabies coaching them on how to hoark up meaty nuggets of phlegm, cradle them lovingly in the cup of their tongues before loosing the load. If we have to wait to cry tears of joy when our grandchildren spit in the faces of our children, they will get theirs.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE.

When Chicken legit choked me, wrapped his fingers around my windpipe, I was like, "Natural consequence: Neck access? Cut off. You will never get neck-distance from me EVER again. I'm gonna FaceTime your bedtime stories from now on. Mother-son wedding dance? The Macarena. Now go to your room with the iPad and wait for my call." Also not a sound plan. Kid loves FaceTime. And the Macarena.

YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE.

Whenever I take the boys out in the double stroller, we return home and walk into the garage. Chicken doesn't get strapped into his stroller seat, so as soon as we're inside he slides out, beelines for the door to the house, opens the door, steps into the house, closes the door, and locks the deadbolt.

Natural consequence: Break the boy's fingers.

No, no, Katie, that's the rage talking.

Natural consequence: Just the thumb?

There will be no breaking of bones, Katie's Rage.

Natural consequence: OKAY, we just won't go anywhere. Ever again.

Really sound plan you've got there, Yellow Wallpaper. Can I talk to Rage again? Quick talkin' dingbat and come up with a natural consequence already. Think! He locked you out of the house. You...

Lock HIM out of the house!

Jesus.

Wait.

The 4-year-old.

No, I didn't mean...

Lock the 4-year-old child out of the house, you're saying. Here. In the city. On a busy street, you're saying.

I didn't mean... I wasn't thinking for a LONG time.

JUST FOR A FEW MINUTES THEN? HERE? AT THE BUS STOP? No you're right I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm sure a kindly man in tight shorts will offer to take him to a puppy. And that'll be super for everybody.

OMG stop it you're the worst.

I'm in your head, boo boo. You're the worst.

Fuck it, I'll just put him in his room.

Or you could clip him into the stroller.

Holy shit.

Yep.

It was there in front of me.

Oh yeah.

The whole time.

You're pretty dumb when you're mad.


Moral of the story?

Natural consequences are pretty great when they happen (can't believe I'm about to say this) organically. Those are what you call parenting wins. 

But when you're staring down a transgression so egregious, spit in the face, hands on your throat, the fucking snick of a deadbolt sliding home for the second time in 2 days, it can be pretty damn hard to set aside your all-too-human desire to quite simply punish that behavior to extinction, or worse, reflect that 4-year-old behavior back. So HE can see how it feels!

Now I'm not an expert here, but I'm pretty sure, "back at you but WORSE" is how the Cold War ended and we ended up super close with Russia. Right?

At times like that, when you want to issue a penalty so swift and merciless that it will result in immediate obedience, remorse, and helping with the laundry, a "natural consequence" is just a salad on the first day of your period. Totally the right move in the long run. SO not what you wanted.

Here's the problem with parenting.

(HAHAHAHAHA as if there's one problem with parenting.

No but there is seriously only one problem with parenting.

It's Legos. The small ones.

i can just see chicken
propping up that wheelbarrow
jabbing buster with his elbow
and whispering
now
we wait


God DAMN but those tiny motherfucking Legos.

I have toe lacerations.

dug this little bastard
out of my right heel


There's a tiny shovel stabbed into a blueberry somewhere in my house and archaeologists will find it in the 43rd century and think, "this was a house of pygmy blueberry farmers." The day after burrito night Buster pooped a construction helmet that I thought was a corn.

So, yep.

That's the problem with parenting.)

No but seriously the problem with parenting is that it is necessarily and pain in the assedly flexible. You must pivot. You never know if you're pivoting the right way. You are malleable, flexible, ready to adjust for the winds at present. Which is important, and also your downfall.

All it takes is one asshole with an opinion and your carefully constructed, well-researched, thoughtful and value-based system of childrearing and humansculpting goes out the fucking window and a month later you find yourself doing fucking time-outs again and you're like wait, this has literally never worked a single time with my children why the fuck am I doing time-outs? And you trace it back to the asshole and the opinion, and you realize that you've fallen back on a tactic that does not work for your kids purely because it pleases parenting spectators, because it's what non-parents or another generation of parents EXPECT to see out of  "good parents" (and good parents are the ones with kids who do not make sounds, make messes, have embarrassing questions, express feelings, or get tired, hungry, cranky, sick, scared, mad, sad, confused, jealous, or mean). Because "time out" has become a signifier for "engaged parent with standards" and oh by the way that asshole and that opinion were visiting from the east coast and they haven't been living in your fucking house for the last month to watch you gradually question all of your parenting choices as their asshole opinions echo in your memory, and all of a sudden your kids are like wait we have to wash our hands AFTER BREAKFAST? That was never a thing, Mom. Who are you trying to impress here? Who's coming over today? Someone important? Is Elmo coming? MOM? IS ELMO COMING OVER TODAY?

And that asshole certainly is not the one who has to peel your spidermonkey toddler's arms from around your thigh when you attempt to put him in his room "to think about what he has done," and by the way NOBODY in the HISTORY of time outs has EVER spent that time THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE people in time outs think about one thing and one thing only and that is RIGHTEOUS VENGEANCE.

And THAT's when the shame spiral begins.

And THAT's when you have to go back to the dog-eared, highlighted, underlined, indexed parenting books.

And THAT's when you  have to close your eyes, tell that asshole to fuck off back to fucking Maine already, remind yourself that you, your partner, and your kids are the only people who matter in these decisions, and you start over.


You may have noticed that I've been in a bit of a slump, blogging-wise.

Or maybe you haven't noticed because there's been nothing for you to notice.


There's been nothing at all.


It's not as though I've published a ton of blog posts that were the blogging equivalent of swinging at a golf ball and missing with such vigor that I broke my own back. Which is what it always feels like when I swing and miss a golf ball. Well, first there's the burning shame of recognizing that I suck, and that I suck publicly. Then there's that whole "oh God did I break my own back" thing. Then there's the smug fuckface ball, sitting there, staring up at me with its dimpled white face. I didn't even move, ya jackass. It's not like you swung and missed at a tennis ball, which at least has a direction and velocity to stymie you. The sun wasn't even in your eyes. Nobody coughed. You just suck, like, the most ever.


Whatever "golf," who sucks more, the person who sucks at golf or the person who's AWESOME at golf but who is also missing like 40k because #putters and #drivers and #visors. Visors don't grow on trees y'all.


But anyway it wasn't like that. (Do you even remember what we're talking about right now? I said I was in a slump and it wasn't like swinging and missing a golf ball and then I said "but anyway it wasn't like that," but now IT TOTALLY IS. FUCK.)


Hard to pinpoint the source of the slump.


There was Poopocalypse 2016. Then there was the back spasm, flying with the kids to family vacation, the family vacation to Disneyland complete with Buster's mysterious vomit/hive rash virus, the chemical burn in my right eye that either caused some long-term damage or turned me into an X-man, not sure yet, let you know the next time a wormhole opens.


if i am an x man now
i want my power to be
laundry
that i can do all the laundry
without having to touch
look at
or think about
laundry

Or it could have been something less acute. It could have just been life.



My friend moved away and she was a rare friend, the kind of person I never had to pretend with. I miss her a lot. More friends are going back to work. I feel like I'm about to be the last mom left at the zoo on a weekday morning.

The people who became parents by my side are still growing, moving, running toward a city on the horizon.  I'm running just as hard, but I'm on a treadmill. I feel like I'm losing one of the best parts of my job. My community of moms is migrating away.

Also, I'm not at all certain that I'm a good parent, which is almost as bad as "I'm so fat," when it comes to statements that you hope everyone loudly protests. You want jaws to drop. You want people to express concern that you're, like, maybe TOO good a parent, like are you okay?

Except I'm not saying it to invite protestation. I'm saying it because every day the question dogs me and I know I'm not the only one.



I love my boys so desperately, hunger for them to turn their faces my way. I yell at them so much, and pray that their naps last FOREVER. I've heard in hushed tones the legend of the child who went to sleep at 2 pm and slept all the way until 7:30 am. Tell me, Lord, what might I sacrifice in your honor to earn such a glorious stretch of peace? Do you need me to club baby otters? How many?

I'm always trying to wrap myself around them; I'm always trying to shake them off. That is exactly how parenting doesn't make any fucking sense. You are my bread, my breath, my blood. UGH STOP TOUCHING ME FOR SERIOUSLY 5 SECONDS JEEZ.

We get in the car to go to the park and I turn on my audiobook, holding up a mute finger to my lips if Chicken chirps, "Mommy? Mommy? Why does the sign have a circle on it?"

They sit down to breakfast and I hop on my email.
What? 
GAP is doing a storewide 40% off sale? 
TODAY ONLY? 
Coupon Code:
EVERYTHINGIS40%OFFEVERYFUCKINGDAYNORUSHSERIOUSLYYOUCANHAVEBREAKFASTWITHYOURKIDSUNLESSYOUAREAVOIDINGTHEM
Well. 
This must be investigated immediately.

How many times today did Chicken ask me to play with him? "Mommy, will you play with me?" I get so mad when he asks. I have to say "oh baby I would love to play with you but first I have to... (insert thing I'm doing that really could wait but I would rather get it done now so the fruit flies don't come back.)" I get so mad when he asks, because a person I love to insanity has asked me to walk away from meaningless things to do that I do not love. And for some reason, I say no. I say, I have to...

"Change laundry, cook breakfast, load dishes, get dressed, finish this email..."

I always say I want to play with him but he always comes in second. Which makes me feel like I'm lying when he asks if I want to play with him and I say yes. Which makes me wonder if I DO want to play with him.

That's the thing about the treadmill. If you watch the track beneath your feet you notice the seam where the belt was sewn together. You start to count how many steps until you see it again. And again. And again. 

You could run faster and enjoy it more when you see the miles retreat behind you, when you can mark the way that still needs running in trees, crosswalks, unique landmarks, the evidence of progress.

I don't have any idea how to get off the treadmill and back on the road, although I'm pretty sure "going outside" is a key element. Honestly, I've been stumbling through the slump, silent and unsharing with it. Nobody wants to read about my first-world blues. Or rather, nobody wants to read about my first-world blues, explored genuinely but superficially without an insight or punchline in sight.

I'm coming out of it now. Clean living, you know? And by clean living I mean 10,000 steps a day, strawberry shortcake, and scotch. 

Aaaaaanyway I just wanted to say that I'm back, and I'm writing again. And I have a real post for you tomorrow.