Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lord, Save Me From Mother's Day

"Happy Mother's Day", my daughter said enthusiastically at exactly 7:13 this morning. She was so excited she couldn't wait for me to sit up in bed before presenting me with her present. It was a beautiful bracelet she had made at school out of beads made by Ugandan women from recycled paper. There was a handmade card, the best kind in my estimate, with a picture of the two of us.  Then she sang me two songs.  I love to hear her sweet little voice sing.  She gave me a hug and a kiss and wished me a happy mother's day again.  

It was all downhill from there.

Storms had kept me awake during the night. I was exhausted and kept thinking what a nice present it would be just to sleep in a little. She immediately began begging for TV, but it was early in the morning and I still had hope for the day. So I was strong and denied her the brain rot I'm convinced TV is. I'll get up in a little while I said, hoping to buy a little time.  

"No Mommy! You can't get up. We have to get you breakfast in bed." She protested.

It was still pretty early in the morning. Daddy was in deep sleep mode and in the middle of a cleansing fast--i.e., in no mood to get someone else breakfast*. I thought wistfully of the bagels and cream cheese I had in the kitchen.  Ummmmmm, that way the cream cheese gets melty when the bagel is toasted.  Alas, it would be simple enough for me to make, but too difficult for my daughter to attempt unsupervised.  You know, ovens, sharp knives and all. And there was no convincing my daughter it would be OK if I made my own breakfast.  I finally had to pacify her by telling her I would put out the Cherrios and milk and she could make that bring a bowl up to me.  The surprise would be WHEN she brought it up, (I tried to sell her). She could WAIT until mommy had been asleep for a little while and then surprise her. I had no sooner gotten back in bed when my daughter and the sloshing bowl of Cherrios came up the stairs. Wow, immediately.  That is a surprise. Oh boy.  

"I put something special in it" she said proudly. I was little worried and have to admit I prodded the bowl a little before eating to discover it was only a strawberry and honestly, a tasty addition. Once we drank the milk, (yes, she insisted on sharing the milk with me) there was no putting it off any longer. I had to get my wearing bones out of bed and go downstairs.

Milk and Cherrios were scattered everywhere.  I hate waking up to a messy kitchen any day, but on mother's day it just seems cruel and ironic.  I'd like to sleep in, wake up to a clean house, and get dressed for church without any drama.  Instead I'm roused up way to early, forced fed Cherrios, and reduced to begging my daughter to stop obsessing about the robot dog in my closet that hasn't worked for 3 years and get dressed for @#$%&* church!  But, I digress.

As I mopped up milk soaked cereal I noticed dishes and glasses from last nights snacks cluttering the counter and sink.  I started to put them in the dishwasher but soon realized I couldn't.   My daughter in her effort to be helpful on Mother's Day decided to actually run the dishwasher.  Oh--light bulb--that's why she wanted me to take the lid off the dishwashing soap. So rather than interrupt the cycle and waste water, I ended up washing all the dishes by hand and placing them on the counter to dry while a near empty dishwasher ran it's wasteful course.  

How is it a day that is meant to "Honor Mothers" somehow ends up being more work for Mothers? Like some sort of idiot I keep thinking to myself that I'm suppose to be getting some sort of break on this day.  I mean, the flowers are nice, yes. The little handmade cards and gifts are darling.... but isn't it Mother's DAY, not Mother's 10 seconds of gift unwrapping?

Though-out the day that was meant to honer me I cleaned up an entire roll of toilet paper, a half a dozen lollypop sticks that were hidden behind a chair cushion, and an indescribable pile that seemed to consist mostly of paper, books, crumbs, and half eaten chocolate, (chocolate that was a gift to me from the church Elders, mind you). I had to listen to whining for TV and griping for desert.  I also had to answer a blitzkrieg of questions while trying to listen to talks about Motherhood, retrieve my toothbrush from the floor twice, and swipe feet out of my face while trying to watch Donny Osmond, in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat."  I mean, come on--it's Prince Donny Osmond.   Have a little respect.  Then to add insult in injury, when I mentioned that Donny and I were about the same age my daughter said, "No, Mommy he's young." Hump! I don't doubt it.  He's never been on the receiving end of Mother's Day.

I kept thinking to myself , "I'm glad it's Mother's Day. I hate to think what it would be like if it weren't." I wondered  if this same scenario were being played in neighborhoods all over America. Is there a Mother who is honestly having just a great day today?

I'll tell you whose having a great day today--my Mom.  No more kids in the house.  She woke up when she darned well pleased this morning and had a tidy and simple little breakfast of her choosing. She got dressed and prepared for church in peace and quiet.  The only question she had to answer today was rhetorical.  And, although I didn't get her the most elaborate gift in the world, I had sent her a nice little box of goodies that I'm sure she had fun rummaging through at her leisure.  And then tonight, my brother and Dad are making her dinner--

Uh-oh, I hope they remember to clean the kitchen.

* Lest you think my husband a jerk, he had given a beautiful bouquet of  Irises the day before. Their tight little buds opened beautifully by Sunday Morning.   After 16 years of marriage, he knows just what I want on occasions such as this.  There is nothing I love more than having fresh flowers in the house.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth?

I know Walt Disney was a man of vision, but I wonder if he truly understood family dynamics when he called his world “The Happiest Place On Earth.”   I just finished a four day stint there, and here are a few snippets I heard while in the park...

“Yeah?  Well if you don’t like it go home!”

“I waaaaaaaant it!”

“I’m am tired of this behavior...”

“Maybe you’d be happier in the hotel room?”


“I’ve had it with your belligerent attitude.”

“You can do it if you want to.  I don’t!”

“I hate you!”

“Did you just kick me?!”

“If you’re going to keep acting like this you can just wait in the car.”

“Go ahead--pout if you want to.  See if I care.”  (Wait, I don’t think I heard that so much as I said it.)

And my personal favorite....

“Shut it.  Shut your mouth!”

In addition, I heard bawling of all kinds, saw feet stomping tantrums, and witnessed Jehovah’s Witness like collapsing to the ground.  The children weren’t much better.

Something about the place just brings out the worst in kids and therefore parents.  I don’t know what it is.  You’d think kids would be thrilled and happy and just play nicely while there.  But no, they see it as a prime opportunity to test the boundaries and see just how far they can push mommy before she goes crazy crackers and pulls them into the bathroom for a “come to Jesus” talk.

I noticed this when my husband  and I (still childless) first went to Disney World for our 5th Wedding Anniversary.   Kids were melting down faster than a Mickey Pop on the cartopia in July.   I concluded then that Disney World was the litmus test to determine if your child was spoiled.  After all, if they can’t be happy in Disney World, where could they possibly be happy?

The first time we took our daughter to Disney World was when she was 2 and half.  We failed the test by a wide margin.  I still clung to some hope that we might come out of it ahead until the screaming mimi in the middle of Hollywood Studios.  But, as I mentioned, she was just under 3.  I rationalized that she was too young and blamed myself for dressing her in long sleeves in what turned out to be 80 degree weather. (I don’t know what I was thinking.)

But this time she was 5, and I stocked up on short sleeves and scooter shorts.   We dedicated entire family home evenings* to troubleshooting problems and coming up with solutions.  I felt prepared.  I felt hopeful that this time we would pass the test and have a pleasant, happy child while at the happiest place on earth.  That we would all have an easy stress free vacation.


That child did not miss a chance to come up with some new and freakish behavior to embarrass me with in front of Grandparents and strangers a like.  Every time she got on a ride she’d ask at least a dozen tearful times if I was sure we could get off.  I could understand that on “The Haunted Mansion”, but “Small World”?  Even the most innocent rides were fodder for suspicion.  “Will this ride end Mommy?”.  Yes, the ride will end but apparently your question will not. 

People were looking at me askance as I tried in vain to explain to her that Walt Disney loved children and that he made the rides so they would laugh and have fun, not to kidnap them and then sell them into slavery.   It was as if she was suspicious of the purpose of the park itself.  Why would someone go to this much trouble just to make kids happy?  There must be some dark and horrible ulterior motive.  I beginning to think she’s right, there was an ulterior motive and I wonder if Walt himself isn’t looking down at his famous theme parks right now and having a good side splitting laugh.  “And they PAY for this.” he says as he slaps his knee and wipes a tear from is eye.  I’m sure for him and his beneficiaries it is the happiest place on earth.  They are making buckets of money off of the misery of others.

And I swear to you, I took that child to the bathroom no less than 200 times in four days.  That’s 50 times a day.  I couldn’t get through a meal with out having to take her to the bathroom at least twice.  I was concerned she had picked up sort of bladder infection. 

Of course, if you she did get a bladder infection I wouldn’t be surprised.  She suddenly became fascinated and obsessed with textures and patterns.  I don’t think there was a surface in the whole park the she didn’t touch or actually lick.  There’s not enough Purell in the world to counter that.

I was failing the litmus test again.  I started the “too” game again.    Am I too indulgent, do I expect too much, am I too empathetic, etc... What am I doing wrong?  Or is it her.  What is wrong with her?   Why can’t she just get on the Peter Pan ride and enjoy the damned thing?  Why does she have to tearfully ask repeatedly and loudly so everyone can hear if someone is “controlling the ride”.  Why can’t she just listen to the African drum players without bursting into tears forcing us to leave just minutes into the show?

The one thing that kept me from becoming completely discourage were the comments listed above.  At least I wasn't alone.  Everyone around me seemed to be struggling.

Disney World might be the litmus test, but I’ve heard other parents who seem to have relatively well behaved children complain about the same thing, so maybe it isn’t as cut and dry as all that.  Maybe there is something about Disney that just makes kids miserable.  The American Indians sold the island of Manhattan on the cheap because the were convinced evil spirits lived there and wanted nothing to do with the Island.  Maybe there are similar spirits lurking around in Disney World?

Nah, probably not.  I honestly think that kids just get so excited about Disney World and when they get there they find out it’s really just a lot of waiting in line and walking around the park while vendors dangle candy and toys in front you that you can’t have because your cheap parents will only buy you ONE.  To come so close to getting what you want and not getting it (even if it is excessive and unreasonable) is torture to children.

Disciplining even the best natured child takes a lot of mental and physical effort.  When parents are on vacation they just want to relax like anyone else, and they let little things slip here and there.  They think the kids will be so grateful, as any human with half a brain should be, that they’ll do nothing but co-operate.  But kids are little opportunist.  They just can’t wait to exploit any sign of weakness they sense.  The smell it like a shark smells blood.  They know you want them to have a good time.  The problem is, for them having a good time is pushing your buttons. That’s what they want ultimately.  Not rides, not candy, or toys.  They want to push your buttons--HARD.   As strange as it seems, it makes their day when you loose your tempter and threaten to pitch the newly purchased unicorn pop they’ve been nagging you about for 2 days into the nearest recycle bin.  

I DO have to give my daughter some credit though.  This time was a vast improvement over last time.  We managed to avoid the stomping, snot running, red faced tantrums.  She declared “Snow White’s Scary Ride” not scary at all.   And there was one night it took 3 trains rides, 2 parks, a boat ride, an uncountable number of restaurants and some serious walking in between to find a place to eat dinner.  My husband would later refer to it as the Batan Death March.  (Here’s a tip from me to you--if you are going to Disney make sure you have dinner reservations no matter how uncrowded the guide books claim it will be at that time of year.)  She was a real little trooper and I think actually complained about it less than her mother.  

Sometimes I think as a parent I’m too worried about the big picture, and I forget to just take the moments as they come.  Recently during general conference* Elder Ballard spoke to young mothers (And I take that to mean mothers of young children, not mothers who are young).  He said we need to “recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments.   There will be hard times and frustrating times.  But amid the challenges, there are shining moment of joy and satisfaction.”

He’s right.  We do just have to take the little moments and appreciate them.  Like the look on her face when she got to meet Princess Jasmine and asked her how she liked riding on the magic carpet.  I actually got a little vaclimpt.   Or the way she swooped her arm out to the side towards us when she met Cinderella and said with great formality “These are my parents.”  When the Spaceship earth ride tilted back to reveal we were in the middle of countless simulated stars my daughter asked “Am I dreaming?”  The sound of her laughter while riding “Soarin” made the ride that much better and her dimpled smile at being able to actually drive a car on “Cartopia” was priceless.

And one night while winding down in the hotel room Daddy came out of the shower.  I couldn’t resist the target and I reached out and gave his fanny a little smack.  We all laughed and giggled so hard our sides hurt.

And for one moment, it really was the happiest place on earth.

*  See  Yes, I'm a Mormon.  No, I didn't vote for Romney.