Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Age is More Than Just a Number

Kiddo is enthused to be a nine-year-old now. He likes to announce his advanced age with great ceremony. “I am NOT eight years old. I am nine years old.” Spoken with pride. 

Because I am always looking for an advantage when it comes to prodding him along to mastering life skills, I have turned this into my latest tool. Yes, I am the ninja mom of spying out the advantages I can take in my battles with my child. No, I feel absolutely no shame in this. 

One of our many skirmishes involves Kiddo’s bath. He likes me to wash him. I think he finds great comfort in having me scrub his spindly little body while he luxuriates as Lord and Master of All He Surveys. I’m sure it’s relaxing. Yet it is something that he needs to take responsibility for. 

So I wash his back and hair for him, since these particular areas are still problematic. Then I hand him the soap-lathered washcloth. “Time to wash your feet,” I instruct, because he needs the initial prompt to get going. Once he washes his feet, he’ll move up his body on his own. 

It’s the start that is hard to master. He’s enjoyed having his back scrubbed and his scalp massaged. He’s at his ease. “You wash the feet,” he tells me. 

Until last month when he turned the grand old age of nine, a back-and-forth of several minutes would ensue at this point.  

“No, you can wash your own feet.” 

“You wash it, Mommy.” 

“Wash them. You have plural feet, so you wash them, not it. Now wash your feet.” 

“You wash them, Mommy.” 

And so it went until he bowed to my tyranny. What a cruel despot of the household I am. 

Then he became a nine-year-old, and the proud pronouncements of such gave me a new weapon to wield.  

“Wash your feet.” 

“You wash the feet.” 

“I can’t. I can only wash your feet if you are eight years old.” 

“I am NOT eight years old. I am nine years old.” 

“Then you’re a big boy. If you’re nine years old, you have to wash your feet. Are you nine?” 

“Yes. I am nine years old.” 

“Then wash your feet, big boy.” 

After a moment’s consideration, the proud young man gets to scrubbing. After all, he’s not an eight-year-old baby now. He is a nine-year-old boy. It’s time to man up and wash up. 

Age does matter. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brushes With Fortune and Freaking Out

I don’t do stress well. Even occasions of good fortune send my nerves into overdrive. On the other hand, I mundane very well. I was made for ordinary. Give me disaster or triumph, and I’m in over my head. 

Case in point: I am in talks with a television producer about a pilot script I wrote for a new science fiction series. For most people, this would be cause for celebration. Even if nothing comes of these negotiations (which the odds say are most likely), it is still reason to be proud and shouting from the rooftops. 

Instead I am totally freaking out ... and not in a good way.


Exactly. But in letters a mile high.

I can’t sleep. My stomach rages. My mind constantly worries over every little nuance that the producer utters. Will he offer me an option? Will the project see the light of day? Did my natural social awkwardness doom everything right from the start to sink like the Titanic? What if things go well? What if the unlikely happens and a television show is greenlighted? Will I have to move my family away from family and friends and the support system we’ve come to rely on? Can I handle rejection? Can I handle success? 

On and on my brain churns. I exercise like I’m training for the heavyweight championship of the world to distract myself. I meditate to clear my mind. I keep plugging on with everyday life, reminding my anxiety-prone personality that if things do fall through, then nothing is lost. Life will continue on in its comfortable, well-known order. My life is already good. I don’t need this type of success to be fulfilled. It would just be icing on an already scrumptious cake. 

But then I start thinking again. Thinking begets worry and worry begets obsessing. I’m much too good at obsessing. I should wear the Queen of Obsession crown. That’s how amazing I am at it.


The right-hand side is also what my brainwaves
look like at this point...a big tangled mess.

If you happen to cross paths with me, please forgive the wide-staring eyes; the mumbled, half-coherent responses; the nervous shaking. Be gentle with me. The opportunity of a lifetime is crashing on top of me. I’m not dealing well with it. Remind me to breathe and remind me that no matter how this turns out I will be fine. I know all that already ... I just need the rest of you to keep repeating it to me. Maybe at some point, that squirrely part of my brain will believe you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Late Night With Kiddo

My son has a new thing: late night TV watching. No, not the Tonight Show or anything like that. Whatever his father and I are viewing after sending Kiddo to bed holds new fascination for him.

This all started a few nights ago when Hubs and I settled in to watch some Netflix. The second Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. was playing for our enjoyment. At one point, I needed to get up and put my recliner down. From beyond the den’s door came the distinctive THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of not so tiny feet racing for the back of the house. Hubs and I exchanged a look. 

“Was he watching the movie?” P-man asked. 

“Must have been,” I replied. Well, Kiddo was back in bed now and it wasn’t a school night, so there was no point in doing anything about it.  

As the movie progressed, it went from an action sequence to a more sedate dialogue-heavy scene. After a few seconds of that, we again heard the heavy pounding of child racing away (the kid never walks anywhere in the house ... unless it’s to sneak up and watch TV behind our backs, apparently). Another exchange of looks. 

“He’s getting up to watch the movie,” I said. 

“It does have some pretty good action,” Hubs pointed out.  

“He’s not into the ‘feels’ portion,” I observed. “He’s definitely an action-adventure kind of guy.” 

This happened three more times during the movie. It was funny to us because my son usually protests if the television is played during his awake time. We chuckled and chalked it up to curiosity every time he ran away.  

The thing is, this after-hours viewing continues. Kiddo sneaks through the house to watch our shows despite not liking the TV to be on before his bedtime. When our program reaches a point that he doesn’t care for or one of us makes a sound that he believes means he’s about to get caught, he stampedes back to his room. 

“Stay in bed and go to sleep!” has become my new parenting mantra. It is often ignored. So now as we catch up on our new fave ‘The Walking Dead’ via our pal Netflix or watch a concert or movie, Kiddo is watching with us. Sort of. And I wonder if he realizes zombies aren’t a real threat. Or that you can’t really stop a bullet with your teeth. Or a hundred other things we accept as plausible when we suspend disbelief to enjoy our entertainment. 

I can’t imagine why movies and TV are so fascinating to him once we’ve said our good nights. Maybe it’s a forbidden fruit deal. Maybe he enjoys it more when it’s clandestine. Maybe he’s training to infiltrate the average American home during prime time without average Americans knowing he’s there. 

I also wonder how he knows to sneak up to watch but hasn’t figured out his retreats need to be equally silent in order to keep us clueless. He’s not ninja-ready ... yet. I have no doubt he’ll get there, and sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Cup Runneth Over

Fate is a prankster when it comes to scheduling. It must be. When one major thing happens to me, at least three other things decide they have to pile on too. I’m left looking like an apocalyptic survivor, my eyes wide and staring, my hair standing on end, my face lined with stress. 

It is always this way. 

The latest occurrence centered around my sleep. Now I don’t sleep well as a general rule. Insomniac is me. Nights where I drift off within an hour of hitting the sheets and don’t wake up until the morning are reasons to believe in miracles. But I usually do manage at least 6 hours of belated, oft-interrupted slumber each night. 

I knew the nights surrounding March 8 would not herald decent rest. March 8 was the Daylight Savings Time switch. You know, spring forward and lose a precious hour? That stupid thing wrought somewhere in the bowels of Hell? Who came up with this nightmare, anyway? Take that person out and shoot them, please. 

March 8 is also Kiddo’s birthday. We had a weekend of joy planned for him: pizza party on the 7th and train museum excursion on the 8th. I knew things were going to be hectic. I was readying for a new book release at the end of the month (Alt-Tam’s work), and it was formatting hell right then. My house needed to be cleaned before friends and family showed up, which meant the usual squalor had to be eliminated. That was a two-day project at the least. Scrambling to decorate, wrapping presents, ordering food and cake ... yes, crazed time was swiftly upon me. Stress climbed to incredible altitudes. 

And then the unplanned thing guaranteed to destroy any hope of rest swooped in on me. Something that any other time would have felt like a miraculous godsend. A producer contacted me about potentially making a script I had written into a TV series. 

All circuits were immediately blown. My brain went into overload, guaranteeing no sleep for the known future. Excitement, hope, and not a little terror conspired to amp me up into the stratosphere. There was no coming down from the adrenaline hit now. I was flying high. 

Saturday, the day of the party, my head felt like it weighed a ton from the fitful dozing I’d barely managed the night before. Somehow the celebration went off without a hitch. Yet a new stressor was introduced, one I hadn’t thought too much about until it was too late. With all the sugar and salt in my system, my menopausal body went into overload. Despite the night’s exhaustion, continued excitement and monstrous non-stop hot flashes conspired to keep me awake most of the night. I was a barely functioning troll on Sunday. I dragged around the train museum after my delighted son, looking like an extra from The Walking Dead. Afterwards, we let him choose where he would have dinner. Of course it was the home of salt: McDonald’s.  

With my diet already trampled, I came home to party leftovers. I ate the party leftovers. Another night of sweating and no sleep ensued as my mind went over every little nuance of the pilot script I’d written and wondering where the hell I was going to find a decent entertainment lawyer in Buttscratch, Georgia, should the miracle of a contract come about. 

This is the way things go in my life. One little thing is planned. Then a bunch of other things happen, zeroing in on that date of the calendar. You’d think I’d expect it by now. But no, I’m always surprised by the coincidental events that barrel at me like a runaway train. 

This is my world. This is why I look the way I do. Have pity when you come across this poor, shambling wreck. Don’t be surprised if I collapse in a snoring heap in the middle of a conversation. And if anything comes up that I need to deal with, please just shoot me. It's the only way I'll ever get any rest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Taking the Good with the Bad

This morning the school bus didn’t show up. Well, it did show up, but an hour and a half late. By then, I’d already packed up Kiddo and driven him to school. During the ride he was crying. He said he was sad. He told me he was having a bad day. 

Something as insignificant as a late (or no-show) bus has a huge impact on my son. An abrupt change in routine is akin to an earthquake in his carefully ordered world. Things are thrown off-kilter, and it is hard for him to recover from that. 

It took some effort for your not-so-friendly neighborhood Momzilla to offer condolences and gentle words to her confused child. Not because I didn’t feel and sympathize with his pain, but because I felt more inclined to make phone calls and pour some abusive epithets into the guilty party’s ear. I’m ugly like that when someone makes my kid cry. 

Kiddo had calmed down by the time we got to school, thank heavens. At least the tears were done. I walked him down the hall swarming with kids and other parents to his classroom.  

That’s where the blessing in disguise revealed itself. 

The class was just getting started. As my son entered the room, twenty-some heads turned to look at him. Suddenly, the air rang with glad welcomes. Faces broke out in smiles to see Kiddo was with them. Hands rose like a forest to offer high-fives. The cute little redhaired girl I’ve picked as my future daughter-in-law jumped up to give Jacob a hug. He was greeted like a long-lost friend even though they’d seen him just yesterday. 

I thought my heart might explode. My child, who had started the day in tears, grinned from ear-to-ear to see his classmates. He walked a gauntlet of kids who were happy to have him among them.  

News and social media are full of reports of special needs kids being bullied and victimized. I’ve almost accepted it as a given that this is the world Kiddo faces. I’m waiting for the day when something goes horribly wrong because someone feels they can hurt a child who is different. I’m expecting the worst long before hoping for the best. 

Today, I got a dose of hope. Thanks to irresponsible adults who didn’t have a backup for a sick bus driver who couldn’t make it to work, I got to see a miracle. I saw some terrific kids who not only accept my son, but delight in him though he thinks and acts differently from them. I got to see that at this time, my child does have a safe place where he is literally welcomed with open arms. Was it worth a few tears? That remains debatable. For now however, I’m smiling as big as my son did when he walked into that classroom filled with friends.