Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Appointment TV: Nanny 911

Whenever we happen to be home on a Wednesday night, my husband and I find it cathartic to turn on Fox's new program "Nanny 911." The little dickenses and their clueless parents give new meaning to the term "boob tube," and we usually go to bed feeling like superior parents.... unless, that is, the antics of those particular little dickenses are just a wee bit familiar.
Take tonight, for instance. The darling little girl split her time between hitting her mother (herself a former nanny, to the great consternation of "Nanny Stella," the Brat Exterminator) and pummelling her little brother. "You've got to take charge, get control," the Nanny kept telling Mummy Dearest. "There have to be consequences..."
Ah, yes. Consequences. Reminds me of the time a social worker, who was preparing us to be foster parents, gave us a lecture on "setting natural consequences" for the kids who would soon be in our charge. First she modeled it for us (by writing our names on the chalkboard after we returned five minutes after the prescribed time, having let us out fifteen minutes later than she said she would), then proceeded to lecture us on why leaving a kid's bike in the driveway to be stolen or run over was a "more natural" (e.g. better) consequence than having the "Bike Fairy" make it disappear for a week.
What would have been a lot more useful, now, would have been if Super Social Worker had given us tips on what to do when...

* The four-year-old not only wets his bed but all four walls by standing up and holding himself like a firehose until one of us makes it into his room and ushers him in to the bathroom.

* The two-year-old will not leave her clothes on for more than 3.5 seconds at a time, exactly the amount of time she needs to spill an infintessimal drop of water or other liquid, so that her only recourse is to strip naked and run, shrieking with glee, around the kitchen island.

* The last "sibling visit" went so well that my son brought home not one but TWO new euphamisms for his... um, bathing suit area.

* Sarah protests naptime by opening up her dresser drawers and strewing ALL the clothes on the floor in a vain attempt to find her "Hap Class" tights. When I finally find her, she is wearing nothing but her tutu skirt pulled up to her armpits... and a contented smile.

* The last thing he whispers to me before closing his eyes for the night is, "I don't want to live here anymore.... I want to live at Daddy's WORK!" (Apparently the fish tank there is much cleaner than the swamp on top of his dresser.)

So how about it, Stella? Care to take a shot?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Dear Preschool Teacher...

Dear Teacher:

We have decided to remove our son from your preschool program. We had hoped a little structured classroom experience would help to prepare him for kindergarten next fall. However, it seems that we overestimated his readiness, and have decided to find a program more suited to an active child. Before we go, however, I wanted to say, "I'm sorry."
  • I'm sorry that, unlike the other little lambs in your program, he spent so much time shooting imaginary lasers and playing "Superheroes" with the other boys. My son must have stronger leadership qualities than I'd realized, to get the other boys to run around like banshees against their will.
  • I'm sorry that other parents objected to their children learning bad words like "dead" and "kill" from Christopher, and that they considered him a "bad influence." (He clearly got the better end of the deal, bringing home words like, "I'm stupid," and "I'm dumb.") We are especially sorry Christopher could not teach them even more important words -- like "tolerance" and "compassion."
  • I'm sorry that our parenting skills, which we acquired on the fly after taking three traumatized siblings into our home at once, are not up to the challenge of driving away every negative memory of his previous living situation, and that he still has bad days.
  • We are sorry that his anger and distrust of men surfaced unexpectedly when Mr. Music Teacher rebuked him in front of the class, and our son retaliated by kicking the man in the shins. (I was there at the time and, personally, I felt like doing the same.)
  • We apologize for Christopher's sulking when the class bully pestered and teased him... right in front of his own mother, who did absolutely nothing to stop her son.
  • I am sorry you think that I have been neglecting Christopher, fitting his schedule around our work and school commitments. I'm sorry that he was forced to wear the same St. Michael costume for both angel day and saint day, and that I put him in store-bought wings rather than the painstakingly home-crafted variety.
  • I apologize for not getting up at four in the morning, like other kids' moms, to create a four-course "snack" for thirty-five children, and for resorting to pre-packaged bagels and cream cheese. I'm sorry for bringing only homemade cookies, instead of forty-two from-scratch pies and twelve cheesecakes, for the charity fundraiser. Martha Stewart I am not.
  • I am sorry that you felt compelled to treat us like four-year-olds, rather than have the adults talk amongst themselves about their concerns, and that it was two months into the school year before your laundry list was complete, and the situation so untenable that the only solution was to remove my son from the program and his friends.
  • Most of all, I am sorry that our family as a whole did nothing to enhance the utopic environment that you and the other parents expect. Had I realized that it was not enough to shell out almost $800 a month, but that we had to be perfect as well, I would not have foisted our imperfect selves upon you all. I find it very sad that you all have boundless compassion and energy to help a group of children on the other side of the world, but could not find it in your hearts to empathize with our situation.

I'm sure it will be a relieve you all not to have Christopher around to scapegoat and me to judge and criticize. Or maybe not -- who will shoulder responsibility when it turns out your little angels are just as energetic and distractable when Christopher is no longer around to take the blame?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Round One: The Fight Begins

One morning when you least expect it, you'll look in the mirror and find it looking back at you. The phantasm bears a slight resemblance to your familiar self, except... Is it possible that your husband installed a trick mirror while you were dozing, just for kicks? This gal has...
  • Eyes bloodshot from getting up every two hours with one toddler's night terrors and the other's asthma attacks.
  • Stomach is rumbling from not eating a decent meal since... What is this? May?
  • Throat is raw from screaming like a fishwife, just to hear yourself above the din.
  • In the same set of sweats you've worn all week, sans bra. Even to the doctor's office.

And as the bathroom door reverberates with the pounding of three insistent sets of little fists, you pray the lock will hold long enough for you to sit down for five seconds and have one coherent thought.

Suddenly, it hits you:

This is not what I signed up for. I don't recognize that ghoulish figure in the mirror. She's grouchy. She's wrinkled and rumpled, and so are her clothes. She smells like baby barf. Make her go away.

Easier said than done. But if you watch my back, and I watch yours, maybe we can figure this out together. We'll get those Mommy Monsters.