Welcome to the Jungle(Gym)

Here’s a confession that is bound to land me in the bad-parent hall of fame, right there next to Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest and that lady who put her baby in a tanning bed:  I hate the park.  I know, I know, I’m terrible.  Apparently I’m missing that gene that allows one to derive endless joy from pushing a swing back and forth for hours on end.  Which I’m convinced is the same gene that enables you to dust your house more than once a month or iron a shirt without burning a hole in it.  But honestly, I just don’t understand the appeal.

Maybe it’s the sand you can’t sift through without finding 65 used band-aids, or the colorful graffiti, lovingly scrawled by the spelling/logic impaired; but the park is just not my scene.  I try to be a good sport, I really do.  But my main issue is that the park is always chock full of one of my least favorite things:  other people.  And oh, they are other, those people!  Why is it that only the extreme ends of the parenting spectrum appear to be represented?  There is seemingly no middle-ground between the hovering, absurdly enthusiastic, fruit-snack dispensing parent-droids and the bench dwelling sloths that wouldn’t look up from their text conversation if their kid was on fire.  And the kids, oh god the kids!  Roving bands of snot-nosed urchins ready to cough Pertussis directly into your mouth if you dare come within 5 feet of them.  Last week, a boy no more than 5 years-old walked up to me, looked me dead in the eye and said “I’m going to kick your kid in the face.”  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?  I reacted to the situation the way any reasonable parent would, by telling him that if he so much as tries it I will break into his house while he’s sleeping and break all his toys.  One of my proudest moments, obviously.  This incident occurred only a few days after a little girl with an utterly Machiavellian plot to overthrow the pirate ship slide nearly hurled my child down a flight of stairs.  Really, you should have seen this girl.  She was terrifying.  I can only imagine her evenings are spent huddled under a Dora the Explorer comforter with a flashlight and a dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  The whole park-going ritual has taken on a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel, as of late.  Remind me later to Google ‘Fisher Price “My First Brass Knuckles”’ so I don’t have to feel like I’m sending my little guy in unarmed.

Yeah, but what the hell does it do?

Even on the days when it isn’t teeming with tiny sociopaths and the people who parent them, the park is still not my favorite.  Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not a total monster.  I love it when my son is having fun – fresh air, sunshine, blah, blah, blah.  But up the slide, down the slide, up the slide, down the slide… come on!  I can only keep my enthusiasm up for so long.  And can someone please tell me exactly when classic playground elements became so painfully outdated?  Aside from the fact that there have been no substantial advancements in swing technology, most modern playground equipment bears little resemblance to anything I remember.  Jungle gyms appear to have been replaced with contraptions that look like medieval torture devices.  But perhaps I’m just a traditionalist.  Or maybe I feel cheated that I grew up with lame-ass monkey bars instead of super-sweet zip lines.  Either way, I can’t help but miss the metal merry-go-rounds from my childhood.  The ones that gave you 3rd degree ass burns on sunny days and spun so fast they could enrich uranium.

So there you have it.  Add the park to the list of things that didn’t magically become more fun upon becoming a parent, right along with 6:00 AM wakeup calls and cleaning up another person’s feces. (Although, I really didn’t have high hopes for that last one)  There are still plenty of things my son and I can agree are the bee’s knees:  going for long walks, super messy art projects and impromptu living room dance parties, to name a few.  Maybe I need to cut myself a little slack for sometimes finding even the “fun” parts of parenting just a little bit tedious.  I’ve never been so delusional as to think I’d be a perfect mom, but somehow always feel a little guilty when I fall short.  No one is ever going to love every part of it, and that’s okay.  Or maybe it’s a simple matter of perspective.  Sure, the park may seem boring if I’m comparing it to, say, happy hour with 2-for-1 gin and tonics.  But hey, at least it isn’t cleaning up another person’s feces!

Just Add Water

Hoping everyone had a super fantastic Labor Day weekend.  I know, I know…a little late on the draw.  Give me a break, huh?  Blogging ain’t easy!  For me, the final days of summer are always bittersweet.  And by that, I mean I spend the better part of August throwing tantrums whenever I notice the sun setting early or the temp dipping below 85 degrees.  But thanks to a mini-heat wave in the Twin Cities, we were able to give the summer a proper send-off with one final trip to the pool.

I absolutely love the pool.  I do.  Perhaps more than a 31-year-old woman should love paddling around in a body of water comprised of no less than 3% little kid urine.  But I just can’t help it.  One whiff of chlorine and I’m gone; the nostalgia takes over and I’m 8-years-old again, pedaling my pink banana-seat Schwinn the two blocks from my house to the public pool.  I’d while the afternoons Marco Polo’ing with other neighborhood urchins, or parked at the concession stand, plowing through envelopes of Lik-M-Aid like Lindsay Lohan through a gram of Colombia’s finest.  Hours were spent launching myself into water exactly 8 degrees warmer than the Bering Sea, serenaded by the sweet, mullet-y sounds of Richard Marx over the loudspeaker as I re-surfaced from one sweet-ass jack knife after another.  (Yes, I said Richard Marx…shut up, it was the late 80’s!)  To this day, I’m convinced Hawaiian Tropic SPF 5 contains some sort of mystical gypsy powers.  If I could spend five hours on a concrete pool deck without even a hint of sunburn, surely there must be some scientific properties we could harness to reverse global warming?  Remind me to look into that later…

More than two decades later, there is still no way I’d rather spend a summer day.  I wish I could say I had the same fondness for naturally occurring bodies of water, but let’s be real.  Fish poop in there!  Thankfully, I’m picking up on signs that indicate my son may share my unnatural love of chlorinated water.  At 2 ½, his attention span is that of a gerbil that’s gone off Ritalin, but he’ll spend hours splashing and flailing with unbridled glee.  It’s our summer thing.  Daddy’s in charge of the park, but Mama’s got the pool.  As excited as I am to share this with him, I’m already dreading the day when he’s old enough that I no longer have an excuse to jump in with him.  Whatever will I do when he’s too cool to hang poolside with his mom and her overstuffed beach bag full of Elmo towels and Goldfish crackers?  While I do love the water, I’m not a strong swimmer by any means – you’ll never catch me doing a lap.  Without a kid in tow, bystanders will likely confuse my aquatic-enthusiasm with some sort of severe mental disorder.  “Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?” the children will ask.  “Don’t stare, sweetie.  She might come over here.” Nope, that won’t do.  I’ll have to save it all up until I’m old enough for senior citizen water aerobics.  I’ll simply bide by time by shopping for full coverage bathing suits and floral swimming caps.  But until that day, I’ll doggie-paddle like no one’s watching.

Hitting the Bottle

Recently a coworker forwarded me a newsletter from a wine collecting website (wait, so you’re saying you procure the wine and don’t immediately pour the entire bottle down your gullet?  Sounds crazy to me, but okay, I’ll go along with it…).  This particular edition’s subject line read “5 Great Sipping Wines for Parents to Bring on Playdates”.  Not sure if all their subject lines are equally as compelling, but this one certainly had my number.  While I browsed their list of summery whites, the addition of a Spanish Txokoli made me realize that I need to step away from the 3 buck Chuck and broaden my horizons a bit.  How could there be wines out there I’ve never even heard of?  It hardly seemed possible.  The article also got me thinking, while Moscatos and Rieslings are all well and good, there’s a whole world of distilled spirits out there.  Perhaps we’d be wise to let the type of playdate dictate our beverage selections?  Here are just a few examples of playdates greatly enhanced by the right libation:

1. “You Are NOT the Father” Fiesta

Gather a few of your closest friends (and their young’uns) to watch Maury Povich on the barely working black and white television on your porch.  It’s simply the best way to enjoy a bit of fresh air without missing your stories!  Extra host points if you distribute GPC Menthol 100’s for guests to enjoy while the children whip each other with broken car antennae.

Recommended wine:  Lukewarm box of Franzia

2.  Betty Draper Bash 

While your husband is putting in those “long hours at the office”, repeatedly dialing his mistress and shrieking obscenities can be a real gas!  It may not count as a playdate in the traditional sense, but little Junior’s nanny or an imaginary friend he’s created to cope with your brazen neglect both make excellent companions in impish merriment.  They can even join in the fun by planting your expensive jewelry in the cleaning lady’s coat pocket – accuse her of lifting it and the excitement ensues!

Recommended cocktail:  fine gin martini

Accompaniments:  Valium, tacit resentment

3.  Send in the Clowns

Gather up those tiny Juggalos and let’s head on down to the dark carnival of souls!  There’s no time like the present for baby’s first Insane Clown Posse concert.  Make sure to pack plenty of black and white face paint for all the little Big Money Hustlas in your group.  No need to bring refreshments for the youngsters, soda is typically provided.

Recommended cocktail:  Jack & Coke

4.  Silicone Social

Invite all your super young looking friends over for an in-home spa party.  No need to acknowledge the ravages of time when you’ve got the fanciest, most idiotic treatments money can buy!  Make sure to confirm your booking with Demi Moore’s doctor well in advance to ensure there enough medical grade leeches for all your guests.  Don’t worry about activities for the children.  They’ll be happy as clams passing hors d’oeuvres, placing electrodes or administering syringes of black market Guatemalan Botox.  You’ll get that Pete Burns forehead that is oh so chic this season and they’ll get a chance to showcase their superior hand-eye coordination.  Plus it’s never too early for little Suzy to learn a valuable lesson about self-esteem.

Recommended cocktail:  Dom Perignon mimosa

Accompaniments:  beluga caviar amuse bouche, estrogen patches

In the event my suggestions fail to move you, please see the following link to the original article by snooth.com for a truly lovely list of low alcohol sipping wines.  Cheers!

http://www.snooth.com/articles/playdate-wines/?utm_campaign=5485&utm_medium=email&utm_source=all&utm_content=11405

Party Monster

Last weekend my son turned two years old.  Holy crap in a pita – how did this happen?!  When you’re expecting, people just LOVE to tell you how fast the time will go once the baby arrives.  “Treasure every moment, blah, blah, blah.”  “They’ll be grown up before you know it, blah, blahbbity, blah, blah.”  There’s nothing more annoying than when people are right.  I really had no idea just how bittersweet these milestones could be.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving toddlerhood and all its sticky, boogery glory.  But it’s all I can do not to throw myself atop a pile of his old onesies and weep uncontrollably.

And here’s another fun tidbit I didn’t know until I became a mother:  the task of throwing a child’s birthday party turns me into a full blown, hillbilly ape shit crazy person.  Much to my chagrin, I’ve found that there is a Martha Stewart style psychopath lying dormant inside me that is (mercifully) only awakened once a year.  Take pity on the unwitting victims who find themselves in her path.  It all starts innocently enough; shopping for decorations online, assembling guest lists, addressing adorable letterpress stationery.  Then the harebrained ideas start to flow until, eventually, the dam of crazy bursts.  The evening before kiddo’s first birthday found me hot gluing handmade construction paper party hats onto a menagerie of stuffed animals.  This, my friends, is not normal behavior.

This year I was determined to be more reasonable about the whole affair.  We were all set for a modest gathering of family and our closest friends.  Then one simple notion sent the whole thing careening toward theme party crazy town:  “maybe I’ll make the cake this year”.  Fast forward to one hour pre-party time, and I’m still in the kitchen with an icing bag in my hand swearing like a longshoreman with Tourette’s.

Despite coming very close to a stress-induced stroke, everything turned out beautifully.  Little man recognized all his favorite characters in buttercream and nearly filled his Huggies in excitement.  The payoff was so worth it.  Still though, it’s a shame the skill of crafting beloved television characters out of construction paper is entirely non-transferable to other areas of life.  Next year he’ll be three and I’ll be calmer.  Famous last words.  Words remarkably similar to the ones I repeated to myself while cleaning up piles of the custom confetti I cut myself for his first birthday.  I’m thinking of saving myself the delusion and just choosing next year’s theme now.  Maybe something more in line with my expertise would keep the stress level down a bit?  Do they make Golden Girls-themed third birthday party decorations? If you need me, I’ll be scouring the web for a Sophia Petrillo-shaped cake pan.

Playdateless in MSP

The following is a transcript of an overheard (read: eavesdropped) cell phone conversation in the rec center lobby following swimming lessons.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Certain details may or may not have been slightly altered for dramatic effect.

Well, we really must get a play date on the schedule soon.  Lester and Barnabas haven’t played together in weeks!

Tuesday mornings aren’t good, Barnabas has a standing date with Oprah.  Then in the afternoon there is Gymboree with Zelda and Brutus. 

No, sorry, Wednesdays are water polo with Thor and Mittens. 

Thursdays are fantastic!  He has macramé with Simba and Buick Skylark at 4 a.m., but the rest of the day is wide open.

Great!  We’ll meet at the rifle range Thursday at 9:17.  I’ll call Voldemort’s mommy and see if she’d like to join us too.  See you then.     

These are the types of mothers that cause me to immediately snort at how balls out ridiculous they sound, and seconds later wonder if I’m a horrible parent for not following suit.  I don’t know that I can say my son has ever had what would qualify as an official “play date”.  Sure, he’s raised a juice box with a shorty or two.  But these were children of OUR friends, the focus of those outings was more centered around the raising of adult juice boxes.  I’m left wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by not helping him to seek out his own social circle.

To me, play dates seem like the arranged marriages of babyhood.  The parents take care of the logistics, and then hope the two form a lifelong relationship based on a mutual hatred of strained peas.  How do these things even happen?  We don’t take him to daycare and I certainly don’t recall seeing any fliers about upcoming toddler singles mixers.  Is there a baby eHarmony somewhere out there?  “Antonio – 22 month old male seeking casual play dates.  Open to the possibility of something more serious.  Loves long stroller rides, fine apple juice, and eating lint off the floor.”

Obviously he is in swimming lessons.  Also art class and open gym whenever schedule allows.  Oh, he’s out there!  Never once have we been approached for a play date.  Oh god, are we not cool enough?  Do Igor and Mildred’s mommies not like us?  Is our stroller too dorky?  I’m instantly transported back to middle school, just substitute designer diaper bags for Girbaud jeans.  None of this bodes well for my fragile self-esteem.  Since I’m no good to my son wandering the house anxiously muttering nonsense about 6th period algebra, I’d better just stick with the current system.  Here’s hoping none of my friends’ children force him to eat their boogers or set off on multi-state crime sprees.  Until then, I think we may be okay.

Like Water for Ass Fat

Tomorrow morning, my son starts his parent-assisted swimming lessons.  Swimming.  In a pool.  Of water.  Which can mean only one terrible, horrifying thing – I will be wearing a bathing suit in public.  Fuck.  The very idea of this is enough to send me running for the hills.  Except I don’t know where these ‘hills’ actually are, and whether or not I’d need to pack a bathing suit for the trip.  Confession time:  with my son rapidly approaching the two year mark, I have not lost a pound of my baby weight.  Not one pound.  These two years have been a steady cycle of grand plans and even grander failures.  Sure fire workout regimens that lose every time when pitted against the decadent possibility of an extra ½ hour of sleep.  Diets that last mere days before cries of “Ah fuck it!  Where’s the chardonnay and Doritos?”  (A most refined pairing indeed).  Good intentions never fully realized have left my body a sad caricature of its former va va voom.  Arms jiggling, I have waved the white flag of surrender and succumbed to the ravages of motherhood.

A dutiful consumer of celebrity gossip rags, I am well aware of the potential of the postpartum female form.  If Jessica Alba can look like that in bikini four months after squeezing out her second child, surely I should have my shit together after two years.  Right?  Sigh!  Certainly I would never claim I had J-Alb’s abs of steel, even pre-baby.  But now I look down to find a blobby little pot full of tapioca where my stomach used to be.  Crepey purple stretch marks cover my belly, back and upper thighs.  Two sad, saggy breasts inhabit the space where a once glorious rack used to take real-estate, like the dilapidated remains on a once prosperous city.  They’re the Flint, Michigan of tits.  In a nauseatingly transparent ploy to get laid, John Mayer once told some girl “Your Body is a Wonderland”.  My body, on the other hand, is more like a fun house mirror.  But alas, despite my body image issues, the boy-child must learn to swim.  And so, I prepare to step before the firing squad.  My blindfold, an asexual “mom suit” with cleverly placed ruching and tummy control panel.  Any last words, you ask?  Sorry no, it isn’t polite to talk with your mouth full.