Small signs

By Mir
August 2, 2008

My job, right now, is to keep things as normal as possible ’round here, for the kids, and try not to let on that I’m exhausted and stressed out and worried and generally not at all interested in cooking or working or listening to the story of how that one Pokemon totally defeated that other one.

Some days this is easier than others.

Today I decided that maybe if I sandwiched together a bunch of errands it would 1) take up most of the day and 2) make it less obvious to the children that I was making sure we all have outfits appropriate for wearing to a funeral. Maybe I just think Monkey needs a tie because people keep mistaking him for a girl and that Chickadee needs a pair of dress flats because she’s about to start 5th grade. Who knows, right?

Back to that whole “no interest in cooking” thing: I decided we would start our travels by going out to lunch.

I don’t know what it is about fast food restaurants that make my daughter GO INSANE, but if recent history is any indication, I just need to keep her away from any establishment where she’s allowed to select her trans-fats from a menu on the wall.

The season of her discontent started at Arby’s when I discovered that they now have a menu where you can choose five things for $5.95, and so I ordered three sandwiches (one apiece) and an order of fries and a drink (for the kids to split).

“Why do I have to SHAAAAAARE?” she whined. “He always wants SPRITE! I don’t WANT Sprite!”

“Can I have another cup for some water?” I asked the kid behind the counter. He handed one to me and I thanked him.

“I DON’T WANT WATER!” Chickadee bellowed. I looked down at the two cups in my hands.

“The water cup is for ME,” I said.

“But I don’t want to share!” she declared, just in case I hadn’t heard her the first time.

“Okay,” I said. The surprise on her face was so adorable I almost felt bad for following it up with, “Then you can have water, and I’ll share the big cup with Monkey.”

“I WANT LEMONADE!” she cried.

I pulled her over to the wall and leaned down so that my face was close to hers. “Chickie,” I said, softly, “I really don’t think we need to work ourselves into a froth over beverages. You have two choices: You can either take the water cup and have your own, or you and your brother can share something other than water. But you may not continue yelling at me.”

“He’s not going to want lemonade, though,” she grumped.

“Hey Monkey?” I asked. He stopped twirling in circles (he knows how to keep himself amused, I’ll give him that) to look at me. “Is lemonade okay to drink?”

“Sure!” he said, and went back to spinning.

“There,” I said. “Problem solved.”

Except that it wasn’t, because it turns out that Arby’s only had sugar-free lemonade, and because I’m a horrible, mean mother I risked another blow-up by refusing to let the kids have it. Sure, rot your teeth out with sugar, kids… but let’s save the genetic mutations for when you’re older, please.

“BUT I DRINK THIS ALL THE TIME!” Chickadee snarled.

“Not with me, you don’t,” I said. “Pick something else.”


“Hey Monkey?” He twirled over and hooked his arms around my hips. “How about rootbeer?” I asked.

“Sure!” he said.

Yes, the cup-sharing thing is awful, what with how both of my children stubbornly refuse to compromise. Oh, wait….

We finally collected food, drinks, and various cups of ketchup and sauces and went over to a booth. “Chickadee,” I said, looking around, “I forgot to get napkins. Could you please go grab some?” She nodded and went back to the counter. I slid in on a bench and sat down. Monkey sat down next to me. I considered this for a moment. “Monkey,” I said. “Chickadee is going to have a fit when she sees you sitting there.”

“That’s okay, I’ll cover my ears,” he replied, ever sanguine.

Usually when we sit at a table, I sit next to Chickadee and Otto sits next to Monkey. Having just been chewed out—and feeling rather wrung-out, to boot—I was disinclined to tell my son to move, even though I knew it was going to be a problem.

And of course it WAS a problem; Chickadee came back to the table and dissolved into tears because “Monkey is sitting in MY SPOT!”

I invited Chickadee to sit across from me. She flung herself onto the bench opposite with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I looked up at the ceiling and remarked that in a minute, I was going to go find my own table and pretend I was there alone, and then I was going to eat all the fries.

Luck was with me—as sometimes happens, that was enough to make her laugh. And then everything was fine.

For about thirty seconds.

“What’s the difference between those two sauces?” asked Monkey, pointing at the little cups of sauce I’d grabbed from the dispensers.

“I’m not sure,” I said. I stuck a finger in the nearest cup and tasted it. “This one is a little bit sweet,” I said, and then put the same finger into the next cup and put it in my mouth, “And this one—”


I made sure to smack my lips a little before concluding, “—is a little bit spicy. WHAT is your PROBLEM?”


“OH NO!!” I said. “That’s almost as disgusting as when you take a bite of my food! Or if you lived in my body for nine months! OH MY GOD!!”

It was at this point that I saw the boy sitting on the bench behind Chickadee turn around to look at us. He appeared to be about her age, and clearly wondering if I was crazy. Sitting opposite him was a woman who appeared to be his grandmother, who had clearly been listening and was now squelching her laughter in a napkin.

Chickadee glared at me and then licked one finger and plunged it into the sauce. “See how YOU like it,” she said.

“Mmmmm… saliva-y!” All three of us dissolved into giggles and again harmony was restored for a minute or two. I noticed our eavesdropper was continuing to enjoy our banter.

When Chickie got her panties in a wad again, I can’t even remember what it was that was bothering her, but the eyes were rolling and the chin was jutting and her tone was very unpleasant. The plan had been to eat and then head to the library, where the kids would turn in their summer reading charts and collect their prizes for not being illiterate, and then we’d run our other errands.

“Listen,” I said, “You need to get yourself together or we are not going to the library.” At this point I noticed the listening grandmother still observing, and I flushed with embarrassment that I was having this conversation in public. And then I simultaneously realized I’d said the wrong thing. “Wait. No. I am not having a repeat of last week. You need to get yourself together or we ARE going to the library, but Monkey can turn in his chart and get his prizes, but YOU will not be allowed to turn in yours.” Her eyes went wide for just a second, then her french fries became very interesting. She was silent, at least.

A minute later the the pair from the other table got up to leave, and as they passed us, the woman waited until her back was to Chickadee and then she made eye contact with me and flipped me a thumbs-up.

I couldn’t help it—I grinned.

“What, Mama? What’s funny?”

“Nothing,” I said, feeling more cheerful than I’d been in days. “Who’s done eating? We’ve got lots to do and I’m ready to go.”


  1. Janssen

    What a nice lady. And good for you for standing your ground.

  2. Melisa

    You know if one of us had been there, we’d have given you the thumbs-up too. Thanks, evesdropping lady!

  3. Niki

    Very quick (and fair!) thinking on your part!

  4. Amy

    Aw, poor Chickie. It must be so frustrating for her to be stuck in her angst-ridden self lately. I teach 4th and 5th grade and I totally understand how kids that age melt down for no observable reason. Good for you for keeping your head on straight and not punishing her for her meltdowns so much as following through with logical consequences to specific behavior. She’s lucky to have you!

  5. Mom24

    Awesome! I’m going to have to remember that just in case, God forbid, I ever need it. (Highly likely.)

  6. hollygee

    Your parenting acumen is getting a royal workout. Congratulations for showcasing your powers. You rock.

  7. Crisanne

    Woo Hoo for Mir! And you’ve just gotta love Monkey for agreeing at all the right times. Great thinking on the library chart form!

  8. Karen

    You are such a good example to me. Thanks for the entertainment and the reminder.

  9. Holly

    Hi there – new reader here!

    hmmm, Arby’s – one of the many things I miss about living in a populated area. Well, at least an area populated with more than moose & bear.

    You handeled that well, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been able to avoid bursting out in laughter at the thumb’s up rather than just smiling! :-)

  10. Cheryl

    Sometimes the universe knows when we need a little encouragement.

    I’m still thinking of you and your family.

  11. Mandee

    I was babysitting 3 year old twins and their 5 year old sister for an entire weekend several years ago. It had been raining the entire time, so I finally decided to take them to the indoor play ground nearby. I promised ice cream when we were done. After suffering three major heart attacks for various reasons, I gathered them all to head out for ice cream. The twins kept taking off so I told them that the next person to take off was not getting ice cream. Aaaaaand, there went Robert. No ice cream for you, sir.

    Commence with the crying and screaming. We headed to the ice cream parlor; thankfully, my roommate was with us and available to take the other two inside while I sat in the car and suffered the withering looks from passersby. The kid literally screamed bloody murder until he fell asleep in my lap. And resumed as soon as he woke up. I have never been so glad to see someone as I was his mother. I explained the source of his distress and she said, “you did exactly the right thing.”

    Your family is in my prayers.

  12. Sue @ My Party of 6

    Thumbs up from me too! And I’m so sorry about Otto’s mom. She and all of you have been in my thoughts. ((HUGS))

  13. Jess

    See, I know that my daughter is going to be like Chickadee when she’s older. (Heck, she’s not far from it now, some days.) I just hope I can handle it as well as you do.

    Thinking about you all.

  14. ChristieNY

    Mir = awesome Mom. Hang in there sweetie.

  15. Lucinda

    Continued prayers for you family. I’m so sorry.

  16. Sharon

    Well done!

  17. Lylah

    Sometimes, positive reinforcement comes disguised as a lady in a fast-food joint…

    Honestly, I probably would have wanted to hug her for the thumbs up at that point!

  18. Damsel

    I’m so sorry to hear that Otto’s mom isn’t doing well. Kudos to you for keeping it together enough to continue to discipline. Your family is in my prayers.

  19. Angela

    Support for what we go through from total strangers is always gratifying. And the prayers/thoughts are still coming as the weekend goes on.

  20. Jenni

    I love hearing about Chickadee…although I have to say…sometimes your stories scare me about what is in store for me in about 2 years when Red turns 10. She’s already getting quite the attitude and she’s 8. Although she’ll be 9 in about 2 weeks which means really it’s only ONE YEAR until she’s 10. Lord help us.

  21. SoMo

    So sorry.

  22. jen

    A little bit of encouragement like that does wonders!

  23. Angela

    I noted one glaring difference between you and me, early on in the Arby’s story. I would have taken my child over to a wall and talked very close to her face as well. Only, she would have been 2 feet off the ground as we “spoke”.

    I get looks, but I get results.

    p.s. that bonus of making them laugh mid-fit is the BEST BONUS EVER

  24. Angela

    I feel compelled to say “I’m just kidding” lest anyone think I would actually abuse my child in an Arby’s.

    I prefer McDonald’s for any bullying I do.

    For what it’s worth, I’m very impressed with how you are handling things right now. I would be a pile of enert on the couch. Your kids are very lucky to have you. So is Otto.

  25. suburbancorrespondent

    Your Chickadee is a piece of work, all right. Make sure to have fun with it – it’s the only way to survive.

  26. Barbara

    So why is it you go to counseling?

  27. Headless Mom

    Consistencey, baby! Good for you!

  28. All Adither

    Aww, other moms know.

  29. elswhere

    I am taking notes. As always.

  30. Flea

    You and God may or may not still be having words, but He knows when you need a little encouragement. :) Praying for you all, Mir. Hang in there.

  31. Heather

    You did good, Miss Mir!

  32. Brigitte

    See, it’s not just your loyal reader fan base who knows what an awesome mom you are! You’re doing a great job even in this most stressful time.

  33. Isabel

    My condolences to you all.


  34. paige

    Good parenting, Mir!

    This is the hardest thing to do…be flexible and creative with consequences while remaining consistent. And to do it under very stressful, family-crisis conditions. You handled it beautifully.

    We’re still praying for your family.

  35. Megan.

    You just earned yourself the summa cum laude of parenting for consistency, patience, wisdom and above all doing it while coping with enormous worry and stress. Thank goodness for eavesdropping, understanding, supporting strangers.

  36. Randi

    A very nice lady to give you some moral support! I know you’re not looking for ass-vice, but I definitely feel that Chickie needs a firm hand right now. Giving her two choices and making her pick one and go without is a very good idea, and allowing Monkey to turn in his chart but not her (if she didn’t smarten up) was a good idea as well.

    We’re just getting to a stage where Toad is starting to act up and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that Babygirl doesn’t have to suffer for his attitude issues. But I definitely know how hard it is, and I’m right here for moral support if you need it!

  37. Randi

    I just read Amy’s comment from before (yeah, I know, I’m an idiot in posting and THEN reading). She mentioned how it’s got to be difficult being Chickie’s age and being stuck in her body.

    We like to have fun with our kids, and definitely encourage them to “be kids”, but they have to realize that their actions have reactions, and that the world does not revolve around them. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up to raise a very selfish adult. You’re doing the right thing Mir!

    And I forgot to mention before – I’m so sorry Otto’s mom isn’t doing very well. My thoughts are with you during this trying time.

  38. RuthWells

    I love it that NOT going to the library is considered a punishment in your house (it’s the same for us — the dirtly little bookworms would spend the WHOLE SUMMER in the library if we let them).

    Well done keeping your cool, Mir, and still hoping for good news on Otto’s mom.

  39. Terri

    Still praying for a miracle …

  40. Burgh Baby

    This is exactly the kind of post that makes so-called mommyblogging so wonderful. Not only do we all get to nod and go, “been there, it sucked,” but now you will have a lovely written story that you can print out and hand to Chickadee in about 30 years when she’s bitching that taking her kids out to eat is a nightmare. What comes around goes around, Chickadee.

    Still hoping y’all don’t need that tie . . .

  41. Melinda

    The lady at Arby’s illustrates my favorite motto:
    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” (attributed to Philo of Alexandria)

    I’ve been the recipient of that type of kindness before. As a consequence I try to remember, before I judge someone I observe out in the world, that I have no idea what battle they are fighting in their life at that moment. Thanks for the reminder.

    Best hopes for you, Otto and the entire family

  42. Heidi

    “Sure!” That Monkey–whatta guy!

    Holding you and your family in my thoughts.

  43. Heather Cook

    See, God sent you an angel. ;)

  44. Astrogirl426

    Thank goodness for easygoing little boys (I’ve got one too, thank the gods).

    A virtual thumbs-up to you, too pretty Mir – tough to maintain your sense of humor in the midst of such brouhaha, but sometimes that’s the only thing that gets the kids down off their “ledge”. I try to remember that, too.

    Keeping you and yours in our thoughts and our hearts. Remember that offer still stands. Whatever you need, babe, you can call.

  45. erin

    I just want to say I WAS Chickie. Still am, kind of. And I want to say I think you are doing a wonderful job of handling the behavior that is manifested from her being internally at war with herself. Obviously you can’t just let things go because she is having a hard time, but it’s clear that you always make sure that she knows you love her regardless…I guess I just know how hard it is to be a very smart girl with very little control over her emotions, and how hard it is to learn how not to take out those emotions (and issues with control thereof) on those you love…it helps to have a parent in your corner to provide support and love but still be a parent in charge of consequences. kind of personal, but I just wanted to say.

  46. KD @ A Bit Squirrelly

    I probably would have patted you and the back on my way out lol! Good for you mom!

  47. Desiree

    I can’t wait to go through this myself. Ugh! Doing good, Mir!

  48. Janice

    Mir – when I read this, I swear you have stolen my children. My daughter = your Chickie. My son = your Monkey.
    I’m so entertained by your stories – it feels like reading about my yesterday or my last week. Hang in there and continue to do just what you do. I would have given you a thumbs up, too. Best wishes for your family.

  49. Janet

    I have 2 kids and all 3 of us aren’t big on sharing drinks. Never mind the whole 9 months in the womb thing… I’m a cheapskate but would rather everyone have their own drink (although 3 waters are cheap). Did you tell them before you’d ordered that they would have to split a drink? Often with my kids, if I tell them in advance what will happen (“we’re only getting one drink for you two share”) they are much happier than getting somewhere and getting a “Surprise! You’re sharing a drink!” awakening. Fast food is such a treat for them that their own drink is part of the deal.

  50. Mom, Ink.

    My mom used to make my sister and I share a Happy Meal. The burger, fries and drink. Oh, AND all four of us shared a drink at the movies. We delineated straws by height. No one wanted the tall straw because it tended to go places you don’t want a straw to go when stooping to drink from the short straw. So now you have ideas on how to torture Chickadee if she gives you any more grief.

  51. Kemi

    First of all, I snorted aloud when I read Barbara’s comment.

    Second, I am totally stealing that “You were inside me for nine months AND USED MY UTERUS AS A TOILET” line (I know, I elaborated for effect…) when I hear the “Eeeew! Germs” squeals from my four children in the future. So, I thank you for that gem.

    My #3 is only four years old, and she could give Chickadee a run for her money. I am so, so tired.

    I’m sorry for Otto and your family. My thoughts are with you all.

  52. Janet

    Mom, Ink: Uncle, Uncle! Your mother sure knew how to hand it out. Kids these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. :)

  53. Amy

    I’ve recently been doing the same thing when I take the kids out to eat. I make the older two share and then I share with the baby. It seems to work out for us – at least now anyway. They use to be highly upset that they weren’t getting a toy with their meal but I just told them it was eating out with no toy or they could eat when we got home!

  54. Aimee

    I’m so sorry that Otto’s mom isn’t doing well. I’m still praying for you guys.

  55. Deb

    That woman was awesome for making you feel so good. I think as moms, we need to remember to do that to others too. We all go through bad days and support/praise from other moms makes such a difference!!

  56. jennielynn

    She’s right. Total thumbs up, Mir.

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