Words failed to capture it

By Mir
February 25, 2009

I love my children. I love my children I love my children I love my children Ilovemychildren.

Even if they are TRYING TO KILL ME.

Look; after the last-minute science project We Had Words. (Most of them were even not curses!) Chickadee agreed that she would no longer do her work at the last minute. She would budget her time better. She would get things done using all of the time allotted to her. Things Would Be Different.

I bet you have NO IDEA where this is going, right?

Oh, things were better. They were. For a while. Her workload this year has been a lot heavier than ever before (gotta prep those kids for middle school, dontchaknow), and she’s more or less stayed on top of things with only a little whining. Why, this year when it came time for the oratorical competition, she wrote her speech and PRACTICED IT without any nagging from me whatsoever. And I’m pleased to report that—although she didn’t win—she both recognized how much she improved over last year and was relieved she hadn’t advanced (because she still hates public speaking and didn’t want to have to give the speech again).

I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. The unlikely science fair win; triumph at a math competition; a respectable showing in the speech contest. She’s really maturing, my daughter. Awesome.

Until last night. Last night, as Monkey carefully tucked his project for the Invention Convention into his backpack, Chickadee realized that she’d never done anything with her project idea. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. And she wanted me to help her with it, even though it was due the next morning and it was already ten minutes past bedtime.

I declined, citing the late hour and perhaps mentioning that she’d need to skip it this year as she’d neglected to plan ahead.


There was yelling, and crying, and stomping and wailing. Monkey had the good sense to clear out immediately (“Um, well, I guess I’m gonna go up to bed now, goodnight!”), but Otto and I sat here in the office watching Chickadee flail, and our eyes met.

And because we are horrible, terrible, rotten and mean parents, we got the giggles.

Chickadee did not find this amusing. So I tried VERY HARD to squelch my laughter and called her to come sit with me. She put her head on my shoulder and I just sat with her for a minute, stroking her hair. And then I made the mistake of trying to reason with her.

Me: What’s really the matter, baby?
Her: Yoooouuuuu haaaaaaate meeeeeeeeeeee!
[I sighed.]
Me: Is that true?
Her: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!
Me: Is that TRUE?
[She thought about it for a moment.]
Her: Yooouuuuuu dooooon’t liiiiiiiiike meeeeeeeeeee!
Me: Is that true?
Her: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!
[I sighed, again. I may have mentally counted to 10, too.]
Me: Chickie. Seriously, now. Is that true?
Her: Yes! It’s true! YOU DON’T LIKE ME!
Me: I like you JUST FINE. I LOVE you. But I am a LITTLE frustrated with you right now. Why do you suppose that is?
Her: I don’t knoooooowwwwwwwwww!
Me: Really? Think. Why might that be? The frustration?
[She wiped her eyes while considering this.]
Her: Because I can’t put in my own contacts?
[Across the room, Otto muffled a guffaw.]
Me: Uhhhh. Okay, that’s a little frustrating, too, but why would I be frustrated with you RIGHT NOW?
Her: Because I’m upset?
[I hugged her, and she actually stopped crying.]
Me: Right! And why are you upset?
Her: Because I didn’t do my work when I should’ve?
Me: Uh huh. And what is your reaction when you haven’t done your work when you should’ve?
[We laughed together.]
Me: Mmmmhmmmm, and what else?
Her: I dunno.
Me: Do you get mad?
Her: Sometimes.
Me: Try ALL the time. You get REALLY mad. And WHO do you find yourself mad AT?
Her: Wait… wait… I know this one. [She was positively jovial, now.] OH, I KNOW! YOU! I get mad at YOU!
Me: Right! Because it is totally MY fault that you didn’t do your work! Right?
Me: I’m… glad we had this little talk.

In the end, I had to consider it a (small) victory that she’s at least at a point where she recognizes when she’s being completely irrational. That’s progress, right? Dammit, that’s progress. Hush up.

She went to bed, setting her alarm for 5:00 so that she could get up and work on her project this morning. I kissed her goodnight and went to tuck in Monkey.

Monkey had just finished reading this week’s review book, which meant that it was my turn to read it, so he’d left it out for me. I picked it up and noticed that the spine was falling apart. Closer examination revealed that one corner of the spine was completely soaked.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that probably second on my list of heinous offenses (first being murder, I guess) is the desecration of a book. I asked Monkey if he’d been CHEWING on the corner of a BRAND NEW BOOK, and he insisted that he hadn’t. I narrowed my eyes at him and he reiterated he’d done no such thing, and then added that it had seemed “a little wet” when he’d taken it out of his backpack that afternoon.

A horrible, sinking feeling overcame me.

I kissed him goodnight and walked straight downstairs to where the kids leave their backpacks, over by the back door. I unzipped his and confirmed my suspicion: Monkey’s water bottle was open. And EMPTY! But DON’T WORRY—I found the water! It was inside his lunch box… and all over the bottom of his bag… and soaked through his agenda… and his hat… and his library books… and all of the little pieces of paper floating around in his pack.

Otto walked into the room as I held sodden papers in one hand and tried to rescue books with the other. He raised an eyebrow and I sputtered, “It’s like… it’s like… it’s like living with two cats who have NO HEADS!” I resumed emptying the bag and trying to arrange wet items in such a way that they could dry, and to my consternation Otto began to laugh.

I glared at him and started spouting off about how THIS ONE can’t seem to remember to do her work on time and THAT ONE never actually DRINKS his water but at least everything got a BATH and—

Otto drew me into his arms and stopped laughing long enough to plant a big kiss on my mouth to make me shut up. I giggled as he pulled back and gazed deeply into my eyes. Then he remarked: “I don’t even know what that MEANS. Cats with no HEADS? I’m out of my depth, here. Clearly. But you needed a kiss.”

I tried to explain: You know, the indifference and mass destruction cats normally wreak, but without any actual brain power or understanding to go with it. Otto waved away my attempts at clarification. He said it didn’t matter.

I guess it didn’t.

(And for the record? Chickadee got up this morning and wrote up her concept AND made a pretty good prototype with just stuff she found in the kitchen junk drawer. Maybe she’s like a cat WITH a head. A crazy, crazyMAKING, genius head. Damn.)


  1. Brigitte

    When my hubby kisses me to shut me up, I get mad! You are a better person than I.

    And being able to recognize her own ridulosity (!) is DEFINITELY progress for Chickadee. :-)

  2. Shawn

    Good for you, MOM. As a teacher, it would frustrate me to no end when you knew that a parent did the homework for their child. Even the handwriting would be so noticably different. So many parents would have stayed up all night helping finish or doing the project themselves. Wow, it is so refreshing to see parents teach their children to be responsible individuals. I am little in awe right now, because there are not many of you out there. I gives me hope!!!

  3. smarty

    When my teen daughter first said she hated me I actually believed her until she said her dad, granny, aunts and all her cousins hated her. Then I realized she was just going crazy. She is almost 16 now and things are still tough but getting better. Hang tough and remember it’s hard to be her.

  4. Rachel

    Sounds like you live at my house… except I actually have 2 cats with heads that live there too. My 12 yo daughter is very good at finding an excuse why something happened to her (or why she hasn’t completed some project), such as she stubbed her toe because her brother didn’t wash his hair that morning (OK, she has never actually used that one, but you get the line of reasoning.)
    You are an awesome mom (& Otto’s not so bad himself), and you look very pretty today!

  5. ~annie

    HA! You are so good. When Critter was Chickadee’s age, it would have been ME flipping out about the procrastination. I guess we’re slow learners around here…

  6. Tammy

    I would have laughed at the “because I can’t put in my own contacts?” comment too!!

    I’m so glad you write about episodes like this Mir. They go on at my house too & reading them makes me feel normal. And pretty. ;)

  7. MomCat

    Cats have brain power and understanding?? Clearly you haven’t owned many cats! ; )

    Great mothering again, Mir! Even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

  8. Barbara

    “And then I made the mistake of trying to reason with her.”

    I can’t say whether you’ve progressed (not knowing your former status in parenting skills), but I’d say you are in a good place right now. Whether you think so or not.

    Thank goodness you are not learning from your children. Like flipping-out over a wet back pack – truly Monkey’s error so it is okay. Not like Chickadee flipping-out over her lack of planning and blaming you. You are not like her at all. Ahem.

    St. Otto gets another star in his crown. For marrying a smart mother like you.

  9. Lori N


    And yes – recognizing when one is irrational IS progress!! (There are adults that can’t do that!)

  10. Aimee

    But my cats HAVE heads, and they still manage that combination of indifference and mass destruction. For proof, I offer up the fact that a week and a half ago, one of our cats got trapped INSIDE the arm of our couch. We had to cut her out. And now she’s mad at us because the couch is gone.

  11. Megan

    Yes, yes it is HUGE progress when they can see for themselves that they’re being irrational. And for the record, Chickie is way ahead of my Child who, charming as it is, is finally getting that. However, it totally calmed its own bad self down the other day, it cheerfully admitted to being a bit of an idiot AND it came up with a solution without my eyeballs whirling around or anything. There are days, just a few of them, when I think I just might survive this parenting gig.

  12. mamalang

    Gee, I wonder where Chickadee gets that from? lol. I have those days, almost every day! Thanks for making me laugh about it.

  13. The Other Leanne

    Cats with no heads…that’s redundant or something.
    And last week? When that grant was due and I hadn’t even started on a critical part of it? I got up at 4 a.m. to do it. Chickadee can definitely be a member of my Club, but we do have a no-meltdown rule: “No blamin’- No complainin’- Just get it done.”

  14. Melisa

    You do realize that Chickie is probably going to win this invention thing, right? (I mean, if there is a winner at such an event.)

  15. RuthWells

    Damn, at least Chickie talks to you post-meltdown. That in itself is a major victory.

  16. Otto

    But so help me Internets, if she wins she is SO going to boarding school.


  17. All Adither

    I would like it if my husband would kiss me to shut me up. It would do me good.

  18. Katie in MA

    I wish my Insignificant Other settled discussions in such a pleasing manner!

    And I loved that you guys all got the giggles – that happens frequently around here. At JUST the wrong moment, too!

  19. Flea

    Otto, Rabun Gap is a little north of y’all. Y’know, if you’re looking into boarding schools. :)

    Personally, I love the cats with no heads metaphors. Or they could just be compared to puppies with heads. Mass destruction and no discernible thought process.

  20. Susan

    Please be my life/parenting coach.

  21. Amy-Go

    Cats…heads…GASP…LMAO…you kill me!

  22. Michelle

    I kind of hated it when my parents helped me with projects. I WANTED it to be ALL MY OWN work. I felt more proud that way.

  23. Wendy 2

    Awesome parenting, but I think you just described a regular scene in our house. Especially the giggles over the flipping out.

  24. BethR

    Y’know, I remember being Chickadee’s age… the fact that she recognizes that she’s acting irrational? She’s SOOO making progress!

    And my mom had no clue how to cope with the mood swings. It sounds like you’re doing a great job. Hang in there and remember that this too shall pass (like a kidney stone).

  25. coolteamblt

    At least Monkey’s backpack is waterproof! I had something very similar happen in my purse a few months ago. Did you know that a set of car keys can actually pierce the side of a Diet Coke can? I didn’t!

  26. jennielynn

    Oh my god. I am laughing so hard, my mascara is running.

  27. dad

    As someone who has routinely counseled you that “this too shall pass” BethR’s comment hit close to home.
    My middle age was made more memorable by kidney stones and a head strong, precocious young girl.

  28. The Mother

    I’ve always said that getting kids through school is like herding cats. Cats without heads? That one I hadn’t heard of.

    You did the right thing. Giving in to a last minute school project is like giving in to the PTA — if you don’t say no and KEEP saying no, they take advantage of you.

    We mothers must stick to our collective guns. Every weakness WILL be exploited.

  29. Tracy

    It appears that today has been crazy for everyone. I think I need a kiss too!

  30. Karen

    Oh that Otto….he is the bomb! I have yet to figure out how kids don’t get that water does not belong everywhere.

  31. Heather

    CLEARLY you needed a kiss ;) Otto wins! heh. You’re such a good mama, Mir.

  32. Shannon


    Indeed, realizing you are irrational IS the first step.

  33. Katie

    “This too shall pass (like kidney stones).” Except sometimes they don’t and you have to have them lasered out. (See: my January)

    I can deal with late projects, rotten siblings, etc except it’s the WAILING that does me in every time. My 10 year old twin girls can turn it on like a light switch. I swear I’m not going to make it through 14 with them.

  34. tj

    At least she’s getting the thought process, and you’re walking it through it quite well! As for monkey, well, he’s a boy and boys don’t notice things like backpacks full of water and floating textbooks.

    Good luck mumma!

  35. Karate Mom

    I love the “cats with no heads” analogy!

  36. Heather

    I think your daughter might be a bit of a budding procrastinator, lol. She’s going to start to thrive on that “last minute rush” to finish…

    Not that I’d know anything about that… ahem.

  37. Liza

    I nearly peed myself reading the dialog with your daughter. Ah, the things I have to look forward to…. Remind me to go kiss the baby and thank her for not being 10 yet.

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