The person I’ve become, with them

It’s true that there’s a fine tradition of endless taunting that happens in our family, and I consider it something of a character-building exercise, sure, and my children endure it with a mixture of rolled eyes and exasperation, yes, but the truth is that I am ribbing myself as much as I’m ribbing them. There are times I feel like I’ve stepped into a music video because I’m not entirely sure how I ended up here.

And it’s mostly due to the kids. Not entirely, of course, but yeah, mostly. They change things. If I find myself uttering the phrase “I never thought I’d…” chances are, it’s going to be followed by something having to do with a person who once made my belly button pop out like a turkey timer.

This week feels especially rife with that sort of thing, for some reason. I’m not entirely sure why. I just know that it keeps happening.

Like, I was enjoying some quality slug time on the couch this weekend, watching Say Yes To The Dress when my darling daughter came along and started watching with me. Upon seeing a particularly hideous dress emerge from the fitting room, she commented, “I would NEVER get married in something like that!”

Rather than commenting on the dress, in kind, I replied, “Who’s gonna marry YOU?” instead.

“Thanks,” she retorted, unperturbed.

“You’re welcome!” I said.

I was never a person who dreamed about the girly camaraderie of having a daughter, fantasizing about shopping trips and pedicures and such. But neither would I have pictured blithely suggesting her future held infinite solitude (with the implication being she was unloveable). It just doesn’t seem… very nice… when I think about it like that. But of course this is just how we are, and I’m not being mean so much as I’m just good-naturedly paying her back for the trail of dirty dishes I often find throughout the house.

Later that same day, Monkey came bouncing around the corner and generally acting like a jackrabbit on meth. Theoretical-parent-me probably would’ve sat down with him for some quality one-on-one time and helped him to talk through his feelings and reach a desired level of calmness, but actual-parent-me knows that sometimes, Monkey just needs a physical outlet. Particularly when he’s standing in front of me VIBRATING.

I managed to interrupt an involved story about something he’s building on Minecraft by making the international symbol for Time-Out. “Go hang from your bar, please,” I told him. He began to argue. “BAR. GO. Five minutes. You can tell me after.” Monkey scowled and stomped off, but five minutes later he was a lot calmer. “I like you so much better when you’re all stretched out,” I told him, messing up his hair.

It occurs to me that someone overhearing that directive might picture something a lot more sinister than the pull-up bar installed in Monkey’s doorway, and the beneficial and calming proprioceptive feedback he receives from dangling from it for a few minutes.

(It also occurs to me that a dozen years ago, I probably didn’t know what “proprioceptive” meant.)

I think it’s the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy that has me reflecting on this stuff. Part of me misses the days of shopping for toys and picturing the joy on the kids’ faces as they rip paper on Christmas morning and truly believe Santa received their letters and got them all these fun things. This year I have family asking what the kids want and I realize that 1) this is the first year neither kid believes in Santa and 2) Chickadee wants gift cards and Monkey wants to go live in inside the computer. It’s just not the same as it used to be.

Last week I met a stranger at the far corner of a parking lot and he pulled two flutes out of his truck and let Chickie test them out. After some initial embarrassment over standing just outside the drive-through lane while playing scales, a decision was made and I wrote him a check and bid my daughter a very merry Christmas—her new flute is her gift this year, but she’s receiving it early because district band auditions are coming up. (And as seedy as it sounds, this was a well-researched transaction with a nice gentleman from a music shop several towns away, who was kind enough to drive into town to meet us.)

It doesn’t really rival the excitement of preschool Chickadee unwrapping her first REAL BIG DOLL MOMMY LOOK LOOK I LOVE HER, but it turns out I’ve become the kind of person who will take that sideways half-hug and “Thanks, Mom” tossed over the shoulder and savor it, nonetheless.

Besides… I also remember that the toys greeted with delirious joy on Christmas morning were often discarded and forgotten by that evening. And good old-fashioned familial torment is forever.

(I wonder if I can find some wedding-dress themed paper to wrap the flute up in for Christmas morning…?)


  1. Tenessa

    That’s the best! And I’m totally stealing the pull up bar in the doorway thing. I usually make my Aspie hide under his weighted blanket, or jump on the trampoline when he is vibrating and trying to tell me something.

  2. Aimee

    All this new flute and district audition talk is taking me right back to high school. I think I was fourteen when I got my new flute, replacing the old, nickel-plated, heavy-as-hell King flute with a much lighter more tuneful version.

    I love that that’s your gift to her.

  3. Megan

    Gift musings are in the air, aren’t they? I have my overseas daughter sorted but my other two are still baffling me. It was so simple when it was legos and model horses!

    I love the idea of a nicely stretched monkey! I used to send my kids off to do jumping jacks until they had taken the edge off the energy.

  4. Melinda

    My parents bought me my flute for Christmas one year when I was 11 or 12. The thing that amused me was they took it out of my room (we’d been renting it for a few months first) and wrapped it up without me knowing so I was very surprised to see it in that big box under the tree.

    Now, I think I need to go hang from a bar. That sounds lovely.

  5. Regina

    I make the teenager ride her bike! When I walk through the door at the end of the day I just say “Go.” and she shoots out the door rides a few laps and then she comes in and we can speak in complete sentences. I may need to get a bar for rainy days.
    You are MORE than welcome to borrow my little guy who will probably be more fascinated with tasting the pretty paper and seeing what happens when he sits on stuff. I am so looking forward to it!

  6. Katie K.

    Yep. My daughter and I have a similar tradition of good natured teasing, although once in a while the middle school girl horomones make her unpredictably burst into tears. And it is also our first year with no Santa-believers, and I am sad. I think I am just going to make them all pretend to believe or they won’t get gifts. That should go over well with the highschooler. :)

  7. Jenn

    I was in 8th grade too when I got my first “real” flute. Sterling, open-holed with a B-foot. Even though I haven’t played it in years I still know exactly where it is, remember the story behind it and can’t bear the thought of getting rid of it.

    Maybe this isn’t as immediately fun as the big moment with the doll but the memories will last a lot longer. Merry Christmas Chickie. I hope you love your new flute as much as I’ve loved mine.

  8. Jan

    One of my fondest memories is of an exchange I used to have with my grandparents.

    “Does it hurt?” on of them would say, apropos of nothing.
    “Does what hurt?”
    “To be so ugly.”

    We make our almost-6-year-old run laps in the kitchen-dining room-living room loop when we can’t be still.

  9. mamalang

    I make the boy do push ups, sit ups or laps. Sometimes you have to expend a little energy in order to focus. He’s taught me that, and I have to sometimes throw out a little jumping jack or dance around action to focus myself!

  10. Becky

    My brother and I were forced to write Chirstmas letters and “believe” right into college. I think the only reason that even stopped was because my dad passed away, and he was the enforcer of that tradition.

    But it’s true about the gifts you ask for as you age. Sure, they’re less exciting or vibrantly colored, but they tend to be things you actually use for a longer period of time. The major downside was when you had less gifts to open in the morning.

    Oh man, our grandmother used to pay us a dollar each to go outside and run a few loops around the building. We thought it was a great system (FREE MONEY), and she a great method to calm us down with the perk of spoiling us rotten.

  11. Nelson's Mama

    We make our daughter #2 run around the block. And she got a new Bach trumpet for Christmas last year – Santa brought just in time for mid-state auditions. I think it made a difference!

  12. pam

    It occurs to me that I didn’t know what proprioceptive meant until I just googled it! ;)

  13. My Kids Mom

    Ha! Yesterday I sent Bug, mid meltdown, to go do 50 jumps with a jump rope. He returned calm and we proceeded with our activity. Same day I started to argue with him about something, looked at the clock, and shoved some food in his mouth instead. We’re finally learning what works! Go us!

  14. elz

    I dreamt of the mommy-daughter times. I never thought I’d get them, see also: married to Ted Nugent wanna be. But, there we are, me and my girls decorating the house for Thanksgiving while watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” Let’s just say my girls have some DEFINITIVE thoughts on wedding dresses.

    The belief in Santa and excited gasps for joy are why we are about to unwrap our 5th American Girl doll this Christmas! (What, it was On Sale, and one was free, so…) They are only little for so little…

  15. Tracy B


  16. Stacy

    Oh my gosh, Minecraft. My Aspie is obsessed with that. There’s a version for the iPad out now and sometimes I can see his brain exploding as he tries to decide whether to play it on the computer or the iPad. Life is so hard. :)

  17. KarenP

    Yay for new flutes. Greg’s first flute we purchased for him was an Armstrong that we bought him when he was 12. At 16 his grandfather bought him an Austin Brannen flute for $4500 (he paid more for the flute than he had paid for his house!) At 34 Greg is still playing that flute thanks to his Papa!

  18. Em

    I find I call my kids “pig” a lot. And out of context it sounds really mean but at some point, I corrected some rude belching with “Excuse you, pig (or piggy, depending on the age of the child. The true abuse doesn’t start until they are old enough not to be piggies anymore)”. When they did it back to me (in response to a sneeze as I am a delicate flower who does not emit rude noises of any kind) I thought it was hilarious and now it is just part of the daily conversation. Any omission of the proper “excuse me” is met with “Excuse you, pig!” or occasionally “Bless you, pig” or “That’ll do, pig” (A Babe reference). I’m pretty sure it isn’t damaging too much

  19. Navhelowife

    I love the image of buying the flute in the parking lot…”Psst, hey lady…got a really nice flute here”
    My youngest son plays the flute. In fact, it is sitting right next to me as I type.

    I call my kids heathens often. We allow teasing but not cruelty. And if you give it, ya gotta take it….

  20. Jen

    My kids are obsessed with Minecraft as well. At a bar mitzvah for a friend recently, my older son met a young woman his age (13) who is very into it as well, and I’m pretty sure he is in love purely based on that fact (said girl also thought he had nice hair, and touched his hair on several occasions. Not that he noticed or anything. Jeez, mom, he doesn’t like her, so shut up about it already.)
    Our entire property has a single fence around it. I frequently tell my kids to go run laps around the house when they are getting too wild. People always think I am joking, but I am totally not.

  21. addy

    The big wheel around the living room, dining room, den loop a few hundred times in winter. Really helps with the excess energy.

  22. Liza

    So glad someone else at least hinted that they did not know the meaning of proprioceptive. Frankly, Dr Google was not as helpful as usual — it seems like a word with a very specific, highly contextual meaning.

  23. Liza

    Oh, and Josie’s family nickname has turned out to be either Little Boo or Boo-Boo. A child heard me call her that once at a playground and looked horrified as she asked, “WHAT is her name?” But Jill and I are both Mrs Boo or Booski, and Noah is Bud, so Boo-Boo was a natural evolution….

  24. Sanna

    My older brother left me a voicemail message a few years ago that consisted of him saying, very casually, “Hey Sanna, it’s J, hope you die… talk to you later.”

    I still have it.

  25. Headless Mom

    I still think that Monkey and my boys would be great friends. My 12yo is IN.LOVE. with Minecraft. Did you know that they put dogs back in? My son now has 4 of them. And a treehouse. My 10 yo digs for ‘diamonds, Mom! diamonds Mom! diamonds, Mom!” No kidding.

  26. Brigitte

    My Santa-believer, no matter what I tell her, is convinced Santa can bring her guinea pigs, a horse, an ipad, an iphone, an ipod, a Nintendo DS, real fairy wings and flying instructions . . . ack!

  27. Daisy

    Vibrating – what a great description! I wonder if it’s too late to get my 19yo into a routine like this? He would refuse to hang from a bar, but he might agree to another sensory input routine….

  28. Wendy

    My oldest daughter got her first guitar for christmas this year. Her high school offers a beginning guitar class that starts in January, so she needed one by then. Perfect present for Christmas. And I didn’t even get the half-hug for it.

    The other two at 8 and 7 are still young enough for the toy suprises.

  29. Chris M.

    Oh no… “Who’s gonna marry YOU?”

    I got this type of comment from my mother a lot, Mir, and even now, married and happy, I still cringe when I remember how it felt.

    “I like you so much better when you’re all stretched out,” — now that’s the type of comment I never minded hearing and would make me laugh.

    Mir, I sincerely consider you a WONDERFUL mother, so please keep in mind that things that are said by our parents, no matter how jokingly, stick with us, and this type of comment can hurt even if deep down we know it was said in jest.

  30. Katie in MA

    That is EXACTLY how my family was growing up. (And, um, actually how we still are.) We’ve found that the family who laughs together (with you AND at you) is also the one that helps you navigate through eel-infested waters in the middle of the night when you thought you were just out for a pleasure cruise. And that’s exactly how I’m raising my family – just ask my much-maligned daughters. :)

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