Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Laugh or else I'd Cry

My daughter can be a total bitch. I'm not even saying that for effect or shock value or anything. She just can be. Sugar and spice and everything nice? Not this little girl.

Memorial Day was a scorcher and Todd and I really wanted to stay home in the air conditioning and just sink onto the couch in front of a movie. Instead, we took our darling daughter to the park because we know how much she loves being outdoors. We spent a few hours on the swings, skipping rocks into the lake, kicking the soccer ball around, and helping a lost child find her mother. We topped the day off by giving her a Dora the Explorer ice cream bar from the ice cream man. I don't know why I expected Liv to be grateful. I guess it's that stubborn part of my parental brain that only wants to see good in my child, that is resistant to the idea that my little girl has the demonstrable capacity to be an asshole.

"It's time to go now," Todd told Liv as we were walking back to the car. She was finishing up her little treat and her face was all covered in sticky, congealed ice cream residue.

"NOOOOO!" And this she screamed at a decibel most likely heard by the Expedition 20 crew at the International Space Station. Or maybe they weren't even there yet. In any case, somebody in outerspace heard her monstrous, defiant wail.

"Sweetheart, we had a fun day but we have to go home now." This I said in the kindest, calmest voice I could muster at that moment.

"You ruined my day, mommy, stupid bitch." And suddenly all eyes are upon us. Every adult, teenager and child standing within earshot were just staring unabashedly at the lovely little domestic scene transpiring in front of them.

Here's the thing. There was nothing I could have done in that situation that would have been right. If I reacted sternly to my child for talking to me with such utter disrespect then I would have proved myself to be the mean mommy that Liv was accusing me of being. If I ignored her behavior, then I would be the mother who doesn't discipline her child. Truth be told, if I had ever said those words to my parents growing up I wouldn't be alive right now to tell the tale. Lord knows, I got beatings for a lot less than that. Or should I say "beatin's"? For some reason, when you add the "g" it sounds so much more severe.

So, you want to know how I did respond? I probably did the worse thing I could have done. I laughed. Because hearing Liv say, "You stupid bitch" in such a menacing way was one of the funniest things I had heard in a really long time. And sometimes you have to laugh, if only to keep from crying. Liv ended up throwing herself down onto the dirt and had herself a precious little temper tantrum. I think my laughter may have angered her even more. Todd had to carry her kicking and screaming to the car because she refused to come with "bad mommy" of her own accord. When he was carrying her she kept screaming at me to "go away" and not walk next to them. I think she even yelled something about not wanting to see my "stupid face". Of course, I talked to her later about it and explained why it's "not nice" to use bad words and how it's "disrespectful" to talk to mommy in that way. I'm pretty sure she rolled her eyes. She's three years old, people. Three. It's pretty safe to say I'm fucked. So what would you have done in that situation? I know you wouldn't have laughed. I never said I was good at this parenting shit.


  1. Remember the good old days when all you had to do was leave out extra food and fresh water to be considered a good parent? I remember my parents LOCKING US OUT of the house during the summer. They didn't keep tabs on where we were, or who we were with. We were lucky they let us hydrate every few hours.
    My son used to scream his head off every time he got a haircut. People from the shop next door used to come out to stare in the window at us (I'm not kidding). One hairdresser told me I needed to spank my son, which I do when necessary, but to hear it from the lady at Great Clips? What the fuck?

  2. Ouch!

    I'm surprised some well meaning asshole didn't go up to you and give you their well meaning parenting advice.

    Try not to think about the teenage years. ;)

  3. How could you not have laughed at that? I remember the first time my nephew said "fuck." I was horrified, but I still giggled.

  4. Shit...I'm 50 and I never called my mother a "stupid bitch." And probably never will...afterall, she's in her 80s and would probably stroke out if I did.

  5. Oh holy crap, Gwen! What a deal, eh? I love it, I hate it, I'm mesmorized by it. A three year old calling her mother a stupid bitch. Amazing.
    And, somehow, I dig it. Yeah, I'm also glad you're the one having to deal with it.

  6. One of my friends has two significantly younger sisters who she has proceeded to teach every curse word she knows (I think they are four and seven.) As well as the "Maia knows a trick, here Geo, pick her up!" So I do and the first thing she does is reach out and grab my boobs.

    But they will probably turn out alright, so I wouldn't worry about it. Plus, from a current "child" I think that as she grows up you just need to support her as she makes her own adult choices. I am really close with my mom and she makes sure to be reasonable about all her rules.

  7. We tell our kids at least weekly, "do you realize if we would have said/done/even thought that, Grandma and Grandpa(either set) would have beat/spanked/smacked/whacked us?"

    What would I have done? Gene and I laughed at Izzy my 1 1/2 year old yesterday when she had a tantrum. It was funny she was stomping her feet all indignant and she's so good natured it was out of place, probably a harbinger of the 2's to come. Then I picked up my What To Expect-The Toddler Years and it said not to laugh because it invalidates their feelings. Okay, epic fail. Whatever, if that's the worst we do to invalidate her feelings--I'm miles ahead of my own parents. I have stopped shooting for perfect, even good and have settled for better.

  8. Oh, I'm quite certain I would have busted out laughing. Why? That's exactly what I did the first time he dropped something and said "shit" and when he turned to me a week or so ago, rolled his eyes and said "Mother. For the love of god.", I almost peed my pants. He's also three. It's gonna be a long road to adulthood...

    What else can you do? Any other reaction would have been the "wrong" reaction to someone in the crowd. Maybe she'll get it all out now and the teenage years will prove easy breezy for ya!

  9. I laughed too. So don't worry about it. It's totally natural and right and hi-fucking-larious.

  10. First of all, she's cute as a duck. I think it's an evolutionary adaption for human children to be so cute, otherwise we'd probably kill them before they got to breeding age. I know that my boy's cuteness has saved his butt on more than one occasion!

  11. I would've laughed too. And sang loudly. And made her dance with me. This method infuriates my three-year-old but it also makes her smile eventually and forget why she was throwing the tantrum in the first place as she tries to get ME to stop my whacky behaviour.

    She's going to hate me when she's a tween.

  12. Just read what FormerlyFun said about not laughing because it invalidates their feelings.....

    holy shit! Toddlers have feelings? Somebody should have told me that while mine were still young. Is that why one turned out gay and the other one smokes dope? Bad mummy....

  13. I don't have kids but I probably would not have impressed. That's why way of saying I'd have been f*cking furious. I'm not implying that I'd ever hit a kid. Threaten to kill a kid maybe.

  14. I just ignore Ava and wait out her tantrums.

  15. She's three. She's testing limits and seeing what you will and won't tolerate.

    It's tough being a kid; you have no control over anything, and all the fun stuff is disallowed by your parents. She acted out.

    I know it sucks, and it's embarrassing, and difficult, but she will grow out of it. Just make sure she knows (in a calm moment) that you do not tolerate her talking to you like that. (As an aside, where did she pick up "stupid bitch" from?)

  16. Mine has called me stupid and told me to go away and I think I might even have laughed the first couple of times. Now I just ignore her, she seems to scream louder when I laugh.

    A Free Man, I've been heard to tell mine she's lucky she's so cute!

  17. I'd have laughed too. You have to.

  18. Yellow Trash Diaries - People can be so rude with their staring, right? And also their unwelcome advice. We've spanked Liv here and there, but don't want to make a habit of it. I'd rather reserve that action for times when she does something dangerous as opposed to just bratty, you know? Thanks for letting me know I don't have the only child who screams in public. :)

    Candice - I think the onlookers were too afraid of Liv to offer any advice. Thank god. It's hard to look at her and not see the 16 year old to come, you know?

    Logical Libby - Oh yeah. Liv said fuck once and I was stunned but also it was funny. She hasn't said it again but I think it's only because she doesn't know what a bad word it actually is. I think she thinks it's a mommy word. Which it is.

    Here in Franklin - You're mom seems like a sweet lady, at least I gather that from her comments on your page. You probably would never have cause to call her that :) Me, on the other hand? I'm not such a great mom so her calling me that is probably pretty accurate.

    Mongolian Girl - I'm sort of glad it's happened to me, too. Better me than some parent who would beat her ass into submission. I admire her feistiness and her honesty. Glad I could entertain you!

    Geo - It's funny, I never think of you as a "child" but I guess technically you are. Lord, I'm old enough to be your mother. Now I feel old :( I realize she will probably be alright and I am so NOT ever going to be a strict, no-nonsense mom. It's just not my nature.

    Formerly Fun - laughing invalidates their feelings? Really? I wouldn't think that but I'm not an expert. Liv loves to make me laugh under normal circumstances. It's amazing the things our kids can get away with as opposed to us or our parents growing up. I'm thinking it's sort of a good thing; I think being able to express our true feelings is healthy. Obviously, I need to teach her how to express them in a more constructive way. That's the goal. Your Izzy sounds darling!

  19. Susan - That would be great if she got all the rebelliousness out of her system before the teenage years. Maybe I'm paying my dues right now. Kids cursing is FUNNY. It always will be. Your son said, "Mother for the love of God?" He's awesome.

    Rassles - If you say it's totally natural and right, then it must be.

    A Free Man - I think you might be right about the cuteness being an evolutionary necessity for survival. Considering you're a smarty geneticist and all, I'll take your word for it. Boy Z is super cute. I know you and Formerly Fun have a prearranged marriage for Bebe and Boy Z, but keep Liv in mind should that fall through :). Liv is a wildcat but she's smart and funny.

    Noble Savage - What an awesome parenting tactic. I'm definitely going to give that a try the next time Liv throws a tantrum.

    Nurse Myra - If I raised a gay kid and a dope smoker I'd consider that parenting success.

    Sid - Yeah, I do understand that. And I always thought I would be the strictest parent. Even when she infuriates me, it's hard for me to act on it.

    Sandi - I normally do ignore her. But we really had to go home and she was laying in the dirt screaming obscenities in front of small children. And it was funny. I wish I could have ignored her. That probably would have worked so much better.

    Sci Fi Dad - Ah, the million dollar question. My daughter, like most kids, listens to everything. What people say on TV, on the radio, in public, etc. I'm not the best parent when it comes to monitoring what my daughter sees or hears. Yes, I'm a shitty parent. I try...I really do. I know she will grow out of it, eventually. Being a kid is hard. I do remember how frustrating it was to have no control over anything. At least my daughter feels safe enough with me to express her real feelings. That's a plus, right?

    Leanne - I think ignoring her is the way to go. The laughter does seem to make it worse. I'm going to work on that.

    Magpie - Right? It's hard to control. Plus, they're only words so I try not to take it too personally. Being a kid is hard, like Sci Fi dad said.

  20. like mother - like daughter!

  21. Anonymous - If you're going to make a statement like that, at least have the balls to be NOT anonymous.

  22. I know that in this situation parents are supposed to ignore it and ignore all the other parents who are standing around and staring and judging and address the swearing later at home, but I would have laughed too. Not ha ha ha laugh, but that choking mortified laugh

  23. Three was THE worst age ever. My son was a little hellion. I vaguely remember him calling me a fuck head. It gets better hun, it really does. Its just the age. Whom ever dubbed age 2 as the "terrible two's" obviously did so before their child hit 3. Because 3, was SO much worse than 2.

    And I gotta say, I agree with Anonymous. She is just like her mother.
    Smart, strong willed, funny, freakin adorable and precocious. Good for her!

  24. Oh Gwen, I´ve seen so many parents in that situation with all the judgmental eyes of the public upon them and think the same thing, they just can´t do anything right. Your choice was as good as any.

  25. Gwen, you complete me!!! I love your honesty!! Sometimes I'll look at my kids and think the same thing...they can be so ungrateful and disrespectful. I remember one time I told my husband that I thought our oldest son was being an asshole and he looked mortified.

    I loved that you laughed when she called you a bitch.'s probably the best reaction you could've had. She was going for shock value...she was trying to push your buttons and by laughing it showed her that YOU are in control.

  26. I don't know, man. I have dogs, so a stern "NO!" usually works. Kids are beyond me. But laughing seems better than smacking, you know?

  27. Holy cow, you have a little pistol on your hands there, mama.

  28. I know it's wrong that I enjoy these kinds of stories so much, but I can't help it. I like to know I am not the only one with a child like this.