The other day, as gray clouds loomed on the horizon and my children ran feral, I decided I would squeeze in mowing the lawn before the rain started. Before firing up the mower, I asked my kids if they needed anything. Nope. No! We’re G.O.O.D. Go mow that lawn!
Fast forward 10 minutes, and I was mowing the lawn in a downpour (of course) when my nine-year-old started shouting at me from the porch. I couldn’t hear a thing over the mower, so I ignored her. She kept yelling. I yelled that I couldn’t hear her. She yelled again, clearly straining to scream as loudly as possible, this time stomping her feet for added emphasis. Realizing she wasn’t going to stop, and also foolishly thinking perhaps she had something important to tell me, I finally shut off the mower, mopped the rain from my brow, and asked her to say it again. She was clearly exasperated at the inconvenience of having to repeat herself. “Can my stuffies have a spa day?”
A spa day. For her fucking Beanie Boos. Sure, kid, but add a treatment for me too, would you? One that removes the smell of wet grass from my skin and the overwhelming urge to lose my ever-loving shit. I just stood there for a few beats and watched her skip back into the house. How was it that I was the idiot for not understanding what had just happened? Was I not soaked? Not in the middle of something? Did they not say they were G to the double-O-D good?
I don’t have the capacity for more chaos right now; the window of time to do or see anything extra these days is not wide open. I have to squeeze in errands, chores, and exercise between work and juggling kids, all while balancing the limitations of a pandemic. Yet my kids always find a way to ruin my plans in the weirdest, most mind-boggling ways.
I am continuously baffled by their bold, impulsive, and out-of-touch words and actions that show little regard for the people around them. People with kids know that the only way to explain the “why” that we mutter 15-95 times a day is because kids aren’t just developing human beings; they are hell spawn.
This is different from them being assholes. For those of you getting ready to send me links to articles that prove I am the asshole for saying such horrible things about innocent babes, stop right there. I know they are still developing social-emotional intelligence and the cognitive functions and this adds to their messy and tantrumy selves. Meltdowns over the need to wear shoes, or cereal bowl flipping when I didn’t pour in enough milk when they were toddlers, were expected. Even being screamed at when one of my kids can’t find something, then being expected to conjure said thing out of thin air, makes some sense. I am their safe place for anger, fear, and frustration. I know this.
But during all of this age-appropriate growth and discovery, they can be horrible, and if I’m the asshole for calling a spade a spade, so be it. Of course, I know they’re just kids, and of course I love them through it all. Responsibility and growth are hard, and every age comes with new challenges. But it’s the lack of a specific filter or inner guide in my children that makes all of this even harder.
Why does it make sense to my seven-year-old daughter to walk by one of those tall plastic cigarette trash cans/ashtrays outside of buildings, and—after being told to not touch it—drop-kick it and then make murals out of the nicotine ashes? Why? What possesses them to see an incline between staircases and decide that is a great place to try “surfing” after chucking their shoes first to be sure they could in fact slide down? I wish my curiosity were that strong on some days. I wish I had the confidence to defy authority, knowing the consequences would be worth every second of getting to do exactly what I wanted. Kids are impressive in their crazy-making rationale.
They impulsively stand on chairs in the middle of a meal, hopping up like a ninja under attack. They walk through the house and drop something, as if their hands have suddenly lost the ability to grasp objects — and then leave it and later wonder why they can’t find it. Or better yet, they dump a whole box of toys to find the one thing they wanted, and then walk away as if they didn’t just dump a box of toys in the middle of a shared space. And when I have the audacity to ask them to clean up, they lose their minds and claim they “have to do everything around here!” Sometimes, for a hot second, I am almost I convinced I am the one who made the mess. And before I can shake the idea that I am being gaslit, another child walks by and punches me on the ass or spits on the mirror or squirts all the ketchup out of bottle for fun or licks day-old jelly off the counter after ripping cushions off of the couch and unfolding all of the throw blankets.
Why? What the fuck possesses them to do this shit? Please let this be a phase. The chaos they create as they scat, hum, or screech like monkeys—because the sound of their own voices seems to inform their decision-making—can’t be explained in parenting articles about irrational behavior and impulse control. Or maybe I just can’t accept this mysterious problem as developmentally appropriate.
Their actions are sometimes selfish and callous, and every lesson on manners, empathy, or right and wrong is met with, “Meh. I want to do the opposite, so I will, and I don’t care who is impacted.” Come hell or high water—specifically rain water—my kids can’t seem to stop themselves from living their best, most demonic lives right now.