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Poop is the word. The oft used -in spite of Mom’s discouragements – word. Aren’t there other, more interesting, topics of conversation? Sure, Mom. We’ll try.

Driving home from summer camp, Medium and a friend decided to record a spontaneous “commercial.”

I think she’s been secretly spying me watching Mad Men …

[vimeo 46521096]
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Last weekend, Medium called a family meeting. We haven’t had one in months and I had no idea what triggered her to think of it.

She explained her problem and clearly communicated her expectations for our behavior. We raised our eyebrows (I may have smirked a little) and nodded understandingly. Every one of us promised to do better in the future.

We dispersed to our posts in front of various screens and quite frankly, I forgot the whole thing.

That is, until this morning, when I staggered into the bathroom for a shower and found this written reminder of my girl’s instructions:

Protected by Ziploc

She is her mother’s daughter. The “…or else” was implied.

Small woke up crying. This is uncommon and in my sleep fog I wasn’t sure if I had dreamed his cries or if he was truly sobbing. I waited. His cries intensified. I staggered out of bed to go to him.

“Did you have a bad dream? Are you sick? Did you pee?”

“No!” He wailed louder.

“Henry, buddy, what’s the matter? Are you sick? Did you pee? It’s okay if you did. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

His little body shook. “I’m just…sad!”

“Why are you sad?”

“Cause I’ll never have a real dragon!”

I stood next to his bed, simultaneously amused and annoyed. “Is that really why you’re crying?”

“Yes, and even if I got one, you’d throw it away!”

I glanced around his recently cleaned and purged room. Ah.

“I’m sorry, buddy. I understand you’re sad. Do you want to come into my room and cuddle?”

“No.”

The rejection pierced my haze like a knife. “Ok, then. I’m going back to bed.”

A minute later, I heard footsteps in the hall. I pulled back the covers. He tossed Piggy onto the mattress and climbed in beside her. The tear stains on his cheeks were a testament to the depth of his feelings. I hugged him close. “I’m sorry about the dragon,” I whispered. “If I could get you one, I would.” I paused. Unable to stop myself, I tacked on a redemption clause: “And I wouldn’t ever throw it out.”

“Thankth, Mom,” he mumbled around his thumb.

“I love you.”

He sighed. “I love you, too.”

The kids are playing in the basement; the decibel level is akin to a rock concert. I ask my husband to close the door and search for serenity within my fiction cocoon. I am nearly in the zone when I hear feet pounding on the stairs. Small is whining before he bursts into the kitchen. Since his father is the first parental unit he’ll encounter, I stay on the couch and do my best to ignore their conversation. I am semi-successful until I catch a sentence that concludes with “Mommy.” I am needed. Sighing, I look up from my book. Small is heading in my direction; his face tear-tracked and dirty. I sit up and put on a sympathetic expression. I reach for him, ready to whisper words of comfort and absorb all his hurt feelings, but he hurries past me with nary a glance. Throwing himself on the dog bed next to Paco (who sighs as deeply as I had), Small breathes deeply of musty dog and closes his eyes.

“Brendan?” I call. “What did you just tell Henry?”

“I told him to go snuggle with you or the dog.”

Small stops sucking his thumb long enough to give me an unsolicited one sentence explanation: “Paco cheers me up faster.”

Knowing that my child, whom I spent hours laboring to bring into this world without the benefit of pain-dulling drugs, whom I love, counsel, and care for, whose physical and psychological well-being I put before my own, whose head I have held, butt I have wiped, and knees I have kissed, whose everyday actions I chronicle in the hopes that they might, someday, promote fleeting, happy thoughts…he prefers the dog’s company over mine?

That’s just fabulous.

And the Mommy of the Year award goes to a neutered, middle-aged, red dog whose favorite hobbies are surreptitious sleeping on the furniture and overt cleaning of his ass. “He just makes me happy,” says his son.

Humble pie does not go down well. It almost always gets caught in the throat.

At the end of December, the fates conspired against us and our furnace and our washing machine broke close to simultaneously. We live in Vermont, where it gets so cold (it is currently -25 degrees Fahrenheit) that some schools will close upon hearing the weather forecast (not ours, thank goodness!). Accordingly, our first priority was to ensure that our house had heat and hot water. I contrived to make the washer limp along until I reached the end of my patience with it. I was sure I’d make it a few months. The new one arrived today, in all its energy-efficient, front-loading glory. 

Next to the coffee maker, the washing machine is the most important appliance in our house. If I had to, I would hand-wash our dishes. But there’s no way in hell I’d hand-wash our clothes. After my husband came home, I encouraged the five of us to crowd around it like the proverbial golden calf. They oohed and ahhed for about five seconds before the boys lost interest and drifted away.

“You may not EVER get inside this machine,” I said to Medium, who had stayed behind to watch me fold laundry.

“Why not?” asked Medium.

“Because if the door closed, you wouldn’t have enough air and you would die.”

“Oh,” she said.

“And your brothers shouldn’t ever get inside it, either.” I added, thinking I was emphasizing my point.

“Why?” she asked.

Sometimes I wonder just how much my children care for one another.

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