Fan Club

Before I became a parent I imaScreen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.44.59 AMgined myself being rather spectacular at it. I would be like my own mother, but even better with overtures of my grandma who never meet a toy or chocolate éclair she didn’t want to send my way. Then I had children and was shocked to discover that nothing unearths or highlights your flaws more than the parenting journey.

What I think catches a lot of moms by an even bigger surprise than the fact that we can consistently be outsmarted by a toddler is as our children get older and more involved in activities we assume a moniker based on their extracurricular desires.

We’re soccer, basketball, volleyball, swim, choir, (insert activity of your choice) moms. It doesn’t matter if you singlehandedly just orchestrated a dramatic hostage rescue in the Middle East if you kid plays Little League and you’re signed up to bring snacks for Saturday’s game you’re a baseball mom.

As in any endeavor there’s a pecking order, if you will, of participation and devotion. Some parents are zealots and have totally given up their life to the cause and by that I mean their child’s current passion. Back in the day I was a History Fair Mom and it was brutal.

I was total caught off guard about the level of intrigue and backstabbing. (In homage to history I would compare it to King Henry the VIII’s court during the Anne Boleyn beheading.)  I just thought my main job was driving my son to the competitions, making sure his darling bow tie was straight and keeping him well hydrated for an optimum presentation performance. This in a word was wrong.

Once my son made it to the national competition (A surprise to both of us and my wallet because this meant we had to go to D.C.) I was scared. Parents were checking other child competitors’ historical sources and claiming they were “vague, flawed and unsubstantial.” And then, I swear on the picture of George Washington in the National Portrait gallery on the sincerity of this statement, there was the ceremonial exchanging of “curriculum vitae.”

One kid’s resume was three pages long. First, what 12-year-old has a “vitae”? And how does one after only residing on planet earth for a mere dozen years garner enough career experience to fill three 8 ½ X 11’s in what I’m guessing was a tiny 8 point Times Roman font? (I just updated my resume and I had to use a Cambria 12 point just to fill one page.)

Thankfully, my son turned out to not be a fierce competitor. We gave each other our signature family eye roll which means initiate the escape by any means necessary protocol and ran like the wind to our D.C. safe space – The Air and Space Museum.

Another thing about being an extracurricular parent that came as a revelation to me is how woefully unprepared I was for the self-doubt and, sometimes, self-esteem kick in the pants that can await you. There you are thinking you’ve got it all together. You’ve, sort of, figured out life. You’re at the top of your parenting game and then, in my case, a feather, yes a feather, can take you down.

I’m a dance mom. Your thoughts about what exactly a dance mom is might be skewed from watching a popular reality TV show with that name. Let me give you a quick education into what a dance mom really is – totally awesomeness. You know, except for me.

Oh, for a while there I thought I had the whole dance mom thing under control until my daughter got on a new team. This is where I discovered that a society of dance moms exist that are so accomplished I’m certain they posses Wonder Woman like skills and perhaps, when their children aren’t dancing, reside on their own secret island and take turns saving the universe.

My first foray into this potentially superhero environment was back in the fall. I noticed that the dance studio, approximately the size of a Costco, had an area lined with table after table. Hmm, I thought do they run a restaurant here after hours? Then in January I was hit with the truth.

One day I walked in and the entire studio resembled Santa’s workshop – the Dance Mom edition. Every square inch of non-dancing space was filled with parents creating costume masterpieces. All those tables were filled with sewing machines and moms (and even a dad) tufting tiny ruffles for tutu tops, bending jeweled brocade to beautify chiffon skirts and there were shiny crystal stones as far as the eye could see casting a glitter glow that took my breath away. I stopped breathing all together when I saw that there was even a shoe design area where parents were using their painting skills to take a tap shoe from ho-hum to Manolo Blahnik worthy.

I began inwardly freaking out and my heart might as well have been one of those painted tap shoe it was beating so fast. I’m so sewing and arts and crafts challenged that by the time my kids hit third grade they actually forbid me from helping them with any school project. I believe the exact quote was, “No mom you’ll just mess it up.” So how was I ever going to be able to live up to these standards spread out on table after table before me? I panicked and decided there was no other course of action but to publicly admit that I was unworthy and beg for help.

It was like a legion of fairy godmothers descended on me and took me under their gossamer wings embellished with tiny crystals (because duh dance moms of this stature wouldn’t just have unadorned wings). It was all going to be okay. These women would see to it that my daughter’s costumes would be amazing. The only thing I had to do was make two fans out of feathers. No problem, I thought. The single skill required was the ability to wield a glue gun. I so had this.

I happily turned my kitchen counter into a crafting zone. My glue gun was fired up and raring to go and I had thirty-two, 14 inch teal blue and white ostrich feathers spread out in a fan formation. All I needed to do was adhere the feathers to multiple felt bases. Easy peasy right?

Umm no, because as I was pressing a very temperamental ostrich feather to the felt, which was oozing with hot glue, my hand got stuck and when I attempted to pull my hand from the felt base I took all the feathers with me. I was literally Edward Feather Hands.

Right about this time, probably from hearing my cursing interspersed with sobbing, my daughter walked in. She , took the glue gun from my hand, and then started, very roughly, I might add, ripping feathers off my skin.

I looked at her and said, “You’re going to make the fans aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I am. Admit it Mom this just isn’t your thing.”

“But I want to be good at it.” I wailed with feathers remnants still stuck to my hand, which made wiping my watery eyes, a challenge. “I want to contribute.”

“Then go write about it,” she said with more than a wee bit of sarcasm. “That’s something you can, kind of, actually do.”

So I did. Behold, the tale of failed dance mom in all her partially feathered glory.

 

Summer Bragging Rights

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 10.44.05 AMOne of the downsides of raising kids today is that parents have turned everything and I do mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g into a competition. For example, what do you call a second grade student who enjoys kicking a soccer ball and is half way through his summer reading log challenge? In 21st century parenting parlance that child is “gifted scholar/athlete.”

Still not catching on? Okay, let’s try another one. What do you call an 8th grader who babysit her siblings for free one night while her parents went to a movie and has twice volunteered at a food bank? Well, if you’re a mom with a delusional disorder that teenager is a “humanitarian.” All right, all right I’m exaggerating. She actually said with a straight face and to my knowledge she had not been drinking that her child has “humanitarian leanings.”

Once my son graduated high school I thought I had seen the worst of it. I mean really what is there to compete over anymore? Yeah, in a couple of years it will be all about who got into what grad school and in another ten years after that I have no doubt I’ll get accosted in the produce section at grocery store because some mom wants to gush about her daughter the neurosurgeon or her son the tech startup billionaire. (Dear Lord, hear my prayers. Please, please can I be that mom.)

But really none of that is a big deal because it’s not the day-to-day trench warfare that is parenting a school age child where everything from student of the month to getting the Sunflower citizenship award is plotted and strategized more meticulously than Eisenhower planned the amphibious D-Day invasion.

All this is why I was surprised and oh so very disappointed when I was introduced to the latest parenting brag for those of us with college age kids. The summer internship and/or job.

Unbeknownst to me now your kid just can’t come back home for the summer and have your basic, no frill, minimum wage job at a fast food joint to make some much-needed cash. Oh no, that is so, dare I say, common. For your child to be on the fast track to awesome he or she must be doing some sort of interning, job shadowing, profiling or apprenticeship.

What this really means is that you, the parent, will be shelling out thousands of dollars in transportation, lodging and food this summer for your child to go to New York, D.C. San Francisco (etc) so they can “work” for free. Now, while I have no doubt “valuable” contacts are made (as in you sure paid a lot for that connection) I must share that I think this all wrong.

The bragging rights shouldn’t go to the parents with the kid doing a “summer exploratory of Capitol Hill with the assistant to the junior legislative aid of a Congressional Representative.”

Nope, the “all hail my amazing child” belongs to the parent with the kid that has a super crappy summer job.

I believe there is nothing more beneficial to a college student’s education and future success than a summer job that sucks. Every human needs to, at some point in his or her life, work in entry-level positions in the food industry, retail, or do some hard labor.

In 1983 when my husband was a student at the University of Texas he spent one entire summer painting curbs at gas stations. The average heat index was 110. To this day he still talks about that job. He says it taught him to cherish the gift that is a college education and air conditioning.

That same summer I was working in fancy pants (literally) ladies clothing store. It had air conditioning, I’ll give it that, but the boredom was soul crushing. Not only did I spend hours hanging up clothes, steaming clothes and folding clothes I also had to wait on some seriously snooty women who were slobs.

There was this one woman who frequented the store at least twice a week and as she constantly stroked her, what Texas folks would call, Barbara Bush pearls she would demand a level of service that would make HRH Queen Elizabeth blush.

This woman would try on almost every item in the store and then throw all the clothes on the floor. You could even see her standing on the clothes she had tried on from the bottom on the dressing room door. Who stands on clothes and more importantly who stands on clothes that they don’t even own? Someone needed to call this lady out. I thought there’s a story for the local paper – former Junior League president who can’t figure out how a hanger works.

(To make a long story longer she came to mother’s funeral three months ago and when I saw her all I could think of was “Ugh, there’s Mrs. Pig Pen.” P.S. She was still wearing pearls.)

What I learned from that job is that I wasn’t cut out for any kind of career that deals with the public unless it’s me tattling on them. So, I became passionate about becoming a news reporter. (It’s the grown up and socially acceptable version of tattling.)

My son currently has a summer job working at a big box store. Everyday he comes home with a new story. The saddest one to date is when he had to mop “like pretty much all day.” His father and I just smile and tell him it’s character building. He doesn’t get what we’re talking about, but he will and he’ll be a better person, employee or perhaps future CEO for it.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

 

Battle of the Books

cb9c2b1bc0fb978749f9fa347c1c04c2There are many, many reasons I’m glad my tour of duty as an elementary school mother is over. Sure, I enjoyed aspects of having younger children like being able to actually understand their homework. I also loved the field trips and school parties until the sugar police took over and turned school celebrations into a treatise of why food is the enemy. I’m still steamed about the time my Halloween cupcakes, with probably two inches of the yummiest buttercream frosting you’ve ever tasted accessorized with a Nutter Butter cookie dipped in white chocolate to look like a ghost, were turned away at the third grade classroom door for “exceeding the sugar guidelines.” Haters.

Besides the sugar wars perhaps the number one thing I don’t miss about elementary school parenting is Battle of the Books. Because it’s a battle alright . . . between the parents. For those of you not initiated in the ways of turning reading into a competitive bloodsport let me explain. Kids voluntarily sign up to participate in Battle of the Books. Teams are formed and parents offer up their services to be “book coaches.” Each grade level is assigned the same 10 (or so) books to read. Kids on the team pick at least two books they plan to be the “experts” on and study groups are formed so each team is prepared for the book battle which usually takes place a couple of months after the teams are in place.

If you’re thinking this sounds like super, fun, edu-tainment with the added benefit of helping kids hone their reading comprehension and retention skills than you couldn’t be a bigger idiot. Did you miss the “parents as coaches” part? Hello, red flag of doom right there. Like many things that end badly this whole parents as book coaches seems like a decent enough volunteer gig. How hard can it be? You meet with the kids a couple of times a month, feed them a snack, discuss the books and bring on the battle.

Except that’s not how it goes down because being a book coach is a demanding job primarily because you have to read all the books. When I found this out I was stunned. I didn’t want to read some of these books 40 years ago and now not only was I required to read them, but I had to dissect them with a Machiavellian mindset. You see the battle questions are not so much about the story as they are about the most nitpicking details of the book like what color socks a character wore on page 83.

So, when you read the book you have to think about what questions will the Battle Chairperson/Judge ask (who usually is the most OCD member on the PTA board) and then make sure your team knows the answers. This is done by making question and answer sheets for each book. I naively suggested to other book coaches that we share our Q & A sheets that way we (the mothers) don’t have to read all the books. Holy paper cut, you would have thought I suggested that we start a swingers club. The outrage was that intense.

Maybe if I had known that some of these parents had been working on building their battle teams for years I would have kept my mouth shut. Little did I know that battle scouting starts in early elementary school. You’re not looking for the strongest readers, but the children with great memories. So, that kid on the field trip who won’t shut up about baseball stats from 1973 – that’s who want on your team. And if you hear a rumor of a child who might have the tiniest bit of an eidetic memory start your Battle of the Books wooing.

When it comes time for the battle the kids are just psyched to missing class, but for the book coaches it’s game on. These parents are locked and loaded. They know these books better than their child’s soccer schedule. It becomes not a combat between the kids and their novel knowledge, but a battle of wits between the parent coaches and the parent/book quizzer.  Armed with all the books highlighted and flush with Post It Notes the parent coaches are ready to challenge not only questions and answers, but the subtle nuances in the ways the queries are asked and the responses judged.

At this point it’s mom against mom and to the victor goes bragging rights because that’s what’s it’s about, right? A parent’s reading prowess. As I watched all this play out I thought to myself why don’t we just save ourselves a whole lot of time and trouble and just have one quickie meeting where we all share our SAT scores. It sure would be a whole lot simpler and the end result would be about the same.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Dear Snarky – Help Braggy Moms Are Making Me Question My Parenting!

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Dear Snarky,

I’m the proud mother of a beautiful 4 month old son. I know I have a lot to be thankful for. My son is healthy and the love of my life. My problem is not my baby, but other mothers. I was in a Mommy and Me play group which is really just an excuse to get out of the house but I quit going because all the moms are so competitive especially about their babies sleeping through the night. My son has NEVER slept through the night and the moms made me feel like something is wrong with him. Do you have any advice how to handle these braggy moms and their comments?

Signed Sleepless

Dear Sleepless, 

Put on your big girl Spanx and get tough. You’ve got a long road ahead of you sister. The first year of your child’s life is all about the milestones.

After the sleeping through the night marathon there’s the rolling over, sitting and pulling up Olympics.  That is quickly followed by the triathlon of walking, talking and potty training.  Those little mommy/baby play dates are really an excuse for a Baby Throw Down.  Babies, start you engines.  It’s time for Who’s the Better Baaaaaby – which loosely translates to Who’s the Better Mommy.  I never won – not once.  I didn’t even medal.  Although, one time I thought, for sure, I would get a bronze.

 Fast forward to elementary school and the stakes get even higher. Who’s reading before kindergarten, who’s already doing addition and subtraction.  Then, there’s always the mom that thinks her little piece of heaven is too advanced for kindergarten and needs to leap-frog directly to first grade or perhaps second grade. (Sigh) See what you have to look forward to and all this is nothing compared to high school. Two letters for you A P – as in “My child is taking 13 AP classes.” This all means you need to – right now – start practicing having confidence in yourself and your ability to be a fabulous mother. You also need repeat every day until your son leaves for college, “I will not judge my child’s success or mine based on the whopping fibs and exaggerations of other parents.” 

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude please email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or PM me on my Snarky Facebook page. 😉

 

Dear Snarky – Am I a Bad Mom for Not Doing My Kid’s School Project?

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Dear Snarky,

My son is in the 3rd grade and this is his first year to participate in the school Science Fair. I’ve helped him decided what he wants to do, bought the supplies and the display board and have offered what I would call gentle guidance. The rest I am leaving up to him.

I thought this was okay until at a Cub Scout meeting I hear other mothers talking and it seems like they are doing their kids ENTIRE project. Am I wrong not to do more?

Signed, First Time Science Fair Mom

Dear First Timer,

Put down the glue gun and slowly step away from the note cards and the color markers. You are 100% correct in not micro managing every aspect of your son’s Science Fair entry. It’s the rare parent these days that can resist the urge to not completely take over every school project. You name it – book reports, the diorama (hate it), the Invention Competition to the pinnacle of parental participation – the Science Fair – have become parent showcases. 

Most of these projects have the tell-tale signs that a 40-year-old did some if not all of the work. Sure, I’ve been guilty of telling my kids when they were younger to take their chocolate milk and go watch “Sponge Bob Square Pants” while mommy just fixes one or two things on their display board. But, it’s wrong and brace yourself because when you walk into the Science Fair your son’s project board and experiment will look like, well, like an 8-year-old did it and 90 % of the other exhibits will look like a cross between a rocket scientist and the design team at Apple.

That’s a nice way of saying your son’s will stink but in a good way because he did his own work and you let him – making you both big winners.  Also, I think it says a lot about the character of the school if the winners are picked based on the work a child did not the parents. So no worries First Timer, you’ve got this! Get your Mom swagger on and be proud you’re raising a child to do his own work and think for himself.

Snarky Goes to Pre-School

elite_pre-school_1607485Finding the right pre-school for your child is the first step in your journey of micro-managing every educational aspect of your kid’s life. When they’re 3 you’re interviewing child care directors and pursuing the nap to art time ratio. When they’re 16 you’re super ticked that the SAT exam proctor won’t let you into the testing room with your teenager. What’s up with that?  It’s a potentially life changing test and if ever a kid needed his mom holding his hand, offering him sips of Red Bull and dabbing his furrowed, studious brow with a cloth then this is it.

Sure, sometimes all that parental devotion can backfire. Back in April my son was looking for a summer job and had applied on-line for a part-time job at the local Walgreens.  He didn’t know his social security number so he left the job application open on his computer and asked me to type in the number while he was at school. I got his social security card out of the safe deposit box and was sitting down to input it when I noticed there was a test Walgreens wanted you to take as part of the application process. What the hell, I thought, how hard can a freaking Walgreens test be for a stock boy position? Yeah, that’s right, I took the test and clicked submit. My son gets home from school, checks his e-mail and finds out that his application to Walgreens has been denied because he FAILED the test. Ouch! I, a college graduate, had flunked, from what I could tell was, a basic literacy test. My children have used this information to viciously mock me all summer. It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to alter my driving so I never pass the Walgreens with my kids in the car.  The taunting is too much. Jerks – Walgreens and my children.

Enough about Walgreens and back to maternal obsessive compulsive disorders. Since I’m well acquainted with this affliction I was very concerned about my twenty something friend Nikki when she confided to me that she had not been taking her second child, 2-year-old Lilly to the most coveted preschool in the city – The Duchy Day Academy . This is the school that you almost have to be a double legacy to get into.  No one cares if you attended back in the day. You have to have a family tree where every branch shows that most of your relatives illustrious educational journey began at Duchy Day.

The place is impressive. I’ll give it that. It’s got fancy columns out front, black and white marble floors in the entry and what I’m guessing are antiques in the foyer. It looks like a Chanel boutique I went into once. I had ducked in because I really needed to use the restroom and they were not very forthcoming with letting me partake of their facilitates. It’s not like I just walked right in and asked where’s the ladies room was. I did the slow stroll through the store and then inquired.  I told the severe looking woman with her hair in one of those low buns that she didn’t need to look so put out I only had to go number 1 for God’s sake.  I could tell from the looks everyone working there was giving me that I was “so not Chanel boutique material” and you know what I’m okay with that. I wanted to run out of there screaming “Target rules bitches!”

I knew Nikki’s mother-in-law was hell-bent on all her grandchildren attending Duchy Day and had pulled some major strings to get Nikki’s little girl enrolled. Here’s the deal,  Nikki hails from not just the wrong side of the tracks, but more like the wrong side of the tracks adjacent. She was 18 and working in the college law library when she meet her future husband.  As Nikki’s mom tells the story – her little girl F#*$ed Up and she means it literally and figuratively. Nikki got pregnant and then married – up, way up the social ladder. Fortunately, for the first four years of her marriage, Nikki’s husband did some kind of clerking for a Federal Judge and they lived far, far away from her mother-in-law. Two years ago they moved back so her husband could work in the family law firm and Nikki’s been trying to dodge her MIL’s “good” intentions ever since.

When Nikki broke down in my kitchen with the tearful confession that she had been skipping the Monday/Wednesday  Mommy and Me classes at Duchy Day I was worried for her. First, I knew if her MIL found out all hell would break loose and secondly Nikki is one of those gentle souls with an always happy attitude. For her to be ducking out of Duchy Day something was wrong. I handed her a dish towel to wipe her eyes and asked what her was going down at the D.D. That made her eyes fill with tears again and she said in a whisper that the other moms were making her feel like something was wrong with her daughter Lilly.

“Okay, dry those eyes girlfriend,” I said.  “I’m a seasoned mom and there is nothing, nothing at all wrong with Lilly except that she’s too beautiful for words.”

That got a smile from her and she sniffled and said, “Thank you, but maybe there is something wrong.  They all make comments because she can’t sit still and never wants to do what she’s supposed to. Like in circle time when every other kid is sitting in their mom’s lap Lilly is up wandering and she talks through story time and when we do something called cognitive motor skills which is really just playing with blocks Lilly is off playing with anything but the blocks.”

“Oh my God,” I laugh, “Is that all?  That’s nothing. My son and I got kicked out of Kindermusik when he was 2 and a half.  Who puts drums, cymbals and tambourines in front of a 2-year-old boy and his mother and then tells them no touching?  I couldn’t help myself those tambourines were cool.  They even had feathers attached to the shaky things.”

“You touched them?”

“Well, we both did.  We couldn’t help it. There we were in a circle with the instruments laid out in the middle and the instructor was blabbing on and on and one thing led to another and I grabbed the tambourine Clay grabbed the cymbals and started beating the drum with his left foot and then the next thing I know we’re being asked to leave Kindermusick – forever.  Their lose by the way because we sounded pretty good.”

Nikki laughs and that makes me feel better until she says, “Well, I wished the Duchy Academy would kick us out because I never want to go back.”

“Oh come on sweetie it can’t be that bad.  Is it whispering or are they just giving you one of those my kid is better than your kid looks?”

“All of the above and more. No one wants to sit by us in circle time and I’ve noticed the other mothers directing their children away from playing with Lilly, like she’s not good enough for them. You know, I’m used to people treating me like trash or being condescending because I got pregnant at 18, but what I’ll never get used to ever is people treating my kids that way.”

“Then you’ve got to fight back.”

“What do you mean?’

If you just give in and leave Duchy Day then these women have won.  You’ve got to lay down the law now and let everyone know not to mess with you or your kids.  You can’t just throw in the towel when Lilly is 2. It’s a marathon not a sprint this whole motherhood thing.”

“But I’m scared.”

“I’ve think I’ve got a plan if you’re up for it.”

“Do I have to do it by myself?”

“No, this particular plan I’m thinking of involves me and you.”

“Will I get arrested?”

“NO!  God, you sound like my husband now.  It’s fool proof – almost.”

“Okay, I’m in, but now I’m just not scared, I’m terrified.”

‘No worries and for this plan to work you’ll need to call me Dr. Snarky. ”

One week later

It’s early on Wednesday morning and I’m in the kitchen eating Greek yogurt and strawberries. My husband walks in en route to get a cup of coffee and stops as soon as he sees me. He stares at me. I stare back at him. We don’t speak. He resumes his walk to the coffee maker, pours himself a cup and as he sips his coffee continues to give me the eye. Finally, he gives in, sighs and says, “You know it’s illegal to practice medicine without a license?”

I keep spooning my yogurt into my mouth, pause, and say, “Yes, I’m well aware of that fact.”

“You know it’s potentially illegal to pretend you’re a doctor?”

“Hmm, interesting,” I say in a very bored tone.

“Just checking because if you get arrested I’m in meetings straight from about 9 to 4 and I will be unavailable to bail you out.”

“Thank you, but I have no plans to go to jail on this very pretty summer morning.”

He starts collecting up his keys, sunglasses, wallet and briefcase and says, “Then I have no plans to ask you why you have on green scrubs and a white lab coat that says Dr. Miller.”

He then walks over kisses me on the forehead and says, “Have a good day Doctor” and begins to walk out the door for work, stops, turns around says, “If you really need me send a text.  The police do allow that you know, a text instead of a phone call.”

“Good to know and don’t worry about this morning I’m not even a M.D. I’m a Ph.D.”

“Oh really, a Ph.D. In what, if I maybe so bold as to inquire?”

“For this morning and this morning only I have a Ph.D. in Childhood Psychology with an emphasis in early childhood development and I’m doing, what could be, groundbreaking research in the area of gifted toddlers.”

“Stop!  Don’t tell me anymore I want to be able to pass the polygraph when the cops ask me if, at any time, I knew of or aided you in your plans.”

“I guess that means your don’t want to know that I’m going with Nikki to the Duchy Day Academy to conduct my research.”

“Oh God, no – Duchy Day?  I have clients with kids that attend Duchy Day.  Now, I’m worried.  Text me as soon as your done doing whatever you’re going to do so I know the kids aren’t home alone with their mother in lock up.”

“Relax. This is no big deal.  Now go to work so I can start thinking like a Ph.D.”

“I’m serious.  Text me, Dr. Miller.”

Okay, okay, I will. Now off you go.  I’ve got stuff to do.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.  Good luck!”

And with that he was out the door and I was able to finish my yogurt in peace. I didn’t know what my husband was so worried about. I had everything very well thought out. The best part of this whole plan was my outfit.  I’ve never worn scrubs before and they were having a tremendously bad influence on me.  I was having serious thoughts of crossing over to the dark side – as in good-bye track pants and hello scrubs. The only thing holding me back was that my husband puts up with a lot from me and I’m afraid if I go full on scrubs that might be just the thing that makes him reconsider the whole “until death do us part” thing.

I got the scrubs courtesy of my two doors down neighbors.They are both M.D.’s. Valerie is a medical researcher at the local university and her husband Bob is a family practice doctor. A couple of Halloween’s ago I borrowed one of her lab coats.  Yesterday I went over to ask if she would loan me one of her coats again and she volunteered to throw in some scrubs. Valerie is pushing 60 and is probably a size 18 so the scrubs she gave me are deliciously roomy. The great thing about Valerie is she never even asked why I needed them. She just smiled and said, “Are you up to something?” and I smiled back and said, “Yeah, a little something” and she winked at me and said, “Have fun.” Now, that’s a good neighbor and these scrubs are amazing. It’s like wearing the most comfortable pair of p.j.’s you’ve ever owned. I’m wallowing in cozy. The lab coat’s not bad either.  Just having it on makes feel incredibly smart and superior to the lowly humans who only hold Bachelors of Arts degrees. Which means I now feel superior to myself.

As for my idea for helping Nikki feel better about pre-school, it’s a pretty simple one and I’m not ashamed to admit one I’ve, kind of, used before. (Yes, Your Kid Is a Genius Now Leave Me Alone).  I’m going this morning to the Mommy and Me class pretending that Nikki’s child, Lilly, is part of an ongoing study on profoundly gifted toddlers. I, in my role as Dr. Miller the lead researcher, will be shadowing Lilly at pre-school as part of the study.  This gives me the chance to blab in pseudo scientific terms what a genius Lilly is to the other mothers.  I’m not just doing this for sweet Lilly and Nikki I’m doing this for every mom who has sat in a preschool story time circle and was made to think her child was different and not in a good way.

I had already cleared my visit with the director of Duchy Day. All it took was one phone call telling her how the Duchy Day Academy was known through the early childcare research community for it’s excellence. She couldn’t have been more excited to welcome me into the classroom. I had arranged with Nikki to follow her usual pre-school routine.   planned to arrive a couple of minutes after class had started so I could be introduced and then rave about the genius that is baby Lilly. I looked official in my scrubs and lab coat get up.  I had also ponytailed my hair and was wearing some reading glasses (Costco) that had a bit of a Harry Potter vibe.  To make me look more official I had my son take his I pad and put some research looking stuff on it so I could pretend to be recording data.  At ten minutes after 10 I walked into Duchy Day, was greeted by the Director, and then given an escort to the Mommy and Me classroom where the Director introduced the esteemed Dr. Miller.

“So sorry for the interruption,” the director said, “This is Dr. MIller, a clinical scientist who is conducting long-term research of gifted children and our Lilly is one of the pre-schoolers her team is following. This morning Dr. Miller is going to sit and observe Lilly and she’s asked that all of you pretend like she’s not even here.”

I smile really big and say, “Thank you all for letting me share your morning.  I’m very excited about seeing Lilly in her preschool environment. She’s one of five profoundly gifted 2 year olds in the nation my team is following. I’m going to sit right over there and try to stay out of your way.”

As I had expected the term “profoundly gifted” had gotten the seven other mothers in the classroom’s attention. All of them couldn’t take their eyes off of Lilly who was gnawing on a block. I sat down and started typing crap on my son’s I Pad like Lilly eating a wooden block like a rat chows down on cheese shows extreme giftedness. One mom in some ridiculous maxi dress (Seriously, a maxi dress for sitting on the floor at preschool?) and goofy Ugg wedge sandals scooted close to me and asked, “What’s the criteria for determining a gifted two-year old?  I would think that a child would have to be older before you could find that out.”

I looked over to the teacher and said,”Oh, I so didn’t want my presence to disrupt your class.  I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Our usual routine is to let the children have some free play time for the first 15 minutes so if you want to answer the question feel free.”

“I’d love to answer that, but I must do it quickly since I need to really focus on observing Lilly.  So to answer your question”, I say looking over at maxi/Ugg mom, “Yes, there are tests that you can do with a very young child to profile their level of intelligence.

Another mom, in a tennis skirt, who looked like she had never gotten it on with anything over an SPF 5, (Isn’t tanning a sign you can’t read?) butted in with a,”Pardon me, but I’m confused. I don’t see anything about Lilly that makes her so different from our kids.”

I do a small chuckle and say, “Well, you’re not a doctor are you?”

“Why yes I am.  I’m a pediatrician.”

Holy crap!  I look at Nikki and my eyes are saying WE. ARE. SCREWED!  Plus I’m super ticked off.  How could Nikki not share with me that there was a pediatrician in the freaking Mommy and Me class!  Oh shit, shit, shit. Nikki is starting to get tears in her eyes.  If she starts crying this will not end well at all.  I have no choice, but to go my strong suit – full B.S. mode and hope it works.

“Really?” I say.  Are you still practicing?”

“No.  I practiced for just one year and then got pregnant and decided to be a full-time mommy.  But maybe when my last kid starts high school in 12 years I’ll go back. “

That statement totally distracted me and has forced my brain, against it’s will, to do math.  This woman had years and years of schooling and then practiced medicine for one year.  Good Lord, talk about almost a zero rate of return on that educational investment.  Where was her father?  Because I can tell you what my dad would have done if one of his kids had pulled that – demanded a refund for all the college tuition he shelled out.  This also tells me that she may be one of those people who are smart yet still dumb asses. I mean look at her. What doctor would tan?  A smart/dumb ass doctor that’s who. I decide to go with that.

I look at her and say, “You should definitely return to medicine when you have the chance.  I can tell by watching you with your son that you have a real gift.”

She smiles and says, “Thank you. You’re not the first person to say that.”

I then ask her is she’s familiar with the work of the German research team of Bergman and Bauer (Which I pulled right out of my dumb ass, thank you very much. I think the alliteration really made it sound believable.)

“No, I’m not. It’s been while since I was in school.”

“Well, they’ve done extraordinary work in profiling children like Lilly.  Just look at her.  I think it’s easy to tell a difference.”

After this statement 7 pairs of mom eyes immediately start watching Lilly.  Nikki is watching me and I hope to God she’s praying.

“See how she puts the blocks in her mouth,” I say, “That demonstrates her ability to really want to learn about the spatial connectivity of the block.  The other children play with them by stacking. Lilly is researching the block.  Now look at her, she’s wandering off, away from the other kids, this show signs of heighten awareness, of an innate curiosity. Have you also noticed, in maybe other classes, how Lilly can’t sit still as long as the other children?  It’s because she’s bored. Her intuitive intellect demands to be fed and if others aren’t feeding it, she’ll do it herself. She really is an amazing child. All of your kids, really all of us, can learn from her.  It’s a very exciting time to be a clinical researcher in this field, very exciting.”

I then excuse myself from the moms, move closer to Lilly, immediately began typing more crap on the I Pad and act absorb in my work.  The Q&A time needs to be over I was running low on B.S. I sit in the classroom for about 15 more minutes and then leave during story-time. I walk to my mini van which I parked as far away as possible from the school and take off. I’m still worried about Nikki and to calm my nerves I go to Target and enjoy walking around in my scrubs and lab coat until the pharmacist, apparently on break, tries to strike up a conversation with me as I get a Diet Coke from the snack bar. I tell him I’m on call and have to get back to hospital. Two hours later Nikki and Lilly come over to my house and yes, I’m still in those yummy scrubs. She’s ecstatic. The other moms bought the story and Lilly and Nikki got invited to three separate play-dates.

“Great!” I say, “When are you going?”

“I told them all no.”

“Why? I thought that’s what you wanted?”

“It is. I do want Lilly to have friends, but those moms they’re going to have work for it.  I told them I’d have to check the dates against Lilly’s calendar of gifted and enrichment events.”

Now it was my turn to get a little teary eyed.

“Oh Nikki,” I said while hugging her, “You’ve made me so very, very, proud.”

***For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new winter Snarky line of clothing and accessories. (Flannel Snarky P.J.’s anyone?) Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.) Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

Let’s Just All Agree We Suck at Parenting and Move On

I think every parent should have two primary goals to achieve while raising children.  Your first and most important goal – your kids don’t kill you in your sleep. My personal fear is that my daughter will smother me with her panda pillow pet (the must have girl accessory for winter 2011) or my son will bludgeon me into an irreversible coma with his X Box limited edition Halo controller. The secondary goal all parents should strive to attain is that their children don’t end up calling your basement home.  Of course you want to shoot for the stars and raise a child that will change the world.  But, really, c’mon what’s more realistic is raising a child that remembers to flush the toilet, brush their teeth (I would love if they would mature into adults who would also floss, but dare I dream that big?) and the good Lord willing, the ability to hold down a job.  Everything else that happens is pure gravy with a side of Texas toast.

This month much buzz (and by buzz I mean millions of mothers weighing in on blogs etc with their outrage, shock and I think a whole lot of jealousy) has been generated by a new book called: The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  In it Mrs. Chua, a very accomplished Ivy League law professor,  shares the inside story of raising amazing children and her two daughters are indeed that. One of them performed at Carnegie Hall at 14.  Let’s compare that to my 14-year-old who forgets to wear socks with his shoes in winter and them proceeds to walk in a half foot of snow.  Advantage – Mrs. Chua. Her secret – she’s a big bully and her kids do what she says so they can continuing breathing sweet, sweet oxygen.  Bravo for Mrs. Chua. I wish I had the balls to force my children to practice their instruments for 3 hours a day and browbeat them so they had the highest grades in all of their classes.  But, alas I’ve been a ball-less parent from the get go.  I couldn’t even do “the Ferber” on my kids when they were babies. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Feberizing it’s a sleep ritual started by a Dr. Ferber where to get your infant to snooze through the night you let them cry it out in intervals. Nope, I lasted about five minutes of my baby crying before I rushed and hoisted the red-faced, sobbing, snot smeared, cuddle monkey out the crib into my bed.  Which means a number of horrible things about me, including, that I’m a big pushover and that many nights you can still find my ten-year old sleeping in the “marital bed.” Oh yeah, you read that right – ten-year-old in my bed, right in the middle of my husband and I.  Can you say I’m a horrible mother?  Oh yes, I am because right now, in the dead of winter, I’m glad she’s in my bed.  The kid is a human electric blanket and the extra body in the bed seems to lessen my husband’s snoring.   So please do not leave any comments pointing out the long-term damage I’m doing to my daughter and my marriage.  I’ve already pondered those possibilities and moved on.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if instead of getting all worked up over how other people raise their children we could just agree to disagree or even better admit, that at times, all of us have sucked, big time, at being parents.  Imagine the time it would free up, all the worry, guilt, and competition it would exorcise.  I know, I’m asking a lot of everyone.  It would be the equivalent of a nationwide parental We Are The World sing along.  Everyone would have to check their sanctimommy at the door and join hands as we  croon love and acceptance of other’s parenting strategies.  Just in case this doesn’t work I do have a back up plan.  Let’s blame science for everything our children do that is less than awesome.  It totally gets us off the hook and we can stop doing a daily compare and contrast on how other families run their lives.

I even have hard science to support me in this plan.  It’s been proven (right now by me)that no matter how incredible loving and supportive you are, or no matter how hard you stress success to your kids, or the fact that you throw amazing birthday parties and deliver a Christmas that would make Martha Stewart weep with envy, chances are you’re still going get a kick in the ass by at least one of your children.  It’s 98% nature and maybe on a good day 2% nurture.

My findings are based on visiting with friends over the holidays.  Out of the six of us we all had at least one sibling that was either cuckoo or borderline cuckoo, two who were living with their parents and three that were total losers.  It’s what I like to call sibling roulette.  I’ll use myself as an example. I have two wonderful, amazing parents and 3 siblings.  We were all raised exactly the same way, but out of the 4 kids, 1 is crazy (surprise – it’s not me) and 1 is currently living at home with my parents (once again not me).  My parents are batting 500 which sounds crappy unless you take a look at my husband’s family.  He has 2 siblings and they’re both well, I won’t say crazy, but I will say loser and borderline loser with an overture of could be wearing crazy pants soon.  Thus proving my theory that as parents we have no control over the final outcome of what our children will grow up to be.  It’s all up the magic of DNA.  Oh sure, there are always some families that will prove my theory wrong with each sibling being outstanding, (and I’m sure it’s your family that will do this), but if you’re honest with yourself I think you will find my data is beyond reproach.  Now if by chance you have a child that does grow up to be President or something else amazing DNA be damned. It is your God given right as their mother to take credit for each and every accomplishment.

Meanwhile, as you wait for this to happen I urge you to sit back, relax and know that no matter how many times you drill your kid on their spelling words, break out the flashcards or pay for SAT prep classes you and your child bear zero responsibility if they are successful, happy, productive members of society. It’s science and if things don’t work out the way you hoped then you can blame science.  Which is so much better than blaming yourself or more importantly blaming your child.  Isn’t that what we’re looking for, forget the fountain of youth (we’ve found that and it’s name is botox) we’re on a 21st century quest for blame free parenting, who I’m a kidding we want a blame free family, where nothing is our mistake and especially never ever our kid’s mistakes. It’s is beyond better than the alternative – admitting that at times we all suck at being parents and that our children are actually capable of being less than perfect.  It’s the truth, but this way is so much better – isn’t it?

*Many thanks for reading Snarky In the Suburbs and sharing it with your friends.  To stay up-to-date on new posts and to take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) and click like or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.