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insane bitch mom

As kids, we quickly learn which neighborhood moms are the cool moms. The ones who will sneak you a cookie an hour before dinnertime, the ones who will let you watch TV and build forts under their dining room table. Growing up, my mom was a cool mom because she looked young and wore cool clothes and cooked delicious snacks.

Now that I have kids and live on a street with other kids, I am eager to be “Cool Mom,” or at the very least, “Nice Mom,” but what I’m quickly becoming is “Mean Mom.” I mean, sometimes it seems like I have a goddamned gift for it. It’s not all my fault. I blame a lot of it on the fact that of the families on our block, I am the only one with a 3-year old. A 3-year old who desperately wants to hang out with his brother and the other older boys on the block. A 3-year old who has yet to develop 1) a sense of self-preservation and 2) a conscience.

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Now that summer is here, parenting has basically boiled down to one thing, and that is to prevent Tate from escaping the house. But no matter how often we close the doors, he slips out. Sometimes we think he’s inside and then I’ll look outside a window and see him standing in the middle of the street, shoeless, swinging a large branch that I have to hope he didn’t break off a neighbor’s tree. Sometimes we think he’s inside, and he is, only it’s someone else’s house. Tate walks in and out of my neighbor Chrissy’s house with impunity, picking up her son’s Nerf guns and transporting them to his own room. Anyway, I spend a lot of time running around the perimeter of my house with a panicked look, muttering “Where’s Tate?” If I see a kid around, I’ll grill them about Tate’s whereabouts, as if it’s their responsibility to keep an eye on my kid. So right off, I’m that mom, the annoying, harassing mom who can’t keep tabs on her own kids.

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But where I really excel is in getting involved in neighborhood kid conflicts. I can’t help it. I have a strong sense of justice and a short temper. When I see injustice being rendered on one of my own children, my eyes essentially start dripping blood and my hands and feet turn into cloven hooves. Last week I watched as Finn waited patiently outside Chrissy’s trampoline as three other kids bounced inside for what seemed like hours. I heard him ask to have a turn. I heard the kids inside refuse. And that’s when I turned into IBM, otherwise known as Insane Bitch Mom.

I stormed into Chrissy’s yard. “Get out. Everyone needs to have a turn.” The kids inside stopped bouncing, and looked unsure. I mean, it wasn’t even my fucking trampoline. I could see the oldest kid looking hesitant, as if he meant to call me out on it. Best to nip that shit in the bud. “I mean it. GET. OUT. Or figure out a way to include everyone.” Finn, who had initially looked happy at finally getting a turn, was starting to look embarrassed. Chrissy had stepped outside to see what the commotion was about. But no going back now. “Everyone needs to have a turn. You guys have been jumping for a long time and Finn’s been waiting.” The boys climbed out, looking chagrined. Punks.

I walked back to my house and looked over the fence in a few minutes to see Chrissy, timing the kids’ turns on a timer. By then the anger had burned off and I felt remorseful. Especially for Chrissy. She’d already given a lot in taking on the beast—the neighborhood trampoline! There was no way I was getting one, because, hello, I took Torts in law school. And I had returned her generosity by going AWOL on her kid. Now, she felt compelled to TIME them, probably because of IBM. I resolved to do better.

So last night, when Finn ran sobbing into the house complaining about being pushed to the concrete, I held him and talked quietly about how things can get rough when people play, and told him to take some calming breaths. I breathed calmly, to encourage him. But then I saw blood on his ankle. And IBM was back, just like that. BLOOD!! What the fuck, was this a neighborhood or was it Lord of the Flies? Wait a second. Was my kid Piggy?? My kid wasn’t going to be anyone’s fucking Piggy. I grabbed Finn’s hand and pulled him down the street to where the crew of kids had gathered, replaying the highlights of the melee. “You guys, he’s BLEEDING. What happened?” I could feel Finn pulling on my hand, because he wanted no part of the denouement. And I quickly learned why.

“They pushed each other!,” the kids cried out, in a chorus. I looked at Finn and felt like a stooge. “Did you push your friend?,” I asked. Finn nodded, guiltily. Shit. I laid down a mini-lecture to all the kids about not getting rough on concrete, and then I looked around at all their adorable faces. I saw there what I tend to forget in my moments of helicopter parenting. That kids have a strong sense of right and wrong, and even the most stubborn ones know deep down when an injustice has been wrought. I felt a moment of gratitude and relief that my kids would get to grow up on this street, with this crew. There would be fights, there would be scuffles. But that’s where they’d learn how to figure it out. How to win, how to lose. How to belong.

I feel ashamed to have forgotten the immigrant lesson I learned early on. I came to America when I was five. Didn’t speak English, and was poor. I remember my mom, who fought like a cougar for me when I was picked on. But she wouldn’t always pick me up. And so I learned how to cope, and how to fight. How will my kids learn to fight, if I don’t let them feel hurt or fear?

IBM may have some thoughts on that. I’ll have to ask her, the next time she’s in town.

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24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Omg. I love your writing style! And I am an IBM in some cases. We live in a less-than-desirable apartment building with not-well-behaved children, so my kids don’t get a lot of time out of the apartment when the “others” are around. The lady next door takes IBM to the next level- she’s crazy at her only son and it just makes me cringe. But I know how it is to be crazy and nasty to people who come around my kids. I’m so glad to read about it on your blog though!

    July 7, 2013
    • It’s all relative. And it’s mostly excusable when done in the name of our children. Right? Sigh

      July 10, 2013
  2. oh boy – I’m an ibm mom too and when my boys were younger I was fierce. Still live in the same neighbourhood and one mom in particular if you could kill someone with a look – I would be dead ten times over by now. This mother bullies, her kids bully and when my kids became their target they realized they never really met a bully until they met me! My husband calls me mother bear…Thank God my children are older and I don’t get into those conflicts any more but being a good mom I would know what was going on in the neighbourhood – so many moms would just close the door and not have a clue what was going on..Enter IBM and shit happens!

    June 22, 2013
  3. Karen #

    IBM showed up at our house yesterday, because various cooking and art projects, allegedly “complete,” had completely taken over half the house with a ridiculous amount of mess. IBM harassed and yelled the children into cleaning up (their horrific mess) so that nice, reasonable, kind dad could make dinner. Lovely start to the summer.

    June 19, 2013
    • a nice, reasonable, kind parent–every house needs one of those

      June 19, 2013
  4. I tried to be a cool Mom and not go all Godzilla-stomping in on my kids’ tiffs when they were young but there was one afternoon I had to intervene quickly…

    We’d gone camping with our young son who apparently could not wait to show all the neighborhood home boys how to properly pee into the bushes. I looked out my kitchen window to see a row of 5 little guys with dropped trou peeing earnestly into a border of small shrubs. In our front yard (…aaand we lived on the corner).

    As I came tearing out of the house, nonchalantly and as unshriekily as possible suggesting they immediately put their penises back in their pants, they all turned and peed on the guy to their right. Pretty sure we went through an entire package of wet wipes.

    I gave all the Moms involved a heads up before the kids split up and headed back home for the day. Some of the most hilariously awkward phone calls I ever made. “Hi! Hey, listen, Mikey may smell a little more like pee than usual when he gets home today…but I can totally explain!”.

    June 19, 2013
    • i can visualize this perfectly. my older kid complains all the time about mom and dad not respecting his privacy. then he walks across the street completely naked to retrieve a nerf gun. boys

      June 19, 2013
  5. Maura McCann #

    It doesn’t matter if everyone has a trampoline – they will all congrugate at one. Why would you jump alone?

    Make sure you have a freezer full of popsicles and you will move right up to cool Mom and Tate will be bringing the big kids through the house for treats.

    June 18, 2013
    • brilliant. never-ending supply of popsicles. a tv permanently set to ninjago. uncapped sharpies. so many ideas now. i gave up the title of cool mom too quickly

      June 18, 2013
  6. I echo your desire to be the cool mom. I similarly suspect I am not living up to my own expectations. But my mom was the mean mom and I’m pretty sure I grew up right. Also, if one has to have the trampoline to be the cool mom I am SOL. Because I don’t like trampolines :/

    June 18, 2013
    • that’s right! yes, I almost forgot the value of a mean mom. Maybe the problem is that kids forgot to be scared of their parents. But that’s the tiger mom talking

      June 18, 2013
  7. Andy M #

    Loving Tate’s choice (multiple choice?) of footwear as he hawks his wares! The lemonade biz can be brutal, so its best to be prepared for all terrains and weather at once 🙂

    June 18, 2013
    • Very brutal. To cover his bases, he also sells pants. Future post will explain the shoes

      June 18, 2013
  8. Meg #

    We have the backyard trampoline, which brings out the IBM in me all the time. Unfortunately, this means that I enact swift and certain justice (EVERYONE GET OUT!!!) without listening to the facts of the case. Your point about kids and their sense of right and wrong is spot on.

    June 18, 2013
    • this made me laugh. it’s your backyard, meg. never let them forget it

      June 18, 2013
  9. shoe #

    Me and Andy are always available to rough up some of your neighbor kids if you need more firepower. I am good at intimidating children under 12.

    June 18, 2013
  10. I want my kids to live on your street! Except that we do have a trampoline. On second thought… we’re probably just fine here.
    You are still a great Mom.

    June 18, 2013
    • my poor neighbors. the trampolines these days seem remarkably tort-proof, so enjoy yours!

      June 18, 2013
      • Ours has none of those gigantic, finger-eating springs, and comes self-contained with a giant net. It’s like an outdoor rubber room. Really, a parent’s dream.

        June 18, 2013
      • that’s what our neighbors have. trampolines have come a long way. makes you wonder why your toaster still burns the toast

        June 18, 2013
  11. Pat #

    What a great post!!! You are a great Mom!!!

    June 18, 2013
    • i’m a flawed mom. our flaws make us great right. i say that to myself a lot

      June 18, 2013

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