Why Cheese Sticks Suck and Other Whining

I love my children, but like all kids with all mothers, they have a few habits that make me want to chew broken glass. With four of them, this is inevitable, but of course they each do their annoying thing on a random schedule, so that I’m being bombarded by irritating behavior from all sides, and then I lose my shit. I think I might even be OK if they did the annoying thing(s) on some sort of timetable, and those who weren’t scheduled to be annoying would hold off. You know, my oldest could take 9 to 11 in the morning, the twins would each take a shift from 11 to 1 and 1 to 3, and then my daughter could work clean up from 3 to 5. Clearly by the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I would be ready to retire to my room and pluck out my eyebrows, one hair at a time, with my fingernails.

There are some little habits or behaviors they all share, and some that are unique to specific children. The one thing they all do that sends me in to a snarling rage faster than anything else is leave fucking cheese stick wrappers everywhere. Partly it’s the fact that they eat roughly 27,319 cheese sticks per child, per week, and that might be a conservative estimate. Of course, every stick comes in its own little plastic sleeve. They grab the number they think they will need before the next commercial break (approximately 2,642) and take them to the living room. Here they peel the plastic off of each stick, one by one, and carefully deposit them on the end table next to the couch. At the next commercial, they hop up to fortify themselves (with more mothereffing cheese sticks), and walk out to the kitchen leaving the two thousand plus goddamned wrappers on the table. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I have tried everything to discourage this behavior. I’ve scolded, I’ve threatened, I’ve even praised when on the rare occasions they do manage to remember to take a lone wrapper out and chuck it in the general direction of the garbage can. Hell, I’ve praised them for even looking at the wrappers before getting up and getting more cheese sticks (“Thank you for acknowledging the pile of cheese stick wrappers on the end table. Next time maybe we can take it a little further, and actually touch them before getting up to get more. Good job!”). I think the only “cure” for this is going to be when they move out. Is 12 too young for a kid to have his own apartment? It is, isn’t it. Fuck.

The oldest, being a tween, has some special annoyances all his own. The one that has a fingernails-on-the-blackboard quality for me is, “C’mon please?” He asks for something, usually more of something he’s already had—more candy, more soda, more computer time—and I say, “No, you had your half hour computer turn today, you don’t need another one.” The immediate response is “C’mon please?” I’ve taken to saying “Don’t ‘c’mon please’ me. If you say that, there is no chance I will say yes to this request.” And since he’s just said it, guess what? Sometimes he stomps off to sulk, sometimes he gets mad and has a tantrum. Most of the time he just resigns himself and goes and finds something else to do. But I still hate “C’mon please?”

One of the twins is a total smartass (no clue how this could have happened). When he’s annoying, he knows it. It is one hundred percent intentional. The oldest with his “C’mon please” isn’t trying to annoy, he’s trying to plead, and just happened to pick a phrase, tone, and inflection that annoys. The smartass is just being a smartass, plain and simple. One of his favorite techniques is to ask, “What’s a [whatever]?” I’ll say something like, “First we’ll go to the grocery store.” He responds, “What’s a grocery store?” I say, “You’ll find out.” He says, “What’s a you’ll find out?” You see where this is going. And being nine, he doesn’t know when to stop because he’s about to get his ass kicked. About the only way to discourage him is to stop talking to him.

And then there are the “what ifs.” I tell my children, if X happens, Y will be the consequence. And all of them (but especially the smartass) have seven thousand what-ifs they need clarified. Most of them are either ludicrous or impossible, or both ("But what if we fill the house with chocolate pudding?" "But what if a cow gets elected president?" etc). On my death certificate, where it says, "Cause of Death," the doctor will write, "What If."

Another one all four of them share is the inability to tolerate anyone (other than themselves, of course) standing directly in front of the TV set. Why they can’t sit the fuck down is beyond me. We have thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture in the living room—chairs, sofas, ottomans—and they park their asses smack in front of the goddamned set. Of course the other three shriek out “MOOOOOOOVVVVVVVEEEEUUUUHHHH” like a chorus of outraged beef cattle. What I find so amusing is that they all do it, in spite of how livid they know they get when their siblings do it. Children are just shit at self-awareness.

Related to “MOOOOOOOVVVVVVVEEEEUUUUHHHH” is “STOOOOOOOPPPPPPUUUUUUHHHH.” It’s generally expressed with the same degree of outrage, and has the same extra “UH” syllable on the end. This one is employed in a myriad of situations, everything from one of them checking the “Guide” on the satellite with the remote while everyone else is watching the show, to any touching, looking, or breathing that’s found to be objectionable (which is to say, just about all of it).

Although I’m not sure if it qualifies as an annoying habit as much as reflection of my failure as a parent, their complete inability to go to bed quietly is beyond maddening. When you read parenting magazines, they urge you to make bedtime a quiet time. Pajamas, stuffed animals, sleepy books about bears and bunnies, a reliable routine that just oozes warm fuzzy cuddles. Bedtime at my house? Picture Grand Central Station at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday of a three day weekend with crowd control provided by a platoon of Marines on their first day at Parris Island. Only louder. And less organized.

My hope is that they’ll eventually grow out of these habits. I’m fairly confident they’ll be replaced by new annoying habits, possibly worse than these. They’ll have the advantage of being novel, I suppose, and because they’re new, they won’t be quite as annoying as the current ones, which I’ve been dealing with for several years now. And eventually the new habits will become old annoying habits. It’s a bit depressing when you consider it.

However, now that I really think about it, if my experience with parents and in laws is anything to go on, eventually tables will turn, and they’ll be driven to the brink of insanity by the fact that I tap the top of my Diet Coke can three times before I open it (what? That keeps it from exploding—am I the only one who does this? Yeah, I know it doesn’t work; it’s a habit), or that I refuse to make my lists in my “To Do” notebook in anything other than pencil (and that I have to find the “right” pencil—I like a soft, dark lead, and go back and forth between mechanical and “traditional” based on my mood). And those are just the ones I recognize. I’m sure I have more. I might even develop a few more tics, just in case I don’t have enough now.

Because I’ll be honest with you, now that I give it some thought, I am really looking forward to this.

No comments: