July 24, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get a little weepy when I travel. I don’t know what it is, but I am often over emoted for no good reason. I have found myself, more than once, overcome with emotion watching even the silliest of events - a mother chasing her child or an older couple going through security. The thing that gets me every single time, though, is kids traveling alone…unaccompanied minors. It even sounds awful, like they are orphans lost in the bowels of the FAA.

It is that soft spot I have for these tiny travelers that got me into the mess I was in yesterday. After a harrowing experience with US Air that involved me showing up for an 8:30am flight that got moved, then moved again and finally cancelled, I bailed on that lame excuse for an airline and bought a ticket home from Palm Beach at the Southwest counter. Because I bought so late, they only had business select. For $20 more I got 2 free drink coupons (which I did not use) and, more importantly, I got an “A” boarding card. I would not be packed in like a sardine. I would be able to get on the plane first and if you travel Southwest enough, you learn that the groups mean this: A=Aisle, B=By the Window and C=Center, or as I like to call it, “arm rest overflow for the fat person next to you.”

For my leg from Tampa to New Orleans, I was A1. Yes, I was to be the first person to board the plane….well, except for the pre-boards (hello? Did they have to pay $20 more??) and the unaccompanied minors. And, because I was standing in the first spot, I saw the mother hugging her two little boys good bye and tearfully watching them walk down the jet way.

They were tiny. They might as well have been walking to war the way the emotion welled up inside of me. I wanted to rush over to that mother and hug her, I wanted to run down the jet way and grab those boys so I could return them where they belong…with their mother!

But, I didn’t. Instead, I told myself I would sit with those boys to make sure no one took advantage of them and also to make them feel safe because it must be scary to fly alone at such a young age.

I walked right to the row where they were sitting and plopped myself down in the aisle seat. I didn’t want to freak them out, so I didn’t start talking to them right away. After all, I was a stranger and although I know my intentions, they did not.

I learned that the older boy was named Austin and his younger brother was Tyler. They each had a handheld video game, I think a DS, and were actually playing each other. Everything was fine until it was time to put the games away. Tyler didn’t want to, so he smacked the piss out of his older brother. A small scuffle ensued, but the 2 DS handhelds went back into the backpack and I settled back with my book, feeling quite smug and satisfied that I, yes me, had done such a good deed by making sure that mother’s children were well cared for.

It was about 30 minutes into the flight when the 2nd fight began. The DS hand helds had made another appearance and Tyler (age 6) did not like getting beat by Austin (age 8) and so, he started wailing on him. I mean, abusing him. Austin, who probably had been told never to hit his brother, at first didn’t really fight back, but then I heard a really loud crack (apparently a DS is good for other things, too) and then the breathless silent sobbing of Tyler. Wait for it, wait for it, and here comes the howl. Everyone in ear shot looked at me. I was the first person on the plane. None of these people knew that I had just plopped down next to these little terrors. They thought I was some absent minded and neglectful mother.

The grandmotherly woman next across the aisle spoke first, “You’re going to have to separate them.”

I protested, “But they’re not my kids. I just sat next to them.”

She looked at me like I was nuts, “That doesn’t matter…just sit between them.”

Oh, right, I am the adult here. I can use my grown up voice and maybe scare them into behaving. I got the little one to move over to my seat and I jumped in the middle. It was in that spot that I became the defacto mother. The things discussed included:

Where are you going? (Grandma & Grandpa’s house)

How high are we?

When will we be in outer space?

Are the drinks and peanuts free?

How many oceans will we fly over?

When do we fly over the Mississippi?

Am I familiar with the DS system (no) and do my kids have one? (no)

I also got an amusing story about the time Austin went with his Grandma and Grandpa to Texas and how Grandpa had to call the police because he lost Austin, who was really at the playground.

From the magic backpack emerged 2 packs of Cheetos. Between those, the Cokes (they swore up and down they were allowed to have them on special occasions) and an unending supply of peanuts, these boys were set…for a little while.

Then they started getting bored and were all jittery from the sugar. They wanted to sit near each other again and play.

I stalled for a while. I took out the map from the airline magazine and randomly started talking to them about where we were, where we were going, where they had been before, but once we started the initial decent, Tyler wanted to sit by Austin so he could look out the window. I agreed.

And thus, we landed to the sounds of Tyler bending back Austin’s fingers and Austin calling Tyler a baby while spitting in his face.

And then I realized, their mother’s tears were not the sobs of a broken hearted mother. They were tears of joy. “Grandma and Grandpa be dammed, Mama needs a break,” is I know what she said to herself as she drove home from the Tampa airport alone in absolute silence.

July 21, 2009

“Go in peace my daughter. And remember that, in a world of ordinary mortals, you are a Wonder Woman.” Queen Hippolyte

When I was 10, I begged my mother to buy me a Wonder Woman bathing suit. It was a one piece suit that actually looked like the little crazy and impractical outfit Linda Carter wore on the show, but it had straps and more modestly covered a young girl’s parts. I needed to have this bathing suit. I promised to wear it for 5 years if she would just buy it for me.

My mother, being the kind and gentle woman she was, tried to talk me out of it. She said it didn’t look well made, that she thought the colors might run and finally, when I didn’t get the hint, she said, “Aren’t you a little old for this?”

Old? Are you insane woman, I am 10. I thought my mother must be having a stroke.

She caved and I got the suit.

No doubt, she gave in out of pure exhaustion. I am the youngest of 4 children and now that I am a mother of 1 child, I wish I could reach back in time when she was alive and thank her from the very bottom of my heart for not beating us or just leaving us all. I would have done both, in that order, and then come back to beat us some more.

I marched home with my bathing suit. I was the proud owner of a Super Suit. And I knew when I wore it the next day to swim at my friend Shelly’s house, she would be green with envy. How could she not?

The next day, as planned, I went across the street to Shelley’s house to swim in her ultra modern and hip above ground swimming pool and she had also invited another friend, one from her school. Shelly was a year older than me and went to the, gasp, public school. Her mother was divorced.

These things were whispered at my house because my parents, by God, were going to stay married even if it killed them and us in the process and, even if we had to forego medical attention, we were going to the Catholic School. Because we were holy, and apparently holy people can’t associate with people whose parents can’t afford to send them to the Catholic school.

I don’t think her situation had anything to do with it, but Shelly could be kind of mean to me. She never let me forget she was a year older than me and that she, not I, had a miniature Yorkshire terrier named Sugar AND a pool. All I had was a present father and Catholic School uniforms. Oh, and a WONDER WOMAN BATHING SUIT!

As I trucked around the side of her house wearing my new suit and carrying my towel, I was flush with excitement. Finally, I could show her how cool I was even if my parents were still married and only had great swaths of St Augustine grass in the backyard instead of a pool.

Her friend was the first to say something, “Are you wearing a Wonder Woman suit? How old are you?”

I didn’t understand it at all, why was everyone asking me this idiotic question, “10,” I answered less confidently than I had my mother.

This friend turned to Shelly and said, “Why is she wearing that stupid bathing suit? Are you friends with her?”

Shelly was torn, I could see. Were we friends? I don’t know, but pickings were slim on our block and if she denied me, who would she play with? On the other hand, this girl was obviously way cooler than me and she was probably 11.

“She lives across the street,” she said quickly, “come on, let’s swim.”

I swam for a little while, but eventually, I felt like if I did not get this suit off of my body, it would become permanent and I would have to wear it like a Scarlet A for the rest of my life. The shame and embarrassment were burning into my skin through the cheap spandex.

I went home, took the suit off, and never wore it again. I continued to play with Shelly, and even talked my parents into switching me to the public school, where she ignored me and pretended not to know me.

This whole thing came back to me a few weeks ago. Max and I went to a store called “Little Miss Muffin.” It’s kind of a posh gift store that has house wares, candles, toys and a whole bunch of nice and expensive stuff crammed into the “boutique” (I am convinced this is code for small, crowded and over priced.)

He found this pink Melissa and Doug castle that he had to have. He wanted it desperately. It was NOT CHEAP (I am too embarrassed to say how much it was) so I told him when he was potty trained I would come back and get it for him. I figured he would be so traumatized by the inadequate potty training and marginal parenting he gets from me that he would just forget about it.

‘Lo and behold, a few weeks later, as soon as that boy peed in the potty the very first time, he asked to go get the pink princess castle. It is really hard to explain to a three year old the concepts of consistency and regularity. He continued that day to pee on the potty and each time, he asked to go get the castle.

I gave in at 2pm.

Mike, Max and I went to Little Miss Muffin to get the castle. Max went straight to the back of the store in search of the pink castle. Meanwhile, I noticed they had the exact same castle in blue. It was called the medieval knight castle – very manly, eh?

I really want Max to be an individual. I love that his favorite movie is Snow White and that he acts it out while he watches it, much like his own private Rocky Horror Picture Show. Nothing makes me prouder than to see him pretending to bake a cake or wheel around his teddy bear in a stroller.


The pain I felt that day and for an ungodly amount of time before and after the Wonder Woman Incident came rushing back to me. Would I do him a disservice by NOT forcing him to get the blue castle? Or would I just be crushing his tiny spirit?

We deiced to show him the blue castle and let him decide and, not surprisingly, he chose the pink castle. He carried it to the car and has played with it just about every day since we brought it home.

And I am glad he got to be himself…and that he pees on the potty most of the time.

I suppose the only difference between my mother and me is that I am actually not as nice as her and if anyone says one word to my son that even resembles an insult, I will verbally eviscerate him regardless of his age.

So, take that Shellys of the world…Max’s Mama really can beat up your mama and you, too, so watch your back.

July 17, 2009

Who Me?

I ran into an old friend at my son’s daycare the other day. Let me get totally honest, he is not an old friend. He is someone I had a crush on in 7th and 8th grade, my Junior High Days. His kid also attends the same daycare, so our paths cross occasionally and each and every time they do, I manage to make a complete and total ass out of myself.

You see, thus guy, let’s call him “Bob,” he was one of the cool kids in Junior High. I was not. While he sported Vans and even at one point had a Mohawk, I was frumpy, had glasses and braces, and, every once in a while, wore a tan polyester jumpsuit to school. While he was living in a John Hughes movie, I was in the Beta Club. He walked to school or hell, maybe he floated to school, while I rode the bus, which was criminally over-crowded and often had a few of us crammed in three to a seat. Seat belts, schmeat belts.

If he was caught in the hall without a pass, the principal would give a stern warning and then tell him a few jokes. If I was caught in the hall WITH a pass, I would get detention and a dirty look. He was a star and I was invisible.

When I saw him last week while picking up my son, he walked over to my car to say hello. I was hanging halfway out the back of my Toyota matrix trying to secure the car seat on the brace so Max wouldn’t roll all over the backseat. This is how the conversation went:

Bob: Hey, how are you?

Me: Good, good, you? (Oh God, I am sweating like I just ran a fucking marathon.)

Bob: Good. Saw you on Facebook…

Me: Yeah, yeah, it’s fun, huh, seeing all the people you knew from way back when, you know some of these folks I’ve known for 30years or more. Weird huh? (Why am I talking so much? What is wrong with me?)

Bob: Yeah. I figure, it’s a time waster, but whatever, it’s a pastime, right?

Me: Yeah, it’s fun, isn’t it? I like to read books, too, I really got into to the Twilight books, even thought they were kind of silly. (Oh crap, I just copped to being a fucking Twi-Mom. I am pathetic.) And I just recently read all the Sookie Stackhouse books, you know the ones the new True Blood series is based on. Does your wife like to read? She might like them. (Why can’t I shut up? Why am I assaulting this poor man with my verbal vomit?) But, you know, maybe not because they are kind of silly and I am sure she is busy. (Unlike myself, since I am just a Vice President of a national education company! Why can’t I just shut up?)

Awkward pause

Bob: It’s hot, huh?

Me: Yeah. (He has noticed that I am sweating like Albert Brooks in the movie Broadcast News. I have rivers of sweat streaming down my back. I am going to slide right out of my flip flops in a minute.)

Another awkward pause

Bob: Well, have a good night.

Me: Yeah, you too. Bye.

Driving home, my face was burning with embarrassment. Why couldn’t I just act like a normal person? Whenever I see this guy, I am 12 years old again. I revert back to that little girl who longed to be cool, but couldn’t figure out how.

By 8th grade, I had made a little headway. I got my braces off, had a spiky haircut and started wearing Converse high tops and camouflage pants. I knew I was never going to be beautiful, so I might as well strive for interesting. It worked, kind of. Boys started asking hanging around, but I was so pathetically desperate for attention, I ended up being the girl who went a little too far, too fast.

Meanwhile, he was getting even cooler, achieving an almost celebrity status. Everyone knew who he was, he was good looking and funny, plus, he had a sidekick who had a clever nickname. What more could you ask for at 14?

Now, every time I see Bob, I want to somehow prove to him that I am not that awkward little girl any more, that I have grown and matured into a calm and collected woman…but, come on! Who the hell am I trying to fool? And why?

Yes, I have matured into a woman, but I am still the kind of person who would rather read books than go out and I still have piss-poor boundaries. It’s just now, instead of giving guys hand jobs, I say wildly inappropriate things and at all the wrong times.

And I actually somewhat enjoy the look of discomfort and pain on your face while I am doing it. I can almost picture my sister’s face when she reads the words “hand job.”

My sister cautioned me when I told her I was going to blog about Bob. She said, “What if he reads it?!? Won’t that be embarrassing?”

Are you kidding?

It is no more embarrassing than walking into a guide wire while talking to him or admitting that I am addicted to bad vampire novels, and besides, how fucking cool would be if he read my blog? OMG! XOXO & B.F.F. !

July 13, 2009

Bad Dog! Sit, Stay...Love

We took Max to Gulf Shores, AL for 4th of July Weekend. We met my sister and her family there and all piled into her condo for a couple of days of fun in the sun. Emily has three boys, so Max was alternately in heaven and crying hysterically because he was overwhelmed with all the chaos. I felt the same way inside, but thankfully, only Max was the one to roll on the floor in tears of frustration.

Max loved the beach, which is kind of weird in a kid that small. Usually, kids like the idea of the beach, but when it comes down to reality – sand in your butt, sunscreen in your eyes, jelly fish stinging your shins and super salty water up your nose – kids almost always like the pool better. Not Max. He got knocked down by waves and came up laughing foamy water out of his mouth.

His other big experience over the weekend was Oreos. I would love for you to believe that I am such a fantastic mother my son has never had Oreos because I limit sugar and only offer healthy snacks like apples and tree bark, but the truth is, I don’t like Oreos so I don’t buy them. More than once, Max has had gum for breakfast.

He really got into the Oreo thing with his cousins. They devoured a bag of Double Stuffs in seconds flat. It was a flurry of hands, crumbly chocolate and white stuff. In fact, someone left a rogue licked Oreo half on the coffee table and, the next morning, I noticed Max’s cousin eating it for breakfast. The Murphy Women are known for many things, but raising well-behaved and mild-mannered children is not one of them.

The next week, back at home, Max and I went to the grocery store. He was, miraculously, sitting in the cart and not running around like a wild boar, but that was because he did not have shoes on and he can’t read so he believed me when I told him the “Sale on Tomatoes” sign said “Kids without Shoes Have to Ride in the Cart.”

From this higher vantage point, he was able to spot the Oreos on the shelf and frantically demanded them. Not wanting any more of a scene than absolutely necessary in my neighborhood grocery, I did not even pretend to protest or read the label. This is the same child that knocked over a case of wine because I wasn’t paying enough attention.

I handed him the package of Oreos and he looked at me like I had just handed him the Holy Grail. He cocked his sweet little sweet little head to the side and asked, “What are these?”

I said, “They’re called Oreos.”

He looked at me kind of strange and quietly and slowly said, “I think they’re cookies.”

My son thinks I am mentally challenged, but at least he is sweet about it and didn’t call me a dumb ass. I guess that comes later when he is a teenager.

This experience with Max is one that I had repeatedly with other people last week, albeit on a larger scale. I had an experience with someone that caused me to lash out in anger because I felt like he was not respecting me and my position. Yeah, that went over well, let me tell you.

The other experience involved seeing someone I knew in Junior High and basically making a total ass of myself, but that will be a topic for another blog, when I am totally sure he does not read my blog.

In both of those situations, I felt like I came across wrong, that what I was trying to say and do was not clear and ultimately, I reacted from a place of fear – fear of losing something or fear of looking stupid. Fear, fear, fear – if I look back over my life and examine all of the times I blew up in anger or lashed out in “defense” of myself, it is always rooted in fear. I want you to like me and I want you to know that I am start, but by golly, you better not fucking cross me. I am like a bad dog – I greet you with a wagging tail, but if you scratch me in just the wrong place, I will take your arm off at the elbow and toss it around like chew toy.

This interaction with Max reminded me that I don’t have to be that way. I can go through the day with the knowledge that I am reasonably smart, kind and have good intentions and just plain not give a shit what anyone thinks of me. I didn’t care that Max thought I didn’t know what cookies were because, well it was hysterical and also because I DO know what cookies are and didn’t feel the need to explain that to him. Because I love him. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I am supposed to love everyone.

I guess if I looked at everyone through a filter of love instead of fear, then, well, it would be Oreos and milk and laughter every day, wouldn’t it?

July 8, 2009

Life is Just a Fantasy

Last night, I was lying in bed with Max, trying desperately to get him to go to sleep. It’s hard to get someone to go to sleep and although it does not work, my best laid plan thus far is to occasionally scream, “GO TO SLEEP!” when he does this staying up until 11:00pm nonsense. He was lying next to me, being a goofball, and I was turned on my side away from him thinking that all I wanted to do was lie alone in my own bed and read a fucking book. Is that too much to ask, I ask you? I also asked myself inside my head while choking back tears of frustration and anger.

And so I found myself lying in my bed next to a squirming and fidgety toddler fantasizing about being single and childless. And when I say single, I don’t mean not married and free to date, I mean ALONE. No one. No man or woman in my life or in my bed for any reason what-so-ever. Just me and a book.

And it was then I realized that I was actually somewhat resentful of my child because I was not going to get to do whatever I want for at least another 15 years and even then, I am bound forever to this obstinate little boy. Not only can I not just leave a big bowl of food and water for him and take off for the weekend, I actually have to be emotionally available and supportive for his entire life. Oh heavens, what have I done?

And of course I love him. He is my child, but it hit me, like a slap to the face last night, that I am an old mother. And I don’t mean mother as in bad ass motha’. I mean, I gave birth to someone and now I am responsible for him forever. And, I am old. Old in the sense that gravity is no longer a welcome force that keeps me planted on the ground, but instead is a cruel foe. Underneath the brown hair dye is a head of gray hair and those marks on my face can no longer be classified as cute little freckles.

On top of all that, I can’t even read when I want to, so now I’m old, matronly and a slave to a tiny tyrant.

And just when I thought I would actually start sobbing, I heard Max’s steady breathing and realized his sweet, sweaty little head was resting against my back. And then everything else went away and all was right with the world.

And I read my book in peace and forgot all about my single life fantasies.