Hi! Remember me? Of course you do. I’m the friend who regularly posts idyllic pictures of my kids playing fantastically imaginative games and effortlessly building fine motor skills in my peaceful home. It’s not what it looks like. I mean, it is, but it isn’t.
Visual: That picture of us making peanut butter oat balls (well, sunbutter oat balls, I’m not a monster) with three little ones’ rapt attention as they learned units of measurement, volume, and other basics of culinary chemistry while concocting a healthy treat.
Vivi: Why don’t you have enough honey? Didn’t Dad tell you we were out of honey, like, last week?
Stuart: I don’t like flax. What is flax?
Tyler: I’m all done.
Me: I forgot the honey. Here, taste the flax. But we haven’t started yet.
Visual: The one of my two kiddos happily coloring in letters on a banner, made from the unbleached butcher paper Amazon uses as package filling, and reading “Vivienne’s Plants and Animals Sixth Birthday Party” for, well, you guessed it.
Stuart (after about three strokes of “skibble”): I’m done.
Vivi (after coloring in 2 of the 44 characters): I’m done.
Me: But you said you wanted a banner. You insisted that every great party has a banner. I just spent ten minutes tracing all these letters for you.
Vivi: Well, I’m done.
Me: The party is tomorrow.
Vivi: I know. I’m just done.
Seven hours pass
Me: Hi honey, how was your day?
Ian: Good. Ish. What are you doing?
Me: Every great party has a banner.
Ian: O-kay, let me help.
An hour later, at 10:45 p.m.
Me: Let’s just quit. The markers are dying. My hand hurts. I hate this fucking banner.
Ian: No way, I’ve only got “arty” left.
Me: What?! How is that possible? I’ve got all of “animals.”
Ian: It’s all in the wrist, babe. Here, let me show you.
Visual: The one where my kids decided to mummify me, wrapping me up in their dad’s undershirts and using magnatiles as jewels for my tomb, because we’d been reading all about ancient Egypt together.
Vivi: Stuart, stop! Stop it. I mean it, stop. I want to wrap up Mommy. If you put one more shirt on her, I’m going to hit you. Stuart, I’m going to hit you and take away everything you love.
Stuart: No, if you hit me, Mommy will throw away all your toys.
Vivi: Mommy, Stuart won’t let me do it. Stuart, let me do it. Stuart, let me. Mommy, he won’t. Stuart, let me do it.
Me (garbled as my head is inside my cardboard box tomb and the baby is basically jumping up and down on my bladder): Vivi, why don’t you just grab another one from the pile and do it instead of arguing about doing it?
Vivi: Fine. Stuart, pass me one from the pile. Stuart, pass me one. Stuart, pass it. I’m going to hit you if you don’t pass me one, Stuart.
So don’t stress about my apparently perfect parenting and cherubic children. Sometimes their faces are illuminated by joy and enlightenment; other days they’re smiling because that’s the look of glee they get when bitching and moaning. In parenting as in all else, looks can be deceiving.