Other People’s Kids…

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Update on Teenager Chemistry Drama: The kid who so sassily told me he didn’t need to study because he “felt smart” about chemistry was not, in fact, in any way “smart” about chemistry. The exam did not go well. At all. And I have received zero sass since. I have also done very little talking to him. I’m so mad I could create nails and then spit them. I don’t know why that’s a saying, but the idea of actually spitting nails at someone is somewhat satisfying.  So. Yeah. I haven’t said any of the things I want to say, but I will save it for a future incident when I’m told he “feels smart” about something. I’m all about building up kid’s confidence but once hubris is displayed, I’m also all about helping them learn their place. We aren’t rich. You don’t get to act better than you are. ACT YOUR STATION, CHILD!

The Star of the Show:

The Poop Snake Saga – The child of a couple I know decided he did not want to use the toilet for certain bowel emptying activities. He prefers to go in his pants. He’s five, so it’s better than an adult randomly making that decision. But still. His parents remain unamused.

After visiting a local pet store that specializes in fish and reptiles, the rebel child decided he wanted a snake. The desperate parents struck up a bargain. Poop in the toilet X number of times in a row and a snake would be the prize. He had a sticker sheet with various components of the habitat. Poop 5 times in the toilet and a water bowl was yours! Poop another 5 times and that heat lamp joined the water bowl!

With this system, the toilet poop episodes did not have to be consecutive. Two toilet poops got two stickers. However, pooping in the pants did not remove a sticker or progress. It just postponed things. So, while this was an amusing project, there were doubts (my doubts, I had doubts, but I am also not a mother so my thoughts are not terribly useful for those who produce tiny humans).

Eventually, cookies were introduced into the equation. Toilet poops equaled poop cookies and a sticker on the sticker chart.

I have been listening to the story of the poop snake with great joy. I am an adolescent boy at heart, so stories of poop just amuse me. Add a snake in the mix and a cookie, I’m in heaven. Today I received the greatest gift of my entire existence. I got to listen in on the following conversation between Poopster and Papa Poopster.

“DADDY! I GOT THE LAST STICKER ON MY STICKER CHART!”

“Oh yeah buddy? Good job! What’s that mean?”

“I POOPED IN THE TOILET! IT WAS A NORMAL POOP, BUT SO BIG! I GET MY SNAKE NOW! AND I GOT A POOP COOKIE! GOING TO GET CEREAL AND WATCH A SHOW NOW. BYE!!!!”

If you have never heard a little voice exclaim about his normal poop and celebratory poop cookie you’re missing out. I swear this family needs their own television show. Honey Boo Boo couldn’t compete with that.

Also, why are teenagers not this funny? I might like them better if they were.

 

Teenagers are worse than cats…

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Minicandy, Mancandy’s 16-year-old son, is in AP Chemistry. As someone who absolutely hated chemistry and fought like a banshee to get through it and never look at it again, that seemed like poor decision making. But no one asked me. He is also afflicted with the disease known as teenager. The once sweet child has turned into a demon spawn of sarcasm and snark. I’d like to point out I did not have children because:

1. I’ve seen how that happens and ew.

2. I didn’t like teenagers when I was a teenager, and I sure as heck don’t like them now.

3. My patience level has decreased as I age.

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One thing I’m mildly insane about is education. I know how much I struggled in college and it cost me tremendously. I never developed much in the way of study skills in high school. So I was extremely offended to realize once I got to college I couldn’t get through just skating by on my memory anymore. It hurt my pride, hurt my feelings, and in my idiocy, it took me much too long to learn how to study. Take someone struggling to figure out how to study under pressure and dump some catastrophic stuff on them, and they break. Or close enough to it. So yeah, I’m a big fan of teaching kids discipline and study skills before the lack of them causes them dearly.

Teenagers think I’m full of shit and should shut up. Which is also rude.

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This weekend the Minicandy decided he was going to make me go insane and also homicidal. A large chemistry test was about to happen, half on Friday and half the following Monday. On Thursday he tells me he doesn’t need to study. He feels confident. He’s fine. When I suggest he study to be sure he’s fine, I was given the brush off. When I pointed out that the decisions we’d been talking about, and how to decide between good and bad and that in this case he was making a bad decision, he shrugged flippantly and walked out.

A slow burn started.

Once Mancandy tuned in and realized there were zero plans to study on Friday (after the first half of the test has been taken on his good flipping feeling), he insists a book and notes are produced.

“I didn’t bring my book home.”

We blinked at him. Several times. And my sassy side blurted out “Oh, that’s because you had no plans to study, right?” (I was still butthurt from the night before and was not about to let that go any time soon).

Missing my sarcasm completely he happily nods and grins at me. Like I’m the stupid one who just caught on.

The slow burn is now accelerating. Innerds are catching fire.

He then asks if he can go to a concert. At some random kids house. For an unknown length of time with unknown people.

We do not acquiesce to his desire.

He was displeased.

He continued to bring up the concert, his lack of socializing, how unreasonable we are, blah blah blah. I told him, with no small amount of restraining my own snark, that he had decided to make a poor choice. He’d even been given a reminder it was a poor choice. Then, when he could have corrected that choice, he decided to flash us the middle finger and gallivant on while blaming everyone but himself for his grades and their impact on his social schedule.

Then he had the audacity to invite one of the random individuals (of the female variety) to come swing by and “talk”.

Sidenote: One of the things that I don’t understand about teenagers is what in the holy hell do you have to talk about? You literally do NOTHING. You have zero experience with anything. You can maybe talk about video games and how much food you can cram into your face at one time. That’s it. Now, I realize that’s unfair. I remember being quite opinionated as a teenager (and that hasn’t abated). I waxed poetic about all sorts of topics I knew nothing about. So sure I was right and I could solve all the worlds problems. But seriously, I have zero patience with that crap. My point on this was the fact it circumvented the fact Minicandy was being minipunished. He got his way. He got to hang out, not studying and trying to impress another teenager of the opposite gender.

My gizzard was ablaze.

Mancandy and I have this fun thing where I get angry, he ignores me hoping I’ll stop, I don’t stop, and he tries to win me over with ice cream. I realize it is not a compliment to be so easily won over, but I freaking love ice cream. Don’t judge me.

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Mancandy is not really worried about the social interactions and shunning of discipline but he also doesn’t want to listen to me bitch about it anymore. So he recommends ice cream. I agree, tell him to grab his on-my-poo-list kid and get rid of the other one and I’ll throw a bra on and we’ll take our classy selves to the DQ.

Sidenote: I had tried doing all the hair curling things my coworker with the most amazing yummy hair ever recommended. It sort of worked. Kind of. But my hair is not yummy and wonderful like hers and that did not help my mood. I want to be yummy. Instead, I will give you indigestion.

I stomp out of the house, ready to be soothed with ice cream and candy.

A tiny creature in a white lace dress and black converse is standing in the driveway.

I do my usual slow blink.

It does not help me comprehend.

Mancandy is awkwardly inviting tiny waif child to get ice cream with us. She awkwardly agrees. Minicandy awkwardly lurches to the car. I stand blinking while my liver and spine catch fire with my gizzard.

Sidenote: there is a hiking trail named Fiery Gizzard in Tennessee and that makes me so happy.

So. I’m sitting in a vehicle with Mancandy who was going to owe me SO much ice cream after this. A little waif of a kid. And Minicandy. Who I sincerely wanted to throttle. Who was also smashed up against tiny Thumbelina in the middle rather than sitting on the other side of the car like a normal damn person. I don’t know why that fired my already fiery innerds, but it did. I held my tongue and glared daggers at Mancandy.

Mancandy was studiously avoiding looking at me. Hardcore avoidance. We get out of our subdivision, not even to the main road, and Mancandy asks Thumbalina why she seems so nervous.

She started crying.

Mancandy Man-panics and screeches to a halt on the side of the road. His eyes were wide, really white, and doing that “horse about to panic” thing. He asked her if her parents knew where she was.

She cries harder, makes whimpering sounds, and stutters out “n-n-n-n-n-n-noooooo” in a wail.

I don’t know how I wasn’t charred to death internally at this point. I turned around and mentioned in a calm voice that if I were her mom and she called to tell me she was someplace she wasn’t supposed to be I’d be upset. However, if I found out after the fact, like looking at her GPS on her phone which she was apparently already doing, I would be so much more upset.

This does not calm Thumbelina. She starts awkwardly telling us a story through her tears. Now, to be fair, she was tiny and crying and I understand why the guys were stupid. She looks like a baby bunny. A crying, lace clad baby bunny. However, she was telling the age-old teenage story of how her parents treat her like a child and she just wanted to be able to do something. It was a selfish, bratty, typical teenager statement told in the most endearing, pitiful manner possible.

Mancandy then asks her if we should take her back to her car so she could go home. Showing more teenage stupidity her response is no, she’ll go home later. She’s supposed to be at the concert so if she goes home early they’ll know something is up. And then she and Minicandy had a whispered conversation that I guess they thought we couldn’t hear because….we were facing the other way….about turning off the phone so GPS wouldn’t track her.

I was livid. To the point, I didn’t even want ice cream. I rarely get that angry. Ice cream is the most important thing ever.

I was ready to light everyone on fire with my eyes.

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Then Minicandy starts getting an attitude about being punished and us being overprotective and how teenagers don’t deserve to be treated the way they are. And while I wanted to do bodily harm, I restrained myself and tried to respond calmly. Mancandy redeemed himself by making a few solid points that seemed to get through to Thumbelina. Minicandy, however, was firmly in showing off for the little lady mode and kept throwing out sarcasm and snark.

Mancandy has quite a temper, but for some reason when Minicandy hits below the belt there’s no immediate response. It makes me crazy. So I swung around in the seat and tore into him. If teenagers were really mature they wouldn’t be lying to their parents and then blaming their parents for getting caught in the lie. If teenagers were really mature they would be honoring the promises they made instead of blaming everyone else. If teenagers were really mature they would have discussions instead of being sarcastic twits. If teenagers were really mature they would take care of business, act responsibly, and be given trust. That being punished is supposed to be punishment, not hanging out in the driveway full of angst and hostility and then getting a freaking ice cream treat. But if teenagers are caught lying and acting like idiots constantly, they don’t deserve trust and since they were ruining my lovely ice cream excursion with their stupid teenage whining they really need to JUST SHUT UP. That all went from a quiet, intense voice to something akin to a screech. I don’t think they could even hear the words, just the tone.

He came back with “You made me come get ice cream! I’d much rather be at home with Thumbelina! I don’t want to be with you! I had no choice!”

I don’t think what came out were even words. I just launched into demon tongue and had to physically restrain my own self from injuring him. His eyes got big, but I knew he wasn’t going to back down in front of his little lady. I looked him in the eyes and told him as calmly as I could manage (which was not as calmly as I’d have liked), that I was having a really hard time not ripping his face off of his skull right at that moment so he really did need to shut up. Right flipping then.

We got to the DQ drive up around this time and I was trying to decide if I even wanted any. I don’t think I’ve ever been sitting outside of a DQ and wondered if I wanted any. I then wondered if I was having a heart attack or stroke or something.

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Distracted by ice cream and whispered conversations with Thumbelina, Minicandy actually stopped talking to me. Thank God.

Mancandy and I start discussing Nirvana (it came on the radio) and the conspiracy theories around Cobain’s death. Thumbelina, showing some actual personality outside of her teenage parasitic selfish annoyingness, got excited talking about the various theories. That’s the thing that kills me. If teenagers were just useless little vapid things all the time they wouldn’t get under my skin. But occasionally the human beings way down deep in that murk of annoyingness float to the surface and I find myself liking them. A little. Not a lot, but still. And within 3 seconds she floated back down into the murk and she and Minicandy struck up the conversation about how restrictive and stupid parents are. And me. I’m not a parent. But I’m super stupid too. Just so you didn’t think I’d been spared.

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And, to top off my annoyance, they are both slurping and slopping ice cream around in their mouths while they talked and breathed and annoyed me. It sounded like someone in flip flops running through mud. Mancandy was asking questions of Thumbelina who was happily answering around mouthfuls of ice cream and brownie. Minicandy was chiming in while slurping and sloshing. I tried to just sit there and be quiet.

I managed two miles, tops.

It shouldn’t be that hard to just be quiet and eat ice cream. That is kind of my idea of heaven. But I couldn’t. We got almost back to our subdivision before I lost my mind. There was some combination of snarky comment, rolling eyes, sighing dramatically, and extra loud sloppy slurpy sounds, and I snapped. I don’t even know what I said. I just started at a normal tone and escalated until I was yelling about disgusting mouth sounds that made me nauseous and were so freaking rude and dear Lord close your freaking mouths when you chew you disgusting creatures!!!! I was also turned in my seat on my knees hovering over their stupid slurpy faces before I even realized I’d moved.

Everything got very quiet. I sat back down in my seat and tried to count to 10 and pace my breathing.

When we pulled into our driveway the kids basically tucked and rolled out as fast as possible. I did the same, as I’d seen our neighbor and was so excited about an actual adult that I basically tackled him and forced him to talk to me. Thankfully, he’s old fashioned and tries to always be super polite. So I forced that poor man to stand out in the heat and talk to me about their weekend plans while we sweated and I slowly burned from the inside out.

He watched Mancandy walking over to the teenagers standing beside Thumbelina’s car. I’m sure my face was doing weird things. He looked back at me and grinned.

“They’re the worst, aren’t they? Teenagers?” he happily asked.

I responded that I needed a night of adulting, where we talked about our latest medication routines and cholesterol levels and went to bed early and no one gave me attitude for TRYING TO HELP THEM. Ungrateful little turds.

He promised we would do so.

I went inside furious with everyone and everything and didn’t enjoy my ice cream. Mancandy came in first and I only had a few minutes to quietly but intensely rip into him about allowing a teenager to ride with us whom we KNEW was lying to her parents. We were essentially kidnapping!

Minicandy came in just then so I hushed, grabbed my phone and my pup, and started to walk upstairs. I could not believe I was the only one who thought that the entire situation was a mess. I wasn’t sure who I was angrier with. And suddenly the deceptively quiet sounds of a dangerous Mancandy came to my ears. He was calmly asking Minicandy if he’d encouraged Thumbelina to lie to her parents. The response in the negative was barely audible. Then the wrath of an extremely unhappy Mancandy roared into being. In the scariest, ugliest tone, he ripped Minicandy a new one. In a much more cohesive, well thought out manner than I would have given him credit for. And while Minicandy doesn’t like when I’m upset with him, when Mancandy is genuinely angry, everyone hunkers down and gets nervous. Even teenage boys who mistakenly think they’re big and bad.

I was SO proud of Mancandy! He’d controlled his temper much better than I had. And that is not the usual around here. Minicandy left the room tail tucked and miserable looking. My gizzard finally stopped burning.

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For those concerned: No children were harmed in the making of this blog. And they weren’t in real life either. Despite wanting to harm them more than I wanted ice cream. Which, for the new folks, is a hell of a lot.

I am going home for about a week in a couple days. I’m ready for a break from the teenage manchild. For those of you considering the miracle of bringing another life into the world, take this as a warning. They are hideous little selfish goblins. That’s it. I’ll let you know if it gets better. But I’m guessing it will just be more of the same as the twins are hitting the teenage stage of life and the youngest isn’t far behind.

Just typing that made me want to move back to the mountains and hide.

Here’s to hoping they eventually get past this stage. Because they will definitely not survive me if they stay in it forever.

Bus People of Nashville Adventures

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Writing is cathartic. And I am to the age I prefer to read, and write, amusing stories. Many of them are not flattering, but they’re genuine, which tends to be what people respond to. We’re so programmed to only show the perfect, pretend we’re all the same, that someone telling their worst moments is extremely appealing. I don’t much like crying in my coffee so I prefer to mock the bad and make it tolerable. The problem with that is when I’m not in a good mood, or things just aren’t going smoothly, I don’t write because, well, it’s not fun to be not at all funny or upbeat. We all know life is hard, why say that over and over? If you read any news articles at all you have to be a bit on the “ugh” side because, really, it’s just dismal. But, the news doesn’t tell the complete story. Especially on racism. Especially on racism in the south. So here’s another episode of bus people. I can’t say the bus is fun, if I was offered a fancy ride in a helicopter I’d jump on it. Sitting in traffic for hours each day sucks. Yesterday we had the delightful, overwhelming reek of body odor and weed to marinate in for hours, with the heat on full blast because I am, apparently, the only individual with sweat glands that rides the bus. But, there are moments it is an interesting, enlightening experience. This was one of those moments.
The majority of people who ride the bus with me are of a darker skin tone (I’m so pale that could be almost anyone on the planet if we’re being really honest, but I do mean other races in this instance). The majority of that majority is black but there are plenty of Hispanic women and a few Hispanic men. Of the regular bus riders on my express route, there are a few blue collar men who sleepily sit and nod off in the morning as they hop on the earliest from their apartment complexes on the outskirts of the suburbs. Most of the bus drivers know who gets off where and stop whether the stop is requested while we rouse whoever is too deeply asleep to notice they’re at their stop. A couple younger black men work white collar jobs, suits and business casual with brief cases and spiffy, shiny shoes (I like to look at men’s shoes…I have no clue why…it’s just a thing I do). I have noticed, to my dismay that I tend to treat the two types of workers differently. I didn’t realize I do it, I absolutely did not intend to do it, but I do. The men with battered, stained sneakers and the clothes of service type job that you classically see on those who wash dishes and maintenance type positions are less confident when they walk, they don’t make eye contact or speak unless spoken to. They are withdrawn and have a tired air. But I noticed after a few months that I have a tendency to speak first in greeting to the confident, direct look of a black man in a suit, but I continue the silence between the tired black man I often sit next to. I treat them differently, and I am not, to be completely honest, sure why that is. I don’t hold any animosity toward anyone until you earn it, I don’t care what you look like. I will wake up my sleepy seat buddy and let him know he’s missing his stop. But there’s a slight difference in the way I treat different categories of people and it bugs me that I would not treat everyone the same, the way I always assumed I do. I have the same tendency with other races, I guess it’s a class distinction or bias rather than a racial thing, but since I’m pretty working class myself it makes zero sense to me. I like that interacting with so many people different than myself challenges me, but occasionally I’m confronted with my own petty instincts and assumptions about people I don’t even know. I’m trying to look at it as learning experiences and chance to change my behavior.
We do not have many teenagers that ride our bus. Most school age teens catch the bus before ours and there aren’t many older teens that appear that early. I’m fine with that. I didn’t like kids when I was one, I definitely don’t like them now (yeah, I just talked about changing my preconceived notions but on teenagers, I’m pretty set in the avoid at all costs category. Not proud of it, just what it is). One day when I pulled up to the bus, the line was starting early and it was massive. The bus before ours hadn’t shown up, and now we had way too many people for our bus to accommodate. Knowing I’d be late if I drove, I waited until the kids got on and then tried to find a space to occupy for the ride. I noticed a couple of the elderly women didn’t have seats, and while I hated they had to stand with bad knees and bad backs, I was also standing and couldn’t help them. I was crammed into the “Do Not Stand Here Or You Might Fall Off Of The Bus” area trying to give them the best access to hand holds and rails to brace against. I was in full body contact with several men. We all tried to pretend none of this was happening, but I have never had as much of myself squished up against as much of a stranger, not to mention multiple strangers, as happened that day. We were so tightly pressed against one another that I felt the intake of air before the man behind me yelled over the teenage chatter to be heard. He announced that there were several young men sitting down while women were standing. He wasn’t raised that way and he knew they weren’t either. He basically announced that the young guys needed to get up, offer their seats, and act like men. It could have gone very badly. These weren’t 5 year olds, they were 15ish and very proud of themselves. The little boys had already been told to get up and let others have the seats. The older of the kids weren’t into it at first, but eventually, they begrudgingly got up and let the older women sit. I was so impressed that someone would actually do something and be willing to challenge an entire gaggle of teenage guys blaring extremely graphic rap music and talking loudly to be heard over the loud music in offensive terms about offensive topics. I wouldn’t have been that brave. Which saddens me, but there we are. I wouldn’t have tried to shame a group of teenagers of any color that I didn’t have authority over. I taught for a hot minute, I know how teenagers are. They’re vicious and gross in a pack. Nope. Not me.
The ride into the city was miserable. My little sardine-esque group had no hand holds, nothing to brace against, and we couldn’t help but get to know each other much too well. The guy who’d taken on the group of teens eventually told me to stop apologizing that every sway of the bus meant I assaulted him with my hips and rear. If I was some svelte young thing I wouldn’t have felt so bad, and also we wouldn’t have been quite so squished, so I felt bad on two fronts. That’s bizarre. I’m not going to erase it, it’s honestly how I felt, but it’s weird that you’d feel bad because you were unintentionally touching people with a less desirable body. Whatever, not examining that too closely, it’s a mind hole trap I don’t want to get stuck in.
We got toward the first stop I could reasonably walk to work and I was poised to dive through the door and get the first deep breathe since the crazy ride began when I felt my ass attack victim take another deep breath. He whistled to get everyone’s attention and when all eyes were on him (not on me mind you, but I was smashed up against him so it FELT like they were staring at me and I turned bright red and my ears caught fire and it was not fun) he bellowed that the young men who’d stood up and helped out someone else deserved a round of applause for acting with dignity and respect and we should all show our gratitude. Nothing like that had occurred to me, and from the surprised looks it hadn’t occurred to anyone else either. We got into it quickly though, and everyone was clapping and whistling and cat calling. It sounded like a party bus when we pulled up to the stop.
The gruff, annoyed faces of the teenage boys trying so hard to look tough completely broke down and the little boys that I should NOT forget are still in there shone through. They couldn’t help but start grinning and looking at their feet and flushing in embarrassment. The older women who’d gotten their seats made a huge fuss over them and if those kids don’t remember to offer their seats in the future I’ll eat my hat. My poor ass attack victim didn’t know those kids. He didn’t know the women standing. He saw an opportunity to teach a group of kids how to act like adults and took it. It occurred to me that society might be a lot different if everyone behaved that way, if we all took responsibility for how we want others to act. Not by screaming at them and expecting them to obey us, but by using social pressure and positive reinforcement.
I’m making a concerted effort to speak to everyone or speak to no one. I shouldn’t cherry pick. Especially when I don’t even understand the criteria for my picking of cherries. My ass attack scared my brave friend away from bus riding from that day forward, but I bet those kids won’t forget him. I’ve tried to make sure I act when I see something I can help with, rather than just feel bad. I have been forcing myself out of my comfort zone and have fun new friendships starting that help remind me to stop categorizing people I don’t know. I have never thought of myself as racist. I try to be politically correct with phrasing and terminology, now more so than in the past, but I sometimes fail to use the correct term or phrase. I’m learning so much from my bus people and meeting so many different types of people. I’d still take a chopper ride, but until then, that’s the latest and greatest of bus people of Nashville!