Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting Anonymous

I had a problem. I was powerless over my children and my life had become unmanageable. I needed Parenting Anonymous. Signs of my pathological parenting surrounded me and I could no longer live in denial. The crayon was on the wall.

Every wall in my home, in fact, was decorated by various abstract pieces done in wax crayon, indelible marker and finger paint. These pieces were not framed, but were rather done mural style directly on the walls courtesy of our prolific in-house artist, 2-year-old Lizzy Ann.

She was beginning to create a name for herself too, as her art branched out to other homes. Aunty Myrtle, Grandma Rose and The Smiths next door all had a few pieces of her work. Some people, such as Uncle George, didn't even know they owned a Lizzy Ann because occasionally she’d do her work discreetly in a closet or in places where portly people like Uncle George couldn’t bend down to see. Evidently, my parenting problem was affecting not just me, but also the home decor of those I loved.

Further signs of my problem were the tampered electronics and plumbing issues with which I had to contend. As Lizzy busied herself with artistic endeavors, 4-year-old DJ developed an interest in electronic engineering and apprenticeship plumbing. He attempted at various times to refurbish my DVD player, VCR and PC; as well as refit a bathroom toilet using his Rescue Heroes submarine. When the submarine never resurfaced from the flooding depths of the toilet bowl, I had no choice but to call in a professional plumber to save the drowning toy.

In addition, although I tried my best to cover it up, evidence of my bribery binges was strewn throughout the house, further attesting to my parenting problem. Empty Fisher Price and Hot Wheel packaging littered the halls and the toy boxes overflowed with abandoned toys the children got bored of as quickly as they got them. It became harder to deny my problem when I realized the clerk at the toy store knew my son by name and what brand of toy he preferred.

Yet another indication of my problem was the high tolerance level the children had attained for the briberies of toys and candy. The more I gave in, the more they demanded. Eventually I had to give them three times as much as I once had to in order to get the same behavioral result I desired. Consequently, I discovered that as their tolerance level for briberies increased, my bank balance decreased. Combine that with the expense of replacing household electronics, as well as calling in expensive plumbers, and it seemed that my parenting problem was not only hurting the ones I loved, but also my financial bottom line.

Nearly every aspect of my existence had been impacted in one way or another by my parenting problem. To others I downplayed the impact it had on my life. However, it was impossible to hide my unkempt appearance and blood shot eyes from lack of sleep due to late night kitchen runs for water and jam toast. Furthermore, when I went to speak to someone the hoarseness of my voice gave me away. It appeared that I had a chronic case of laryngitis thanks to the children's incessant requests to hear me repeatedly growl in my best Big Bad Wolf voice: "Little Pig, Little Pig LET ME COME IN!"

I was finally forced to face my problem when my husband, John, confronted me with proof of my diseased parenting. It was after 11 p.m. and the children slept sprawled out in the marital bed as I served John a late supper of chicken nuggets, Goldfish crackers and carrot sticks. I could sense something was bothering him by his silence, but nonetheless was startled when he suddenly slammed his sippy cup down, sloshing chocolate milk all over the table.

He told me he felt like I had lost control of the children. He asked if I had even noticed that our new leather ottoman had mysteriously acquired little puncture wounds all over one side of it. He said it was the final straw and demanded to know what had happened to the recently purchased item. He also wanted to know why he was drinking out of a sippy cup at 11 o'clock at night.

I claimed I didn't have any answers for him, but inwardly presumed Lizzy Ann had something to do with the redesigned ottoman since she was our resident artist. DJ was too busy feeding his grilled cheese and Lego sandwich to the VCR to bother with ottomans.

No, this looked like Lizzy's work, I thought to myself as I knelt down beside "detective" John to get a better look at what he considered to be a crime scene. Apparently, Lizzy was venturing into some sort of contemporary art. 

I did not share my suspicions with John (my general rule of thumb with him is to deny everything no matter how obvious my "guilt" is, but only because I find his incredulity highly amusing). 

Thus, rather than admit culpability or provide the name of the little girl I suspected was responsible (Lizzy Ann), I tried to justify myself and minimize his concerns as best as I could. 

He was not placated. 

He stomped away in anger and frustration to sleep in the playroom using a doll blanket as a pillow. In hindsight, both my parenting problem and the cracks in my marriage were plain. But not at the time. Denial is a blindfold.

Anyway, the mystery of the leather ottoman was solved the morning after John’s confrontation, when I caught Lizzy red-handed. During the endless process of picking up the toys that constantly made their way into the living room, I happened to catch Lizzy intently marching towards the ottoman with a ballpoint pen clutched in her hand.

I managed to grab the pen from her just as she was about to plunge it into the “valued” piece of furniture. I told her "naughty" and then went into the kitchen to put the pen on top of a shelf where she couldn't reach it. When I went back into the living room to see what else Lizzy was getting into I let out a gasp of alarm at what I discovered.

There she was furiously stabbing the ottoman with a SECOND ballpoint pen. She must have had a secret stash somewhere. When I ordered her to stop she only briefly looked at me before basically shrugging her shoulders and resuming her brutal attack on the ottoman with even more fervor. She totally disregarded me as she focused completely on trying to get in as many stabs as she could before the pen was confiscated a second time. She looked like a crazed murderer determined to inflict as much pain on her inanimate victim as possible before her weapon of choice was taken away.

In the middle of all this, DJ came running into the room to see what all the commotion was about. When he saw what Lizzy was doing he immediately cried out, "I want a turn!"

In my diseased mind, I reasoned that since the ottoman was already ruined, I might as well grant DJ his wish and let him have a try, too. At that point I did not see that John had also been awoken by the commotion and was watching the whole proceedings with growing disbelief. He watched, incredulous, as I retrieved the first pen I had confiscated from Lizzy and handed it to DJ.

It wasn’t until I had settled myself on the couch to passively survey the carnage and mayhem that I noticed John standing there and witnessed the look of utter horror on his face. 

It was then I realized I could no longer deny the truth: Hello, my name is Lala and I am a Parentoholic. 

I’m in recovery now. It’s an ongoing process.

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