I had a night away this weekend, a night away. It has been 6 months, almost to the day, since the last time I had a night away. Yes, I am on the half year excursion plan. Twice a year I take the long ride from Weston to Fort Lauderdale, or South Beach, or Naples and spend a single night with as much day wrapped around both sides as my parents or in-laws will allow. We couldn’t go far, and because I was looking for optimum veg time, proximity was second only to my first criteria – NO KIDS.
Yes, I said it … NO KIDS. I had to find a close hotel that was kid free during spring break, when every cold frostbitten family packs up their 2.5 children, takes their pets to the kennel, and comes to Florida hoping to thaw out. I, on the other hand, needed to chill out and the best place seemed to be this boutiquey hotel on Lauderdale Beach called The Atlantic. The pool was off-putting to children, a long and narrow rectangle with no slides or falls. The décor was very hip, mod in an Ian Schrager, “don’t touch that kid, it will break” kinda way. I would avoid a place like this at all costs with my kids, as it blared “BORING” to anyone under sixteen. I banked on other families’ sense of “funless” to be on par with my own.
Wearing my too teeny bikini, I immediately found the pool and within moments I was donning an ipod, reading my book and sipping champagne. Totally enthralled with my book, I must not have noticed the influx of people at my tiny boutique pool. But then I heard someone scream, “Marco!” and though I am in South Florida where a name like Marco is not so uncommon, I could tell this was not some adult woman calling her adult husband to come put sunblock on her back.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked Mark, like I had just heard a gunshot. “A kid,” he nonchalantly replied, like my gunshot was just some car backfiring. I looked up and, Lo and behold, it wasn’t just one kid it was a whole pack of them. Maybe five ranging in age from about 4 to 10. I shuddered as the largest one, who was undeniably their bossy leader, demanded another pool game that had them screaming answers to random questions, and swimming all over my tiny boring lap pool.
Leader: “WHAT‘S YOUR FAVORITE SHOW?”
Kid 1: “WHAT?”
Kid 2: “She said what’s your favorite show,” the little one repeated shaking in fear.
Kid 1: “OH, I’LL GIVE YOU A HINT, IT’S TWO WORDS.”
Why are they screaming? They’re 5 feet apart.
Leader: “TOTAL DRAMA ISLAND.”
Kid 1: “I SAID 2 WORDS!”
Kid 3: “I think I know what it is. Can I guess?”
Leader: “NO! GIVE ME ANOTHER HINT.”
Kid 1: “FINE IT STARTS WITH AN I.”
Leader: “INDIANA JONES?”
Kid 1: “YOU SAID A SHOW NOT A MOVIE.“
Leader: “GIVE ME ANOTHER HINT.”
Kid 1: “NONANA NOPE NOPE…NOPE NOPE.”
Oh, come on, give her another hint already.
Kid 1: “I. C. AND IT’S ABOUT THE INTERNET.”
Leader: “WHAT IS IT? I DON”T KNOW.”
Kid 1: “WELL, I’M NOT GONNA TELL YOU TILL YOU GET IT.”
iCarly, iCarly, don’t suggest the game if you suck at it. I mean hello?
Leader: “UMMM, I GIVE UP.”
Kid 1: “I CARLY!”
I knew it.
Leader: “THAT’S CHEATING. MAHHHHHHHM MOM! HE CHEATED HE SAID IT WAS TWO WORDS AND iCARLY IS JUST……..”
Had this really happened? Had my ipod faded into the background and the passage of my book still not registered after reading it 3 times over? I was actually angry. I am so capable of tuning my own kids out, why was I not able to use this skill on someone else’s?
My penthouse suite, which was graciously extended to me when I explained my bi-annual excursion plan, wouldn’t be ready for hours. I watched as kid 4 goaded kids 2 and 3 by bobbing up and down chanting “DIVE!” every time his head cleared the water. I guess he hoped this would annoy them. I gave the parents a sideways glance to let them know that it was working on me, but they pretended not to notice.
Then it dawned on me. I am the crotchety lady that shushes other peoples kids. Maybe it was all the trips to the cardiologist, maybe my patience had been worn paper thin trying to get my own children to listen to me for half second. Each “Can you do it for me?” “Not now, Mommy.“ “No way, Jose.“ scratching one more layer from the surface. One would think, out of politeness, I would be less overtly bothered by other people’s children, but the truth is I have to save that rigorous acting job for when mine send me over the edge. So as my son would say to my daughter, “Too bad, so sad.”
The bobbing continued and noodles burst across the pool like fireworks. This is the reason they invented adult swim… and boutique hotels. While frantically searching for someone with a whistle, I noticed the other adults. Why were they so calm? Why weren’t they shooting looks at the over-permissive parents like I was? Were they not being over-permissive? —allowing their children to have so much fun around the pool on vacation?
Then it hit me…the hot tub. The one refuge that still belongs to us serious adults. With my book in hand I crossed the trendy stretch only to find another pack; they were multiplying faster than I could count, and now they had infiltrated the sacred whirlpool area. An area that actually has an age requirement. It was so unnatural, like seeing raccoons scavenging during the day, it was just wrong. Two kids watched the third one diving to the bottom against the current of the jets, kicking his feet all the while.
I thought, can I tell these kids to scram? But wait, aren’t I supposed to be representing the next generation of parents? The cool parents. Not our parents or their parents’ generations who would have scoffed before entry and sent the kids running for the hills. We “hip parents” have a rep to protect, right? We’re like kids ourselves. In fact, if you hadn’t met our children you would think we were too young, too fun, too awesome to be “parents.”
I told myself, say something funny and endearing thereby shattering their vision of adults as naysayers and fun-enders. So, after carefully choosing my words I let my tension go, eased into the whirlpool and said, “Could you please stop splashing, it’s getting my book all wet. I don’t know if you guys should even be in here.” I turned to pat my book with my towel and when I turned around they were gone. “Awesome, shmawesome.”
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This time of year I amuse myself by looking back at last year’s resolutions. Ones I made with the best intentions, like learning an instrument or a foreign language. Last Chanukah I had my husband buy me a guitar. I had all the confidence in the world that by this new year, I would balk at a request to play Stairway To Heaven, saying something dismissive like… “Please, that’s so cliché, but why not?” or “Por favor, es muy cliché, pero porque no? Unfortunately, my guitar collects dust while my Spanish collects rust.
So for this year, I have made some resolutions that are a bit more achievable:
1. Nag More
For 10 years my husband has not picked up a wet towel, washed ketchup off of a dish, changed a light bulb, or remembered trash day without a friendly, “How many times do I have to tell you?” I vow to be relentless in my nagging. I will lay immediate blame using words like always and never. As in, “I always, and you never.” I will play the martyr by saying, “Forget it. I’ll do it myself.” I will amp up the guilt with, “I do everything around here.” Or something unarguable like, “It’s obvious by your refusal to change a light bulb that you don’t love me anymore.” If all goes well, I’ll be nagging him to go to couples therapy by 2010.
2. Gain weight
I will add carbs to my diet with reckless abandon. I will start each meal with a generous helping of bread and rolls onto which I will spread an obnoxious amount of butter. I will stuff food into my mouth with such fervor it will make other eaters uncomfortable to watch. I vow to eat everything a la mode including ice cream.
3. Work out less
This will actually take serious effort. The only thing harder would be to shower less. If I need the proverbial cup of sugar, I will drive to my neighbor’s garage and beep until she comes out and hands it to me. I will take elevators in two-story buildings. Lastly, I will drop my membership to the gym and use the money I save to buy more carbs.
4. Forget an old language
This year, not only am I not going to learn a new language, I will let my brain atrophy to forget the one I already know. I will watch endless episodes of Sponge Bob and Chowder. I will stop doing crosswords and speaking in complete sentences. I will break all grammatical rules; I will misplace modifiers, dangle participles, and end sentences in prepositions. I will express my thoughts through that African clicking language, modern dance, and a set of bongos that I will wear around my neck.
5. Stay out of touch
This time of year, I am reminded of the many friends I have let time and space interfere with. I intend to further that distance. I will start by rejecting any new Facebook or social network requests. I will also attach a note that reads “I never liked you in the first place.” I will cuss out and hang up on people who call in hopes of fulfilling their own resolution to rekindle old friendships.
6. Be less patient
I will be aggravated, exasperated, and ready to blow my stack at the slightest misstep. The next time my son wants help with his homework I’ll say, “That’s it! Clearly this whole Elementary Education is not for you. If you don’t know how to spell December by now, you never will…Now go get a job! Oh, and take your sister with you, she sits on the potty way too long.”
7. Hold grudges
This year I will forgive no one. I don’t care if you step on my toe, or pay me the five bucks you owe me, a day after the assigned due date. I vow to hate you forever and never forget how you wronged me.
8. Stress more
I will lose sleep thinking about planning parties, redecorating my house, trying to budget, missing appointments, teacher conferences, and health issues. I will laugh an evil cackle while erasing all the plans from my PDA, and then cry over what I have just done. I will empty our bank account on frivolous investments and watch it dwindle away. Oh, wait…that already happened. Well good, more for me to worry about.
9. Become addicted to something
Smoking, alcoholism and Starbucks are so trite. I’m thinking something unique like nasal spray or hand sanitizer. Or at least something beneficial to my endurance like crack. Look, I already have a shopping addiction, maybe I could offset the bills with a robust gambling problem.
10. Gossip More
I vow to talk about everything you do in the new year. If I see you at the pediatrician for so much as a flu shot, I will tell everyone your child has hand foot mouth, so you can be verbally assaulted when you show up at a birthday party the next day. If you look too skinny, I will assume it’s a divorce or an addiction. If you look too hot, I’ll call it a torrid affair. If you look too young, it’s an addiction to surgical procedures because you’re getting divorced due to a torrid affair. I will start a rumor phone tree and a blog called “WhatYourNeighborsAreReallyUpTo.com.” I may even have a megaphone installed on my “Gossip Mobile,” so I can drive through local parking lots amplifying the skeletons in your closet to all within earshot. Oh, wait… I’ll just write about it in my next column.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This is the unabridged version of the published article.
I’m not gonna throw myself under the bus and call my children spoiled, as I would have only myself to blame. I will say, however, they have an extreme sense of entitlement, which I am sure has little to do with them being lavished with gifts undeservedly. My children want everything they see, hear about, could get as a party favor, could find in a McDonalds happy meal, a cereal box, a piñata, or view in a commercial.
“Mommy can I have that? Will you buy me that? Mommy friends neighbor has that. I want that. When can I have that? Mommy? Ma? Maaaaaaaa? MOM! This exchange of words usually ends with, “If you mention it again, the answer will be never.” “Never? I can’t even have a Clone Trooper Voice Changer Helmet when I’m 25?” “Sure. If you still want a Clone Trooper Voice Changer Helmet at 25, you can wear it to therapy.”
“How about I get it for my next birthday, or maybe Kwanzaa?” My son is already eyeing a camouflage pencil set for Secretaries Day, and has informed me that, although we are Jewish, he will be giving up vegetables for Lent.
My children’s Chanukah wish lists are so comprehensive, I may be forced to explore alternative channels in my gift search. Consequently, I have sent a friendly letter asking someone who has slighted me in the past for help. Some might say it’s more of a formal accusation, but really it’s just a hand delivered note that needs to be notarized and signed on receipt. It goes:
I have never complained about you forgetting us Jews in the past, but times are tough. I mean, I don’t want to threaten you or anything, but let’s talk religious profiling, shall we? I’m sure the fact that we don’t believe in you has something to do with you snubbing us year after year. Do we, a people known to produce a whiner or two, complain? No, some of us, me included have made an effort to believe. Let us not forget Christmas of 83’ when I sat on your lap asking for a Speak N’ Spell, a Magic Eight Ball, and Shawn Cassidy’s “Da Doo Ron Ron” 45. I have a laminated picture from Macy’s to prove it.
Do you not bombard us with your festive songs and holiday movies made with delightfully animated reindeer and elves? Do Jews get to go a-caroling? No, we have one song… about kids gambling. Has Dreidel ever starred in a delightfully animated holiday movie? Has Snoopy, or Barbie, or a single Disney character ever lit a Menorah? Maybe in the privacy of their own homes, but certainly never on camera (it’s in their contracts.) We’re okay with that, because we wrote those contracts. Sure, we take advantage of your sales and vacations. We watch your shows, and sing your catchy songs. We’ll decorate a tree with blue and white twinkle lights, top it with a six pointed star, and call it a Chanukah bush.
Santa, my Roth IRA is down 40%. I deserve a little holiday cheer. You can look me up, I’ve been nice, and I’d like to keep it that way. My daughter wishes to receive the “now truer to life” Baby Alive that not only eats, but poops. She would also like the “now truer to life on the streets” Bratz Doll, which comes complete with Brazilian waxing kit and requisite diaphragm.
My son “just has to have” the new Guitar Hero “I Choked on My Own Vomit Tour,” a super Bakugan the size of his head, and some alone time with my daughter’s Bratz doll. I will forward you the unabridged version via zip file. I look forward to us all getting along!
Frustrated Jewish Mom
P.S. I feel like maybe we got off on the wrong foot here. I didn’t mean to sound so hostile. Santa, just tell me what a girl’s gotta do to get some Christian love? I can be naughty if necessary. Perhaps a visit to your “south pole” (wink, wink)? Not by me, we Jews don’t really do that after marriage, but I know a girl that I can call.