Friday, June 22, 2007
During a recent family dinner the five of us were talking when the conversation veered from what happened on the playground to our familys potential as reality TV contestants.
This is not something I aspire to. In fact, I think the idea is appalling. But my husband and kids find it very appealing. I can understand my husbands interest; he puts the E in Extrovert. But I still havent reconciled with the idea that I produced not one but three future American Idols.
My children decided that they had a future on Nanny 911 after they recalled several incidents of bad behavior involving themselves. But, before I tell you these stories, I have a confession to make. My family is loud. To be specific, were the ones you hear when youre in a restaurant and children are shrieking or a man is talking too loudly on a cell phone. Were the ones youre all staring at in a lobby or at the mall. Thats us. Im not proud of it but to understand these stories I have to fess up.
Some of this loudness is genetic, some is due to the Terrible Twos, some is due to personality, but it all adds up to four of the five of us being very loud. Everywhere we go, our voices carry and were often creating a scene just being ourselves. So, the incidents my children believe made us reality-TV worthy were beyond our normal bedlam.
I Know You Are But What Am I
My husband says that watching our kids alone is no big deal. And thats true until he has to watch all three for more than a few hours. He had that experience, unexpectedly, when I was sick and bedridden one Sunday, all day. Around 10 a.m. when they were delirious with hunger, he decided to go to the bagel shop. To limit our sons loud conversations while waiting in line he asked him to get a booth. When my husband finished ordering he returned to the booth with our daughters. Thats when he discovered our son hadnt been minding his own business. A man leaned into the booth from a table nearby.
Can I have a word with you? The man said to my husband. My husband warily agreed, unsure what the man was going to say.
Your son called me a poo poo head, the man said.
My husband didnt answer at first. He didnt want to talk to this man in the first place because he was busy with our quirky son, tyrannical toddler and over-wrought pre-teen. Now, after hearing poo poo, he really didnt want to talk to him.
He asked our son if he called the man a poo poo head. Our son admitted his crime. My husband asked him to apologize, and he was ready to close this chapter in his parenting book, when the man muttered under his breath, You should teach your kid better manners.
My husband could have let it go. Our older daughter took one look at her fathers face and asked if the food could be for take out. But, you have to remember, this is the Loud Family, and Daddy Loud wasnt about to back down. My husband asked the man if he had kids. He didnt. Then he asked him if he knew what Aspergers Syndrome was. He didnt. Then after the man told my husband he should be a better parent, my husband told him to get educated. Just as their dialogue was heating up, my familys food arrived, the order was all wrong, and the Loud Family got louder.
My husband said normally he would have guided the kids to remain calm while he fixed the order. But after his dialogue with the man he decided to just let it rip and let the man hear the tantrums and screaming so he could prove to him that being called a poo poo head really wasnt so bad after all.
Dont Talk to Strangers
On my sons 7th birthday we went to his favorite restaurant, Souplantation. I always go to the buffet to get the sides he likes to go with his salad. I get his blueberry muffin, his macaroni and cheese, his fruit and his chocolate yogurt with syrup for dessert. I do this because our son is unpredictable and that makes me overprotective.
This time, however, he wanted to go by himself. He reminded me that he was 7 now and I reluctantly agreed. About 10 minutes later I suddenly realized hed been gone too long. I only had to say his name to my husband and he was out of his seat and disappeared into the restaurant crowd.
When they finally returned, my son had a heaping serving of dessert and he sat down to dig into it like nothing had happened. My husband sat down looking perplexed and rubbed his head.
Where was he? I asked.
He was in a booth talking to some men.
Strangers? I said, horrified.
Yep, a bunch of young guys with tattoos and piercings, My husband answered. He was just shooting the shit with them like hed know them for years.
I looked at my son and all I could think was, What would possess him to follow a bunch of strange men, join them in their booth and hang out?
Why did you talk to those men? I asked him.
When I left the table I went to the bathroom first and I heard them talking about some stuff I was interested in so I followed them to their table, he answered, in between bites, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
What were they talking about? I asked him.
I dont know, he said. I sighed and looked at this boy who wants to be independent but still has so far to go.
Dont talk to strangers and dont sit in strangers booths and dont eavesdrop on peoples conversations, I said, feeling only slightly less helpless because although I got that out of my system I was reminded again that for my son 7 is still so very young.
We went out for a late breakfast. Our toddler was focused on only one thing. She wanted eggs. She wanted eggs with a laser-like focus. Once she saw a picture of scrambled eggs on the kids menu that was all she could think about or talk about.
Eggs, eggies, mat (want) eggies, Mama mat eggies, she repeated herself incessantly hoping they would come faster if she continued to visualize them. They didnt. In fact, the waitress made a mistake and she was served a plate of Mickey-eared pancakes first. When this happened she stood up in the booth and screamed.
I no mat no paa cakes, she said loudly. Then she yelled Noooo and literally dove off the side of the booth. Luckily, she was sandwiched between her brother and sister so she just bounced once and got stuck behind her brothers back. Her dive was so unexpected, that we just stared at her with her head stuck out of the side of the booth and her feet, like the Wicked Witch of the West, sticking out into her sisters lap. When we got her upright we all burst out laughing.
That was reality-TV worthy, my husband said. And, we all agreed.
I know I'm not the only one with parenting-based Reality-TV moments to share. Submit a comment and tell me your stories. Maybe you're not like me and you want to be on Reality-TV. Tell me why. Don't be afraid, we've all probably seen it before or done it ourselves. As my husband says, just "let it rip." I'll be waiting to read your stories.
Deanna Martin Mackey is the mother of an 11-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. She is an associate general manager at KPBS, and has been writing professionally for 20 years. She is working on her first novel about a family.