No-Class Baby?

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a time or two, our kids have the good fortune to attend a really awesome school. Awesome academics, awesome teachers — even a Music & Movement class for toddlers.

It seems a decade ago now, but James and I did Music & Movement at a community center when he was a toddler. Unfortunately, because of the despised music part, most of the movement consisted of James throwing tantrums in my lap for 30 of the 45 minutes. We did not re-enroll.

Because I have given up on life have a very busy schedule, it never occurred to me to put Thomas in any such class — until I saw it advertised on the door to the kindergarten classroom. It stared me in the face daily this past January, making me feel guilty about spending Monday mornings at the gym when I could be playing and singing with my youngest after pre-school drop-off. Would this be something Thomas would enjoy?

The answer, as it turned out, was a resounding yes. Less enjoyable, however, were the experiences of the music teacher and his fellow classmates. (Although the music teacher is very gracious, and it doesn’t hurt that he gives her hugs and kisses every week.)

We spent an entire semester going to “baby music class,” where the other babies would clap in time to the music and participate in dancing circles and bang in an adorable manner on their xylophones (waiting patiently in a mother’s lap, of course, before getting their instruments).

The entire semester, Thomas would run around the seated circle of parents and babies, jump in the teacher’s lap, make a beeline for the forbidden drum kit, and generally raise Cain.

I have learned over time that nearly all of us moms have those days when we think our kids are the naughtiest, most ill-mannered children in the room, but in Thomas’ class, that really is the case.

(Not that he isn’t the cutest little naughty monkey ever. He really charms the socks off everyone there. But still.)

Anyway, a new semester started a few weeks ago, and two new families came in, including a mom with twins. They were extremely well-behaved, much to my dismay and good for her! It was the first baby music class of the semester, and all the kids were in high spirits. None more so than Thomas, of course, who ran around like a crack-addled spider monkey, opening cabinets and trying to flee the music portable when he wasn’t trying to distribute free xylophones or use maracas as hammers.

Two kids got taken out of class early by their mommies that day. Neither of them was mine. I think one was expelled for running and the other for excessive crying. I’m pretty sure neither of them tried to shoplift the guitar (thanks for that, Thomas).

I remarked to the mom of twins that her kids were enviably well-behaved, and that I felt bad for the moms who left because their kids really weren’t doing anything terribly naughty. (Let’s be honest — if I left every time someone was sort of ill-behaved, we would be hermits!)

The other mom replied that she had had to take her daughter out of gymnastics for being disobedient, but once was enough.

I’ll admit it — I felt a little like a bad mom. Do I let my kids head-butt people in the face while I turn a blind eye to what the little darlings are doing? No. I’m not that mom, at least. They do get in trouble for hurting their playmates or destroying property. But while Thomas’ energy level causes me no shortage of dismay, he’s a pretty nice little toddler. And I’m a sucker for my high-energy but generally nice little cuties. Consequently, I haven’t removed anyone from an activity since James initiated his exit from swimming class by emitting a series of ear-piercing screams and trying to clamber out of the water onto my head.

After that conversation, I thought about taking Thomas home next time he runs away from the group — laughing hysterically as he bolts for the door — or tries to pull instruments from the cabinet when he gets tired of waving scarves to the music. But you know what? He’s two years old. He has the attention span of a gnat. Would it help? Maybe there’s an off chance. But it would probably sink in about as well as the 500 times I’ve put him to bed early for throwing food and jumping out of his high chair.

So instead, the next time I ran into one of the moms who had left, I told her I was sorry she’d had to go early, and assured her that all of us have toddlers and that a little toddler-like behavior is to be expected.

I don’t know whether to feel happy for her or guilty for endorsing bad behavior. But this past week, she and her son stayed for the whole session. And (with some occasional laying down of the law, of course) our toddler boys ran around wreaking harmless mayhem like only toddler boys can.

P.S. If you are interested in baby music class, contact me. I will put you in touch with the teacher, and offer you my personal guarantee that you will not have the naughtiest child in the class!

Wanted: For disorderly conduct

Breaking Bad

Ahhh, spring break! Remember spring break? When we were in college, it was a time to go skiing or party at the beach, or perhaps to take advantage of the underage-drinking loophole in the great state of Louisiana.

Once you have kids, however, they have spring breaks of their own. And if you do go skiing or visit the beach, it is most certainly not a break for Mom and Dad — no matter how many tequila shooters you do. (Just kidding! I didn’t do any tequila shooters, because we have no tequila. Believe me, I checked.)

Because our children don’t travel well, we opted to stay sane home this year.

The week began promisingly enough. The kindergarten’s class mom organized a series of group playdates, with the first at one of our favorite local parks. The kids did a fantastic job of not being complete hooligans, and nobody had to have a time-out in the stroller. I started the next day with a 6 a.m. workout and a coffee, confident that this spring break would be different. It would be exciting! Productive! Or at least somewhat less insane, and I would not spend days on end in my pajamas, binge-eating tortilla chips and counting down the hours.

Right now, James is in a contrary phase. Well, the contrary phase has technically lasted about a year and a half, but right now he’s in a particularly contrary phase. So we’ve been trying to keep him out of the other kids’ hair on difficult days. Our innovative strategy has involved lots of Scooby Doo in Daddy’s office.

However, seeing as how Daddy is the sole wage earner, sometimes James had to mingle with the other children. Occasionally, the mingling involved insisting that everyone watch his favorite episode of Scooby Doo. Other times, it involved throwing a blanket over his head and volunteering for a beatdown (a.k.a. “ghost wrestling”). But this is how several hours of each day went:

James: “You can’t play with my Littlest Pet Shops!”

Maddux: That’s my Littlest Pet Shop, Jamesy! Stooooooooop!”

Me: “The Littlest Pet Shops are in time out now.”

Thomas (fending off James’ grabby hands): “Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!”

James: “I want that Percy train!”

Thomas (clubbing James over the head with Percy): “You no take my train!”

Me: “James, get in time out! Thomas, time out!”

Maddux: “Mommy, Jamesy’s not in his time out!”


Mommy: “And Scooby Doo is going off the TV now.”

James: “Mommy, you’re a poo-poo-head robot.”

Thomas (escaping from time-out and dancing in the middle of the room with enormous cheesy grin): “Thomas poo-poo-head robot! AHAHAHHAAAHAAA!”

Me: “Sweet merciful crap. I need so much more coffee.”

And so were great amounts of coffee consumed.

Because a little crazy is never enough, I decided to undertake two spring break projects (three, if you count the Christmas tree, which is stripped of ornaments but still standing). The first undertaking, Thomas’ potty training, was a complete bust — unless letting a 2-year-old pee in Disney Cars underwear instead of Pull-Ups and then feeding him jelly beans for sitting fruitlessly on the potty constitutes success.

The second project was eliminating James’ nap.

I have tried many times to cut out the nap, but James tends to crash hard around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, after which point our adorable child might as well be a wild boar on methamphetamine. But after a nice, refreshing afternoon nap, James was staying up until 9 p.m., or, occasionally, 1:30 a.m., and acting like a meth-crazed wild boar in school.

If my child is going to race about growling and attacking people like some feral animal, I’d rather have it be at home than at school. So we stuck it out through two horrible, irrational days of meth-crazed wild-boar boy, and finally James started going to sleep at a civilized hour and acting human during the day. Success!

Until …

Somehow, a year or so ago, Maddux got it into her head that there is nothing cooler in all the world than — get this — a sleepover.

Raise your hand if you think this is a good idea. No one? Yeah, me neither.

But gut feelings aside, in 2009, on Christmas Eve, I agreed to sleep in Maddux’ room along with her and James. They were very excited, because we have a hard-and-fast rule that people sleep in their own rooms. (You know, so they can sleep.)

Maddux was bright-eyed and giggly at first, but she’s a morning lark rather than a night owl, so by 8:45 she was exhausted. James, however, chattered away nonstop about trains until 12:45 a.m. Maybe longer. I don’t know, because I fell asleep. Then Maddux woke everyone at 6.

I swore it would never happen again.

But somehow, the kids finagled another sleepover during winter break. This time, I was smart enough not to try to sleep in the room with them. Not so smart, however, was Maddi’s decision to wake James at 9 p.m. because he was drooling. Having been completely reinvigorated by his 20-minute nap, James stayed up into the wee hours and the sleepover was aborted. Apparently, though, in my half-asleep delirium, I promised the children that they would get a second chance over spring break.

Let me make it clear that neither do I remember making any such promise nor do I find it plausible that I would have done so. Nevertheless, I let the little ones have another sleepover. (Well, once I found them entrenched under Maddux’ bunk bed at 8:45 p.m. surrounded by everything James has ever owned and looking up at me with their most plaintive saucer eyes, anyway.) They were asleep by 10, but the next day, James was so tired he had a nap. As the kids say, facepalm.

Add to all that a shopping trip on the penultimate day of spring break, which — in addition to the usual mirror-licking, begging for everything in a 5-meter radius by Maddux, rejection of any and all new clothing by James, and throwing of decorative rocks in fancy stores — also included the improper use of the stroller as some sort of MMA fighting cage on wheels.

Corn chips — check.
Pajamas — check.
Tequila shooters — checked. Couldn’t find tequila, settled for Riesling.

The only thing breaking this spring was my sanity.