Basically, my kids are fully in The Poltergeist Stage. What does that entail exactly? Well, it just means that they are just the worst in terms of behavior. There is Medea-level screaming, no listening, there is punching each other. There is a lot of “I hate you” etc.; there are mysterious noises behind closed doors that sound like a bowling ball is being dropped on the floor. It all just makes me go boneless with defeat. Husband just spent a week at home over spring break with them, and I worried about his mental health, but every night when I got back from work, all three were still at home. He did not put anyone on Ebay. I spend one weekend with them, and I’m like, HOW DO I POST THEIR PICTURE WITH A STARTING BID. I believe this stage is challenging because you successfully got them to stay alive (major concern in Baby/Toddler Stage), but now that they are alive and seem to be staying with you on a permanent basis, you have to start shaping them as humans, and that is a lot of work. (A co-worker was like “Are you teaching your kids Korean?” And I’m like, “Um, yeah, miscommunicating in one language is enough for me.”)
The Poltergeist Stage is so all-encompassing that I can’t really remember the Baby/Toddler/Keep-Them-Alive stage. Really? This child who punched his sister in the gut used to delight in Peek-a-Boo? Now when I see these Brooklyn parents with their babies in their backpacks, the toddlers they try to block from running into traffic, when I see these parents and how careful they are with their children, how they carry way too many bags full of organic treats — I cannot relate at all.
It’s a time I see in the rearview mirror. It was so intense, I am well beyond it and now feel nothing. (Except for your baby, Cousin Ed. Because I think she’s actually not just a baby, but a dumpling incarnate. Please disregard this entire entry when it comes to your delightful child.) I heard a man on the subway talk to his baby in a sing-song voice, describing every sight outside the window to this baby who was just sitting there, content to just chill, and I was OH DEAR PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP. I texted my cousin Aimee to vent my frustration so that I wouldn’t stand up and punch this performative dad. I was having a severe allergic reaction to his precious parenting style. (There’s no need to talk that much.) Parents (who can afford it) spend so much money and time worrying and fussing, schlepping them to like music classes and art, when they are just as happy with scotch tape around their hands. (Though to be fair, sometimes those kids activities are for the adults — to get out of the damn house, connect to peers, and add structure to a bottomless day).
This is a 180 change for me, who used to always demand first hold of every new baby and whose eyes would get a creepy gleam (Baby stalker eyes) whenever a soft pudgy one entered the room. I used to turn into human goo around cute babies, but now? Nothing. Blank. Zombie reaction. It feels like such a long-ago stage, such a different phase of evolution, that it seems to have nothing to do with me.
The kids I have now have B.O., as well as the aforementioned bananas characteristics, however, they are not completely devoid of positive qualities. As much as I observe them, they observe me and every other adult in their orbit as well. They pull complicated pranks on Husband that make me laugh alone in my office. We all slept in the same hotel room at a recent wedding and as I woke up and gingerly made my way to the bathroom (it takes time for my body to warm up), First Son announced “There goes Mom, with her slow-motion walk.” I couldn’t believe he had noticed me enough to be able to make fun of me so well. I just laughed and fell back down onto the bed. Wonder Twin Girl quotes me as saying “let’s hustle a baby muscle” and is pretty good at imitating my faces. During spring break, they locked Husband in our room with a walkie-talkie through which they instructed him to follow instructions (like a really cheap, goofball Escape Room), including to look in his wallet where they snuck in a note that said “You suck. You are the worst.”
Husband and I still laugh about it so hard. In case Husband had any ego left, it’s gone now. * Sigh * Good times. It’s funny, I’m obviously not that mushy of a mother, though I of course I really love them. It’s just that parenting is hard. I’m not ever going to be one of those parents who say “my child is my greatest teacher” or who says “children are so wise. they have old souls.” I don’t know what kind of children those people are having, but they don’t live here.