Parental Peeves


I really appreciate the feedback as it helped to get different perspectives as well as validated my feelings that what is going on is not normal. I couldn’t focus my thoughts enough to write all that went down regarding the mark but I have now even though it seems disappointingly irrelevant at this point.

I saw the mark on Bunny’s bottom, early Saturday evening as he was undressing to take a bath. It was such an unnatural color that at at first I was sure it was paint or marker – that he must have sat in egg dye or something. But when I casually asked him what the mark was, he confusedly looked behind himself and exclaimed he didn’t know, almost as though he hadn’t noticed it before. At that point, I looked closer and realized, it was not, in fact, any sort of paint or marker or dye, it was his skin. Not only was it bright, bright red but it was also warm to the touch, much like a sunburn and it was slightly inflamed, the red part of the skin, rising slightly above the fair part. The difference, though not apparent at first, was actually very distinct, as the mark was precisely rectangular. That’s when I grabbed my camera, under the guise that if he could clearly see the mark, maybe it would help him remember what happened, but even though he gamely agreed, he absolutely could not tell me how he got it.

Understanding that he might be afraid, I told him that I would absolutely not be angry with him no matter what he told me, but that it was important that he share with me how he got hurt so that I could keep it from happening again. Bunny didn’t get upset or angry. On the contrary, he was practically disappointed when he couldn’t remember anything, as though he were letting me down. I tried specifics as well. I asked him if a kid had done it or a grown up; he said neither. I asked him if either his mom or his dad hat hurt him or caused the mark. Again, he said no. I knew he had attended a birthday party earlier in the day and asked him if anyone had hurt him at the party or if he had gone anywhere or done anything that might have caused a mark like that. Again, nothing.

I asked him if it hurt, and he shrugged casually saying it stung a bit. Finally, after spending nearly a half hour gently trying to coerce the information out of him, I gave in. I told him to read a book and that I’d be back to help him into the bath in a few minutes. First I called Dr. D’s hospital, knowing it was a long shot (he’s an ER doc, after all) then I nervously called Winifred. Trying to keep my voice light and airy I asked her if Bunny had gotten hurt at the park during the party. Bewildered she said no, not that she knew of. Why? I explained that I had discovered a mark on his bottom.

“Oh that!” She exclaimed. “Yeah, I saw that. He must have gotten it at the party. It’s weird isn’t it? Almost looks like a burn.” Yep, I agreed. She continued that she’d forgotten to have Dr. D look at it before he left for work that afternoon. Completely unconcerned she thanked me for calling and mentioned that if Bunny wanted, after his bath, I could put some calendula cream on it and that was that.

For the second day in a row, I was shocked by the response from this mother, this social worker and was dismayed that this otherwise very caring and intelligent person could be so completely blasé when confronted with information questioning the very safety of her son.

It freaked me out.

And what do scared 19 year old girls do when they find themselves in crummy, overwhelming situations?
I called my mommy.

Luckily, we live only ten minutes away from Calamitous Casa, so I hurried about, anxiously cleaning the kitchen while Buddha rambled in his highchair, waiting for my mom to come save the day.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when simply her presence could make even the worst of scenarios, bearable, but she did hang out with Bunny and kept him occupied while I dealt with Buddha and the dinner clean up. And after their bath (during which nothing suspicious happened) she read books with him while I put Buddha to bed. She didn’t fix it all, but knowing she was there definitely calmed my nerves. I was having visions of calling CPS and them laughing at me and then getting fired only to be arrested for abuse myself and escaping from jail and having to kidnap the boys and escaping to Mexico. (Which strangely enough, my biggest logistical setback to this fiasco was the fact that neither of their cars easts are in my car.) Once they were both asleep, I thanked her for coming over and asked her to please call the therapist friend to which she gladly agreed.

Now this therapist lady, friend of my mom’s, is pretty cool and I trust her because ever since my soon to be 8 year old cousin Pepper started seeing her a while back, he’s slowly become an actually tolerable human being. I’m telling you, this woman is a miracle worker. Anyhow, my mom is friends with her through church, so she spoke to Miracle Worker Therapist Lady on Sunday and shared with her what I had observed the last couple of days. MWTL agreed that the penis incident was rather unusual and a bit too specific and she shared in my surprised that Winifred, a social worker herself, wasn’t more alarmed by the behavior. She continued that because Bunny didn’t say who or what caused the mark or how he got it, there’s apparently nothing I or CPS can do about it. Even though isolated they are strange, and combined they are rather suspicious, the two incidents alone (or together) are not enough to warrant calling the authorities as there is no concrete evidence to support any theories of abuse. She did say that I should continue to be vigilant of Bunny’s behavior in case anything else does occur to further implicate an abusive situation.

So I was rather disappointed and a bit peeved that everyone else seemed to be playing down what happened and shrugging it off as though I’m some sort of hypochondriac nanny. After Winifred left today, I did casually ask Dr. D if he figured out what had happened to Bunny’s bottom. He distractedly muttered that his conjecture was that Bunny must have sat upon or scraped it against something while at the park, but that it was healing fine … and with that he returned to the elusive land of lucid-only-to-himself-and-his-genius-thoughts bubble world that he is a frequent resident of.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the end of the road at the moment with regards of what I can reasonably do. It sucks, really. I’m stuck in this warped limbo, just waiting. On the one hand, I want to be wrong, I so want to be wrong. I want nothing more to happen, no more touching, no more marks – I want to just be overreacting. And on the other hand, I almost wish something else would happen, that Bunny would exhibit the behavior once more, as it would give me a reason to take action. But as it is, I’ve been gridlocked. I’m playing the waiting game.

Whoever said patience was a virtue needs to be shot – or whatever the pacifist alternative to that is.

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I had one of those days today.  The ones where I just want to go home, get a hug from my mom and curl up in bed and be thankful that unlike other (real) parents, I can go home and detox from the crazy little munchkins that rule my life.

Calling Bunny a handful would be like calling the grand canyon a crevice. If there is one word to describe him, it’s volatile. But no, today I’m not going to get into Bunny’s extensive behavioral issues. No, I’ll save that for when I’m really in need of blogging fodder. Today, there was one main issue that really, well, for lack of a better term, freaked me out.

It was almost time for me to go home and after an excruciatingly long day with the two of them (damn you Easter/Passover!) I was looking forward to collapsing in a heap on my bed. Of course, just when I think that Bunny is really shaping up, he reminds me why it is that I am so thankful for the fact that he has school five days a week now. I was giving Bunny and Buddha a bath this evening, which under normal circumstances would have been a somewhat daunting task anyway. But the fact that Buddha had only napped for 40 minutes this morning was not helping matters. Mostly, however, it was Bunny’s ever increasing hysterics that were beginning to unravel me. Though I had calmly given him a twelve minute warning (and then reminded him again at 5 and 2 minutes respectively) that we would have to collect his toys and head inside, he had adamantly refused to cooperate and instead had insisted on yelling and sprinting wildly through the backyard before finally flinging himself in a small pool of mud that he had previously created with the garden hose. We were already a good twenty minutes off schedule by the time I finally had settled him down enough to be able to go inside and start the bath. Anyway, despite my best efforts at redirection and my reminders that he needed to control himself and settle down, he continued to spiral out of control, only becoming semi-calm for moments at a time – just long enough to fool me into believing that it would stick.

In the immediate minutes following, despite my warnings, threats and directions he pulled Buddha’s hair, took away his bath toys, and poured water on his head. In any other moment, I would have taken him out of the tub and secluded him outside so he could be by himself and calm down, however Winifred had planned on taking the boys out to dinner at five and it was already five after five so I did my best to protect Buddha while simultaneously trying to scrub the mud and grime off of the both of them. So when the incident happened in the tub, I was on my eighth hour at work and frazzled.

“What are you doing?” I asked in my most calm voice possible despite the fact that I wanted to rip him out of the tub and send him outside, mud, water, sand and all.

“I’m putting my penis in Buddha’s bottom.” He informed me in a rather pleased tone. And indeed he was attempting to do just that. Sitting directly behind Buddha he had scooted forward and was tugging at his penis directing it straight towards Buddha’s unsuspecting little heiner crack.

“That is not okay.” I replied in an as matter-of-fact tone as I could muster.
“Bunny, stop.” I instructed him, giving him a moment to acquiesce before continuing.
“That is not alright. You need to keep your penis to yourself.” And with that I put my hand on his shoulder and urged him to the other side of the tub.

Maybe if it had ended there, I wouldn’t have worried, however, less than a minute later, as I was reaching for the shampoo behind me, I caught him, yet again, straddling Buddha while touching his penis to his bottom. Perhaps  too harshly, I  again demanded that he stop immediately and reiterated that he keep his penis to himself.

“Why?” He asked me defiantly while laughing.

Refusing to be baited into one of his classic arguments I simply repeated that he needed to control his behavior and keep his body away from Buddha’s. This is the same mantra I use whenever he is physically aggressive towards Buddha (hitting, kicking, pushing etc.) When he refused to back off, I picked up a fussy, sudsy Buddha and placed him on the opposite end of the tub, instructing Bunny to stand up while I finished rinsing him off.

Finally, after a full blown tantrum during which I had to physically drag a kicking and screaming Bunny out of the tub and out of the bathroom itself, and after I consoled, dried and dressed a cranky Buddha and had buckled him into his car seat, I dashed inside to have a quick word with Winifred while Dr. Doormat was helping Bunny into the car.

I’m not sure what I expected from her, but considering she’s an LCSW, her off-handed reaction was certainly not it. With a nonchalant scoff and a roll of her eyes she explained, unperturbed that some of “the kids at school are playing that game” and that she herself had previously witnessed a similar interaction with one of his friends in the showers after swim class. Flabbergasted I shared with her what I had said to Bunny about keeping his body/penis to himself and she nodded, adding that that was practically verbatim what she had told him earlier. And with that, she brushed me off and hurried out the door.

Maybe I’m completely overreacting. Maybe my radar is too sensitive to these things, but something does not sit right with me about this at all.
Last October we found out that one of my other moonbeams, little Abuelito, had been sexually abused by a young male, teenage sitter and the way it came to his parents’ attention was due to his acting out the molestation with another child.

So perhaps, I’m simply overly cautious  from that experience, but I just have a bad feeling about this.

My father has seven brothers, of which at least two were/are excessively friendly with some of us female nieces. One of my very first memories, albeit fuzzy, dark and faded, is of being an underwear clad four year old exclaiming “no” to my uncle MoFo in response to his behind-grabbing invitation to sit in his lap. I learned very quickly to try and avoid him at all costs. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to deem it abuse, especially as I have no definitive memories of him doing anything more than simply touching inappropriately and making lewd comments, it definitely makes me that much more inclined to want to protect Bunny and Buddha at all costs.

I’ve been pouring through my child development textbook and reading all I can online and haven’t been able to find anything definitive regarding this type of sexual play in children. On the one hand, play acting and exploration are a normal part of a child’s burgeoning sexuality, but the incredibly specific nature of this incident doesn’t feel like ‘normal’ playing to me. It’s not as though I don’t have experience with the sexual explorations of young children. I’ve been witness to preschool boys comparing penises and of young siblings touching themselves or each other in the bath, but I have never seen anything to this extent before and it unsettles me. And what’s worse is Winifred’s off-handed reaction to it all. Up to this point, I haven’t really disagreed (and if I have, I’ve kept it to myself) about any of her parenting choices, but it makes me uncomfortable that we have such drastically different points of view about this.

And again, it’s very likely that I’m overreacting, but I talked to my mom about it today when I got home and asked her to please call a child therapist friend of hers so I can get an unbiased, professional opinion about it. I guess I’d just rather be safe than sorry.

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The only person who spends more time than I do dealing with Winifred and her neuroses, is Dr. Doormat. Granted he willingly entered a legal contract vowing to deal with her til death to they part, while I, thank god, am free to skidaddle whenever I get too fed up. Over the past two plus years that I have been under their employ, we have developed a unique sort of bond. (No, not like that, freaks.) We share a solidarity that is unique to those who simultaneously must live under dictatorial rule. Except for Princess’ mother, Winona, who shared an apartment with Winifred many years ago, there really aren’t any other people who can truly comprehend our daily plight. And so, we have forged a distinct relationship based on the fact that we alone must endure life with under Winifred. We help one another, lending a hand when we can, pitching in, so that neither has to deal with Winifred’s wrath.

Dr. Doormat casually informed me that Winifred would be home within an hour ready to clean the house as he rushed out the door on Tuesday, off-handedly adding that a friend was arriving from the airport later in the day. The arrival of houseguests ranks on Winifred’s top five list of serious stressers. One which instigates a cleaning frenzy worthy of a Clorox commercial. Dr. D then shouted an altogether far too cheerful “good luck!” as he left me with an as of yet, un-napped and clueless Buddha.

“She did quite a number on this place.” He nodded, surveying the now spotless house, upon his return.
“No kidding.” I replied.
“How fortuitous that I had plans.” He grinned.
“Yeah, way to abandon me.” I sulked, displeased.
“Hey, that’s why we pay you the big bucks.” He joked.
“No way. You completely set me up!”
“Oh, totally.”

So much for having my back.

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Leniency with Buddha’s diet varies from day to day. Sometimes Winifred is very specific about what I’m supposed to feed him. Like “sauteed broccoli, cottage cheese, pear and half a banana.” Other times, she’s more permitting and just indicates colors instead of actual foods. Like “he’s had orange. give him green and yellow.” And then sometimes I’m simply told what he’s not allowed to eat, like “bread, banana, apple sauce, pear, strawberries or oatmeal” and I’m left to choose from among any remaining food items. And then other times she spaces completely and I’m left to guess and hope that what I give him isn’t taboo today.

I was recently left with vague instructions indicating that I “push greens.” No, this is not drug lingo, it’s simply Winifred speak for give him green food to eat.

Rummaging through the fridge I decided that avocado on bread was a quick way to get some carbs and some greens into him. He loves bread and he likes avocado, so it worked out. I also fed him some humus as well as a pear. Overall, just an ordinary meal for little Buddha.

Upon her return, I was asked about Buddha’s lunch. I told her (despite the fact that I had written it all down on the list) and was met with disgust for hadn’t she told me to push greens?

Bewildered, I paused for a moment, trying to figure out if I had suddenly developed color blindness or if she simply hadn’t heard me properly.

Neither. Turns out “avocado doesn’t count because it’s a fruit.”

Duh.

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I think Winifred is starting to rub off on me.

It’s a little scary, actually. As if dealing with Bunny’s ever developing neuroses in addition to her finely honed ones wasn’t bad enough, now I have to see them spewing forth from within my own psyche as well.

Everything I do from how I hang up the laundry (not color coordinated) to how I prepare Buddha’s baby food has been rather strictly predetermined.

So I think initially, these little time managing habits started as a way to circumvent her freakishly fastidious moods but now it’s like I have my very own set of bizarre and anal rules that I must live by.

This must stop.

I refuse to turn into her.
The only problem is I don’t know how.

Coming up with these little tricks to complete the tasks has been my coping mechanism for avoiding friction with Winifred and without them, well, I’m afraid of what could happen if I slipped and continually forgot to stuff the diaper covers.
But I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more preoccupied with getting things done at the right time, in the right order, that I’m continually having less and less time to actually spend playing with Buddha. There must be another way.

I’ll be damned if I let her screw with yet another aspect of my life.

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but notes are a big part of my job. Every day, when I get to Calamitous Casa, I look for a note on the kitchen island counter. Very rarely does Winifred forget to write me one. Each note has instructions for me and directions for the day as well as daily “projects” for me to accomplish in, you know, my spare time. And at the end of the day, I am expected to provide a detailed note as well. In addition to the time and duration of his naps, this note needs to document the different set foods that Buddha has eaten and the times at which he ate them, for when she comes home, she likes to know the whats, whens and hows of the day. This also comes in handy for me because she likes to randomly call and check in and when she does, I can quickly find the note in progress and let her know how the day is going. For the most part, I am very good about writing things down as they happen, but, every once in a while, I remember that I’ve let a few hours slip by without jotting down what has gone on and I’ll try to retrace our steps. Lucky for me, though, Winifred generally likes to call when she’s on her way home. This gives me a good 10 – 15 minute window to make sure that messes are cleaned, toys are picked up, diapers are changed and any other tasks are completed before she arrives. This is so that there is nothing off when she comes in, or at least anything attributable to me. On days when Dr. Doormat is at home, in his office, we help each other out. Sometimes she calls and checks in with him first; other times she calls me, but regardless, we like to give each other the heads up regarding her current mood and anxiety level. On days when she’s rushed and stressed, we brace ourselves and hurry to try to limit any fallout. On days whe she’s calmer, we share sighs of relief and continue to hurry, albeit less frantically, to limit the fallout. As with Bunny, dealing with Winifred is a complicated game of risk management and crisis control. One day when I had forgotten to write Bunny’s eating times and was trying to remember exactly when Bunny had chowed his pre-approved, 100% organic, all natural fruit puree, Dr. D faux-chastised me saying,

“Don’t you know? This has to be very precise.” After which we shared a grin and he muttered.

“As if she’ll know the difference.”

The first time I was lenient with what I wrote as his eating times, (She likes him to be fed every two hours.) I felt a little guilty. But then I realized; she won’t know the difference and it doesn’t really matter. Bunny is a healthy, growing boy and whether he ate his mashed bananas at 1:30 or 2:15 really isn’t going to make a difference, to him, at all. It will make a difference for her though. For she is Winifred; head of the household; wearer of the pants; Queen of Calamatious Casa and writer of my paycheck. If she is not happy, nobody is happy. Ultimately my responsibilites are to my children and the things that are in their best interest. If cheating a little can make their lives not quite as hectic and a little less anxiety filled then so be it. Writing the notes has become just a common, daily thing that I do to placate Winifred. All in all, it’s a relatively effortless task and it seems to help Winifred, so whatever. I’m game. I used to think that people who who did this sort of thing were spineless brown-nosers who just didn’t have the tenacity or courage to speak up, but instead resorted to catering to other people’s pointless whims. And to a certain extent, I was right. However, I’ve come to realize that choosing my battles, or more accurately avoiding them, can be just as important. So yeah, I fudge, I sneak, I side-step, I brown-nose, I *gasp* manipulate. Hell, I’ve gotten pretty damn good at it.

I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

Words cannot describe how much I hate it when a certain doctor turns on the radio and makes a racket in the kitchen minutes after I’ve put a congested and cranky baby to sleep, insisting that he’ll sleep through it, knowing full well that if and when said baby does wake up, he will not be the one who has to deal with him.

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