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Why hearing nice things about my kids irks me

Erin Zammett Ruddy

On Saturday, my little sister got married. It was, in a word, spectacular. Alex and Nora were the ring bearer and flower girl and they did a great job. I was very proud (and relieved—I am not one of those people who thinks it’s just as cute when the kids chicken out). Throughout the reception, people kept coming up to Nick and me saying how cute/sweet/funny/smart/special our kids are. It was really nice to hear. But it also got frustrating. Here’s why:

First, let me say that I agree that my kids are many wonderful things. Nick and I often sit around and marvel at how freakin’ awesome Alex and Nora are. But just as often we sit around marveling at how freakin’ awful they can be. So by the 85th time I heard that Alex was such a gentleman or that Nora was so docile, I wanted to say, “thank you, that is so nice, but honestly? They are really %@$^@ bad most of the time.” Especially lately. Even putting on a shoe—a shoe!—can turn into a 20-minute ordeal involving temper tantrums, tears and timeouts.

Am I complaining? No. By now we’ve established how lucky and grateful and blessed I know I am to have these two particular little creatures. And, yes, kids are kids. I just think that my kids are particularly kid-like these days. Anyone who has spent time behind the scenes at my house (or in the car/grocery store/airport with us) can attest to this. So as I was hearing all the nice things about my children, this is what was flashing through my head:

Nora running full speed into the kitchen of the burrito place last week when I put her down for five seconds so I could pay and then Alex “accidentally” dumping the salsa on the floor while I was peeling Nora away from the shocked cooks. Nora drawing on the blinds in our kitchen literally eight minutes after Nick put them up. Alex telling me he loves his Dad more than me because I turned off the TV. Nora putting her newly-washed head down onto an egg yolk-filled plate while laughing maniacally. Alex walking up to me and kicking me in the shins because I turned off the TV. Nora bursting into hysterics when Alex takes her stuffed dog away. Alex bursting into hysterics when I make him give it back. Nora dumping an entire cup full of bath water out of the tub. Alex laughing so she does it again. Alex and Nora body slamming each other most hours of most days. Nora shouting, “that’s foopid, mom” about every item I put into my cart at the grocery story. Alex, who’s really into sounding out words, saying “hey mom, fa fa five sounds just like fa fa f*ck.”

And then, as if to put the icing on the wedding cake (which was amazing, btw), there was the hour and half ride home from the wedding festivities on Sunday. We planned it at the kids’ naptime, thinking we’d all get some quiet time. I even had a yellow legal pad out to make a list for Thanksgiving (which I’m hosting). But they fought/whined/cried the entire ride home. I was sitting in the backseat with them (along with my poor friend, Erin) so I was close enough to regulate but it didn’t help. I tried reading books, I tried singing songs, I tried I Spy. Each activity gave us a small reprieve but we quickly found ourselves back on the highway to hell. Alex is in a phase where he has to be talking or making weird/annoying noises at all times. No silence, ever. Nora is in a phase where she likes to be bossy and very dramatic “Roll my window down, dad, yight now!” And then five minutes later when we’d put it up, she’d burst into uncontrollable sobs. The open window led to the climax of the trip, when Nora heaved One Fish Two Fish out the window at 70 mph and we watched Dr. Seuss’s clever words and pictures fly into the air. This shut everyone up for a few minutes, but then we were back to Alex pulling Nora’s hair and Nora crying, then shouting, “Do it again, Ali!”

So, yes, I do have great kids. They are smart and friendly and funny and sweet. I will be so thankful for that on Thursday. But I just wanted to set the record straight here today that they are also a major handful and a half. Actually, make that two full handfuls. Each. I should also say that I am thrilled my children chose to display the best parts of who they are for the 150 wedding guests rather than showcasing only the bad stuff (which is what happens on airplanes, when I am the one saying "but they're really good kids, I swear!"). Yet another thing to be thankful for.

Happy Honeymoon, Meg and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!