The Radar Playbook

Summer.  It’s really here.  I am no longer a mother.  I am The Entertainer.  I feel like Julie the Cruise Director from “The Love Boat” existing only to make everyone’s day fabulous and full of fun and frivolity.

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I exist only to entertain you! Here is a list of your daily activities and fun times…

Milly is an early riser, and, if Grace is manic, then she is as well.  The moment that they hear me stirring as in going into the bathroom to brush my teeth, they hunt me down–“So Mom….”  That’s how these two always begin their grand declarations.  I usually start to feel panic, and my stock response is, “Girls, I have toothpaste in my mouth, and I don’t have a cup of coffee in my hand yet.  Unless someone is bleeding from an orifice or trapped under something heavy, you will not barrage me with your brainstorms yet.”  Someone usually says, “Aaaw man!” while another sighs and “kicks the dirt”.  Then there is giggling and whispering.  I look at them suspiciously while they huddle up and gesticulate like they’re trying to land a plane.  Once I am holding my steaming cup of coffee, one member of the Gruesome Twosome finds me and silkily says, “So Mom, now that you have your coffee….”  I immediately put my hand up to interrupt.  “I have to drink it now.”  That answer renders a sly, plotting expression from one of my daughters and a loud yell, “She’s still drinking her coffee!” Somewhere in the distance I hear a frustrated, “Ugh!”

This is the only moment in the day where I am allowed to just sit peacefully.  Sort of.  It seems that every member of my family has come equipped with radar.  I don’t know if they purchased it on the black market.  I don’t know if this radar secretly comes in toys.  I don’t know  if mothers have been blacklisted from using it or finding its operational instructions so that we might dismantle it, but I know that this radar exists with the same certainty that I know sock ninjas do (It’s the only explanation as to why I currently have 16 unmatched socks, and it’s driving me crazy.  Also, this video offers up proof of the existence of sock ninjas)!

What is this radar? Simply put, every time I sit down or even have a moment alone, my children sense it and seek me out.  They are utterly possessed by a compulsion to put a stop to my sitting, contemplating, relaxing, or even conversing with anyone other than them.  I have taken a survey of other mothers and found that this is a real phenomenon.  The longest we are allowed to sit seems to be 60 seconds before a child appears with a “need”.  This does include the bathroom–one does sit in the bathroom after all.  The shower and bath are also a part of this radar because you are generally alone when you bathe, and you are never allowed to be alone.  Last week, I refereed an argument while taking a shower.  I actually heard myself yelling out, “Can we be done with this now? Can you two be civil now? You interrupted my special naked time!”  Referring to your time in the shower as “special naked time” will most certainly prevent any child from ever bothering you in the shower again.  I have learned this.  It seems that embarrassment is kryptonite to their radar.

Talking on the phone is a particular problem because, for some reason, young children do not like their mothers to talk to anyone other than them.  You will find that young children will come up with the oddest of reasons to interrupt your phone calls.  The standard excuse around here for everything is: “My ears are dirty.”  Doireann implemented that excuse when she was 2 years-old, and I’m convinced that she held a secret meeting with her siblings some time ago in order to coach them on using different strategies from The Radar Playbook.  Subsequently, all of them have used the Dirty Ears excuse for years.

There seems to be a chapter in The Radar Playbook entirely devoted to all male-female interactions.  How many times have I tried to have a meaningful conversation with my husband only to be interrupted by one of my kids? I swear that they are doing it on purpose.  I can’t finish a thought without one of them finding us, offering up some flimsy reason for the interruption–“So Dad, have you ever noticed that the days get longer in the summer?” or “So Mom, have you ever watched paint dry?”, and our forgetting about what we were even talking about.  They stand there staring at us, looking positively goofy, while we stare back looking disgruntled.  “What?” they innocently ask before ambling off.  Forget about sexy rumpus.  Every time you think you might be able to create a mood that could lead to something later a child kills the buzz by rushing into the moment–“Hey guys! I just made my Flarp! fart out the weirdest sound, but Doireann is mad at me because she thinks it’s annoying and loud and Eadaoin told me to stop annoying everyone and Grace wants to use it but I don’t want to share it because it’s mine and that’s not fair because I can use my Flarp! any way I want to because it’s mine and they can leave the room if they don’t wanna hear my Flarp! fart.  That’s fair.  Oh, and Grace is seeing things again.”  I think it’s a clever ruse concocted by my children to prevent adult fun.  They were really just high-fiving each other afterwards because, once again, they had foiled our plans.

Why is it so important that any and all of our plans be interrupted? Why is it even more important that mothers never sit down, relax, or spend time alone? Distraction.  Think about the truly clever nature of this plot.  What sorts of requests do children make when you’re distracted?

  • “So Mom, can I have a sleepover tonight?”
  • “So Mom, can I finger paint now?”
  • “So Mom, can I play with the permanent markers?”
  • “So Mom, I wanna try to make cupcakes all by myself.  Can I?”
  • “So Mom, I know I haven’t done my chores, but my friend just called for a playdate.  Can I still go?”
  • “So Mom, can I borrow $20?”
  • “So Mom, can I skip dinner and eat dessert?”

The requests always seem to walk the line, don’t they? When you’re distracted coupled with tired from never sitting, you’re an easily swindled parent.  You’re not thinking clearly.  You’re multitasking and parallel processing on too many levels so you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to anything.  When you finally get a moment to yourself, you then realize what you’ve done, and your child has one very solid defense–“But Mom, you said I could!” It’s bloody brilliant.

This is why I guard my Morning Coffee Time with such vigor and commitment.  I have time to meditate and get my head on straight for the day before me.  I watch my daughters plot and plan what they hope their day will be like while I prepare myself for the onslaught.  They will activate their radar, pull strategies from the playbook, and I will put up my shields.  There will be numerous requests to be sure.  They will bombard me from the moment I wake up so that by the time the afternoon arrives I am vulnerable to the blitzkrieg.  What will it be? Three sleepovers at once? A new app? A half sleepover with a trip to Coldstone Creamery thrown in? Bubble tea in Uptown? Or, bubble tea in Uptown and a sleepover combined with snacks and a new app? The last request was a pool in the backyard.  Yep.  They wanted a pool.  As if.  Then someone wanted purple hair.  And…and…and…

This is what I know for sure.  My cats are lazy because they haven’t found and killed those sock ninjas, and I need to find where my kids are hiding their copy of The Radar Playbook and burn it.  I’d really like to sit down for longer than 60 seconds, and I’d like to take a shower without being interrupted…and talk on the phone…and talk to my husband…and…

Oh, I’ll find it, and when I do? Mwahahahahahaha!

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