Okay, I got some stuff to say. I warn, you though... It's just bitching. So, if you're not in the mood, better check back another day.
The neighbor is getting on my nerves again. Not the one directly underneath us who gripes about the kids running and jumping at 5pm on a Saturday (WHAT THE FUCK?), the one with whom we're supposed to be friends.
Let me be completely honest and say... We're not really friends. I LOVE them. That's true. But it's mostly in a backscratching sorta way. We help each other a lot. They take Ryan to school in the morning so that he won't have to walk at a snail's pace with Lily and me. I pick their kid up in the afternoon. Some Wednesdays (cuz you'll remember, kids don't go to school on Weds.), I watch their kid (well, I don't really watch her, but I put up with her screaching and tattling because Ryan likes to play with her). Sometimes, when they know I'M overwhelmed, they'll let Ryan go to THEIR house on Wednesdays. Some days, when neither one of them can pick their kid up at school, I pick her up, buy her a snack and bring her home... SOME DAYS, I even help her with her homework. Some weekends, we take her with us (to play, to the park, running around). Sometimes THEY take Ryan. So, there you go. We swap babysitting, sorta. Our kids love one another like siblings, but I feel like we adults are like two pairs of parents-in-law. But the main thing is... We wouldn't really be friends if it weren't for the kids. I definitely appreciate them, as I said, but I don't like to hang out with them socially very often.
Why? Well, if you've been keeping up with this blog much, you'll know (and if not, maybe back up and check a few other months out). Our personalities, interests, beliefs and communication styles just don't mix well (and before you think it's a cultural-linguistic thing, it's not... Sam doesn't like hanging with them, either... in fact, he likes it even less than I). Oh, we'll have them over to eat every now and again. We see each other at the door here and there and cheer each other on superficially in our respective projects and whatnot, but we're not up late going all heart-to-heart or anything. Made that mistake before.
So... You know how on Mondays, I go pick Lily up from school, bring her home, feed her lunch and take her back to school? Well, they do that with their kid, too. I'll be honest and say that I arranged to have Lily's lunch-at-home day be Monday because I knew this fact (about their kid) and wanted to be available to help them out if ever they needed. So, when the dude told me last week that he was going to be busy or out of town or whatever on Monday, I volunteered to walk her to school with my kids, go pick her up at lunch time with Lily and even walk her BACK to school with Lily AND THEN, AS USUAL, pick her up after she and Ryan and Lily are done with their late Monday (they stay at the school for an extra hour on Monday afternoons to get tutoring). He said, THANKS! So, Monday comes, and the chick is surprised to see me at her doorstep.
"Oh, are YOU walking them?"
"Yep. Told him I would."
"GREAT! I'm running late anyway."
"No problem. I'll pick her up when I pick up Lily for lunch."
"No, let's go together. I'll be here, too."
"No, don't worry about it. I'll get them both and save you the trip."
"No, let's walk together. I need to get a few things on the way. Stop by and get me when you head out."
"Don't forget. Stop by and get me."
You can probably tell by my reaction that I did NOT WANT TO DO THIS. Yes, I'm a total bitch. Yes, I know she was trying to be sociable and that she was probably saying it out of thanks and whatnot. But let me let you in on a little secret........ She doesn't like ME either!!!!! When we are alone together (when she's not cutting me off, misunderstanding what I'm saying (um, mostly because she won't stop FUCKING CUTTING ME OFF IN MID SENTENCE), criticizing me, bossing me around, bitching about ALL THE WORK she has to do *eye roll*), we have nothing to say to each other. No, seriously. Like I said, we don't have the same communication styles, personality types or philosophies, so really it's like, even though we are speaking the same language, we're STILL speaking a foreign language. When she asks me to go anywhere with her, we almost always walk in silence. Okay, what's wrong with that? Nothing. But if I'm going to walk in silence, I usually prefer to do it alone. Just who I am. Why walk anywhere together if we're not going to connect? Just because we happen to be going the same way?
Here's the other ironic thing. When we're walking together without the children, I walk fast. The tense conversation (which I force and initiate) is peppered with her panting. Tough shit. Walking to Lily's school is my only real and regular opportunity for excercise (cuz walkin' back AINT and I'll get to that in a minute) and I like to walk briskly. I can tell that just this short walk a couple of times a day has made a difference in my health and fitness and I'm not going to sacrifice it because she wants us to physically go somewhere together (now that I think about it, maybe that's why she doesn't talk.... maybe it's cuz she can't breathe... maybe she oughta consider giving up smoking, then, huh?). The irony part is that once we HAVE the girls with us, I walk VERY, VERRRRRY slowly. Why? Because Lily is 3 and is plagued with the same flat (no, really, F.L.A.T.) feet as I. A walk that normally takes me 7 minutes at a comfortable pace (6 hustling and 5 jogging--how do I know this? I've left my appartment late before *blushes*), takes me 20 with Lily in tow. This is why I drop Ryan off at her house in the morning. Because when Ryan walks to school with Lily and me, he gets all whiny and starts trouble. If Ryan walks to school with their kid, Lily and I can leave at 8am and be at school on time at 8:20 without rushing. So, as we're walking BACK from picking up the girls, the chick and her kid are way ahead of us. This doesn't bother me in the least, as, since I've mentioned, we don't have anything of substance to say to one another. But I guess she feels guilty, so she keeps stopping and turning around and then waiting for us to catch up. The first time we did this little thing, I told her she really doesn't have to wait for us, because I'm not going to spend our whole walk pulling on Lily's arm while she whines about not wanting to walk fast. But, for some reason (courtesy or politeness maybe, which surprises me since so many other times she's not courteous or polite to me at all), she's waiting anyway.
We get near the pharmacy, and she sees on the external clock that it's 12 10. She says, "Oh, I gotta get going. I have a colleague coming over for lunch to work with me and she's supposed to be here by noon."
Relieved, I say, "Great! No problem. Go on. I'll see you later." But then, she realizes that 12 10 is not 12:10 but 12/10... The date (they're backards over yere).
So, she says, "Ooooh, nevermind."
My heart sinks, because I'm really annoyed with feeling obligated to smile every time she turns around and waits for me.
THEN she says, as if we haven't already HAD this fucking conversation, "Yeah, you're right, it really IS an adventure to walk somewhere with Lily. I see now why you drop Ryan off at our place."
Now, not only am I annoyed, I'm defensive, so my return smile to her laughter isn't a genuine one.
THEN, when we get back to the building, we spot her colleague in the lobby. At that point, I'm "just a neighbor." So, now I feel snubbed.
I wouldn't CARE. Trust me, I'd forever and a thousand times rather walk to and from school ALONE (well, not alone, just without her... I don't even mind when it's just her kid walking with me). But since she's insisted we walk together now, I'm open to get my ego punched. WHATEVER.
Oh, there's more.....
So, their older kid is my babysitter. She's smart. Responsible. She speaks to the kids with authority when it comes to settling down and not getting crazy and not making a mess. BUT, she also doesn't just plop her teenage ass on my couch and let the kids fend for themselves. She actually PLAYS with them. Like, whenever she comes over, she feeds them dinner and then says, "Okay, I'm the cashier and you're the customer, okay?" or whatever. I've seen it. It's awesome.
And the other night, as I was helping her with her English homework, she says, "Hey, I'm free on Friday to watch the kids if you and Sam want to go out."
Well, it just so happened that Flavia and Gilles had invited us over for dinner. It was our first time going to their place and our first time going to ANYONE'S apartment without the kids. It was also going to be on the other side of town.
The thing is... Friday is pool night for all of the kids. Even the babysitter. She's on the swim team. And I guess, so is one of her friends who lives nearby. ANYWAY, on Friday afternoon, when I was talking to the mother, I said, "So, can she still babysit tonight." The mom hadn't heard anything about it. She said, "But it shouldn't be a problem. I'll pick the kids up from the pool, take them to X's house (a friend) and they can play with her kids. The Babysitter can come straight to your place with The Babysitter's Friend to watch your girls until Ryan and my kid come home with me." (confused? sorry.)
Now, here's where I start twitching. I like the babysitter. I trust her. I know her. She lives downstairs. But this other girl? Well, I DON'T know her and therefore won't trust her with my kids right off (have I mentioned I have a really troubled past with my OWN babysitters abusing me?). AND I know how teenagers are. One on her own is fine, but TWO together can get into trouble. I did it. And so did you. You know you were more responsible when you were alone than if you had someone to egg you on.
What made this worse is that when I told Sam, he said, "Oh... isn't that friend the slutty one?" Now, to be fair, I myself was "the slutty one." So, this isn't about being judgmental. It's about remember how screwed up I was and irresponsible.
Sam, right away, didn't feel right about leaving our kids with the two girls ESPECIALLY if the neighbor adults weren't going to be home (they were going to be a the babysitter's friend's parents' house... again, sorry for the confusion)... ESPECIALLY since we were going to be going a little further away (we usually only go to the movies, a five minute walk, but this time we were going to be a good 15 minute drive away).
Sam decided he wasn't going. He would stay with the kids and let me go by myself to my friends' house. I was mad, but he was adamant. I said, "okay, I'm going to give her the excuse that you don't feel comfy leaving the kids alone with a teenager and going that far away if there aren't going to be any of us four adults in the building."
And that's what I did.
Her answer? "Well, we're only going to be five minutes away."
*sigh* She trumped my hand.
So, I said, "Oh yeah. I forgot they lived so close. Okay, nevermind then, since you'll be available in case of emergency."
It all worked out fine. The Babysitter came (ALONE, thank you), fed and watched the kids and put them to bed while Sam and I went out and had a GREAT night at F and G's place.
Flash forward to later Monday night... I go to pick up all of the kids. I get Lily first, of course, because Ryan's tutoring always seems to run late. When I get to the front of Ryan's school, the neighbor chick is standing there, smoking, waiting for her kid (who, again, I thought I was picking up). For some reason, seeing her smoke freaks Lily out, so Lily sort of avoids her until the cigarette is gone. *shrug* As usual, the kids' thing runs late. So, now, she starts talking to me. Asks me if I want a ride since she has the car. I don't but I say okay. She says it's cold, she's cold, she can't seem to warm up. But I'm standing there sweating, as I do.
She says, "The Babysitter was really hurt the other night when I told her that you weren't going to let her babysit. She was worried that you didn't like her any more. That you didn't trust her. That you didn't think she was old or responsible enough to watch the kids without the adults in the building. I told her it was more about Sam than you, but she was sort of disappointed anyway."
I decided to come clean, because I don't want this Babysitter to think I don't trust her. I absolutely do. So, I say, "Well, to be completely honest, it was more about the Babysitter's Friend. We don't know her. Plus, one teenager is fine, but more than one can potentially be cause for concern. I mean, sure, we were worried about being farther away than usual, but then you reminded me that you'd be close."
Her mouth fell open. "No, no, no. My daughter is not easily distracted from her responsibilities. Oh, no. When she's in charge of something or is responsible for something, she is not easily distracted. Plus, the two of them (babysitter and her friend) often watch the two younger girls (other daughter and babysitter's friend's little sister). We leave them with the older girls all the time when we adults go out together."
Now, I feel like I've insulted the Babysitter even more. But this whole thing is NOT about the goddamn babysitter... it's about the "slutty" friend. So, I say, "Look, it's not about the Babysitter. It's about the friend. We don't know her, okay?"
"But she's responsible, too."
"That may be. But we.don't.know.her." And this I say with emphasis. Let me inject here, that usually when we're talking, I'm so uncomfortable that I slip into my uber-accomodating, smiling persona... I nod my head and smile a lot. I hold my tongue when I disagree with her because I know it won't do any good and that she'd probably just CUT ME THE FUCK OFF anyway if I tried to dispute her, so I don't usually try. But THIS time, I wanted her to understand that this had nothing to do with me being some quirky American blond woman who stays home eating bon bons all day. This had to do with a mother protecting her young, no matter HOW the fucking neighbor lady felt about it. So, I reiterate, "I have a long history of babysitters in my life. Bad ones. Abusive ones. So, I don't let just anyone babysit my kids. And Sam? These kids are his life. It's all he does. Go to work, come home and be with his kids. He has no hobbies, he has no friends. He only has his kids. So, both of us are protective--for different reasons--but still valid ones. We LOVE and trust the Babysitter. But we were not comfortable with the friend being there because we just.don't.know.her."
At this point, she looks like I've punched her in the face. She's hurt. Maybe because the Babysitter's Friend is HER (neighbor lady's) best friend's DAUGHTER. And maybe neighbor lady feels like her friend's daughter is like a daughter or neice to her. Either way, I don't give a fuck and I'm not going to apologize for my decision. I'm also not going to continue to justify it or defend it. I'm not HER child, I am an EQUAL for crying out loud, even if I do spend most of my time smiling and nodding so she won't talk to me.
So, to get her to shut the hell up, I call Sam and say, "Hey... Ryan's still not out of his tutoring yet. He's like 15 minutes late now."
Sam says, "I'm right behind you." And he is. I turn around and he's there on his bike with Lolo on the back. Just then, Ryan and the neighbor kid come out and squeal and play with the girls. Ryan has forgotten his jacket so I tell him to go back in and get it. I'm thinking, hoping, crossing my fingers that since I know Ryan will take for-freakin'-ever to get his jacket, that the neighbor lady will just leave without me. And she does.
"So, do you want me to wait and give you a ride home?"
"Nah! Thanks anyway. We'll just walk."
And we do. And I hold my children's hands all the way home as if I'm never going to see them again. Because in this land where my relationship with my neighbor-friends is so wishy-washy and complicated, my children have become my friends. I don't know why, but I feel like they're on my side. LOL. I know they probably wouldn't be if they had a choice. I'm not a very cool mom. I yell a lot and I say NO a lot and I make them behave themselves at the table and make their beds in the morning and NOT play with their private parts in public, so I'm not really their friend in that way. But holding their hands, I feel comforted. Relieved. And so glad to be alone with them and to NOT be sitting uncomfortably in her car.
Right here's where I could tell you how the night only got worse. How the tension of that encounter added to the fact that while I spent an hour and a half making dinner, Sam did NOT help Ryan with his homework and then while I'm trying to help Ryan with his homework, Sam tells me he's going to the movies, meanwhile Lily is ALONE in the goddamn bathtub YELLING out "Papaaaaaaaaaa" and I throw a crazy fit (complete with throwing things) and tell him he better not EVER AGAIN leave my 3 year old in a bathtub full of water EVER again, and does he understand me? I could tell you how I sat in the kitchen in the dark wondering how the hell I could be so goddamn crazy as to want to have ANOTHER child with him when it only means that I'll be essentially doing even MORE by myself. I could tell you that I thought up ways to NOT come back from NC/VA. I could tell you I thought about divorce.
But it wouldn't matter because it blew over. I pulled it back together. Oh sure as shit, everything I thought and felt is still valid. It's just that, on the days when I don't have the neighbor terrorizing me, I'm usually strong enough to hold things together. Oh sure, I still tell myself every.single.day. that as soon as these children are old enough to truly fend for themselves (I'm talking college) that Mama's ass is going to be on a plane to somewhere FAR away from Papa. I'm joining the damn Peace Corps (and hoping I'll find some damn peace). I need to be around adults who understand me. Who don't spend all their time thinking about themselves, money, sports and how to "get theirs." People who don't sigh and pout over every little measly thing!!!! People who fold their own shorts. Who offer and LIKE to help out in the preparation of meals. Who take pride in doing everything they do--even the smallest thing--to the BEST of their ability just because it's the right fucking thing to do. I'm going to find those people and grow old with them when my kids are all grown and gone. If I live through it.
There you go... if this post hasn't made you wanna shoot yourself... well... good!
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