I'm down with OPK (yeah, you know me).
By Kelley Cunningham
By Kelley Cunningham Cousineau
How I wound up as the stay-at-home mom of three kids is still a wonder to me. Thatís what I get for having too much Merlot, an active imagination and Last of the Mohicans on video. Itís a slippery slope from ďOh what the hell, Hawkeye, letís go for itĒ to ďGoddammit how many times do I have to ask you to put your shoes on? Weíre late for school again!Ē
However we stumble upon parenthood, weíre all a little shell-shocked by the sheer magnitude of the task weíve taken on. We all know parenthood is full of surprises. Among the many surprises for me is how much I have to deal with Other Peopleís Kids (from here on referred to as OPK).
Somehow when youíre carrying home that newborn bundle wrapped in a white flannel with blue and pink stripes you pinched from the hospital, you donít see yourself six years down the road yelling at someone elseís kid to stop them from running into the street.
No one tells you that you will be wiping OPKsí heinies, blowing OPKsí snotty noses, and using your teeth to undo hopelessly knotted shoelaces in OPKís sneakers.
Iím always in awe when I hear people talk about how much they love OPK. ďOh, I just had to be a teacher because I just LOVE working with kids.Ē I admire these people like I admire people who donít curse or have completed an Iron Man Triathalon. Iím glad these people exist as an inspiration to us, but I sure as hell ainít one of them. A womanís got to know her limitations.
The older your kids get the more you have to deal with OPK. The preschool playdates will evolve into an awkward interruption of a fumbling pre-teen make-out session with some pimply-faced skank on the moldy basement couch.
Like all parents, I have my share of OPK war stories. I remember the time my four-year-old had a friend from preschool over for a playdate. This kid is already on my nerves on the car ride home because he doesnít just talk, HE TALKS LIKE OWEN MEANY ALL THE TIME. Heís holding his nose the whole way because he says my car stinks.
Three hours later, after refusing what I made for lunch and spilling it, pissing himself twice and crying because my son wouldnít play with him (good for you, my boy) I was never so happy to see a kid go home as I was that day.
These are the playdates where the other kidís mom is sure to ask, ďso how did it go?Ē And you have to lie like a rug.
Then there comes the moment when your child is getting terrorized at the playground (which has always been a field-study in natural selection on the best days) by a kid whoís obviously been raised by wolves and most likely does not have opposable thumbs.
You look around for the parent/caregiver/nanny/alpha dog to notice the situation and correct it. And thereís no one. So what do you do? How far can you go? Are you limited to dirty looks or can you whip out the wooden spoon?
This is a situation where I defer to Darwin. My eyes narrow, the fur on the back of my neck stands up and itís survival of the fittest all the way. And guess what, kid. Iím still bigger than you. Iím higher up on the food chain. So stay away from my cub or youíre going down faster than a sick wildebeest on Wild Kingdom.
Donít be shocked. Youíve been there. Itís instinctive. Wait until the next time some little mongoose wonít give your kid a turn on the swings. You take him aside and whisper in his ear: ĎGive up the swing or Iíll hang you by your ankles on the safely-padded, brightly-colored plastic monkey barsí.
But having said all this about OPK, I know Iím setting myself up for a fall. Any mother knows the second you say to yourself Ďmy kid may be rotten, but at least he doesnít pick his nose and eat ití you have instantly awakened the Parenting Gods. Soon, probably this very afternoon, your darling child will exhibit the exact behavior you found deplorable in OPK. The Parenting Gods donít like moms who gloat or compare.
So I beg forgiveness from the Gods by stating that I know my kids are OPK to everyone else. I think the key here is awareness of that fact. We all have to accept that our own kids can seem at times, well, downright annoying to everyone else. Iíve accepted this about my darlings and it is a freeing feeling. Hey, Iíve done my best, but my shoddy parenting skills are as obvious as everyone elseís.
So please feel free to tell my kid to stop pestering your toddler and to share the toys. Hey, if my kid is acting like a creep I want him to stop. I donít care who tells him to stop. In fact, heís probably more likely to listen to someone else anyway.
But some moms get snippy and territorial. ďIíll discipline my own child, thank you very muchĒ. Yeah, whatever, lady, but now might be a good time for you to start, because as we debate this issue the fruit of your loins is kicking my child in the head.
I mean, does it or does it not take a village? Letís pick one and go with it. I just wish I didnít live in the same village as that kid who thinks my car stinks.
Need more Kelley? A hefty collection of her great essays, What's the Matter With Mommy?, is now available on Amazon.com.
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