Drama Momma

TINY A**HOLE: A SCREENPLAY BY CONNIE PALTROW

FADE IN: Afternoon in a suburban house, tastefully decorated and impeccably clean.

DAUGHTER and SON are standing on a stairway cluttered with the detritus of the school day: a cello, two sweatshirts, six books and a pair of dirty socks.  MOM is off camera, presumably in the kitchen doing dishes.  The kids start to bicker, then:

SON
Hey Mom, Daughter called me an asshole.

ENTER MOM, breathtakingly beautiful.  Although weary from the day, she has Connie Britton hair and a Gwyneth Paltrow body.  Without thinking, Mom casually blurts

MOM
Well, are you being an asshole?

Daughter and Son are shocked to hear their sweet mother use the a-word so brazenly

DAUGHTER and SON (in unison)
Mommmmm, you said –

Mom, sensing this is very very wrong, goes with it anyway

MOM
Don’t blame me.  We have a declaration of asshole.  I’m just the asshole investigator.  Now tell me what happened.

DAUGHTER
We are both going upstairs and I need to take all my stuff up to my room.  Son isn’t carrying anything so I asked him to help me with my stuff.

MOM
Son, is this true?

Son nods defiantly.

MOM
Well Son, I can’t force you to help your sister, but it does make you a tiny asshole if you don’t.  Not a huge one.  But you really should think about helping your sister.  Also, don’t say that word.  It’s vulgar.

EXIT MOM.  Kids continue to bicker in hushed tones.  The only decipherable word repeated throughout the conversation is “asshole.”

ENTER MOM.

MOM
Alright, we’re done with this.  The next person to say “asshole” is grounded.

SON and DAUGHTER (in unison, laughing)
Mom!  You said it!

MOM
Aw, geez.  You’re right.  I did.  Guess I’m grounded.

EXIT MOM with a smug smile on her face, presumably headed to her bedroom.  Sound of door closing.  Kids stare at each other, bewildered.

DAUGHTER
Um, what just happened?

SON
I have no idea.  Here, let me help you get this stuff upstairs.

Fade Out.

THE END

Mother of the Year

Not to brag, but I’ve already received multiple awards for my stellar parenting.

This is due to the fact that my friends generously bestow “mother of the year” accolades to anyone who has spectacularly crashed and burned in this race called motherhood. Consequently, there happens to be a ton of mother of the year awards flying around my group of friends.

If you’ve ever taught a small child your favorite college drinking game in order to entice him to chug Pedialyte when he was sick, welcome to our club. And if you’re the person who invented the explanation that the ice cream man plays music to announce that he’s sold out of treats for the day, you’ve earned a lifetime achievement award.

Somehow, confessing to my friends that I was forced to make PB&J on a defrosted hot dog bun because we ran out of bread that morning helps reinforce a few truths about motherhood: this gig is hard; no one can do it perfectly; and we all need to be on the same team.

I’m lucky enough to be a part of an all-­star team of women who make this role of mom so much easier and so much more fun because of their willingness to laugh at the pandemonium and then ask, “What can I do to help?”

Sometimes help comes in the form of play dates and carpools to ease the logistics of needing to be in several places at once. Other times it’s an invitation to go on a hike or grab a coffee or (let’s be honest) a glass of wine to blow off some steam and perhaps discuss the fact that earlier that day, my son had lovingly referred to me as a “beautiful old lady.”

These are the friends who can collectively -­‐-­‐ at a moment’s notice -­‐-­‐ cobble together a costume for any school event and who will make a special trip to the grocery store to buy saltines and ginger ale when I’m at home comforting a kid with the stomach flu.

I couldn’t do this job without them. But for a while, I tried.

There was a time when I thought I could handle all of it on my own. I had friends, of course, but I only allowed them to see glimpses of my life when the house was clean, the kids were behaving and I was wearing something other than yoga pants.

That meant we didn’t see each other very often because the domestic holy trinity of house, kids and mom all being presentable at the same time never happens. I had made the mistake of assuming that everyone else had their act together and expected me to do the same.

That kind of life is tidy, but it doesn’t ring true. That life is a polite courtesy laugh when what we’re really craving is a raucous belly laugh that brings tears to our eyes, smears our mascara and makes us wish we’d taken our doctor’s advice about doing those daily Kegel exercises.

For me, the real fun didn’t begin until the jokes about mother of the year started to appear. Slowly, I began to let my guard down and share my true self, parenting disasters and all.

There was freedom in admitting that, while in a fit of rage, my daughter yelled that she wished I was nice – like Caillou’s mom.

It seems counterintuitive, but through these friendships, I became both vulnerable and strong at the same time.

The best result of this honesty was the beautiful discovery that the moms who are willing to admit they need help are also the first to offer a hand to others. The women who can laugh at themselves are also the ones who give their peers the benefit of the doubt. They know the challenges we all face and trust we’re doing the best we can.

These “mothers of the year” are my closest friends. I couldn’t ask for a better village to help raise my kids.

And now that I’ve found these moms, I’m holding on tightly. I try to be a good friend, quick to put together a play date and even quicker to organize a happy hour, but I find myself more often in the position of saying thanks, I owe you one.

I know I’ll have a chance to return the favor since I’ll be friends with these women for a long time – because a bond forged while discussing the fact that when clean laundry is in short supply, bathing suit bottoms make a pretty decent substitute for underwear – is a bond that will withstand whatever life and motherhood can throw its way.

The Adventures of Roller Girl and not-Giselle

We were quite a duo as we hiked the hills behind our kids’ elementary school.  My friend, fresh from her visit to a phlebotomist, was accessorizing her running shorts with knee-high white surgical stockings.  Resembling a sexy roller girl from the 70’s, she wore her ugly socks with pride.

After a few sweaty miles, I started suffering from an itchy heat rash across my middle.  “Fuck it,” I said as I folded my shirt into a micro crop top in a desperate attempt to get some fresh air on my misbehaving skin.  I’m 100% certain that the only human on the planet who should legally be allowed to wear a micro crop top is Giselle — and I’m not convinced she’s entirely human.  I looked ridiculous, and sadly couldn’t even muster a redeeming roller girl vibe.

So there we were, Roller Girl and not-Giselle, trudging up the mountain, talking, laughing and reveling in the fact that we’ve reached the age where we truly didn’t care that we looked like we escaped from a facility harboring the criminally unfashionable.  We were women of substance.  (Yeah!)  We were fearless.  (Hell, yeah!) We were standing right in front of a huge gopher snake.  (Oh, shit!)

Admittedly, the thing looked comatose as it stretched across the trail soaking up the sun.  But it was big and it was close and, well, a snake is a snake.

Shrieking, I started doing the jumping, flailing, I-just-almost-stepped-on-a-snake dance.  Believe me when I say not even Giselle could pull off that dance while wearing a homemade crop top.  Roller Girl stopped pointing and laughing just long enough to put an arm around me and walk us waaaay around the snake before we both doubled over, roaring with laughter at the absurdity of it all: the knee socks, the crop top and the jiggly snake dance.

Once I wiped the tears from my cheeks and caught my breath, I commented that between the goofy clothing and uncontrollable laughter, we were not that much different from our daughters – and that made me so happy.

Our daughters are close friends, bonded over a shared love of tether ball, adventure novels and a complete disinterest in the drama that we know is just around the corner in the ‘tween years.  They have fun together, look out for each other and laugh hysterically – just like their moms do when they’re together.  Ages ten and forty turn out to be uncannily similar, with all four of us at the same place of carefree self-assuredness.  The daughters haven’t yet descended into the abyss of self-doubt and mean girls, while their moms have comfortably made it through to the other side.

We continued our hike, talking about our kids and how we wished we could bottle up their plucky attitude for future use.  Keep it behind glass with a “break in case of teenage angst emergency” sign plastered next to it.  But we also know that our girls must navigate the journey on their own and that the heavy lifting of adolescence builds muscle for adulthood – a form of strength training for the soul.  Truth be told, we know these girls will be just fine, eventually reaching the point where they find themselves happily hiking through life’s hills, protecting friends from snakes and confident in their roles of Roller Girl and not-Giselle.