Before any company would arrive, I could always expect the same five words from my mom:
“Be on your best behavior.”
Every time, without fail, before the doorbell would ring, those words flew from her mouth like clockwork. The same stern, yet exhausted tone. The same narrowed eyes. And followed by the same slow sigh. From me, she’d get the same response:
“I always am!”
Another sigh, followed by a roll of eye eyes, and she’d answer the door. It never made a lot of sense to me, because to me, I was a perfectly well-behaved child. That’s what we all think, isn’t it? After the company would leave, my mom always looked defeated, which only confused me farther as these were people she wanted to see (unlike family and in-laws), so shouldn’t she look happy after a lovely visit?
Like most things my mother did and said, I didn’t understand nor appreciate her words or actions until I had children of my own. Leading right up to yesterday.
The most professional photos I get taken of myself are while standing in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disney World, so when my publicist e-mailed me and said that Barnes & Noble needs a friggin’ head shot for a poster they can put on display before the KIDS ARE TURDS book signing, I was flustered. I don’t think me dressed as Ariel will do, nor will the handful of shitty low-light ultra-filtered selfies I’ve taken over the years that serve no purpose other than to hide my wrinkles.
I got a hold of a photographer friend of mine who is always kind enough to help a girl out, and we made plans for her to come over after dinner yesterday. After dinner. Aka, the witching hour. The time after dinner and before bed where kids go completely fucking batshit crazy for absolutely no reason, and I made plans for a photoshoot. This did not occur to me at the time. Mommy brain at its finest.
That night, I hurriedly fed the kids dinner and attempted to get my hair and face in order before she arrived, noticing while scrambling around the house that my house was an absolute disaster area. It’s not normally this bad, but it’s been a crazy week where my focus has been everywhere BUT cleaning and tidying. All the clean laundry and baskets were down in the garage and full of clothes and I didn’t have time or energy to drag that thing up the stairs so I did what any self-respecting housewife would do and I kicked the nasty dirty clothes into a pile at the top of the stairs. Maybe I’ll get lucky and friend won’t notice them! Maybe friend won’t even ask to go upstairs!
And then I turn to the kids. I don’t tell them to be on their best behavior, but I tell them to FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY stay out of the way. It’s awkward enough to have to try to look normal as a 32 year old woman taking senior portrait photos in my back yard, but what would make it worse is you two around me acting a damn fool. So don’t. Knowing this is exactly what they would do. And they did.
Outside me and photog friend went, trying to take “respectable author” photos, and the kids are screaming about the dog shit in the yard. They’re making weird faces behind my friend. They’re trying to photobomb all of the photos. All the while I’m reminding them that I straight up told them to go the hell away. The littlest heathen refuses. I say through the side of my mouth while photos are being snapped “Well, then I hope you fall face first into a pile of dog poop” and he snaps back “Well, I hope YOU step on a Lego!”
Them are fightin’ words. I sent him and his brother inside and they proceeded to cry through the walls of the house for the rest of the photos. And even when we relented and let them take part in a few, and said “Hey, be silly in the background”- this is what happened.
Note, if you will, my “angry mom because I know my kid is using a stick to look like a penis for reasons unknown to me and that’s not at ALL what we said to do damnit!” face.
Really. They can’t just be… good. Penis sticks. Hitting each other with penis sticks. Hitting ME with penis sticks. Good times.
My mom told me and my brother to be on our best behavior knowing we wouldn’t be, but thinking, maybe just once, if she said it out loud, it might stick. I told my kids not to act a fucking fool because I know them SO well that I know it’s the first thing they’re going to do- show off by being as bad as humanly possible the moment another human steps through the door. They’re just like my dirty of laundry. You can push it aside into a nice neat little pile and hope that no one notices, but deep down you KNOW the first thing a guest is gonna wanna do is go upstairs, and no matter what you do, it’s still a nasty stank pile of dirty laundry full of brown bottomed socks and skid-marked crusty ass underwear. Of COURSE the kids are gonna be bad. Of COURSE people are gonna see the dust and the dirty laundry and recycling that desperately needs to be taken out. Life is messy. Kids are messy. Parenthood is messy. That’s never gonna change! Best we can do is hope to make it out relatively unscathed and with a lot of funny memories.
Photos (unedited) courtesy of Jess E Photography
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