Saturday was not a good mommy moment for me. Another #mommyfail to add to my long lists of #mommyfails.
So this past Saturday after my husband leaves for work (yes on a Saturday! But we wont get into that in this post) I decide to take kids for a donut run.
Donuts + kids = happy times. Right? WRONG! Donut + kids = Disaster waiting to happen.
Let me set it up for you
(main character tip: you must get the reader to sympathize with your Main Character so they care about the story and stick with them even when they do things the reader may not like)
(Backstory tip - don't do it unless it is critical to the story - This is so it's appropriate)
Here's mine - My kids have been out of camp for a couple weeks. After an exhausting week at LA, my dad having major spinal surgery, and my daughter being out of camp the same week. We spent the week at the hospital and American Girl getting her ready for school. Then when she went back last week, my son was out ALLLLLLL last week. Meanwhile, I am fighting a nasty cold and my hubby had visiting clients, therefore was forced to work long hours. All of this = NO REPRIEVE.
Needless to say, after the intellectual drain of LA SCBWI, the emotional drain of watching my dad, the financial strain of American Girl store, I was weak. Tired. Tapped. And over the week, I started to feel like my kids were slowing chipping away at my mommy armor, complaint by complaint, need by need, want by want. My invisible force field was weakening.
Mommy Offense #1 - Lacking in necessary equipment
(creating conflict tip - its important to provide the conflict up front so the reader is pulled into caring how the conflict is resolved. )
For the record, I do not have the latest model in the huge line of Mommy Force Fields. I have a very (VERY) old model that has been banged on, torn at, and picked at for about 6 years. So there are hairline cracks, fractures, holes and yes! it is totally MY fault that I have not upgraded to the newest and latest model. (or is it my husband's for not buying it for Mothers Day instead of seeds for the garden. Again, a whole other post.)
I have seen some woman who have been blessed with the upgraded model. I envy the capabilities: The always look cute and pulled together button, The everyday shower lever, the 24/7 smile-no-matter-what- feature, The nothing-cracks-me bonus addition, the one that comes with "100% patience guarantee" and the "lifetime guarantee". The one that promises to lasts for over 5,000 meltdowns while doing a million chores or you get your money back (and probably even a makeover!)
Of what model do I speak of? The MFF 5000 (Mommy ForceField 5000)
Unfortunately, I was suckered into leasing the one that was on clearance a few years ago b/c I could not afford an upgraded one. I got the used model. With previous owners. The one with no frills. No special tricks. The mainframe of Force Fields.
The FF100. (in case you don't know the 100 is the number of meltdowns covered. The number I go through in - oh lets say - a month?)
You see where I am going. (Are you sympathizing with me - The MC - yet?)
Offense #2 - Giving 6 and 3 year old Choices they are clearly not equipped to handle
Yes, for some reason, I have it in my head that kids deserve to make their own choices (damn you Dr Sears!) I made the critical mistake of asking 2 innocent children the age old question that still causes controversy in some adults:
Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme?
character arc tip - It is important to show some kind of emotional growth in your character over the course of your book. They must have learned something from the conflict.
My lesson? I've realized that I give my kids waaaaaaaay to many choices in life. My 6 year old and 3 year old have somehow gotten it in their mind that since I let them choose which plate they wanted or which Dora episode to watch, that they now are in charge of telling me how to drive, suggesting (demanding) ways for me to spend my money, and implementing new rules in the house around bath/bed time without parental consent.
Scene of the Crime
rising action tip - It is the events leading up to the Climax. Confused - Just read on and you'll get a good example.
DISCLAIMER: BEWARE THIS IS A REENACTMENT THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE - ESPECIALLY FOR THE MOMS WHO PROUDLY OWN THE MFF 5000.
Setting: In the car, songs playing, all of us singing along with Elmo
setting tip - its important to set the stage so your reader feels as if they are there. As if they are experiencing everything the MC is - the car, the kids, the donuts.
Me (hereby known as Defendant): "Ok Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme?"
Daughter, Age 6 (hereby known as Perpetrator #1) - "Dunkin Donuts"
Son, Age 3 (hereby known as Perpetrator #2) yells "Kwispe Kweme"
Defendant: "Well, do you want little round donuts or big ones."
Setting: Mom drives to Dunkin Donuts. Reasoning: b/c its closer, has small AND large donuts as well as big coffees. Family pulls into DD.
dialogue tip - it is important that you create real characters and dialogue that the reader feels is real including the appropriate dialect and word choice.
Perp2: "I don't want dis pwace (he's 3). I want da pwace where donuts go like dis" as he mimicks the big donut machine with his hands. (I know cute right? Lets see how CUTE he is later)
Defendant -" This is our only option . Other place is closed." (misdemeanor: lying in hopes of avoiding meltdown from perp2)
Perp1 cheers with hands in the air - "Yay Dunkin Donuts!" (Again, don't her deceive you either.)
Setting: Inside at counter with poor lady serving donuts to loud family before 7 am.
Defendant: "A dozen donuts please. (proceeds to call out the 12 donuts. Lady fills in 5 of them .Defendant turns to Perp #1). What donut do you want sweetie?"
Perp #1:" I dont want a big donut now. I want a small donut."
Defendant: "You said you wanted a big donut. Are you sure you want small ones now? B/c once I get them, you can't change your mind."
Perp #1: "yes."
Defendant gets big donut.
Perp#2: "no, I want a big donut."
Defendant (starts sweating) -"Wait, I thought you wanted SMALL donuts. (turns to lady frowning at counter). "OK so instead of 12 donuts, knock me down to 6 and add 25 munkins."
Perp #2: (says "I want big donut" over and over and over and over and over again in my ear.)
Defendant pats his little head: "shhhh, I heard you. I got you a big donut."
Perp #1 - "How many little donuts do i get to eat?"
Defendant - "I don't know, probably about 5?"
Perp #1 raises voice: "5! that's it?Well then I want a big donut instead."
Perp #2 yells at sister - "No! you get small donuts. Me get big donuts!"
Defendant grits teeth as lady hands over 6 donuts and munchkins. Defendant grabs bags and whispers to Perps with "THE LOOK" on her face. "Both of you stop it now or you will get NO donuts." Defendant turns to frowning donut lady. "Can I also get a iced hazelnut coffee?"
Perp #2 - "No, I want an iced coffee."
Defendant - "You cant have coffee."
Perp #2 - "I never get anyfing."
Perp #1 teases Perp #2. "Yes you do. You got apple juice this morning."
Perp #1 hits Perp #2. kids proceed to argue....LOUDLY.
Defendant speaks through gritted teeth. "Both of you better stop it and get in the car. NOW!" Defendant smiles at frowning lady and the long, long line of frowning people that have gathered impatiently waiting for donuts. "Sorry."
Both Perps continue to argue all the way to the car.
Setting: Inside car, which is a SUV but now suddenly feels like a really, really smallish compact car - with no air or room to breathe.
Defendant does deep breaths and blasts high air conditioner to cool off from sweating. Uses happy voice. "Does anyone want a small donut for the ride home?"
Perp #2 starts to cry. "But I wanted a BIG donut"
Defendant breathes again.: "You'll get a big one when you get home. But do you want a small one now?"
Perp #2 "No! Only big one!" This dialogue exchange repeats a few times.
Finally, after almost hitting a car and running over a woman, frazzled Defendant ignores Perp #2 and speaks to Perp #1 "What about you honey, do you want one of your small donuts?"
Perp #1 "Is it 1 of my 5?"
Perp #1 "Never mind, I want a big donut."
Defendant: "I told you if you chose small donuts, you'd have to live with your decision. I did not get you a big one."
Perp#1: Can I have your big donut and 2 small ones?"
Defendant starts to lose grip on reality. "No!"
Perp #2: Still crying. Only its getting louder.
Perp #1: starts crying too.
Pause for commentary.
OK so this all was much, much worse than this reenactment suggests but my fingers are getting tired of doing dialogue and my heart is starting to pump as I relive the trauma of that morning.
Anyway, you get the point.
So after days of exhaustion, sickness, hospital visits, no husband back up, and being beaten down by my little devils...I mean kids....I lose it in the car. Yelling at them. At. The. Top. Of. My. Lungs. (Now, I admit I do bark/yelp occasionally. But ever since Dr Phil said "Raising your kids does not mean raising your voice." I try hard not to yell....too much.)
Now, I know you all are saying "Thats OK. Every mom loses it sometimes."
But I'm here to tell you that, I REALLY LOST IT. I went from 0 - 100 in less than 5 seconds. To be honest, I don't even know where it came from. My kids are usually pretty good kids and Ive had days where they've done worse than this before I've simply hollered calmly or yelped loudly. But for some reason, this was the day, my FF100 decided to breakdown and meltdown with no battery backup. My FF100 shortcircuited for about 30 seconds. But enough time to do some damage.
Not only was my throat sore the rest of the day, casing me to be slightly hoarse (AKA a battle scar) I think I might have even spit on the windshield. I yelled at my kids sharing some of the following points of brilliance you can only get from a mom:
"do you know how many kids in Africa want donuts?"
"how can you be fighting over donut size? A donut is a donut."
There were also some mumbles about "how I do everything for them" and "how come they cant appreciate it when they get something" and "why cant we just get along".
Then I turned up the radio loud - so loud - loud enough to drown out the crying. I think I even blew out a speaker and I'm pretty sure Ill never want to hear California girls again. (I know bad right? I'm not proud of it I just couldn't take it anymore.)
As soon we get home, i practically fall out of the car, drop my coffee, and watch MY donut roll down the hill. Now I can't even be an Emotional Eater!? I stomp into the house with crying kids behind me (feeling like a complete failure and total loser, hungry with no caffeine in sight) and sentence my criminals for their offenses.
Sentence: No donuts for 24 hrs, Solitary room confinement of 1 hour, total silence required until otherwise notified.
Both Perps are paddywagoned into their rooms. Doors slam. Crying conmenses. I go to my office and you got it - start crying. I call my husband who after listening patiently to my rant about ungrateful and spoiled kids calmly says "Honey, I don't blame you. I think you should talk to them but don't let them see you crack or they'll miss the whole point." Then I call my mom crying and tell her I'm sorry for all the times i complained about donuts (b/c I think I remember some. Or was it about cheese???). I try to call my best friend and my brother. But they are wise in not picking up. After I cool down (and sneak a few small donuts!), I go into each room with my strong, prepared "noncracking" speech.
"I am very dissappointed in how you two acted at the donut place and I'm also dissappointed in myself for yelling. I'm sorry for yelling. (Defendant starts to tear up and voice starts to shake.) Having a choice is a priviledge that you 2 no longer have that right today. You will listen to everything I say without a peep. If you argue, additional jail time will be required. If you groan, manual labor will be in order. And if you balk, lives may be lost. For now, you may come out of solitary confinement and play in your jails together until I am ready. If you are good and don't argue with each other, I will let you out on parole for "good behavior" and LET you accompany me to the bookstore. Where we will buy nothing - no toys, no food, no books. Today, you may do nothing but eat and breathe. Please nod if you understand the terms of which you are being granted."
2 slow nods and many apologies and hugs/kisses.
The rest of the day, they were angels.
When my husband gets home, he asks the kids. "I heard mommy got mad this morning."
Daughter: "Mommy lost it b/c we were fighting over donuts."
Me: "On a scale of 1-10 - how bad did I lose it?"
Conclusion: I have already contributed 150$ to each of their therapy punch cards so that someday they can afford to discuss THE DONUT EPISODE with a licensed professional.
Oh yeah, and next time i get donuts, I go in alone.