I’m a Hustler Baby, I Just Want You To Know

My ex-husband volunteers at a camp for terminally ill children each summer. He leaves on a Saturday and stays until Thursday and then comes home with free t-shirts and stuffed bears, a renewed sense of satisfaction and a profound gratitude for his own healthy amigas. It is a beautiful thing.

“I just got a call from Summer Day Camp.” He said, plainly, when he called on Monday.

I am shocked, for two reasons. One, terminally ill children’s camp is at a remote location in the wilderness with notoriously shoddy cell service. Two, Summer Day Camp is well aware that the Mama Lady don’t do no work in the summer, a fact they’re quick to point out every morning at drop off with quips like, “All of the other teachers keep their little ones at home in July…” But that’s neither here nor there.

“Oh?” I asked, like I had been deep in the middle of something other than adding recipes to my Pinterest boards.

“The Large Package has been called into the child care coordinator’s office… She made two other girls pee on the floor in the bathroom. She said she had a club and they wanted to be in it and to be in it, you had to pee on the floor.”

I choked, in disbelief, not on Diet Coke (okay, probably on the Diety Cokey), but, strangely, not because the idea of having a bully for a child is shocking to me. I have a bully for a child, just not that particular child. You see, of the two packages in the set, the Larger is relatively sweet-natured and pleasing. Tiny is… Simply put, Tiny is a gangsta: a small, pale pink, blonde-bobbed, Mia Farrow-like gangsta.

Fine, don’t believe me. But that kid she stole a cupcake from at the elementary school fundraiser will tell you, Tiny don’t play. That five year-old she held down in the playground, the one with the rocks shoved up his nose, he’ll tell you, Tiny don’t play. Her cousins will tell you, Tiny don’t play.

And now it seemed, apparently, Biggie didn’t play, either.

“So… How was school today?” I asked her, as we piled into the SUV-my-mother-calls-a-van-but-it’s-not-a-van-I-swear-to-god. “Anything interesting happen?”

The Large Package tends to shut down when confronted with her mistakes. She’ll throw her hands up and start giving out a lot of, “I don’t know” responses.

“Oh, no.” She smiled, throwing her stuff into the floorboard. “Aside from the bathroom thing.”

“What bathroom thing?”

“I know they told you, mom.”

“Told me what?” 

She huffed because she knew I knew and I was pretending that I didn’t. That infuriates her, as she prefers life and people to be transparent and straight forward. She gets that from her father. I like to play mind games. Maybe that’s why God gave me a gangsta.  

“I know they told you that I made up a club and then BLANK and BLANKY DOUBLE NAME BLANK wanted to be in it so I told them that if they wanted to be in it so bad, they had to pee on the floor in the changing room after swim time and they did.”

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone…

“Ooookkkkaaayyyy…. Why peeing on the floor?”

“Because when you make a club you have to make people do something to get in.”

That sounds logical. It also sounded like the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon had some ‘splaining to do. Seriously, y’all. My kids are allowed, like, thirty minutes of TV time a day, if that. We ride bikes, we play outside, we jump on the trampoline, we dress up, we play school, we read books, we bake shit in the Easy Bake Oven… And I leave them alone to get an infinitesimal amount of time to myself and one of the staples of my own youth is responsible for this.

How do I know this? BECAUSE I DIDN’T TEACH HER ANYTHING ABOUT CLUBS AND HAZING. The only club I’ve ever even been in is a teacher union.

BTW- Did anyone else realize they say the word “horny” on the Disney Channel?!

“Don’t you think those people should want to be friends with you because you’re nice and smart and funny?” And not a psychopath?

“Well yeah, that’s why they want to be in my club.”

Duh, embarrassing-old-lady-mom.. It’s much easier to control people when they want to be you. I learned that from Animal Farm. “Would you want to be friends with someone who made you pee on the floor?”

She shook her head.


“I should say sorry.”


“Not be able to use the iPad.”

Thank you, Santa iPad. Thank you for being the most effective parenting tool in the history of parenting tools. I like to make the little apps shake in terror while I delete whatever Free Princess Nonsense I put on for each individual kid… And I like to make them watch it.

“No, mama! Not Prom Night Princesses!” DELETE.

“No, mama! Not Lipstick Makeover 30002!” DELETE.

“Not Mickey Mouse Memory Cards!” DELETE.

Next time, you’ll pick your wet towels up off of the floor in the bathroom. DELETE.

We passed our evening outside. That was the one night it didn’t rain here in the armpit of the South. Screw you, Tropical Depressions.

Two days went by. Two very quiet days. And then…

“We’re home!” The Packages screamed last night, flying through the doors on the heels of their heralded father. “Daddy’s home.”

I hugged my kids. Then I noticed a sweaty wad of dollar bills in my oldest child’s grip. It’s always easy to figure out when she’s got money. She only ever carries it in her hand. She won’t use a pocket or a purse or put it in her bra like a normal person. She leaves it in her palm… For days.  

“Where’d you get that money?” I asked

“BLANKY DOUBLE NAME BLANK gave it to me.” She shrugged.

Her father and I exchanged glances. “Why?” BLANKY DOUBLE NAME BLANK was one of the floor peers.

“I don’t know. She said she just wanted me to have it.”

And then it dawned on me.

I have two daughters, both strong willed and both independent. I have two daughters, both mind-numbingly smart.  

I have two daughters, each strikingly different.

Tiny is a gangsta.

But Biggie? Biggie is a hustler.


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