CPS stands for Child Protective Services, for those of you who don’t know, and represents the goodly authority that monitors whether children are being abused, promptly removing them from the homestead if abuse has taken place. Although after seventy-two hours ALONE with my kids on Labor Day weekend, I needed Parental Protective Services, if there were such a thing. Halfway through the weekend, as they destroyed everything I have ever held dear with their incessant eating, complaining, screaming, fighting, rearranging, mess-making, throwing shit and general ingratitude, I started to wonder how I was going to get this waking nightmare to end. As a white woman living in Malibu, what do I have to do to get my kids taken away from me?
It started on Friday night at the Malibu chili cook-off, a so-called “fun” event, where children go on legitimately dangerous carnival rides (how safe can something be that came in pieces on the back of a truck and was assembled in half an hour?) and parents walk around the dusty environs between rides shelling out thirteen dollars for a sausage in soggy bread. Friday night is ‘locals’ night, though they don’t check ID or anything, so probably not everyone there is from Malibu (one day soon we shall all be micro-chipped so we don’t have to deal with the hoi polloi…) While it was great to see a thousand people I knew in one setting, it was also just a tad overwhelming. As the screams filled the air, and the dusk turned into night, my good friend turned to me and said, “Do you ever feel like there’s going to be a murder?”
Why yes, yes I do.
Sure the event was fun, for the kids on the rides, and the adults congregating in the wine tent. But I don’t drink, so I had to make do with the “whine” tent. One of my kids approached me crying because he hadn’t been able to find me for a half hour. He was with his friends. He was supposed to be having fun. I actually got a second to catch up with an old friend. “LEAVE ME ALONE,” I wanted to yell at him, but instead made do with emptying out wood chips from the inside of my shoe. Then I bought him a four-dollar soft serve ice cream cone, tricking a friend into watching them for a minute so I could duck behind a truck selling hemp clothing to vape some nicotine, and ponder the utter uselessness of humanity in general and carnivals in particular. On the way home, a hundred bucks lighter and with the sights and sounds of revelry still playing havoc with my synapses, the other kid chimed in with the complaint, “My favorite ride from last year is gone.”
“So is mine,” I thought, but instead feigned empathy. “Oh, I’m sorry honey.”
There’s going to be a murder.
Saturday morning saw me fighting through an hour and a half of traffic to travel twenty miles, to an adjacent high school to watch my kids play tackle football. The ex had transported them there (thank G-d) but in the interim, traffic had formed a metal barricade between me and watching my kids’ team get pounded 25 to nothing. I also had two hours of pee accumulated by then, so when I arrived and the speakers started blaring “We built this city on rock and roll…” into the hundred degree heat, I was less than thrilled. I don’t like that song at the best of times, and besides that, don’t they know I have sensory issues? You cannot blare loud music at people that they didn’t ask for, and the same goes for news, local or national, or advertising; that shit should be against the law and punishable by death, or at least imprisonment. (There’s going to be a murder.)
Once I finally emptied my loins (and not in the good way) and sat down in the stands, I realized the reason they play loud music during football games is because football is a boring, ridiculous sport that needs music to distract you from that fact. It may just be because my football knowledge is lacking (my friend told me her kid scored a down and I was like “Um, yay?”) or the fact that only the ‘home’ team’s bleachers had a canopy and shade, the ‘away’ team (us) were burning like ants, but maybe it would have been better if we had scored one of those three-point run thingies…
After twenty-four hours more with my progeny and no relief, I was nostalgic for those times when I almost expired from heat exhaustion watching people run around aimlessly (like Burning Man without the fun costumes or drugs) because at least at that moment I didn’t have to feed anybody. That night I had had two extra boys over for a sleepover, which is always a good distraction for my boys, but then the dishwasher broke, so as well as four boys’ new dishes, there was also the previous week’s worth of dishes the ex-husband had stacked in the sink because he is under the impression that I am his live-in maid even though we don’t fuck anymore. I am much nicer about dishes if I know I’m getting fucked later, but since there was neither time nor opportunity for that, I was particularly demoralized. I know I’m supposed to be “grateful” and that parenting is “rewarding” and being “of service” is “satisfying,” even when the cooking, cleaning and washing dishes are on par with a Dickensian orphan’s.
There’s going to be a murder.
Twelve hours after that, I was so overwhelmed that I was legitimately worried I might hurt somebody. I was sending my ex-husband texts begging him to come back from his weekend away, and literally had the numbers for CPS up on my Internet browser. Thank G-d I was able to get the kids watched and have lunch with three sober women and we laughed until we cried and even when we were crying we were all still laughing a little bit. So there was no murder, only the usual killing of my hopes and dreams, and when the ex came home I was able to present him with two relatively unscarred children in clean pajamas and sheets, having evacuated their bladders and brushed their teeth, and it was over, like my life, before it had even begun…