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When I was in school—you know, walking barefoot, uphill, in the snow every day—cafeteria ladies were to be feared. They were the tater tot authorities and police of the picnic tables, hair-netted and mustached, grumpy and disgruntled from having to serve subpar meatloaf to ungrateful delinquents such as myself day in and day out.
But leave it to my son to have found, charmed and swayed a kind, non-mustached lunch lady at his school into letting him rack up a hefty chocolate milk tab that I had no idea about until the last week of school, when I got a call letting me know the balance was due.
“Um. What chocolate milk?”
“He’s been buying chocolate milk since April.”
“Like, you gave him credit? Chocolate milk credit? He’s 5 and clearly not to be trusted.”
Funny, I had been sending him to school with water and juice since August. It takes an act of God to get a home equity loan these days but the 5-year-old has built up a credit score in pasteurized milk on the down low. Go figure.
This is the problem with this kid. He’s cute. And sure, I’m completely biased because he’s my son. But the fact of the matter is, he’s pretty much the most handsome little boy anyone has ever met, and, therefore, he tends to get out of trouble and get what he wants with teachers, grandparents and random strangers with the bat of an eye or the downturn of his bottom lip.
At Mixed Martial Arts, he got a talking-to by his instructor for disrespecting his parents. All it took was a quivering lip, big, sad eyes, lisping, “Sowwy, Sifu Petah,” and his instructor had to turn away. FROM THE CUTENESS.
I just sat there, shaking my head, wondering if I should bring the little con artist with me to the bank to sign for that home equity loan.
But the truth is, the kid needs to learn the Peter Parker lesson of life, which is to use his power for good and not evil. Hustling the school cafeteria lady is not exactly a good start, though it is somewhat impressive. Perhaps he could charm his way into office someday and change the world for good? Start an organization to help others in need? Open a casino? Sell a lot of underwear via a Times Square billboard? That’s good, right? For the economy?
I know, I know. I’m reaching here. It’s just that for some kids you start a college fund, and for others you save up for bail. And while my son may be the cutest kid ever, the chances of him meeting someone who thinks his swindling is a little less cute is still possible.
In the meantime, I have a milk money debt to pay and a chore list to make. Because he may be 5, but if he’s old enough to hustle, he’s old enough to sweep the kitchen floor, dust a few things and maybe even milk a few cows.