the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Noise ordinance

My alarm goes off at 6:45 AM, and with my eyes still closed I reflexively reach over, fumble around the detritus on my nightstand until I find the monitor. I click the button to turn it on only to hear Marlo in the middle of shouting, “MMMOOOOHHMMM!” And then I can hear it through her closed door and my closed door, an endless string of MMMOOOOHHMMM!s amplified in stereo by the monitor. I can tell by the emphasis on the vowel that she is shouting this not because she is in any danger but because she likes the way it sounds coming out of her mouth. If I were in her room I’d use one hand to stick a wet finger in her ear and the other hand to reach inside both of her nostrils.

This goes on for about five minutes until I finally roll out of bed, slip on a pair of workout pants and open the door to my bedroom. I’m still waking up and don’t see Leta standing RIGHT THERE, her arms crossed, her weight leaning on her right hip to highlight the fact that she is totally serious, for real, not even joking, she most certainly did not steal this pose from iCarly, okay maybe she did BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT.

I bump into her, apologize and say, “Hey, good morning. I didn’t see you there.”

“Um… yeah,” she says, not breaking the stern line of her mouth. “So,” she continues. “Do you not hear that? Like, are you deaf?

“Am I like, deaf?”

“Yeah,” she says. “CAN YOU HEAR?!”

“Are you talking about the nonsense coming from your sister’s room?” I ask, because the only other thing I can hear is the menacing ghost-howl of impending teenage years that will one day stab me in the face and leave me for dead.

“Listen,” she says. “My room is right next to hers. Yours is much farther away.”


OKAY? How am I supposed to sleep through that kind of noise?”

“You’re talking to me like I’m your landlord.”

“You need to fix this, Mom. Otherwise I’m never going to get any sleep and there goes my attention span at school!”

You guys, she is totally getting all of her security deposit back when she moves out.

  • MelissaJ

    2012/05/21 at 1:54 pm

    good Lord…i love that child!!

    which child, you may ask…either one…they both crack me right up!

    Leta…oh yes, you will have your hands full!
    Marlo…oh yes, you will have your hands full!

  • sabina

    2012/05/21 at 1:56 pm


    My daughter does that. Like she’s savoring every phonetic bit of goodness. It is magical or really annoying depending on my mood (mostly really magical though – the unabashed entitlement of demanding your mmmoooohhmmmm! that’s how it should be.)

  • ChickWhitt

    2012/05/21 at 2:09 pm

    Gee, I thought the deposit was already hers when you got Coco.

  • utahbeach

    2012/05/21 at 2:24 pm

    That is priceless. You know that Will Ferrell clip of the littel girl being the nasty landlord? Leta has usurped that role.

  • ladygray

    2012/05/21 at 2:36 pm

    amazing. i know this is going to bite me in the ass, but i kinda can’t wait for that age with my boys…

  • TheScarlett

    2012/05/21 at 3:32 pm

    In my house 6:45 is sleeping in on a school day so right now I’m all kinds of envious. Anyway, our youngest girl, who graduates from high school next month, used to do Q&A in her bed until we would get her. I kind of miss how simple those times were. Meanwhile, Leta needs a sound machine! And with the attitude she’s got now, lookout teen years! Wheee!!!

  • nicolewhitehall

    2012/05/21 at 3:54 pm

    Wow! She tells it like it is! Blunt, honest, and a bit unforgiving. These are the times leading up to…the teenage years. Buckle your seatbelt!

    I’m going to continue to be in denial that my son will EVER be that old.

  • kmpinkel

    2012/05/21 at 3:59 pm

    Oh Dear God! I love your children. Be nice to them, without them, you’d be broke!

    I’d kick my kid and ask her why her rent was so damn late!

  • Shana in Texas

    2012/05/21 at 4:10 pm

    6:45AM? Jealous! We get that call about an hour earlier as she heads our way. Has no clue about “weekend mornings” either.

  • mommica

    2012/05/21 at 5:07 pm

    “I ask, because the only other thing I can hear is the menacing ghost-howl of impending teenage years that will one day stab me in the face and leave me for dead.”

    I hear this sound often from my four-year-old. Spooky.

  • poopinginpeace

    2012/05/21 at 5:19 pm

    I really do not understand why our girls were separated at birth. I swear if Leta and my oldest, Sonya, ever became friends, I would be afraid of the damage they would do with just the power of their eye rolls.

  • smithie1996

    2012/05/21 at 5:45 pm

    I recommend referring her back to the time when she refused to sleep and let her know how much sleep you lost because of her moaning/crying. I fully intend to use that once Luke is old enough to complain that he can’t sleep in.

  • KathyB

    2012/05/21 at 6:55 pm

    Cracked me up completely. Oh, yeah Leta is showing glimmers of the storms to come.

    And you still have a monitor for Marlo because…? Occasionally she doesn’t peel off paint and wallpaper when she wants/needs attention/an audience 🙂

    Thank you for this. They will grow up and perhaps become wonderful adult companions in about twenty years. Honest.

  • lala34mc

    2012/05/21 at 7:08 pm

    Oh SNORT. This one killed me. I love it.

  • Tricia

    2012/05/21 at 7:13 pm

    From the sound of it, Leta’s mouth is the one you need to “fix,” not Marlo’s. If I had ever spoken to my mother that way, my head would still be spinning! There are appropriate ways to express annoyance, anger, sadness- all those feelings that she’s entitled to- WITHOUT being disrespectful toward her parents. Did miss sassy-pants at least get a reality check before school?

  • Tracye

    2012/05/21 at 9:02 pm

    Wow…your little girl is like 21 and if she’s got a mouth like that now? You’re gonna have fun when she’s a teenager.

    Are you deaf?


    Leta’s not having it lol

  • missusclark

    2012/05/21 at 10:04 pm

    I’m so sorry, Heather. I must stand with Tricia when I opine that that sort of attitude is unacceptable. Stomp on it with both feet, Mama! Because it gets orders-of-magnitude worse at 13. If she’s this sassy now, you’ll be rabidly homicidal when she really winds up. Which is no fun. I’m on my second teenager (a set of twin girls is up next. Pity me…) and I want to throttle him at least once a week. No joke. And I’m on meds!

    All wise-cracking aside, let her know that sassing Mama like that (*before* coffee!) is NOT OK! Draw your line in the sand, my dear, or your won’t have a leg to stand on when the shit really hits the fan. So much easier to dominate from a place of strength. You will *need* that moral high ground. Painful, personal experience talking, here.

    Best of luck!

  • Jalima

    2012/05/21 at 10:16 pm

    Oh EYE ROLL to you negative nellies.

    Having a wise and responsible kid is a blessing, not a reason for a smack down for her or her mom. My daughters are now 14 and very Leta like. A breeze to parent.

  • Jennifer97214

    2012/05/22 at 12:31 am

    I have been wanting to post a comment for a while so this is not in any way a reaction to this particular post. I started following this website over a year ago and was periodically surprised and impressed with the depth of some of the posts. I also laughed quite a bit at the funny ones. Lately it all seems like fluff to me…like a lot of filler and so little substance. I just don’t have a sense anymore of what the blog is about. It sems to me that it used to be more genuine and thoughtful while also humorous and at times lighthearted. Now it seems to me that it is trying too hard to be light and funny and every so often there is a darker, more personal post that kind of seems to come out of the blue. My guess and it is only a guess, is that this is somehow related to the need for more privacy during a difficult time and this I completely understand. I think it is very difficult these days to nourish our private selves. Even harder for someone who blogs for a livelihood. The message and need I am hearing is perhaps for space and maybe it is okay to put that out there, if that is true.

  • Ezza

    2012/05/22 at 5:30 am

    Leta reminds me of my sister at that age. She’s gonna march through life taking names and kicking ass and being better than everyone and knowing it.

    She’s gonna be just fine. Impossible, but fine.

  • Janie1224

    2012/05/22 at 10:44 am

    Biiig eyeroll at those thoughts on Leta’s ‘unacceptable’ tone.
    Puh-lease!! She’s bitching about her sister’s catterwalling not her mother telling her what to do or I don’t know, how the house is run or something. This is funny and MINOR! You have to pick your battles and this is NOT a battle, IMO. Heather could just take the same exact stance, laugh at her and ask for Leta’s thoughts on what THEY should do about the “crazy baby waking us up”! What she did to stop Leta when she did that, or something like that.

    A pre-teen with an annoyed (hilarious!) hip stance and rolling eyes is not a battle for heaven’s sake. Lighten up.

  • dianemaggipintovoiceover

    2012/05/22 at 11:27 am

    and she’ll be taking the lightbulbs and toilet paper along with that fully-refunded security deposit, dontchooknowit?

  • sarahfromthenorth

    2012/05/22 at 12:25 pm

    Funny .. I was telling off my husband last night for making too much noise after our son went to bed .. I said the exact same thing “ is he supposed to have any attention span at school tomorrow”! BTW .. do you feel some of your readers kind of missed the catch phrase here?

  • dooce

    2012/05/22 at 1:24 pm

    No worries, you guys. I had a long talk with her about tone later in the morning after I had let the dogs out and retrieved Marlo from her crib. Right then was not the time because a lot of crucial things happen right as I get out of bed (Coco will pee in her crate if I don’t get her out fast enough).

    I thought the exchange was funny because she is only eight years old. And her tone wasn’t sassy. She was genuinely concerned and frustrated that I could not hear because Marlo was being so loud. And I was still mostly asleep, so I was a bit annoyed myself. I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t yell.

    I didn’t include the discipline in the story because I didn’t feel like the story needed it. Of course I’m on top of it. Of course I told her there is a proper way to speak to me and treat me. But if you want to judge my parenting by this little slice of an exchange, by all means do so. Those who know Leta will tell you they’ve never met a more courteous kid.

  • jenwilson

    2012/05/22 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, too funny. Your writing of Leta reminds me a lot of my five-year-old Liliana.

    Also, if that was my kid standing right outside my door, I would have likely jumped a mile in the air because she would have scared the bejeebers out of me.

  • Tricia

    2012/05/22 at 10:52 pm

    Nothing I said was judgmental of your parenting, nor did I imply that you weren’t on top of disciplining your kids (wtf?). The story reads (to me) as if she was being really disrespectful! Contrary to what others feel, I think even a “little slice” of disrespect from an otherwise courteous kid warrants correction. That’s how I was raised, and it’s how I parent my own (usually awesome, but occasionally bratty, because yeah, they’re HUMAN) kids. I was NOT coming down on you or judging you (not that you care, but I do). I simply wanted to know, mother to mother, did you take matters in hand? The post as I read it was kind of like reading the set-up for a joke and then leaving out the punchline. Sass sass sass, and then…
    So thanks for the followup, and thanks (to others) for illustrating that I’m not the only one who apparently fails at interpreting tone on the internet. I think you’re an awesome mother and a great writer. I’m a huge fan- I’ve even met you! And I’m not a bitch who thinks anyone should be judged based on the little tidbits they put out into the ether.
    This is why I don’t usually comment. You try to say something sincere, and it just fucking backfires. I don’t know how you do it!

  • Ezza

    2012/05/24 at 3:07 am

    Tricia – keep commenting. Don’t be put off. You asked a question, you got an answer. We play nice here, in the Dooce community. Don’t worry about your comment ‘backfiring’. 🙂

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more