From My Cot in the Laundry Room

I just now realized that today is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo and I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing.

Part of the reason I’m distracted is because I’m mad at my spouse.

And I just saw an ad for a real book written by a fake character on a show I like which is just… not fair. It’s not fair that fake people get to make real books.

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I hate her simpering smile and her stupid face. 

So the obvious solution to all of my problems is to write a much less sexy, much more sad establishment of a Space of My Own story about how I too would like to take a vacation from my marriage but I’m not a rich selfish bland self-righteous jerkbitch who would ever leave her children so instead I just stay late at work and take an extra lap around Target for some Me Time before returning to my hermit corner to write something that’ll inevitably be ignored into obscurity on Amazon.

Obviously a best seller. Super talented. Feeling like a winner. Definitely not the saddest sack of potatoes in this cellar today.

 

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Her Blanket Should Say 70 Cents on the Dollar

Hooboy, people is WEIRD about gender.

This is my opinion based on experience and also, cultural norms and political evidence.

My daughter is currently my posse. We go EVE’RWHARE together because… well, I am her primary caretaker and I don’t want to stay home all the damn time. My daughter is also one of those babies that makes people squee because, and I quote, “Oh mer gawd, her cheeeeeeeks!” and “Wouldya lewk at those eyelashes!” So I get a lot of strangers approaching me–which as an introvert is my nightmare–and making all sorts of “I just want to eat her face” comments.

I mean, I want to eat her face too. It’s that kind of face. But she’s MY baby. Only I get to eat her face. Back off, zombies.

The problem is that she is not always easily gendered based on cultural norms because… and this is going to absolutely shock you to the point where you’ll want to comment on what a terrible mother I am and if you knew my address, you’d send the Mommy Police right to my door:

She has a blue and white blanket. GASP! WHAT?! HOW DARE YOU! THEY SHOULD CASTRATE YOU, EDA, FOR CONFUSING EVERYONE SO MUCH.

Ok, first of all, calm yer tats, because I’m done having babies. Castration seems like an expense and I’m not paying for it so if you really feel like it should happen, fork over some dough. But be warned, I wasn’t planning on having any more anyway so you might be wasting your video game money.

Secondly, it’s a blanket. It’s a hand-me-down from my son, just like the blue and white striped bucket hat she refuses to wear for more than three seconds (which is why I refuse to buy her a new hat). And she doesn’t always wear pink, which, I know, is very confusing for the old folk out there who desperately need that specific gender marker to make sense of their world.

But you know what? Even when she does wear pink–true story here–even when she’s wearing a freaking tutu and a shirt that says, “Daddy’s Princess”, people still get caught up on the blanket… which is only covering her feet half the time because she kicks it off. Even with an abundance of culturally appropriate signals as to her gender, people will still say “he” and when I very gently answer, “Yeah, she’s got a tooth coming in so she’s a little cranky,” they will fall all over themselves to correct their HORRRRRRIBLE mistake, blaming the blanket–that goddamn penis-signifying blanket–for mis-gendering her.

And I’m like, “It’s really not that big a deal.” But they cry and they shake and they run to the shower to wash off the humiliation.

Are we not yet at the point where a baby’s genitals don’t matter to strangers? Can we get there, please? And, this one’s just for me, can we maybe not approach adorable babies like they’re public property and force their reluctant mothers into conversations?

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The gender is…. none of your business, stranger in Target. Please let me browse the coffee aisle in peace!

 

Make Them Eat Cake

Here’s an #authorconfession for you: I often look up the exact meaning of words to see if they’re specific to the thought I’m trying to convey. When I use the word “obtuse”, I mean a specific kind of dumb (not sensitive or observant, dull, slow, dim). I don’t like to be inaccurate in my word usage.

But that’s my problem. And I try not to hold other people to that standard.

I do, however, become grouchy (irritable and bad tempered) when people use the wrong word (my husband calls shower curtains “tents”). And I’ve been known to become indignant (strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting) when people use the OPPOSITE word.

My in-laws often use the opposite word. They describe their dog yanking forward on the leash as “pushing”. And this one makes me so angry: they use the word “make” when they mean “let”.

My mother-in-law once told me she was going to “make” my child eat everything she cooks. I made sure that was a word whoops rather than a threat, of course. Still, not what one wants to hear before dropping one’s infant off at Grandma’s house.

I mean, of all the ways in-laws can poop on the party of your life, this isn’t the worst. It’s just the one I’m thinking about today.

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Make them eat cake.

Ill-defined Fun

In the spirit of John Cougar Mellencamp–because I can’t seem to get away from him lately–here’s a little story about Where I’m supposed to be right now, Why I’m not there, and How come I ain’t never goin’ back.

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When my son was six months old, I took him to Mommy and Me swim classes at a local gym with a small pool and weekday classes. “This’ll be fun!” I told my husband, who is anti-bodies of water and his submergence in them. And for 6 weeks, it was! We had a great instructor who sang songs and provided graduated steps for infant water integration and who I trusted enough to float my son around for 45 seconds.

So we signed up for a second class! “Oh, this’ll be so fun!” I told my little bundle of joy who took to the water like a reverse amphibian. But it was not. There was a new instructor who said to me on the very first day, “I’ve never worked with babies before. Let’s see how it goes!”

Oh. Oh no. No, no. You have no experience with babies and your best reassurance is “let’s see how it goes?” It did not go well for many reasons. But the reason I demanded a refund on my non-refundable class was that this woman encouraged us all to swim to the deep end holding our infants. Mmm… no, danger. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll just swim behind you in case something happens.” No.

Oh but that was years ago. So when I got an email advertising a Mommy’s Night Yoga course, I thought, “Oh, this could be fun!” But then I got a phone call while I was out with my husband this afternoon. He joked, “It’s the gym saying the class is cancelled.” Haha, three hours from start time? No way. YES way. Yes, they cancelled class three hours before it started after I planned my damn day around this thing.

Yes, they gave us a refund and offered me 1 free yoga class at the exact time my son has karate class tomorrow morning. Which is 1 day after the event they cancelled. Which was for busy moms who can’t find a moment to themselves. So… like, logically, said moms might need more than a 19 hour planning window.

In conclusion, this place needs to lose my email address like they’ve lost my trust.

I would like to thank my husband for taking the children out tonight so Mommy could at least get some writing time. You don’t dangle a kid-free evening in front of a stressed out mom and then YOINK it away like so much cartoon sandwich. It’s cruel.

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Zen and the Art of Parenting a 3-Year-Old

“Buddy are you going to put this puzzle away or not?!” I yell.

“I never will,” my son says like I’ve just asked him to join the Dark Side.

“Why not?” Yes, I realize that I’m the grownup and he’s the child and this is the wrong question. However…

“Because it’s a party,” he says for the millionth time. It’s his new excuse for not doing things. Because it’s a party.

And I try to get mad. Or I try to be reasonable. Sometimes I even put on my mommy pants and lay down the law…

After I laugh. Because that’s the best excuse I’ve heard for doing whatever the crap you want whenever the crap you want to.

Because it’s a party, man. Chillax.

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Get in Your Chair and Keep Going

I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because ok, yes, Roseanne Connor probably would vote for… you know… And she would absolutely not apologize for it no matter how horrible that choice turned out to be. And she would make Jackie apologize TO HER for her decision.

That’s who the character is: a stubborn, loudmouthed, take-no-prisoners, sorry-not-sorry, working class, conservative, uneducated caricature. We don’t want to hang out with her and be her friend! We want to watch her yell at people. That’s the appeal.

But… I don’t know. There’s something amiss in TV land and it’s rubbing me the wrong way.

Oh right, it was the chair episode. She lost me on the chair episode. And by “lost” I mean kicked me in the crotch and told me to nut up because children can only be controlled by verbal and/or physical assault.

That, and the actress’s chit chat with the offender in chief is what sealed the deal for me. Ooohhhh, so this isn’t a joke. This is the bullshit she’s putting out into the world as her actual truth. She’s actually saying that being an abusive bigot is A-OK in her book and giving more abusive bigots an excuse to continue to hurt others. I see. Yesssss, I see now.

I was trying to compare it to the Adam is a bi-sexual man episode of Jane the Virgin (“Jane the Heteronormative”) and how that kinda rubbed me the wrong way too. Jane takes no issue with female bisexuality but male bisexuality is gross and weird? Mmm… that’s not… ok for such a liberal and progressive show. Oh but wait… as the story arc wore on, it became clear that the Jane character was exposing a set of beliefs that are fairly common and then examining them as a way to open the door for a future story line about Petra being bisexual and I’m not 100% pleased with how it all went but at least the dialogue continued.

In Roseanne, the dialogue seems to stop with Roseanne. I kept waiting for Darlene to prove her parents wrong. To show that compassion and trust (to a certain extent. mistakes were made, Darlene) in child-rearing can result in compassionate and trustworthy children would have reconciled some of the crappy things Roseanne and Dan said and did to their own children.

But it didn’t happen. Children are stupid and can’t be trusted and it’s perfectly ok to abuse them if that keeps them in line. The end.

That’s it. It’s all just excused. And let’s not pretend for a second that it’s ok to get into the shower with someone without their permission. EVERYTHING about that episode was bullshit and it that was just it for me. I’m done. Delete that recording, DVR, because I don’t want to watch this garbage anymore.

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File this under things that are not effective or appropriate parenting, marked “How not to teach kids about bodies and boundaries”

Like Roxanne Gay wrote in her NYTime Opinion piece,

I’ve been thinking about how nothing will change if we keep consuming problematic pop culture without demanding anything better.

She also said that shows like this are normalizing these behaviors. I don’t think I need to justify, at this point, my opinion about anyone trying to #MAGA with bigotry and anti-intellectualism. But from a parenting perspective, this kind of old school “family values” 50s throwback, child-controlling, abusive behavior apologism is intolerable.

I’ll stick with Jane.

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Children are magical, even when they are driving you freaking nutballs. Calling them bitches and attempting to drown them doesn’t change that.

The Kids Are Not OK

I work with kids and teens in an after school-type activity and one of them had an assessment yesterday. This girl, maybe 8th or 9th grade, came in crying and freaking out because there was just too much going on in her life and this assessment was the last thing she was prepared to deal with on top of everything else.

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I talked her down, reminded her that it was just us, we were just there to determine what was going well and what needed improvement, and that the only reason there was a Pass/No Pass type evaluation at the end was to … well, to scare the lazy kids into taking it seriously.

But man… I have to reevaluate that tactic after my conversation with her.

She is so stressed out. I’m stressed out because I have two young children and two jobs and not enough money and less than not enough sleep but compared to her? I’m doing pretty well.

I just started thinking about all the kids her age and why they seem to be struggling so much more than I did back in the day. And mind you, I struggled too. But not like this. Not the weight of the whole wide world.

I mean, set aside for a second the whole school shootings/you could actually die from trying to get an education issue for a second (as if you could, honestly) to think about the message they’re always getting:

Everything you do now has DIRE CONSEQUENCES! Don’t mess up. Don’t slow down. DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, CHILDREN! YOUR DOOM AWAITS YOU!

My GAWD, we need to let up! We need to stop enforcing the idea that adult success is predicated upon adolescent decisions. I mean… things change, people change, circumstances change. I got an F in math once but I’m not whoring on street corners because a bad grade in math directly correlates to an inability to manage my finances or find adequate work.

Why are we all so afraid of failure? So very afraid of making the wrong decision, of buying the wrong brand, of saying the wrong thing and having it haunt us forever? And why are we infecting the brains of kids who FOR REAL have much more important things to deal with (like being MURDERED AT SCHOOL) with our own insecurities?

Listen up, kids: There are things you can’t come back from, yes. Being murdered or kidnapped or abused or raped. Being someone WHO murders or kidnaps, abuses and/or rapes. But failing a class? Choosing the wrong major? Not scoring perfectly on an assessment? Those are things you learn from. You make adjustments and changes. You discover new things about yourself.

And adults: LAY OFF! Worry about MURDER AND KIDNAPS AND ABUSE AND RAPE. Then help your kids deal with disappointment, failure, mistakes. Give them the space to screw up and come back from it. Love them for exactly who they are and what they can already do and then encourage them see what else they’re capable of.

But I shouldn’t have to comfort a crying teenager because she’s so afraid of not being perfect that she breaks down when admitting that she’s not.

And let’s freaking do something about those GUNS, huh? Vote out the NRA whores and elect officials who aren’t so transparently corrupt. Because there’s no excuse for it. There’s no logical explanation for children having to fear for their lives at school. Any politician not willing to DO SOMETHING about that doesn’t deserve a job in public service.

Preschool Assessment

My brilliant child received his first preschool assessment this week and the best way I could describe it to my friend was this:

“They’re assessing a monkey in a cage doing human tricks not a monkey in the jungle living its best life.”

I mean, you can only assess what you can see and I totally understand if my little simian, in that maelstrom of stimuli, can’t concentrate on answering inane questions or performing feats of mundanity.

But that don’t make him a dummy who can’t word good. Daaaamn.

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My son is glasses smart.

LEGO Batman Fo-Evah

My preschool-aged son has taken to lamenting that if I don’t help him RIGHT NOW then whatever his need, it will go unmet “fo-evah!”

Case in point, I was nursing the baby on the couch next to him and couldn’t spare a hand at the moment to dig through the couch cushions for the LEGO Batman helmet he dropped. This is after I told him to be careful not to drop the LEGO Batman helmet so naturally this was all my fault. His response to my failure to respond immediately was, “Now it gonna be gone FO-EVAH, Mom.” Direct eye contact, sad puppy face, he repeats, “Fo-evvvvah.”

This is a silly example. My kid is smart and sometimes lazy and he could easily have gotten his own damn LEGO piece. But “forever” is a concept that gets thrown around a lot more often than it applies.

I have no problem with children and teens misunderstanding the nature of “forever” because they haven’t lived long enough to see how often things change. I can’t think of a better example right now than with my infant. Days go by and everything changes! She grows, she learns a new skill, she likes a faster speed on her baby swing, she can hold a bottle by herself? (That one’s new!)

And most things, I realize, change so slowly that you don’t always notice: how my preschooler needs a haircut before I realize it looks any different than the last time it was cut, that he doesn’t need his food cut in such small pieces anymore, that he knows the word “catastrophe” and uses it in hyperbole like, way too often.

But there are people who should know better. There are people who should have the experience and knowledge and insight to know that, at least with children, “forever” isn’t necessarily true.

So explain to me why my son’s doctor told me, when he was only nine months old, that if I continued to rock him to sleep, I’d be rocking him to sleep for the rest of his life. “Do you want to be rocking your thirteen year old child to sleep? No? Then maybe you better stop that now.”

Or how lots of people think I nursed him too long and he’d never be able to give it up.

Or how some of the older people in his life think that if he’s not potty trained by NOW, he’ll be wearing diapers until he’s in college.

Or if I still have to help him get to sleep at night, he’ll never learn to fall asleep on his own.

I stopped rocking him when he was ready for it. I weaned him in the span of two days, after I started taking a medication that could affect my breast milk. We’re slowly working on potty training when his mind and body are so inclined. And I’m giving him strategies for falling asleep on his own and letting him backslide on bad days.

People who lose limbs are dealing with “forever” type situations. People who insist that potty training is just a bag of skittles and a weekend of cleaning up messy floors away? Those people need to reassess.

 

Also, we finally left that terrible doctor. That’s a fantastic story if you’re looking to get riled up toward people who mistreat children. Another day, perhaps.

Being the Good Voice

Let me preface this preaching with a musical interlude:

I’ve been listening to a playlist in my car of new songs I’ve purchased in the order I’ve purchased them which is how I heard just now, on my way here, Believer by Imagine Dragons followed by Hall of Fame by The Script. “My life, my love, my drive, it came from PAIN!” followed by “You can be the greatest, you can be the best, dedicate yourself and you’ll be standing in the hall of fame.” As parenting philosophies according to popular music go, there’s a pretty clear winner in this battle.

Which made me start thinking about how children are influenced by their parents long after childhood ends.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, kids actually do listen to their parents and they really do internalize those things we say most often. As teens and adults, a lot of those things we said often become the voice in their head that guides them. For better or for worse.

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I know of too many people for whom the voice in their head is that of fear or doubt, indecision, conformity, derision, punishment, undeservingness, lack of acceptance. It’s the voice that tells you you’ll never succeed, you’re too stupid or fat, too weak or too weird, that you should let someone else do it, that you’re not ok the way you are, that you should just melt into the background because every action is too much of a risk.

And with the lyrics of those two songs echoing in my head, I’m determined not to be that voice.

I want to be the voice in my kids’ heads that says…

You can do it

I believe in you

Make good decisions

Do your best

Try again 

Take care of yourself

Be respectful of others

Brush your teeth

Just try to go pee before we leave the house

Eat more good food than treats

I love you!

And then I hear my son say to himself, “That’s ok. Twy again. You can do it,” and I feel like maybe I’m doing an ok job at this whole parenting thing.