Monthly Archives: June 2014

Unclean

I am a closet slob. Unfortunately, I am also a kitchen slob, bedroom slob and bathroom slob. Don’t get me wrong  – if given the choice between a sparklingly clean house and a set from the next episode of ‘Hoarders’, I will choose the former without the slightest hesitation…as long as I don’t have to clean it myself.

I’m certainly not dirty. I would shower twice a day if I had the time. I obsessively think about germs in public places and shriek with terror when my boys attempt to step over the threshold of the house with muddy shoes. Getting a stain on my shirt during lunch sends me into a panic, and I spend the rest of my day casually resting my hand over the offending spot, hoping no one notices that I look like I may be trying to cop my own feel.

Truly, I just hate cleaning. It always feels like a waste of time, because of course, it’s just going to get dirty again. And, again.  And, …..again. If I had the money and wanton disregard for the environment, I’d throw away dirty dishes and clothes and just have brand new fresh ones ready to take their places. I’d never save a single piece of paper. And, if I wasn’t worried about their resulting therapy bills, I’d take pictures of all my children’s school projects and then just throw them into the trash.

Sometimes a friend will tell me how soothing and mind-clearing she finds it to clean her house. “It just gives me a sense of calm,” she’ll tell me. And, then I’ll ask if that’s all she’s on at the time. You know, just the cleaning bit or if there are other hallucinogenics at work. Perhaps a rather strong-smelling lye-based cleaning fluid?

No one is more disappointed with the reality that I am not a cleaner than my husband. I have to admit I may have misrepresented myself while we were initially dating.

“I’m very organized,” he may have said over dinner at one point.

“Oh, God, me too,” I may have replied.

But, that was a blatant lie. My household aptitudes, were they to be listed out on a document for interested suitors, would be as vague and exaggerated as my marketing skills on a resume from 1998. I mix whites with darks. I use the dust buster to get crumbs off the top of the dining room table. I don’t change sheets for weeks at a time. My dresser drawers are always slightly ajar because I cram clothes in without folding them. I haven’t used a mop in 7 years.

I worry that our house would descend into the cluttered and dusty hell of an indoor yard sale, were it not for the occasional but all-powerful motivating factor of HOUSE GUESTS. My desperate desire to remain a secret slob, rather than being ousted out of that closet, against my will covered with cobwebs and grime, inspires me to……..do the rather thinkable and expected – hire someone to clean my house for me.

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Period Period

For five days out of each month, I transform into the Incredible Hulk. My skin swells underneath the waistband of my pants, my IQ drops down to the level of a dull-witted reality star and my emotions run the broad gamut of annoyed to infuriated. My children become miniature obstacles to my happiness and my husband – well, I rarely seem him during those few days because he has learned to leave whatever room in the house I happen to be occupying.  And while my skin doesn’t turn green necessarily, the flush of barely controlled rage that I seem to have simmering underneath my focused and determined facade certainly makes me feel like I am standing out in a crowd.

I am like a hopeless cliche,  a humorous stereotype, a punchline to a bad joke found in the ‘PMS’ chapter of a mean joke book. (“Why do women have periods? Because they deserve them.”) I don’t like having a hair trigger around my sons, or wishing my husband would stop trying to hug me or keeping my fists tightly closed when on line behind a little old woman who is writing….out….a… check…………very…………………slowly……..

Intellectually, I understand what is happening to me.  Like Bruce Banner I know the warning signs – the date on the calendar, the slight twinges of annoyance that come haphazardly in the days preceding what I can only describe as a blinding cloud of uncontrollable and exasperated eye-rolling over-reactions to every day stressors. But, I am powerless to stop the transformation. I hear myself snapping at questions and requests that only days before would have been no big deal. I lose the ability to focus on every day tasks and develop a constant pulsing vein in my forehead. I feel slighted by innocuous comments and obsess about my sudden inability to carry on a casual conversation. It truly feels like I have turned into someone else. Someone with unkempt eyebrows and knotty hair because I have lost the ability to properly groom myself.

And like Dr. Banner, when I finally emerge on the other side of an episode, slightly dazed and weak, but so thankful to be alive (and still married), I feel the need to reflect on how much WORSE it could have been. I mean, I haven’t turned over any cars…..yet.

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Sounds Fair

Me: Why did you punch your brother?

Max: Because he was annoying me!

Me: You can’t hit someone just because they are annoying.

Max: He’s been annoying me his whole entire life! I just hit him once, but he’s been annoying me for the past two years! That is totally fair!

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Top Four Reasons Why I Hate Blog List Posts

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I hate blog lists. Well, let me be more specific – I’m not talking about funny or sarcastic lists – I’m talking about sincere and earnest inventories of advice written by amateur authors on any number of arbitrary subjects that you find when you Google phrases like ‘Most Lucrative Ways to Earn a Living as a Writer’ or ‘Why Does My Heart Feel Weird?’ or ‘Will I Ever Find Love?’ (I MAY or may not have Googled all those phrases.) If you have a problem, chances are, there is a blog list out there with 20 of the top ways to fix it.

Reason #4: They Make Everyone an Expert

Anyone with a mission and access to WordPress can now spout their wisdom about whatever they want – from the proper technique for making water balloons to serious advice on relationships and child rearing. No matter your level of expertise or qualifications, for some reason, if you write a list of helpful hints on a topic, people will read it as the gospel. You could be a psychotically disturbed prisoner typing on a felt-covered keyboard from the corner of your padded cell, but if I see your name (which happens to be ‘LoveyMom68’) attached to a list of the ‘Top 20 Ways to De-stress After a Vacation With Your Kids’, I’m going to believe you know what you’re talking about.

Reason #3: They Assume the Reader is a Complete Moron

Look, I’m sure many of the lists that are posted out there include some valuable information. Stuff that could actually help me become a better wife, mother, etc…..well, if I was really interested in doing that.  But, when I make the effort to click on a list titled “Best 15 Ways to Prepare Your Children for School this Fall” only to read that #12 is ‘Pack a nutritious lunch’- um, I feel a bit patronized. Especially when #8 is ‘Make sure they’re wearing pants.’

Reason #2: Sometimes, I Don’t Agree With Them.

This one is related to Reason #5 in that when you have a lot of different types of people giving their opinions on how to do things, you wind up with a lot of different opinions. Opinions that work their way into lists on the internet that other people read and perhaps follow. Perhaps UNWISELY follow. I do read lists that I don’t personally agree with, which is fine, but when I start thinking about people who may be basing their actions – sometimes actions with consequences – on these blogged lists of bad advice, I get very annoyed. They make me want to track down the author and demand a retraction.  Well, almost. I’m very lazy.

Reason #1: They Contribute to the Dumbing Down of America

So, here’s where I turn into a pretentious preachy asshole. I understand no one has any time these days between jobs and families and responsibilities and the veritable onslaught of social media sites that seem to multiple faster than you can download the apps for them. Numbered lists and bullet points make for easier reading, especially online. We can scan through a list much more quickly than a long drawn out number of paragraphs and move onto the next list or sound bite or Vine video or animated meme or kitten photo or Facebook post or Twitter feed. But, sometimes I worry about the continued diminishing state of our knowledge-gathering and retention skills that get lost in the process. Unless it’s strictly for entertainment purposes, maybe gleaning advice from blog lists is a poor substitute for investing the time in finding real answers to your problems. Like talking to your loved ones. Or researching career options through an online university. Or taking a class on investment banking. Or maybe long-term cognitive therapy.

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Graduation Irritation

I was among the group of standing-room-only spectators as the second hour of my four-year-old son’s pre-school graduation ceremony began when the whole thing jumped the shark. Up until this moment, the proceeding could be charmingly described as precociously adorable – with each of the three pre-K classes presenting an individual show of costumed children singing about jungle animals (it is indeed a ‘Jungle Out There’ after the protective bubble of pre-school bursts, isn’t’ it?), future career plans (how about worrying about Kindergarten first?) and inventors and inventions (no female inventors were featured, but that’s a topic for another time).  There was a brief intermission just long enough for a  costume change, so it seemed, and as the familiar strains of ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ began to whine through the air, a procession of pre-schoolers donning caps and gowns slowly and solemnly made their way down the side aisle, each called individually by name and handed an official looking ribbon-wrapped diploma.

“Oh God,” I heard a parent mutter softly near my elbow, “I was hoping they weren’t going to go there.”

But, there they indeed went. Amid the sea of outstretched arms of iphones and camcorders, I struggled to poke my head up high enough to see my son as his name was called. He graciously accepted his diploma (which I found out later was a fake prop), and began walking across the stage area to join his fellow ‘graduates’. Suddenly, inexplicably, I saw his eyes well up with tears and he began to bawl. I panicked. Did he not see me there in the audience cheering him on? Was he overcome with emotion as he stood at the crossroads of childhood, mourning the loss of the past two years of friendships, education and memories like any sensitive and soulful graduate does? Or was he sobbing at the hypocrisy of a society who over-emphasizes and celebrates the most mundane of milestones in an over-the-top and absurdly formal ceremony?

My son’s tears had less to do with a cultural comment and more to do with being a four year old. (“I missed you,” he said later.) But after reading through a myriad of polarizing views on pre-school and kindergarten graduations, from celebratory to critical, it got me thinking about where I stood on the issue. (Using that last term fairly loosely, of course. It’s probably about as important an ‘issue’ as where one stands on ‘selfie’ etiquette.)

Or is it? As a member of Generation X, the latch-key children growing up without cell phones, social media or car seats, I often compare my own child-rearing style to my parents’ in an attempt to do better. Not that my childhood was so horribly dysfunctional, per se, but I think it’s natural to strive to improve on whatever I remember as lacking. Couple that with the ridiculously competitive pressure created by an online landscape of community bulletin boards and social media sites of bullying parents pushing their varied anonymous agendas on anyone foolhardy enough to share personal stories, and you’ve got a generation of parents who are basically damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Parenting advice is as plentiful, diverse and useless as the numbers of celebrity parenting books that come out on the topic each year.

The concept of celebrating mediocrity looms large amongst the age bracket of parents in which I find myself. There is a current backlash against a cloyingly engaged parenting style that seemed to hit its zenith during the ‘90’s spawning a generation of supposedly lazy, entitled and needy millennials. Well, that’s what happens when you give out awards for participation and forgo spankings, right?

I do sometimes worry about over-emphasizing my children’s’ accomplishments. If I celebrate every small achievement, how will they know what hard work means? How will they know REAL successes from phony souped-up ones? Should I have opted out of this pre-school graduation? Should I have taken a stand and not allowed my son to participate? Would being singled out as the only boy not allowed to take part in this extravagant parade of mundane mediocrity teach him a valuable lesson about how important it is to wait to celebrate something until it’s worth celebrating? If everything is special, then nothing is special, true?

Unless maybe everything CAN be special, as long as it’s seasoned with the right amount of balanced perspective on HOW special it is. An award for participating can be a motivating factor in working towards that bigger and cooler award for winning. My four-year-old son’s ‘graduation gift’ was a cup of ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins. I didn’t even get him a medium. I don’t want him to get too lazy.

After the ceremony for my son’s class, I talked with the other parents and we all rolled our eyes about the caps and gowns. Certainly no one thought of the day as marking a momentous occasion in the lives of their children. At least, not in the same way a high school or college graduation would. We took it for what it was – an adorable and amusing presentation of preschoolers who had quite honestly, worked very hard for the past few weeks against their own natures of distractibility and impatience to put on a performance to please their parents – and who can argue against the character-building measure of that?

Obviously, instilling values in your own children is up to you and shouldn’t necessarily be something we rely on others to do – even expensive pre-schools. One thing is for certain, though – most parents love their kids and they are going to prove it through any means possible to as many people as they can reach online. We live in a time of photo ops, and I use Facebook most importantly as a way to post pictures of my children in the most accessible way to my friends and family.  Posting photos of my children is a way I express myself creatively, and I take great pleasure in posing them, dressing them up and catching them in a moment of drama or excitement or awe. The ease with which I can take them and share them with my family encourages me to do so.

So, quite honestly, if someone dresses my adorable four-year-old child in a miniature cap and gown and hands him a realistic looking diploma, there’s really no f*cking way I am NOT going to take a picture of that. And, share it online. And enjoy it when other people say, ‘Aw, what a cutie.’ That’s part of what being a parent is all about.

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