E=MC Times Squared?

6yo: I’m Albert Einstein!! I’m the guy who invented Times Square!!

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Restless Room

bathroom-691341_960_720Although I am not particularly squeamish about using public restrooms that may be described with a list of adjectives that does not necessarily include ‘sterile’, ‘spotless’ or even ‘clean’, I have recently developed a strong aversion to entering a specific bathroom that is right down the hall from where I live. In my own house. And belonging to my own children.

This space, which USED to resemble a bathroom, but now has taken on a certain post-apocalyptic war-ravaged feel, is the only room in the house that appears impervious to the bi-weekly cleanings I pay someone else to do. Like a haunted attic that just won’t stay cobweb-free no matter how many times you dust, my boys’ restroom seems to revert back to its previously characteristic state of horror seemingly within moments of my cleaning lady’s exit through the front door.

“What is that smell?” I will wonder aloud, my nose wrinkling, as I pass through the hallway outside the kids’ toilet, and contemplate whether someone has been careless enough to let an alley cat into our home. Perhaps my sons have somehow regressed to the point at which they feel the need to mark their territory, although the cheery pirate bathroom motif should really suffice. 

I’ve tried ignoring the existence of the bathroom and hoping any visiting guests will do the same, but that’s about as difficult as concealing a crack den in an otherwise tidy two-story suburban residence – you’re just bound to notice one room is a bit…off. 

So, on occasion, my husband and I will force ourselves through the threshold and survey the damage. Aside from the distinct aroma, we will marvel at the amount of toothpaste that appears to be growing up from the tile on the sink, like an insidious blue-green sparkly mold that has broken out of a science lab petri dish and intends on devouring our home, surface by surface.  

Until we look closely, we’ll assume that something has exploded within the basin itself, as tiny white ricochet marks seem to cover the entire expanse of the ceramic. Upon further inspection, we’ll realize it’s a Jackson Pollack pattern of toothpaste, saliva and tiny bits of whatever else happened to be swirled around in someone’s mouth and then shot out in a detonating eruption. 

My husband and I stand aghast for about as long as we can muster up the strength (which isn’t very long), before loudly demanding the presence of our sons.  

“What is this mess?!” I will bellow.

“What mess? By the way, I got an eight out of ten on my English test,” the older one will rapidly fire out, as he takes on the persona of a diminutive Jedi Master attempting to supernaturally compel our attention from the state of the bathroom to something else entirely.

“I think the toilet is dripping.” My younger son’s approach is to place the blame on anyone else, especially inanimate objects that cannot argue in their own defense. 

“Oh, there’s some dripping going on, but not from the toilet…” I remark, while pointing my finger and furrowing my brow in a way that suggests less television and dessert if matters are not attended to immediately. 

Painfully, I coerce my children into cleaning the bathroom. Unfortunately, my sons are about as effective at it as I happen to be, which is why I hire someone else to do it in the first place. Sigh. Perhaps she has a free day this week.

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Parenthoodwinked

54ff10b5d0722-ghk-woman-embarrassed-nervous-s2

One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is convincing your child that you have some idea of what you are doing…because you usually don’t.

“I don’t need a jacket today,” my six-year-old will report to me on mornings that I look out the window and observe ice falling from the sky.

“You need a jacket,” I will insist, “It’s freezing, and you are only wearing a t-shirt that appears to be two sizes too small.”

“But, I’m not cold,” he will reason, as if logic is something he uses on a regular basis.

“Put on your jacket,” I will counter.

“But, MOMMY WHHHHHHYYYYYYY?” His voice will go up several octaves and level out in a long whine like a dying balloon looking for a safe place to land on the floor.

“Because,” I will pause and then utter those words that all parents swear never to use: “I SAID SO.”

Providing such rationale is typically a dead giveaway to any child worth his salt that you have exhausted all your ‘real’ answers and have gotten desperate. My older son, aged ten going on 40, is especially salty.

“I really think you should join a soccer league,” I will say on occasion, varying the suggested sport with each season.

“Not interested,” he will murmur from the couch, the glowing reflection of Minecraft dancing in his eyeballs.

“You’ll make some new friends,” I will point out, “And, you could really use the exercise..”

I’ll go over a prepared list of data points and supporting research to validate my position, like a freshman on the first day of debate club, usually getting monosyllabic counter-arguments or grunts in reply.

Finally, I’ll give up. “How do you know you don’t like something if you don’t try it??” I’ll wail, exasperated.

Here, he’ll glance up briefly and inform me, “I’ve never tried having my brain eaten by zombies, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t like it.”

Obviously, my children are getting older, and they are becoming more aware of the fact that at any given time, as a parent, I am winging it. “Because,” is increasingly less convincing as an answer for questions like, “Why can’t I have a bowl of jelly beans for dinner?” or “How come I have to wear pants to Grandma’s party?” Really, I just don’t know.

Recently, I overheard my older son instructing his brother on the finer points of a video game they were playing.

“Why do I need to defeat ALL the bad guys on this level?” the six-year-old questioned.

“Because….,” his brother paused, “I said so.”

At least I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

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Charlie Parker’s Secret Identity

Me: I knew someone who named their kid after Charlie Parker.

6YO: Who’s that? Spiderman’s cousin?

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It Feels….Great

Me: (after a somewhat awkward discussion about genital health) So, if you have any more questions, you should probably talk to your dad. Because, he has a penis and he knows what it feels like to have one–

6YO:(interrupting) Oh, it feels good.

Me: …..Great to hear.

6YO: How does it feel to have…what you have….?

Me: Vagina. Great. It feels great. Good talk.

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Why I am Cursing (slightly more often) in Front of My Children

cursing

Growing up as the eldest of four sisters meant I had certain house rules to follow and help enforce. Definitely no television watching, except for special family nights of high-brow, culturally enriching PBS specials. Certainly no clean clothes left lying all over the floor of our rooms. And, absolutely, positively no cursing. To even accidentally stumble over the first few syllables of the guttural and decidedly coarse sounds of profanity was considered a one-way ticket to bed without supper. Not that my sisters and I required such reminders. The thought of letting a four letter word escape from my lips felt as dirty as throwing up a little inside my mouth.

This devotion to the sanctity of the spoken word was curiously in spite of the fact that my parents themselves swore like sailors.

“Clean up your f*cking room!” My mother had a habit of sometimes painting her parenting requests with swirls of colorful language, using just enough emphasis on the selected sounds so as to put her point across more accurately.  The point obviously being to take her f*cking seriously.

My father rarely cursed in front of us, but that was probably because he seldom spoke in general, saving his sporadic stipulations to be delivered in a calm and commanding voice that sounded not unlike the monotonous delivery of Al Pacino in the ‘The Godfather.’ “Clean….your…f*cking…room…now.”   (A demand from my father was your last chance to take care of the issue before you likely discovered the head of a horse under your bed sheets.)

Eventually, at the age of ten, I found myself invited to a party during which reverberations of profanity echoed through the night air of the backyard like tender kisses being blown through the breeze by wood nymphs.   With the chaperoning adults inside the house, my fifth grade peers felt a refreshing wave of freedom and power.  As I stood in the middle of several ongoing conversations, each punctuated frequently by a plethora of varied swear words, I likened the scene to an orchestra of obscenities, conducted by the faith in our emerging adulthood that cursing was our mantle to accept, a rite of passage, as critical to our development as any hormones or hair growth and I accepted my role in what I considered the next phase of my communicative existence.

Although I was wise enough to continue to refrain from cursing in front of my parents, I spent the next twenty years honing my craft. Initially, I only felt comfortable dabbling in what I would consider B-grade swears – as in ‘Damn, these tater-tots are hot!’ and ‘oh, Hell, I missed the bus!’ Just enough to lace my language with a hint of flavor, but not enough spice to ruffle the feathers of those within earshot.

I went to college and then on to work and it was there that I finally immersed myself in an ocean of obscenities, wading through such dirty language with my fellow colleagues that I began to lose my grip on adjectives that didn’t start with ‘f’ or ‘sh’. I became fluent in profaneness and eloquent in execration. Cursing felt grown-up. It was still taboo enough to make me feel badly behaved, but without breaking too many societal morays so as to label myself a degenerate.

Eventually, I married someone who delighted in the custom of cursing as much as I did, and together we weaved a web of blasphemy and objurations from morning ‘til night. No matter the tone of our conversation – be it an angry rant about aggressive drivers or a poetic rhapsody lauding the virtues of Mother Teresa, we found a way to incorporate a respectful number of swears.

As much as I’d like to write that we lived ‘happily f*cking after’, our past-time of expletive expressing was cut short by a momentous event that caused us to re-examine our vernacular:

We had a baby.

Like most new moms and dads, we had the best of intentions for parenting, at least for the first few months of our son’s life, and that included a desire to avoid him exposure to bad language.  Everyone knows you don’t curse around little kids. It’s just one of those rules you need to obey as a parent, like wearing underwear around the house.

Suddenly, my perspective on how to communicate changed 180 degrees. I became a purveyor of piety around my child, speaking gently and gracefully both at home and out in public, going so far as to scowl angrily at the sound of a flagrant ‘f*ck’ from behind us on line in the supermarket, with a grumpy muttered reminder that ‘children were present.’

Without the crutch of cursing to express my strongest emotions, I fell back on those pseudo swears that one learns to use around polite company. Unfortunately, ‘oh shoot’ or ‘darn it’ and especially ‘fudge’ just doesn’t seem to convey the level of inner turmoil one might be feeling the same as ‘f*ck it all, for f*cking f*ck’s sake.’

Although I felt strongly I was doing the right thing by restraining myself and my language in front of my son and his subsequent brother, I longed for the days during which I could let loose with a steady stream of swear words to articulate my outrage or even mild irritation. Talking clean all the time was restrictive and difficult and I began to feel like I was wearing a muzzle.  In fact, on the rare occasions that I was not accompanied by my children, my mouth became an unfettered source of four-lettered words, cursing so much that my new husband feels his conversational skills have become permanently tainted.

Eventually, through no fault of my own careful self-censorship, my sons became aware of the art of swearing. Whether they heard it out on the playground during school recess or through the faint waves of dialogue drifting up to their rooms from the television downstairs after bedtime, the idea that there were words that were not to be uttered became a fascinating and alluring notion.

“My friend said the ‘s’ word yesterday,” my son would confess darkly over breakfast, waiting expectantly for a look of horror to wash over my face.

“Which one?” I would tease.  His eyes would widen. “There’s more than one?” he would ask incredulously.

To my surprise, beyond a sense of mild satisfaction that they had not learned about cursing from me, I felt no outrage or anxiety about the idea of my sons hearing and perhaps, behind my back, repeating words not approved of in polite society as an act of youthful rebellion and anarchy. There were far worse offenses I could imagine them committing, such as bullying or treating peers unfairly. Profanity, as inappropriate as it may be in most public situations, only consists of words designed to shock or scandalize. In fact, cursing in the privacy of one’s own home, can be therapeutic, in my opinion. A way to release emotional steam, give voice to frustration and eventually soothe it, perhaps preventing another method of psychological discharge, like violence or physical damage.

Rather than blatant and absolute rules on what may or may not be said, what has become more important to impart on my children is an understanding of time and place. Swearing may increase your popularity in the locker room, but not always in the boardroom. Cursing in front of teachers or grandmas is always a bad idea, but might make you feel better after you stub your toe.

Although I have not returned to my previously flagrant and overly profane way of conversing, I have been known to let an ‘f’ bomb fly here or there, when I am especially angry or emotional about something. My boys grin at each other wickedly, reveling in the auditory pleasure that ‘bad’ words bring to their ears. And, as much as I know they would love it if I permitted them to say something more theatrical than ‘frickin’, for now, I have made the promise to allow them to use more colorful language when they are 16.

Because that’s f*cking young enough.

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I Admit It: I’m A Cyberchondriac

For the past week or so, I’ve had a minor sore throat—nothing keeping me up at night, just a slight twinge of pain, mostly in the morning when I swallow down that first glass of water. Although I haven’t rushed out to a doctor or walk-in clinic yet, I have been spending my free time pondering the possibilities of whether it’s allergies, stress, a postnasal drip, or perhaps the first symptoms of throat cancer. 
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Today.com Funniest Parenting Posts!

My post is on this list!

http://www.today.com/parents/12-funniest-posts-facebook-week-t46276

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Hate.

Love-and-Hate-

Despite a historic lack of experience or proficiency on the matter, I recently discovered a hitherto hidden talent in myself – the aptitude of abhorrence.

And, while I have used the word ‘hate’ in varying degrees of articulated emotions, I was likely wasting it on matters that now seem clearly trivial.

“Hate is a strong word,” my mother would comment after I expressed my feelings as a child about the slimy, gelatinous slices of ooze on my plate that she assured me were zucchini.

“You should never say hate,” I remember my grandmother instructing, although her passionate religious convictions probably precluded her from participating in the colorful discussion I hoped to have about the girl in my third grade class who stole my idea about what to play at recess.

In the universal sense, I hate ignorance and mass genocide and people who don’t clean up their pee after using public toilets.   But, personally, apart from my proclivity for the dramatic and need to embellish narratives about my daily life in order to provide more entertaining accounts to friends and family, I don’t think I have ever put in the effort it takes to truly hate anything or anyone.

Until recently.

It didn’t happen all at once. It grew like a pervasive, resistant virus, attaching its thorns into my heart and taking root in my brain. Some days I would fight it, using logic and common sense to dampen the heat that seemed to be constantly building within me. Other days I would embrace it, relishing the validated rage I felt by poring over injustices that had been committed against me.

Hate is tiring. It requires a dedication of time and energy. It involves hours of obsessive thoughts and dark fantasies. The kind that pull you away from your regular responsibilities and demand your full attention.  It steals your sleep and eats away at your joy.

Hate takes a toll on your body. It quickens your heartbeat and gives you a sweat. It blurs your vision and fills your ears with a cloud of noise. It hardens your expression and puckers your lips.

Hate makes you a bore. It constricts your conversations into repetitive rants and alienates your friends and family. It opens a faucet of negativity that flows from your mouth, spills out all over the floor and must be stepped over cautiously by relatives unlucky enough to be listening.

Hate is irrational, illogical and uncontrollable. It is intolerant, angry and vicious. It is fearful, gathering in the shadowy recesses of your soul feeding off distant memories of anguish or struggle. It’s fueled by anxieties of the indefinite; to hate is to throw a lasso around the unknown and brand it for yourself.

Hate is pointless. It sickens without a cure, weakens without an ending and deteriorates without closure.

There is no resolution. But, eventually there may be diminishing, given the right evolution of circumstances. A softening, like a lens that readjusts as a point of reference recedes in the background.

As dark and vibrant as my hate feels today, I am clinging to the hope that it will soon fade.

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How to be Manly

10YO: Reuben, in order to be manly, you need to have hair like a man.

5YO: I have hair.

10YO: Not on your arms and legs. That’s manly.

5YO: I am a man.

10YO: No, you have to be at least 17 or maybe even 18 to be a man.

5YO: You’re not a man.

10YO: Not yet, but I’m manly. My arms and legs are pretty hairy.

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