Tag Archives: sloppy parenting

Parenthoodwinked

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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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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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Pet Person (Part 2)

Pets

I don’t want to make myself out to be some kind of anti-PETA monster. I think puppies are cute. I appreciate the aesthetic of a basket of kittens and yarn. Seeing-eye dogs provide an amazing service to those in need. Animal friends can help old people live longer. But, perhaps because I grew up with an understanding of how much work pets can be, when I finally moved out of my house, it was with a sense of relief that the only thing I had to take care of for a while was myself.

Eventually that changed, and unfortunately, as much as I knew about owning animals, no one really prepared me for how much work it was to have kids. But, for some reason, taking care of babies didn’t bother me as much. Maybe it was the biological link or maybe it was the fact that they didn’t have teeth yet to chew up my shoes, or maybe it was because they wore diapers to prevent accidents on the rug. I didn’t mind changing them, or feeding them or playing with them the way I minded cleaning up after animals. (Except for vomit. Vomit’s always bad.)   

For years my husband, kids and I lived without any pets at all. Happily. I smiled knowingly when I heard my friends complain about finding someone to watch their cats or guinea pigs while they were away. I shook my head when I read the latest neighborhood email trail about a loose dog found on the street. I casually scanned through Facebook photos of ‘fur babies’ and ‘fur mommies’ without the slightest consideration of whether adding a pet to our own family would be a desirous prospect.  I was surprised when my sister, who I thought shared the same views on animals as I did, purchased a dog with her husband. “I have enough things and people to take care,” I would say, if my mother – who to this day, remains an ‘animal’ person – would bring up the idea.

It wasn’t until I noticed that my two sons, who were growing up isolated from any kind of regular pet contact, were afraid of animals that I gave owning one a second thought.  The idea that my stubborn refusal to entertain the notion of having a pet might in some way be detrimental to my children’s psychological state set off some perfectionist paranoia and I abandoned my rock-steady resolution on pets in a matter of days. Initially, we tried a couple of beta-fish and hermit crabs, but it became clear a species on a slightly higher order was necessary.

“Kids need to have a furry pet,” I reasoned with my husband, who had grown up with dogs and cats and was more than happy not to have any now.

“No dogs,” he said.

For a moment, I considered a cat, but I was still very allergic and the idea of subjecting myself to cat dander and the heavy regimen of anti-histamines which would be necessary in order to live in my own home was not appealing.

That left the rodent group. Ferrets, hamsters, chinchillas, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and……rats. Let me briefly explain that prior to the story I am relating, I always had a ‘thing’ about rats.  For Indiana Jones, it’s snakes. For me, it was rats. They’re clever, creepy and contagious. As a child, I’d seen at least two movies in which humans get eaten by rats.  ‘Flowers for Algernon’ and ‘The Secret of NIHM’ notwithstanding, I hated rats.

Yet, as I continued to research the best ‘first furry pet for a child’, rats kept coming up at the top of the list again and again. Apparently, they are as smart as dogs. They can be trained fairly easily and will adapt to your sleep schedule (most other rodents are strictly nocturnal). They are extremely social and enjoy interacting with people and rats. They very rarely bite without provocation. They don’t require shots and are relatively easy to take care of.

Ultimately, no one was more surprised than me when I agreed to allow my nine year old son adopt two rats for Hanukkah. Two instead of one because they are so social, they will get lonely if left by themselves for too long, apparently. We didn’t even own them yet and I was already anxious about their psychological states.

To Be Continued….

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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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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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Woman Interrupted

I have achieved a phase in my life during which I cannot have an adult conversation in my own home without being interrupted by a small person who feels that whatever they have to say or request is much more important than the conversation I am currently having. These interruptions typically consist of a long-winded explanation of a recent television commercial for a must-have product (“Have you ever heard of moon sand?”), a veiled attempt to pressure me into purchasing said product (“I think YOU would really like moon sand, Mom”), a random fact about a Guinness world record involving something disgusting (“Did you know the longest fingernails ever were three feet long?”) or a loud request for assistance in the bathroom (“CAN YOU HELP ME WIPE!?”).

My reactions to these interruptions vary based on the level of importance of the conversation I was currently having, my willingness to get involved in an intense discussion on something like moon sand or long dirty fingernails, and how annoyed I am at being interrupted in the first place.

I have tried numerous times (and not just when I am in a state of annoyance) to explain to these small people that the world (including the rapt and undivided attention of their mother) does not revolve around them and interrupting someone without a reason that constitutes an emergency is rude. I have had this conversation multiple times:

“Are you on fire?”

“No.”

“Is someone else near you on fire?”

“No.”

“Are you bleeding or is someone else near you bleeding or otherwise critically injured?”

“No.”

“Then, you can wait ‘til I’m done talking.”

And, yet, they never do.

Sometimes, when I am talking on the phone, they will run into the room and open their mouths to speak and I will quickly put up the universal sign to wait – a pointed index finger into the air.  At one point, that probably meant ‘Give me one more minute to finish’, but now, especially when paired with a lip-pursing, eyebrow furrowed glare, means ‘If you say one more word and interrupt me for the 15th time today about something frivolous and most likely involving an iPad app you want to download, I will make it my mission to destroy your happiness for the rest of the day, up to and including withholding dessert.”

However, even my deepest eyebrow furrow is often no match for that apparently desperate, urgent desire to open one’s mouth and vomit forth a spew of random and arbitrary thoughts designed for immediate satisfaction and acknowledgement. “My wizard just made level six!” “I think my right hand is asleep!” “Is there chocolate on my face?!” “Max just stepped on my foot on purpose!”

Mostly likely, the only permanent solution to my problem is time. I know there will come a day when they won’t come running to me. I won’t be the first person with whom they want to share these immediate and critical issues. Granted, the issues will be different and probably won’t involve moon sand, but I’ll be lucky to hear about them during our bi-weekly phone calls.  That they make out of guilt. When they remember. (Cue violins here.)

So, for now, even though I don’t like being interrupted, and even though I will keep trying to teach them how to be more polite about it, I’ll try to remember to keep in mind that what’s important to them should be important to me too. Even moon sand.

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PMS

Decided to explain the concept of PMS to the boys this morning. After I sat on and broke a pair of my sunglasses and screamed “God Damn it Fucking Fucker of Fuck it all” while hurling the pieces across the front seat of the car, I figured it was prudent.

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