|February 4, 2013||Filled under Motherhood, Uncategorized|
“I want a divorce,” my husband said, like he might as well have asked me to make some chicken fricassee for dinner. For a moment, the world stopped turning.
I looked up from my knitting needles, but just for long enough to see the validity of the statement behind his tired eyes.
You can’t blame the man. Having a relationship with me is sort of like living with a running addict who has Turret’s and believes all wounds can be healed with the proper application of cupcakes. We’d just been prolonging the inevitable since… oh probably that first stolen kiss in my office over a decade ago. We had a good ride. I don’t regret a minute of it.
After initial falling-to-pieces-of-life/grasping-at-lost-dreams phase, greatly supported by the occasional consumption of valium and frequent sobbing on the phone to, well, anyone who would listen, I decided I was determined to handle divorce with a proud, quiet grace. Of sorts.
There were plenty of options, of course. I toyed with the idea of alcoholism (but it isn’t Paleo), the 20-year-old neighbor boy, a team of cut-throat lawyers, reconciliation, ultra-marathons, and pretty much anything other than the ominous reality of: Reality.
So much for grace – months later I still go blubbering through enough tissues to be single-handedly responsible for the rise in Kleenex stock prices. I’ve learned a lot of things in that time though: Not the least of which is the fact that hemorrhoid cream takes the puffiness out of eyes and that the worth of a good water-proof mascara should never be under-estimated.
Now at the threshold of A Whole New Life, the possibilities seem limitless. If you could wake up one day and do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?
Me, I’d move to the Rockies. I’d pack up my kitchen toys, my bike, and my kid, and I would high-tail it to the trees and trails that were my childhood memories and my adult solace.
And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.
My flat here in Germany currently looks like a Joseph Beuys exhibition only I have fewer moldy sausages in display cases. Boxes upon boxes are sorted and labeled. Pictures in frames lean against walls. And my failure to dust with any sense of thoroughness is shamefully obvious. I swear I haven’t seen the tops of some of these shelves since I hung the buggers.
Trying to pack your life into the equivalent of ten extra large boxes is not easy. Particularly when your offspring is convinced that her entire livelihood relies on the much nurtured bond she’s developed with no less than 13,583 stuffed animals. Which all have names like Pie Star and Bluesy and LateeshaDeVonne (that one must be from New Orleans). But still, Mama, I would DIE if I could not have seven thousand tattered cat stuffed animals.
Divorce guilt made room for about fourteen. Cats. We still have the rest of the animal kingdom to get through. I tried to explain that the import of Chinese-manufactured stuffed animals in the US is big business and that, as she now had to get a paper route to afford her consumption of cereal, she could get some new faux fur friends. She wasn’t having it though and thus most of my packing looks like Hoarders for Toddlers.
I swear to God, if a single freaking Kinder Egg surprise toy makes it into one of those boxes, Mama’s gonna lose what’s left of her frail sanity.
In early March we’ll be setting up our new digs. It will look a lot like our old digs except we can hang unicorn pictures wherever the heck we want, and I can finally realize the full potential of my love of throw pillows. I’m gonna furnish my whole damn house with throw pillows, like some Pottery Barn version of a harem tent. You can never have too many throw pillows. Unless you think you do, in which case, please send them to me.
Some things in our new life will be different though. B will wrack up frequent flyer miles like an international executive. Mama will have to tell her socially unacceptable jokes to house plants. Our appliances will be 120V. Our laundry basket won’t have boy cooties.
Some things will be the same. My daughter will be loved and raised by two caring parents who will teach her to appreciate Monty Python, vegetables, and German soccer culture. I will continue running trails and crashing my bike. I will blog about adventures gone awry (now about single-motherhood, middle-age dating faux pas, and bike trails I probably should not have taken my kid down).
We will still laugh and cry, love and hurt. We’ll still have tradition, home, and family. Christmas and birthdays will still come. We’ll still dream.
And the world will keep turning.
|September 15, 2011||Filled under Motherhood|
How do you deal with mouthy 16 yr old step-daughters before resorting to violence?
This is a good question. Lots of people busy themselves with questions like this. Then they write books and share them with parents. They are great books and great examples of how to properly handle exactly these kinds of situations. Their children are balanced and respectful, respond to requests made of them, and think smoking is unhealthy and thus to be avoided. Or at least, if they actually HAD children, that’s how the children would be.
I used to think these guys knew what they were doing because they make a lot of money doing it, but then I read an example in Parenting with Love and Logic (by Foster Cline and Jim Fay). They use the word “sassing.” My grandmother used to say that too, so I was pretty sure their experience is based on 1953 households and episodes of Leave It To Beaver. Their “sassing” example goes something like this (only different so I don’t get sued):
Smart Parent: Please pick up your plate.
Smart Ass Kid: Whatevah Ho.
Smart Parent: Would you like to go to your room or outside until you can speak respectfully?
(Example ends, hypothetical child was miraculously cleared of shitty attitude by Facebooking for hours in their room.)
This is how something like that goes down in my house:
Me: Please pick up your plate.
Smart Ass Kid: Whatevah Ho.
(Example ends, real child most likely maimed by launched wooden spoon and teetering on the speechless end of consciousness while I justify actions by knowing those brain cells would be burned by cheap college beer someday anyway. If he were ever to make it into college, that is.)
Being as that, despite otherwise indicated, I am neither a fan of violence nor the actual mother of said Smart Ass Kid, my options are limited. Step-children make for a complicated mix. Someone else had a long turn at messing them up before you even got in the mix to help mess them up some more, and there’s the mother-load of a divorce somewhere along the way. General advice on this matter is found somewhere on the spectrum between “Run” and “Good Luck.”
There are a few options, as mentioned above.
1. Drugs: You can achieve and maintain a chronic state of inebriation from years 12 to 18. You may be miserable, but you’ll be too messed up to care. Con: You’ll miss the year Leonardo DiCaprio sprouted body hair (which I am sure is soon to come). Pro: You can pre-book your rehab and have a better chance of getting a single-bed room.
2. Violence: This method is only valid if you are Chuck Norris and you live in a 1979 Kung Fu classic. In Chuckality, all conflict can be resolved with a swift roundhouse to the right temple. I didn’t confirm this, but I think it’s illegal in at least 49 of the 50 United States, unless you are in fact Chuck Norris. Con: Easy to pull hamstring muscles and hard to command respect when lying on the floor with a gimpy leg. Pro: Success may land you in prison for most of remaining teenage years, thereby avoiding recurrence of sassing, and you can bet those butch girls in Block B don’t sass either.
3. Consistency: This is the secret weapon of all parents and adults. If you have not discovered it yet, I urge you to try it. It’s like poison to bad behaviors, but it takes more resolve than President Bush on the search for WMD. Because no matter what, you cannot stray from your MO. Con: You sound like a broken record. Pro: You sound like a broken record.
It’s the job of teenagers to try to get us to respond (usually emotionally) and thus a set boundary will be tested, tested again, and tested some more. Contrary to popular belief, teenagers are not evil. They’re learning how to interact. So choose your border, make it clear, and never cross it.
Regardless of your relationship to the said teenager, (parent, step-parent, neighbor, whatevah), it is your right as a human being to demand respect. You wouldn’t let a colleague, spouse, friend talk to you that way, so just because you can’t sell step-kids to the gypsies for organ harvesting doesn’t mean you have to tolerate disrespectful speak. Or sassing. Or smack talk. Or wisin’ off.
Practice impenetrable lines like these:
“I do not respond to a disrespectful tone.”
“If you want to talk like that, you’ll need to leave the room.”
“We speak respectfully in this house, or not at all.”
“Your biological mother may have raised you to be an ungrateful, ignorant heathen, but by god you’ll fucking talk NICE to me or I’ll flame torch your goddamn Justin Bieber CDs and post your entire diary on Facebook before you can say ‘like.’ And that’s another thing: Like is not an adverb!”
The one I used most on my toddler (because she still likes Raffi and not Justin Bieber – and if she ever DOES like Justin Bieber, I’ll be checking with those gypsies) is this: “That was not a respectful tone. Would you like to try again?”
I also recommend opening a change in your behavior with a statement. Something casual over dinner, in the hallway, or after you’ve unplugged the wireless router to facilitate an internet-free weekend for entitled teenagers (one of my favorites). I like a warning that sounds ominous and creepy and requires no response like:
“So the disrespectful tone in the house is no longer tolerable. From now on, I will not respond to it.”
“Did you know your kidney is worth fifteen grand on the black market? Oh by the way – let’s work on talking nice to each other.”
|August 31, 2011||Filled under Motherhood, Uncategorized|
In a strange twist of karmic fate, I have a relatively perfect life. I live in a perfect flat in a perfect neighborhood near the head of miles of perfect trail. On a good day, the toughest decision I have to make is whether I will go running or mountain biking after I drop my perfect kid off in her perfect hippie communist preschool in the perfectly clean forests of Germany. I even have a husband with most of his hair and the perfect amount of perverse, politically incorrect humor. People should hate me, but I was given the gift of good coffee making and so instead they are drawn into my kitchen to get juiced up and eat cupcakes and they cannot help but like me, even if out of codependency.
Until now I thought I was some sort of karmic loophole exception the gods just hadn’t noticed yet. Like some administration in the clouds went awry and there are a few million hungry people in Africa skipping meals as a balance to my happiness. I thought about mentioning something, but I donated to WWF instead and kept my mouth shut. Then I thought maybe in a past life I was somebody who suffered some kind of horrendous existence. Like maybe one of Henry the VIII’s wives. Which probably wasn’t that bad until he wanted another wife.
Obviously I was wrong and my hopes of perpetual bliss were the naive and silly beliefs of a spiritually infantile woman who does not understand the concept of yin and yang very well.
And some days when I’ve had coffee before I start interacting with him, I just think about creative ways to support his speedy departure to boarding school. I think they outlawed military school in Germany sometime after 1945 back when they had one of those fast-track youth-to-soldier programs. I bet those kids obeyed well though.
This is the part where I start sounding old. Because when *I* was growing up and was torn mid-season from access to Mork & Mindy, the word “entitled” applied to things like food and water. And the water probably had some Giardia in it. For the rest of my childhood years, we only had electricity when I had properly changed the oil in the generator, and I learned to hold water for days on end to avoid outhouse usage in winter blizzards. By the time I was a teenager, my parents had instilled a healthy respect for authority and fear of starvation in me. Sure, the world was all about me and I had more hormones than a gardening class full of post-menopausal women on estrogen patches, but I understood that everything I had could be taken from me. My mom would say things like “I can make your life hell.” And I believed her.
Now I’m faced with a situation that not even my inordinately effective cocktail of optimism and cynicism can cope with. It isn’t so much the smelly boy laundry or the sweaty jock strap that lands in my perfumed bathroom. It’s wrath of teenage anger that falls upon me when I won’t fork up money for McDonalds. It’s the claims of “starvation” when I refuse to buy Nutella or accept that fresh nectarines, apples, and a fridge full of deliciousness are nutritionally void to a teenager. It’s the statement that said punk teenager is being used as a “slave” because we asked him to take the trash out once a week. Which doesn’t get done anyway. And we’re all too afraid to remind him.
And so I cower in my once-perfect little world coming up with schemes that might get him taken away by Health and Welfare, but won’t land me in prison. My perfect life has been interrupted by a constant veil of ghetto music blaring from a scratchy cell phone. My previously clean halls are littered with permanently grey socks, over-sized skater shoes, and lights that haven’t been turned off. There’s a constant aura of anger that floats around the place making me consider burning sage as a morning ritual. I’m thinking of resorting to my friend Chris’ techniques of physical manipulation for warding off emotional lepers (usually consisting of cuckoo hand symbols and a few wayward disco dance moves done facing the south on a full moon – you see how desperate I am).
Now I am thinking of opening a tour company that specializes in Third World Experiences for the Entitled Teenager. Maybe toss in a little Lord of the Flies political structure in there too. Parents could pick the appropriate emotionally traumatizing experience for their particular teenager. Do they need to witness disease, hunger, and war, or simply squat-and-drop plumbing and no means of charging their iPhone?
Until then, my house is feeling like that war zone. It’s soccer practice laundry versus broccoli for dinner, and I’m pretty sure I’m losing. That being said, I installed the new wireless router at my house today and hold to key to omniscience and omnipotence: The password to internet access.
And you bet your ass I’m gonna make him beg for it.
Or at least eat his fucking carrots.
|July 14, 2011||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Motherhood|
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve decided to title my blogs with an obviousness that would deter my father before he actually reads the blog. It’s like a literary safety mechanism. (And Dad, if you get here, this one is pretty kosher.)
So I am in the grand ol’ US of A right now, touring around with my toddler, and I do recognize I’m clinging to that term way longer than appropriate (like a mother who breastfeeds beyond puberty, it’s really time to move on). And we’ve had one of those trips that has been a little… I’m not sure how to put it… but “Fucking Cursed” is really what comes to mind first. On day two, she dropped that bomb 45 pounder on her foot. An ER trip and seven stitches and various levels of trauma later, she’s laid up for three weeks with Mutant Toe. Many strange things continue to happen after that, ranging from checking a family member into rehab to waking up to a cat burglar sneaking in my window to… trying to drive through the carport with my mom’s bike on the roof. I might have to consider continuing veganism just to get my karma straight.
All these little traumas were closing in on my usual upbeat self. That and the fact that I had become the 24/7 slave to a four-year-old that now requests things to the tone of:
“Put my glass CLOSER or I will SPANK YOUR BOOTY!!!!”
If ever there was a sign that Mama needed a little solitude, this would be it.
So I decided to go camping for a weekend. Or rather, a single night. By myself. In the woods. With some bears. I seem to attract bears.
People tend to look at this misadventures and adventures of my life and consider them some kind of impossibly wild fantasies of the marginally insane mother/housewife/woman. I’m here to tell you all today, whoever you are, this one thing (okay, and a few other things, but this is the most important):
TAKE WHAT YOU NEED.
You cannot give what you want to give unless you have what you need to have. It’s simple logic people. If I did not pack my bags and sit on a beach listening to waves for at least twenty-four hours, I was in danger of breaking my vegan vows with cannibalism. I climb mountains, run trails, bike up stupid shit, and camp alone because I NEED to do these things to be a better wife/mother/woman/person. I need to take care of my needs.
In this case, my Need Caring Kit involved a pack stuffed with knitting needles, two pounds of cherries, some tofu, camp stuff, coffee, more coffee, and a Runner’s World magazine (which is kinda like porn for me, especially when there’s a dude on the cover). And my kid’s Lego headlamp because I couldn’t find a different one. That thing has some power though. I think I misled a few ships thinking I was a lighthouse or something as I spun in circles around my campfire that night.
That first day I hiked a couple of miles into a secluded beach on the beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. It was a long beach, but there were some campers at the far end. I figured this was good. They probably had hotdogs or some other bear-attracting food. I don’t think bears like tofu. They had boats too. And thus I figured they were of the adult genre of mature campers.
And so I took off my swimsuit top and let the misses soak up the sun in all their pinkish pale glory. I’m Vitamin D deficient anyway, so I imagine it’s like a medical treatment or something to be tanning topless. It’s not exactly that I wanted to singe the little dears, but I do have a wedding gown to wear in some weeks, and tan lines are so passé.
It was a glorious day on the water. Blue skies. My tent perched on the beach. Waves lapping at my feet. After just a few hours of not hearing orders or requests or needs issued at me, I felt… dare I say… rejuvenated. Left alone to my own thoughts, I wondered about the sacrifice of motherhood and decided it is all a ridiculous way to not take responsibility for our own selves. We’re not supposed to sacrifice ourselves, but enhance ourselves. To be a good mother, I must be a healthy woman. Healthy women need to flip through pages of men modeling running garb and not be interrupted. Also, nudity without kid-commentary is enjoyable. Because I swear the next time my kid asks me if she got stuck in my Bagina on the way out, I’m banning her from the bathroom.
I see the campers down the beach. The crowd there seems to be growing but they are unusually quiet, and their dogs unusually well-behaved, for a pack of Saturday-night campers.
When the sun went down, I made a fire, ate my dinner, and curled up in my tent rather appreciative that I wasn’t in Grizzly country. And that I wasn’t exactly alone. I like to pretend to be all outdoorsy and whatnot, but the truth is, if I am sleeping alone in the woods in a tent, chances are I am too scared to go outside and pee.
The next morning I went outside and made campfire coffee. No one talked to me. No one asked for cereal with yogurt on top and just seven blueberries. No one drank the rest of my coffee when I wasn’t looking. I skipped rocks. I laid in the sun. Topless. No one tried to play radio dials on my nipples. I watched the neighboring campers go back and forth on their boats, wake boarding. I watched my cherries float off into the lake (I had set the bag in the water to cool). When they drifted back in, I braved the cryogenically approved water temperature and swam out to get them. I ate them. I waved at the campers when they waved at me.
Later I decided I was ready to socialize and I wanted to walk to the other end of the beach and check out some rock climbing potential. I threw on some shorts and a shirt, and trekked down the rocky shore. As I got closer to the campers, I noticed they appeared to be rather youngish looking adults. Perhaps teens. Oh dear, perhaps young teens. Droves of them. All smiling brightly. At me. As if they knew me. Better than most.
A nice man came forward to chat as I nodded my camper’s nod of good morning. He was a chatty man, older, and seemingly nervous by my presence. Which I was beginning to understand seeing as he was the only person in the crowd with a driver’s license. We talked about the weather and he assured me that all these kids were really NICE kids. NICE kids he said. Really nice. I ask if they are local. He says no, not really.
They are from the ueber Christian Bible School down the highway.
They’re schooled now. That’s for sure.
Not too many topless tanners in Corinthians.
And my way was merry indeed. I hummed while I packed my tent, and it wasn’t a fucking Raffi song. I felt, and don’t laugh at me here, something like… like inner peace washing over me.
When I got home later, I was amazed to find that not only did I love my child, but the mere sound of her voice was not like fingers on a chalk board. I didn’t mind that she jumped all over my body. In fact, I liked personal contact again. And when I heard the incessant chirp of “Mama” – it didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall while sucking a bottle of wine through a funnel. It made me want to take care of my baby, love her, and laugh with her. Because I’d already taken care of myself.
|April 29, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics, Motherhood|
Once upon a time in a distant land or a parallel universe or some time continuum that existed before breastfeeding when I could actually remember what I had read about in the morning newspaper…
I wore designer Manolo Blahniks and Bruno Maglis on my days off. I knew I was valued and essential because I got to negotiate salaries and job descriptions, because my name was printed on invitations to things, and because I did my Christmas shopping in airplanes with Miles & More points. And I thought, back then, Wow, I am all these things, defined by being available 24/7 on my mobile and on having a business card with the word Manager on it. Life had meaning. My pay checks had meaning (often correlating to shoe sales). And I’d never leave the perfect world of personal and financial value behind me (not that I separated the two anyway). I knew I was good and important because people told me I was good and important. I was soooo self-actualized.
Thinking about this now has given me some LSD flashbacks to college where I once learned about Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs. Maslow applied some little known technique to his ideas here, sometimes referred to as “logic” but not commonly used in the home of your average housewife. What I noticed about Maslow’s diagram is that self-actualization is just the tip of the iceberg which basically means it’s fluff, an extra, air-conditioning in a cool climate, stuff like that.
Here’s Maslow’s Pyramid and a few notes:
- Sex as a basic need: This explains much of my husband’s argumentation.
- Sex listed again with intimacy: What wasn’t intimate about the first mention of sex? You can’t be mingling genitalia and have it NOT be intimate. And if offspring occur, you can bet there’s not much more intimate than sharing the reality of an accordion-like vagina during labor.
- Self-actualization has to do with “accepting facts?” If I accepted many of the facts of my life… the only thing I’d be actualizing is a drug dependency as a coping mechanism.
Back then, all this made a lot of sense. Then one day something happened and I didn’t have a purpose anymore. It wasn’t a gradual process or a slow awakening – more like a blunt baseball bat to the head and waking up with half my clothes on backwards. Only my wallet was emptier and there were milk stains on my shirt. It was clear to me that any purpose I had was something more like an evolutionary vessel of species perpetuation. If only I had remained blissfully unaware and thwarted the ticking of that goddamn biological clock!!!
Now here I am, a bona fide housewife, wondering how to achieve self-actualization. It’s a conversation that happens frequently around playgrounds and sand pits in Mother Code that usually goes like this: ”I am trying a new recipe for dinner tonight. If my children don’t discover the vegetables and my husband doesn’t notice the meat is missing, I will consider myself a successful mother for the rest of the day.”
Recently I was talking to one of these mothers, a particularly fulfilled housewife who I am sure whistles while she works, leaves love notes in her husbands ironed shirts, and pulls steaming casseroles out of the oven faster than I can pull excuses out of my ass. She felt that mothers were meant to be at home, if possible, and satisfied in such a role. After I was done flashing back to 1960 when happy hour started at 4 o’clock just as the morning’s dose of Valium was wearing off and women were satisfied in their housewife roles, I asked where we were supposed to get our sense of self-actualization. She said (and I’ll burn in hell for sharing this): “From our husbands.”
Hang on, I have to go bang my head against the tile counter for a minute so I can keep writing.
Anyway. This made me wonder if we were over-valuing self-actualization anyway and if one of the cultural issues we have with this whole hype of “equality” is that we assume women need self-actualization. I decided to make a pyramid that better represents the modern housewife’s, or wife’s, or mother’s, or woman’s needs (did I leave anybody out?). We’re going to call it Brazen Apron’s Painfully Realistic Pyramid of Lady Needs. It looks something, well exactly, like this:
My conclusion after this in-depth, scientific analysis of chick needs is that we cannot expect a single person or task to fulfill us. It’s a learned habit to take pride and ownership of all the good things around us in a day. Some days my options are limited, so I just pretend that I’m responsible for the sun rising that morning. Sometimes, I even tell my toddler that so she says things like “Wow, Mom, you are so amazing and powerful and smart and appreciated and needed.” Or at least that’s what I imagine she’d tell me if she wasn’t busy screaming “I almost pottied mostly in the toilet!!!”
|April 16, 2011||Filled under Motherhood|
For those of you who don’t know, I live in Germany – a country where the only thing more frowned upon than public antisemitism is a failure to be punctual. I’m not generally a late person, though that could be the optimistic in me. I show up on time for… hair appointments, spa appointments, anything related to food… and that’s about it.
Recently at the PTA meeting the teachers held a long speech about the importance that all children be brought to school on time, while holding eye contact with me for the entirety of the meeting. This included the speech on “forest appropriate snacks” (apparently my kid’s breakfast attracts flesh-eating bears from beyond the Russian border), swearing in the kindergarten (not too many kids there curse like a sailor… in English), sunscreen, appropriate clothing (high heels and tree-climbing are a poor mix apparently, though good for future pole-dancing career seekers) and so on. As I listened to all these areas in which I repetitively fail high scores, I wondered why I so wholeheartedly fail at some basic mom things.
Then it dawned on me: I am, for the most part, not in the Mompetition. Mompetition is like competition only there’s a lot more blood and loss of life involved in motherhood. I can see no other reason that other mothers can get up, put on matching socks, get their kid ready, and apply their makeup evenly before… noon. It’s something that takes years of training, developed instincts, and a knowledge of mascara that I could never dream of achieving.
I used to bring my kid to kindergarten in a different town. A rich little suburb of inbred yuppies. I tell you, those broads had designer jeans that’d make Fergie weep. I’d stroll in with my dingy boots, an old pair of Andreas’ jeans rolled up to my knees, and about 17 layers of sweaters. If I’d gotten up early enough, I might have at least one contact lens in and thus only be squinting with one eye. My child would inevitably have insisted on doing her own hair with no less than 41 hair clips placed randomly about her mop, and on wearing her tights over her jeans. The looks I got (the half I could see with my wonky vision) ranged from blatant disgust to cautious alarm. I don’t want to spread any hate here because we all ought to be in this together but…
To mothers with red carpet make-up and appropriately fed and dressed children at 8 AM: Suck it.
Give us girls with mediocre style, under-functioning thyroids, and fashion-challenged toddlers a break. What we lack in rouge we make up for in smutty pillow talk. And trust me, your husbands like smutty pillow talk.
With time I’ve figured out a few tricks to appearing less like a used up New Orleans hooker after a bachelor party, like taking my wine bottles to recycling before I drop the kid off. Or understanding that high heels aren’t the solution to dressing up any outfit. Or “The Cardigan” – because ANY cardigan makes any woman and any outfit appear wholesome. It’s just the nature of the cardigan. You could walk into a shopping center wearing a thong, a Sex Pistols t-shirt, and eye-liner from last night’s vodka binge and if you had a cardigan over the top of that, people would ask you to babysit their children.
However, during my brief stint in the neighborhood of Audi-driving, Fendi-toting moms, I found one thing that trumped them all:
The only thing more envied than a fabulous mom is a fit one. Showing up to the school in my running tights or sporting a pony tail and trainers, or wearing all my mountain biking gear, was so effective in minimizing snobbery that I started wearing it even if I wasn’t going for a run or a ride. Yoga pants, running shorts, biking helmets, you name it. Any time you’re feeling a little down in the dumps because you’re not wonder-mom, just throw on some lycra and a sports bra and watch the mommy-awe around you. If you’re particularly ambitious, you could actually exercise too, but I’m pretty sure that’s not even necessary.
I’m also pretty sure that the motion of the universe is based solely on the force of female competition (exceeded in power only by mompetition). It is why mothers dress their children in coordinating colors and endlessly compare them to other children. It is why we benchmark ourselves on the best qualities of the best mothers around us and fail to appreciate our own best qualities (or are concerned that they’re limited to being able to sing along to every Bruce Springsteen song and having financed no less than three petticoats in the child’s wardrobe). If it is a competition, I’ll have to forfeit now because sometimes we win (my kid can already recognize and write several words), and sometimes we lose (most of them are swear words), and most of the time, it’s not important anyway (she thinks “Fuck” is the name of a fictional Disney character that poops in people’s ears).
|April 12, 2011||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Motherhood|
Remember when a weekend of debauchery meant Vegas with the girls,evenly applied make-up, liquid meals, and the possibility of making out with a nameless guy at the dark end of a bar? (That’s the blog-friendly PG version at least.)
Fast forward to the infinity of parenthood where a weekend of debauchery means Disneyland with the kid, forgetting sunscreen, carb loading on 12 Euro slices of pizza, and the certainty of a dramatic toddler meltdown before sun down.
So we took our kid, B (4 minus 45 sleeps) to Disneyland Paris. Not because we feel like cultured and intellectual folk as ourselves must take our kids to sophisticated French amusement parks rather than those American tennis-shoe trodden versions, but because Paris is a 45 minute flight from us. We passed the Asterix and Obelix park on the highway noticing the road in that direction looked eerily vacant. Those French might think they’re clinging to their heritage like a drag queen to his wig, but they’re all paying to see our Mickey Mouse anyway. Suckers.
Of course he speaks French there. And the way he was bobbing around and talking about fairy lands, I’m pretty sure he was on the ol’ absinthe too. Other than that, Disneyland there is like Disneyland anywhere else: A highly optimized, efficient funneling system to encourage ridiculous amounts of cash spending for products made by small Chinese children who will never see a Disneyland in their life. Not that their lives are as such deprived. I’m pretty sure you can grow up emotionally balanced and healthy even if your parents didn’t buy you a set of Minnie ears, a princess hat, princess flipflops, princess hair brush, various t-shirts, pencils, magnets, schnickschnack and so on. We didn’t want to take the risk though, so we bought the princess dress too.
The best part about going to Disneyland as an adult is that there is ample opportunity to blatantly judge everyone around you. At any given moment you can turn your head and find obvious proof that you are in fact not the worst parent in the world, or that your kid is actually not a reincarnation of Attila the Hun. The kid that just threw his melted chocolate ice cream cone at his mom might be. That Italian that just smacked his daughter in the face, he definitely gets a prize too.
In an amusement park crammed full of over-sugared children and over-fed Irish (I’m starting to wonder if the recession really has hit them so hard), I made a list of wisdoms I thought some parents could make use of in the future:
1. Your sunburn is not to be worn as an accessoire. (I was going to offer you some sunscreen but, standing in line behind your pink, boiled neck made me wonder if you just got syphilis from one of the “cast” members, so I curbed my generosity.)
2. If you give your kid too much sugar, he will eventually come down and may throw himself in front of the Casey Jr. track in a suicidal rage. On top of the damaged child, you’ll have a 45 minute line of parents really pissed off at you for holding up the ride.
3. You are not Forever 21, even if you had your third kid by then. Please stop shopping there.
4. For the love of God, please wear pants that fit. I thought my kid would be scared of Goofy, but the rolls of exposed flesh bursting forth from denim in blatant display of meaty glory has left her forever emotionally scarred. (P.S. To the lady in the bus to whom my child blurted “Look at that big, fat lady!!” – I solemnly apologize for her insensitive, though accurate, observation. That was almost as embarrassing as when she laughed hysterically at the dwarf that was not part of the show. Also, thank you for wearing pants that fit. And for not bludgeoning my kid with your vanity case.)
5. You’re never too old to enjoy the Dumbo ride.
By the third day of paradise amongst over-sized Stitch replicas, B was ready to move in and Andreas and I were smuggling flasks through the entrance gate. They sell freakin’ EVERYTHING Disney at that place, you’d think at least Scrooge McDuck would have his own line of vodka. But nooooo, they only sell caffeinated drinks on the inside because they have to keep us all moving. Apparently drunk parents buy fewer light sabers. Or throw themselves in front of Casey Jr. after 45 minutes of waiting for a 1 minute ride. The thought crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
|April 3, 2011||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Motherhood|
As some of you may or may not know, my child goes to a hippie kindergarten in the middle of the woods. I’ll explain for those of you less-enlightened or more-civilized folks. Firstly, we live in Germany so “kindergarten” is something you do from the ages of three to six. By “middle of the woods” I mean: There is no classroom. I take my kid to the designated trail head, there’s a rusty old trailer that clearly hosted gypsies and fortune-tellers in a previous life, and she spends the day meandering around the forest in an apparent competition to see a) which kid can get more muddy and b) who can carry the largest pile of essential and important sticks home to offer as a prize to parents.
Obviously only Greenpeace lifetime members, beatniks, those-who-don’t-know-better, or musicians would send their kids to such a “school.” As I don’t play an instrument, know Timothy Leary, or hose down whalers, we can see which optimistic category I fit into. The, uh, “great” thing about this Kindergarten is that it is owned and operated by the parents, who have a board, a sort of non-profit organization, and a lot of unrealistic ideas. When I signed B up for the group, I was told it wasn’t a “normal” school (no shit – I saw a kid walk out and pee on a tree, then wash his hands on his grimy knees before reaching for lunch). I would be obliged to accept some sort of “duty” within the group if I wanted my kid to get a placement there.
This should have smelled of communism from the get-go, but I’m more than a little politically naive.
So recently the parent work group (people disappointed that this was the best excuse they had to make their spouse babysit) came over to my home for a meeting. Ever the striving excellent hostess, I made cupcakes. There are a few things I can make really fucking well – cupcakes are one of them, pesto is the other. But sitting around a table with a bunch of garlicky, Birkenstock-wearing PhDs just seemed too intense and I didn’t have any weed on hand to accessorize with. So I opted for flipflops, cupcakes, and red wine.
It had been a particularly long day (I made A LOT of cupcakes) and I corked the wine before… well… sundown. I wouldn’t say “prematurely” because wine can never be premature. Only drunk can be premature. Sophisticated women know the balance. I am not sophisticated.
Having grown up in the back woods (the fact that B actually has a “potty area” at her school is a step up from the plumbing of my childhood), I missed out on a few of those subtle social behaviorisms that might make the difference between me and, say, normal people. Like the fact that it probably looks bad if half the bottle of vino is gone when the first guests arrive. I thought people might judge me, and considered finishing that bottle off and just opening a new one when they came, but I wasn’t sure I’d make it to open the front door anymore.
The best part about having a bunch of virtual strangers over to my house is that I have a life-size naked picture of me hanging in the stairwell. I think it’s a real ice breaker. Lots of conversations start with things like “So what kind of hair removal do you use?” and “You make narcissism look normal” and “Was that taken before B was born?”
By the way, here are the answers to all those and more:
- I use a razor because Nair and waxing were used by German doctors in the second world war.
- I’m a middle child. You ain’t seen the likes of attention-desperate I can bring on.
- No. It was NOT taken before B was born. I ran approximately a billion million trillion miles to get that goddamn body AFTER she was born. Oh yeah, and the photographer is really good with Photoshop.
I thought the meeting was going really well. Everyone was high on sugar because I use frosting like it’d solve global warming and is state funded, and I’d had only… batter, frosting, and red wine all day. The crayons were out and we were all having meaningful discussions about the purpose of our enlightened, forested preschool, not to mention the meaning of life. But I should have known that what appeared to be a bunch of utopian community hippies was in fact…
… a band of manipulative communists.
Now I cannot prove anything, but I’m pretty sure that every time I turned my head (to draw another box in my nifty organizational chart, which looked like God’s Word to this bunch of hooligans, no doubt), someone put more wine in my glass. In hindsight, it all makes more sense. Would the USSR have ever been such a conglomerate of space-exploring idiots if it were not but for the influence of vodka? Even Gorbachev has his own vodka brand. Communism only works if you get enough people drunk to follow along with the sober leaders. This, of course, I didn’t realize until the next day.
Because even a drunk MBA looks a helluva lot more organized than a bunch of tree-huggin’, sociology-degree-holding parents.
Somehow between glass of wine number one and glass of wine number… we’ll be vague here… somethingorother, I apparently was nominated as president of the board.
And as I’m a blatant narcissist, I probably willingly accepted this significant role with a measure of matriarchal grace a la “Let me show you the way, my children.”
So as it stands, I’m likely going to be the president of the tree-fairy kindergarten in the forest. My first order of business is to hire another gypsy for the circus cart. If we pay her enough, maybe she’ll tell the children there’s hope for them beyond Waldorf.
|March 26, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics, Motherhood|
In our age of entitlement, and as it is illegal in most countries for small children to work as laborers, I’m struggling to teach my child about contributing to the household. Having grown up in a family that made Puritans look like a lazy bunch of hippies, it’s been my approach to expose the toddler to work-ethic issues early in life. We gave B dinner duty when she was two, but after living almost solely on peanut butter wraps, we’ve had to redistribute the household tasks. Now she’s mostly responsible for Remote Control Management, Cushion Turning if she secretly pees on the couch, and Full Cup Supervising (in this challenging tasks she oversees the adult filling her cup with liquid and throws a subsequent tantrum of colossal drama should it not be filled to the molecular maximum).
I’ve been watching the spectrum of parenting approaches on this one in an attempt to apply one effectively in our household. My particular favorite are those encouraging parents who find ways to make every job some kind of fun and game. Put your fucking socks on, kid, I’m not pretending it’s a choochoo train. After you learn how to run the espresso machine and wake me up with lattes, we can renegotiate.
There are also those who apparently have enough time in the world to wait until their kids decide on their own to do… well… something. Those are the same people that ask me how I get so much done in a day (you know, like feeding my family AND taking a bath) because they spend their days informing their children that it isn’t possible to leave until they’ve decided to put their shoes on. They’re generally still barefoot when it’s time to go off to college.
There are those who just do stuff themselves. I know those moms. I have many of them in my circle of friends. They live for their children. I call them Martyr Mothers and I’ve got a whole separate blog waiting to unleash on them and their blatant ways of making the rest of us look bad. There are those patient, discussion-having mothers who somehow REASON with their children to motivate them. I believe this is some sort of parenting witchcraft, though, and I don’t trust it for a minute.
And then there’s the approach I usually take: Broken record until defeat, or lofty threats of impending hell-on-earth should compliance not soon follow. Neither seem to work and it might be that B just doesn’t understand how much she’ll want to go to prom in 15 years, but she’ll be sorry then that she didn’t put her plate away, let me tell you.
Then I saw this picture. This is a real picture with a real person that I really know. I did not know the chicken. And suddenly I realized something - it isn’t about teaching our kids to do CHORES as if they were some evil plot of prolonged torture we’ve designed to get even with our children for years of waking us up early. Unless of course you were my parents (who we’re now getting even with for years of waking us up early).
It’s about encouraging them to partake in community. There’s an additional bonus here, and at risk of sounding like a communist, I’ll explain anyway. Children who have active roles in the community of their family are more likely to partake productively in the larger community, i.e. society (Citation: a blog by a hippie kid that grew up on a commune and is now a model citizen).
Community seems to be some sort of long-lost folklore, and maybe that’s what is contributing to our household decline. And who is to say (not me) that it’s a decline – this could just be a neutral cultural shift, a change in values that is the yin to some other yang.
I tried explaining this to my daughter when I suggested that she put her plate in the sink on her own. While she ensured me that I was much more efficient at cleaning up plates because I am “the bigger mama,” I articulated the privilege of a meal that was not solely based on cruciferous vegetables.
In the end, I resorted to the time-tested Star Chart. Star Charts are the shizit (note modern lingo usage here, it keeps me hip). My kid might not want to pick up the playdough slaughterhouse she just created on my bed for reasons of good will, responsibility, accountability, or community. But for a fucking felt-tip star on a paper chart, she’ll polish the shoes, make me dinner, and profess undying toddler love and adoration while folding the laundry.
My hope is that we’ll one day graduate from Star Charts to some other less obvious form of bribery, like the personal satisfaction of achievement or the reward of belonging to a community. Until then, I’ll have to keep dancing around like a banshee on crack in a supportive display of motivation every time she earns a star.
|March 20, 2011||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Motherhood|
6:30 – My alarm beeps to the tune of an organized, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed mother. I’m in the shower, cleaned, and wearing a dress that says “I look fabulous but I didn’t try too hard.” I’ve used a hair-dryer as an exception to my usual ratty-hair-tie up-do approach to head fashion. Good mothers use hair care products. Good mothers are thrilled to welcome the entire class of preschoolers over for a day of homemade fun.
7:00 – The first cup of coffee is in and I’m bubbling around the house to Jack Johnson (decidedly kid-friendly but intellectual-appearing background music) finalizing various details of Better Living in the pillow arrangements on my couch because I wouldn’t want the preschoolers to notice which covers are missing a button and rat me out to their mothers.
7:30 – I’m bribing my child with early morning chocolate if she’ll just for-the-love-of-God wear more than her camouflage rain boots with a pair of Elmo panties and enough blue eye shadow to impress a Louisiana mall hooker.
8:00 – Having wiped the tears from my make-up smeared daughter’s cheeks after explaining that Santa loves children in color coordinated clothes even MORE, the first children arrive. I answer the door in one of those grand sweeping gestures that ladies in black and white movies used to make, only I’m not wearing my house coat or a pouting lip expression. I am certain, though, I am equally as fabulous and a shining image of perfect, blissful mothering.
8:30 – The children have apparently told friends, family, and neighborhood passers by that a party is happening at my house. It suddenly appears like a rave gone out of control and I wonder if I shouldn’t have shown them how to fill balloons with nitrous oxide. One child is locked in the bathroom, presumably shaving (thanks to B’s instruction, no doubt). Another is dressed in drag but has promised to go back in the closet before his parents arrive to pick him up. As motivation, I have promised him a copy of an Elton John CD. There are preschool teachers somewhere in the building but they have either been covered by the offspring of toddlers (who apparently multiply in a fashion similar to aggressive bacteria forms) or have locked themselves in the other bathroom with the nitrous oxide tanks.
9:00 – B has taken Raffi out of the stereo and replaced it with Xibit so the other kids could learn some English. Her room now looks like the inside of a Destiny’s Child music video, only with more legos and stuffed animals.
9:30 – The teachers attempt to regain control by encouraging meaningful discussion in a quiet morning circle. I can’t help but think it would be more effective if I had put as much vodka in the children’s tea as I did in my own coffee. B suggests I count the circle of children as some kindergarten ritual takes place. The children are eerily silent during this process and I suspect a toy doll may soon be called upon for sacrifice. Instead, they open their snack boxes alarmingly close to my living room furniture, causing me to instinctively reach out and slap their hands away from all textiles.
10:00 – I’ve had to brew more coffee although the mix is now about 25/75 in favor of spirits. The eighteen pairs of greasy hands on my sofa sent me in search of leftover balloons but all I found was a raided container of chamomile (that junky, B, must have gotten to it first). I cry briefly, then recognize, like some pirate beautician, I have put mascara on only one eye this morning.
10:30 – Some of the children opt to go outside and play. I consider faking a lice scare to get the rest out the door too.
11:00 – Good god, they came back.
11:01 – The minutes tick by slowly now, or maybe it’s just that I’m drinking faster.
11:30 – I’ve started cooking as a distraction and curious eager children are “helping” me in the kitchen. I can’t tell if the room is spinning or the children are just running around me that fast. At one point I thought I saw my daughter clopping around in a pair of my Jimmy Choos. I make a note to check the drag queen’s backpack before he leaves the house.
12:00 – The children appear to be playing a simultaneous game of rocket-screaming-through-the-apartment and jumping-dangerously-close-to-the-window. Apparently the rules involve extra points for high octaves and consistency of sound above 94 decibels. Someone has found the trumpet (how did I not remember to hide that?) and is doing a toddler version of a Kenny G solo in the stairwell. I watch him wipe a booger the size and consistency of a vat of pudding on the mouth piece as he hands it to the next kid. Where the hell did I leave my “coffee?”
12:30 – In minutes parents will start arriving to pick up children and I start telling myself to be nice. The coffee seems to be a truth serum though as I ask the first parent if they’ve had their child inoculated and if this behavior is new or was he always the kind of kid you might want to send to a special integrative school. The tranny kid re-negs on our deal and tells his mom I let him wear my underwear. She seems appalled but I clear the air by telling her they were clean.
13:00 – The late-stayers get to eat lunch and it’s been catered to our door. I find this decidedly good because I was trying to count my coffee mugs to see if I had enough to serve them all cornflakes in rum (a favorite passed down for generations). My blessed child gets the honor of saying a prayer. I’m bursting with pride as I watch her gather courage in the silence of the room, children in quiet awe, until she announces “I farted in my chair.” Feeding frenzy commences.
13:30 – The teachers have questioned my consumption of coffee until I explain to them that I have a rare adrenal disorder also known as Parenthooditis which requires inordinate amounts of coffee to keep me from collapsing into a drooling stupor. The condition is exacerbated by additional children, causing me to maintain a careful blood alcohol/caffeine level that keeps me conscious and capable of answering 400 miscellaneous questions while not necessarily caring about the impact of what I say. This is how I justify telling a four year old that he was just a catalyst to his parents’ divorce, but not the actual cause. He looks relieved.
14:00 – I lose all recollection of a chunk of the day here but find the Playmobil police and empty mini-bottles of Jim Beam in my pockets to be evidence enough that the world continued despite absence of memory.
14:30 - Parents arrive to pick up what’s left of their children. What’s left of me can barely make it down the stairs to open the door. Most of my mascara from both eyes has leaked onto my chin by now and is mingling there with the lunch one of the spawn smeared across my face and dress. The roar/scream/squeak/rumble/pitter patter of feet moves outward like a three-foot tall wedding party of drunk Ukrainians. I muster up enough energy to attempt a Hollywood wave goodbye and nearly lose my balance. My toddler catches me as I close the door.
Another successful day of mommyhood conquered.
Or at least a conquered mommy.