Monday, September 27, 2010

Simple Days of Summer

Oh I'm suffering. I'm a sad, suffering soul. I'm a mother on the edge. And why? Why so bleak? Why so grey? I'm mired in the post-back-to-school blues.

All my kids are back to their day jobs and just like every September, I'm blue. Do I miss them? Do I long for their moist little bodies to be pressed against me whining for a Freezie as I try to make a pot of coffee? Do I want more than anything to hear those 3 special words that ring out round the Western world during summer vacation--Mom, I'm bored!? Or yet, do I miss Popsicle sticks stuck to the carpet? Or the shock of the water bill from the hose being left on all day? Or the scent of wet puppy that assaults my senses as pre-adolescent boy brushes past me--why, oh why do boys smell like wet dogs? Or, or, or, do I miss the sound of Mario Cart blaring through the house at 7:00 A.M.?

Well my friends my answer is plain: Yes. Yes I do. I miss all these things and more. All the irritating, frustrating, nose-picking, sibling-scraping, knee-scraping misery of 2 months with my kids. I miss it because, honestly, it's easier and far, far preferable than the agonizing, soul-twisting back-to-school angst.

Maybe it's just me. I mean, some kids seem happy to go back to school. Some kids look forward to it. Not mine though. My kids torture themselves, and me.

My oldest daughter moves away to university during the year, so 2 weeks preceding her going back to school is fraught with drama. She's a wreck, and her coping mechanism is to whine, whinge, stomp, and storm, typically at me, and typically ramping up to a good old strop by 11 P.M. at which time she wants me to have all the answers. But any answer I produce, good, bad, terrible or drunken (which is more regular in the lead up to school) is shot down like the Red Baron. And I suffer the ignominious defeat of the vanquished (in other words, I snap, tell her I don't have any answers for my own feeble life, let alone hers, and march off to bed!)

But does the excitement stop there? On no my friends, it's only just begun. There also lives in my house the worlds only tortured existentialist 8-year old. His worries go far beyond which Lego set he wants to save up for, or whether his sister got a bigger cookie than he did--he spends late in to the night obsessing.  Particularly when the anxiety of back-to-school sets in. Like, leaving the hallway light on when he's falling asleep. He needs the light on in the hall to feel calm and safe enough to fall asleep, but leaving the light on uses power and using power is polluting our planet which is melting the Arctic ice which will result in the death of all the Polar Bears, so he can't sleep without the light, but he can't sleep with the light! Or the other day, from the back of the minivan, he was deeply disappointed when I couldn't explain how our souls animate our bodies and what feature of our souls is it that makes us unique. And who does he come to when he needs answers to these existential crises? Me. ME?  Poor little poo. Man alive! I can barely keep him in matching socks.

So I dread September. I dread the exhaustion of dragging the barge filled with my progeny's back-to-school fears, angst, and insecurities. Give me the simple days of the hysterical teenage antics after her brother pantses her in the front yard, or my 6-year olds 17 damp changes of clothes, per day, lying on the floor (any floor in the house, in fact, any horizontal surface in the house), or the perpetually sticky, perpetually syrupy nature of the kitchen table after a Captain-Crunch-salt-and-vinegar-chip-Monopoly marathon (that resulted in near fatal amounts of blood loss), or the constant noise, the constant chaos, the constant kids.

Yeah. Just give me the simple days of summer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So Here I Am Again

Not so very long ago, two years past give or take, I started a blog with two wonderful friends. We wrote about being mothers, what it meant to us, and how much it gave us, and how much it took out of us. Sadly, one of my writing companions wouldn't (doesn't, won't) call herself my friend anymore and our blog has dried up and died.

So I took a rare few moments, between sending kids off on play dates, and comforting an emotional teenager, to create a new blog about my mothering. I copied and pasted all my writing from our joint blog until my fingers hurt, but here now is over a year of my writing, lamenting, celebrating, laughing, and whinging.

But not only have my friendships changed, but my life has as well, and I'm excited to start writing about my life as a parent, a partner, a daughter, a sister, and a friend--successes and failure included.

So here I go, ready to dish the dirt, bake the cookies, hunt for my slippers, and annoy my kids. Hop on board if you can.....this train is leaving the station again!

P.S. If you're interested in what my blogging compatriots had to say, you can visit
www.motherhoodbytes.blogspot.com

d.

The Gift


In those absolutely rare flashes of clarity, that occur to few and far between, it's an amazing marvel to see my children. Life is filled with so much noise--white noise, background noise, fulsome noise, outside noise--that my life, and how it intersects with my children, is seldom quiet. But recently, the din has lessened (I know it won't last long, so I'm grasping the moments), and I found myself seeing these people I helped create.

I stand, sit, lie, and gawk in awe. 

Seeing them this way, in this brighter light (or with the veil lifted) is like being in a nature film, where, through time-lapsed photography, we watch a seed grow into a stalk, then into a bud, then into a flower, then, finally, but in a matter of moments, into full bloom. The remarkable beauty takes your breath away, yet makes you laugh at the impossibility of it. There's this sense of seeing something rare and special and forbidden, almost voyeuristic. 

How can you possibly explain to them, or someone who has never raised a child, that regardless of their age you see them as they were--with puff-ball hair, small, clutching hands, soft cheeks, and voices to wake the dead? 

My oldest son is 20. And, honestly, we struggle to find a way to communicate. I continue to be his mother, utterly flawed, yet with expectations and requirements, and he's pushing away from being my son--he's bursting out of his skin to be an adult, but he's confined by my rules, my way. So we tread carefully, and often clumsily around each other. We toss out barbs and occasionally wound each other. He's developed a protective skin to cover his sensitivities and vulnerabilities, and I hate it. I desperately miss the warm, sweet, thoughtful, gentle little boy he was, before he began to protect himself from the world, but mostly from the nasty, vitriolic divorce his father and I went through. 

still see the slim 8 year old, worry filling his face, as he pressed one of his special, treasured keepsakes into his sister's hand as I flew out the door racing her to the Emergency room, not the tall, hairy man he's becoming.

We have constant and regular conflict. Up, down, in, out, back, forth--"we don't respect him, his needs, or his privacy." "He doesn't help out the way he should, drinks our last beer, every time, and has no direction." But, then, as things always do, something changed the other day: a shock to our family that registered on the Richter scale. And as I braced for the shaking and trembling the shock would cause, I also braced for his reaction and what it would do to him, and us. I expected the worst. I actually thought I might lose him.

But as I steeled myself, my life was thrown into the slow-but-double-time motion of that nature film, and I saw my son begin to bloom. He's beautiful, just as I always suspected he would be. 

I know that this moment suspended in time will end and that we'll go back to our see-saw of strife. It's life. But for right now I'm staring in wonder and holding my breath. The seeds of who my children are, and who they will be, were always there. That tall, hairy man is the sweet, gentle boy.

My children are beautiful. And for this brief moment, when bills and groceries and lessons and housework and cooking and scrambling to make a life fades to the background, I'm deeply grateful for this glimpse of their possibility, and their radiance. And today, to be their mother, is a gift. 

It Hurts to be Beautiful

I am going to tell you a harrowing tale. One that makes my blood run cold, and makes me wonder what we're we making of our daughters? 

Every Monday night my 20 year old son plays poker with friends. These are, for the most part, good kids (yeah, there's a little pot, a little more beer, and a lotta bad language, but there's no crack or handguns or plotting to overthrow the Man), they're intelligent, respectful young men. 

They always play in the same place: in the basement at Jeremy's* house (*names changed to protect the innocent, or not so innocent--really, I'm only protecting myself, my son would kill me in my sleep if I revealed any real names). At 22 or 23 years old, Jeremy has managed to pull himself up by his boot straps (or in this case, by his keyboard) find work in an exciting, challenging career he excels at, and buy his own house, which he shares with his girlfriend. By most standards, it's impressive for a 42 year old to excel at their career and buy a house, but at 22 it's jaw-dropping. 

Well, as I reclined after supper on Monday night, after a indulgent repast, patting my growing girth, it occurred to me that my son wasn't performing his careful preparations for poker night (throwing on his favorite crumpled t-shirt from the bottom of a laundry basket and attempting to find at least one sock that didn't expose his big toe). When I asked him why he wasn't going to the game, he told me that the game was cancelled for the next couple of weeks. Why? I inquire. His answer shocked and saddened me: 

"Well, Jeremy's girlfriend is recovering from surgery."

"Oh my God, is she okay?" I say, alarmed enough to sit up straight (which caused an immediate cramp).

"Yeah, she's okay. She's just recovering from her boob-job." 

"What? She had breast implants!! Why? How old is she?!" Let me tell you, I, who am not easily shocked, was shocked. 

Evidently, Jeremy's 20 year old girlfriend, Laura* (*names changed to protect the recently up-cupped) has been dreaming of breast implants for years. She worked through high school and full-time when she graduated, saving and saving, not for university or a trip abroad, but for bigger breasts. 

"Why did she get breast implants? Were her boobs really small? Why would she do that?" I say, becoming increasingly agitated, to my increasingly uncomfortable son. 

"Well, no," he says, "she had nice boobs, you know, regular size. She's a really pretty girl. She wasn't flat-chested. Jeremy said she's just always wanted bigger boobs."

"How big did she go, like a C-cup, or something? And how does Jeremy feel about it?" I'm not naive, in fact, just the opposite, but this was something I was having trouble wrapping my head around. 

"Well, actually, she went for a Double-D, and..."

"What!!!! What the hell!!! Holy shit!!!! Why would she do that? Why would she do that to herself!!!!?????" I rudely interrupt.

"I dunno. I guess she just wanted bigger boobs," shrugs my son.

"Oh my God. What does Jeremy think?"

"Actually," says my son, "He's not very happy about it. He didn't want her to do it. But it was her dream, and he loves her and he said he'd support her." 

"Yeah, your damn right he's going to need to support her....him and WonderBra, for the rest of her back-pain filled life." 

As a woman and as a mother I'm saddened and confused. What are we telling our daughters about their worth? What are we telling them about their value as people? What kind of world is this where a beautiful, young woman is entirely motivated by bigger breasts? What kind of world does she need to feel safe enough, special enough, good enough, attractive enough? What kind of world makes it's young women feel so imperfect? What kind of world are we making for our daughters? 

And how did we come to a place that places more value on your waist to hip ratio then on your brain to stupidity ratio? 

I feel mute. I'm so filled with rage and frustration that I'm unable to articulate how enraged I am. But the next moment, I'm so saddened that I feel weak. 

I suppose, by the standards society sets, so consequently by our standards, it's pretty simple for our daughters to figure out where they fit and where they belong. Their achievements, self-respect, and strength is sitting in their bras, their noses, their haircut and highlights, or the seat of their jeans. 

I'm not wagging my finger at others. I'm not blameless. I've created the same atmosphere in my house, around my girls. I have and do constantly critique myself, my shape, my flaws. I was getting ready for work the other day and one of my daughters said, "You look nice mom." I could have been graceful and accept the compliment. But I didn't, and I wasn't. My answer was, "Yeah, nice for a fat girl." All she said was, "Ahhh, mom, you're not fat. " Then she walked away. And she's right. I'm not fat. But I'm plagued with doubt about my 40 year old curves. I'm uncomfortable in my less than perfect frame. But it's not me that I damaged with those 6 careless words (though I certainly didn't do myself any favors). It was my bright, beautiful daughter. 

How can she learn to grow into the kind of woman who's confident in her self, her beauty, her intelligence, her capabilities, when she sees me, her role model, so unable to be comfortable in mine. 

This is hard. And I don't know how to fix it. I just know that I need to, at least in my world. I know sex sells, I know that attractive people get farther, faster. I know that there's power in beauty. But I also know that that doesn't have to be all. I know that I want more for my girls. I want their power to come from inside of them, rather than inside their bras. I want them to recognize how beautiful and smart they are. And for my sons? I want them to see women for everything they are, not for everything they show

Maybe I can't achieve this. Possibly, my daughters are contemplating implants. But when my son and his friends tell me they feel bad that Laura felt she needed breast implants, I can hope a little. 

The Motherhood Gene

Oh my God

I've just had a bone-clattering revelation. I'm sitting here, with my mouth hanging just slightly open, eyes glazed like donuts, with the slightest sweat beading on my brow. I've become the one and only thing I was determined never, ever, ever, in infinity, ever to become. It's a shock, and a little hard to say out loud, but, I've become my mother. 

The transformation was so creeping and insidious that I didn't recognize it until it was too late. I didn't see it happening--and now, (insert high pitched, quavering scream here) it's done. 

When I was a teenager, and then a new mom, being anything at all like my mother was my greatest fear (next to being abducted by aliens and anally probed). I mean, come on--she always looked tired and in need of a haircut, she didn't ever take the time to paint her toenails or try new makeup styles, she'd fall asleep, upright at the table, after supper, she constantly had a pencil behind her ear and a never-ending list of things to do, sure she spent more money than she could afford on nice jeans for me, but did she really expect me to go to the mall with her in the pair she'd been wearing since the 70s? She was forever worried about where my brothers and I were going and who we were going with, and, geesh, just try to leave home to back pack around Europe, and she was a burbling, snotty mess. It was down-right embarrassing. Didn't she have any self-respect?!

I vowed to be the exact opposite of womanhood and motherhood. I was going to be liberal, cool, calm, unrushed, and sophisticated. My philosophy was simple, intuitive, and intelligent--every person has their own path to walk, and their feet are firmly planted on that path the second they're born, so all I had to do was give the people I brought into the world a place to live and grow, spread a little love and warmth around, and the rest was up to them. If they made mistakes, it was part of their growth, important to where their path was taking them, not my concern. I was free to live my life while they lived theirs, and yeah, our lives would intersect, but sometimes that might be kinda nice and fun. In fact, after my first child was born, and I was moving with his father to a small town, where I likely couldn't work, I asked my mom (and this is a direct quote), "What am I going to do all day? I'm going to be so bored. It'll only take an hour to clean the house, and then what?"

Well, I know you suspect what I'm going to tell you next.Mmmhhmmm. My philosophy imploded about a week after I had to put it into practice. And it wasn't pretty. 

I was a bloody mess. 

Twenty years later? Still a mess. I constantly have a pencil tucked behind my ear, dirt under my fingernails, I still manage to wear t-shirts with breast milk stains on them (my last child stopped nursing 3 and a half years ago), my hair occasionally looks like I've dragged a brush through it, and as for the lists, I can't keep them organized. I keep losing them, so consequently I can't keep track of what I've done, what I'm doing, or what I'm suppose to do (in fact, before I owned a cell phone, I actually lost one of my kids because I misplaced the field trip notice that told me where I had to pick him up. It was a harry couple of hours!) When I wear toenail polish, it looks chipped about 15 minutes after I've applied it, and worst of all, I spend every waking (and often sleeping) moment of my life in a state of perpetual worry about my kids--I'm a snotty, burbly mess. In short....I'm my mom. I'm starting to look like her--my small, perky boobs seem to be getting bigger every bloody day, and sound like her. I find her voice coming out of my body at a startlingly regular rate. Just the other day, in a fit of frustration, I inadvertently used one of the well-know gems I heard regularly throughout my youth--"If you keep acting like that, I'm going to drop kick you in the crotch." 

The transformation is complete. And now, after the shock has worn off, I realize it's not as bad as I imagined it would be. She wasn't perfect. She blew it sometimes (lotsa times). But age is the great equalizer and I see things differently. She wasn't deplorable. She was a mom and woman doing everything she could to make our lives, and her life, work. She encountered struggles, successes, joy, vomit, and interminable Christmas concerts, just like me, just like you. 

From here, where I sit, right now, it seems to me that the things I reviled in her are the things I've become (though honestly, I'll never be as organized or tidy as she is--I mean, she never once lost one of us). As it turns out, the reality is nothing like the fear. It took me alotta years to figure this out. 

And what about her? What about my mom? Twenty years later, she'sbecome everything I intended to be--well put together, sophisticated, cool, calm, and unrushed. 

Maybe if I'm really, really lucky, someday, I'll get to grow into that part of her too. 

Stellar and Stupid Moments of the Week

My Stellar and Stupid Parenting Moments of the Week

By all that is sensible and logical in the universe, I should have introduced this on Friday, or Sunday--those being the typical end of the week days, but being the madly irrational woman I feel confident I have proven myself to be, I've left it 'til a Monday. And as the creator of this column, I figured it was only right that I kick things off, and really, since none of my compatriots even suspect I've invented it, I have no choice. So here goes. Here are my monumentally stellar and stupid parenting moments of the week:

Going for Gold: This week, I went in to work at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. so I could work nearly a full day and then pull a fast-excape. I wanted to spend the warm, sweet, sticky afternoon with my kids. It was worth it.

Supreme Underachiever: My 6 year old son has never been in organized sports. I have lots of excuses--he's too young to even get what's going on, he's an artist not an athlete, all the poor little buggers do out there on the soccer pitch is chase the ball like a bunch of lemmings--and we can do that in the backyard (and the backyard doesn't have a registration fee). Really, I'm just lazy. Well, the other day, as we were playing a miniature game of baseball in our registration-free backyard, he got fed up, threw himself down on the patio with his legs splayed and his arms hanging limply at his sides, and shouted, "You NEVER register me for sports!!! I just wanna play sports! You never let me play!!!!!"

Job well done, Sloth-Girl! Job well done. 

But after baring my parenting faux-pas, I thought you should hear a real doozy, courtesy of newsoftheweird.com

The reputation of the Japanese for being humble is falling to Western norms among primary-school parents, according to a June dispatch from Tokyo in The Times of London. "Across Japan, teachers are reporting an astonishing change in the character of parents" as they push for their children's "rights." In one school's performance of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, "there were 25 Snow Whites after "monster parents" bullied officials into admitting that it was not fair to have just one kid in the title role. [The Times (London), 6-7-08] 

Have a moderately sane, occasionally indulgent parenting week!

It's a Perfect Day for Bananafish

I have a confession to make. Yes, another one. Another shameful, dirty, secret, secret. It's the reason I've been so remiss in writing (it's been plaguing my thoughts and making me about as fun to be around as a pube-speckled bar of soap):

I don't know who I am. 

That's it. That's all there is to it. I know--big fat stinkin' deal. You were hoping for a salacious shameful, dirty, secret, secret. A great fat juicy one, like, maybe, I slyly channel Mrs. Robinson and exploit my own Ben Braddock on the third Thursday of every month, or that I have a clitoral piercing that tickles when I walk, or that when I say I'm just running out to Home Depot to get a washer for the drippy tap, I'm really getting away from the house to conduct my side-business as the Madam of a high-cost escort service (politicians and professionals only, naturally).

Sorry to disappoint. But I'm not that fun. The best and most revealing thing I can tell you about myself is, I don't know who I am. Who does, really, other than Seymour Glass, Arjuna, or the Dalai Lama?

But I can't really model myself on one of them: one's fictional (and dead), one's mythological (and dead), and one is fully booked up into my next life giving keynote speeches (after which time, I'll be dead). So, outside of saying: this is how many kids I have, or this is how many times I've been married, or this is the job I go to every day, or this is how old I am, or this is my astrological sign, or this is what color my hair is, really, I have no way to define myself. Except, that I'm a desperate, confused, conflicted, raging maniac. 

And so I smile--most of the time. I pretend I am what I imagine other people see in me: smart, attractive, brave, kind, snide, flippant, standoffish, and haughty.  And I pretend to be the person other people see me being: a mother, a wife, a writer, an editor, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Sometimes. Today. The weight of these things is, at one time, heavy and ethereal. All at once, I feel the full weight on gravity pushing me deeper and deeper into myself and the ground, and then in an instant, I feel like smoke, formless and drifting and unable to grab hold of anything, anyone, myself. Sometimes, I want so desperately to throw this, them, everything off, and disappear so that I might discover who I am, what I am, why I am.

But what does this have to do with you? For that matter, what does this have to do with me? It's just philosophical navel-gazing, right? Yet everything I touch is touched by this, every person in my life grazes up against this crazy black hole. And what does that do to the people I love? These are people I chose or got stuck with, and people who chose or got stuck with me. I want so desperately, like most parents, for my children to have a better life than I have. I sometimes desperately wish that I could restrict that desire for them to having a bigger house, a nicer car, a fatter bank account, or a slimmer ass, but I'm saddled with this constant searching that makes me almost obsessively crave completeness for my kids. To have the real, true gift of knowing themselves. But now the crux: how do I teach them, or model for them, how to be whole when I'm so unsure myself. 

So where does this leave me? No where new. No where different. Where does this leave them? Sadly, but honestly, on their own. It's crazy really. I love them madly, insanely, and often, madly wish they'd leave me alone--maybe so I could find a way to just be with them. Maybe so I could find a way to just be with myself. See, what I tell you about being a desperate, confused, conflicted, raging maniac. I've been here before. It'll pass. But right now, it's sad. I want so much to be so much more than the person who buys their groceries, cooks their meals, goes to their parent-teacher interview, hold their hands. I want to be the woman and mother they deserve (and the woman and mother I deserve too). But for right now, I'll just keep pretending. Fake it til you make it, right? 

I suppose we really are, at the end of the day, only a light unto ourselves. We are what we come into the world with, and the only thing we leave the world with, but it doesn't stop me thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking and wishing and wanting to be more. 

My grandmother used to say, "If ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise." Sweet Jesus, what I wouldn't give for a nice dose of ignorance right now. 

I'll just have to settle for a Scotch.

It's Lonely at the Top


It's lonely at the top, of the food chain that is, well in my house anyway.  It's eat or be eaten, and I tend to be the big drooling T-Rex that is terrorizing the rest of the innocents.

Seriously though, we've all been subjected to those ridiculous sayings, "If mom ma's not happy no body's happy", and the likes.  Well sad but true, much of that rings true for many of us.  Like it or not somehow we've been thrust to the top of the heap, willing or not, we are standing on a pseudo pedestal, and man it's a lonely place to be.

Suddenly we become to the go-to-person for everything, from what the entirety of our family is going to eat, to what we will do as a group.  Not only that, we also become the know-all of too much else in every body's personal lives.  It's just too much for one person, we're supposedly the most enlightened in our household, and sometimes we just want to catch a freakin' break.  Sit there with drool pouring down our dumbfounded chins, and just be still and quiet.

I am not sure I was meant for an entire group of people to follow, obligingly and sometimes blindly.  For God's sake sometimes I don't even know what I want to wear, eat, drink or think for that matter.  Yet, I am given the task of doing this for others.  How can they have this much faith and trust in me, especially when, for the most part I fall flat on my face, or fail miserably at a lot of it.

Oh it makes us moms tired and frustrated.  I am sick to death of making decisions, I want to be told what, where, when we are doing something, and follow along like a lemming.  I don't want to be asked, after being clear about wanting to do something, anything, what it is I had in mind.  Humor me, do whatever it takes, just make a decision that doesn't involve me having the final word.

I seriously don't want the rest of my family hovering around me like bees in a colony, I want them to be free, independent decision makers.  I want them to take the initiative without being told, exactly what that initiative is.  Because, my friend, if I have to tell you then I might as well do it myself. 

All of this being said, it's hard to give up one's throne.  Especially when our faith in those under us is constantly called into question.

Run Patty Run

So my friends, here's the skinny. I have to come clean. I have to share with you in the honest hope that my personal trials, frustration, and anguish can help you understand yourself, and thus, my dear, dear compatriots, save yourself! 

This weekend,  I lay in bed, with tears of laughter leaking down my face, as my four-year old stood at the foot of the bed, half-naked, with her curly head stuck through the arm hole of her t-shirt, I had a shocking and terrifying realization--I'm not myself. Something in me has changed. That core, fundamental thing that made me, me, it's, well, not gone, exactly. More just, bent. 

But what? What had caused this shift in my consciousness? When did it start? Could it be reversed? Would I reverse it, if I could? This, clearly, was going to take some brain power. The kind of brain power that can only be fueled by coffee. So up I got, put on a housecoat that looks only moderately less ragged than Osama Bin Laden's beard, untangled the t-shirt on a now furious, hysterical pre-schooler, and afixed my thinking cap. This was a question that was burning to be answered. I would get to the bottom of this issue. I mean, I was at stake!

After several cups of brain-builder (which, roughly, translates to 6 cups of coffee) I had a revelation, a breakthrough, an epiphany (and, honestly, some intense caffeine shakes)--I'm suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Yes! Stockholm Syndrome!! The amazing disorder in which normal, healthy, intelligent, and moderately attractive people, when taken captive, begin to identify with, and grow sympathetic to, their captors. I'm the Patty Hearst of parenthood!

I see the pattern now: we are quietly, happily, and freely going about our lives, planning to do things, and actually having the time to get them done. Eating in restaurants, going to the theatre, peeing in complete privacy, and, well, simply put, enjoying our lives. Then suddenly, there they are! These small, sleepless, loud, aggravating people. They burst in to our lives and homes surrounded by mess, and they make themselves at home. It's all so clear now. 

We instantly become captive to these demanding, squalling, insistent little fungi. They may as well be holding a gun to our heads. We're trapped in the house, held hostage by these tiny tyrants. So what do we do? What can we do? We fall prey to Stockholm Syndrome. We start to relate to them, to empathize with them, to understand them, and I dare say, to love them. They recreate us in their image, and we're lost! We used to wake when our bodies told us too (when we'd had enough sleep--remember?!! Remember having enough sleep?! Sweet Jesus, what a dreamy notion), now, we wake to their military-like precision--6:30 a.m. on the dot! We used to watch intense, dark, and sometimes sexy foreign films, now, the only exposure we get to world culture is through Dora the Explorer (Hola!), and that girl is about as sexy as potato (though the monkey's not bad). We used to feel a sense of control over our future, now, we can't even get control of our hair!

So when, after 20 years of parenting, as I'm lying in bed, watching my youngest, naked from the nipples down, struggle with a piece of clothing, in a scene so comic as to be sitcom worthy, the blindfold is pulled from my eyes and I can see what's happened--I really have been kidnapped, and I've learned to live with it. I've learned to think and feel and relate to my knee-high captors. In fact, some days, (once, a couple of weeks ago, and maybe tomorrow) I've learned to love it. 

Who knew that these grilled-cheese-eating-dirt-behind-the-ears-nose-picking terrorists were such masters of psychology! 

I've been inculcated, my friends, but you don't have to be (well, actually, at this point, there's probably nothing you can do. If you're reading this and understanding even a third of what I'm saying, you're in too deep). You could try to fight the Stockholm Syndrome. You could be difficult, and fight the take-over. You could hold out for the cavalry to come and liberate you. But really, resistance is futile. Once you've invited them in, it's all over. Just roll with it baby. I mean, yeah, we've lost ourselves, our personalities, and, mostly, our will to live (with out Thai food), but maybe, just maybe, if I could get one of those cute hats and jumpsuits like Patty, it wouldn't be so bad! 

Happy Father's Day Mom

So I don't have a father. I mean, strictly speaking, I have a father. But honestly, sperm donor is a much more adequate description, though cliched. He physically left when I was about 3 years old, but from what I can tell, he'd really left a long time before then. 

I saw him once, again, when I was 18. And I called him to tell him I was pregnant, with my third child. After that, nothing. He has said, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn't give a rat's ass if I'm alive or dead, something along the lines of, "You're not my child." 

So I don't have a father. Instead, I have a mother. She was it. She was my all in all. And, while she may have wobbled in some of the elements, she stuck the landing. 

So this post is to say Happy Father's Day to all the moms doing it alone. Happy Father's Day to all the single moms struggling to raise their kids, make ends meet, and have a life. Happy Father's Day to those amazing women who find a way to be both parents to their kids. 

But most of all, Happy Father's Day to my mom. You done good girl.

The Motherhood Conspiracy

I'm a mother, so naturally I believe in conspiracy theories. I mean, come on....there's no possible way there was a single shooter in that library annex. And, find me someone in the western world who didn't think that those first American moon landing photos looked like they were taken on a Hollywood back lot? I dare you to try to convince me that Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn't add some kind of ingredient that makes it irresistible? And really, the world is round? I wanna know who perpetuated that doozy? 

But easily, the most shocking, yet under reported and least discussed conspiracy of them all is, "The Motherhood Mood." Some one, some where (I don't want to point fingers or name names, but my investigations have led me to believe that this destructive dialog was started by someone with a penis) created a myth that really pisses me off: mothers are all deliriously happy to, first, be pregnant, then to give birth, and finally, to have our lives, our thoughts, our hopes, dreams, needs, and desires eternally altered. In short, we aren't allowed to say we're angry, disappointed, lonely, frustrated, sad, or just plain pissed. We've been robbed of our right to the honest expression of our feelings. We've been made into the Stepford Moms. 

So I'm going to shatter the conspiracy, at great personal risk (in fact, as I sit here typing, I expect the CIA or CSIS to break down the door, unplug my keyboard, and slap my hand.)

This myth is so deeply entrenched in our psyches that our greatest oppressors are ourselves, and each other. Woman against woman (and not in the porn mud wrestling pit way, either. This is worse). We find little ways to diminish each other--we judge each other by our children's progress. Come on, you've been there. When one of your sisters, or friends, or even your mother says, "Frankie's not potty trained?! Oh. Too bad! I'm so lucky! Jocelyn was completely trained  by the time she was 19 months. Oh yeah...even night-trained. She was so easy! Are you giving him stickers? Oh, well, I'm sure he'll do it someday." 

Or, we judge each other's decision to stay home or work. This can be cruel and particularly vicious. Some how, if I decide to work, I must be making the statement that my needs are more important than my kids, and that being at home isn't good enough for me, and that I think I'm more enlightened than a stay-at-home mom, thus it threatens women who decide to stay at home. Alternately, if you decide to stay at home, you must be making some comment on my commitment to my children, and how much of a better mother you are for sacrificing everything you need for your kids (and you never complain because that would undermine your position). It also must suggest that my working somehow threatens you and makes you less valuable to society. 

Or, what about, when we get together and we rake our eyes over each other to assess hairstyles, fashion, manicures, and tan lines--and that's just after we've checked out each others kids. My critical eye hasn't fallen on the mom yet! What kind of stroller do you push? What's your opinion on cloth or disposable? Do you have them in soccer, guitar, gymnastics, painting? And are you coaching or teaching any of these activities?

What's happened to us? Why do we do this to ourselves and each other? Who robbed us of our voices and why aren't we fighting to get them back? Every one else, every one else, on the planet whines, snivels, and cries about their jobs and their responsibilities--from my kindergartener to the President of the United States. But not us moms. Any expression that things aren't just 100% super-peachy-keen-super-awesome-fantastic and we're letting the world down. It's a conspiracy I tell you!

When I express my dissatisfaction with being a mother, a working mother, a working mother and wife, people are shocked and horrified. I once told my mother-in-law that while I loved my family deeply, they just weren't enough. They simply didn't complete me. She just sat there in horror looking at me as if I'd just grown a third boob. 

I want to say, without fear of reprisal (from other moms or some secret CIA agency): 
  • Why don't men hear a sick child during the night? 
  • Why does the responsibility for dentist appointments fall to me? 
  • If I have to tell him that he needs to pick up diapers on the way home from work, I might as well just do it myself! 
  • I'm angry that my husband can walk away from the house and our family, and not worry that things will get done and people will be taken care of. 
  • I want to weep and pummel my husband (not necessarily in that order) when, at 3:00 AM I have to (again) tell him that no, he can't actually put the pillow cases and sheets full of  vomit straight in the washing machine, while I'm sitting with a 4 year old who's puking in a bucket (and all over me). 
  • Why does gender define the household chores? It makes me crazy that vagina=cooking and cleaning toilets and penis=snow shoveling and washing the car. 
  • I'm lonely and tired, and I hate that I have nothing of my own!! Nothing! 
  • I can't bear being responsible for everything! The weight is too much. Sometimes I feel so heavy from everyone's expectations that I can barely move my limbs.
  • I just wanna take a pee all by myself--no company, no interruptions, no fingers under the door, and no frantic knocking shouting about how bad they gotta go. Just me, my bladder, and a People magazine!
So every mom, every where, throw off the shackles of this conspiracy! It doesn't make you a BAD MOMMY to say, "Today, I was a bad mommy, and, yah know, it wasn't too bad!" Or, "Oh, just screw it! If I have to go to one more f#*&ing PTA meeting I'm going to hurt somebody." Or, "You work out, I work in, what the hell, we both work--let's get drunk!" Or better yet, "Honey, if you have kids and can manage to brush your teeth in the morning and get the little beggars to school less that 15 minutes late, you are the Martha Stewart of parenthood! Good on ya! Now go congratulate yourself with a scotch!"  

Wipe that frozen, icy Jesus-I-love-every-single-little-thing-about-my-life smile (that doesn't reach any where near your wild trapped-in-this-life eyes) off your face and let's overthrow this conspiracy. The Stepford Moms may have great hair, but girls, nice hair won't give you a tenth of the satisfaction you'll get when you tell your husband that you hate cleaning the goddamn toilets, so for the rest of your parenthood together, every Saturday he can clean those greasy receptacles and make sure the kids get lunch, 'cause you'll be at the car wash for two hours (because, that's just how long  it takes!). 

The Dry Season

How I miss my husband. Back in the day, way, way, back in the day, we used to be good friends, and man, did we have fun together. We'd go hiking, camping, climbing. We'd do crosswords together stretched across the living room floor, read the paper together on Saturday mornings, mix each other dirty martinis, with 7 olives each, go dancing at least once a week and drink jugs and jugs of sweet, tangy Sangria, and have crazy foreign film festivals in the bedroom, eating Chinese, Vietnamese, or German take-out on top of the blankets.  

And we had sex. Did we have sex! Mad, delicious, breathtaking sex. On the covers, under the covers, standing up, sitting down, in the shower, in the bath, the kitchen, the basement, the living room floor with the curtains open. Once, twice, and during the film festivals, sometimes five times a day. Just watching him walk, seeing his legs or back or stomach made my heart (and parts somewhat lower) clench and ache. I wanted to touch him all the time. Even doing the dishes together was sexy. The promise of wet hands and soft soapy bubbles.......

Now? Yeah. Now. Not so much. 

Now? It's been a dry coupla seasons. The closest I get to spending any of the precious time we used to have together is watching him hike a screaming preschooler to her room for a time-out, or seeing him cornered at the kitchen table doing math homework, or when he's downing a cup of scalding coffee before running the next kid to the next lesson. And film festivals? At best, it's Finding Nemo with take-out pizza, and 5 twitchy kids. I only catch a glimpse of my still sexy husband as he's carrying a load of laundry downstairs, or reading a bedtime story, or drying off some little, chubby body, that's not his own (damn, damn, double-damn! Toweling off was always one of my favorite spectator sports!) 

And as far as sex, were lucky if we get to do the silent, three-minute bump-and-grind once a month. Under the covers. In the dark. And way, way past bedtime. Now, I know what you're thinking! It's pretty shocking. I can hardly believe it myself....we're SILENT! 

Absolutely silent sex. No heaving, heavy breathing. No gasping, panting, swearing, imploring, or grunting. Just tight-lipped silence. In fact, I think we might both hold our breath the entire time (we may not get a lot of exercise, but these monthly trysts are certainly increasing my lung capacity). We bonk in fear that, 1. the kids will hear, and 2. the kids will hear and subsequently wake up and ruin what might be an adequate nights sleep! And as any sane mother knows, sleep before sex, sleep before sex!!

I just wanna throw off the shackles of motherhood (and throw the shackles on my husbands wrists). The damn kids not only took my body, took my time, and took my money, they took my groove thing!!

So, I'm going to employ a tactic I've noticed has worked very effectively for my children. When in a particularly sensitive location, like, a parent-teacher interview or the Christmas concert or a birthday party at McDonald's, for instance, I'm going to have a world-class, eardrum-shattering tantrum:

I WANT MY GROOVE THING BACK!!! IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!!!! EVERYBODY AT WORK HAS A GROOVE THING!!! I WANT ONE TOO!!! I WANT MY GROOVE THING BACK!!! I WANT IT BACK!!!! YOU SAID!!!

I'll let you know how it works for me. And if you happen to find yourself in the same locale as me when I am implementing my plan, please, for my sake, and the sake of all of us, and your future ability to get jiggy with it, join in. Our future sex lives depend upon it!

Attack of the Killer Muskrats

Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhhh!!!!

I know. I know! Stay-at-home parenting is the hardest, most thankless job on the planet, and stay-at-home mom's deserve the $130,000 odd dollars a year for everything they do. I know. I know

I have a solid 12 years of the job myself! I did it all, and often all alone.

So when I went back to work, about 8 months ago, it was purely because if I had to volunteer one more time at pre-school, go on one more play date with a mom I could barely tolerate, exchange brownie recipes one more time, or be scorned by some group of anal, twittering woman at the Mommy and Me Club, while their precious little gnats terrorized one of my kids, one more goddamn time, I was going to commit a highly dangerous and likely illegal act (I had fantasies of running around pell mell punching every single well-groomed, pasty-smiled mom right in the nose and relishing the veritable blood fountain I'd created). In other words, I went back to work to save my sanity, and prevent future jail-time.

But, here I am, at work, with crushing deadlines, a psychotic boss, and more hours of overtime than I'll be able to fit into one day, and I know that when I get home I'll still have to do the "housekeeping, cooking, laundry, driving kids around, and managing the household."

My life's a mess (Literally. I mean, you should see my dust bunnies. No. Not bunnies. These babies have graduated from dust bunnies to dust muskrats. In fact, if I don't vacuum, I sure that one of these days, one of these monsters is going to consume my 4 year old.)

Now, the obvious question is, "What about your husband? Doesn't he help?" Well, yeeeessss. Kinda. He's a good man, and I love him, but he can't even fold a dishtowel. He burns or spills nearly everything he cooks. And it takes him roughly three hours to sweep and wash the kitchen floor, during which time, if anyone, anyone makes a move toward the kitchen he gets agitated and the mop start twitching and the speckles of moisture start to fly (some from the mop, but most from his heaving jaws! Which, needless to say, creates more of a mess for me to clean up--plus it takes the rest of the day to help the kids recover from their post-traumatic mop disorder.) 

I know the debate is hot and heavy--working moms versus stay-at-home moms. Each group staunchly in their corners, defending their right to do the job they think serves them and their family best (it's the one's that try to tell me what's best for me and my family that really get my blood boiling. Not that I'm cowed! When your kids wake up Saturday morning and cry because it's not a daycare day, you feel pretty comfortable that the preachy-holier-than-thou-stay-at-home-mom-moms, or vice versa--I've been on both sides of the debate--don't have a sturdy leg to stand on). However, I don't want to wade into those waters right now (I'm too damn busy!), but sister, let me tell you. It ain't easy being a working mom either. 

Even though my brain is fried, and dinner is fried, and the vacuum will be fried (when I finally try to tackle those muskrats lurking under the furniture and behind doors), I value my ability to forge a life for myself. And really, with me as their mother, one way or another, whether I stay home with them, or work, their going to need therapy, at least this way, I'll be able to pay for it.

Say What??!!

So, wanna hear a regular conversation I continue to have with people? All people. People I know but haven't seen for a while, people who are complete strangers to me, people I'm related to and have known me since before I had pubic hair? 

This isn't a topic I choose to discuss, and honestly, would rather not hear people's deeply held convictions about, but telling the cashier at Safeway or the preschool teacher or my aunt to shut the f@#* up, and mind their own damn business tends to create difficulties in my daily life--like bad service or having the dogs set on me. So I do what other good, polite Canadian girls do. I smile, nod my head, and at the soonest possible moment, I change the subject. 

So, what, you ask, is this mystery topic? Well, for anyone who has more than 2.5 kids, this is going to sound familiar, but for the rest of you, listen up, and listen good: 

"Oh. Are these all you children?! All of them. I mean, your actual children?" Now, as a point of fact they are my biological children--meaning I did squeeze them out of my body, every single one of the little termites, and I have the saggy vagina to show for it--but does it never occur to these vapid dunces that even if I'd adopted every single one of them they'd still be my actual children!

I nod my head as my eyes glaze, "Yes, they're my children. Mmmhmmm, all 5 of them." Then, it comes. The real kicker (and there's always a good chance that the next person who says this to me is going to be the kickee!), "You do know what causes it, don't you?! Tee hee hee!" 

Now, how do I adequately answer this inane question? 

  • "Yes. Yes I do know what causes it. Thanks for inquiring."
  • "Ummm, actually, just between you and me, I've never figured it out. Why? Can you tell me? Why does it happen? Why do I have so many, and is there a way to stop having more?!"
  • "Yes I do. Would you like me to explain it to you?"
  • "Well, what happens is this: when sexually aroused, a man's penis engorges with blood causing an erection. When erect, a penis can enter a woman's vagina, preferably lubricated. Then through a series of thrusts and parries, often accompanied by grunting, the man ejaculates semen, a viscose liquid, which carries sperm, into his female partner. At which point....." 

I'm tired of this. I'm really tired of it. Whether they were all planned or all accidents, whether they have five different fathers or one father is nobody's business. I don't want to hear the political argument that it's someone's business because they pay school tax or medical premiums which support my kids, or the social argument that the world is overpopulated and I'm being reckless. Really? Really? What can you say to that? Detail the list of things that we all pay taxes for? Point out who'll be the tax payers when these nosy bastard are decrepit? Ask for a detailed account of what they own, what they drive, what they smoke, where they go and how they get there? Honestly, hypocrisy is not only sad, it's rather funny. Poor little meddling pea-brains. 

What is it about becoming a mother that makes you public property? It starts when we're pregnant. As soon as a woman is showing, everyone, Everyone, starts to touch. Poking and prodding and patting, like you're a bloody loaf of bread. With the touching, comes a sense of ownership that gives these interlopers the self-proclaimed permission to counsel, advise, and just plain boss.

Now, I can grasp that in this day and age 5 kids seems outrageous, maybe selfish, or maybe selfless, but unless we give each other the permission to invade each other's personal lives and space about everything--"Oh, are you going to eat both those cheeseburgers? or "Gee, you have tiny little breasts," pat, pat, pat or "Oh my God, you stink of B.O. do you know what deodorant is?" or "You do know you're stupid, don't you? Tee hee hee!"--people should just tuck their lower lips around their tiny little heads, and leave me, my kids, and my uncontrollable libido alone!

Or, they could be honest, and say what they're really thinking, "What are you, crazy?" At least, then, we'd agree on something!

Darlene and Gloria

"Helllou....Oh, hiya Honey. How you doin' today? Mmmm, he did? He said that? What's wrong with men? Does all that play fighting when they're young knock their damn brains around 'til they just loose inside their skull? Sometimes, they're just as thick as fence-posts! I know just how you feel. Why just yesterday, after I got back from having my nails done, Harvey said to me....Oh, my, just hang on a minute...what's that Georgie? Oh My God. I gotta go Gloria. Georgie just had a big number 2, it's kinda leaking out his diaper....oooooo, I really gotta run. He's making little poo tracks down the hall. STOP! GEORGIE!! STOP MOVING!! GEORGIE! YOU STOP RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!! I'll call you back, sweetie."


"Hi Gloria, it's just me again. Do you have a few minutes? I've got to tell you the craziest story. Yeah. Good. Grab a coffee because this may take a little bit. Mmmm, yah real cream in coffee is soooo gooood. What kind do you use? Oooooooo, Honey, I like the sound of that! Whaddya call it again? Yeah, save me the tin so I can see the label. Oh. Yeah. The poo. 

Well, anyway, after I hung up, I chased Georgie down the hall. He'd made it to our room and was trying to pull himself up on our bed. I'm going to have to wash all the sheets now, and I just did them 2 days ago, oh and our drier's on the fritz so I have to line dry 'em, and it's suppose to rain today. Goddamn! And why my side of the bed anyway? It's the farthest away from the door? 

So anyway, Honey, I dragged him off to the bathroom to change him, and he's kicking and screaming. He just hates to be changed now. Ever since he started walking he's a fiend. He twists and arches and kicks. It's awful, and when I'm frustrated it's even worse. I just want to let the little bugger sit in it, you know? Or conk him on the noggin to get him to shut up and lay still long enough for me to get the job done.

So, like I said, I drag him off to change him, and I just get him laid down and I got a clean diaper and those nice smelling Johnson's wipes....mmmhhmmm, them flushable ones. Makes it so much easier just to flush them than to think about poopy wipes sitting in the kitchen garbage. Pardon Honey? Oh yeah, me and Harvey got one of those diaper pails, but Harvey hates all that twisting, and he thinks it's just stupid to have to buy special little bags for the damn thing, so it's sitting outside the backdoor with the snow shovel, rake, and the old handle and float from the upstairs toilet we had to replace in June. That man never cleans up anything. 

Anyway, I've just got Georgie down, and I had to lay him on a towel! There was no way I wanted poo on the bathroom carpet. We just had that replaced. So, like I said, I was just undoing the pull-tabs when he kicks me real hard, right between the boobs. Well I'm just trying to catch my breath and hold him down, 'cause he's squirming like a demon now and the diaper is half off. All this wet poo is dripping and little bits are flying everywhere. Well, I just yell at him to lay still and grab him, but he wiggles and I get a handful of the diaper. So now I have poo all over my hand, and Gloria, Honey, it was under my fingernails. Now that's just horrible. Isn't it? So I'm gagging as I get a good hold of him and lay him flat, I think I kinda scared the little bugger, 'cause he started crying. And the doorbell rings. 

Well, I hate not to answer the door, and I was expecting an Avon delivery, yeah, Honey, that Peachy Keen lipstick that Joyce has, mmmmhhmmm. I do love that color. So I quickly wipe up Georgie and run my hands under the tap. 'Course he's not completely wiped. You know that little spot right under their scrotum, where you have to move the little sack back and forth to get it real clean? It's still not clean, and I can smell that he's still kinda foul, so I put him in his crib for a bit and run to answer the door.

Well, it's not the Avon lady. It's the Jehovah's. Sweet Jesus those people show up at the worst times. Anyway, I am standing there trying nicely to get the old broad to go away, smiling and nodding. Well she's going on and on about, 'Aren't things different than when we were kids? Things are so much harder for kids nowadays. Don't you agree? Well, you know what the problem is? Do you know the culprit?' And I'm just nodding and shaking my head, sorta leaning on the door so it's closing ever-so-slowly, and she says, 'The very thing that's exposing our kids to the dangers of Satan is the.......SINternet. They call it the information super-highway. But it's only the super-highway to HELL!!!!'

And all this time, I can smell poop. I look down at my blouse and there's none there, then I look at my hands, but I got most of it off when I washed, only the stuff under my fingernails was still there. So I sniffed my hands, kinda secretly so the Jehovah lady didn't suspect anything, you know, I sorta pretended my nose was itchy, and well, they smelled more like my rose-scented soap than poop. Well, the Jehovah lady is trying to get me to take that Watch Tower magazine-thingy so I can read about the evils of the Sinternet and how if I come to a church meeting on Wednesday night I can learn how to stop Satan's network.

Well Georgie starts screaming real loud, so I tell the lady that I really gotta go get my boy, and thanks for the magazine-thingy, and I was busy Wednesday night, but thanks for the offer anyway, and I shut the door. I guess I closed it kinda quick, because it created quite a breeze and I got a strong smell of poo again. So I smelled my hands again, and they seemed okay, though I knew I still had to scrub under my nails. And I just had them done the other day! Plus, I'll have to bleach the nail brush, and who knows how many of them little bristles will fall out. I'll probably have to buy another one. Oh, yeah?....They come in lavender? Where? Where did you find a nail brush in lavender? That would go so nice with my bathroom. I can only ever find them wooden handled ones. Where? Mmmhmmmm, I shoulda known Wal-Mart would have something smart like that. I'm not even gonna bleach the old one. I'm just gonna run out and get a new lavender one.

Anyway, so I go get Georgie out of his crib, and he's good and mad. So I give him a cookie, just to hush him up and run him a bath. I wasn't tryin' to wipe him anymore. I'm not risking getting kicked again, that little spot right between my boobs still hurts. Anyway, I get him undressed and in the tub, and I dump in his toys. Finally, he's quiet. But, Lord have mercy, I can still smell poo. I grab the nail brush and start scrubbing. When I'm all clean, no more poop under my nails, I take a nice long smell of my hands. Lovely. But just after my big last whiff, I catch a smell of poo again. It's starting to really make me mad now.

I'm getting to it, Gloria. Hold your panties on. 

Well, I look in the mirror to fix my hair, and whaddya know. There, right on the end of my nose, is a big old spot of dried poop. Yup. Right on the end. About the size of a pea. Stop giggling Gloria, you'll getting me started and that will wake Georgie up! Well, I start to laugh until I remember that I musta stood there for 5 minutes listening to that Jehovah lady go on about the information super-hellway with Georgie's poop right on the end of my nose. She musta thought I was crazy. 

Well, you're right there Honey! At least it wasn't the Avon lady!