10 Steps to Great Parenting

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Haha.  Not really.  I just called it that because it’s funny.  I have no idea how to be a great parent.  I’m still constantly surprised that someone let me bring two babies home from the hospital with no adult in charge.

At 19, my daughter is more the parent in the house.  She was most likely the parent at 9. That’s just her nature. My observation is that we do the best we can to teach kids to be good and kind, keep them from setting expensive stuff on fire and keep them safe.  They really come fully programmed from the factory to be who they are. It’s just our job to guide them.

I had someone tell me not too long ago that I was too much a friend, not enough parent.  I am good at listening politely and then laughing when I hang up and so I did.  This from a parent whose child would rather die than spend time at home.  A self righteous parent who has no idea what their child is up to, doesn’t want to know, and is parenting by the “do not” method.  If there is a surefire way to produce a rebellious kid, it’s by the “do not” method.

So I’m a friend, so what?  My kids, at 17 and 19, choose to spend time with me, their friends hang out here and in that way, I can be a real parent, keeping them safe and knowing what’s what.  They have both survived, so far, as good and lovely humans, even with a parent like me.  They are lucky The Goose came with an adult gene to keep us all in line.  So, to other happy hippie parents everywhere, these are my ten observations:

  1. Don’t keep Sharpies within reach until kids get a driver’s license and then only with limited access.  No amount of Kilz will make this go away. Once applied in indelible ink, a hallway will still say “poop” 16 years later no matter how many coats of “Creme No. 5644” have been applied.Image
  2. Cultivate a “nothing” face, so when your kids tell you who among their friends is getting into trouble and being generally stupid you can make them think you are non-plussed by this while you cultivate a plan.  I have heard volumes of information from both of my kids, who think I”m cool enough to handle it, and in this way, I have steered them from harm.  I should be used by the FBI as a secret weapon.
  3. Don’t brag about your kids to other parents.  They don’t care.  If your child cures cancer, another parent will still find her child more fascinating because she got the the spirit stick at cheer.  Everyone thinks their kid is the best.  That’s the beauty of being a parent.  No matter how fat, skinny, tall, short, smelly, freckled, wart covered, glittery or down right stupid a child might be, to Mom and Dad, they’re da bomb.  Just keep their vibrant glory to yourself, no one else is interested, especially at parties. Nothing harshes my party mellow than pictures of someone else’s kid. Especially when I know mine are the best.Image
  4. Any time a child is expected to be quiet or respectful, like at church or at their grandparent’s anniversary party, they will inevitably belt out something rude or toot loudly and fall down laughing.  Be prepared to explain that they have had a recent concussion and come armed with medical terms.Image
  5. A child will rat you out to grandparents every chance they get.  They will tell them you didn’t actually go to church but, instead, stayed in your jammies all day watching tv, with your door closed, while expecting the kids to eat reheated Bagel Bites.  They will pull up the hems of their skirts to show the clever way their mom uses duct tape. They will tell their teachers and Sunday school teachers every infraction you commit.  They will supply the answer “wine” when their Kindergarten teacher asks what their mother’s favorite thing to make for dinner is.  They will pull on your coat and say “nuh-uh, Mommy, you quit your job!” when you tell their teacher you can’t help with field day because you’re working.  This is their revenge.  Expect it.  Stay ahead of the curve and occupy them with something, anything, when trying to speak to another adult.Image
  6. Be the “fun” house.  Always let kids come over and have fun.  Be a little bit nicer than other moms and in this way you can covertly eavesdrop and know all.  Yes, it’s messy, yes, kids want to eat constantly, but, of all the things I did right, this was one of them. I know lots more than I really want to, but at least I’m not in denial. My kids’ friends have confided in me, my kids have told all and I think I’ve had a grasp on the real situation out there.  High school is a super scary place.  It’s good to be aware.

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  7. Your 11 year old travel baseball player?  Probably not going pro.  Your daughter who spends 6 days a week at dance class?  Yeah, most likely not going to be doing that at 25.  All these things are fantastic if the kids love it.  Many times, though, it’s the parents’ dream.  For crying out loud, let the kid have a day off to catch salamanders and get dirty.  Lock up the xbox and send that little precious outside to play.  A kid that has to be stripped in the garage and carried to the tub because he’s encrusted in mud is a happy kid.  It’s like a secret recipe.  Kid + water + sunshine = kid that doesn’t wear black and listen to death music.  Imagination is an awesome thing.Image
  8. Don’t try to make kids be who they’re not.  I saw a video once, called The Animal School and it changed me.  I highly recommend looking it up if you have kids in school. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN7QfjIcVvA or, look up “Raising Small Souls” and find it there. It is the most beautifully done video for understanding individual children I’ve ever seen.) If your kid is really NOT a math kid, quit shoving it down his throat.  Chances are, he’ll do something with his real talents that don’t involve solving for X. Let kids explore their talents and abilities.  If they spend all their time trying to be good at something they’re not, they never get to be really good at what they naturally tend towards.  Kids today are over scheduled, stressed and confused.  Teach them real skills like how to balance a checkbook, how to use the front loading washer with 42 settings and how to say “yes ma’am” and “I’m sorry”.   It’ll take them a long way.
  9. Be flexible.  Kids are going to try stuff.  Be ready to keep them safe through it all.  My 16 year old called me from a party and said “I drank some beers, come get me”.  I wasn’t happy about the drinking, less happy about driving 30 miles in my jammies, in hair curlers (not really, but my hair was almost as embarrassing) but I was so happy he’d called me.  When I got there, he seemed perfectly fine.  When I commented on this he said, “yeah, I had two beers four hours ago but I promised you I’d never drive after having a sip”.  How can I be mad at that?  Kids are going to experiment, better to be able to talk about it and hope they learn.Image
  10. Teach kindness.  I raised vegetarian kids. I told them that God loves all his creation, two footed, four footed, swimming or crawling.  The one thing I’ve stressed is goodness and kindness to animals and others.  I see this deep within them, no matter what phase we’ve been in, and there have been plenty.  Sometimes teenagers aren’t happy creatures with whom to share a home.  Still, there is a carefulness for the feelings of others, a swerving for squirrels, a moving of turtles, a scooting outside of spiders that lives in them that thrills me. Show me a person who has compassion for animals and I’ll show you a person who is good to the core and won’t grow up to keep human heads in their refrigerator.

Enjoy it.  I spent years worrying over the cleanliness of my floors and the dust on my tables instead of sitting down and coloring.  Now, when it’s late in the game and I’ve seen the loss of several of my kids’ friends, I sit when they want to, I go when they ask me along and I enjoy every minute until they move out and I have to call them several times a day.  It does go by fast, even though those preschool years seem to go by in long sleepless dog years.  Young mothers, it gets better.  It gets fun.

I’m no model parent.  I am silly, can’t stick to the rules, cannot help with math.  I have been described by my son as a pushover and, sadly, by my daughter as “shrinking” (surely not, I still say I am just slumping). I see all these parents with ten million rules, expectations and demands and think they might just be missing the point.  I’m not saying my kids will invent a new source of power, but they might.  They may not make billions, but they could.  They may not change the world, but they have changed my world, and I have changed theirs.  That’s pretty cool in itself.

Candy Crush Shame

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I just spent 15 minutes tearing around my house in a middle aged rage, all because I could not, once again, locate my cell phone.

This is a common occurrence in our house.  I feel belligerent and rebellious about being tethered to this device.  At my age, I no longer want to care for a needy baby, especially one made of glass and costing almost as much as a human newborn.  My family constantly begs the question of me, “why do you even have a phone?”.

The problem with the misplacement comes because I keep the device on silent.  I do this because I secretly, and with much shame and self-loathing, play Candy Crush.

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There, I’ve said it.  I keep it quiet so that when the game pops up, the music doesn’t erupt and alert my family to the fact that I’m not doing something selfless and focused solely on them.  I frequently sigh and mutter about lowering bills and checking grades when I’m on my phone.  I feign exhaustion from work emails.  I do not advertise on Facebook that I need lives.  I hide my secret shame.

But, like any other junkie scum, I have passed my addiction on to my offspring, roping Cricket in with the typical gateway words of “here, try this, you’ll like it”.  Only with her, alone in the darkened den, after the decent family has gone to bed, do I share the level of my evil (128).  Only to her can I talk freely of doughnut bombs and striped candy.  Only she understands my slurred “Divine!”. 

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Game addiction is not new to me.  When I was first pregnant, miserably and surprisingly pregnant, a good friend gave me a Nintendo to keep me and my bags of Cheddar Cheese Ruffles company.  At this time, The Goose and I were living with my parents while we built a house.  When The Goose would come home from work, stunning in a suit and tie, there I’d be, glassy eyed and sweaty, trying to save Princess Peach.  I dreamed about eating mushrooms, the cartoon kind, not the Jefferson Airplane kind.  I couldn’t pass a flower without wanting to jump on it in hopes of super powers.  It became my job.

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The Goose gave me a stern talking to.  He has no head for games, dare I say no ability, and was, understandably, shaken by the visual of the larger and pajama clad me, surrounded by chip crumbs and slamming my mothers pound cake.

I agreed to step away from the game.  Once I had been “clean” for 30 days and had moved into my new house leaving the machine behind, I came back to visit my folks walking in to find them in their matching recliners, jaws slack, knuckles swollen on the remotes, cigarette hanging from my fathers mouth with a two inch ash, while they battled the pills on Dr. Mario.  It’s a sickness.

Image   The Trophy Wife and I once shared a handheld Tetris game for 11 hours and over two states while driving back from south Florida.  We traded back and forth at rest stops and  gas stations, texting foul and taunting messages at each other, insulting the other’s mother and soul, while I eviscerated her with a high score that has yet to be challenged.  Yes, I said it, I still hold highest score.  And while the device has been dead for years, there is a picture that I can produce any time she gets mouthy about her abilities

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For this reason I never got my kids any video games.  I know it’s a problem,  pale chubby kids sequestered away in dank basements, developing muscles only in their thumbs. The Boy played outside with fire and gas, knives and BB guns, like a boy should.  Each holiday I warily offered them one, but they always declined, The Boy asking for hatchets and explosives and Cricket, from age 3, asking for agendas, white boards and software, like any good nerd.

But now the problem has reared it’s ugly head with Candy Crush.  I just saw where a friend has publicly renounced the game and has sworn to abstain for 9 months, during the school year.  I’m not ready to do this yet, but after looking for my silent phone all over the house this morning, only to find it tucked inside my BRA, (This begs other questions about my rack that I am not yet ready to address.) I might be able to make the first step and admit I might have a problem.  Is there a 12 step for this?

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About Sex, ‘Cause it’s Funny

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If there is anything in my mind that points towards the Theory of Evolution, it would be sex.  I have a hard time imaging God, with his clipboard, saying “Walking apparatus, check.  Nutrition system, check.  Beelzebub, do you have the reproduction system ready to go online?”  And, from the bowels of the earth, comes an evil laugh.

Can you imagine the conversation between Adam and Eve?  You want me to do WHAT?  Did they even have tennis bracelets then?

Sex is funny.  From the time The Goose and I got together, sure we had invented great sex, we would sit in church (Quick aside, our entire family has a real problem behaving in church.  Not one of us can be quiet or control our laughter and The Goose frequently chooses this time to whisper something dirty in my ear.  Latent rebellion to mean Sunday school teachers, I’m sure.) and covertly point to old couples and whisper “they do it”.  Our worst insults have begun “yo mama ….” and we don’t even have to finish with what.  Nothing says gross like parents doing, uh, that.

Once, The Goose was on the phone and then handed it to me saying that his mother wanted to talk to me.  I didn’t believe it because his mother NEVER wanted to talk to me.  Thinking there was no one on the other end, I put the phone to my mouth and went on to describe exactly, in graphic ugly detail, what his mother could do to Hosea Williams (why him, I do not know), only to hear his mother stammer weakly, “what…?”.

One would think this would have dissipated over the years, but we still glance at other couples and raise our eyebrows to each other.  The picture in our minds is just too funny to ignore.  I mean, really, Barbara Bush?  My 4th grade math teacher?  Mr. Rogers???

Sex becomes completely unfunny, however, when one has kids.  The first time I realized this is when it came time to name their private parts.  Those of you who feel kids must learn anatomically correct names can stop reading here, take your kids to their “Upward” sports games and hand them an organic celery stick because I feet it perfectly acceptable to use those time honored, more mannerly names, “whooha” and “willie”.  I feel confident that if they are in some sort of accident involving these parts, they will be able to adequately convey to the emergency room doctor what their problem might be.  “Bit’s and pieces” can be substituted in a pinch, as can “tompan, tallywacker, coochie, ladytown, jimbob, thingie, twinkie, ding dong, junk or bidness”.

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Left up to me, my kids would still believe a public toilet seat, a house with no parent home, hot tubs and sharing swim suits can all cause spontaneous pregnancy.  I felt this covered two great issues, early pregnancy and germs, but the The Goose took it upon himself to educate them at a very young age.  Driving them home from a baseball game, when the kids were around 9 and 7, he apparently blurted out a convoluted version of where babies come from that included Tim McGraw, our neighbors and Subway sandwiches.  During this talk, when my poor daughter asked why anyone would do this, instead of answering that it’s a sacrifice we made so we could have our wonderful special children, he answered “because it’s fun”.

I sat with each child as I put them to bed that night and asked if they had any questions.  True to their individual personalities, Cricket’s eyes welled up and she said “please, please, promise me you’ll never let him do that to you again” and I crossed my fingers and swore, agreeing it had been a cross to bear.  Moving into The Boy’s room, his eyes shining with new and evil gleam, I asked if he had any questions.  He said, in his gruff little boy voice “So, does my willie have to be way up for this, like when we go over the railroad tracks in the car?” and I stammered “It helps” and he nodded sagely, “I thought so.” and I sadly turned off the light and left him to his imaginings about the pigtailed little girl in his class.  I then went downstairs and informed The Goose he’d ruined my children.

One never wants to think that their child might someday, well, you know.  We have talked, ad nauseum, about “the deed” and tried to make it as horrible and scary as possible.  We have used time honored sayings, some from The Goose’s mother and handed down in the family such as “a willie has no conscience” and “alcohol can cause someone to slip and fall on a tallywacker” but they have fallen on deaf ears. I have described millions of diseases that can make willies fall off, pregnancies wherein, if a girl is under 25, 6 legged monsters with whiskers and horns are formed, and the unimaginable physical agony involved to teens participating in this practice necessitating a call to the fire department, all negated while The Goose makes lewd gestures behind my back, smacks me on the tee-hiney and whistles happy songs coming out of the bedroom.

It has helped, though, as they’ve grown, that they are as disgusted with us as we might be about them.  I feel this might be the greatest deterrent ever. Because they are nearly grown, The Goose and I can spend a lot of time away together and the tables have turned.  When they start to get uppity, we play it to the hilt and mime deep and amorous kisses at every chance, allude to romantic dates and try to throw the word “snuggle” into our conversations within their earshot.  This bothers them greatly.  It worries and disturbs them. My son shakes his head and whispers “no…no” and our daughter coughs and gags. They say we burn their eyes.

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This weekend, Cricket was spending the weekend downtown, with friends, and I texted her and asked her when she was coming home.  When she had the audacity to ask why, I responded, “because it takes a lot of time to roll up the trapeze and put away all these handcuffs properly” and I got the response “I just threw up”.  In this way, I know my ploy is working I am still doing my job as a responsible parent.

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The Giant Umbilical Cord

ImageJust a few weeks ago my son, The Boy, went away on a mission trip.  On this trip, they could not take their phones nor communicate back home in any way. They left on a Sunday morning and by Thursday, I was willing to fly, drive, swim or make smoke signals just to hear from him.  I picked up my phone to text him a hundred times and then sighed and put it back down.

ImageLet me digress by saying that The Boy and I are not in the best of places.  He’s been my sweet and snuggly child since birth.  Never any trouble, affable, effortless popular with his peers and a certified chick magnet.  My house has always been the place where his friends gather and I am close to them as well.  About the time he was fifteen and a half, he left for school and a demon came home wearing his body.  “Hi!  How was school?  I missed you!” I chirped when he came in the door, my arms flung wide for a hug, and something reptilian moved behind his eyes and he snarled and slunk to his room. A sullen, entitled changeling snuggled beneath the sheets on which I had used extra lavender scented fabric softener.  A demon sighed every time I asked it where it was going when it headed to its car (that I gave it). In its eyes, I ceased to be cool, which I know is not the case in reality, so I can only assume that The Boy had been possessed.

From that day forward, I’ve seen glimpses of my darling boy, sometimes weeks of sweetness, and then the monster gets control again.

I should have expected this.  Cricket went through the same thing, only her great rebellion was black eyeliner, screaming music and an attitude that caused her to be nicknamed “Black Heart”.  She popped right out of that at about 17 and has been the sweet dream she was most of her life since then.

I never thought it would happen to The Boy, though, the happiest child on Earth. No matter how much his monster is in control, we still do a fair amount of texting during the day and even that manages to convey a devilish snippiness.  A sampling of a recent conversation:

Me: Hey! Where are you?

Boy: In my room?

Me: Is that in question or are you confused about punctuation?

Boy: …

or

Me: Could you call me please?

Boy: I can’t, my phone is broken

Brilliant response, oh bright one.

Being out of contact made me realize just how much I communicate with my family.  Those experts who say that family communication is dead are just wrong.

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Cricket and I send approximately 2,000,000 text daily.  She texts me about what everyone is wearing in her class, whether it rained when she was walking to her building and what cute boys were at the gym.  Then, we discuss people we know.  I tell her I just used Soft Scrub on the sink and removed a troubling stain.  I tell her I’m at the carwash.  I tell her when I am mad at The Goose and why.  She backs me up.  Next, I tell her all is well and she agrees that he’s the best dad ever.  I tell her what her brother wore to school, what I think about the girl he’s dating, the fact that I had to stop for gas and my current calorie count for the day.  She texts me that her hair is frizzy and she’s not happy with her shoes.

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The Goose texts me his demands for the day.  Have I taken the trash to the street?  Are his shirts back from the cleaners? Did I call the gas company about a problem?  He tells me who he saw at Matthew’s Cafeteria at lunch.  He texts me links to news stories in which he knows I have no interest. He texts me to come upstairs to his office.  On the way up, I get a text that he needs a Mountain Dew and while going back downstairs to get it, another that he needs his glasses.  When he goes to the lake without me, he usually imbibes, out of loneliness from missing me I guess, and drunk texts me silly teenage type declarations of love that cause me to blush and giggle.

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The Goose talked with his mother daily.  I called it the “Giant Umbilical Cord”.  I kinda regret this now that my kids are almost grown because I can’t imagine how often I’ll contact them during the day once I don’t actually see them every day.

My point is, we communicate A LOT.

The Boy got a phone in the 5th grade.  Those of you without sin, just get over it.  He then proceeded to send 6 consecutive phones through the washing machine, in the pockets of his pants.  He would take his allowance and go right back out to Target and plunk down another $12.99 for a new one.  I kept waiting for the lesson to sink in.  Since then, he has continued to destroy phones, one after another, and our family’s DRAWER OF TECHNOLOGY SHAME is overflowing.  I confess that we have all contributed to this.  All just to stay connected.

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(I know, it’s embarrassing, our drawer of shame)

Here’s the thing.  Several days into the week, I had forgotten all the things about The Boy that have gotten on my nerves.  I remembered that he really is sweet most of the time, is a great kid, stays out of trouble, mostly, and chooses to bring his friends home instead of roaming the streets with hookers and drugs.  He actually does hug me often, even if it is the bone crunching, rib breaking kind.  He pokes me, punches my arm and stands next to me, commenting on my height, a teenage boy’s way of showing love. He was on a mission trip, not lying on a beach in PC wondering where his pants got to last night. He is a moral, funny, loyal young man who would be there for any of us in a minute.  Some of his friends stayed at my house, having chosen not to go home but to just wait out the week here, and I overheard them, lounging in their pajamas every morning, talking about how much they missed him and counting the days until he came home.  There is a FB page where they posted daily pictures of the trip and we scoured each one until we found him, looking cute in a straw hat.  At no point did I fume about the state of his closet or glower over the glasses and chip bags left in the basement.

Maybe there is something to “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because I arrived to pick him up an hour early, straining my ears for the sound of his bus and the sight of his tan, sleep deprived self almost brought me to tears. If a week can do this for a teenage boy,  maybe we’re all TOO connected?  Possibly this is why kids come home from college, husbands come home from business trips, even soldiers come home from oversees and seem all new and shiny, seemingly without their demons in tow. It is conceivable that we just communicate too much and should go back to a time when communication was just face to face?  Nah,   LOL.  TTYL. 🙂

The Last One Standing Collects the Life Insurance (or, Secrets to a Happy Marriage)

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I just got my annual anniversary letter from the pastor that married The Goose and me, so I’ve been thinking about marriage today.

This morning, my good friend called for our usual chat.  I could tell by her voice that she was not happy.  When I asked what was wrong, she replied, “My husband is a dick”.  This made laugh because she has one of the happiest marriages on earth and because she chose to call him that.  Her husband worships the ground she walks on and she adores him.  But, like any other human beings, they’re going to have moments where they look at each other and say, “what the heck was I thinking?”.

I’ve heard a lot of TV talk show hosts, psychologists, preachers, therapists and professionals dispense a big bunch of nonsense about marriage. If you want a good marriage, ask someone who has done time in one.  Most of the time I feel like I have a great one.  If I were to give a piece of my mind to a newlywed, here’s what I’d say:

  1. No one tells you you’re going to look at love’s young dream one day and say “ugh”.  It happens.  The good thing is it doesn’t last.  Sometimes, it lasts a day, sometimes a month.  It comes back around.  Just do something else (not someone else) until you like your significant other again.  Read a book, organize something, build storage shelves.  One day soon, you’ll look up and they’ll be ALL THAT again plus your closets will look nice.

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  2. Don’t marry for passion. Oh, good sex never goes away.  It continues to be fun and great, but there will come a time when you won’t feel the need to pull your partner into a public bathroom for a quickie quite as often, you’ll almost never do it in the car anymore and, I know it’s hard to believe, you’ll occasionally think you’d really rather prefer that extra hour of sleep, even though it’s not nice to say so. You’ll begin to think of your back pain. One day, your husband will walk into the bathroom after the deed and you’ll notice he is still wearing black socks.  Eventually, he’ll throw a leg over yours and there will be a noise like the chirping of a cricket because your legs aren’t shaved. This is the reality of marriage. It’s not a bad thing, you’ll still do it, but you’d better have some other common interests. (Also, never, ever, ever google “naked man in black socks” when looking for a picture to post!)

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  3. You can’t always get your way and some arguments aren’t even worth winning.  When I was young, I felt like it was my duty to make sure The Goose understood my point on everything and came around to my way of thinking.  Now I think, eh, who cares?  If we thought the same way about everything, one of us would be superfluous.  How dull.  While I do believe The Goose is wrong about plenty of things, I let him believe he’s okay.  I know the truth.

     

  4. Don’t tell them everything.  Sometimes, it’s good to have secrets.  I once got a speeding ticket and never told The Goose.  In this way he was spared yelling at me and I was spared his wrath.  I paid it, it went away.  Problem solved.  The Goose would have secrets about all the junk he buys on Ebay if he were smart enough to know that the emails come to me.  Still, I let him believe.

     

  5. Shiny things don’t mean love.  The Goose fully believes that if a man is constantly bringing jewelry and flowers home, he’s up to no good.  This is partially because he is not good at presents himself, but also because it’s the reality.  True love is handling my car tag and insurance for years so that I just became aware that there is such a thing as a car tag tax after almost 30 years. It’s him filling up a warm bath for me when I don’t feel good, it’s me buying key lime pie ice cream for him and grinning in the store because I know it’ll blow his mind. This is not to say special presents aren’t good and I’m still waiting for the greenhouse that he promised me for my birthday, but it’s the day to day stuff in the trenches that counts.

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  6. NEVER discuss what goes on in the bathroom with your spouse unless you are in need of medical help.  Keep some mysteries.

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    7. Never become a “mommy” or “daddy”.  When you have kids, for crying out loud, remember you are still a person.  Don’t put little stickers on your car yacking about your kids and don’t start wearing mommy clothes and then wonder why your husband found that his secretary in a garter belt understood him.  One day, surely, these kids will move out and your spouse will still be there.  It’s a lot harder to fall back in love with a fat, balding, 50 year old man or a woman in sensible shoes and sweatpants than it is just to stay involved with them. Remember, you’re on the same side and those kids, no matter how darling you think they are, are on the other.  One day, when you least expect it, they will turn on you and snarl.  You’re going to need backup. If it takes lingerie and sit ups to keep the team together, just buck up and do it.

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    8. Learn your partner’s fighting technique.  I’m a talker and shouter, The Goose is a pouter.  I wish we’d figured this out earlier.  Now, he’ll just say “why are you raising your voice?” and I’ll yell “because I’m a girl and it feels good to be loud”.  When he pouts, I tell him to pull up his panties and get over it.  Our disagreements are cut short in this way.  After all this time, there isn’t that much to fight about anyway, but still, he is still wrong sometimes and it’s my job to point that out.  I have learned to use my inside voice and now things go much more smoothly.

    9. Sometimes, just take one for the team.  Occasionally, just admit things are your fault.  While I believe it’s always better to weasel out of a problem if possible, sometimes you can surprise your partner with a frontal assault.  Once, I just walked in and said “I backed the car into a pole at Mellow Mushroom.  I’m sorry.  I’m a big ol’ dummy.”  The Goose had nothing to say.  In the past, I have blamed scratches on the car on kids, shopping carts and objects from space.  Every now and then I say to him “I’m sorry for being so snappy.  I’m just grouchy. I am sad or worried.”  This immediately makes him feel sorry for me and, voila, I’m off the hook for acting like an ass.  It always works.

    10. The grass is almost never greener on the other side.  I never see men I think are cuter than The Goose, except possibly Johnny Depp, and only when he’s a pirate.  But, I know lots of people look around when they’re grouchy with their mate.  Listen, that hot guy you see in the bar?  He’s still a man at home, leaving hair in the drain and clothes on the floor.  That smokin’ girl with the ridiculous boob job who’s happy all the time?  At home she bitches just as much as your wife and you’re going to have to pay to replace those whoppers every 12 years.  You never know what psychosis lurks beneath a person.  Once you have determined your spouse is not a psycho, best to stick with them. At least their problems are known.  Just learn to overlook their foibles and focus on what’s great.  In time, you may not even notice the fact that your husband is incapable of cleaning up after himself or that your wife may be a pet hoarder.

My advice all the way around is, make a decision to be happy, keep your eye on the finish line and realize your spouse isn’t you, you have differences and that’s what makes it fun.  The one that lives the longest collects the life insurance, so relax and keep your blood pressure down. Sometimes arguing is fun but never say something you can’t take back.  Only once was I so mad that I said “well, maybe you just need to move away from me”.  The Goose said “absolutely not” and I almost wept with relief.  If he ever tried to leave, he’d do it with my arms wrapped around his leg, with my teeth clamped on his pants and the dogs holding on to me.

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What is Normal? (or Yes, my Baby is Periwinkle, Thank You)

My great friend, The Trophy Wife, called me today to see what’s up.  Even though we are just two doors away, sometimes we go weeks without actually setting eyes on each other due to the fact that our families make unfair demands upon our time.  We talk every day, though, and our kids are as intertwined as a nest of snakes.

I’m sad to say that she might have been a more normal person if she’d moved somewhere else.  I feel sure that our “otherness” has been the tool that shaped her kids into absolute freaks.

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(Note:  I am including this picture of an elephant with a prosthetic leg because there was no other picture that could go with this story that includes that words”prosthetic leg” that wouldn’t have been just tacky, and also because this picture restores my faith in humanity.  When someone will make an elephant a new leg AND give her a pink princess collar, all is not lost)

Once, a while back, the TW and I were lounging around on her sofa, discussing economics or string theory probably, and her stepson (who, incidentally dates my daughter, how inbred is that?) came walking in saying “hey, there’s an ambulance pulling a dead guy out of one of your rental houses”.  Within 4 seconds, her kids had strapped themselves into their car seats and were displaying a decidedly Jack Nicholson gleam in their eyes.

Upon driving the two miles away to this ramshackle house we own, complete with chicken coops in the back and dogs tied to trees, we discovered that truly, one of our tenants had passed away.  We sat for a moment in reverence and then a paramedic came out carrying the deceased man’s prosthetic leg.

I know, we’re wrong.  We should have left it alone but my friend has a great haunted house in her basement every Halloween and I could see her mind turning about what was going to happen to the leg now that it was no longer needed.  I’m just going to leave the conversations that followed to your imagination as those who were involved in it, besides the TW and me, seemed shocked by it.  TuTu, her stepson, was so disgusted by us that he shook his head all the way home. Suffice it to say, after some rational pleadings on our part against the deaf wall of understanding that often comes with people in authority, we left without the leg.

Now, some might say this is not normal. But who, really, can say what’s normal?

Take religion, for example.  I’m surely not going to get up on a religious high horse here as I find my whole grasp of organized religion changes daily.  Although I grew up with what I though was a pretty good understanding of the whole thing, as I’ve gotten older, I find I am pretty darn tolerant of most things.  As long as I’m happy where I am, I really don’t care what you believe unless you try to argue with me.  My dad got the greatest pleasure in life from Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the door.  He would usher them inside with gusto and they would leave, an hour later, dazed and stumbling while my dad would be in the kitchen making a celebratory sandwich to chalk up another win.

I do find it sad when people say they have no belief at all.  I turn things over in my head all the time, disregarding what doesn’t make sense, including what does. I talk to God a lot, a hundred times a day, describing how happy the new plants shooting up make me feel and telling him of my disgust at WalMart for buying animals that have been raised in horrifying circumstances.  (Truly, if you’re buying meat at WalMart, shame on you for being both cruel for supporting this way of farming and tacky for buying meat, or almost anything else at WalMart.)  God might get a little tired of all my chatter, frankly. I feel that if there is a god, and I fully believe there is, he (or she, if it makes you happier) is pretty pissed about the whole state of things.  Let’s think about it, I’m confident he’s not hung up on marijuana, which he made, and who marries whom, but I’ll bet he’s really scratching his head about the fact that we cage up his wonderful creatures and then eat them.

God: “How’s that sweet little Marybelle doing, Gabriel?”

Gabriel: “Um, she’s standing right behind you already, God.  Some idiot grilled her.”

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I’ll bet he might be confused about grass mowing as well.  Every time I cut the grass I picture God saying “well, hmmm, I never considered they’d do THAT with it.  Seems a little redundant, but…”

Cricket and I have the same thoughts about Native American Indians.  What if an Indian from 200 years ago could time travel and spend a day with us.

Indian: “Let’s see, you are wearing shoes that don’t allow you to run fast, don’t allow you to climb trees and make you feel like you’re running downhill at all times. It just doesn’t seem, well, normal.”

I do think both God and Indians would appreciate the joyous ingenuity behind roller coasters and water skiing though.

(I tried desperately here to find a picture of either God or an Indian on either a roller coster OR water skis.  Couldn’t find one.  Go figure.)

Normal isn’t all that important as I see it.  Except for the time someone in my neighborhood painted their 20,000 square foot house pink, I really can’t think of a time when a little deviance bothered me. I even got used to that. In fact, wacky honestly delights me.  This morning, on Facebook, for example, one of my online friends was looking for non-toxic baby paint.  I have spent all day deeply regretting that I never thought of it.  Pastel babies at Easter, neon babies in the summer.  Glow in the dark for when they catch fireflies in the yard, orange at Halloween.  The possibilities are endless.

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Once people can start choosing their color for the day, racism might be out the window and wackiness will skyrocket.  I’m thinking that this would greatly please the God in whom I believe.  From what I’ve read and believe, probably God is just wishing we were a little nicer and a whole lot more tolerant.  I think being periwinkle would just be a bonus.

ImageIn a quick aside, I would like to say that my new brother-in-law, despite being a brilliant mind and a fantastic father and husband, will henceforth be referred to, both in my blog and in real life, only as “Handsome”. Make a note.

How’m I doin?

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The Golden Goose and I just spent a week in beautiful Exuma, in the Bahamas.  I know, poor me.  All that spare time caused me to do three things, drink too much, get too much sun and think.  While I should have been enjoying brain dead time gazing at the florescent blue water, my mind whirled.

One night, I awoke at 3:00 am, the time when everything in the world is wrong.  Suddenly, I needed to know that my kids, who were free wheeling at home alone, were okay.  For years Cricket has been in charge of The Boy.  My friends who travel with me joke that I’ve been leaving The Boy home alone since the 7th grade.  This isn’t strictly true.  Cricket has always been in charge and has been fully able to run a small country since the age of 6.  I never worry that things will run smoothly when she’s in charge.  The Boy, however, tends to go AWOL, ignore texts, failing to email or check in.  Thus, I suddenly panicked at 3:00 that I was a terrible mother.

I prodded The Goose and asked him if he was awake.  I told him I couldn’t stop thinking.  This produced a sarcastic laugh and he told me he thought he smelled smoke.

“Am I a terrible mother?” I wailed.  “Have I gone wrong by being so trusting?  I mean, what could a 16 year old boy get into while home alone?”.

So The Goose and I got to talking about mothers.  The Goose was left to walk himself to school in Kindergarten.  He got himself ready and took himself to school.  I, on the other hand, was driven door to door in an armored car.  That’s the difference in a 4th child and an only child.  We have long exhausted the subject of my happiness with my own perfect mother as well as my delight at finding such a groovy wonderful birth mother.  This subject has been inspected, turned around, talked about and diagrammed.  I just have happy mother issues and am covered up with great mother feelings from all sides.

Things moms say make a big dent in who we become.  My mom never went to the grocery store without full make up and lipstick.  Because of her, I know what’s tacky, what’s acceptable and what’s “done right”.  I know children shouldn’t say “yeah” or “huh”, that legs really should be crossed at the ankles and that if an artificial nail comes off in the cotton candy at a school festival, one should look the other way and pretend it was someone else.  I know from her that the we are in a constant war with germs and should be ever vigilant with the Lysol, that there are peeping toms waiting around every corner and that women who color their hair bright red usually can’t be trusted.  Cricket recently had shoes that hurt and when she started to complain about it she held up a hand at me and sighed, “I know, one has to suffer for beauty.  You’ve been telling me since I was a toddler”.  I had no idea she even listened and my heart swelled because I’d passed that one right on from my mom.

The Goose’s mother was decidedly different.  Although she had many great qualities, she wasn’t a lovey-dovey mother or grandmother. “Did you feel properly mothered?” I asked him.  The Goose answered that he was perfectly happy with his mom.  Although she was not a very loving person, he always felt as if she would be there if he needed her.  Maybe this is what counts, having kids secure enough to know that there is someone there to be their safety net. The Goose’s mom had several important pieces of wisdom to impart.  Frequently, when he was a teenager, she would say to him “a penis has no conscience”.  When asked how she felt, she would often answer with “well, I feel like I do now better than I did when I first got here…but don’t tell anyone” or some convoluted version thereof.   She called having a bath a “Clara Barton” and named her end table “Abnot”.  These oddball sayings have become dear to us since she’s been gone and I find myself thinking about the quirks she had and how they helped to form the great Golden Goose that I have now.  Surely she was the perfect mother for him.

ImageThe other day I wrapped my arms around The Boy and asked him if he felt happy with me as a mother.  Did he feel he could always depend on me?  This caused him to laugh and say, “Well, Mom, you ARE a total pushover but you are a great mom.”

“What about all those Bible songs we listened to in the car when you were little? That was pretty darn respectable. Remember how much we read and how we played in the creek?”.

“I remember you read “Are You My Mother” over and over to me because you thought it was funny that it made me cry.”

“Okay, but I was strict enough with the rules that you are a good kid now”.

“I remember when you whacked the daylights out of my head with a giant sucker” he replied.

How long I’ll pay for that particular miscalculation, I don’t know.  They never forget.

“Well, what about when I was your room mom?”

“Sure, that’s back when you were allowed in the school.”  This referring to the fact that I am, mysteriously, not asked to sub anymore.

“Uh, huh, well, I gave you my great car.”

Finally, then I received a hug and some reassurance that he was, indeed, happy with me as a mom.

Both moms and dads shape who our kids will become.  Cricket never walks into the house without The Goose yelling “you da bomb, baby!”.  She, in turn, rolls her eyes.  Every single game of The Boy’s life, whether he does well or fails, I have told him, “you were definitely the cutest one out there.”  While there have been groundings and spankings, plenty of yelling, mainly over math, and several slammed doors and temper tantrums, my kids  never have to guess how much they are loved.

And so, I sought out The Boy, who had so recently called me “a pushover” (which I very well may be), looked him in the eye and told him that after much introspection, I feel that if all he has to complain about is being hit on the head with an all-week sucker, then I must have been an okay mother.

But really,  I have to thank my great kids.  No matter how “mommy” I might not have been, I still walk around in the world, connected to these strange two people about whom I know their quirks and fears.  Whose fat, wrinkled necks and Johnson’s baby shampooed bald heads I can still recall, who wrote on the back of my baby blue linen chair with a green marker, who brought a garden hose, turned on full blast, through my house while coming in to get a popsicle.  Those toddlers with deep husky voices who would climb out of their beds, come down the stairs, get as close to my face as possible and yell “MOM” to see if I was awake.  Two loonies, one of which recently put on a pair of size one jeans and called herself fat.  I know what they will eat, what they won’t, who threw up in a baseball hat and cried because I threw it away, who can sing and who shouldn’t.  I know both of them love school supplies, thrift stores and sour gummy candy.  These are the kids who changed all my passwords to Penis.  The idiots who have caused such disruptions in churches that we have a list to which we shouldn’t return. Almost grown children who hold true to their Christian, animal loving, chaotic hippie homed, vegetarian values. Two individuals who can catch my eye and burst into wild laughter at inappropriate moments.  These two humans whom The Goose and I whipped up, from scratch, who understand us, share our scary humor, love us and one who might take care of us when we’re old. These two oddballs, without whom I wouldn’t have the great and inexplicable joy of calling myself mother on Mother’s Day and everyday.   Happy Mother’s Day to every mom who finds her children to be the very best, no matter what weirdos they actually are.