Happy Thanksgiving – Be Grateful, Not Homicidal

Thanksgiving Edited

See that woman up there?  Do you remember her?  Yeah, me neither.  My mom gave it a good run but it always ended in her pretending to be that lady up there, and instead terrified the rest of us.  Ten bucks says that woman up there isn’t even that woman.  No one is that damn happy.  Happy holidays!

In all seriousness though, holidays are stressful.  Does anyone not cringe when they see the holiday decorations appear in stores or hear Christmas music in the mall?  How have we allowed this magical time of year to become such a stressful burden?

This year I can confidently say, with Thanksgiving 3 days away that my “rest of the year self” has finally taken hold of my “holiday self” and beaten it into submission.  I am not stressed and I am not panicked.  I do not spend the holidays (or any other time if I can help it) with people I don’t like or that make me feel bad about myself anymore (I used to feel obligated, but I found this passes with age).  As such, if I mess something up, they will forgive me and therefore, there is no need to worry.  The key here is who you choose to surround yourself with.  Learning to say “no” helps here.  Avoid twatwaffles.  If they show up, add wine.

Thanksgiving is not about having the perfect family because no one does; more than half the population is divorced folks.  It is not about being the perfect cook; thank goodness because my family is screwed there.  It’s not about having a perfectly decorated house; by the time I remember to decorate I don’t feel like dragging that shit out, just to put it away again two weeks later.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful that your kids love you unconditionally even though you are an idiot.  It is about being glad you have someone to fuck up (yes, I said “fuck” in a holiday post, that’s just how I roll), cooking dinner for in the first place.  It’s about having had a relationship to make these beautiful kids even if it failed (maybe it’ll teach you something for the next one).  Thanksgiving is awesome because it isn’t about buying crap for people out of obligation and running up debt.  It’s about hanging out with people you like and eating (which is always fun) and drinking (also one of my favorite things) and bullshitting (because they like you too and want to listen).

Thanksgiving is about being grateful, not about being perfect.  This Thanksgiving, focus on your family not on obligations or appearances.

It’s Not Just Parenting, It’s Making Big People

Congrats Edited

Parents are tired.  It’s a fact.  Any parent who isn’t either has minimal custody or a nanny.  Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day bullshit and responsibilities.  You all know I am the first one to say to cut yourself some slack.  They will not in fact die if they eat drive thru when you are running late.  Their feet won’t fall off if they get dirty.  No one has to know you bribed them before going in just so they didn’t do something that makes you want to kill them while you’re in <insert annoying location>.  No one is perfect all the time.

All that said, do not forget the main goal of parenting (and yes there is a goal).  The goal of parenting, lest you forget it, is to raise functioning, competent adults.  To slowly wean your children from your interventions and teach them to take care of themselves by incrementally giving them more and more responsibility.  No one wants their child to weigh 300LB and live in their basement while subsisting on pizza and thriving on friendships they have acquired through playing online games alone.  It’s not healthy and ew, hygiene.

My girls’ aftercare program is preparing to send the children to Epcot.  I learned this when I went to pick them up.  As I read the form, I was excited for them and remembered how much I enjoyed field trips growing up.  I start tuning in to the concerned conversations around me.  I was confused that many of the parents are having a freaking cow over this.  “But it’s three hours away.”  “What if they lose my kid?”  “That’s a long bus ride.”  “Are they trained to handle this type of trip?”  The list goes on and on.

Let me start by saying that the aftercare director has single-handedly turned around our aftercare program.  It wasn’t a negative experience before but with her changes, I see what we were missing.  My children take Zumba, architecture, yoga, and art (there is other stuff but they talk a lot and I forget crap).  There is a curriculum independent of what they are taught during the day and they finish their homework before any of this even happens.

The reason I say all this is that these wonderful people are good enough to care for these children while we parents have to work.  I wish I could be there with homemade fresh baked cookies every day at the bus stop but that’s not my life.  I drag my ass to their school after running myself ragged all day and finally get to see two of my favorite people, whom I see the least over the course of the day.  These skilled people make sure I can keep my job, you know, to feed the kids and stuff.  I hear it’s frowned upon to not provide food, clothing, and shelter…so picky.

The school campus is not a magical place.  They do not lose their enchanted “child whispering” powers if they get on a bus.  Most importantly, those kids are safer on a bus than they are in the parents’ Mercedes while they are texting and judiciously ignoring them while on a “work call”.

These parents have forgotten the goal of parenting.  All children are gradually going to grow up and move on.  They will experience things without you and they absolutely should.  Doing so in a controlled environment with child care professionals is the best possible way of allowing them to explore this.  I know it does not seem like it now, but your children are going to grow up.  They are going to drink, have sex, and if you don’t fuck it up, move away.

My peers that had the most trouble growing up were the kids that had overprotective parents.  They were hands down the biggest drunks, and slept around the most, because oh-my-God-no-one-is-here-to-regulate-me-every-second-of-every-day-and-did-you-know-you-can-drink-any-time-you-want-and-college-provides-hot-guys-like-everywhere?  Part of parenting is slowly letting go and letting them learn to regulate themselves while still in a safe environment.

While I have mixed feelings about my Catholic schooling, it did teach me about safe rebellion.  We wore uniforms.  One day, we were having a class discussion about why we would get detention for wearing the wrong color socks.  The very honest Theology teach said, “so you have a safe way to rebel”.  That made sense then and still does.  If you can rebel by wearing the wrong socks, you don’t need to use drugs in the bathroom.  One can “stick it to the man”, without doing any real damage.

I know how hard it is to let go…believe me….I know.  It is still healthy and necessary.  We know that you cannot always be there.  Children have to take responsibility and figure things out.  All of these things start from day one.  You let go a bit more every day and pick your battles.  I fight when I need to fight, and tell my kids to suck it up when I have to.  None of this is fun, but it’s parenting.  And what’s the goal of parenting?  To grow people.  Adult people, who can function without you.  If you need your kid to need you, you should find a new hobby, and probably a therapist.

The next parent who complains that their son keeps moving back home and lies on the couch all day; ask them if they ever kept him home from a field trip to “protect him”.  If the answer is “yes” then tell them they deserve it….then slap them for me.

Refusing to Argue Doesn’t Make You Enlightened, It Makes You A Controlling Bitch

Hemingway Edited

I know several, “I don’t argue” people.  I thought these were the exceptions but more and more, readers have mentioned being frustrated with people in their lives who refuse to discuss issues and never hear what the other party is saying.

For all of you who refuse to discuss issues, who think they already know what the other person is going to say, or simply don’t like being uncomfy having a tough talk, refusing to argue does not make you enlightened or superior, it makes you a controlling bitch.  Stop it.  No one likes it and it makes you look like a prick.

There are going to be disagreements in life and people are not always going to share your views or feelings.  It would be pretty boring if this were not the case.  If this person is important to you or in the case of co-parenting, important to your kids and a general fixture in your life whether you like it or not (because suck it up, you slept with them), you are required as an adult to deal with issues and work through them even when it isn’t fun.  Life’s tough and it doesn’t get any easier.  Do it anyway.

For the person trying to discuss and being shot down by, “I’m more enlightened than you and do not lower myself by ever getting upset about anything”, (hear, “it makes my tummy hurt and I don’t want you having the satisfaction of knowing I’m upset too because I’m an emotional 12-year-old”), there are ways to deal with this.

  1. Remember that people who “don’t fight”, are actually controlling.  This type of control is hard to identify but if you know what to look for, it’s there.  Control monsters have learned they can actually hurt and control sometimes, by doing nothing.  Sometimes it can be by simply ignoring you to let you know how unimportant your existence is to them (but what they really are, is threatened).  Other times, they make comments, stir up shit, and then fade into the crowd leaving you pissed off, issues unresolved, and then they get the satisfaction of you coming to them to resolve it.  If you can identify this, it will go a long way in preserving your sanity.
  2. Write it out. When a topic is sensitive and you are afraid a discussion will be too heated or the other party is ignoring you, this gives you the opportunity to get your thoughts and feelings out in total without the other person inflaming you further.  Additionally, this gives you the added benefit of not having to keeping playing out this argument in the shower and in the mirror while getting ready for work because the asshole won’t talk to you about it.  Not looking like a mental patient is always positive.  They may not read it but at least you get to say what you need to say and hope that some tiny piece may have been understood.  If it is about your kids, sometimes even if you want to let it go, it still has to be said because these are your children and it’s your job.
  3. Let it go when you can.  I am definitely NOT a proponent of talking out every issue.  This will drive everyone crazy because moods change and chances are it wasn’t that big of a deal.  If this issue is not a safety concern or threatening to end your relationship (whatever that may be), try to let it go.  If this is your ex, you are not a couple for a reason and you are not going to agree.  If this is anyone else, they have no power over you.  Let them go on feeling superior, who gives a shit?  The answer is no one, because 9 times out of 10, the person who does this has a constant stream of friends and/or romantic partners that come and go because they can only be tolerated in small doses and since they don’t work through issues like an adult, long-term relationships are all but impossible with this person.
  4. Drink wine and say “fuck ’em”.  You are trying to keep your head above water like everyone else and their immature version of communication or lack there of, is always going to be a much bigger problem for them than it is for you.

I know this is frustrating and dealing with these people makes you want to pull your hair out but don’t.  If they ever want to be an adult and talk, you’ll want to look your best.

If You Bathe With A Man Only Your Boobs Get Clean And Other Things I’ve Learned

Apple Edited

Being a parent teaches you many things, for me, the most important was quickly learning I know nothing and I had to learn to ask for help and advice (even if I don’t always use it).

Yesterday when I picked my girls up from school, my youngest had a huge hole in her backpack and my oldest had ripped out the tongue of her tennis shoe rendering it useless as it wouldn’t stay on her foot.  Off to the mall we go….  Of course, they are starving so we make a pit stop in the food court.  They all want Chinese food.  Score!  I only have to stop at one place!  While waiting, my oldest starts doing this obnoxious, rude, and racist fake Chinese/Asian accent (I assume Chinese because we were getting Chinese food?).  In her ear I tell her stop and threaten things that make her go completely pale.  When we get to the table she tells me she has no idea why she was corrected.  I explain that it is incredibly racist and that is not how their beautiful language actually sounds.  She tells me that the dog in Looney Tunes wears a pointy hat, sticks out his front teeth, makes his eyes “squinty” (her words), and speaks the same way.  So, I have to explain that cartoons were known for being inappropriate and while we still have an incredibly long way to go, that’s why she does not see them in her recent cartoon favorites.

She then tells me that a friend at school who is half Japanese does it all the time and that’s where she learned it.  I then have to explain that you are allowed to say things when you share that culture and use words that other cultures cannot or should, when you belong to it.  She says “so I’m part Native American so I can make fun of them?”  My answer, “honey, you have platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, you will never be allowed to make fun of any culture ever and you shouldn’t anyway.  Besides, you have pride in your culture and I can’t imagine you finding something bad to say.”

The conversation went on longer and I hope I made some sense, and taught her the beginning of understanding racism (which in case anyone is wondering, ignoring differences and pretending we are all the same is NOT the answer either).  The family behind us with two younger children got up to leave.  The mom leans over me and says, “well done, I’m not prepared for those conversations.”  Neither….am….I.  I did learn how I feel about some things and remembered things we don’t really think about by having this discussion though.

So, this conversation has been on my mind and makes me think of all the things my daughters and being part of a family has taught me.  Often, I am surprised to discover how I feel about a something when I start speaking on the subject with my daughters.  Sometimes, when I explain something I didn’t think I really understood and actually explain well, I’m convinced I’m brilliant!  Other times, I crash and burn.  So what have I learned?

  1. It is a myth that boys are more active than girls.  Yes, they play differently, but sheer energy, it depends on the kid, not the junk.
  2. Girls notice boys WAY before they notice them.
  3. There is so much I don’t know.  The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know.
  4. If you bathe with a man, only your boobs get clean (seriously guys, there are way dirtier parts that need attention).
  5. Even when your kids sleep through the night, you never sleep the same way again.
  6. You will have to repeat yourself constantly.  To the point that I’m considering making signs on sticks so while I’m sitting on the couch, I can simply hold up the correct phrase and go back to reading.
  7. My children are equally brilliant and brain-dead.  My youngest explained that “grandparents and parents have to die because people keep having babies and we would all be squished together.  If we live too close, people would get sicker because you shouldn’t touch people all the time.”  So, she has figured out population control but hello, use a fork, change your underpants, and use soap in the damn shower!
  8. Your kids will forgive you, even when you don’t deserve it.
  9. People who have a dog and no kids should NEVER compare the level of responsibility or tell parents how “busy” they are.  It makes us stabby.  We are not superior, just exhausted.
  10. Kids are mean to each other…I mean, really fucking mean.
  11. As your kids get older, they can actually be helpful.  Who knew?  However, you have to actually make them help, you are not the maid.
  12. It’s incredibly tough to balance the lesson of independence and desperately wanting to protect them from everything (but then, they would experience nothing).
  13. Patience is not a virtue I was blessed with, but I swear my children have made it their freaking mission to teach it to me.
  14. There are always going to be people who judge you for being too good or not good enough, with absolutely no information at all (these are usually the loudest).  All should be ignored.
  15. The lava game never gets old.

I’ve learned more than that but no one really cares to read it all.  I’m just not that important, and that’s OK.  The point is, for all your lessons, corrections, and teaching, your children will teach you as much as you teach them.  Listen.

Parents Are People And They Have Feelings Too

Octopus Slap Edited

No one is happy all the time and that’s OK.  My children and yours need to know you have feelings.  They also need to learn the correct responses to events and their associated emotions.

I’m sad that people get sick.  I’m sad that in the US people owned people and it still happens elsewhere.  That working in criminal defense taught me that minorities are not treated the same, or fairly, and we pretend it doesn’t happen.  That women make less than men even if they do equal and/or superior work.  That rich white men say things like, “Those 99% people need to go get jobs.  I hate hippies”, which then begs the question, does he know what “we are the 99%” means or what a hippie even is?  I’m sad that animals are put down in astounding numbers because we cannot control the population and there is no other way to handle it other than to make us all “cat people”.

It is our job to protect our children and let them be children.  But it is also our job to teach them that things are not fair.  It’s not fair and it’s OK to be sad and angry about it.  It’s what we DO about it that matters.  Anger is the easiest emotion to portray.  Teach them the rest of them.  Not everything should elicit an angry response any more than always pretending to be happy and playing a “Stepford wife”, is an accurate portrayal.  If you are pretending to be happy all the time, you are doing your child a disservice.  Children need to learn that how they feel is acceptable and normal.

Your children need to know that their actions can also affect your feelings.  If they say something insensitive or hurtful, explain the following things:

  1. Why it was inappropriate
  2. How it made you feel
  3. What they should have said instead

Number three is the most important.  Always teach your kids an alternative behavior.  Simply saying “no”, does not teach them how to conduct themselves in the future.

What does this mean for you?  You need to talk to your children.  Explain how you feel and why.  You don’t need to discuss all the big world issues but if you’re having a rough day, tell them.  Teach them the full range of emotions above and beyond happiness and anger.  Teach them what feelings are appropriate for which circumstances.  And most of all, teach them that parents are people, and therefore, they have feelings too.

Stop Comparing Yourself

Edited Don't Trust Happy People

I know I’ve mentioned this briefly before but it is important enough that the topic deserves its own post.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  They are only showing you what they want you to see.  I cannot remember where I read this but some very intelligent writer wrote, “Stop comparing your every day, to others’ highlight reel.”

This makes perfect sense.  The trouble with social media is that we are constantly inundated with every moment of every person’s life that we choose to “friend” or “connect”, even if we barely know them.  I don’t have a Facebook account so I have threatened to simply walk around and shout updates.  “I’m having a bowl of cereal!”  “My kid did something cute!”  “I’m stuck in traffic!”

The point is, people want other people’s approval.  They show you their cool vacation photos, but leave out that they fought with their spouse the whole time.  They post cute photos of their kid but fail to mention this was the only good shot before little Carter (why do so many kids have last names as first names lately?) threw a gargantuan fit and his face was too red and his eyes were too swollen to get any other decent shots.  They show off their new home but hide the fact that they eat Ramen many nights per week because they couldn’t really afford it, though it makes for a nice Christmas card.

I’m not throwing stones here.  I’ve done it and so have you.  Everyone has.  The problem is that we, as a society, cultivate an environment of perfectionism when nothing could be farther from the truth.  Ask anyone how they are and the answer is, “great!”.  No one is freaking great all the time.  No one’s kids are always cute (my goal at 6:30AM is simply to make them look “not homeless” for school….I’m not aiming high here).  No one’s marriage is perfect, because well, people are annoying and you and your spouse are no exception.

When you co-parent or parent at all, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other parents.  That kid doesn’t look like a ragamuffin, that mother had time to do her hair (usually….because nanny), he runs a successful business, they never have to remind their children to say “thank you”, EVERY FREAKING TIME, that kid gets better grades, that mom had time to make her own baby food, and the list goes on and on.  You can cure that by spending time with other people’s children.  Just when I’m ready to kill my girls, I hang out with someone else’s kids.  I realize, at least my kid doesn’t do THAT.  More importantly though, you see that while you are noticing what that parent has that you don’t or what that kid excels in that yours doesn’t, you realize that you are better in other things and your kid is better at some things as well.

I cannot afford to put my kids in a bunch of activities so I don’t have a baseball star.  But I do bake/cook with my kids every week and we garden together.  I do let them pick ONE activity per season and I go to every game.  Our house is not the cleanest but it is very well-organized and my kids can always find what they need.  I know that sometimes you just have to SHOW UP.  I have to constantly remind my children to say “please” and “thank you” but I they never throw temper tantrums that I see other kids their age throw and I’ve never seen them pass someone who looks upset or hurt without helping them or trying to make them smile.  We don’t always have everything we want, but we always have everything we need and I’m OK with that.

What does this mean for you?  Stop comparing yourself to others, especially their social media feeds because it’s all bullshit.  Put real emphasis on learning to appreciate the things you are good at and improve your self-esteem.  High self-esteem is actually knowing you’re not perfect, and liking yourself anyway.  See yourself through your kids’ eyes.  They love you unconditionally and think you’re awesome.  Unless of course you have teenagers in which case they think you’re an idiot (but not really, they just act like it).  Be happy for your friends and family without feeling inferior.  Everyone is fighting a tough battle because we are ALIVE, and life is tough.  If that doesn’t work?  Then drink wine and revel in how fat the hot chicks and how bald the popular guys from high school got.

Your Home Counts Too, Even If There Are Two

Edited Frantic

Stop saving the damn china.  You are a good and viable family now.  Your home counts too, even though there are two.  Of course it’s not perfect and of course your kids’ “other home” seems like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Don’t believe it though, every day, life is tough, holidays are tougher….

When my ex and I were married, I was a stay at home mom.  Yes, I worked here and there, but during the day, I stayed home and cared for our girls while he worked, or traveled for work.  I was with them the majority of the time and still think of my oldest as my “sidekick”.  Come on, the poor kid sat in my lap while I had a cavity filled, that’s love right there…and a lack of childcare.  When we split up, I somehow forgot this fact and suddenly felt inferior.  Allow me to explain….

My mother died when I was 15 and my father and I are estranged.  They were both only children so I have no aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  While I have my sister and her family, they often spent holidays with her husband’s family.  I felt like I had no family to offer the girls.  Or at least, it sure seemed that way.  As such, I agreed outside of court that their father could have them every Thanksgiving and Christmas and I would take them for Halloween and Easter, since his family is not big on those two.  Was I miserable?  Yes.  But I thought at the time, that it was the right thing to do.  You see, my ex has a huge family that all converge on one family home for every holiday.  It’s loud, it’s fun, and it’s an environment I don’t have to offer.  Sitting with boring ‘ole mom all alone and missing out on that seemed stupid and selfish to me.

My sister and I coordinate more holidays together.  Additionally, my ex voluntarily offered to start rotating the major holidays.  My ex deserves credit for simply offering, because he wanted me to see the girls on important days, and thought it was good for the girls.  That’s a good dad and a good friend folks.

I am grateful for those things every single day.  But you know what?  I didn’t need them to be worth spending Christmas with.  I am their mother and that was enough.  My girls love their holidays with me even though I don’t have a huge group to offer.  I may screw up, but I’m still their mother and they care more that I showed up than whether my execution was perfect (thank goodness, because it usually isn’t).

Don’t wait until you have what you think you need.  They were yours the second you brought them into this world and you don’t need the perfect house or the perfect family.  You are the perfect family because you’re theirs.  Stop saving the china for some annoying holiday tradition you think they need or want.  By the way, the china is probably ugly anyway and you’re only keeping it because some dead relative gave it to you and you think you should use it.  Stop assuming the “other” family is better.  You matter, your family matters, and so does your home, no matter what that looks like for your family.  Your kids love you.  You will struggle until you love you too.