Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
This past year or so has seen some tremendous changes in my mood, my self identity (dumb phrase.... redundant, but how *I* see myself HAS changed), and the way we do things in our family. I'll catch up all you nosy buggers as I can. But I needed to get on here and write, just to get things started. Needed to jump start that conduit between brain/heart and fingers......
Jump start complete. But I will stop here before fully warming up as I've had a rampant case of verbal diarrhea lately that I don't want you all to see/read/hear, as it's likely to make no sense at all! So... ta ta for now... and tomorrow... some sense (or, as much sense as you're ever likely to get from me anyway)!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
When people criticize other parents, I always think “uh oh, you’ve just jinxed yourself.” I am sure that in the past, before I became a parent, I heard of a non-custodial mother and made some snap judgment. I’m sure I jinxed myself. I’d love to believe that what I’m living through now is the result of some stupid jinx. It’d be so much easier to deal with – accepting with grace some cruel twist of fate. Finding myself guilty of only a “snap judgment” in the past. But, being a citizen of the Real World, it’s not so simple.
*I* am a non-custodial mother. I AM a non-custodial mother. I am a NON-CUSTODIAL mother.
Which part of that sentence do I want to focus on?
The *I*? Me? How could this happen to me? I’m a devoted parent, I am always the one who took up the slack when the other parent was lacking. I’m the one who has altered her lifestyle, career goals and financial situation so that I can provide the sort of life I think my kids deserve. *I* am now lumped into that category of uncaring, drug addicted, adulteress losers. ME! Me, the woman who has always done everything with the best of intentions… and who recently realized that it’s incredibly naïve to assume that acting with good intentions will get me to the desired end.
Do I focus on the “AM” part? I don’t have to be a non-custodial parent forever. I can win her back. I can buy her a car for her to use when she’s with me, and surely she’ll want to come here. I can decorate her room and put in a dance floor, sound system and disco ball. I can fight through the court system till her father has no money left and has to give up. I have incredible powers of stamina, and I can do that. But I also have too much sense to waste the money and my family’s emotional energy. I’m not going to buy my kid. Let someone else do that if they so desire, but the values I want her to learn have very little to do with money or stuff. On the contrary, we want her to learn that money and stuff are poor substitutes for the things that really matter, and are really only a tool to reach a goal anyway.
I am NON-CUSTODIAL. I do not decide where my daughter lives. In fact, when her father goes overseas, she gets to stay with her step mother. Yes, the court has decided that staying in place with her step mother, rather than joining her mother, step father and THREE siblings, is in her best interest. It’s so hard to fathom… I am not sitting on the couch with her watching our favorite shows. I’m not the one who is constantly asking “do you need deodorant from the store? Are you sure? Cause I think you need deodorant.” I don’t fix her dinner nightly, nor do I wash her clothes and say “will you stop growing please?” I don’t take her bra shopping, or urge her to brush her teeth every night. I don’t get to observe the life cycle of her new pimples, her new crushes, her school projects. Inside jokes and routines are pretty thin on the ground between her and me. I’m the 2nd and 4th weekend and dinner on Wednesday parent.
It seems pretty cruel to me that in spite of this court ruling, I still have to get up in the morning, and engage with my husband, and care for my other children, and go to my job, and actually DO my job. I go to the grocery store and there are parents with their kids everywhere, and they have no idea that the I am walking around with a piece of me missing. We have a new camera, but still, where are HER pictures? I used to know everything about her – I could see something and think “she will love that!” … Now I see things and wonder “What would she think?” And not KNOWING my daughter like that is what hurts the most. I miss her company, I miss our jokes, and I miss seeing the milestones, but I have realized that it’s the not knowing that sucks hardest.
So, in the context of I AM A NON-CUSTODIAL MOTHER, I have chosen to focus on the mother part. The part that knows her daughter. The court and her father can keep me from witnessing the little ticks like nightly dinners, where she picks out all the broccoli from her stir fry, then sucks on it, never chewing and swallowing it. (what is up with that?) I don’t get to see the pimple from start to finish, but if I make the most of my visitation, I’ll know the pimple was there, and can talk to her about the things that work and don’t work on pimples. I can still observe, interact, and teach. Maybe, if she has a problem with pimples, I can be generous and buy her one of those expensive heat zapping machines – provided she understands that we’re buying it because it’s for her health and her self esteem, and not because we just buy crap.
I have tools at my disposal to be a mother – not the tools I used to use, but this is a new era. This is the era of regular emails from mom, regular text messages, regular phone calls. This is the era of being emotionally present and predictable so that she knows that even though I’m not there, I am HERE in a broader sense. My love is not conditioned on where she lives. It is not conditioned on the choices she has made in all of this. My love is constant and will be showered on her regardless. We’ve got to come up with new rituals and inside jokes, things that will develop through different routes that the regular “come home, eat cookies, do your homework, hang with mom while she makes dinner” sort of thing. Maybe stupid jokes sent every night at bedtime. Or talking on the phone while watching “So You Think You Can Dance?” Or sending silly pictures of cats back and forth via email with our own quirky captions.
I am still a mother, of her and of three other children who are hurting because of this separation. Being a mother means I will be flexible, selfless, creative, resilient, loving and constant. I have to be that for everyone, in a whole new landscape. I’ll let you know how it goes.
But in the mean time, I’d like to apologize to all those other mothers who may once have been a victim of my unthinking, quick judgments. Being a parent is about the BEING part. It’s a choice that manifests as an action, and is steady and never ending. …no matter where your kid is.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I mean, me. Who the hell is me?
My older kids are at their father’s this week, and my husband is out of town working. So it’s just me and the baby. And during the normal work week, I don’t get to spend much time with her – she wakes up, goes to daycare, and crashes shortly after she comes home. So I’m alone this week, for long periods of time. This doesn’t happen very often – as you can imagine… I have four kids, a husband with high energy, a dog and a cat. I don’t even get to piss unaccompanied, because the dog follows me, perhaps hoping he’ll get to chew the empty toilet paper roll THIS TIME. My husband is the type who thinks out loud, so frequently, I’m sitting beside him silently, wrapped up in my own thoughts, and he blurts out some non sequitur that I then frantically try to interpret. I try to nap sometimes, to get some quiet, but someone is always barging in – complaining about something. Or the tv gets turned up so loud, I pull a pile of pillows over my head to block the noise. Or the dog jumps on the bed and attempts to sleep on my feet, which drives me absolutely batshit crazy. My husband has been known to interrupt my nap to discuss our income taxes.
But this week, I have that quiet. I get the peace I’ve craved. I’ve got time to do what *I* want to do without considering anyone else's desires. Well, except the baby’s, but she desires a clean diaper, some snuggles, and a nice warm bottle. Easy Peasy. So what do I do with all this time – with this opportunity I’ve craved?
You know the answer to this. It’s not so hard. What do I do?
Nothing at all.
This is not the week I study French, to brush up on my skills. This is not the week I rent a French horn, to experience the pure joy of playing again. This is not the week I start my novel. Nor is it the week I start training for the marathon. But it is the week that I start researching womens' midlife crises.
Here’s a quote I pulled from Wikipedia (which is NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE, my kids tell me… but whatever.. this one doesn’t seem too far off the mark):
Individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis have some of these feelings:
- search of an undefined dream or goal
- a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished
- desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness
- need to spend more time alone or with certain peers
A man I know (NOT my hubby, in case you are wondering...)is going through this in a very destructive manner – his crisis is a classic. He doesn’t seem to realize he’s in a typical midlife thing. He thinks it’s a "truly new in the universe" type of personal reinvention. Dork. It is said that for women, the midlife crisis isn’t quite as violent. Men tend to wake up one day and realize they are old. Women are constantly reminded that they are aging ...tick tock tick tock goes that clock. So women aren’t quite as surprised by it.
My midlife “thing” seems pretty typical too:
I am in search of a dream or a goal – one that is sort of defined, but the path to it is anything but…
I don’t really have a sense of remorse for goals not accomplished. I just realize time’s a wastin’.
I do desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness. I want a tummy tuck, to run a marathon and to put my tits back where they belong.
I do desire to spend more time alone with a certain peer – my husband.
I don’t want to throw out the whole kit and caboodle. I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water, cut off my own nose to spite my face, nor do I want to stretch any other clichés further past their elastic limits…
I just want to redirect a bit.
Here’s a quote from a really cool article Time magazine article by Leslie Whitaker:
Many feel that along the way, while they were getting their promotion or having their kids or managing their households, they set aside something important that they want to retrieve--their hiking boots, their screenplay, a law degree. "Everybody I know has a version of this," says Susan Reimer-Torn, now a life coach in New York City. "Phase I, you kind of put all the pieces together in your mid- or late 20s, and it almost always involves some kind of trade-off. You figure out what you absolutely must have and end up giving up something else. But in Phase II, which generally occurs after 40, many women begin to review the terms of that original trade-off. If there's a Phase III, it may be taking your life in a whole new direction. Often a collision of the personal and professional triggers the reinvention.
So I guess I’m at Phase II – I happily gave up traveling, novel writing, many hobbies and goals to focus on my family in Phase I. Wouldn’t do it any differently if I had a choice. But now, I’m in a better place. I make more money – I’m smarter – I’m wiser. I can juggle more, and I know myself much better. I’m reviewing the terms of the original trade-off.
…which brings me to the next question – for myself, and for YOU, gentle reader. What precious thing was sacrificed earlier in life that there is now a desire to reclaim? What goal was put aside that now needs to be nudged back to the front and center of your attention?
I’ll be chomping on this question, and will share more in a future blog. But if you don’t mind too much… how about you chomp too and share with me your thoughts in the comments section?
Merci Beaucoup mes amis.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Today’s blog is full of photographs. It’s summertime, the kids are home, my sanity is on vacation, and the camera is getting used to document important and stupid things alike. A few years ago, when the kids were bored, I suggested they take photos and set up a Powerpoint slide show on my computer. They did. The results were astonishing. I believe the title of the slide show was “the Gender Bending Dress Up Fashion Show” or something like this. It involved balloons, makeup and the contents of my lingerie drawer – including a few items that I’d rather my kids have never even known existed. Ah well… that’s a post for another day. Perhaps I can find that slideshow and post for you all, so you can judge my parenting, and find me woefully lacking. But that’s for a day when my self esteem can take it.
This set of pics was taken by Ransom at the grocery store. He’s quite the comedian, and I thoroughly enjoy his commentary. It’s an interesting peek into the mind of a subtly warped prepubescent individual. Ransom frequently makes jokes he doesn’t understand, and when you explain what he said back to him, he turns red, and hides his head under a pillow. He’s an inadvertent comedian sometimes, I guess. So, here we go. We approach the grocery store. Outside, as we attempt to find a cart that isn’t too hot to touch or contains wadded up tissues containing who knows what, we see a sign for watermelons:
PERSONAL watermelons! “For your intimate snacking pleasure,” says Mr. Lover. I explain what intimate means, and he takes off into the cheese section to avoid my snarky comments. Seems he saw an “intimate moisturizer” commercial on WE, and assumed it just meant “personal.” He didn’t realize just what was dry, you know. He loosened up though, and became quite giggly over the idea of eating watermelon naked.
Next, we hit the vitamin/natural health section. I was looking for Chromium Picolinate. I’d had good luck losing weight in the past when I supplemented with this stuff, and am willing to try it again, even if it is just voodoo. Ransom saw a bottle and announced that his sister Addie REALLY needed some of these:
Chill Pills. Herbal supplements to promote calmness. And seeing as how Addie hasn’t just recently hit adolescence as much as she’s crashed against it at a high rate of speed… she probably could benefit from a Chill Pill. Considering she lives with Ransom – who continually pokes her with his finger until she beats him and makes him cry – yes, a Chill pill wouldn’t come amiss. But it would have been an $8 purchase, and simply locking her bedroom door would probably give her the same effect for free. So we moved on…
To the organic food section. The child and I discussed “syntax” – and the tendency to get confused by all the modifiers used on packaging. For example:
free range chicken broth. Broth that was never caged, allowed to roam until it was packaged? Or:
Organic animal crackers – made from organic animals as opposed to chemically engineered animals? Much fun was had in Organics by us Uber-geeks.
Next up, the foreign foods aisle. The end cap of this aisle had a display of this:
Ransom looked at it carefully for a minute. He looked sheepishly over his shoulder at me, then giggled into the hand he put over his mouth. “Out with it, son,” I ordered. More giggles, then he held a hand up to my ear and whispered “If you have an Orange-Gyna, then you should see your doctor.” When my girls were younger, they referred to their privates as “ginas” instead of “VAginas.” For a boy who has not even hit puberty, it surprised me that his mind went there. But not too much….
And lastly, we had some Good Times. On the diaper aisle, where Good Times are to be had by all who are willing to spend $10.99, plus tax, for training pants.
We came home in a terrific mood, having only spent $257 for groceries for 2 weeks for a family of 6 (including two teenagers). We had some flowers and a baby pool tossed in on the bill, as well as $10 cash back. It was a good trip. The best part was thoroughly enjoying some precious one on one time with a kid who is just as nutty and fun as I like to think I am. If he didn’t drop to his knees and beg in the candy aisle, the cereal aisle, the chip aisle, the book aisle, the ice cream aisle… etcetera…. then I might be willing to make him my permanent grocery buddy.
A classic grocery find from earlier this year - it's only about $.59 per package. A cheap gift for a friend who isn't getting any, except in her soup bowl:
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The trouble with frank is that when you are frank with children, they are frank back with you. And you may think that this is a good thing, until your child asks you “Mom, what’s your Safe Word?”
And you might be so flustered, that your tongue freezes to the top of your mouth, so your response sounds something like “Gulllthp.” Then you might retreat to the laundry room to refold all the laundry you just folded, so you can have time to think about a more suitable response.
I decided when I was young and idealistic that I would be open and honest with my children about all matters sexual, so that they didn’t inherit any needless guilt or the inability to deal with very important realities. I researched age appropriate explanations, and insisted we use proper names for body parts. I didn’t want my children to find themselves in the strange position I found myself in when I reached elementary school, and told my teacher that I had hurt my cooter in my zipper. With a much louder voice than a sympathetic, kind person should use, the teacher responded “Cooter is the mechanic from the Dukes of Hazard, child. Tell me, specifically, what did you get stuck in your zipper?” As if there were THAT many possibilities.
I bet the entire class still remembers me as the kindergarten pariah with the strange gait.
But kids are just that – children – and by definition, they will embarrass the hell out of you. They will embarrass you in public using cutesy names for their parts, or they’ll lean out of the McDonald's restroom door and holler across the restaurant “Mom, can you wipe my anus?”
By the time my third child was ready to label his parts, he had a winkie, a pair of nuggets and a stinky booty. I was tired of parenting Doogie Howser with Tourette’s.
But I remained steadfast in my insistence upon frank sexual discussions. Before entering middle school, each child was taken into the bedroom with me for The Talk. We covered puberty, cleanliness, masturbation, the mechanics of sex, and Mom’s How to Make Wise Decisions and the Devastating Consequences if You Don’t lecture. Each kid was very uncomfortable – as was I – and I agreed to let them scurry to their bedrooms and cringe for a while after the discussion, provided they ask me 5 intelligent questions about sex and/or bodies first. As I suspected, the first question was hard to spit out, but after that, there was a torrent of them. I did my best not to flinch, and to answer everything in a straightforward manner. I encouraged the kids to come to me with any other questions, as this was not the sort of thing they needed to be learning from friends.
Sometimes they do approach me: “Mom, what’s bisexual?”
Sometimes I want to run screaming for the hills: “Sometimes do a boy and a girl and then another boy and another girl get together and all love each other at the same time?”
Other times I know that if they find out I know the answer to a certain question, no matter how matter-of-factly I approach it, my kid is gonna think I’m a pervert. As I folded the washcloths into thirds repeatedly, I realized I was precisely in that kind of situation.
Deep breath… deep breath… calm…. Steady girl, steady girl….
Me: “What was that you asked hon, I didn’t hear?”
Him: “What’s your safe word?”
Me: “Well, what’s yours?”
Him: “I asked you first!”
Me: “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
Him: “Mine’s Bacon”
Me: “Oh, that’s clever, and when do use your safe word Bacon?”
Him: “When I’m wrestling with Danny and I get hurt and want him to know I have to stop.”
Me: “Oh. Good idea. Mine’s Cheetoh.”
Him: “When do you use yours?”
Me: “When you bother me. Go away. Cheetoh.”As I threw the entire load of laundry back in the dryer (just in case the kid asked me anymore questions, I reasoned) I became aware that being frank with my children has overly sensitized me, and made me a bit jumpy. Ah well… when the market rebounds, perhaps there will be some money available for my therapy. Or theirs.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
OK, even the TITLE of this magazine article pisses me off more than I can say. 100+ things my guy is begging for in bed. Right. My guy is begging simply for … BED. So he can sleep. And I’m right there with him.
I know I am not in the Cosmo demographic – so why bother even getting offended? Surely I can just leave this article to the realm of women who love to get dressed up, be sexy and please men 24/7. Those ladies exist don’t they? Cosmo writes to them as if they do… The Sex and the City ladies – do they exist? Or are they an ideal? Was Sex and the City so much fun because it was a show about Cosmo readers who had “regular-ish” problems? Because it brought an ideal down to our level?
Personally, I’d like to meet up with Cosmo’s ideal demographic statistical woman, and beat the ever loving shit out of her with the full trash bag from my Diaper Genie.
Why? For making me look bad? No, four births, a desk job and a sincere belief that rolling out of bed each morning is enough exercise made me look bad.
For making me feel inadequate? No, having my baby come home from daycare with “NEED MORE DIAPERS” written in sharpie on her saggy Pamper did that.
For once again ignoring all the other wonderful things that women in our society achieve other than staying thin, dressing well and pleasing their men in bed with 100+ tricks? No. I’m used to the weird and shameless dichotomy. Women in different stages gravitate to others in that stage, buy magazines, watch shows and talk about stuff that is relevant to what they’re going through. You don’t have to trumpet the worth of women in general. I’m over all that righteous anger.
I’m swinging a loaded bag of diapers over my head, preparing to launch them at Cosmo Woman for one simple reason. That bitch is getting laid.
I recently saw a pic of myself at a college banquet, in a pretty, skinny blue dress, with big hair, looking so fresh. I almost cried when I saw the picture. I showed my teens: “look guys! I was hot! I have proof!” I miss the days when I really thought about sexual technique, when I was able to try out new stuff on my main squeeze, when I dressed to impress him, and gave serious thought to each level of clothing, and checked it all in the mirror with a sexy, one sided smile.
If you go to the article, you’ll see it’s not a how-to guide. It’s simply a list of quotes from guys about what they like. And what they like is as different as… well as different as THEY are. So Cosmo got me riled up with the old Bait and Switch. Whatever. It’s okay now. I know 100 things my husband is begging for – a good steak, his own man cave, a solo vacay with me, 6 months salary in the bank, more time in the gym, a new camera, some new business casual duds, to sleep in the whole weekend… I can keep going, but I won’t. I want to be certain that *I* am the only one with these 100+ secrets. *I* want to be the one who pleases this particular man, because the things he craves are stability, affection, time with the kids, security for us, to look good for me…. Really, it rocks so much more than a hookup with a hot Wall Street lawyer that results in multiple orgasms and a deliciously sinful Walk of Shame in the morning back to your fashion editor job where you have to raid the designer samples closet for something to wear so your boss won’t know you never made it home last night. (I know it was a run on sentence folks, but that particular bit of silliness didn’t deserve extra punctuation.)
Frankly, I’m happier being HERE than THERE. I’m happy I’m the one with the full bag of dirty diapers. Honestly, but figuratively. Cause I can get dressed to the nines any old day, go someplace hip and new, drink martinis and get laid by a real man who knows all my hot spots.
Provided, of course, that no one else has snagged my babysitter.
That's me on the far right. Proof that at one time, late in 1989, I had cleavage, sort of, and was hot.