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Bad Parenting Moments: May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby

Get it? GET IT? It's my belly button!

Since late 2011, right around the time I became grotesquely  pregnant with our 4th (see above), I have been telling, well, spit riddled screaming to the world that we are done popping out babies like a Pez dispenser. "Nope, 4 is great! We are done. D-O-N-E. DONE!" I tell random strangers, people I see out and about, grocery store cashiers, our trash collectors and my ovaries. I particularly pour on the panicked, high pitched insistence of our brownchickenbrowncow festivities being purely non-child creation focused to the eyebrow raised inquirers (insisters), "So, you're done...right?" Those people, in particular, cause my inner people pleaser to jump triumphantly forth and ensure them that, "Yes, we are done!" When really, I want to say, "It's none of your damn business! Why don't you lower your brow before your face freezes that way!" Then I imagine kicking dirt on their freshly pressed white linen pants, giving them the full cross armed F U and speeding off in my minivan leaving them speechless, covered in peel out dirt and with a trail of Dodge fumes all up in their grill.


Instead, I match their smiling, eyebrow raised, not even hidden judgment with a saccharine, knowing look and judgment swallowing statement that confirms what they want to hear so that I can walk away and feel less like a giant, tower climbing, city destroying uterus. All I have to say to myself is, What the freakin' WHAT? As my two year old so eloquently once said, "Why I do that?" .

Why, Indeed.

I have no explanation for smiling and laughing at the SEA HAG kindly, older woman who saw me out with my children, held the door open for me as I struggled with the pack, stroller  and the older two holding my pockets and then said, "1, 2, 3, 4...that's enough!". Wahhhh Wahhh Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. As my husband would say in a sing-song voice, "Dick punch!"

I have no explanation for my quiet, meek acceptance of the douche-baggery that occurs every time I deign to walk outdoors with my ducklings in tow other than the cold, hard fact that I would not do well in prison. I'm not Martha Stewart. I can't just go to prison and bounce back with several multi-million dollar deals. Also, I don't know the first thing about shivs!  My favorite comments on the brain to mouth vomit spectrum are:

1) "Are those all yours?"

What I say: (with a smile) "Yes!"

What I want to say: "Can you show me some I.D. before I answer this question?" (After I.D. is shown) "Oh, thank God you're not law enforcement. Wait, are you undercover? SHIT!" Then, I'd ditch my shopping cart full of groceries and run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction.

2) "You should think about investing in cable!"

What I say: (forced giggling) "You're probably right!"

What I want to say: "Do you have statistics handy to show that people without cable have more children? No? Well, I'm willing to wait here with my screaming kids while you pull up that data on your iPhone. Sir? SIR...WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I WANT FACTS!"

3) "Are you running a daycare?"

What I say: (still smiling) "Some days it sure feels like it!"

What I want to say: "Yes, this is a daycare. Today is field trip day and, I think, and you will agree random stranger, that nothing is more exhilarating than taking small children to Walmart. In fact, you caught us just in time. As you can see, we are in the toilet paper section and we are just about to learn the difference the number of plys make. Good thing you caught us at this pivotal point of the learning experience."

Once, while in the library, pregnant with our fourth, a woman came up to me (who knew my husband's family) and said, "What does your husband do for work? Is he a (description of a job that makes a lot of money)?"

Me: "No, he's a (description of a job that makes far less money)."

Her: "Oooooohhhhhhh." And suddenly, my pregnancy was her business and open for judgement.

What I said: (with a smile) "We make it work!"

What I wanted to say:"We make it work. We have everything we need. We love them. They love us. That might not be good enough for you, but, it's everything to us."

And, here are my personal feelings on the subject of children. Will you love them? Will you care for them? Will you feed them? Teach them? Nurture their independence? Teach them about kindness? Will you do the hard work to release excellent humans into the world? If the answer is yes, you can have 1, 2, 5 or 25. I. Don't. Care. It's not my business and kudos to you for doing the work to make this world a better place filled with quality humans.

And, if you have a problem with me and my four amazing children, here is what I have to say:

We make it work. We have everything we need. We love them. They love us. That might not be good enough for you, but, it's everything to us.

Oh, and shove it.

January 3, 2012, the day I became "that lady who should invest in cable".

Look at how AMAZING they all are. I can't imagine life with "less". Great, now I want more. See naysayers, BACKFIRED!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Online Personas vs. Real Life Personas - The WWF Smackdown

This amazing thing happens on the Internet. You become anonymous. Running a close second behind indoor plumbing, anonymity is one of the greatest luxuries gifted to mankind. The ability to create an identity - a no holds barred super-you. Anxiety? Nope. Social awkwardness? Gone. Worrying about what the mom in the pick-up line thinks? Not a problem on the www. You can take a big step to the left of "Real You" and just let the crazy fly! It's a whole new, brave world filled with creative possibility and connection. You can write what you want while wearing what you want and, while making jokes you'd never make during kindergarten pick-up. Laughing uproariously while you sit on your crappy, juice stained couch, thinking up your next blog post and grinding that fruit bar ever further into your Lego ridden area rugs. As far as everyone knows, our online selves are kick-ass, red boot wearing, cape donning, baby seal saving spies with abs sculpted personally by Suzanne Somers. Online personas give us the outlet to be our best, superhero selves. We dive boldly into the deep end of the pool. Online, we take snippets of a life and quilt them into a creation of interest.That idea is so intoxicating and appealing because the real me....well, the real me is just not that interesting.

I'm a full-time mom of four young children. I am a mom all day. I make breakfast and then clean it up. I shower and put my wet hair in a bun or ponytail where it stays in varied degrees of disheveled mess for the duration of the day. I make lunch and then clean it up. I change diapers. I wipe rears. I pay library fines...a lot of library fines. I nurse the baby...constantly. Nursing pads make unflattering lumps in my shirt that I acknowledge but ignore. I drive a minivan with windows I have to manually roll down. I help with homework. I fill kiddie pools. I am hounded for snacks every quarter hour. I forget baked goods I've promised for school events. I am constantly loading and unloading children from our car and switching laundry from washer to dryer to basket. After sweeping for what seems like eternity, I still step on Cheerios and sticky patches of foreign substances. I constantly have Play-Doh stuck to the bottom of my pants. I drink copious amounts of coffee, yet yawn all day long. I go to grocery stores. I go to parks. I color, read books and snuggle. I make concerted efforts to be patient and still get frustrated. At 5:30 p.m., every day, my brain starts to shut off and the last hour before my husband gets home seems endless. I make dinner and then clean it up. I put toys in bins. I give kisses goodnight and then plop my rear on same juice stained couch, exhausted. Rinse and repeat. This is not to say that I don't love it. The honor of being a parent is the best damn honor in the world. It is epic in its overwhelming joy and satisfaction and epic in its day-to-day redundancy.

And, while I'm being honest here about virtual versus reality, I have to admit that Real Me gets uncomfortable at parties with new people. Real Me struggles trying to make small talk. Real Me sometimes (often) chokes trying to get a thought from head to mouth. Frankly, Real Me can be a real pain in my ass. Online Me is fun. Online Me is in the moment. Online Me takes chances and gives herself a break. Online Me is an open book. An open, anonymous book where the names and places have been crossed through with Sharpie.

The pull of the safety and anonymity of the online persona is strong. The safety of a real life hiding just behind an idea of who you are or, better yet, who you want to be. No one really knows what is happening inside the recesses of my head except me and me. This is the affair we're having with our inner self.

The thing that surprises me the most about this journey is that this pseudo-self helps me embrace the real humor, in real moments, in my real life as mom. Moments that I may have glossed over before have become moments I now capture and share with a community; and, in that community, I am finding the bridge between Bad Parenting Moments and Real Me. That bridge is something I think every mom is looking for. A bridge to your kick-ass, anonymous, super hero self. A bridge that connects a healthy piece of escapism to your grounded, real life. A bridge that sweetens the sweet and helps to humorize the sour. The ability to multi-task with multiple personalities and not end up institutionalized. To not end up institutionalized...every mother's goal!

The next transition will be working on allowing the best parts of real life and the best parts of online life to combine and make me the super human I have always wanted to be, but lacked the courage (or knowledge of quantum physics and chemistry) to pursue.  This may mean nothing more than showing up at school at 3:00 p.m. wearing a replica of Wonder Woman's red boots, but, with my hair still in a bun and the strap of my nursing bra accidentally and partially exposed. Hey, baby steps.

And, when you read our posts and banter with us online, I hope you are picturing BPM like this:

"Kids, don't make me use the lasso of truth!"

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Keeping Her Faith

When it comes to religion and faith, I have lived my life with self diagnosed Religious Schizophrenia. My Father was raised in a Jewish household. My Mother, with inactive Protestants. Both left their childhood faith in young adulthood and became Mormon. After my sister and I were born, disenfranchised with the Mormon faith, they both left the church. From that point on, aside from sporadic trips to church with well meaning families wanting to save our flailing  Jewish, Protestant, Mormon souls, we didn't attend church. Organized Religion was a sore subject for my mother. The feminist in her couldn't get past the diminished role of women in most forms of organized faith. And, for me, regardless of the church I attended with friends or other families, the experience left me wanting. The porridge was always too hot or far too cold.

In high school, I dated the son of a minister. The church was a Born Again sect called, Christian Renewal. As a shining example of the divine wisdom of high school girls, I went to church with my heart pounding for the son of the preacher man and not the son of God. I attended weekly. I studied their movements, I learned the songs. I so wanted to be touched by whatever power was touching this congregation. It did not touch me.  I started to wonder if I was missing something. Where was God? Is it possible that I was born unable to feel faith? The biggest question of all; What does faith feel like? How do I find it? Will I know it when I've found it? Will I go through my entire life without it?

I married a devout Catholic. He is a wonderful man. I know that his faith is part of what makes him so amazing. He was raised Catholic in a large, respected, church-going family. His faith is multi-pronged. It is familiar, but, he also has a strong, independent desire to nourish his faith and spiritual relationship with his church outside of his upbringing. While I fully acknowledge that this faith helps make him a wonderful husband, father and human being, I do not feel the connection to Catholicism. I feel the community in the church, I appreciate the devotion of the congregation and I marvel at the faith of the man I married, but, sadly, faith is not transferable. I want to feel the call. I want to feel the pull. I do not. My husband and I discuss, quite frequently, his faith and even, his interest in the Priesthood. Ultimately, his desire to marry and have children was stronger, but, if The Catholic Church ever allows men of the cloth to also be husbands and fathers, he would consider taking those revitalized vows. All of this is great, but, it leaves me dubbed, The Agnostic Wife of a Catholic Man. No one has written a song about that...yet. I'm assuming I should attend Agnostic Anonymous meetings where I would start with, "Hello, My name is Bethany and I don't know what to believe, but, I do know all the lyrics to George Michael's, Faith!"

When we had children, we agreed that he would take the lead on matters of faith and that he would raise our children as Catholics with my full support. Who was I to argue? He has something I desperately want and admire. Clearly, he was the obvious parental choice for spiritual guidance.

Picture our oldest drew of her going to church with Daddy. Mommy? Not pictured...at home in PJs.

All four of our children have been baptized. The two that are school aged attend Catholic School. My only request has been that they be allowed to explore their own feelings of faith and that, if, at any time, they wanted to explore outside the faith of my husband, we would be supportive and encouraging. We would recognize that it is not his or my choice to make. We would support their individual decision to participate in a faith that speaks to them. Their faith would be theirs. He agreed. See, an amazing man.

My son is in pre-school. Matters of faith are new and come home in the form of songs and coloring pages. He is not feeling the faith; He is learning it. My daughter is in Kindergarten. This is more complicated. She is exploring her faith. She is asking hard questions. She is having feelings that lead her toward prayer and, she is asking me what all of it means. Of course she is. I am her mother and her primary care giver. I am the adult at home when the questions in her brain beg to be asked. I answer her questions using my background in the ONE World Religions course I took in college, life experience, the tidbits I've gathered from my husband's religious knowledge and well, faith...in myself. The questions she asks are huge and loaded. The answers I give? Entirely based on my love for her and with respect for her personal journey. I am supportive and gentle in my responses, but, I know I do not have the answers she's looking for.

Christmas Morning 2011. She started drawing the nativity scene on the playroom chalkboard...on her own.

More unprompted home drawings of religious figures.

A: "Mommy, when we die, does our spirit stay in our body after we're buried? Does it go straight to Heaven? Will I see Grandpa there? Will my family be there?"


Me: "Well, some people believe that your spirit...what makes you, you and me, me leaves your body and goes to Heaven. Some people believe all our loved ones that died before us are there waiting for us."

A: "Cool! I wish there was a book I could read about that!"

Me: "There is."

A: "AWESOME. Mommy, do you believe that?"

This is when I start asking if anyone wants a frozen lemonade. That works, for now. What I want to say, what I want to say more than anything is that there is absolutely nothing I'd love to believe more. I want to say that the thought of this being all we have, the thought of only having this one lifetime of unknown length to be with her and love her is so heartbreaking that every cell in my body needs to believe that this can't be all there is. That, yes, absolutely, I will be waiting for her and that Daddy will be there too and that we will be a family, always. I can't promise that. So, we get a frozen lemonade and save this talk for another day.

I am not completely devoid of awe and wonder. I have had profound moments with feelings of  "connectivity bliss". I felt it at the birth of all of my children. The blinding feelings of love, fear and joy. In those moments, I am aware of a power bigger than me. I am praising the universe. Is that feeling faith? Is that what is being felt in Holy places of worship?

Right now, when it comes to faith, the only truth I do not doubt is my faith in my children, my husband and the love for my family, those still here and those gone. As far as my personal journey, I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but, I refuse to stop searching.

'Cause, I've gotta have faith, faith, faith...

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Friday, May 11, 2012

A Pox on Our House/A Case of Bieber Fever

I am deeply unhip. I have said it before. I'll say it again. I just said it now. There is no shame in my lack of game. I have no idea what is currently popular on the radio. I have no clue who is on American Idol. I have no idea if American Idol is even still on the air. I don't have cable. I don't play Words With Friends (because I haven't figured out how to access the app) and I have no clue how to navigate a Twitter party. I tried the "Tweetdeck" last night and jumped off almost immediately...thereby committing Twitter party suicide. Need I go on?

I have been dreading the moment that recently occurred in my kitchen since my oldest daughter made her brutally slow debut into the world. She has officially started her relationship with pop culture. On Monday, over a plate of dino nuggets and smiley face potatoes, my SIX YEAR OLD professed her love for Justin Bieber. Holy Mother of Thor. As if it wasn't hard enough to develop a meaningful and kick-ass relationship, here comes Justin Beiber and his, what I hear is, blonde hair and (apparently?) heartthrob good looks to call me out for the hardcore out of touch 30-something I am. Damn you, Bieber. Damn you hard.

My daughter, through no guidance by her parental units, discovered "the Biebs". Discovered seems like much too kind a word. People discover cures for illness,  planetary systems and fossils. Correction: she tripped over him. Bieber is the neglected, pot hole laced highway and she is the tread bare tire. Like a mosquito loves the zapper. Like a fly loves shit. This is how my daughter loves "The" Bieber. She repeatedly sings the chorus of one nameless, siren song. If I were to guess the name, I'd have to use the singular line repeated  ad nauseum at a decibel only audible by bees, dogs and this horrified mother. "BAY-BAH, BAY-BAH, BAY-BAH...AHHHHH!" Kill. Me. Now.

In addition to proclaiming her undying love, she has also requested a Justin Bieber poster for her room...that she shares...with a 2 year old. It's nice to have dreams. Everyone should. It's also nice to be brought back  down to Earth by the life lesson that you can't always get what you want. Maybe kids are right. Parents just don't understand. True, but, if a life sentence of Bieber Fever is my chance at understanding, I'm fine living in total darkness, in a dark cave in a dark land where it is dark...all the time

Is this my karma for my boom box blasting of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Sound Garden? Was my love for Keds, Umbro and Hypercolor so obnoxious that I must now be forced to endure Justin Bieber? Is Biebs my pound of flesh?

Dear random kid who inoculated my daughter with a hefty dose of the Heeby Biebees, I'm coming for you.


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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Daughters Were Not "Born to Shop".

I am a woman, a sister and a mother. I come from a family of all daughters - a tribe of fearless females. I also have 3 daughters of my own. 3 daughters! Boom. Pow! CRASH! Those are the sounds of responsibility hitting me square in the face. It is 2012, but, if you take a look around, the stereotypes and gender role messages from the past are as clear and loud as ever. They are not even lurking. They are slapping you right in the face. They press the boundaries of our collected comfort and continue to exploit the roles and "duties" society still obliges our young generation of women to fulfill. And, what role do we play in the passive assignment of who our girls "should" be? Are we taking a stand? Are we aware, enough, of what everything around them is telling them? And, what exactly are "they" saying? This parenting thing is tough. My brain hurts. I need a drink.

I live in the world of the Disney Princess. My little women watch with delight, mimic with gusto and dream of their Happily Ever After. They role play in scarves, ruffles and glitter. They sing the songs, they know the words. Oddly enough, I am ok with this. These are fairy tales. These are bedtime stories of fancy. And, in their own right, many of these heroines have just enough kick-ass to make them a household fixture that I can enjoy through my daughters' eyes. And, as time marches on, the princesses are changing. They are moving into an awareness of their special talents/gifts. What am I saying? I have no idea. I THINK I'm saying that my love/hate for the Disney Princesses is complex. It is effing deep and difficult to navigate. I have feelings. Feelings that overlap. Feelings of confusion, but, mostly, I just want to sing along. Sue me.

This is not a princess hating post. This is a post about my feelings about other gender stereotypes that are not complex. This is a post about my downright hatred of certain clothing phrases. You know, the statements we plaster across our babies and young girls' chests. Messages as clear and revolting as Grandma's 50s-era Spam dinner. We knowingly and often suit our girls up in ruffled phrases that mock the progress women who came before us have made. It is crazy. It is offensive. It has to stop. Please, make it stop! So, for your viewing displeasure, here are three of my most hated onesie/clothing statements:

"Born to Shop" - Dearest girl child, your life is full of potential. You are a bright star. You have every opportunity. Opportunities that women in other countries can only dream of. Here, wear this onesie that lets everyone know that you are a female and females just LOVE to shop. In fact, you were BORN to do it. You were not born to explore space or become President of the United States. You, my dear, were born to shop. Grab your plastic, Miss Fantastic and let's head to the mall.

"Daddy/Mommy/Grandma/Grandpa Thinks I'm Pretty" - You are a girl. That means it is your JOB to be pretty. Everything else is secondary. All the people closest to you think so and that is why we are letting the whole world know that this is your great gift/talent as a female. To reiterate, it's not being kind, smart, witty or talented that makes us proud to be your closest relatives. It's how cute you look in dresses. How pretty your tiny face is. Above all else, You. Must. Be. Pretty. Pretty girls rule the world. Don't ever forget that, Dimples.

"DIVA" gear - Are you strong willed? Do you ask for what you want? Are you opinionated? Are you full of personality? Well, then you must be a DIVA. That's right, girl. You aren't anything more than an attention seeking fameaholic. You couldn't possibly just be strong, opinionated, dynamic or the thousands of other words that apply. No, you are a DIVA. Add some glitter and a crown to that one word and walk around with it plastered to your chest. Let the world know that you are "hard to handle" and have "unrealistic expectations". It's time to start selling yourself short.

And, really, that's my big, core issue. We are telling our girls, in print, that we have the very basest of expectations for them. We anticipate that they will love the mall, be a beauty and that they just wont take no for an answer when it comes to sweet talking that extra $20 from Daddykins. Our pretty little diva shopaholics, the new generation of independent women. The tomorrow we've all been dreaming of. No? Not your dream? It's not mine either.

So, I'm campaigning for these new onesie/t-shirt phrases:

Daddy Thinks I Kick Ass!
Mommy's Mensa Candidate!
Future CEO!
Born To Be the Best Me I Can Be!
Tough As Nails & Smart As A Whip!

Let's have a good old fashioned bonfire for the others. However, I won't be burning my bra. I need it to nurse my youngest, bright star who was born to do great, unknown things that are too varied and wonderful to be splayed across her chest.

*Have your own hated onesie/clothing phrases? Please comment and share. Sharing is caring.*

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