Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Advice for the Soon-To-Weds

I have two friends that are planning their weddings right now. As a marriage veteran (5 L-O-N-G years under my belt), I feel like I have some wisdom to impart on them.

1. My mama told me that the key to a happy marriage is a king size bed. Amen, Mama. Nothing says "happily ever after" like the ability to roll over and sleep as if you are completely ALONE. That being said, separate covers and ear plugs turn mere happy to insanely blissful.

2. Never go to bed angry. Stay up and discuss the issue and move forward. Then, stay up a little longer to plan all the ways you are going to subtly throw this fight in his face for the next 12 months to further demonstrate why you are right and he is wrong.

3. Split the chores. Even if you are a stay home mom (like someone I know), your life will be infinitely better if you split the household duties. Once they are split, reserve the right to change them frequently using the term "but, you're better at it." Then settle in to watch Hoarders as he does whatever chore you are just not in the mood for.

4. Make him feel special. See number three for backhanded compliment that really just gets you out of the yucky stuff.

5. Know that some things just aren't on the table for discussion. Super Bowl Sunday, for example, is non-negotiable. It is not a day to spring "hey, let's scrapbook together" on him. (In my case, it's more of a Project Runway is an inalienable right thing, but whatever floats your man's boat). Just remember, the wedding day was your day... Super Bowl Sunday is theirs.

6. Go into the marriage knowing that your last day of bliss and happiness is probably your wedding day. After that, it's work. It's bills, then kids... then you're too tired to acknowledge each other with anything more than a "I am watching The Bad Girls Club, so if you don't want to, go away." That being said, if you can find someone willing to hang with you while you watch The Bad Girls Club, keep him. That, my friends, is the key to happiness.

Good luck! Godspeed! And remember, if it doesn't work happiness can be only a divorce lawyer away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rose Colored Glasses?

It is a funny thing to see your kids through other people's eyes. I have three, and most of the time I think I am pretty good at cataloging where they stand in most instances. Tabbi is scary smart, and I can see that. But, she has the makings of an evil genius more so than Bill Gates the Second. She has potential in many things from music to sports, but her drive or motivation (or lack thereof) will end up keeping her pretty average. Will is a lover. He is sweet and playful, but overly sensitive and stubborn. He is LOUD beyond belief and his mommy-centrism keeps him from really exploring and enjoying new activities. Jack is Jack. He is funny and goofy and stubborn and sometimes down right mean. That little man will put his nose right on yours and smile like he is going to give you an Eskimo kiss and then WHACK! Here's a right hook to your cheek from out of nowhere. He thinks he rules the roost and he doesn't take no for an answer. See? I can admit the faults in my kids.... but then I get faced with someone else's opinion of the kids and suddenly... I have to wonder. Could I have rose colored glasses on and not even know it?

My friend Homa calls Will "lively." It's not really a slam, but it isn't a compliment either. I consider him active until someone points out that his activity isn't necessarily the most endearing quality. I sit here and say that I would rather have him be moving and shaking rather than zombied out in front of the boob tube, but then people will call him "active" or "lively" with a more annoyed tone and I am left to ponder... is he obnoxious? Are we heading down the ADHD super highway, and I have blinders on? How do you know if what you see as a positive because you love your dude so much is really a negative?

Other things have been called to my attention, too. Will has some pretty unsavory table manners right now, and I work really hard during meals to get him to behave. But, I chalk up his short comings to the fact that he is four and really... if the shrimp is too spicy, I would spit it into my napkin, too. But, then even my mom will say things like "I wish he would get past that already." Not an insult, but a wake up call that maybe I am not doing enough to get him back on the manners track. Jack will only let the person HE wants do things like buckle his car seat or turn on his Mickey Mouse show on TV. He wants who he wants, when he wants them. I realize that this is annoying, but sometimes I would rather pick my battles and avoid the tantrums and just do it his way. Not always, but sometimes. But, am I just reinforcing his moods? The assumption that he will grow out of that stuff dissuades me from getting all upset about it. But then I see the upset in others and wonder if my complacence is the problem after all.

It is hard to see the negatives in your own children. When some people are so clearly annoyed with what you kid is doing, and you see it as just a kid being a kid... who is wrong? I used to be a card carrying member of the "Kids Don't Belong in Public Unless They Sit Down and Shut Up" club, but now that I have the non-sitters and non-shutter uppers, I can see that I was wrong to be so judgemental and harsh. Or, when I let my little boy walk around our table as long as he stays out of the way... maybe I am wrong to be so lax and permissive? Maybe it is time that I get new glasses, and maybe this time I need to make sure they are clear... not rose colored. Then again, maybe my kids are OK, and the rest of the world could just sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy them for what they are... children.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Seriously, This Was My Morning

So, let me tell you about my day. It all started when I was making the boys pancakes for breakfast. I am standing there and decide to check Tabbi's cell phone. I consider it my "lying/cheating 6th sense" that I have developed thanks to her. It is a super power that will come in very handy when the boys reach her age and realize that there is nothing that she hasn't tried. The thing is, Tabbi is grounded from her phone until Sunday. But, I get that niggling feeling that I need to check it. I see that she was texting this morning before school. GROWL!!! Then, I realize that the number she is texting isn't programmed into her phone, meaning it isn't someone she knows. DOUBLE GROWL!!! Then I realize that this conversation warrants action.

The conversation goes as follows:

Stranger: I can see u little girl

Tabbi: Who r u?

Stranger: I can see u

Tabbi: Who is this????

Stranger: IDK. I got your number from a friend.

I decide that this is stupid. I am over the kids (Tabbi included) thinking that cell phones are toys and texting is a game. If you don't have something to say, then shut up. No more nonsense texts. So, I call the number. I tell the caller's voicemail that I saw the texts on my daughter's phone and it needs to stop. "I am a police officer and this falls under harassment so do not call or text again or the cops will be at your door." Yeah... I lied. But, I felt it would make the kid stop. Last spring we were getting heavy breathing pranks one night until I said "Do you realize I am a police officer?" and suddenly no more panting. But today... I realize after I hang up that the voicemail wasn't a kid. That was a man's voice. At least 18, definitely not 11. So, I move on from the "this is annoying" mindset into, "what the hell is this?"

My friend Amoh (name changed to preserve her anonymity) does a reverse number search online (yes, we think she is going to leave her job and start her own detective agency) and the cell is linked to a tow truck company in a southern Indianapolis suburb. My "what the hell" feeling grows. So, after consulting my mom, Amoh and my friend Arual Eht Suomaf, I decide to call the police. If this is truly an adult male, and he is acting like he got the number from a friend, but already knows she is a little girl... I decide we are embarking on Law & Order: SVU territory and I jump to action.

I call the police. Then I remember that I impersonated a police officer and start to worry. Are they going to get Mr. Pervyton or are they going to arrest me? I begin to panic over the thought of me pretending to be a cop. Then, after I have set up a babysitter for the kids and someone to pay my bail... I make the call. They take my information and basically confirm that this is a big freaking deal. The dispatch officer says, "You have no idea how many perverts there are on our streets." Really? My street in particular or is this just a general statement? So, dispatch sends Officer Big Strong Man to my house. I did admit to dispatch that I pretended to be a cop on the voicemail and subsequently begged him not to arrest me. Luckily, he laughed and promised he wouldn't. Whew!

Officer BSM takes the matter seriously, but not as seriously as dispatch guy did. He agreed that the voice was in the 18 to 25 category, but was quick to assume it was an older brother of some kid messing around. And, maybe it was. Maybe I was stupid for calling the police and bringing Officer BSM to my house. But, what if I wasn't? What if Mitchell the Tow Truck Guy is a pervert and is watching my kid? Then, I want Officer BSM to call and leave the message that he left so that Mitchell or his little brother wet their pants and in the process come to grips with the following: 1. Don't screw with me. While I may not be a cop, I have no qualms calling them. So, pick another little kid to phone stalk. And if I hear from you again, you are toast. Or, 2. If you are a kid in her class messing around, cell phones are not freaking toys. Read a book. Get a hobby. Leave people alone unless you have something REAL to tell them. 3. Lose Tabbi's number because stalker or kid... either way... you don't want to mess with me and mine again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mr. Sensitive

Ok, so Will is a weenie. I mean that in the most affectionate way, but he is a little sissy pants. And not when it comes to getting hurt. I have watched my little man fall forward, backward, upside down and round round and he bounces back up like he's made of rubber. But, his feelings... they don't bounce quite as well.

Last night I was putting him to bed and he wanted to read the book "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss. If you don't know this one, it is the consummate graduation message. It's about going off on your own and sometimes you'll succeed, sometimes you won't, sometimes you'll be alone, sometimes you'll be waiting for something new... but you are special so get out there and do great things. The end message is "Kid, you'll move mountains!" Will immediately starts in with the questions. Why would you move a mountain? Mountains are too heavy to move. Why would you want to? Etc. It is hard to explain metaphor to a 4 year old, so I just say that it means that he is really special. He turns to me straight faced and said "No, I'm not." Insert mommy heartbreak here.

He explained to me that he isn't special because sometimes he doesn't do the right thing. Sometimes in school he gets in trouble for not listening and sometimes he is mean to his friends... like the other day when he sprayed Martin in the face with his squirt gun. He isn't special because he isn't good sometimes. Insert mommy heartbreak the size of the San Andreas Fault here.

I explained to Will that even people who are special sometimes make bad choices. I reminded him that he is a great kid at school and has never had to move his animal (a way to track their behavior in class) which is a great way for him to see that he is being well behaved. I reminded him that sometimes Martin makes him mad, too, but that he always forgives Martin and Martin will always forgive him. And even if he makes a mistake, like squirting lotion all over mommy's carpet (yes, that was yesterday's activity during quiet time), I still love him and I always will. He will always be special because he makes his family and friends super happy, no matter what.

Will was soothed with that conversation and quickly moved on to watching 4 minutes of his favorite video with Dad before bed. But, it lingered with me. I love that Will is so cognisant of other people's feelings, but sometimes it feels like he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. I want him to strike a balance between the loving and caring side of him and this tension that he carries that he has somehow wronged someone. Not to brag (as I brush off my shoulders), but Will is LOVED by all the kids in class and all the adults, because he is such a lover himself. But if someone comes close to a frown in his presence, he takes that like a shot to the heart. He feels things so deeply, which I dig about him... but I just want to spare him the pain that comes with. That is the mountain I want to move.... now I just need to figure out how.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time To Make A Stand

I am not very eloquent this morning. (Insert comment similar to "when are you?" here). My dudes have been sick and I am exhausted, so the brain is firing on hamster wheel power not horse power (much like the Geo Metro of my past). But, something is happening in our universe right now and it is worth talking about, even if it is in fragments, parentheticals and a wee bit of gibberish. That situation is the rise of teen/young adult gay suicide that seems to have statistics climbing on a daily basis.

Your kid is one of these kids. I don't know which side they are on, but I know from having an 11 year old, that children fall into one of two categories. They are either the bullies or they are the bullied. It may not be because they are gay... but there is something. And, until we attempt to thwart this army of mean girls and boys that we are sending into our schools every day, no one is safe. And people are dying. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Gunn and Dave Navarro are coming out to tell gay kids that they are not alone, and that is fantastic. But, the message can't come from the talking heads on TV. The message needs to come from home, that's our ground zero. It's time for us parents to put down the Blackberries and step away from the clutter of our lives and talk to our kids. It may just keep them alive.

There is a book that Jack likes that is called I Love You Through and Through. It talks about loving top sides, bottom sides, insides and outsides. The end is "I love you through and through... yesterday, today and tomorrow, too." I don't know if anyone else has read it, but there is no asterisk saying "unless you turn out to be gay." The message of the book is fantastic, because it is all about unconditional love that a parent feels for their kids. "I love you running and walking, silent and talking." There's no place where it says, "I love you if you marry a woman and live a traditional heterosexual life." Maybe we should distribute this book to new parents, because it explains what parental love is supposed to be... and clearly, some people are missing the boat on it. Four teens have taken their lives in the last month because they were bullied about their sexuality. I don't know what the home lives were like for these kids, but I have a feeling that if the parents were supportive, the bullying could have stopped or at least counteracted enough to save the child's life.

It is not Ellen's, Tim's or Dave's job to save our children. It is ours. And maybe it is time to send the message that gay or straight, they are still our kids. Let's go ahead and spread tolerance and acceptance to our kids, instead of judgement or hate. Let's turn the army of evil that we've raised so far into kids who are actually kind to others. It can't be corrected on tv or through celebrities. It starts here, and it starts with the message that we love you. I have two boys and I dream of a day when they will be sports stars, cure cancer and become President of the United States, but if in the process it turns out that they are gay... then I will love them. I will. Unconditional love is just that, unconditional.

I have never been gay and I don't yet have any experience with a gay child. But, I can only assume that parents would rather have a gay child than a dead one. If your son or daughter is struggling with their sexuality, then let them know that whatever they determine, you will love them. And if your child is one of the bullies, let them know that they are killing someone. With every "fag" and "homo," they are taking away a bit of someone's life. Four lives have been taken away this month alone. None of those kids had the intention of pushing someone to suicide, but it isn't intention that kills someone. It's the words. It's the actions. Don't let your child live with that guilt. Don't let them be a murderer. Some things are just wrong... so why all the sudden it is so widespread? We let our kids become this... now it is time to fix our mistakes. Mean Girls, Bad Girls, and bullying Jersey Shore boys are not funny. It's not kids being kids. It's wrong. Unconditionally wrong.

So, it is time for us to stop being buddies and start raising children that we can be proud of. Step up and maybe if we stop the bullying, the life that you save may be your child's. It's time for us to make a stand. We love our kids. ALL of them. And if no one else will say it, then I will. No matter whose child you are, no matter what... I love you through and through... yesterday, today and tomorrow, too.