My Maternal Instinct Has No Kill Switch

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My mother used to tell me that “they say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away.” I suppose this could help to explain why a lot of mothers experience that Empty Nest Syndrome after their kids grow up and move away from home, or why many women mother their husbands. But then there’s the problem that anything starting with “they say” is usually reducible to nothing but a pop and cocky Old Wive’s Tale. So when my mother told me this (and especially because we are talking about my mother here), I pretty well dismissed it.

Over the years I wondered if I should have taken it more seriously, though. Since the abrupt appearance of children in my life, I have learned that this Old Wive’s Tale may actually (against my very rational and empirical judgment) be the truest thing there is about being a mother. About human relationships on the whole.

My wonder started slowly. At first, I just worried a lot. About a lot of things. Things I never would have worried about before were suddenly a natural thing for me to be concerned about – like whether or not it’s safe to let a child walk down to the mailbox on her own, or what kind of plastic the drinking cups I’m buying are made of.

Then the feelings started. Some things didn’t feel right. Or – on the flip side – sometimes it felt like there was no other way. Suddenly I would know if something was wrong, even when no one was home. Twenty minutes later everyone would come clamoring in the house complaining – someone fell, a bruise, a scrape, can I please apply seventy-five Minnie Mouse Bandaids to make it better?

Around the second or third time this happened, I began to accept the irreversible bond between children and their mother (the woman who cares for them); the bond that has little to do with blood relation and everything to do with the metaphysical and spiritual connection that absolutely no one and nothing but each other can break.

I’ve blogged recently that my ten year old was being required to have a try-out visit with her biological father. She used to see him infrequently even though he lived close by, every other weekend when it was at its most. Then he moved to Houston – suddenly expecting to have tons of vacations per year where she would be uprooted from our home and taken to stay with him and his wife. Eat three square meals of Taco Bell a day. Get eaten by scorpions. Shoot guns. And so on.

Quite obviously these were unrealistic expectations, especially given the history of the situation and the precocious and sensitive nature of my ten year old. Rapidly his behavior became harassing and obsessive, though. Suddenly I was a terrible person who forced him to move away, of his own free will; and I was robbing him the rights God bestowed on him because he had no idea how to properly function a rubber, lo those many years ago.

That was too far, wasn’t it?

Needless to say, it stressed us all out, and my little Pookie – with the most delicate and fragile heart – broke into a million pieces at the thought of having to communicate with him regularly, and be taken from her home to a place she did not wish to go. Thousands of dollars were socked into therapy to help her get through the try-out visit, and right at the moment when she started to get better – to forget about him and the fact that she had to take the trip – she had her required birthday Skype with him. As the Skype came to a close, he finished with “OK, see you in a month” and she fell apart all over again.

Now that month – the most difficult month – has passed. We are there, in Texas. In Houston, having arrived roughly four hours before we scheduled to have him come pick her up from the hotel room. He didn’t show up, though. He sent his wife. The interaction was awkward, and immediately sent up a red flag that after all this time he could not even be bothered to come pick up my delicate, little angel himself. Nonetheless, I packed up her things and walked them to the elevator, where I said goodbye, reminded her where her cellphone was and to take her allergy pills every day; and as the elevator door closed she shouted “Mommy!” only for the door to close and whisk them to the parking garage.

Since she shouted that single word – “Mommy!” – I have tried to ignore the feeling that something terrible is happening. Surely they cannot be that stupid and ignorant – he and his wife. They are neglectful, manipulative, emotionally abusive, unrealistic about parenting, unhealthy, and flagrantly stupid – but even the worst of the worst people can keep a child alive and in one piece for 10 days. Right? RIGHT?!

They say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away. 

This thing – this instinct that there is something wrong – has no kill switch, and so each moment that passes I am paralyzed by these fears that continue to creep slowly over me like spiders over a fly stuck in a web, threatening to consume me. I cannot just shut them off: these feelings that there is something wrong and that I need to get to her, all-the-while feeling as though I cannot because I have no real excuse to other than a feeling that will not go away.

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Five Steps To Purge Your Kids’ Toy Stash

We have a lot going on right now. Among those things is our move to a bigger home, and moving my 71 year old father out of his home and in with us. This is a lot of packing, home inspections, and wearing regular pants for other people that – quite frankly – I am tapped out on. By far the worst task, though, isn’t any of the paperwork or the house viewings; or the cleaning or even the moving, itself.

Nope, it’s purging the toy stash.

Lucky for all of you, I’ve compiled the end-all-be-all five step process to to purge your kids’ toy stash. Look no further, because – quite frankly – this will end up being what you fucking do anyway.

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Step One: Much Like An Addict, Admit That You Have a Problem On Your Hands

There is no excuse for an inability to see the floor in the room your children’s toys are held. Be it their bedroom, a playroom … the kitchen … if you cannot see more floor than is absolutely vital to walk through, you may have a toy problem.

You may also have a toy problem if you have multiples on multiples of the same toy. If you have a supply of McDonald’s and other kid’s incentive toys. Also, if you have scraps of paper that have somehow been preserved as toys…you have a major toy problem.

I have a lot of experience with this, are you guys getting that? I once had a thirty minute debate with my then-four year old over whether or not a pile of felt scraps she had stolen from my craft bin and cut into tiny, little pieces could be considered toys.

It’s OK to admit that your kids have too many toys. Maybe it’s you who gave them all; maybe it was family against your will. Whatever the case may be, admit that you have a problem on your hands.

Step Two: Argue About What Is And Is Not A Toy With Your Child(ren)

You read what I said about that felt thing? Yeah. This is the second step to purge your kids’ toy stash.

Fucking argue.

Argue about whether or not felt scraps are toys. Broken puzzle from the dentist? Not really a toy, is it? You’d better bet your sweet ass your kid will argue it still is, though.

One time my daughter waged a 15 minute debate with me as to whether or not a paper cup she had drawn a smiley face on two years prior and somehow kept in her room was a toy. She claimed it was.

This then progresses into arguing about what toys aren’t necessary or used anymore.

Step Three: Put Your Child(ren) In Time Out For Throwing a Temper Tantrum

Step two almost always escalates into a temper tantrum of some sort. Whether you are arguing the reality of whether or not something is a toy; or actually discussing the merits of keeping toys that are just old or not played with anymore.

Children are emotional beings, and as such will escalate their bullshit as much as is necessary in hopes they will get their way. So when that happens, obviously step three is to put their asses in time out. One minute per age.

In theory, the older your child the more wine and chocolate time this will afford you. I know this sounds weird, or almost sadistic; but learn to love it.

Step Four: Make Up With Your Little Chittlens and Give Them An Hour Or Two Of Fun Activities

Away from home. Or, at the very least, away from the room the toys are kept.

Let them go out and play with friends, even though you said they were grounded for a week for mouthing off to you. Give them uninhibited iPad time – downstairs. Let Grandma take them to the movies. Whatever it is, just reward your children for tolerating all this stressful bullshit – you were clearly wrong. These toys are important to them. Assure them it’s over and you’ll just tidy up and understand their emotional attachment to every stupid fucking Taco Bell toy, Subway Kid’s meal bag, and 99 Cents Store stocking stuffer they’ve ever received.

Step Five: While They’re Out, Burn That Motherfucker Down

You heard me.

I don’t mean like really light a fire or anything. I mean get a box of garbage bags and load those puppies up with all the shit you think has to go. Outdated toys. Things your kids have grown out of. Broken toys. Toys missing pieces. Every piece of felt, ball of ripped-out Barbie hair, and drawn on paper cup you come across. Get it all out of there in the time you’ve sent your chittlens away.

Don’t worry, they haven’t fucking played with any of those things in so long they won’t even notice, anyway.

Pretty easy-peasy, huh? I know what you are all thinking: it might be easier just to skip to number five to begin with, right?

Wrong.

If you just skip to number five, you won’t be able to look back on these days fondly with your children when they are all grown up and have kids of their own. And say “see the bullshit you put me through? Karma’s a bitch, huh? A big, fat bitch.”

Now if you’ll all excuse me, time out time is over and it’s time for me to move on to step four. It’s 7:40 in the evening, though, so looks like it’ll be a late night of uninhibited iPad time downstairs. I’ve got a number of toys and other miscellaneous bullshit that needs trashing to attend to.

After Today, Someone Needs To Nominate Me For Mother of the Year

That’s a literary device we in the professional writing world call: sarcasm. Look it up, you will find it to be a delicious way to poke fun at others. Or (in this case) yourself. Myself. A delicious way to poke fun at me.

I’m starting to really wrack up the resume of Bad Mom days. Sometimes it’s just that I lose my temper and raise my voice a little bit more than I should. Other days it’s that I serve Top Ramen and a bowl of shredded cheese for dinner because – let’s face it – that’s all we have for food in the house, because I’m also vying for Bad Wife and never grocery shop anymore.

Seriously, though, I’ve had a lot of Bad Mom moments lately, owing in large part to just how crazy and insane our lives have been lately. We’re going on this unanticipated trip to Texas in a few weeks (to take my daughter to see her biological father, and basically sit in a hotel down the street for the duration of the trip in case she has a panic attack or meltdown). So I’ve basically been panicking myself for the last couple of weeks. And researching how to not get eaten by a scorpion, as well as the best ways to ward off being kidnapped by the Mexican cartel. (I have never been to Texas. Not sure if that’s obvious or not.)

Today may have taken the cake, as far as Bad Mom days go, though. Let us examine the evidence.

Oh We Don’t Have Milk? Why Not Play Puppies Eat Breakfast?

Translation:

We got up this morning and there was no milk. There actually hasn’t been any milk for like three days, because I haven’t had an opportunity to go to the grocery store and buy any. (And God forbid anyone else around here be asked to stop at the store for anything.) In the prior days, it was manageable because we had other food stuff around. But now we’re even out of that, so basically it was Cheerios or Starlight Mints.

But, like I said … no milk.

So I did as I always do when there is no milk. I gathered all the stuffed dogs in the house (of which we have many), poured dry Cheerios into bowls and said “no milk, no problem!!! Play puppies eat breakfast with the stuffed animals instead!”

You read that right. I encouraged eating out of a bowl on hands and knees. Like a dog.

Bath time

Okay. So I know that the pediatrician says that short baths are best, because eczema is irritated exponentially by prolonged sitting in hot water. I know. I know. I know.

But we also had a big bottle of medicated Eucerin that could be put on after said bath, and I really needed about an hour to finish writing an article for someone I do personal consulting for.

So rather than sit there and ensure a short bath, with no eczema problems to follow… I instead filled the tub and said the words: “you know what, go ahead and play with all the Smurf bubbles you want.” Then I opened a brand new, super sized bottle of Smurf body and hair wash, and sat down on my bed to finish the article.

The bath ended up being about an hour and a half long. The new bottle of Smurf body and hair wash is now empty.

Remember That Thing About Having No Food?

It got worse come lunchtime. And the scheduling of shit did too, because my daughter who has to go visit her biological father in Texas in a few weeks had to go to her court-appointed therapy appointment with the lady that is going to put a halt to those visitations after we do this test one, if things don’t go well.

So there was no food in the house. No time, on account of that whole hour and a half bath thing.

I’m making excuses, so I should really just say fuck it and stop beating around the bush and admit: I went to fucking McDonald’s.

I know, I know. I KNOW! McDonald’s is the devil. The Happy Meal ain’t going to be very happy when it ends in high cholesterol and diabetes. I KNOW!! But, keeping things in perspective: I can’t remember the last time we ate at McDonald’s. It’s probably something like once a year, maybe twice. And honestly, there are a lot of things on their menu that are perfectly acceptable when eaten in moderation, once in a great while anyway. And the toy was a LEGO movie cup with a coupon for free movie entrance. So whatever.

Fuck you. Stop judging me.

At this point I just completely gave up and let everyone in the house sit on their asses after we got home, watching movies I had no idea whether or not were age appropriate; basically from about 3 in the afternoon until now.

We watched Galaxy Quest. We watched Beetlejuice. And now we’re watching Curly Sue. My dad was there, and I told him to keep an eye on the content; mute things that should be muted. Of course I was in the kitchen cleaning for a while and came out to find him sawing logs on the easy chair in my living room while an alien made out with the guy that plays Monk, in Galaxy Quest.

But whatever.

I’m not entirely sure how much further down the tubes of motherhood I can go at this point. I know I’m probably being a little hard on myself; and also blowing things a little out of proportion. But at the same time, I can see how people let some of these behaviors become habits, which then become the norm. The next thing you know your kids are constantly sick, covered in snot, eating Skittles and hot dogs on a daily basis for breakfast and lunch, with Pepperoni Lunchables for dinner; and swearing and making jokes about balls and dicks because of what they’ve been allowed to see on TV.

That’s where we’re going, isn’t it?

So now that I’ve laid this all out there, I’m sure one or more of you is going to jump up and nominate me for Mother of the Year, for whatever publication or TV show or website does such a pretentious type of award. And I’m going to try better for tomorrow. Really, I promise.

Though, I still haven’t gone grocery shopping, so I am setting the stuffed dogs and bowls up right now before bed…

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I Need A Babysitter Who Will Work For Free and Not Be a Bad Influence

We used to have a mother’s helper. She came over two times a week, for three hours each time. She’d help with picking up around the house, dishes, lunch, homeschooling, and so on.

For the three months she worked for us, it was great. Sort of. I got to leave the house to run errands alone if I needed to. The extra help around the house meant I had more time to write. Twice I was even able to go get my nails done, alone and in peace.

There were a lot of problems, though, too. Like the fact that she lived about 15 miles away from us, and did not drive (meaning I always had to pick her up and drop her off). And there was the dress code issue – suddenly I was having to answer why I wouldn’t allow ass-cheek-showing shorts and half shirts when the mother’s helper wore them all the time. It also cost us $13 an hour, which was $39 a day, $78 a week, $312 a month…plus the extra gas money picking her up and dropping her off. …and of course there was that one time that she and her boyfriend came over around Halloween to my in-laws (she is actually a family friend, making it even more complex) and she basically “sat” on his lap the entire time…

What I’m saying is that it became not worth it pretty quickly.

So since then, I’ve had absolutely no help at all. Except from my husband, and occasionally my father – both of whom are often flakey, enforce very little rule, and have sometimes questionable understandings of what it means to properly care for a child (example: my husband thinks children can just learn to like exotic meals whether their little stomachs can tolerate them or not, and by contrast my father believes that Spaghetti-O’s count as a serving of vegetables).

So the other day we were at my in-law’s to have dinner (like we always do on Sundays) and to watch the Oscars. Those of you that have been around for a while know how much I just love the film industry (that’s sarcasm, actually…90% of the film industry makes me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eyeball with a No. 2 pencil). But in spite of the utter contempt I have for this industry of greed and workaholism, of course we always sit and watch the Oscars religiously while my film industry husband and his film industry-loving mother fantasize about him one day winning an Oscar for whatever run-of-the-mill reality TV program or McDonald’s commercial his company happens to get their hands on.

1891132_10152113348251704_2055584696_nI’m sure it goes without saying that we really only saw one movie nominated, and only because it was age appropriate for children.

As we were watching the Oscars the other night, I was standing in the kitchen pouring myself a drink and shoveling queso dip and tortilla chips down my throat at unprecedented speeds, when suddenly I heard my husband’s grandmother – literally – yelling at him. I walked closer to hear just what in the hell was going on. Apparently, she had asked him what movies that were nominated for awards he had seen, and he said “none.” She didn’t understand why this blasphemy could be the case, though – which is where the yelling came in. She yelled and yelled and yelled: “why don’t you guys ever go to the movies?” … “how are you two never going out?” … “you work in the film industry, why don’t you and Heather go see some of these?!”

Two words: no babysitter.

Even when we had the scantily-dressed mother’s helper coming over twice a week, she came during the day and my husband was always at work. Our family close by have their own lives and priorities; and even when they don’t, it’s hard for those babysitters to expect to babysit at their own homes when kids need to be in their own beds early (this has been a real difficult thing to get our families to understand). And finally, there is the stark reality that non-family babysitters can be pricey. $13 an hour is actually a lot of money when you live on one income.

All of that being said: everyone needs a break now and then from the hustle and bustle of motherhood, or parenthood. It can – at times – be overwhelming and isolating; and especially when you are a homeschooling mother, who has at least one child literally under foot every minute, of every day… well, it can be a little crazy-making.

And you all know how crazy I am already.

1939718_727765833934576_1210475743_oBut now I’m starting to realize just how much more crazy I’m becoming. And I don’t think it’s in a good way; more in a if-mom-doesn’t-get-a-break-she’s-going-to-flip-her-shit-and-be-taken-to-the-mental-ward-in-a-paddy-wagon kind of way.

We’ve been here before, and the signs are always the same. My hair looks more disheveled. I’m waking up more and more, and more, in the middle of the night with a flurry of things that need to be done going through my head. Worse: the nails on my toes look like something that belong on a gargoyle; and I haven’t shaved my legs in so long that I have no idea what shade of color the skin beneath them truly is anymore. And more than any of it all – more than the nails and hair and the visible signs that I need a little time to myself, I cannot remember the last time I did something with other adults. Like go to a movie, attend a book club meeting, or just have a drink with my husband outside of the house.

So I’m looking for a babysitter. One that will work for free, preferably. And one that won’t look like a whore in daisy dukes that her vagina hangs out of, and a bathing suit top – because that is totally what you wear on a cold day with no sun or nearby swimming pool. I thought about putting together a Mary Poppins-esque list to post on Craigslist, but then I realized that anyone who would respond to a Craigslist ad to babysit for free is probably not someone I want to babysit.

But were I to … it would go something like this (feel free to read it to the tune of the Perfect Nanny song from Mary Poppins).

Wanted:

an occasional babysitter who will work for free

and not dress like a slut

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Especially ones of the genital sort

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet but not too pretty
Work for free, bake us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Crack the whip but don’t be cruel
Turn my cooking into other than gruel
Love us as your family
And never say you’re charging me

If you sit around and text your boyfriend
Free or not, this arrangement will end
We won’t hide your spectacles
So you can’t see
But bitch I catch you in my bed
You’ll need to flee
Hurry, occasional babysitter who will work for free and not dress like a slut!
Many thanks.

Sincerely,

The crazy lady who can’t keep her mouth shut.

Today, I Wave My Surrender Flag

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We all have these days. Days that are so insurmountably horrible that it’s all we can do to curl up in our pajamas, head buried under the covers – hoping and praying that tomorrow will be even the slightest bit better.

If only one thing goes right tomorrow, I may survive.

It’s really rough being a parent sometimes. Most times. Everyone thinks that after the baby stages, things get easier – the sleeping normalizes; the feeding is regular and doesn’t always result in projective spit up all over your nice, new cashmere sweater. Suddenly being a parent is as simple as walking down the street to get the mail. Right?

Please say that’s right.

Unless there are a series of land mines and snipers between you and your mail box, I would argue that there is nothing more wrong to assume. Parenting post-baby years is still a war zone. Some days, I would argue it gets even more difficult as time goes on. Or, perhaps, things stay equally as difficult, the challenges just change. Infant sleeping patterns are replaced with school dramas; projectile spitting up is suddenly found in the form of a child that cannot – no matter what you do, and how old they grow – stop wetting the bed at night.

As parents, it is our job to navigate these challenges, carefully. To pay attention to them and to do everything within our limited humanity to develop superpowers and avoid difficulties for our children, at all cost. Lest temporary problems become lifelong debilitations.

For years, now, I have known – in the deepest, darkest depths of my soul – just how challenging motherhood can be at times. Of course it is all worth it. Of course there is – nine times out of ten – more good than bad, as the drum of days continues to beat on. But I have known. I have felt it: the simultaneous beating of the struggles and the pain and the hardships.

But either as a result of internal feelings of inadequacy, or external pressures from society and others mothers who just seem to do it so well, we bury the feelings of the battle cry that motherhood is, in fact, a war zone in which only the most astute and resilient survive.

To say the last few months in our home have been difficult is an understatement. Each day has brought a new set of challenges, a new series of emotional hardships that I find myself more and more incapable of understanding. It started with a move – of my ten year old’s biological father, halfway across the country, and out of our daily lives. Without going into all of the complexities involved in her relationship with him, I will say that we rejoiced; but only after she rejoiced. Which she did, even more than I ever could have imagined she would. Life was going to be normal, finally. She wouldn’t have to sit at his house every other weekend anymore, miserable and crying and fed donuts and Twinkies; returned sick and depressed. She could do sports like other kids, and love my husband as the father she always wanted him to be. And never have to worry again that after a weekend of “visiting,” her biological father would suddenly decide to not return her to Mommy and Daddy.

Within a week of his exit, though, suddenly we were reminded (by him) that life would not really be normal. With his move came a new set of obligations, most notably: a ten day trip at springtime or Christmas time (depending on the year), and a whopping five weeks in the summer. My daughter’s separation anxiety from me grew to heights it had never been before; suddenly she was depressed and had days where she was all-but-functional.

From there, life began to fall apart.

Most days suddenly had the potential to include some form of stomachache, crying, pouting, distraction, hyperventilating, fighting, and insomnia – if even the thought of her upcoming trips cropped up in her precocious, ten year old mind. And up until now, I have been fairly successful in squashing these down before they got out of control. On some days, before they even had a chance to occur. Life really was going to be normal, even if it cost me everything. And every, waking minute of my time was spent trying to be a superhero with my own human limitations – a superhero whose one and only strength is to prevent all the bad from entering her heart.

Now that we are within four weeks of the first trip, though, the war zone is more toxic; the tension can be cut with a knife; and on today I was slapped with the unfortunate fact that I am not a superhero, I am only a mom. And a flawed one, at that. No matter what I do, some days it really is not enough.

It will never be enough.

Under the covers, my head buried – I am hoping and praying that tomorrow will be a little easier. That it will have a little less crying; less hyperventilating. That my newfound understanding that I am not a superhero, and that I cannot prevent all of the bad feelings from rushing through the floodgates of my ten year old daughter who wants nothing more than to be a normal kid.

Today, I wave my surrender flag after the guerrilla warfare of motherhood has beaten me down in ways I never – not in a million years – thought being a mother would do. Hopefully tomorrow just one thing goes right. And maybe it will be that my surrender and retreat gives us all the strength to make that happen.

Yes, I Judged A Kid Today. I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow.

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I am a believer in a lot of things. They range from really stupid things, like what color nail polish is appropriate to wear to a funeral (the answer is: clear); to very big and grandiose things, like whether or not God exists. If I learned one thing in graduate school, it’s that we  all have to have beliefs. It’s essential to our success as functional and happy human beings.

On the bigger side of things, I believe in love, compassion, and understanding. I believe in a universal “right” and “wrong.” I believe in not judging a book by its cover, most of the time. And I believe in boundaries.

I would go as far to say that I’m a big believer in boundaries; in fact, I believe so much in my belief in boundaries that I place boundaries on my beliefs.

I talk a lot on this blog about being understanding and compassionate towards others, especially parents. I want to understand that friends put their newborns in front of the television – knowing that TV is bad for developing infant brains – for a reason that is understandable and explainable. I bite my tongue often when I hear of friends birthing at home, rather than in the safety and security of a hospital or hospital-affiliated birthing center. I struggle to not judge other mothers, or other women or men even, for the choices they make: to work instead of attend a child’s school play; to bottle-feed over breastfeed; to serve McDonald’s night after night instead of healthier, at-home options. I try very hard to not look at a situation and say “what a shitty parent” over anything, even the most horrifying offenses (i.e. drug use, alcoholism, listening to Pitchfork) – I am not living in that person’s shoes and have no idea what they may or may not be going through. As with many parents in particular, my first instinct is to judge; my second instinct is to put that judge-y shit in check and act with love and compassion.

But then there are instances such as today, when I placed a boundary on my beliefs in compassion and decided to let the judgment out.

Yes, I judged a kid today. I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Last night I was bored and couldn’t sleep, so went through the typical humor sites to keep my wandering mind occupied, since my Kindle was dead so my book was unaccessible. A couple of pages into the most recent EpicFail.com posts and I came across this: a photo titled “Respect Fail” of a kid flipping off his teacher.

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My first mistake in putting boundaries on my compassion and making my judgment was to post it on my personal Facebook page and call the kid a dickhole. Let’s be clear: this kid is a fucking asshole. I don’t care what the circumstance was for him to do this – it was wrong. There is a line of right and wrong, and this crossed it so far into the territory of wrong, there is not a single fucking excuse on this planet that could even set it on the fence.

But posting that brought out the Mama Bears and the Papa Bears, very likely defensive about their own choices to parent in a way that would excuse this behavior of their own children for reasons they believe to be valid. It brought out the non-conformists who want to understand and fuck the man and be punk rock parents that are all about ending the corruption of authority, all that other happy horse shit that could otherwise be described as an unrealistic view of what it is to help our children enter the world well-adjusted.

Then it turned to being about how I’m a hypocrite and I live in a shitty town in California where people repress children’s feelings and create psychopaths that don’t know how to stand up to authority. My yoga pants were mentioned no less than five times (whateverthefuck that has to do with anything). Someone said “shame on you” because I obviously have no idea what some kids have been through – maybe that kid just lost a parent and is a total douche now because he’s really hurting!

All of the debate and the very sad statements aside, there is one thing I want to address, and one thing only:

Yes, I judged a kid today.

I judged that kid because regardless of whatever is going on in his life, he is a symptom of the bigger problem of our culture. Our excuse-making, back-patting, nobody-fails, everyone gets an award for participating, blame the teachers, scream at authority, fuck the man, it’s everybody else’s fault but my own – culture. A culture where people don’t want to call things as they are, and pussy-foot around it in the name of being nice and understanding.

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When I was ten years old, my mom abandoned my father and I to move across the country with a guy who was still married (and subsequently went back with his wife a few years later). No one let me get away with bullshit like this because of that. If I spoke to my dad disrespectfully, I got grounded. If I got bad grades, I didn’t get to go to pool parties in the summer.

When I was in middle school and high school, kids did stuff like this all the time, for no reason other than that they were disrespectful pricks who needed a lesson in respect. They got in trouble for it. I remember my friends’ moms grounding them for ditching school; I can think of countless times that people were yelled at by their parents, rather than their parents yelling at their teachers. I remember a boyfriend’s mom calling him a jerk…she said “you’re really becoming a jerk, you know that?” Maybe it was right, maybe it was wrong for her to name call him. But you know what? He was being a jerk. A big one.

But today I say what anyone would have said years ago – that this kid is a dick and needs to learn respect, effective dissent, and appropriate conduct towards authority, and everyone loses their fucking minds. People are taking it personally – attacks on them, attacks on their kids. Just another sign that I am a mean, heartless person who should not even be allowed near children with a ten foot poll.

In the end, I think this all boils down to something bigger than all of us; something that all of our free-loving hippy shit about being compassionate and loving and understanding does not apply. It’s about bullying, it’s about respect, it’s about authority, it’s about responsibility. First and foremost, it’s about us. We – as parents and adults, leaving our children a world much different than it was forty or fifty years ago – owe it to our children, to the little dickwad in that picture, to stand up and say this behavior is wrong. To say that maybe our behavior that allows it or contributes to it, or maybe even models it, is wrong. To look at other things that happen – kids destroying grocery stores; toddlers being allowed to crawl all over million dollar art installations at museums – and consider just when the fuck children became the masters and commanders of society. To admit our flaws and move forward together to make better people who would never – not in a million years, no matter how awful the teacher may be – think about flipping off a teacher while friends laugh and take photos of it with their camera phones. To give our children the tools of respect for others and themselves, and the resources to effective and healthy dissent and expression of their feelings.

Maybe I’m just as bad, because I’m calling this poor innocent child names. Maybe I’m the asshole for not understanding the context-less nature of the photograph. Yes, I judged a kid today.

For this, I’ll do it again tomorrow.

What You Should Do The Next Time Someone Calls You A Bad Mom

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The last twenty-four hours have been a little bit surreal for me. I’m not sure why – as my husband said just this evening, weird events mixed with our usual day-to-day at-home nonsense is the norm. We did our homeschooling work. I do folders for each six-day period – yesterday was Day 2 (worksheet day), today was Day 3 (learning project and TAG pen time). As usual, we took our long walk around my father’s neighborhood, in the middle of the day when there aren’t a bunch of people and cars around. Breakfast-lunch-dinner-cleaning the house, working on redoing the kiddie bedroom …it was all pretty much the usual, with miscellaneous hilarity mixed in.

But the weird events were not as fun as they usually are.

First, yesterday afternoon my mother told me that I am a bad mother. She had called to give me the “big news” that another family member is having a baby, and rather than just express excitement she had to use it as another opportunity to cut me down. “…and I’m thrilled because now your grandmother will have another baby in the family, because God knows no one wants you to have any more kids. You aren’t very good at even handling what you have now.”

What the fuck? That’s what you should be thinking. I did too, then I remembered who I was talking to.

Par for the course.

In spite of that being par for the course, this morning I woke up feeling like I had been socked in the gut. And it only got worse as the morning drudged on.

As I was getting out of the shower – around 8:30 – I heard some noise outside and saw that a car was parked in the walkway between the parking lot and the walkway. It had a California Exempt license plate and two business-y-looking people were escorting two, young children from the townhome of one of our neighbors. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that someone had called Child Protective Services, and those children were being taken away from their parents.

It didn’t go as I always thought a visit like that would go. There were no dramatics. No one was screaming or crying. Even the kids seemed a little calm, vaguely as though they expected it. Immediately the neighbors began to congregate in the walkway, as they always do. The gossip began and the term “bad mother” was said so many times, I almost walked out and told them all to shut their filthy, judgmental mouths.

It was in these events of the last twenty-four hours – these unusual, weird, painful events – that I started to think about just who has a right to call someone a bad mom. And the answer I came to is simple:

Not a single goddamned person.

Every time I start to question the parenting of another person, I stop myself right in my tracks. Who am I to judge? Who am I to say what other people should do, in their time with their kids in their situation? What do I know? Nothing.

Sure, there are things that I would love to comment on. Like when friends let their infants watch TV. Or when iPads become the main focus of a child’s education. I have feelings about public school, just like a lot of people have feelings about the fact that we homeschool. And of breastfeeding. And of diet and exercise. And of a lot of things – we all have ideas on what we think is best for our families, as well as everyone (in some instances).

Do any of us have a right to call each other a bad anything for any of it, though?

Even the child support service people don’t call the parents they have the misfortune of interacting with “bad.” At least I don’t think so. Today I heard them give the mother of those two, poor children her card and said she hoped this would be resolved soon. Beyond that, it isn’t their judgment call to make – they are simply enforcing rules and doing their jobs.

But when I turned to Facebook to ask my blog followers if they have ever been called bad parents, or told how to be a parent, I got a resounding YES – to my utter shock and horror.

I don’t have kids. However. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I shouldn’t because I would be awful at it.

Well, my SIL tells everyone BUT me, LOL!

My son’s donor tells me that all the time.

Oh hell yes I’ve been told I suck as a mom, by my stepmother.

Both directly and indirectly.  People will use your insecurities as a parent against you and to make themselves feel better about their short comings in their own situations.

My MIL said I was a bad mom and I neglected my child- because I didn’t bathe him 24/7 and I let him out of the house with unbrushed hair. He was 3.

I was a bad mother for homeschooling my son, for allowing him to roam the neighborhood without watching him every second of the day (or even knowing which of 3 possible streets he was actually on at any given time), for not allowing him to get a job while in school so he could focus on his grades, for refusing to medicate him as a kindergartner so he could stay in school…

Someone who was supposed to be my best friend sat and told me my son needed to talk to a psychologist because he was displaying behavior any typical 7-8 year old boy would display.

What the fuck? That’s what you should be thinking. I still am.

Now if Child Protective Services comes knocking on your door, that’s one thing. Maybe then it’s time to start evaluating – with your partner, if you have one; or any close and trusted people – how you are running the show. It still doesn’t mean you are a bad mother, though. It just means you may need more guidance or support, or to change some habits that are not in the best interest of your children.

But if anyone else – mom, dad, grandma, mother in law, sister in law, friends, cousins, strangers – tries to tell you how to be a parent, what you are doing wrong as a parent, or – God help them – that you are a bad parent, there is one thing and one thing only that you should do:

Tell them to shove it up their ass. Sideways. With a pitchfork to get it in their real good.

No seriously. No one has a right to say anything to you about your parenting, just as no one has a right to say anything to me. We are all in this together, whether anyone realizes it or not. But that doesn’t mean we are in this together, like we can tell each other what to do.

It means we are supposed to be supportive of each other. That’s it.

We are all entitled to our opinions, but opinions are like assholes. Just like I don’t want your asshole wide open in my presence, your mouth and the opinions that fly out of it should stay shut too.

To my mother and anyone else that thinks I’m a bad mom: shove it up your ass. Sideways. With a pitchfork to get it in their real good. To the rest of you: you are good mothers. You are good parents. No matter what happens, I know that your intentions are only in the best interest of your children. We may disagree on this or that aspect of parenting, but that we love our kids is the foundation we must look to in reminding ourselves that we are doing at least something right.