An Open Letter To My Family, Friends, and Casual Acquaintances

Today marks four weeks since my husband started his new job. Our lives kind of-sort of revolve around his work schedule – well that, homeschooling, tennis, and you know…daily life.

But everything is sort of geared around his very hectic, often unpredictable schedule; if it didn’t, our idea of being a family would be waving casually to each other in passing.

If there is one thing I absolutely, and without a doubt, refuse to turn into, it’s one of those families.

So he started this new job, and today is the end of the fourth week. It’s a night job, which has changed things for all of us – more than we could ever have imagined. He leaves at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and gets home sometime before he has to leave the next day. Last night he got home around 1 in the morning, and was wide awake so he and I watched a movie. Other times, he gets home when we’re leaving for tennis at 9:30 in the morning.

We’re all sleeping in later most days now, which is fine because we homeschool. In fact, we’re all sleeping better now (which makes little sense to me). And we’re all better off for him being home during the day. He’s a part of tennis, a part of homeschooling, he helps with the chores now, and he can even attend things like – gasp – doctor’s appointments and annual visits to the optometrist.

But it hasn’t come free of struggles. Because of our strange schedule, which works for our family but would not work for all, we have had to go through a longer-than-expected period of adjustment. Not only that, but because some days he’s gone for 14-16 hours of a 24 hour period (which, I have quickly learned, has a whole-house domino effect for the days that follow), we just really cannot commit to do much more than our own stuff.

This is why I decided it’s finally time to pen a little letter; an open letter to my family, friends, and casual acquaintances.

Dear Family, Dear Friends, Dear Casual Acquaintances –

It’s not you. It’s us.

We’re sleeping strangely and eating all the time. Dinner, for us, is now at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Lunch is at 7:30 at night. If you ask us to have a big meal after 5 pm, we’re all going to screw up our new sleep patterns and get sick. Our bodies are used to this now. We’ve adjusted. In fact, we like that we can eat dinner together, even though it’s in the afternoon after we’ve only started to get the day going. Until he took this job, we only had dinner together as a family on weekends. Sometimes.

As a result, any further dinner invitations will be declined. Unless they’re for mid-afternoon.

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It’s not you. It’s us.

I want to attend your candle party and your make up event. I really do. I want to meet up with you all at craft group. I really want to get my reading on with my book nerd friends, and paint like a professional at my art class. I’d love to go out for a girls night out. But babysitters are expensive, and what we have in terms of a regular sitter is for me to have time to clean the house, get the grocery shopping done, and to keep my garden alive.

As a result, it is unlikely I will attend much, if anything, in the evening any more. Unless everything else is already done, the babysitter hasn’t called in sick, and I happen to not be too exhausted. (So don’t count on it.)

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It’s not you. It’s us.

Yes, we get it that we still have weekends. And that weekends are for family and you are all our family, blood or otherwise.

But keeping in mind that some nights my husband gets a whopping 1&1/2 hours of sleep during the work week, with me never sleeping well when he’s gone, and all of us trying to tip-toe around the house during the day while he gets the few hours he does – the weekends have become the most critical time for us to decompress, catch up on ZZZZs, and – frankly put – get shit done.

As a result, it is unlikely we will be available for many weekend events either.

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It’s not you. It’s us.

We have lives besides my husband’s job.

We homeschool. Every single day of the year, and this is important to us – not only because we have little lives hanging in the balance of our very adult-like decisions, but because education is a value that is paramount in our household.

We play tennis. Every single day of the week, and this is important to us too. What comes with tennis is not only practice and lessons, but tournaments. So now we’re trying to juggle daily life, homeschooling, my husband’s insane and unpredictable work hours, and tennis too.

As a result, we’ll see you the next time someone gets married, graduates, or dies.

I wish I were kidding.

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It’s not you. It’s us.

At some point, we started talking about the impact this was having on us and our health. Trying to please everyone and everything under normal circumstances is a tenuous proposition. And there is nothing normal about this new lifestyle we have.

When things are tenuous under normal circumstances, and who knows what under abnormal circumstances, you eventually realize that you just can’t spend all your time trying to take care of everyone else and not yourselves.

We’ll be around when we can, and it’s not impacting our health and stress level too much. And we’re sorry, for what it’s worth.

So, dear friends, dear family, and dear casual acquaintances, if I’ve learned one thing in these first four weeks of my husband working his new, exciting, fun-filled, and yet incredibly exhausting and insanely unpredictable job, it’s that taking a step back from all the busyness and the chaos and the weekly parties and the nightly commitments is diluting our experience as a family unit.

Perhaps this was going on all along, and it was only through a drastic life change that we were finally able to see the truth.

 

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So I Wiped My Dog’s Butt The Other Night

We are on our annual, fall vacation. No big deal, just a little jaunt to Central Oregon to visit my husband’s grandparents and my great aunt. My husband drove us up, then after a few days flew home for work; the trip will end next weekend with him flying back to drive us back home.

There have been a lot of…shall we say…revelations so far on this trip. Realizations? How about realities. There have been a lot of realities presented to me in the few days we have been here; I am sure as the days unfold even more will crop up.

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1.

My dog is way cool with me wiping her butt.

Just when I thought I was never going to have any more butts to wipe, my dog got diarrhea.

The situation was as follows: we fed her a lot of different things on the way up and the first two or three days here, because – well – it’s actually really hard to travel with a dog that eats homemade food. Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that with the majority of them, a change in diet is a recipe for diarrhea all over your carpeted floors.

So we’re sitting there the other night, watching Full House (because what the hell else do they have on TV here in the middle of nowhere-Oregon?), and all of a sudden I realize that just across the room the dog is taking a massive shit on the carpet.

By the time the dog has finished and moved on to return to eating kibbles, my daughter has jumped up and yelled “it looks like chocolate pudding!!”

A wonderful visual for you all, I am sure. “It looks like chocolate pudding,” though, means one thing, and one thing only, to me: the dog’s got the runs.

So we get up to clean it and then I notice the dog still has “chocolate pudding” all over her backside. Being concerned that she would scoot around and destroy even more of the floor in this place we are guests (I mean, obviously at home I wouldn’t give a shit what she does – which says a hell of a lot more about me than I’d like it to), I realize the reality of what we have to do.

We have to wipe the dog’s butt.

I won’t go into any more details about this; I’ll just say that she was very OK with it. Disturbingly OK with it.

2.

My regular life is really stressful.

It always takes these little vacations, away from my daily reality and regular life, to get perspective on things.

The perspective I have now is that my regular life is really stressful. It’s full of problems I shouldn’t have to deal with. Stressors that are beyond my control, even though they should be within my grasp.

And my newest development: a myriad of bullies that I cannot walk away from, because – gasp, big surprise here!!! – they are family.

In fact, my myriad of bullies has stopped me from writing. Writing on this blog. Writing my next book (yes, there IS a next book in the works). Writing even in my journal – perhaps the most important part of a writer’s day.

Now I knew they were bullies before the vacation. I knew that if a family member told you you should move out of town, concluded with a “Bye Felicia” …well, if they said something like that, you could assume they were intentionally trying to be mean to you. (By the way, I had to look that up, because I had no idea what it meant – in spite of the fact that I’ve seen all the Friday movies.)

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And I knew that the gossip had reached a fever pitch, as well. It got to a point where I felt it was necessary to post this:

Facebook Post

 

But I also was trying to give everyone the benefit of a doubt. Maybe they were just joking when they told me I was an asshole for saying I was tired of cleaning up the mess from the renters that lived in the family condo we moved into in June. Perhaps excluding us, and only us, from family events was just oversight on their part.

I am far too nice.

Since we got here, I’ve been posting TONS of photos of family on my Facebook page. Every day. I haven’t heard so much as a peep from any of my bullies – big surprise, right? Then I realized that this is the way it ALWAYS goes. They NEVER pay attention to the good stuff. The important stuff. The positive stuff. The fun stuff.

But say a man accosted me in my parking lot and I’m not happy about it (true story), or that I got a bad haircut at a salon their friends work at (a real life tragedy), and they are ALL OVER IT. And by all over it, I mean sitting right there, just waiting to tell me to shut the fuck up, and that I’m wrong for whatever it was I did or said.

As usual, at the end of my vacation I’m affirming that I’m not going to tolerate it anymore. But, then again, I always say that…

3.

I am again reminded that if I want something done right, I have to do it.

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For some reason, I thought that we had reached a point where I could give a list of things that needed to be packed for vacation, and that those things would actually be packed.

The list was very simple:

  1. 2 outfits for cold weather
  2. 2 outfits for warm weather
  3. 3 pairs of pajamas
  4. 4 sets of underwear
  5. An extra sweater
  6. A jean jacket

Guess what was packed?

  1. 1 outfit for cold weather, pants don’t fit anymore
  2. Nothing for warm weather (it’s going to be in the upper 80s and 90s for the rest of our trip)
  3. 1 pair of pajamas
  4. 1 pair of underpants, no undershirts
  5. 4 sweaters, 1 sweater dress, 6 pairs of tights
  6. No jacket

What’s more disturbing is that there was a 20 year old adult (the babysitter) assisting in this endeavor, so I have to ask just why the shit my list wasn’t followed.

 

Nonetheless, I had a little meltdown about it today, because after all the expenses of moving and the possibility that my husband will be changing jobs and taking a slight pay cut in the near future, having to go buy ANYTHING, when we have plenty of perfectly adequate things at home, is upsetting.

So in short…

…this trip has been a little strange. Eye-opening. I’ve realized a lot, and been reminded that there really is no such thing as a vacation when you’re a mom. I’m still doing laundry every day; having to wipe everyone’s assholes; cooking, cleaning… It’s really just the same old shit in a different place.

But at the end of it, I will say one thing: it’s nice to have gotten my head out of the smog. Both the literal smog of California, as well as the metaphorical smog. There may not be anything I can do to change these situations in my regular, every day life, but at least I can acknowledge them and act accordingly. It’s much less stressful to know things for what they are, than to hide under the veil of denial. For that reason, and that reason alone, I’ll call this vacation a success.

Oh, and there is some pretty amazing shit to look at here too…

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Well, I Guess I’m Not the Cool Mom Anymore

 

Today was the last day of tennis camp.

I did not send treat bags for all the kids.

I did not bake cookies shaped and decorated as tennis balls.

I did not bring special activities to add to the camp fun, like bubbles or hula hoops.

I drove up in my SUV, and did not get out. I was in my pajamas and slippers. I pulled to the curb. I said goodbye for the day. That was pretty much the extent of my part.

I sat there – in my car and dressed in pajamas – and watched one of this year’s Cool Moms schlep 40 pool noodles in for the each of the kids. I thought it was sweet of her, as she then returned to her car to take out two crates of cupcakes. She took one out and gave it to another Cool Mom – who had brought treat bags for all the kids. The cupcake had a fondant tennis racket on the top of it.

I thanked my lucky stars I’m not the Cool Mom anymore.

I did not take photos. Individual photos, group photos – I did not take any.

I did not weep that another summer is already showing signs of coming to a close.

I just drove off, never having gotten out of my car.

After I got home, I watched a couple hours of Perry Mason.

I did not text the camp coach to see if I could bring anything to make the last day special.

I did not join the kids for their last camp lunch of the year.

I turned leftover taco meat and a couple slices of American cheese into nachos and watched another episode of Perry Mason, spilling half the contents of my nachos on my shirt.

755fe2f55807d554d84cd87ded3cfa54Somewhere around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I came to.

I realized I only had two more hours until camp was over. I checked my cellphone. My daughter had texted me a photo of the pool noodle, cupcake, and treat bag the Cool Moms had given her.

I saw a huge tag hanging from the pool noodle: “last day of tennis camp gifts from Madison.” I remember putting a tag like that on some random Cool Mom bullshit in years past, myself; and I realized that Madison (six, bratty) could literally give zero shits about 95% of the kids there. Including mine.

I spent the last two hours of this year’s tennis camp taking a shower, putting on yoga pants and a tank top, and heading to the country club for pick up. The shower was extra long because I got sidetracked trying to see if I could make my voice sound the same as the Barbie singing in the shower of our new Barbie Dreamhouse.

I did not stop to get out of the car for the teary mom goodbye going on in the parking lot.

Again, no photos; in fact, my phone was dead.

And as I went to get out of the SUV to at least walk into the swimming pool area to collect and move on with our lives for another year, I realized I had no shoes on.

As in, I forgot to put on my shoes when I left the house.

So I honked the horn and within two minutes we were back on our way home.

The thing is: I have been the Cool Mom before.

I have baked the cookies and arranged the parties and rolled the fondant shapes to coincide with the theme; and I have schlepped the cupcakes and texted the teacher to see what I can do and come for the last day of lunch; I have hung up the streamers and made the tags on the sides of the pool noodles that say “last day gifts from…”

I have sat up late at night putting together treat bags for no occasion other than Friday.

It’s someone else’s turn now. I pass that torch, willingly.

I’m burned out. I’m tired. I’ve seen kids not appreciate what the Cool Mom does one too many times.

And given my inability to remember to even wear shoes when I leave the house, I’ve obviously got other things on my mind.

Or maybe it’s that I’ve entered a new era of parenthood. One that is less over-involved and more willing to let go.

One that does not spend all my time obsessing over my kids’ lives and activities and social functions, and finds a healthy balance between being there and being overbearing.

One that lets my “Me Time” (if there really is such a thing) actually be about me.

I’m OK with this, whatever it is. Of course a few weeks from now I’ll probably bake some crazy Pinterest-worthy cupcakes out of a sense of guilt that I opted for mediocrity, rather than stepping up to the plate at tennis camp this year.

But for now, I’m OK with just being Mom.

 

I watched Ricki Lake poop out a baby tonight…

…didn’t see that one coming, did you guys? To be fair, neither did I.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first tell you all about how I got into the position to see Ricki Lake poop out the baby to begin with.

Today began like any other Saturday. Of course my husband was off work, so we milled around – bullshitting each other and pretending to enjoy each other’s company; until that got old, and I decided to get in the shower. I was also pretty suspicious because he kept complimenting me. It was like three times in under an hour, which is highly dubious; in fact, I’m still wondering what he did.

After my shower, my husband’s shower, and all the arguing about everyone needing to stop playing Barbies for five minutes and put their fucking toothbrushes into their fucking mouths, we were ready for the day. Which we weren’t entirely sure what to do with, still.

So we headed over to my father’s house to do the housecleaning for his open house tomorrow. I’m not talking about a fancy party kind of open house, where he serves those little cucumber sandwiches to high class kind of friends. I’m talking about the kind of open house you have for the sale of a home. You know: where tons of strangers traipse through your home, fuck everything up, break shit, leave doors open, and then try to low ball you with offers more insulting than “I’ll give you three crayons and this carton of milk.”

Anyway, so we did the housecleaning, then we were at a total loss of what to do with the day. So we went home – stopping at the grocery store (of course) to pick up stuff for me to make dinner with. Once home, we did what we always do when we don’t know what to do: watched movies.

We watched Dallas Buyer’s Club. That was phenomenal. Then we watched The Hunger Games – finally, after all this time postponing for me to read the book, only for me to never get around to reading the book because I don’t like reading that Young Adult shit anyway.

Then The Hunger Games came to a finish and it was still early. Too early to go to bed; too late to go anywhere or do anything. So we scrolled through our Netflix Que for something relatively quick. Which is when we happened upon it: Ricki Lake’s documentary The Business of Birth.

Let me start by saying that I did enjoy the film. I thought it was very informative, and while a little too graphic and outdated for my tastes, it was – by and large – something that, at the very least, made me think. I like to think, so that’s good.

But I took issue with two things in particular.

Towards the end…

…the conclusion was made by an OB/Gyn, as well as the filmmakers and Ricki Lake, that if a woman does not experience the raw pain, intense emotion, natural induction of hormones, and vaginal-vaginal-out-the-vagina birth that she does not experience the bonding of motherhood, nor the love of being a mom.

To be clear: women who had to induce? Haven’t experienced the bonding and love of motherhood. Women who had caesarians? Haven’t experienced the bonding and love of motherhood.

If you are angry, you are with me.

And you should then be asking yourself: are you fucking kidding me? What kind of a horse’s ass opinion is that? The belief that a woman unable to birth naturally, or who chooses medical intervention (for whatever her reasons may be) DOES NOT EXPERIENCE THE LOVE OF MOTHERHOOD AND BONDING WITH HER BABY is the most horrendous, destructive, narrow-minded, and ignorant view of motherhood and, well, reality I may have ever heard.

Truly. Truly this infuriated me, which was unfortunate because (at least to me) it greatly discredited a lot of the other things said and discussed in the film. If they are that wrong about something so great as this, couldn’t they be wrong about a lot of the other things?

Documentaries always do this to me. They always fucking let me down like this.

…and documentaries always let me down in another way, which had to do with Ricki Lake’s vagina…

They show me more of something in particular than I really want to see. In this case, that thing in particular was Ricki Lake’s vagina.

Now I know what you are all thinking. If I watch a documentary about childbirth, I should expect to see at least something of women squeezing babies out of their v-holes. I get that, OK? It didn’t make me scream any less, or be any more horrified by all the nuances of childbirth I would like to keep in the deepest, darkest caverns of my brain – never to surface for fear of fainting. I just can’t take some of it, the majority of the time. (I can’t be the only mother that feels this way, right?)

Sorry if that bothers you. Maybe I too cannot experience the love and bonding of motherhood.

But what I really wasn’t expecting was to see Ricki Lake poop out her second baby in a bathtub with a bottle of Suave sitting on the shelf behind her. Nope, I really was not expecting that. Not one bit.

I feel so cold now. So very, very cold.

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The premise of the movie was essentially that home birth is better. I tend to disagree with this, mostly because of the fact that I’m a big, ol’ scaredy cat. I suppose if everything were in the woman’s favor, home birth is a perfectly safe and healthy option – with, of course, the help of an experienced midwife. Though at the very end of the film, the filmmaker went into labor (not Ricki Lake, thank God I’d had enough of that bullshit) and she had to rush to the hospital after all because her baby was breech. Long story short: the baby would have died had she naturally delivered at home. This raises some serious concerns that women face when deciding their birth plan, which I really don’t feel the film did even the slightest bit to address.

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I don’t know what all of your thoughts are on the topic, but I’ll just say when you’ve seen Ricki Lake squat a baby out of her vagina, with her bare boobs flopping all over the place, you just really start to see things a lot more skewed. Really, I don’t even know what to believe about anything after that.

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.

Can We Just All Agree To Abolish The Term ‘Tween’ Already?

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Sometimes I get the impression that my friends that are moms are not really my mom friends. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but people I have known and called friends for years don’t seem to really identify with me as a mother. We don’t really talk about our kids with each other. And I’m not entirely sure we see eye to eye on a lot of stuff.

Maybe it’s because many of them are just starting to have kids and I’m an old pro at this point.

Maybe it’s because I talk about things other than my baby’s shitty diapers or my kid’s constant wetting of the bed. Sometimes I talk about books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen; or even articles I’ve written.

Maybe it’s because I’m an asshole.

I’d bet money it’s the latter. Whatever the case may be, as some of their kids grow older; and as my interactions with the world go beyond people I have known forever into the realm of mom bloggers and others in book clubs and different community groups I am a part of, I’m crossing people with older kids and different experiences that are using a word so glaringly annoying I just want to talk about it and make a motion that we abolish it.

It isn’t just that it’s annoying and inspires panic within me, either. It’s that it sounds stupid, obsessive, and even a little pedantic.

I’m talking about the term used to describe a child ages 10 – 12. I’m talking about the term ‘tween.’

Supposedly, the term is meant to describe a child that is sort of in the in-between. Getting ready to go through puberty; but still playing with Barbies and LEGOs. Not yet a teenager, but starting to act like one. Overemotional, slamming doors, and already using the word ‘like’ way more often than necessary; and yet still snuggling at night before bed.

It’s a confusing time, no doubt. I myself remember the complexities of being 10, 11, and 12. I remember still playing with Barbies and dolls. I remember continuing to play dress up with friends, and I also remember slamming the door emotionally on more than one occasion. Your feet start to get bigger, little boys’ voices start changing. It’s all starting to happen. And it sucks. It’s as if these people – the proponents of the term ‘tween’ – have forgotten how already upsetting childhood and change can be, without having a label attached to it. Have we not already learned our lesson about labeling our children?

As innocent or cute as it may seem, I feel that it’s degrading and embarrassing. Tween. It sounds vaguely familiar to teeny or weeny, and quite frankly a lot of the kids that I hear described as tweens look to fit both of those descriptions. I can just picture a mother calling her son a tween loudly as she drops him off for school only for him to get beaten up by a bully over the fact that his mother just highlighted his emotional insecurities and pending, already humiliating, puberty for the entire world.

Not only that, but nine times out of the ten a day that I hear or read people refer to their children as these teeny-weeny in-betweens, it’s actually meant to talk about themselves. And with Elizabeth’s 10th birthday, suddenly I have a tween! Where did the time go – oh she’s a tween, next a teen then college! OMG someone poor me a martini I have a tween, oh dear God I’m getting old!!!

Just as your child is not an extension or accomplishment of you, but rather an individual in and of him or herself; your child’s pending puberty and teenage years are not, and never will be, a statement about you or your age.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – I think this incessant labeling of our kids who still just want to be … wait for it … CHILDREN … as ‘tweens’ is just another example of how we are forcing our kids to grow up way quicker than they should. It’s obsessive to place a label on a period of time that is no more different than the two or three years that preceded it. It’s pedantic to be so technical and have to place a name to imply or inform the world that boobs are about to sprout and little balls are about to drop. I have a ten year old and she is no more ready to be a ‘tween’ or a teenager than she was when she was six. She still plays with Barbies, watches Berenstain Bears, snuggles at night, calls me Mommy and thinks boys are gross. When a family member told me he thought she had a crush on a family friend I laughed and said “what, because she’s polite?” – and this was not out of denial, but rather an absolute knowledge of my daughter that makes me confident in the fact that she still doesn’t give boys the time of day, and that’s completely OK because there is absolutely no reason for her to. She doesn’t have a Smartphone or an email address or her own iPad or a Facebook profile – and she will not be receiving any of those any time in the foreseeable future. And there is nothing wrong with any of that. By contrast, what I do think is wrong is to encourage our kids to grow way too fast and embrace these ‘tweeny’-‘teeny’-‘adulty’ things and situations that children should be in no rush to embrace.

What I hope my friends that are moms, and mom friends (if I have any, which I don’t think I do), consider is the enormous impact something as dumb as a title like ‘tween’ can have. And, that rather than teaching our kids to label and to grow up so quickly, and to feel more awkward than they already do – we teach them to stop giving a shit about all of this and to just feel comfortable being who they are, changing as they do naturally, and feeling absolutely no shame for any of it.

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Roses Are Red; Violets Are Blue; You Will Die A Terrible, Terrible Death

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If you have been around this blog’s block for a while, then you know I watch The Simpsons daily. I’m talking about reruns – we have roughly half the seasons on DVD and I watch them every night before bed, and also when I inevitably wake up at 3:13(ish) to ponder all of life’s problems. I think what The Simpsons does that no other show has pegged quite so perfectly is make very serious social commentary in a way that even the most unaware person can grasp.

This habit of mine has been going on for years, just the same shows over and over. And over again.

I know what you’re all thinking: my poor husband.

One of my favorite episodes of the show (in truth, they are all my favorite) is when they go to some kind of a fair and Lisa visits a psychic. The psychic starts by telling Lisa “you will die a terrible, terrible death” – but that’s a mistake, then she (the psychic who specializes only in predicting failed relationships) goes on to tell the story of Lisa’s almost-marriage to Hugh, a British snob who won’t wear Homer’s pigs-in-tuxedos cufflinks on the big day.

Fucking genius, eh?

Since the very first time I saw that episode, I have wanted to visit a psychic. I always thought it would be fun, also I have always wondered if it ever ends as dramatically as in Ghost when Whoopi Goldberg hears Patrick Swayze and embarks on the big endeavor to help Demi figure out who killed him. You guys have to admit that kind of shit happening to me would be pretty rad. Right?

I’ve asked and asked, to no avail. I keep saying I want to do it for my birthday – well that’s a stretch, because I don’t even get cake baked by someone other than me on my birthday. I’ve said I want it for Mother’s Day, which is a total waste of my breath. (I’m not even going to go into the type of reception I get for the one day I actually should be celebrated…)

Finally, a few months ago, I all but gave up on my quest to visit a psychic. No one would give it to me for my birthday; I wasn’t going to ever spend the money to do it myself if everyone else thought it was uncool … my future would just have to remain untold.

1505276_725035416603_1099103144_nThen this evening, we were exchanging Valentine’s Day gifts. We already started over the weekend – my husband of course works tomorrow, and he works in the city (about 50 miles away) so typically on Valentine’s Day he gets home late as a result of holiday traffic. A few years ago, he got home so late we couldn’t even go out for the dinner we planned on going to; last year he didn’t get home until about 9 – my daughter yelling “she is so mad, her boobs are sweating” as he came storming in the door. Before this evening, he had already gotten his I -heart- Dad mug, and all the kiddie things had been dispersed.

But what still remained was my gift to him, and his gift to me.

Having all but given up on gifts and my husband years ago, I basically just went out and bought him some baked goods. A piece of bread pudding. A piece of New York cheese cake. Some chocolate-covered strawberries. Then I put them all in a nice, heart-shaped box and felt kind of shitty today, so got take out for dinner which meant I made him no lunch for tomorrow. So when gift exchange came, I gave him the box and called it his Valentine’s Day gift-slash-Friday lunch.

If you’re thinking at this point that I’m winning at this game of being a housewife and Stay At Home Mom, you would be correct (not really). I do everything just about as half-assed as this whole Valentine’s Day thing.

Anyway, I opened his card, and to my amazement something so wonderful and amazing was contained within it. I was – almost – speechless.

He got me a gift card to visit the Psychic of the Stars.

This is the kind of gift that vindicates him for all of his peeing on the side and back of the toilet; the crumbs on the counter and beard hairs in the bathroom sink; for being a jerk when he should be loving and working way more hours than anyone with a family ever should.

Vindicates him for a short time, that is.

So what will my psychic reading say? Or should I do tarot cards? (Apparently I can use the gift card for either.) Will she say I will die a terrible, terrible death? Or will Whoopi Goldberg hear a ghost following me around, then we’ll embark on an epic adventure along the lines of Ghost (only I’m not kissing Whoopi like Demi did)?

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