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.

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My Neighbor and I Both Ate Our Emotions Today

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My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Though, while mine was not exactly healthy, it wasn’t quite as horrifying as hers either.

Before I get into that, I should first talk about the eating of emotions. We’ve all done it at one time or another. Some people do it often and don’t even realize it. Others drink they’re emotions, which is a whole other issue altogether. They’re sad and depressed, or stressed out. Suddenly they wake up one day and realize they’ve eaten a combination of Thin Mints and Oreos for every single meal, for weeks. It’s OK. Everyone (for the most part) has gone through this phase at one time or another, and once you realize it you get it in check.

Maybe.

I definitely wouldn’t condone eating away your feelings often. First and foremost, it isn’t like someone thinks to themselves “man, I’m having a really shitty day, I’m going to go home and eat kale until I fucking puke.” Actually, if you ate kale until you puked, you’d probably be actually eating kale until you shit your pants, making your shitty day literal. So it’s either that or because kale tastes like a filthy 1970s shag carpet. I don’t know, but I do know that people don’t usually run home and eat away their emotions with super healthy super foods.

That isn’t entirely true, though. I am “Facebook” friends with this girl I went to high school with who tells us all the time about how after a stressful day she goes home to eat a pile of apple slices, or a bucket of celery. It’s really obnoxious too because she always has to add in the precursor: rather than go home and pig out on pizza and cookies like fat people do after a hard day, I’m going to …

Shut the fuck up, bitch. No one wants to hear your fat shaming bullshit. PS we all know the reason you are like this now is because of how you looked back then…

But I digress.

So I wouldn’t condone eating away feelings often, or all the time. But I definitely believe that sometimes a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or a nice bag of Twizzlers Nibs are just what the doctor ordered. Dare I suggest that many doctors I know do suggest that once in a while letting go and indulging after a hard time is … healthy?

It’s healthy because, simply put, repressing stress is probably the worst thing a person can do to their body. People have to let that energy out, or it keeps building. We’ve all heard the analogy of the bottled up feelings, being shaken and shaken until one day all those feelings come splurging out in an explosion of yuck. This is my entirely unscientific and non medical opinion, here, but I think it’s pretty right on. At least in my experience.

Plus there is a moderate way to destress with food. Don’t keep enough junk in the house to overdo it. Make sure to put what you want in a plate or a bowl so as to keep to your portion size. Find something low fat, or low carb, or low cal that still fulfills your urge to pork down all your rage and hurt feelings until you pass out. There are a lot of ways to get around the really and true badness of bad eating.

This isn’t rocket surgery or brain science here. It’s just fucking common sense.

Today, when I was super stressed out about all the things going on, and a shit ton of money I have to spend to take a vacation to Texas (of all places) that I REALLY don’t want to take, just so my daughter can see her Biological Bum (whom she adamantly does not want to see) and all the issues this is bringing up which is another blog post for another day …I just needed to do something to feel better fast. I needed it so badly, and fortunately there was little junk food in my house to indulge on.

Except the Salsa Con Queso.

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I have a weird relationship with Salsa Con Queso. I won’t eat it for a really long time and be totally tired of it. Then I’ll eat it with chips every day for lunch for like three days straight. The plus side of this is that it has a lot of tomatoes and onions and shit in it that is actually good for you. The other plus is that the calories and fat isn’t quite like a Snickers bar or a bucket of neopolitan ice cream might be.

I keep telling myself this. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize. Regardless of your feelings about my rationalization of this, let’s just agree that there are a lot of things that I could be eating that are much much worse for me to pork away my emotions and frustrations on than this. Okay?

Glad we agree.

I encountered what one of those “much much worse” things was today, shortly after my uninhibited love affair with my Tostitoes and my Salsa Con Queso dip.

Sitting on the couch, working on editing my upcoming book, and yelling up the stairs various threats of punishment that will come if the homeschooling work was not finished “by the time I get up there…” I noticed my neighbor standing on her porch. We live in a townhome, so the proximity was fairly close. She was standing there looking longingly toward the parking lot. She appeared sad, but she sort of always does. Then, in a moment of sheer horror then amazement then fear then entertainment then genuine concern, I saw her pork down one Twinkie after another until she had eaten not one, not two, but TWELVE MOTHERFUCKING TWINKIES.

My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Tomorrow I will probably eat my Salsa Con Queso again, since there is still about 1/2 a jar left and watching the Twinkie hog down sort of stressed me out just witnessing it.

Waltz of the Big Booty Bitches

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So on Saturday evening we were celebrating my birthday, a little early. I turn 31 on April 15th, but my dad is having hip replacement surgery next Friday and I’ll be spending most of April taking care of him. All we have is each other here, so we celebrated with a little Game Night with cake this past weekend. There were maybe 15 people there, including my mom.

I was walking into the kitchen to get myself a drink and my mom walked over to me.

Trailer Trash Mom:

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“So how much weight have you lost?”

Me:

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“I don’t know, mom … I don’t believe in using scales.”

Trailer Trash Mom:

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“Oh, well aren’t you just better than the rest of us big girls…”

First, thank you mom for implying that I am one of you “big girls.” And, to further imply that you think I used to be grossly overweight. To be fair, I weigh considerably less than my mother does. I may not be model-stick-thin, but I’m certainly no candidate for an obesity weight study either. My mom is a big booty bitch, and not in the way I’d use it as a term of endearment like with most girls deserved of the title. A Big Booty Bitch could be someone heavier; someone with just a big booty; or someone stick thin with a big heart. By contrast, my mom is overweight, like most mothers. She’s had periods where she was a lot heavier; and periods where she was a lot thinner. Like most women. She’s never been into dieting or exercising, though, so I’m not too sure why she gives so much of a shit about scales and weight tracking. Unless, of course, it’s just a facade to put people down and make herself feel better about her own physical appearance. I assume this is the case.

I didn’t give it too much of a thought until I read this article an HuffPost’s Facebook page today. It was about a poll they had done, inquiring whether or not weight gain was a justifiable excuse to divorce or commit adultery. I won’t go into the details of the article – you can gladly read it yourself if you are interested; I will not even respond to the opinion of the author (who I largely agreed with, actually).

I want to talk about the fact that we – as a culture – are even doing polls and having conversations about this.

Big Booty Bitches Respect the Sanctity of Marriage

(Not Physical Appearance)

One thing the article discussed was the double standard. If a man packs on pounds – for whatever reason – a woman should understand, and try to inspire him to get healthier. If a woman becomes a Big Booty Bitch from a weight perspective, we start discussing whether or not a man should feel justified to cheat on her, or divorce her big booty butt.

Perhaps the reason why we don’t even suggest this when a man’s previously firm areas begin to jiggle is because the Big Booty Bitches respect the sanctity of marriage, rather than a person’s physical appearance. I mean, I would never consider cheating on my husband because he packed on a few pounds. I further would probably only talk to him about it if it became a health concern; and even then, I would try to influence him with the meals I cook and the actions I, myself, take, rather than inflict the emotional harm that a conversation beginning with “hey, you’re kind of becoming a fat fuck…” can cause.

Because of the sanctity of marriage, it doesn’t even enter my mind to consider that it might be justifiable to even discuss options like divorce or cheating. Your vows say “…for better, or for worse…” for a reason.

Big Booty Bitches Are Faithful

(In Ways Other Than Staying Faithful)

Faithful is more than just not cheating. It’s not considering leaving or straying when the going gets tough.

To suggest that we should consider the acceptability (or lack thereof) for divorce or cheating because a person gains weight implies a lot. One is that all people who rapidly gain weight are doing so because they are lazy shits that do nothing but watch TV. This is just not the case – there can be many, many health reasons (physical, medicinal, and mental) why people put on weight. Two is that if a person’s physical appearance changes in any way, that now we should talk about whether or not it’s OK to abandon ship. This would be to say that if a man gets ball cancer, and a woman thinks a man with only one ball is unattractive sexually, she would be justified in divorcing him. Big Booty Bitches would never consider this, though, because sexuality and physical appearance is about a microcosm of what makes up a marriage and a happy life together.

As was the case with the “…for better, or for worse…” there was also a vow “…in sickness, and in health…”

Big Booty Bitches Do Not Find Divorce or Infidelity an Option

(On Most Matters)

When I walked down the aisle, I didn’t think to myself “well, I can always get divorced.” When my husband started acting like a jerk to me because he wanted me to give up my Ph.D. program, and stay in California, I didn’t say to myself “I’ll just go fuck someone else.” That isn’t the way marriage works.

If every time something didn’t go our way, we ran out and screwed our milk man or filed for divorce, we’d have a high divorce rate in this country. Oh wait, we do. Is it because things genuinely don’t work out? Or is it because people consider divorce and infidelity an option from the get go? While there are many instances in which a couple truly tries and tries, or one person has issues that make trying an impossibility, and it doesn’t work; there are also so many people in this country right now who will abandon ship for any old reason. I know a lot of them.

For myself, I don’t believe that divorce is an option, nor infidelity. Maybe it’s the Catholic in me, that has some backwards religious views engrained into my soul. Or maybe it’s because I take a commitment seriously, and don’t just bail when the going gets tough.

I took my vows seriously, and the fact that our culture has become so superficial and material so as to even enter into this discussion about weight gain sickens me to my very core. It makes me want to spew vomit everywhere, and on everyone. Marriage and relationships are about so much more than sex and being perfect for each other. In fact, I always thought they were about the ability to be imperfect and still be loved. What a crazy world we live in where this no longer seems to be the case.

Three Signs He Isn’t Cheating On You

A lot of people think my husband cheats on me. They have for a long time. I can tell with some, by the looks they give me. You know them: the looks of pity that this poor woman is just so stupid she doesn’t see what’s really going on. Others outright tell me. Sometimes my mom and her husband refer to Poor Nick as “that lying’ cheatin’ S.O.B.” and still other friends and family are more eloquent about it than they.

To their credit, he does act like it. He comes home late all the time. He says he’ll be home at a certain time and shows up hours later. He can be kind of a jerk to me at times. By jerk, I mean he blows off my birthday, sides with strangers over me, tries to shame me for being a woman, and ignores the majority of our conversations. He says things like “excuse me, I have a life outside of here” in reference to our family. He withholds affection about 95% of the time. He lies. He spends a considerable amount of time deleting things from his cellphone. He picks fights over petty things. I could go on, but I’m not helping my point here.

Because then there are the signs that he isn’t cheating on me. There aren’t many, but I do know that as long as these status things are in place, all is well in the matter of our marital monogamy.

His feet still smell

IMAG1380My husband has always had the most rancid smelling feet on the planet. I remember when we first started dating. He had a shoe rack by the front door of their condo, and the scent was so overpowering I would always try and find excuses to go in through their garage whenever I went over there.

No amount of foot spray or foot powder or foot anything helps the smell, either. He uses a daily foot spray to avoid spreading his athlete’s foot issues to everyone else in the house, but it does nothing to contain the smell.

Have I told you faithful blog followers about this before? I’m sure I have. The problem with Poor Nick’s feet is his shoes. All of them are at least 10 years old, some of them disintegrate every time he wears them. He has these sandals that are so disgusting – and quite frankly cheap ($30); when he wears them, his feet sweat so badly that he comes home and there are black chunks of sandal stuck into the in-between of his toes. He asked for a new pair for Christmas, and I said “are you going to throw out the old ones then?” to which he said NO. So he got no sandals. On more than one occasion, I have been so horrified by the stench this whole sandal-sweat-disintegration debacle created that I’ve made him go wash his feet.

As long as Poor Nick’s feet still smell like a rotting animal carcass, covered in sweat and mildew, I know his heart is still with me.

He still eats like he’s packing it in for a long winter

One of the classic signs of someone cheating is they change their eating or exercise habits. It’s totally cool to eat more healthy or want to lose weight if you are in the red on either of those fronts. But if it’s sudden, unexpected, excessive, unwarranted, and secretive, you do have cause for concern (although concern over what is iffy – cheating, depressed, eating disorder, etc).

On one occasion, I did actually question what was going on when I saw Poor Nick download a weight loss app to his phone. Those of you that know him know that he is already underweight. The thought that he would want to lose weight horrified me; but then he followed it up by packing in two beers, a meal that had an entire day’s worth of calories in it, plus a dessert. Since then, I haven’t heard or seen anything about weight loss, so I’m resting easy that he isn’t cheating, depressed, or developing an eating disorder.

As long as my husband eats like he’s packing it in for a long winter, I know we’re good. And it isn’t just how much he eats, but what he eats. Red onions in copious amounts. Garlic by the baleful. Hot dogs smothered in relish. There isn’t another human being on this planet that would tolerate the way my husband smells after a rousing game of “let’s see how many hardboiled eggs I can eat.”

He continues to do entirely idiotic experiments with his various areas of hair

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Am I the only woman on the planet whose husband plays experimental game with his hair – head, as well as facial?

“I want to grow it long.” “I told her to just trim the top but let the back grow.””I decided to just buzz it all off.”

“I felt like the feel of a smooth face.” “I like this little patch of facial hair here!” “What’s wrong with hair growing down and around the back of my neck?” “Sideburns are in again.”

This is a weekly thing in our house. Poor Nick is constantly playing games with his hair, which is rife for embarrassing family photos and people thinking I’m in a relationship with a fifteen year old. When he shaves off all his facial hair, he looks like a teenager – really, he just looks so young. When he leaves some but not a full beard, he does this ridiculous gang-banger, cholo thing. Once I Googled it and found picture after picture of gay gang members – all sporting the same facial hair.

Here is how I know my husband isn’t cheating on me right now. In spite of some of the mean things he’s said recently. Besides the fact that he let another woman (the carpool lady) keep him at work two hours late, waiting for her to get off at her respective job, then yelled at me that I just didn’t understand the demands of her career. Spitting in the face of the two hour argument he picked over whether or not we should switch to only two DVDs on Netflix a month to save $3. I know my man is still my man because of his most recent bad haircut.

“I told her just to trim it up” turned into short on top, spiky on the sides, and long in the back. The back actually poofs out behind his ears to make what is perhaps the most amazing inadvertent mullet of all time.

At this point I’m kind of hoping my husband doesn’t read this blog. In more ways than one, I’ve taken him down much further than even Chinatown. But it’s all true, and it’s a good thing – I know he isn’t cheating on me! But if the intoxicating odor of his feet, or his diet and hair habits ever change I know I’m in trouble.

One day, it’s liable to happen though. Poor Nick will walk in the door and his hair will be clean-cut. He’ll say “I’m tired of playing games with my hair, and I’m not hungry tonight. I’m going to the gym. Alone.” Then when he gets home, I’ll notice all new shoes and a surprisingly fresh scent wafting up from his feet. That’s when I’m screwed.

Do you have signs that your significant other is remaining faithful? I bet they’re not nearly as … unique.

Forget About Family

Here is what I hate the most about the holidays.  It isn’t the blatant lack of cultural knowledge of what the holidays actually represent.  It isn’t the materialism that bleeds out of every nook and cranny.  It isn’t the consumerism, the over-indulgence, or even the misguided judgments that what ‘I’ do for the holidays is what everyone should do.

It’s family.

The day after Thanksgiving, I saw some articles from the Baltimore Sun featured on Google News.  They were opinion pieces about how earlier shopping options for Black Friday deals were breaking away at family values – that people deciding to go to stores late Thanksgiving day was the wrong thing to do because it cut into family time.  It also stated that Thanksgiving’s meaning is to embrace family – a statement so unambiguously false I shot out of my chair and began pacing around the room as I deciphered just what I would respond with.  The article accepted comments that were clean, relevant, and within a certain word count – all guidelines I abided by to the strictest sense.

And yet, my comment was never approved by the opinion editor of the Baltimore Sun.  So much for freedom of speech.

If you look at the great thinkers in the history of the world, you see that centuries of guidance on avoiding family have been put forth as obscurely as in the old Ben Franklin quote about in-laws “keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards;” and as blatantly as when George Burns said “happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”  Jesus even said that people are to “leave behind your families, your mothers and your fathers” to go out and do what is right in the world.  How, then, has family – and dysfunctional family at that – completely taken over our entire lives, then – and to such a degree that we will let it cloud our judgment on things (like free speech) that are entirely unrelated to family at all?

I have a few thoughts on how.

To begin, I do not believe that the people who obsess and focus their lives solely on family are very intelligent.  This explains why no one has taken heed of the century’s worth of advice from the great thinkers.  Take a look at the people that argue in favor of the family values campaigns; or even of the average conversation at your typically banal family gathering.  Some of them cannot even communicate using the English language very well any more; in fact, in one of the opinion letters, the person did not even take the time to check their typos and misspellings.  I don’t know if I have ever had an intelligent conversation at a family event.  At both my and my husband’s family events, everyone is either talking about gossip or Dancing With the Stars.  There is no discussion of literature, great film, the aesthetic arts, politics, or society.

If the mundane conversation about what everyone’s been up to at work, and the consistency of each other’s bowel movements and hemorrhoid troubles  (a popular topic at our family dinners) is what truly makes these people happy – by all means, continue on.  But it is evidence to the decreased awareness so many people have about the greater picture of life and the world.  It might also explain why less than 25% of Americans know the actual history and meanings behind the holidays they hold so dear.

Further, I strongly feel that a variety of societal factors have played a part in creating the problem of enmeshed families, which is on the verge of being a psychological epidemic.  I’ve talked about enmeshed family theory before.  It’s the socio-psychological theory that a family becomes so over involved in each other’s lives that massive levels of stress and dysfunction arise, as well as the younger members of the family growing to be socially awkward and ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities an adult must be able to deal with.  I’ve been in a few relationships where the significant other’s family is one of these enmeshed ones – everyone is so up in each other’s business at all times it’s a wonder any of them know the concept of “personal life.”  What arises from such a situation, though, is just more dysfunction.  Gossip, hurt feelings, miscommunication, and – most importantly – expectations on each other that are beyond what any reasonable person can expect.  I think this is where someone would think it is hurting the value of family to have stores open a few hours into Thanksgiving day, such as in the case of the Baltimore Sun articles I mentioned above. And this is also why so many people now see the holidays as exclusively family time.

I say forget about family.

That doesn’t mean to completely isolate yourself from family altogether; but it means to be yourself, do what you want, and don’t allow yourself to feel obligated, manipulated, or bullied into complying with a set of family values you may not agree with completely.  And to those that feel like family is the only thing important in the world, open your mind just a smidgeon and remember that in a post-modern society, everyone gets to determine for themselves what is right and wrong.  That means that your family values are not absolute truth for everyone.

Oh…and boycott the Baltimore Sun.  Censoring a clean and legitimate opinion is not what I’d call “journalism.”  How often in history do we see that the things being silenced end up being the truest?

Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.