The Best Way To Support Your Adult Kids That Are Parents, Is To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Over the years, I have learned one thing that I hope I remember when I am older and my kids are older and have kids of their own: to keep my mouth shut. Don’t foist my opinion on them about how or what they are doing as a parent. Don’t make comments under my breath in regards to their mom’ing or dad’ing decisions.

Just. Keep. It. Shut.

Even if I don’t agree with something they are doing, or feel it’s hurt me or attacked my own decisions when I was a parent…the reason why is because their choices as parents are theirs to reap and sow. And as a mother-turned-grandmother (God, I shudder at the thought) I am not on the inside of all the aspects of parenting THEIR kids during THEIR time (times change, Mom).

Now it’s one thing if they come to me and ask for an opinion or advice. But if they don’t, unsolicited advice or comments or, as they most often come across, criticisms, should be considered better left unsaid.

My father, who lives with us, is the worst with the under-the-breath comments. I am constantly having to tell him to stop, which he doesn’t. It’s insensitive and hurtful, but never a direct confrontation. So I’ll give him that.

It usually goes something like this:

Me: “Ava, today your chores say put away the dishes.”

Ava: [whines]

Dad: “I’ll help you baby…I’ll be right there, you just put away the silverware.”

Me: “Dad please don’t help her, you’re just making it more difficult for me to get her to do her chores.”

Dad: “I’ll help her if I want.”

Me: “Dad, please let me be the mother.”

Dad: [Slams something down on the counter and starts walking away] “Yeah, a real great mother.”

It’s pleasant.

The thing about *my* dad, though, is that I have enough years and not-give-a-shit enough with him to be able to just let that roll off my back. I mean it stings at first, and I’m sure a psychiatrist is somewhere out there just rubbing his hands together, waiting for me to crack and spend years in his office at $300 a pop, but for now we’ll stick with…I get over it.

But this highlights an issue I’ve noticed more in public, among other parent-friends, and with my husband’s family, to a greater degree than with my dad:

Sometimes, the biggest Mom Shamers (or, if you will, Parent Shamers) are our parents.

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Many of you read my social media shit show saga just yesterday. If you missed it, you surely missed out. In any event, as a follow up my husband called his mother yesterday morning, much to his dismay because she had no interest in 1) letting him talk 2) actually listening to what he had to say 3) doing anything other than screaming over and over again that she is a victim and 4)…

To. Shame. Us. As. Parents.

The backstory is as follows: a couple weeks ago, we secured a new home. A better home. A bigger home. A home with a yard.

We had previously been living in and caring for a family-owned condo, and we knew that there was a high probability that said family would be upset we were moving out. Not only because they wouldn’t have us taking care of the lemon of a place anymore, but because then they’d have to find someone else to get in there to pay the mortgage. Now we could have been wrong, but there’s always that risk with them…so we had to play it safe for our own mental health and decision-making ability.

We wanted to be able to make our decision about the new home without the the opinions of others. Yes, sometimes asking for advice is the best thing to do; but on this one, we wanted to do it ourselves. It’s hard to make the right choices for your family enough as is without the opinions of every Tom, Dick, and Susie squawking in your ear like pigeons.

So we didn’t say anything at first to them, until we had made our own choices.

What complicated the issue was that someone saw online that we had been looking at places, and my husband’s mom heard about it (because what kind of a family doesn’t gossip and talk shit about every. fucking. thing they come across?) and she flat out asked us if we were moving out of state. This is a sensitive issue for her because her other son, my husband’s brother, along with his wife and toddler just moved … out of state.

“No of course we aren’t moving out of state” was our resounding response. Because we weren’t. My husband works in film, that’s actually a stupid question to begin with. Unless he were to move on to work at Girls Gone Wild in New Orleans (um, he actually did apply there years back – they pay well I guess)…we are LA area for life. It’s just the way it is.

But we didn’t continue the conversation beyond that. We changed the subject, because we weren’t ready to talk about it. We hadn’t made our final-final decision on anything yet. And, honestly, the way she responds to any kind of change in other people’s lives is not usually the most positive.

Even just us making a decision for ourselves like “I’m having surgery that day, would you mind giving me one day to recover before coming to visit” turns into a hurtful barrage of comments and attitude, and …opinions and shaming.

As a side note: the kids were there when this whole moving-out-of-state-freak-out happened, and we had talked to them and told them we didn’t want them to lie to Grandma, but it’s really important that they let Dad talk to Grandpa about it privately once we’ve made our decision for sure. Because of the sensitivity of it.

You see, I believe that it’s really important to, yes, teach my kids honesty; but at the same time to teach them that there is a time and a place for everything. And, more importantly, that it’s important to set their own boundaries on what they do and do not share with people; and even more importantly than that to set boundaries on the influence others have on their own happiness.

THOSE are the life lessons that I think are important, especially in light of our daughter already being worried that Grandma and Grandpa would be mad we were moving out of the family-owned home. She didn’t want to move into the new house at first because of that. To me, as a parent, I have failed if my kids believe they should make their life’s decisions based on other people’s bullshit.

Flash forward to yesterday, my husband had this conversation with his mom about the social media shit show, and her main focus was to actually talk about how that conversation about not moving out of state (just being clear: we aren’t, we are moving 2 miles down the road) was an example of how she doesn’t agree with our parenting. She doesn’t think we should be teaching the kids to lie to her and keep secrets. That she should be able to extract whatever information she wants from them, and that by teaching them to have boundaries on how much they share and how much they let others have say in their lives and happiness is bad parenting. Bad parents raising liars and sneaky, sly people that do things behind people’s backs.

What was my initial reaction? To feel shame.

But then I felt the opposite of shame: pride. I felt pride because in her negative reaction, I realized that our decision in this with the kids was actually the right one. That she validated our decisions as parents with her behavior; and more importantly that we actually sometimes make good choices for our kids. I’m not teaching them to be liars. In fact, we are very emphatic with our kids about honesty. Rather, we are teaching them about healthy boundaries – something so few people have, and everyone needs.

Now before all of you are like “oh damn, I can’t believe she’s putting all this on blast on the Internet,” I just have to say: very few people in my husband’s life – from the beginning of it to the end – give a shit enough about me and what I have to say to read my blog. Let’s say none of them do. And, remember from yesterday, I lost (deleted and blocked) 31 friends on social media.

But really… I shouldn’t have to hide what’s right. If you don’t like people finding out about your bullshit, you should probably not pull the bullshit.

And, I’m a writer. The old adage is you shouldn’t ever say or do anything around a writer that you don’t want out in the open. I’m fairly certain that the only reason my husband actually loves me is because I call out all the shit he is too afraid to call out.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about what is going on in your life that is categorically, without a doubt wrong. It ain’t up for debate. What kind of people have we become that feel we have to hide everything about our lives and not speak up about what is right and wrong?

People that are ashamed, that’s what kind of people.

In the end: isn’t that where this whole parent shaming thing got going anyway? We aren’t only just shamed for doing whatever we do, we’re shamed for talking about it too. We’re shamed for talking about our decisions, we’re shamed for talking about how we came to our ideas as parents, and we’re shamed for feeling ashamed.

Lord help us.

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I Am – At My Core – A Sanctimommy.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.

I’ve said many versions of that over the course of the years writing on this blog. And in life, in general. It’s probably one of the only cliches I can really get on board with. I’m just not a big fan of them – at least as far as talking in cliche goes.

(My most hated cliched phrase is “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Fuck you. My grass is dead, like my heart. Ain’t nobody want my cold, dead grass.)

But then there’s the becoming a cliche thing, which I have done through my adult life over and over and over again. It’s just how I live – one standard, societally-dictated role after another. You name it, I have probably – at some time until I’ve hated myself enough to stop – fulfilled it.

The biggest one, the one that persists in spite of the self-loathing it creates within me, is probably the worst. I am – at my core – a sanctimommy.

If you don’t know what a sanctimommy is, in short it’s: a woman who becomes a mother and then suddenly has an opinion that she believes to be absolute fact on what is right and wrong for children. All children. Every child in the world, regardless of their situation. Regardless of whether those children are hers or not, her positions are the universal imperative. The Kantian maxim of absolute moral right.

It’s almost as cliche as meeting your husband at the door when he gets home from work every night with a smoking pipe and a martini. (For me, I’m lucky my husband works nights, or I’d probably have fallen to that one too.)

So I fell to the cliche of the sanctimommy pretty quickly after becoming a mother, and my list of sanctimonious views on mothering and raising children has continued to stack up over the years. And they just get worse. I have an opinion for just about everything, and believe those opinions to be the absolute right in my world of black-and-white, never gray, rights and wrongs.

It’s just the way things are, and I am.

12729097_1126111397433349_2977683069917066235_nThat doesn’t mean I share these sanctimonious views with everyone. I don’t take it the step so many do to judge others, and foist those judgments upon them. I’m rapidly becoming an Internet troll, making comments on news articles just to test out jokes or ideas for my blog (like my most recent: a comment on Starbucks when I don’t actually drink coffee…). But when it comes to parenting, I keep the tippy-typing in the comments to a minimum.

Were I to wield my sanctimommmy views upon the world: on the Internet, in my Facebook, at family gatherings and the kids’ weekly sports shit…it would be a wasteland. A wasteland of my universal maxims and everyone else hating me. A wasteland where I have zero Facebook friends left, and my invitations conveniently “get lost in the mail.”

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In fact, only recently I shared one of my particularly new sanctimonious views on being a parent in the form of a joke meme. In it, I basically said that people with only one child have no idea – NO CLUE – what tired is. Because I have two. And I’m fucking tired – no doubt way more tired than if I only had one. You might say double tired. Well all the backlash came within minutes of me sharing what I thought was a hilarious meme I, myself, crafted, and suddenly every parent of one child thought I was some asshole who had not a single fucking clue what I was talking about.

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Usually, and especially now, I’m so scared of the reactions I might get, that I typically only share my views on parenting with my husband. I’m not even sure if he agrees in earnest with me on most of this shit, some of it totally inconsequential to our current lives as parents. And often I wonder how he even tolerates someone as judgmental and sanctimonious as I.

But he does, and then there’s that whole thing where it seems like a lot of people in our lives hate me anyway. Like I said a few blog posts ago: I’m not everyone’s cup-o-tea. For every sanctimommy view I keep to myself, there’s at least three on other issues that I won’t shut the fuck up about. Many an invitation has been “lost in the mail” over the years.

So…why not just go full sanctimommy? Take the leap from holding my beliefs in my mind to outwardly and verbally judging others?

Why not tell people that I think at least one parent being at home with the kids at the very least part time until said kids graduate high school is what’s right? And that through sacrifices I have made, I know that oftentimes people claiming that they have to work is more a statement about their priorities in liking vacations and expensive things than what has been scientifically and statistically proven to be what is best for kids. (Note: I said oftentimes, and I am completely aware that in many families both parents need to work even multiple jobs each to meet the bills; though this does not change the fact that it would be categorically and factually beneficial for their kids if one of them were home at least some of the time.)

Or I could admit that for a brief period of time I seriously considered keeping pacifiers in my purse to slip into the mouths of infant family members whose parents – I can only assume on principle or the belief that they know better than trained medical professionals – had ignored the warnings of doctors that pacifier use decreases SIDS risk by 95%. That I believe people who put shoes on their children before their children can walk outside look at their children as a fashion accessory. And that people who pierce the ears of an infant – except in the case of Hispanic families, who have a cultural reason – are teaching their kids from the earliest age possible that their body is not something with which they have complete control over.

(I came close to outward sanctimommy recently on the piercing the ears of infants issue at a family dinner when I let a joke slip that I was going to buy my husband’s goddaughter big hoop earrings for her first birthday. When someone told me that was crazy, I said ‘almost as crazy as piercing an infant’s ears.’ But I knew then to shut my mouth and move on lest my true sanctimommy be released.)

There’s so much more I don’t share. About school work (kids should have a lot). About playtime (kids should have even more of that than school work). Like parents who line their kids up in so many extra-curricular activities that they have no time to be kids (that this is one of the worst things a parent could do).

My list goes on and on and on. I’ve already shared too much, and anticipate a backlash.

My point, though, is that I withhold from sharing most of it because it’s not my place to. I may think someone is doing something wrong by their children, but unless it’s actually endangering the life of the child – like legit endangering the life, for example when people choose not to vaccinate their children because they are insane and have no grasp of reality – then who am I to tell others how to live? You want to teach your kids particular lessons and values, by all means – do it. In the end, you will be the one to answer for that.

Just as I will be the one to answer for the lessons and values I have taught mine. And in that vein, no one has a right to share their own sanctimonious views with me on the way I raise my kids.

In the end, I think we are all sanctimommies. In our core of cores, it’s a mandate when you have kids. Otherwise, your kids flounder around, living life according to what a whole gaggle of people believe, and then you have taught your children something very damaging – perhaps the most damaging – that making decisions for yourself is not the way to live. That the opinions of others bear more weight than your own beliefs and feelings.

I would much rather feel like shit about myself for having so many judgmental views in my head, than raise my children to believe that they can’t make decisions of their own accord. If there is anything I’ll be sanctimonious and loud about, it’s that.

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(3 Things You Can’t Say To Me, 1 Thing You Can) On the Topic Of Homeschooling

Summer is upon us, which means everyone with an asshole and an opinion wants to tell me what I should be doing with my family come next fall.

My 11 year old is – technically – a to-be-6th grader; although, to define her as such in homeschooling terms seems very unfair. We don’t take breaks for summer (or Christmas or Easter or even weekends for that matter), because we take a much more well-rounded and un-schooled approach to things.

If I were to actually qualify her, I’d say that my 6th-grade-11-year-old is continuing on about halfway through 6th grade math, beginning 8th grade science, testing out high school level reading and language arts, and continuing on into a whole gamut of subjects that aren’t even covered in public K-12. Like metaphysics, Latin, ethics, art history, and growing up to not be a dick.

But I don’t actually do that. I never say things like “you are a 6th grader” or “are you ready for 6th grade??!” People often regret asking me what grade she’s in, because my response is typically “it’s a little complicated” and people don’t want complicated. They want something simple and they want a label for it, which is probably part of why they want us to stop homeschooling.

What’s important is that at her age, she should be starting 6th grade. In California, that’s when middle school begins. This means that everybody is all up in my business. Now is the time to get her back into “regular” school – what a great transitioning point!

(If I hear the words “this would be a good transitioning point” just one more time, I may completely lose it.)

Ignoring for just a moment that a public school system where kids sit on the floor because they have no desks, bully each other to the point of suicide, and are lucky if the teacher even knows their name by the end of the year – ignoring for just a moment that all of these are actually considered “regular,” I usually indulge them with a smile and vaguely say “all things to consider.” Then I move on with my day and forget about the conversation altogether.

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And yet, I’m tired of slapping a smile on my face and listening to people’s opinions. People I barely know; people close to me. People I talk to once a year; people I talk to every day – everyone else seems to think they know better than I do when it comes to what is best for my family. Maybe it’s that this year I’ve heard a lot more of them, because of this whole middle school thing. Or maybe it’s that as time goes on, more and more people around me believe it’s socially acceptable for them to foist their unsolicited opinions in my direction.

Whatever the case may be, I’m tired of it and am resolving to no longer stand by and smile and nod and respond “all things to consider.” Because while I don’t think that’s the sole reason for all the unsolicited advice, I do believe that is perpetrating the problem.

This makes me partially to blame, and you all know how much I don’t like being at fault.

So here are 3 things you can’t say to me and 1 thing you can, on the topic of homeschooling. Nosy nellies, be warned.

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You Can’t Say You Think Our Family Needs More Socialization

I’m not sure it would be physically possible to have any more positive social interaction than this family already has. While going to a “regular” or public school would, in fact, provide more in-person time with others, that isn’t to say it would necessarily be positive or even true.

When kids go to school, they don’t spend all their time sitting there gabbing and working together. In fact, as project-based learning has decreased in the public school system, individual learning and silent testing time has taken over. The time kids have with each other as actual, social interaction is typically confined to recess and lunch. Arguably, I make up for the lack of that ten-fold in other ways.

And then there’s the whole issue of bullying.

Usually when I tell people that homeschooling affords us more positive social interactions – through extra curriculars, homeschool groups, sports, friends, and family – they retort with some idiotic response like “but they have to learn to deal with bullies eventually.” As if extra curriculars, homeschool groups, sports, friends, and family don’t have their own fair share of bullies.

The difference between homeschool and “regular” school, though, is in the ability to deal with those bullies in a more healthy, controlled, and effective way.

You Can’t Say My 11 Year Old Needs Other Girls To Go Through Puberty With

Someone actually said that to me.

When I asked for a little clarification – not that I cared, only that I was dumbfounded – she told me that there was no way I could understand what my daughter is going through in this pre-pubescent time of her life. Moreover, she could go through it all with others if she were in regular, non-homeschool school.

I may not remember every, single, literal, detail of my puberty – when I started shaving my pits and what brand maxi pads I used for the first time; but I certainly understand what is going on. And what I know more than anything is that the most terrifying thing about puberty as a little girl is that everyone goes through it at a different rate, some even at entirely different age brackets. There is really no such thing as everyone going through it together as friends. And even if there was, I see this as having absolutely nothing to do with our educational choices.

You Can’t Say I’m Going Too Far Ahead

Remember how I said that we have a much more well-rounded, less restrictive, way of doing things? The result of this has always been that we’re well beyond the expectations of any given grade we’ve homeschooled through.

I cannot even tell you how many people have said I’m going too far ahead. People that have actually said to me in all seriousness that “there is such a thing as learning too much.”

You just can’t say that. It’s so wrong on so many levels – morally, philosophically, logically – you just. CAN’T. There is no such thing as learning too much – there never has been, there never will be.

That leaves only one thing. That 1 thing you actually can say to me on the topic of homeschooling. It’ll probably come as a shock to many of you, especially those that have been nosing up in my business and telling me why you think we should stop this little experiment already.

The 1 Thing You Can Say Is That WE ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.

The only people I have ever – in all these years of homeschooling – heard say to me that we’re doing a good job with this crazy, alternative lifestyle of ours is … you’ve got it … complete strangers.

A stranger sees us studying in the morning on a weekday at our local coffee shop…stops at the table to say we’re doing a good job.

A stranger hears us talking in a museum in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday…stops us in the exhibit to say we’re doing a good job.

A stranger is on a walk and passes us on one of our weekly scavenger hunts…says as we cross paths that we’re doing a good job.

These are the people that have said that we are doing a good job. Not the people around me – the friends and the family who think it’s their missions in life to convert us to the regularity of compulsory day school.

Support. It’s simple. It’s positive. And if you learned anything yourself in whatever education you’ve had, you know it’s the smartest thing anyone can do.

Well, that and minding your own business.

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I Think I’m Becoming One Of Those Annoying Sports Parents

Seriously. I will not shut the fuck up about tennis (our chosen sport). That is the principal clue that I’m becoming one of those annoying sports parents.

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Tonight I was posting a photo to my Instagram page. After I checked in at the tennis courts on Facebook, of course. After the photo uploaded I looked at my most recent photos. Tennis. Homeschooling. Weekend. Food. Tennis. Tennis. Tennis. Dog. Dog. Tennis. Tennis. Tennis. Breakfast before tennis. Dog. Tennis. Husband’s birthday. Book I’m reading. Tennis. Tennis.

I’m so annoying. If I were one of my Instagram followers, I’d be saying out loud: “alright, we get it already …you guys are into tennis – gah!”

Or my Facebook friends. My poor, innocent Facebook friends that are probably all asking themselves daily if we really should be connected.

Because honestly. Who would want to call an annoying sports parent like me their “friend?” Not me, that’s for damn sure.

My posts have been rapidly derailing into nothing but updates about tennis. I’m like one of those new parents that won’t shut the fuck up about their baby belly, their pending birth, the dilation of their cervix, and the subsequent 16 million photos of their baby all making the same, typical baby faces.

Only about tennis. Tennis is my new baby.

There’s the basic update that no one really gives a shit about.

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Then there was that time I tried to express frustration, which people also didn’t (and shouldn’t) give a fuck about.

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Occasionally I try to fit in that we are out for tennis by talking about something else, as if that’s going to trick people into believing that I’m posting anything other than TENNIS TENNIS TENNIS OMG OMG TENNIS TENNIS!!!!

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The growing sense of arrogant entitlement.

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Posts that will one day be proof that I’ve become a truly annoying, and borderline intolerable, sports parent.

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And, the occasional moment of acceptance and defeat.

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I’m sure if we are Facebook friends, you unfollowed me a long time ago. I myself feel like punching myself in the crotch just reading over all of these.

The thing is that I’m not *really* the one doing the tennis playing. I mean I’m facilitating the practicing. Serving the balls, paying the bills, loading the ball machine, shouting the occasional annoying-sports-parent slogan (my favorite is: “let’s move it – tennis is a sport of movement, not lounging around!!!!”).

But I’m not the one taking the lessons or playing the games. I won’t be the one playing the tournaments, and I won’t be the one to either win them or lose them.

I’m just the mom who is obsessed. And annoying. And overly supportive. Did I mention annoying? To some, I may be lumped in with the sports parents that live vicariously through their kids. They never did anything worth a damn with their lives (which most of them will admit to), so they have kids and live vicariously through their kids’ achievements. But to get to those achievements, especially because a lot of times the kids don’t even want to do whatever it is the parents have them do; they have to push. And push. And push. And push their kids in ways that are entirely unreasonable to keep it going.

I’m not one of them. There are a lot of them out there, but – honestly – anytime anyone in my house says “this has gone too far,” or “enough is enough,” I’m perfectly prepared to retire the tennis gear forever.

There are more clues out there, though. That I’m not one of those trophy parents, but still among the annoying variety.

A while ago, I decided I would build tennis into our daily routine. Not just the practicing, but the living and breathing of it. I mean everyone in our house wanted to do it that way, so I figured – hell, why not? Why not add 30 minutes watching tennis channel to part of the breaks we take during the day of homeschooling? At least then three hours of sitting on our asses watching match after match don’t go by without realizing it. Why not add yoga for better balance in tennis to the morning routine of get up-wash-your-face-brush-your-teeth-eat-your-oatmeal nonsense?

And then there’s the whole bit about never shutting the fuck up about it.

Yesterday we went to my sister in law’s baby shower. It, in and of itself, was the most intolerable activity of my year; so I figured I would match that intolerableness by being intolerable myself. By networking my way around the room, between family and my mother in law’s friends; people I had never met before, and just innocent neighbors that had noticed a party going on and wandered in (no really…three people there were of that variety, and I envy them for such gusto). All the while, when people asked “what do you do?” or “how are things going,” the conversation turned to our preoccupation with sports. Tennis. Fucking tennis mom won’t shut the fuck about tennis.

I annoy even myself.

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But what I will say in my own defense, and the defense of all the other annoying, obsessive, irritatingly one-track-minded sports parents out there is this: sports provide a lot of fucking structure that kids need.

After we got more serious as a family about tennis as a big part of our every day lives, everything else seemed to fall more into place. School work got done more efficiently (so we could get out to the courts). And done right, the first time – more often. Bedtime is easier (everyone’s burned off all their energy). Vegetables and fruits are eaten with less complaints, because quite frankly even my husband is burning so many more calories now, anything will do at dinnertime.

So I get it. I get why the sports parents revolve their entire lives around soccer or hockey or basketball or tennis or whateverthefuck sport their kid(s) play.

It doesn’t make it any less annoying, though. Make me less annoying, I mean. At least I can admit it and try to do better.

But let’s all face it: tomorrow morning when we go to coaching, I’ll check in on Facebook and post my photos and talk on the phone about it. And be the most annoying bitch on the courts.

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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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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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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.