Yes, Principal. I do swear in front of my kid. What’s it to you?

Child made these, or most of them.

How is it possible that some time in the very near past, my unbelievably cool child couldn’t even write her own name?

At the present moment, she is so competent that she corrects my pronunciation.  I remember doing this to my mother.  I remember being six, and getting the stick that my mom was some kind of numbskull.

This is not true, of course, but being six and obnoxious, I believed it.

But my mom never told me that she was smarter than I was.  In order to boost my self confidence, she would feign ignorance.  I think she still blames herself for the fact that I thought she was stupid.

I would’ve gotten there anyway, just probably not as young.  I figure, bonus for my mom having a few years to get used to it before things got real bad during the teenage years.

I do tell Child I am smarter than she is.

I also do not censor my language around her too much.  I’ve waffled on this point, but here’s my reasoning.

My own potty mouth (which is considerable, though usually mixed with some money vocab) is a product of my extremely conservative, Christian upbringing, and the fact that while I lean hard on being a pretentious wanker, I have always abhorred open pretension and making people feel stupid just because they haven’t read as many books as I have.

Some sheltered, indoctrinated kids discover booze and sex and go nuts?  Nothing like the nuts I went, and continue to go, on the profane tongue.

I am amused and edified by few things as much as I am by a stream of–especially creatively strewn–four-letter words.  Yes.  I do mean edified.

And using the cussy vernacular gives my social tendrils greater reach.  I am not perceived as a goody-two-shoes, nor as someone who can’t identify with uneducated people.  And, this is the best part: people who are and would be offended by my speech can stay away.

No Words are Bad Words

So my current rationale for swearing in font of Child is that no words are bad, and thinking of words as bad or profane is kind of unhelpful.  The idea that a radio personality can’t say “f*ck” on air is nuts.  What is this? 1500?

Might as f*cking well be.

I mean, I can’t even spell out the f-word on my blog for fear of getting found by a bunch of prawn connoisseurs.  Yes.  I do mean prawn.

Anyhoo, so I’m thinking that m’child will not be so amused as I am by the swear words because she will have grown up hearing them.  Hell, she might even intentionally NOT swear just to be different from me.  Wouldn’t that be a rub.

As it stands, I do not hear my child cuss often.  Usually, if I say, “Oh sh*t.” to myself, she’ll say, “Oh sh*t what, mommy?”

But she hangs out with her Christian grandparents sometimes, and has returned from their house on a number of occasions with the news that “God doesn’t like it when you say, ‘Jesus Christ.’  It hurts his feelings.”

Child was, for a time, saying, “Jesus Christ, Mommy!”

I was, of course, amused by this especially.

But since Grandma’s kibosh, Child doesn’t say that.

What’ll You Do When You Get The Call?

Fella shakes his head at me sort of regularly and says, “You’re going to get a call from the principal.”

Last time he said, “I’ll back you up.  I mean, in theory I agree.”

Answer is, I don’t know.

I’m a total wuss about confrontation.  Though I tend to be less so where Child is concerned.  Last year, at least one time, I marched into the Principal’s office and said, “What’s up with X?”

Probably, I’ll tell Child she has to accept whatever punishment she gets at school, because sometimes the world is different than our ideals, but that she’s not in trouble at home.

And it’s not as if she thinks it’s always all right for kids to swear.  She’s been informed of the differing viewpoints.

Whenever she says something a little off color, Fella or I remind her that it’s okay with us, but that she shouldn’t say those words at school.

Kids these days

The other day, when I picked up Child, her very intense little friend who likes to talk to me ran up to me and began to squeal, “I got him!  I got the boy!”

Later discussion with Child revealed that she and the other girl have a crush on the same older boy, and they don’t know his name.  Child said that she likes his hair and shoes.

“Have you ever talked to him?”

“No.”

“Has your friend?”

“No.”

Honestly, I was sort of appalled by the inherent competitiveness and gloating absurdity of the other child.  My child seemed embarrassed about the whole thing, which was heartening.

Then the other day, we heard one of our neighborhood children shouting, “It’s Aspergers, Bitch!”

I also recently heard some sad stories about kids with drug dealer parents and the mounds of sh*t those children see, have seen, and wade through daily.

Clearly, some children have real problems.

Anybody care to weigh in with their own experience or ideas on the topic?

How do you talk to a six-year-old about grownup stuff? Like So:

My Sugar Bugger.

I know, I know, I promised you I’d write about the YMCA, physical fitness, all of that.  I’ve been making notes on the YMCA post for months.  But it’ll wait.  Because I’ve gotta get this one out.  It’s the kind you like, it’s emotional.  And the Y’s in it.  Sort of.  We had occasion for this conversation because of the Y.

People who know and love us might cry.  I didn’t, but I’ve had six years to deal with the inevitability of this conversation, and I must tell you that it went tons better than I was expecting it to go.

If you’re new to the story or this blog, you can read some of my thoughts about parenthood, some other thoughts about parenthoodChild’s present fake father situation, and the Child: Origins in (lightly) fictionalized form.

So last night, on the way home from the Y, Child was talking about her little friend whose house we passed’s father and mom’s boyfriend.

She got this sad look on her face, and she said, “I wish I had a father.”

I am so accustomed to being able to dodge this conversation that I said, “You do!”

She said, “No.  Fella’s my fake dad.  I mean a real dad.”

“You do have a real dad, Child, but Fella’s way more your dad than he is.”

“Really?!” She was legitimately surprised.  There are some real pleasures in observing childhood, of getting to re-live that naivete, that utter faith that nobody around you is trying to mess with you, be dishonest, or dick you over.  Life pre-awareness-of-sex.

“Yeah, really.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a guy I knew in college for a while.”

“Were you married?”

“No.  We were just friends.”

“Then how’d you get me?”

“Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes friends get babies together on accident.”  (I was not in a financial position to be on whore pills, but we were using lots of birth control)

“I want him to be my dad.”

“Why?”

“Because Fella yells at me all the time.”

“Your biological dad would yell at you all the time, too.  It’s what parents do.”

“I want to meet him.  Can you call him?”

“I don’t have his phone number, Child. I don’t know if you’ll ever get to meet him.”

“Why not?!”

“Because, Child.  He chose not to meet you.  He said he wasn’t ready for you yet.”

“When will he be ready for me?”

“I don’t know, Sugar bugger.  And anyway, what’s so wrong with Fella?  Doesn’t he play with you?”

“Yes.”

“And hug you?”

“Yes.”

“And buy you stuff?”

“Yes.  But can I tell him?  About my real dad?”

“Sure you can.  He already knows.”

So that’s the way it went.

The bit that surprised me was the, “I want to meet him.” She said it with such certitude and finality.

I’ve heard tell that kids who are adopted or who only know one of their birth parents have some kind of psychic off-kilterness. An adopted friend who had two kids of her own and was married happily looked up her birth mother.  She said it was compulsive.

It’s a real thing, the biological magnetism.

And personally?  I’m totally torn.  I’ve always said that when Child wants to meet her father, I’m absolutely going to help her with that.  But I was expecting it to be at least seven years from now.

I know her biological grandparents would dearly like to be in her life, but out of respect for their son’s arrangement with me, they have not.

And my kid is awesome (of course I think so).  She’s sassy and resilient and really good at not taking things personally.  But she’s six.  I mean, is it fair to say, “Ok, we’re going to meet your father, but we’re not going to live with him, and he’s still not going to be in your life.”?

She’s still hopeful and naive and happy about the world.  I don’t want to invite disillusionment.

Because I’ve also said that if he ever craves involvement, I’ll need him to put his money where his mouth is and pony up with some back child support and some kind of legal accountability before I put my sweet girl in emotional harm’s way.

But again, I was expecting that to happen you know, really any time before she’s officially a grown up.  Or even a teenager.

And here’s the thing.  I have great faith that if child’s bio dad wanted to, he’d be a terrific father.  But he has not had the advantage of six years during which his life is literally upside down, and he doesn’t matter much, and people make ridiculous assumptions about him and his character based on his having a kid on his own.

And even if he had, it’s totally different for men.  Men who are single dads are total heroes. They’re like the Don Juans of the playground benches.  Sisters and moms and strangers bring them casseroles and come pick up their laundry to do.  Women who are single moms?  We’re whores. And if we accept welfare, we’re whores who deserve to be poor, and who are trying to trick Uncle Sam into paying for our Lexuses.  (I would like to posit for the record that the brief times during which I have accepted financial assistance from the state, I would have never been able to afford a Lexus, or even a 1997 Ford Aspire. True story.)

Therefore, I imagine Child’s bio dad to be very similar to the way he was when I knew him, that is to say he is still probably not especially responsible.  And probably still doesn’t like himself terribly well.  And probably still drinks too much.

So even IF I could, with a clear conscience, say, “Okay, Child!  Let’s go!  We’ll find your father this summer!” What kind of can of worms would I be opening?  What are the statistical odds that her life would be better after that?  That it would be worse?

My basis for asking Child’s father to make the same choice that I had to make (100% or 0%) was extremely unscientific, but was that the most rogered up people I’ve ever known are the ones who’ve had here-and-gone-again fathers or mothers.  Who’ve had a consistent stream of rejection in their young lives.  (Also, it seemed unfair to me for him to have to be cool with whatever choice I was making, but that’s a post for another day).

So what are we going to do?  I dunno.  But I’ll keep you posted.

I welcome your input and feedback, but if you’re going to be hateful toward me or toward Child’s bio dad, I thank you in advance for keeping your comments to yourself.

Pageant Fad: Ugly Mom Contestants

Really.  I’m not kidding.

And these were not MILFs.

Here’s a profile:

She was the best-looking of all the 30-and-up contestants.  I don’t have a shot of her face, but maybe my co-spy does. Stay Tuned.  Here’s what the EmCee said:  “Nancy is 39 years old with brown hair and blue eyes.  Three words that best describe her are courteous, outgoing, and helpful.  Her future ambition is to pass her LPN test.  The person she most admires is her best friend, Molly.  Thank you contestant 35.”

The boy behind her in the red suit is her son, also a pageant contestant.

While Contestant #35 struts, the father/grandfather of another of the mommy contestants (She is 21 and has two children, both are also pageant contestants) is allowing his 3-year-old granddaughter-beauty-queen to maul his ear.  He is clearly enjoying it a bit more than he knows he should.  This is evident in his grimace of shame/joyand his repeated requests for the little girl to stop it, even though he does not use his considerably greater power to remove her from his ear.

Pettiness

Here’s a picture of that family’s method to reserve their seats:

Sunglasses & Cigarettes

Thankfully, there were only 3 contestants in the 30-and-up category.

Contestant #36’s hair was similarly greasy and unkempt.  Contestant #37 was 65 and wore this totally outrageous outfit for the “choice” portion of the pageant.  It included coconut shells somehow sewn into this formless shift.

Interestingly, even with the coconuts, contestant #37’s breasts were difficult to distinguish from the rest of her lumpy middle section.

I’m uncomfortable as I write this.  I abhor pettiness.  And I certainly don’t want a stranger critiquing my middle section.

But I’m not strapping my middle section into an unfashionable dress with my bra straps visible to all, nor am I shamelessly parading myself and children across some stage in some recently-flooded, half-redone hotel ball room.

I’ve been thinking about what interests me about these pageants.  I like to make up narratives for myself about the things that people tell themselves, or the events that lead to, these unbelievably shameless, trashy folks committing all this time and energy and money to these beauty pageants.

Yesterday, I read on the website that every single contestant receives a trophy.

Is that it?

It is rare for me not to be able to muster any pity or understanding for things like this.

Only a story this bad would make me sympathetic toward these people:  Nancy is the youngest of 10 children.  She wore hand-me-downs from her much-fatter sisters when she was a kid, and was sexually assaulted by the men in her family, enduring horrors that only Lifetime movies and Reader’s Digest Condensed Novels brave (certainly not unfocused blogs).

These men told her she was beautiful, and since she was being raised in filth and poverty in an impoverished town and an impoverished school district, her quiet mousiness in school was dismissed by her teachers and by her friends’ parents as normal.  As a defense mechanism, she told herself an elaborate story with a perfect and happy story world in which she was a beautiful, rich princess with doting parents and the choice of any of thousands of handsome and kind princes, she would retreat to that world as she was being abused.  Since nobody ever told her otherwise, she accepted the flattery from her family men and still believes that sexual congress between family members is acceptable, and spends more time than not in her fantasy, princess world.

Of course, not all the pageant people had behavior that inspired such sad musing, but the ones who didn’t perplexed me even more.

I’m going to another small pageant in about a month.  I think I need a professional photographer to go with me.  Anybody up for the adventure?

**It should be explained that I changed these people’s names.  I guess I feel some respect for their non-existent dignity is in order.  Also, I’m protecting myself from liability.

Moms are Boring!

Public Image

I have always thought so.

Listen, other moms, don’t bristle and run away.  I know your cursor is hovering over the back button, and you’ve got this wild offended look and you’re almost in tears.

It’s true and you know it.  What other group of people can babble, ad infinitum, about poop, school projects that involve pipe cleaners and egg cartons, petty-five-year-old tiffs & inappropriate mom reactions, good or bad teachers, report cards, pencils, after-school activities, and be so interested in these topics?

Only moms.

I’m a mom, and I don’t really think that stuff is interesting.   It’s undignified to let our kids take over our lives.  Like we help our kids grow into whole other people, we have to maintain our own identities!  If we forget who we are, how can we help them become who they are?

When I was pregnant, I used to tell dead baby jokes.  I did it because I was rebelling against the mom babble.

I was more heroic and successful about avoiding that when I was pregnant.  It’s easy to do anything in theory.

But I reckon that if my fabulous child knows that I have something else going on for myself, she won’t come across any zany ideas when she reaches her late teens and early twenties like that she can’t take that awesome internship in Zimbabwe because if she does I’ll be a wreck.

Hell, I want her to go to Zimbabwe!  I want her to travel the world! I want her to know how to be a whole person outside the definition of our family.  I want her to have that understanding early, and to take it and run off into the sunset and build herself a mountain of success and experience and heartache and trouble.

There’s this video:

But I think that in some ways it doesn’t get better after the spawn emerges.  Us moms have this unspoken club of martyrdom, and nobody without kids belongs OR could understand.  And whenever I catch myself clucking my tongue, smiling knowingly at one of my childless friends (who is horrified at how little it bothers me when my busy, busy kid is all in my face about something absurd or interrupts our conversation) and on the verge of some ridiculous statement like, “someday you’ll understand,” I get a little bit sick inside.

I get embarrassed.  It’s the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”

Listen, I WANT free time.  I WANT to be unfettered.  I WANT to go back to being April, and not Mom: the grown up who goes with the kid.

And I’ll totally indulge in the conversation about poop or homework or projects, about Mrs. Smith, Mr. Deacon, or the principal.  But once all that can be said has been, I want to talk about Breaking Bad or Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I want to go out after 8:00 p.m. and take in things that aren’t appropriate for children, either because of the content or the attention span required.

I want to drink beer and practice my guitar with abandon, and read for three hours without interruption.

I am pining for the day that 75% of my time is not spent on teaching my kid how to get dressed, do her own homework, checking on her when she’s playing with her friends, volunteering at her school, making sure she gets culture, making sure she eats well, making sure she has clothes to wear.

Yes, all that stuff is more rewarding than I could possibly describe.

But, I don’t want to be at a loss when it’s over.  I do not want to have to be 75% overwhelmed by the care of another being in order to feel like myself.

So let’s quit being boring, Moms!  Let’s be ourselves AND moms.  And when we’re done being moms, let’s have a bucket list as long as the distance to the moon of awesome stuff we’ve been dying to do/think/read/be/try.

Our kids will be better for it, and then when they’re pre-parent grownups, we’ll have stuff to talk about with them.

 

Vacation Posts: My mom thinks I’m doing it wrong

As adults, we have odd relationships with our parents.  Few others have the power to reduce our wearied and wizened adult selves to the simpering, angry, victimized fifteen-year-olds we once were.  I have such a relationship with my mom, who is so fearful of confrontation that she would not even confront me when I was a 17-year-old.

I have learned to read between the lines of her rhetoric to figure out what she’s really saying.

Momese 101:

  1.  “Just go to the justice of peace and do it.”   You should definitely get married to reduce the number of reasons for which you’re going to hell by one.  Also it’d make you way more normal.
  2.  “She’s just a little girl!”  Don’t punish my grandbaby!  She’s so sweet, and I want to have to visit her in jail someday.
  3.  “I wouldn’t stand for it.”    Your domestic partner has far too long a leash.
  4.  “You’re sneakier than I am.”  You’re manipulative.
  5.  “What do you want to do?”  Please psychically glean what I want to do and make that your stated desire.  I will be petulant otherwise.
  6.  “I am always amazed at what you know.”   I am always surprised when you show yourself to be above average, I’ve always thought of you as utterly average.  
  7.  “I’ve known it for years.”  Thank you for finally coming around to my way of thinking, I hope one day you’ll also enjoy the ravings of Rush Limbaugh and become a proud member of the Tea Party.
  8.  “You get that from me.”  I would be much prouder of you if you exhibited more of my dysfunctions.
  9.  “I wouldn’t have done it.”  It would not have been adequately tough love of your dad and I to let you move in and help you with your daughter from the very beginning.
  10.  “I thought you might say no, and I was going to ask if I could just bring Pearl.” You work too much and I like to have full control of the content to which Pearl is exposed.  You definitely should not have explained black death to her in plain language.
**DISCLAIMER** I have a terrific mom who loves me bunches.  I love her, too.  Still, I am often vexed by our ideological differences, and that’s what this post is about.  It is heightened to induce humor, and if you think I’m being mean, it’s probably true.  But you’re laughing aren’t you?