Category Archives: Parenting

Art in the Mess: Real Life vs Picture Perfect

One of my biggest anxiety triggers is mess. Mess, clutter, dirt; they stress me out! I’m not a neat-freak and I’m not at all OCD. I think it’s more of a self-esteem thing. The same way girls get depressed about their own bodies when they look at air brushed magazine models, I get depressed about my own home when I see furniture ads (or other people’s homes on Facebook, or walk through Ikea). My parents never cleaned the house except one time a year for their big holiday party. Then my mom would go nuts, begging, imploring, demanding that we all help make the house “magazine ready”. My mom was embarrassed about her own house, which was why we only had people over that one time a year. She was embarrassed, but exasperated and all but gave up by the time we started school.

House-envy is now at a whole new level with online house porn sites like Houzz.com and Pinterest telling us how to make a cute and useful entryway. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who spends most of her day cleaning, so why doesn’t my house ever look like those pictures?! I’ve got all the same furniture from Ikea, yet my 1000 sqft home never looks quite like the adorable 350 sqft displays.

The SOLSTA sofa-bed will give your visitors a comfy place to rest their heads.:

Pinterest version of Solsta sleeper couch vs. My version of Solsta sleeper couch. Hey, it’s $179 couch that I got on FreeCycle. And I live with cats. And kids. This is real life, not perfectly rumbled sheets.

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The reason my house, despite my best efforts, doesn’t look like a display case is because it isn’t a picture enhanced with professional photographers, perfectly placed knick-knacks, and filters. Everything online looks better because real life has been edited, cropped, and sepia-ed out of it. I know this, yet it doesn’t change how I feel about my own house, my own children, my own mess. I still clutch at the idea of someone coming over and seeing my dust and clutter, my cat scratched couch and finger printed walls. I still feel frantic about the piles of mail in the entry way and the rubble of kids’ toys all over the place.

Hahaha! Apparently fictitious children don’t read or play with toys! Gizmodo.com’s professionally shot Expedit shelves vs. mine below.

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So I came up with an idea. Look at the mess in a different way. Look at the beauty, the realism, and the art of the mess. Instead of having the kids pose in front of a pretty tree or a blank wall, I’ve been photographing them IN REAL LIFE doing their normal things, riding bikes across an unmowed yard, reading books amidst clutter, and playing on unmade beds. My mission is to expose the realness of parenting and growing up.

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I call this one Shoes Left on Carpet. Everything about this is upsetting to me, but I’ve found that looking at it for what it is, my five year old’s sneakers that he’s left at the foot of the bunk bed in a tiny, junky room, from a tiny, junky house that we rent, calms me. Life with kids (and cats, and chickens, and husbands!) is sticky and messy and crumbly and glittery and gross and endearing and amazing. I don’t want to deal with anxiety over something as insignificant as sneakers left on a carpet or crumbling drywall or peeling wallpaper. I want to rejoice in the fact that I have a super cute five year who makes his own bed and sometimes remembers to keep his stinky shoes off of it.

I’ve started an Instagram account to document the Art in the Mess. Please feel free to follow me @mazymom.

He Was Mean Because He Liked Me

 

A Mighty Girl's photo.
This post showed up in my newsfeed today on Facebook. I agreed with it & it struck a chord, so I reposted it. A few friends chimed in with comments lamenting the fact that it does still happen today, in 2016. They see it all the time at playgrounds, in schools, and don’t know how to react. So they don’t.
It’s great that we all agree that this is wrong, but the fact that ADULTS see it happen and don’t do anything about it is just as bad as the ill-deed itself. Ignoring it is enabling the bully (and they adult saying it), causing the problem to thrive.
So what’s the big deal about a little teasing? What if it’s because the boy really does like the girl? Really, there isn’t any harm right…it’s just a phase, right?
I grew up in a small town where this was all perfectly acceptable. At daycare, when I was about 7, a boy trapped me under a plastic kiddie slide and shook me so hard my teeth rattled. It hurt and it was scary. I was told he liked me & sent back out to play. In fourth grade my best friend was repeatedly slammed into a fence. The boy’s hands were around her neck as her head wobbled back & forth. “Boys can play rough,” she was told. “Go play by the swings instead,” she was told. I witnessed another friend in middle school being slammed into a locker, presumably because the boy might have had a crush on her. I was tripped, shaken, pulled, and tossed and simply told to ignore it or assume that some kid liked me. In gym class while running the mile for our yearly physical fitness test one boy jogged up alongside me. “You know I’m going to break your legs,” he said with a huge grin. Even though I was the best, I still came in second that day.
I was becoming afraid of boys, of attention, and saw no point in bringing it up to any adult. After all, I was just popular, right? The message that I was getting was that boys liked me & they showed it by hurting, and I was supposed to be flattered, and possibly like them back. If for some silly reason I didn’t like them back then I was the one who had to remove herself from the area, who had to pretend it wasn’t happening, who had to give up a little. Instead of wearing any armor, I had to curl up into a ball and wait for the danger to be over.
When I was a teenager I was dragged into the woods where my boyfriend wanted to have sex with me. I was supposed to be happy that someone liked me, that I was good enough for sex. I couldn’t complain in college because he didn’t mean to hurt me. I was told by police that my harasser & stalker “just liked me & wanted attention” and “thing like this tend to happen to pretty girls.”
I wonder if my relationships with boys & men would have escalated to rape, stalking, fear, bruises if an adult had stepped in and said something when I was 7. If someone told that little girl that it was not acceptable behavior would she have been stronger? Would she have had armor instead?
Please don’t use this line and please don’t let others use it. It sets both children up for a very screwed up, confusing history of what healthy relationships are. The concepts of like/love and relationships become very warped when adults permit violence (and it IS violence) among children in the name of “love”. It teaches the bully that he or she can take what they like by force. It teaches the victim that there isn’t really anything wrong…maybe they are wrong. It’s hurtful to both parties and probably not true.
A Mighty Girl

When girls get teased or bullied by boys, there’s often someone who pulls out this tired phrase: “I bet he likes you!” Joanna Schroeder vividly remembers finally going to a teacher about a boy’s constant harassment at age 11, and how that phrase made her feel: it “filled me with a shame so profound, I never again told an adult about something a boy did to me.” In her recent article, “You Should Never Tell Your Kids He’s Mean Because He Likes You,” Schroder writes, “You’d think blaming bad behavior on a crush would be dead and gone by now, but it’s not.” To encourage parents and other adults to think about what “he must like you” really teaches, she breaks down the four reasons we need to stop associating mistreatment with romantic affection.

Schroeder argues that “I bet he likes you” is a covert way of victim-blaming. “Your child did not ask for this negative attention, regardless of the aggressive kid’s intention. Even if your child was acting flirty or teasing, nobody asks to be hurt.” That victim-blaming “tells [your child] that you are not a source of support for them when they need you most.” Dismissing bad behavior, she says, is also bad for the bully: “Bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of the reason why. A child — whether it’s a boy or a girl — who is harming another needs intervention so they don’t continue the behavior…. Instead of asking the child who is doing the hurting if they like the other, grownups should ask the child to imagine how their friend felt when he or she was hurt.”

Equally importantly, Schroeder says that “kids’ friendships shouldn’t be romanticized. Kids need the opportunity in childhood to have friendships with boys or girls, regardless of their gender, without grownups introducing the adult notions of romance or attraction. Strong friendships with kids of all genders are important for kids, and parents shouldn’t make their kids feel funny about them.” If bad behavior from a male friend is immediately associated with romantic feelings, kids will begin to believe that friendships between boys and girls are inherently different than same-sex friendships. And even if a crush does develop, she points out, “one child’s crush should never become a burden to another.”

But perhaps most significantly, Schroeder writes, “You shouldn’t teach your kids that love equals abuse. Love equals kindness and respect, and it never, ever means touching someone in a way that will hurt them. When you tell your child that they were harmed because another person likes them, you’re connecting pain with love. That not only normalizes being abused, but also abusing others.” And this, more than anything, is why it’s time to put an end to saying “I bet he likes you,” Schroeder asserts. “As parents, we have the ability to change the world by putting an end to harmful old traditions… I’m not sure how the ‘dipping her pigtails in the inkwell’ trope started, but it’s time it ended.”

To read all of Joanna Schroder’s advice on The Good Men Project, visit bit.ly/1OMJheL

To start teaching children — girls and boys alike — from a young age about the need to respect others and their personal boundaries, we recommend “No Means No!: Teaching Children about Personal Boundaries, Respect and Consent” for ages 3 to 6 (http://www.amightygirl.com/no-means-no) and “Your Body Belongs To You” for ages 3 to 7 (http://www.amightygirl.com/your-body-belongs-to-you).

For books about healthy relationships for tweens and teens — as well as titles on recognizing and ending unhealthy ones — check out our new blog post, “20 Mighty Girl Books for Tweens & Teens About Healthy Relationships,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11338

You can also find many bullying prevention books and resources for children and teens in our two blog posts: “‘The End of Bullying Begins With Me’: Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls” (http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10255) and “Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens” (http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10257).

And, for books to help children learn how to be supportive and caring friends, visit our blog post “Making and Keeping Friends: Mighty Girl Books About Friendship” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10315

Being a Mom Causes me to Live in Fear

This past weekend I stopped into a Barnes & Noble with two of my kids in tow. One of my sons had been invited to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and we wanted to kill some time in a quiet place until IM & Hubs were done with the festivities. Their little legs were getting tired from all the browsing and became more and more aggitated as we neared the back of the store where the kids’ section was. They sat down at the little Lego table and began to play and build. After a couple minutes of mindless standing around, I stepped over to the closest shelf of adult fiction. Being twenty feet away from my kids didn’t bother me – they were quiet, engrossed,  and happy.

I quickly found a book I wanted and stepped back to the Lego table as an employee approached.
“Are you their mother?” she demanded. After I confirmed I was, she let out a huge puff of air. “Oh thank Gawd! I had someone complain about the children being unattended.”  Wow, that was fast, I thought. She must have been waiting for me to do SOMETHING! I laughed and asked if she was serious. Her face made it clear that she was.
“What are you talking about? I was right there, for like, 30 seconds. I saw them the whole time.”
“Look,” she said with a hint of a snarl beneath her ‘I’m here to help’ grin, “I’m not trying to make it into a big deal. I’m just looking out for the safety of the children.”
“Thanks. They are fine.” I was uncomfortable,  embarrassed. I was being put on the spot in a confrontational manner and I didn’t know why.
“No. You don’t understand.  Anything could happen in 30 seconds. I mean – I’m standing right here and you don’t even know me! I could have done anything to them.”
“They. Are. Fine.” I started gathering up our things.
“Well I had customers complain and I have to take these things seriously because…”
“You know what? I’m a customer, but not anymore. You are ridiculous. ” I shoved the stack of books I was going to buy at her and hauled my kids out to the parking lot.

I was so mad. She basically called me a bad mom simply because I wasn’t looking at my kids. I came up with a whole bunch of things I should have said after the fact:
– “I am not comfortable with your tone. May I speak with someone else, like a manager?”
– “You’re right! A bookstore IS too dangerous for children!” Look around nervously,  then make steady eye contact a little too long. “Especially with all you perverts swarming all over the place.”
– “You’re right; I don’t know you, and you’re talking about taking my children?!” then hysterically call 911 and demand mall security for a woman threatening to kidnap my kids.
– “Fuck off.”

Instead I went to Facebook to vent sarcastically. B&N responded with a number for me to call to make a formal complaint. I had every intention of giving them a piece of my mind.

But, I didn’t call. What was I going to say? What was I hoping to get out of it? While I felt I had certainly recieved blatant harassment, did I really just want to call and bitch about it? What would they even do? Fire her – that’s not really what I want. What I want is to be left alone.

As a mom, I get shit on all the time. People have pulled over on the street to tell me that my kids are playing in the front yard – and isn’t that dangerous – and shouldn’t I bring them inside? I’ve gotten nutrition lessons from ladies evaluating my shopping cart contents – don’t you know that much dairy will make them fat – you are teaching them poor eating habits by giving them whole milk. Are all these children yours – can you even handle that – you’re too young for so many – you do know how to avoid that don’t you? Children really ought to wear hats. I only assume I get this much “advice”  because I look incredibly young, therefore people must think I NEED their direction,  input, or scolding because I’m too young & nieve to know what I’m doing.

Ugg. Go away. Leave me alone!

We now live in a society where parents are jailed for letting kids play in their own yards. Children aren’t allowed to play simply because something might happen. Is someone going to abduct TWO children from a bookstore? That’s 80lbs of squirming, screaming child, so I highly doubt it. Are kids going to be molested just because they are playing in the yard? Maybe, but statistically speaking, no. We are living in a society that is being driven by blind panic. Society needs to calm the fuck down.

I hear, read, and see many comments about “kids these days” & how pathetic they are with their gadgets and their fear and not growing up with mud and jump ropes and rocks like they did back in the good old days before Internet and cable TV. Oh yeah? Screw you. The folks that grew up in the “good old days” were the ones that invented the technology that distracts kids now. They also propagated the fear that keeps them inside. It’s not the fault of children that they aren’t growing up outside, it’s the fault of the helicopter mom who can’t let her kid out of her sight, so it’s easier to prop him up with an ipad. It’s the fault of our neighbors who call the cops if mom doesn’t keep her son inside with an ipad.  More fear = less curiosity about the actual world. If parents constantly hover and micromanage their child’s every breath, then curiosity will be bred out of children. If kids are never afforded an ounce of responsibility for themselves they will grow up needy and afraid. We are so concerned about the safety of children, really? It looks to me as if we are crushing them.

The world isn’t any more dangerous than it was a few decades, quite the contrary, yet for some reason we are so damned afraid. And on top of it we have a nanny society that takes pride in bringing people down and pointing out everyone else’s “mistakes” just to prove that they are doing the “right” thing.

I’m mad because this society doesn’t work together to help parents or families. Instead they go out of their way to belittle & discriminate. I’m mad at that Barnes & Noble employee because I wasn’t viewed as another customer who might need assistance finding something; I was viewed as a young mom doing it wrong. I’m mad because I live in fear too – not of kidnappers, rapists, or danger – I live in fear that some nosey do-gooder is going to call CPS & I’ll be thrown in jail because I turned my back on my kids in a bookstore. We need to break the chains of this fear. We need to stand up for our rights as parents and the right to parent however WE feel is best.

Honest Valentines Won’t Make You Popular

Mean_Valentine
Raise your hand if you enjoy a good popularity contest.

Really?  That’s what I thought.

No one likes to admit that they actually like popularity contests, yet we participate in them all the time!  Who gets the most thumbs-up, Yearbook superlatives, Prom King & Queen, Bachelor shows, etc, etc, etc.  There are contests like this all the time and in all sorts of forms.  Most of the time we shrug them off as entertainment or harmless.  And maybe they are.  I think it truly is part of human nature to strive to BE popular and to LIKE the popular person.  I am okay with popularity competitions, as long as the winner is the one competing.  What I hate, loathe, and despise are parent centered popularity contests.

I have a cousin who’s daughter often participates in beauty pageants.  Once she pleaded with everyone for DAYS on Facebook to go and “like” her daughter’s picture.  The child with the most “likes” would win the “Most Photogenic” category.  My cousin was hell-bent on her daughter winning.  And she did.  However, my cousin had to badger her large collection of Facebook “friends” several times a day to do it.  Persistence won that category.  But really, was her daughter the most photogenic, or was it really just a popularity contest?  It had everything to do with the popularity of the parent and how many friends they had that could be swayed to go and click on something–not how photogenic her kid was, nor even how popular the kid was!

I’ve noticed this trend at my kids’ school as well.  The kids who’s parents bring in the best cupcakes for birthday parties are the well liked kids.  The kids with the parents throwing the more lavish parties, supplying more activities in the classroom, and sending in the fanciest Valentines are the more popular kids.  Popularity via Mom & Dad’s time and money.  Shameful.  Mostly because these kids are in Kindergarten!

Now, I have to admit that I do spend a great deal of time worrying about my own kids’ popularity.  I feel silly when I do, but I don’t want them to be lonely.  As they get older, I am aware of all the crazy stuff they are going to have to go through and experience, and they are going to need shoulders other than mine to rejoice with and cry on.  And I certainly don’t want them to be bullied.  However, they are going to have to seek out their popularity on their own merit and not through fancy Mommy-made cupcakes.  Or Valentines.  I don’t believe in giving candy to five-year olds and I am not about to buy a box of bland puns on expensive cardboard so my son can attempt to win a class worth of affection.  My kids are going to make their own heart-felt sentiments.  My kids will prove their worth and gain their popularity through creativity, hard work, and honesty.

Honesty.  It turns out that that means a lot to a five-year old.  And it was honesty and creativity that kind of backfired on me.  My son made some very cute cards for all of his classmates and wrote something unique for each individual, then stuffed them in his backpack.  Thankfully I had the wherewithal to take a peek before I sent him off to school.  Sometimes honesty can be so mean!

We ended up (trying) to have a long discussion about hurting people’s feelings with words; if you don’t have something nice to say-don’t say anything at all; white lies; being a good friend and including everyone.  My son only got out of the conversation that he did something wrong and would have to re-do half of his Valentine work.  He was not pleased.  But he also didn’t understand why he had to make Valentines for students he was not friends with, for kids he flat out didn’t like.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just tell them the God’s honest truth.  A good person wouldn’t lie.  A real friend wouldn’t lie.  He couldn’t equate honesty with malice or hurt feelings.  In the end, he chose to color in a few hearts, paste a few stickers, and write nothing.

And you know what?  It kills me a little inside.  I think my five-year old was on the right track with his honest, albeit hurtful, Valentines.  At least I think so in theory.  He shouldn’t have to lie to anyone to be liked.  He shouldn’t have to include the kids he doesn’t get along with.  And he shouldn’t have to strive for popularity.  The time and money put into anything shouldn’t equate to friendships down the road and “likes” on Facebook should be worthless.  It’s about the few kids that he does like that should matter.  It’s about the nice things that automatically come to his mind when thinking about friends, not being stumped on coming up with something “good” to say about someone else.  My kid is right; Popularity is stupid.  I can relax.  He won’t be lonely since he already knows it’s about the quality of his friendships, not the quantity, and I’m sure it will be those quality friendships that will get him through anything.
Lollipops

So, on that note, I want to wish everyone an honestly happy Valentine’s Day.  Don’t feel compelled to pass out admiration or friendship to people who aren’t enhancing your life.  Be truly thankful to those friends that really matter to you, because that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

 

Turning Down the Dream

I am currently a stay-at-home, non-income-earning mom and I have been for nearly four years now.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  There were lots of reasons why I quit my “part time” job to stay home with the kids, and there have been lots of reasons why I’ve played with the idea of going back to work several times since quitting.  The biggest reason, in all areas, has been boredom.  I was bored at my job.  Financial aid at a cosmetology school was just something I never really wanted in life, so the stresses of it just stressed me out more than it should have.  And, I’ve been incredibly bored at home; washing the same loads of laundry and wiping the same snotty noses day in and day out.  My personal dreams have yet to materialize because life just keeps happening.  Sometimes I get mad at myself over it.  Sometimes I get depressed about it.  I know I made a series of choices that have lead me to where I am now, and sometimes I am dissatisfied with that.  I know I SHOULD have taken that internship when I was in college.  I SHOULD have kept in contact with a whole bunch of folks that could have helped move me along.  I SHOULD have sought jobs in the field I wanted instead of just taking the first paying gig that came along.  I SHOULD have had more confidence in doing what I loved.

While all the shoulda-woulda-couldas get me down at times, I am well aware of the fact that I can still do all of those things.  I simply have to take the imitative and put in the effort.  Most days I am willing to do that.  I know I am not so far gone that I can’t make my dreams come true…eventually.  And I know I would not have the family I have now if I had done things differently.

Not working has been good for me for the most part.  I do love being able to home-school my kids and maintain my household.  I’m less frazzled and less depressed than I was back when I was trying to do it all.  And, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to pull it off on one income…sort of.  While Hubs does make a pretty decent living, we have been battling back our debt from our younger (and stupider) days, relaying on our credit cards a little more than we’d like, and having to suck it up and pay for two vehicles at the same time (not fun).  Things aren’t dire just yet, but a second income would certainly help.  I decided rather half-heartedly to put some feelers out to see what was available for work and signed back into CareerBuilder with a revised resume.

Of course there were a lot of spammy Emails that flooded my Inbox with positions that I would never accept or were down right pyramid schemes.  But, within a week I had landed an interview for The Perfect Job.  It was for an assistant producer position at a publishing company.  Despite not having worked in publishing, I still fit the criteria, which was why I went ahead and applied.  I was flabbergasted when they called me to set up a meeting, and I was nervous in the days leading up to it.  All of those should haves kept plaguing my thoughts and squashing any self esteem that I had.  But, I’m a decent enough actor and sailed through the interview with all sorts of faux confidence.  I left the place feeling great about the interview, about the job, the company, my potential employer…I knew I would get the job, and that was why I cried on the way home.

My dream job was an hour’s drive through mostly New England back roads from my house.  That would mean committing two hours (or more depending on traffic and weather) a day, giving me at least a ten and a half hour day.  That would leave a time crunch for things like dinner, kids’ homework, chores, etc.  But I knew it could be done.  With planning and a crock pot, with my husband’s somewhat flexible hours, with (hopefully) the help of childcare it could all be covered and I’d have income to contribute AND I’d finally be working in the field I’d always wanted.  It could be done. I could have it all; the career, the family, the house…

The day after my stunning interview I went for a walk through the woods with my two year old daughter. I kept thinking about how I’d miss not being able to spend this time with her and what that might mean.  Sure, she would adjust to daycare just fine and grow up being no worse off —  or would she?  Someone else would be there to help her discover the joy of the world while I was busy plugging away at a desk.  I nearly cried for the loss of my toddler and I hadn’t even missed a thing yet!  I felt so conflicted; it was important for my daughter to see her mother be successful, productive, and happy, but it was also important for me to be there for her and to help her grow.  Would I be able to find that special balance?  I felt like I was at a junction and didn’t know which way to turn.  I wanted both things, the stay-at-home-mom life that was going so well and the new adventures of being a publisher.  I wanted things to change, I wanted to talk to adults, to make a difference and do something special.  I also wanted to stay the same, keep the routine, and be safe.  Some moments I feared not getting the job, other moments I feared getting hired.

Then came the issue of childcare.  My oldest, a Kindergartener, is in school for a full day, but my middle child, a Pre-schooler, has only a half day from noon to three and there isn’t a bus service available for him.  My oldest takes the bus to school in the mornings and they are both picked up at the same time in the afternoons.  If I needed childcare, then my middle son would have to drop out of Pre-school since there wouldn’t be a way for him to get to and from the school.  In our area, this meant that daycare would cost $110 per day for the three of them, more for the days that my oldest wouldn’t be in school like holidays or summers.  Late pick-up fees would also have to be added on at $10 per child per hour after 5pm.  There wouldn’t be a way for either Hubs or myself to get back before then, so it would be, at best $140 if we didn’t get hit with traffic or any reason to be kept at the office past 5.  The cost would sky rocket during summer vacation.

I quickly realized that between taxes, gas for the commute, and childcare, the paycheck from my dream job would be depleted before I even got to buy a latte.  I would be working to work, and possibly not break even.  It just wasn’t going to pay for me to go back to work, even if it was for a job I really, desperately wanted.

I was still conflicted about what I wanted.  I still wanted to find a way to make it work so I could take the job.  I really wanted that position with that company and I wanted to work for that woman.  I wanted to do it.  But I also wanted to be home with my children, especially my small daughter.  I wanted to wash their clothes every day and make their dinner every night.  I wanted to fight with them over showers and clean up and struggle to make everything fair.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more and I was heart broken when something as dumb as money went and made the decision for me.  Perhaps if it were closer, or paid more, or it was another time it could all fall into place, but not now.  It hurt to turn down my dream job.

I knew not taking the job would cut off potential contacts.  It would put even more of a gap in my work history and further me even more from the industry I was trying to break into.  I could sacrifice a lot and take the job to better my future prospects, but leaving my kids in the lurch seemed selfish.  I know I did the right thing by staying home and possibly looking for something part time around town, I know I can still write and publish in the future.  But doing the right thing doesn’t always take away the sting of walking away from something before you even got a chance to try.  I didn’t reach for the golden ring because it’s not my time yet and there will be more opportunities, I just have to be patient.  I’m trying to not be bitter about it because I know I will get another chance, but for this week, and until those bills are caught up, it’s going to be hard.

A Mother’s Curse

We have all been cursed by our mothers.  You know the one, when, as a child we’ve tested the edge of her patience and she’s blurted out angrily how someday we’d end up having children just like ourselves.  And then we would roll our eyes at her (because we were never having children, duh!) and maybe utter a half apology.  Some of us grow up to indeed have kids just like ourselves; bratty, emotional, stubborn, or tantrum prone.  But some of us grow up not to necessarily be cursed by the kid, so much as a thing.  For me, it is the curse of a spare plate that has been handed down.

It was the late 1950s and my grandmother had a set of sunny yellow melamine dishes.  She also had a single blue plate.  It was an ugly blue plate and no one knew where exactly it had come from.  But, grandmother also had five daughters, which meant that her setting for six in yellow wasn’t enough to set the table with.  Every evening someone had to use the awful blue plate.  Which ever sister set the table that night would place it in front of the chair of the girl she had the most beef with at the moment.  Then of course arguements would ensue.  No one wanted the hideous blue plate and night after night, my poor grandmother had to listen to the squawking and wailing of her daughters fighting over it.  One day she was able to replace the blue plate. I’m not sure if she was able to get another setting of yellow dishes or what, but I’m sure whatever she paid was worth the peace at meal times.  The blue plate was slipped into the trash can, never to be fought over again.

When I was a child, around 8 or 9 years old maybe, my mother had a set of Corelle dishes.  They were cream coloured with a sage green ribbon that ran around the edge.   They were strong and practical.  She also had a few odd pieces from an older set that we no longer used, including one stonewear plate. It was white with a scalloped edge.  The three of us kids called it the Up And Down Plate.  It was a special plate.  It was a coveted plate.  We fought like cats and dogs over this plate. We whined about how unfair it was or pleaded that it our turn to use it.  Which ever one of us that got to set the table would always place it by our own chair, only to be stolen, swapped out, and reset at some other kid’s chair.  It was downright torturous to watch a grimey little brother eating off of it.  That up and down plate drove my parents bonkers, too.  No matter what they said or how vehemently they threatened,  we wouldn’t stop fighting over the dumb plate.  One day my parents finally snapped.  It was the sudden crash that brought my brother and I downstairs.   Then it was the eerie,  gleeful cackle from my mother that made us stop.  My father had smashed the plate in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I’m pretty sure he had done it on purpose because my mother was jumping up and down on the pieces. After they swept it up, the special, beautiful up and down plate was never spoken of again.

My husband and I bought our dishes from Ikea.  We got a nifty set of charcoal grey ones that looked cool and hip on our high top table with the white table cloth and red napkins.  But, as a plate broke here and a bowl smashed there, not to mention going from one kid to three, we had to go back for more dishes.  Unfortunately, Ikea has stopped carrying our particular charcoal grey dishes, so we got a set of standard white.  They are plain and practicle and actually look really awesome when mixed and matched with the grey ones.  Except, now we are down to three small plates.  Those are the ones the kids use for dinner, and one of them has a chip in it.  It is called The Broken Plate.  My children love the broken plate!  They race to be the first one to request it and sulk if they don’t get it.  Every single meal time is a fighting-pleading-whine-fest over someone else having the plate and at least one kid declaring a hunger strike over it.  Last night my oldest got the plate and my middle child began that painful high pitched scream that makes you sure your ears are bleeding.  I asked him very nicely to quiet down.  I explained that it was just a plate and his fish would still taste just as good.  I begged my eldest to give it up, however the mere suggestion nearly caused a tantrum.  I demanded my son to stop screaming.  At this point all three of my children were crying and no one was eating.  I lived with the ear piercing noise for eight and a half minutes before I calmly slid my son’s food onto a plastic plate that was stashed in the back of the cupboard.  Without a word, I stepped into the middle of the dining room and let the chipped plate drop.  Ah, what a satisfying sound!  The smash was liberating and the immediate silence from my stunned children that followed was delightful. The rest of the meal was eaten in peace.  And during tonight’s dinner, which was served on all white plates, no one felt the need to mention it.

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So, how bad will my kids have it when they become parents?  Will the curse of the plate continue for them?  A part of me really hopes so.

Mommy Shame & Explain Your Age

I was at the school yesterday to drop my son off for preschool, but we were a bit early, so I let him out of the car to play around the small gazebo a bit before the teacher came to let him in.  While we were waiting, one of his classmates and her mom and two very small siblings came over to join us.  The four kids played and the mom watched and warned them periodically about random potential dangers.  I couldn’t help but notice that she was at least forty and the children were indeed calling her Mommy.

“Wow, three kids! Are they all yours?” She smiled and nodded enthusiastically.  I understand the risk for complications go up with age, and this lady had three under five.
“Bet you’re a busy momma. Were your pregnancies tough though?”
“Well, umm, no,” she seemed a little stunned and confused.  “I had a great doctor, and everything was fine.”
“Oh, that’s good. It’s not hard dealing with all their energy?” She smiled and shrugged, but didn’t really answer.
“Well, at least you got to live your life first, right!”

Okay, okay. I know, that was pretty insensitive of me; politically INcorrect; a big social no-no. But don’t worry. I didn’t actually say those things, because, well, that would just be wrong and rude. Oh, and I was the mom with three kids. The older mom only had one. And she was the one to start the conversation. 

“You have three kids?” she asked. I smiled and nodded.
“Aww. But you’re so young,” she whined.
“It’s good though to have all that energy, I suppose.” I smiled and shrugged, but didn’t really answer.  Then she nodded toward my oldest.
“But did you get to finish school?”

Yep. That happened. And her eyes sort of bugged out a bit when I told her I didn’t get married or have kids until after I had graduated from college.
I understand that I look like a teenager, and I understand that there is a stigma in this country regarding young mothers. But seriously, do women really have to go out of their way to be offensive?  According to this site the average age of first time mothers has increased to 25 (2013) from 21 (1970).  So the people who accuse me of being too young to be a mom were most likely conceived, or gasp, conceived their children, when they were younger than me when I had sex for the first time. In the United States there is a sort of checklist that women are half expected to complete before starting a family:
*age…check. I was 25 when I conceived my first child.
*education…check.  I was done with high school on time and achieved a bachelor’s.
*marriage..check. Yup, I even did that!

But, really, why was this checklist created in the first place? I mean, is anyone really too young to be a mom? Is it really anyone’s business what milestones a woman has reached in any particular order?  Does shaming and embarrassing the young (or perceived young) mother ever help her?  Does it help the asker feel better about themselves?  And if it is considered taboo to make comments or ask such questions about an older mom, then why are so many people so bold and brazen enough to make these comments and questions about younger moms?  To me it is a form of harassment. It may be said with a smile, but there is nothing nice about it, and it is never delivered as a compliment.  It is a point blank judgment, and a harsh one at that because that “Aww, but you’re so young” doesn’t mean “You look great!”, but rather “You screwed up, didn’t you?” Whether I was 20, 30, or 40 years old when I birthed my children really doesn’t matter. My age, my choices, and even my foibles have absolutely nothing to do with you, so please don’t ask, please don’t comment, and please don’t make me feel like I need to explain or defend myself.