Category Archives: parenting

Why My Mother Wins

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Why My Mother Wins

If you’re like me and let’s all bow our heads and pray you aren’t, your mother engrained certain behavior, preferences and prejudices into your supple, young psyche—two adjectives which describe nothing about me at this point in time.

I’m not talking about manners as your family saw them, because, aside from please and thank you and stop hitting your brother even though he started it, most manners are created by societal guy named Norm.

Family dynamics rule the day when it comes to customs and regulations in every household. My mother, for instance, considered using the word “Pop” the Midwestern term for soft drinks, instead of the vastly superior term “soda” to be déclassé and forbade us to use the noxious term. My mother had grown up in Pennsylvania where the term soda is the preference. The trouble is, we grew up in Chicago where I the word pop on the streets.

I went along with my mother because, when we’re living in a closed environment, we figure our parents know what’s up, given the amount of time they’ve spent on earth compared to you, as a child who sprung from the parental loins.  Yes, I found that term slightly nauseating as well and will forbid my son to use it in the future.

When we’re about 12, we realize parental superiority is nonsense and that we, at 12 measly years-old, know everything important that needs to be known and consider our former concept of normal to be —how to be diplomatic?—A steaming ball of crazy, a conception which usually vaporizes at about 21-years-old, but, in my case, is right on.

For instance, my mother and her mother called green peppers mangos throughout my childhood.  I don’t remember when I realized this was wrong, probably when I learned to read the sign over the peppers at Jewel which clearly stated “Not Mangoes”.

But, I digress and return to my original premise which is; my mother is more peculiar than your mother and I can prove it.

When I was a child and my mother monitored my bathroom habits, she felt the need to create words other than poo-poo or pee-pee, et.Al. for feces and urine because, in her eyes, what our body considered waste, my mother considered rude to talk about, even during potty training, which, in the real world, necessitates discussion when you’re two.  (I probably didn’t need all those commas, but I have nowhere else to put them, so I’ll just leave them there for now.)

So, the words my mother created, much like mangos for green peppers, had a definition outside of the context used by the majority of society.  (Did you get my societal norm joke yet?) When I came out of the bathroom, my mother asked me if I had wet or done something special.

I know what you’re thinking, talk about creating a sense of accomplishment far beyond what is necessary, did she also keep little trophies in the cabinets which were bestowed upon you for breathing and sleeping?

Nope. My mother was neither touchy nor feely. My mother was and is a no nonsense woman, unless you call referring to green peppers as mangos nonsensical, and why wouldn’t you?

Still, while I was young and impressionable the phrase “something special” meant what the rest of the world called poop, nonsensical or not

So what? I’ll tell you so what. Some time ago, a major religious figure died in Chicago. I am not a practitioner of his faith, but this is Chicago, so Catholic news leads, even ahead of cat videos.

I was half watching and half updating my Facebook page in a way that would make me appear more normal than I am, when I fell into peels of laughter, proving my quest for the norm was unsuccessful.  Why? A priest was discussing his last conversation with the soon-to-be-late religious figure just before the fellow, who usually wore a decorative hat, found out if God is what he expected or is, instead an angry woman with a celestial rolling pin.

At that dramatic point in time, according to the non-hat-wearing religious figure, the dying leader requested that the aforementioned priest, do something special for him.  Get it?  It was hilarious!

I laughed so hard that crossing my legs became a necessity and my husband demanded an explanation which consisted of him glancing at me, raising his eyebrows and going back to what he was doing because me amusing myself is not an unusual occurrence in his life, and my explanations never seem to justify my level of my mirth…to him.  My son gets the same treatment.  We’ve contacted Amnesty International and we thought they’d be more sympathetic as they laughed as well, but nothing has come of it.

I live in fear of sitting through a eulogy where the speaker makes a comment such as “Hubert brought a little something special into every home he visited.”  I’ve also shamed myself when servers have told me they have something special on the menu.  Even Oprah would send me into peels of laughter when she announced the show was sponsored by a certain airline whose slogan was, “Something special in the air,”.  That probably should be Dave Matthews slogan as well.

Now, I’m making a pretty big assumption when it comes to family weirdness and I’d love to hear your stories as well, I’m sure you all have something special to share or maybe you don’t. Maybe your family is the one and only normal family in the land.  In any case, until you are further notified, my mother wins.

Having said all of this, I want to apologize for the included sentiment at the top of the page.  It is an example of why my life is more difficult than yours and not representative of feelings about you, my valued readers, or reader, as is often the case..  You’re not something special. You’re welcome.

Why Baby Boomers Are Lucky (to be alive.)

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When I was a kid, my father whipped me with a cat-o-nine-tails outside of my house if I even looked sideways at him. (I’m not sure why sideways was an issue for him and I certainly wasn’t going to ask).  I walked to school with paper bags on my feet, which may seem less than helpful, but it happened when I was a kid so it was character building.  My parents would play bowling

strict-1950swith kids by setting up pins in the back of a station wagon, and then making quick lane changes on the Eisenhower Expressway and we didn’t die. I disappeared first thing in the morning and didn’t return again until long after all the cops had gone to bed and my mom never even noticed I was gone unless I left uneaten liver on my plate and then it was back to the cat-o-nine-tails.  I thank God for them everyday because it made me the parent fearing, paper bag wearing, bruise displaying, former missing child I am today.

We’ll be back in a minute with our program: Why the Boomer Generation is Lucky to Have a Single Representative Left Alive after this message from Sugar Drops!  Candy Coated Sugar!  It’s what for breakfast!

Those were the days, weren’t they? We faced danger straight in the face and continued to not die.  We were lucky and brave and unaware of what was lurking in the various bushes and all station wagons.

Nowadays, (I guess that’s a word because spell check ignored me), kids are wimps, seat belt and helmet wearing wimps, brought up by simpering parents (our kids and grandkids) who don’t appreciate the lessons we strived to teach them; primarily, making it out alive is good enough for us and should be good enough for the little buggers we produce.

Every kid who runs into trouble does so because his or her parents didn’t take a good swing at them from time to time.  I’m guessing those ISIS characters (and by characters I mean M!!@#  Fu!@#$  A!@#s who should die in a pit of their own mucus) were raised by a bunch of Spock reading ninnies who gave them “a time out” rather than beat them, but I can’t vouch for this as I was raised by a pair of people who harbored within themselves a mix of every European identity and thought reasoning with kids was the devil’s therapy session.

We lived on the South side of Chicago, where all of the European mixes of the day congregated and apparently held meetings on how to deal with youngsters who misbehaved or behaved in developmentally appropriate ways, because most every kid in our neighborhood was very familiar with the dreaded bouncey ball paddle sans bouncey ball.

And I don’t mean to imply or say outright that I felt I was in danger throughout my childhood because, unless I walked between my father and the White Sox on TV, I was either pretty safe or completely unaware of the abundance of hidden dangers.

I rarely did anything apart from my parents that I wouldn’t do in front of them except riding my bike along break neck paths in the nearby woods, dating boys (men) who were far too old for me, trying and casting aside cigarettes, being myself, and watching TV with my friends by way of the kitchen phone.

How’s that life threatening you may ask?  Well, the phone was attached to a cord and could have been a deathtrap if someone had tripped over it as I watched Cat Stevens on Midnight Special in the den, with a phone that began its life in the kitchen. But I was willing to do that, because I was wild.

I was also the youngest and the only girl in my family and my parents either found this adorable or terrifying because I was never spanked despite my transgressions.

My brothers, however, behaved as if they were members of the Hell’s Angels and that was in the first grade, from that point on, my brothers made the Hell’s Angels look like Pat Boone’s family reunion (remember him?  Doesn’t he seem creepy to you now?).  They were spanked plenty and this seemed to encourage them, so who knows?

I spanked my only child three times, and by spanked, I mean swatted the piles of padding on the back of his butt.  I’m pretty sure that’s why he doesn’t remember it.  I spanked him once because he ran out in the street, another time because he chased a squirrel after I explicitly said these words, three times, “Don’t chase the squirrel” and the third time because he ran out in the street while chasing a squirrel.

At some point, I asked myself why hitting the person I loved most in the world seemed to be a good idea when, as a preschool teacher, I controlled an entire classroom full of kids by giving them my patented “I don’t think so,” look.  And it worked.  Still does. There’s something about my face that makes small children freeze in their tracks and comply and don’t think that hasn’t come in handy at restaurants.

So, I gave up making myself feel bad by swatting him with such a light touch that he didn’t feel it and, as a result he has never listened to my directives a day in his life.

I’m exaggerating and embellishing for comic effect, of course. My son grew up without incident and went to college where he began to misbehave by completely ignoring my specific directions that he become a rock star rather than study psychology. And yes, I’m probably the initial reason for his choice of majors.

Studying is not his only focus, however. He also teaches music to ruffians-in-the-making at School of Rock.  (Yes, there is a real School of Rock and no, Jack Black doesn’t teach there,)

He has hobbies too! Like worrying that I’m disappointed in him because he didn’t become a rock star which is balderdash, if balderdash means kind of true. (Not really, Jesse. Find another hobby…like rock stardom!)

Yet, if I met him at Starbucks today and we struck up a conversation I would try to figure out a way to make him my BFF, whatever that means, because, if you leave out the rock star part, and I don’t, he’s turned into the kind of adult I could like very much, because loving him might seem creepy given the age difference between him and me, although I think his devilish good looks might make it understandable.

And not to toot my own horn (and as David Letterman says, “I would if I could”), I think he’ll probably raise my future grandchildren in a similar way so, I’ll probably like them too.  If not, I’ll just give them the face.

All of which goes to show, I molly-coddled him and, as a result, he defied me in the most important ways. No rock stardom for him!  He could hit his unprotected head on a microphone stand or not wear a seatbelt in the back of a limousine, causing him to fall across the laps of girls of disrepute and who knows (or wants to know) what could have happened.

So, new parents, feed your kids too much sugar and surprise them with a spanking now and then, followed by the words my dear old dad used to say, “That was for nothing. Think how bad it will be if you do something.”

Those were the days.  Thank goodness they’re over.

Why 312 Months is a Difficult Age

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Why 312 Months is a Difficult Age

Parenting is a challenge. Just about the time you realize what your 12-month-old means by geya, (read a book) your 312-month-old moves out of the house.

I know what you’re thinking, “Did you count to three? Because the book says counting three will nip unwanted behavior in the bud”. I did and it didn’t.

I threatened to ground him, but he openly defied me as he packed about 500 of the 1200 t-shirts he owns, along with some guitar picks and was out the door with everything he would need to be a guy in the world.

I wasn’t too worried at first. You know what they say, he’ll get to the end of the block and change his mind and they were right, except about the changing his mind. Apparently, he got to the end of the block, went onto the next block, eventually got on the expressway and forgot the saying entirely, which is not as cute as my friend’s son’s story. He ran away from home on a tricycle dressed only in his mother’s filmy pink nightgown. This would be less cute and more creepy if the son in question was 312 months old, but, luckily, this youngster was a mere lad and therefore only raised a few eyebrows and instead of the suspicion of the neighborhood watch.

It’s going on two months since my son became room mates with two women and had to pretend to be gay so as not to raise the suspicion of their conservative and clueless landlord and that, of course, was Three’s Company. My son has become room mates with two women and two men, none of which pretend to be gay, except maybe their cat, who is suspiciously drawn to Broadway musicals.

Still this doesn’t mean hijinks and shenanigans don’t occur on a regular basis. It just means there’s no laugh track and none of the girls are dingbats or future spokespeople for the thighmaster.

The entire situation has thrown me through a loop, but I’ve always been pretty clumsy. On one hand, I want my son to live in the basement of my house and be at my beck and call when it comes to going out for breakfast or watching cat videos on youtube or just so I can mock him in person, but on the other hand…to be honest, there is no other hand. I just want him to live in my basement.

I suppose if he actually considered this his best option, I would doubt my fitness as a mother all the while we were going out to breakfast and I would, most certainly, be making fun of him for his lameness as it pertains to basements. Still, there would be the youtube sharing, but I guess that’s not enough to make life decisions by unless you want to make your mother happy and guilty at the same time, and who doesn’t?

His departure has made me question a number of things in my life. I wonder if I should have had a second child, a girl, maybe, with a sweet manner and the desire to make me happy at all costs. Then I look at the ghosts of their former selves, which are my friend with daughters, and realize that sugar and spice and everything nice business is crap, at least till the daughters move out of your house.

Still, as my friends with daughters sip their crack cocaine in the morning to prepare themselves for the eye rolling and lip curling which is female adolescence, I kind of envy them and wonder if it’s better to wish your child would hit the tricycle trail then to wish they would sit on your lap beyond the time it’s physically, psychologically, and socially a terrible idea for them to do so.

Other vital questions: Now that I’m no longer the mother of a child, does that mean I should stop signing him up for tee-ball in the spring? How many times can I tell the story of him saying “a little bite of Jesus” rather than “a taste of heaven” before the cashier at Jewel quits her job to become an inner city cop? Should I buy groceries for him to stave off scabies or let him eat globs of grease until he learns that Crisco is not a food group?

All in all, it’s part of the evolution of parenting from holding your breath in hopes that he’ll fall asleep so you can finally catch up on the four months of sleep you’ve missed since the introduction of baby monitors in your life, to holding your breath in hopes that he’s happy and safe and, to tell the truth, I still like the breath holding better than not having someone in the world that you made from scratch who may or may not cure cancer or write the next million selling record or introduce you to Chris Martin when that happens, so it’s all good, except for the fact that someone in that apartment is bound to write an wacky sitcom about his or her time living with these room mates and I’ll probably be played by Roseanne Barr as the overbearing, manipulative, nosey mother of the Jesse character, let’s call him Jorge Ponyboy, who barges into the apartment at the most inopportune times and hollers, “Don’t worry about me, I’m just a mother!” each time I arrive.

(The preceding run on sentence was brought to you by Nike.)

In real life, I have tried to control my urge to rent an apartment in the area where my son lives, mostly prompted by the order of protection he took out and I only considered calling my son Jorge Ponyboy for a brief time when he was about ten and discontinued the idea when I found out the amount of paperwork it takes to rename your 120 month old son.

Most of the time, I find better things to do than listen to this song and weep into my chocolate, and when I miss him too much, I drive the 45 minutes to his apartment and take him out to breakfast at Beatles and Bianca, (that’s an inside joke) because I’m glad he’s moving forward and enjoying his freedom and I hereby promise, if Jesse let’s me get away with this one last ode to missing him, I’ll find something else to talk about on my next blog. Maybe something new and surprising like how Chris Martin’s mom must have felt when he moved out.

What I Forgot to Tell My Son

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What I Forgot to Tell My Son

Whilst checking out at Target, I inexplicably shared with the woman ringing me up, that my son was moving out that very day. She peered at me like a small hen who had just rang up all of the ingredients for my world famous fried chicken minus the chicken and then asked if I left my son with anything.

I thought she might have meant torn towels and cracked dishes,license-plate

but she soon clarified she meant advice on how I expect him to behave.

What I should have said was I expect him to behave like he always behaves,

like an enormous galoot that trails coins, socks and guitar picks wherever he goes, but instead I told her, my son is 25 and if he hasn’t figured out what my life lessons were, it’s a little late to start now, although I still call him baby and occasionally try to pick him up, which is beside the point, but absolutely relevant when I visit the chiropractor.

She went on to discuss why teenagers can be assholes, advancing a theory which was neither relevant to our conversation or more than 10% true, but I thanked her because that’s how you get people to stop telling you things, and rolled my cart out of hearing. For all I know, she is still discussing the topic with confused replacements of me, but who can replace me, so never mind.

While driving home, I wondered what he’d say if asked about what I taught him over the time it was my chance to espouse philosophies and demand compliance. One thing’s for sure, it would be quite different than what I think I told him, so I thought I’d try to advise him one last time (kidding! I’ll never let up on him. Poor kid is an only child).

After a great deal of deep thought, here’s what I came up with.

There are seven deadly sins; sloth, envy, gluttony, anger, Curly, Larry and Doc. Try them out, pick which one you like and stick with it. My favorite is sloth, but you’ll need to figure this out for yourself.

Try not to be swarmy or smarmy.

Don’t wear white after Labor Day…or ever. I’m the one who did your laundry so, trust me on this.

Do not befriend or fall in love with anyone who can’t name The Beatles by their first and last names. Only marry someone who can tell you Paul’s first name and Ringo’s given name. The Ringo point is less important, naturally.

Try to be kind. Yes, even to the guy who argues that Yeti’s are eating his potato chips while he sleeps. There’s no need to jeer him unless your friends do and then, of course, join in.

Watch out for women who ask; Notice anything different?

Do your damn homework. Even if it’s irrelevant, like Algebra or Physics.

Even though you will always love me best, you probably shouldn’t tell women this on the first date…or the thirtieth. Maybe just keep that our little secret.

No one is better than you and you are not better than anyone else. Except for people who leave clothes on the floor is store dressing rooms and people who leave their shopping carts in handicapped parking spaces. These people are stupid and evil. Avoid them.

This is not 100% true, but people who use mustache wax are clinically insane 90% of the time. Approach them with caution.

When deciding whether or not to participate in an activity; ask yourself, will this make a hilarious story to tell my mother? If the answer is yes, do it and try to take videos. If the answer is no, move on to the next ridiculous activity you are inclined to participate in.

Never end a sentence with a preposition. (Do as I say, not as I do. Doobie doobbie doo.) Make of that what you will.

If anyone wants to fight you, seem to happy about it and they’ll wander off.

Finally, become a rock star so I can meet Paul McCartney and Chris Martin. I’m sorry but you just don’t meet enough people I want to meet as a Forensic Psychologist. (I know. I just can’t remember the title you’re aiming for.)

Wait. Don’t forget to tell me you miss me with a fiery passion, even if you haven’t given me a second thought in days.

Oh, one more. Lie.

Why My Son Uses Frowned Upon Language

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Why My Son Uses Frowned Upon Language

 

When my son was about two, he sat in my Pastor’s house, happily building with blocks in the middle of the living room floor. My husband and I were friends with the pastor and his wife Lori, because she said we had to be.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it was just, growing up Catholic, it never occurred to me that you could be friends with your minister, let alone his wife, which would be a whole other kettle of fish. Turned out, the Pastor’s wife was, and is my kind of gal, but that’s not why you called.

Anyway, there was my cherubic son, wearing his OshKosh B’Gosh overalls and looking for all the world like the sweetest human being God ever put on the planet. OK, that’s probably just me, but I’m right.

As he built whatever he thought he was building, (he was darling but architecture wasn’t his strong point,” it all tumbled to the floor.

That's right, baby, D is for @#$%^!

That’s right, baby, D is for @#$%^!

He let loose with a dammit preceded by the name of the deity who should do so and then went back to his work. Silence ensued.

 

When I managed to raise my eyes to the pastor, he cocked an eyebrow. “Cable TV?” I offered feebly, knowing full well who was responsible; my husband and his potty mouth.

OK. That’s not quite true. Actually, of we’re going to be technical, it’s an out right lie. It was Lori.

Actually, as I’m sure anyone who knows me or any idiot off of the street, (I’m choosing not make a joke at the expense of those who know me and, those of you who do, know what a strain that is for me,) will assume without making an ass of either one of us, that my son’s unfortunate slip was simply an echo of what he’d heard while, as is the case with most mothers and children,
we were making cookies together using cookie cutters which would not release the dough.

I instantly regretted my words and vowed to watch my language. I didn’t, but I made that vow so that should count for something.

After another out-of-character tirade (for a two-year-old and not so much for a seasoned sailor,) spewed from the back seat of my car, aimed at a slow driving person in front of us, I realized I had to clean up my language and this time it stuck, unless I became unglued. (See what I did there?)

One exception is notable however and this isn’t really my fault. When my son was about seven, I was trying, unsuccessfully to change to bulbs in our ceiling fan/light fixture. Time after time, I attempted to screw the bulb in, which was nearly out of my reach, but not so much so that I easily gave up.

Finally, I thought I’d done it and, as I was crawling off of the official tool for screwing in light bulbs, my kitchen chair, the bulb and the surrounding fixture fell to the floor with an impressive crash.

I said something along the order of @#$%^&&^%$#$%^&*(*&^%$#$%^&*! And your mother too! You *&^%$%^&!

Almost immediately I remembered my son, quietly watching shows with little, to no profanity, in the next room and I went in to apologize. He was sitting on the edge of the recliner, his large eyes nearly double in size, causing him look a bit like animé and not in a particularly bad way, depending on your level of dorkiness.

I profusely apologized and explained it was very wrong for me to wish the maker of my ceiling fan a painful experience in his private regions.

“That’s ok, Mommy,” he said. “I didn’t even know those words could go together.”

So we both learned a valuable lesson that day.

Some time later, I was rewarded with a feeling of maternal progress when my son approached me and announced, “I know what the F word is!”

I sighed and explained that knowing it is ok, but saying it was not nice. He nodded and promised not to say it, but I could tell he was desperate to say it and who wouldn’t be? So, I gave him permission to tell me, just this once.

He could hardly contain his pride as he announced the word. “Shut up,” he said.

“That’s right!” I said, relief and amusement washing over me.

Later that week, while on the phone with a casual friend I recounted the story and, because amusement goeth before a fall, I gave the phone to my son and told him to tell my friend what the F word is.

He took the phone in his hands and said, “Fuck.”

My friend was very angry and didn’t see what was so funny about encouraging my young son to use filthy language. She is no longer my friend, not precisely because of that, but because when I told my real friends, including the soon to be ex-wife of my former pastor they belly laughed and that’s what you want in a friend.

Eventually, I reverted to my less than pristine language mostly because I believe words are words and some of them shouldn’t be set aside because someone (probably someone’s mother whilst burning her hand as she lit the castle’s candles) said they were bad.

My son is now 25 and I’d like to say he has learned to control his use of the F word, (which by the way, in case anyone is  still wondering, does not mean shut up), but this is not the case. In fact he sometimes uses that very phrase I used while destroying my ceiling fan and, rather unkindly points out that I have no one to blame but myself, which is true , but still not the kind of thing a mother wants to see written across her Mother’s Day cake.

Because I’m a time-and-place kind of potty mouth there are times I regret my behavior and, as an old person, I feel compelled to give advice to the young, not so much so they won’t traverse the same rocky road as I, but because, after I give them this unwanted advice and they head off into the sunset using the very road I warned them against, I can say, I told you so.

So, always remember, (here’s where young people hear the sound of the adults in the Peanuts cartoons so I could say just about anything, but still…) Do not watch cable TV (this was a type of entertainment which existed before satellites and the Internet) with your impressionable children and, what ever you do, don’t change light bulbs until they’re asleep.

Oh, and take your pastor’s wife out to lunch and ask her if she knows what the F word is.