Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I confronted my bullies...


I used to pray as I walked to school that I would get hit by a car.  I wasn't pretty, my clothes were wrong, my glasses were too big, and I had braces.  Couple that with being in a few smart classes and having a lesbian mom and I was a natural for the role of social misfit.  

 
It wasn't that I didn't have friends; there was a whole table of us in the lunchroom that hung out together. I wasn't lonely, but I was scared and scarred. I spent years daydreaming about revenge.  I would look out the window on long car trips and fantasize about smashing a particular girl's face in, over and over. 
By the time I saw her again, we were both parents and almost forty.  Face-smashing was no longer on my agenda.
I was in a group of casual friends enjoying a glass of wine at our high school reunion when I realized she was in the circle of people I was talking to.  The first thing I noticed was how much shorter than me she was; I remembered her as looming over me, tall, ugly, and angular. now she was just a short fat middle-aged woman. I brought up the time period when I hid from her in the halls of school, and she didn't remember it at all.  She admitted that she had been a bully to other kids though, and she believed me when i said she made my life hell, and apologized for it.
 "I know I made life hell for a lot of people back then," she said. "And it stops with my generation. I do not tolerate bullying with my kids…it's one thing I learned. I refuse to let them bully other people."
I told her that I always assumed that she must have had a hard life if she was filled with such venom.  That was what my other always told me when I came home crying - that happy kids with happy home lives don't bully other kids.  If she was so mean, she must have been in a lot of pain.  The bully admitted that this was true. Her childhood was miserable, but she didn't use it as justification. She told me she had sought out the one boy who she tormented the most and tried to apologize to him as well.
That's the part that is missing from so many discussions on bullying.  Yes, we can come down hard on kids that bully, but often - if not all  of the time- bullies are kids that are in a bad situation and don't know how else to function. The bully because it is one way they can win.  In my school, at least, bullies were lauded and rewarded. If this girl didn't bully, she would have been fodder for someone else, because dysfunctional kids generally fall into one camp or the other; predator or prey.
I'm not saying that a zero tolerance policy is wrong.  Bullying is something I will not tolerate, and if my kids are bullied, I am willing to go to extreme measures -including home schooling - to protect them. 
(Note: homeschooling is not an extreme measure for many people. I have good friends who love to homeschool. For me, though, it would be an extreme measure.)  
One day I got a Facebook friend request from another one of my tormenters. This girl had thrown used boys underwear onto my face during a church sleep over, among other things. When she sent me a friend request on Facebook I was happy to take the opportunity to ask, "Why in the world would I want to be friends with you after you tormented me to the point that I hated going to church?" I asked her.  She didn't remember any of it.   I offered her the excuse of being unhappy herself as a teenager, but she denied it.  She was happy, she thought.  She honestly had no idea what I was talking about, but apologized anyway. Saying "sorry" didn't mean anything to her, and her apology didn't mean anything to me. I denied her friend request.
I did accept a different bully's friend request, though.  I have not spoken to him about the past, because I don't have to; I can see in his posts his sensitivity to hate and his abhorrence of intolerant people.  He has grown into a good man.
In my discussions I have learned that the peace I seek does not come from the bully; they no longer have power over me to make me feel anything, even closure.  My healing was personal and private, it had nothing to do with them.  Perhaps the pain they caused me had less to do with them than I thought originally as well. Maybe my mother was right; maybe I didn't have to internalize everything.  As a child, though, you don't have control over who you sit next to in class, or who follows you home.  You don't have the ability to walk away. Growing up gives you power.  Loving who you are gives you wings.  

previously published on blogHer 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My dog is an asshole.


Meet Dog. In our family diagram, he fills the role of Family Asshole. 




He will not only take a piece of pizza out of a child's hand, but he will refuse to relinquish it.  Although if he did give it back I should probably not feed the dog-slobbed-on pizza to the children, or at least not admit to that on the internet, ever, but that is beside the point. He should relinquish it on demand, not run away and clamp down his teeth in doggie death grip mode.

He routinely drags his anus across the carpet, and if he's not in the mood for that, he just yaks on the rug instead. 

Although he is only 18" tall (measured from the floor to the tips of his ears) he routinely gets on the table to eat bacon, and when he does, the farts that come out of the dog are disproportionate to his size.  How can such a tremendously evil insidiously pervasive stench be contained in such a small animal?

According to the cat, someone needs to firmly explain the nuances of informed consent to him.

No, fuckypuppy! Bad fuckypuppy!  Don't worry kids, they are just wrestling. He's not hurting the cat. I think. I make sure to stop him before any penetration can actually occur. 



Dryhumping is not  isolated to this cat, either. We used to have a yellow lab. My asshole dog used to hump his face while he was sleeping. I believe that shows a pattern of abuse or at least Chronic Assholery. No means no, Dog.  Just because your buddy passed out on the floor does not mean he is fair game. 

He smells bad. He sheds. He occasionally grows gross moles on his eyes and chin that make him hard to look at until my stepmother mysteriously "deals with them" when we go to her house.

And yet, he is family. He is our smelly, asshole dog. And we love him. Sort of. OK, a lot, mostly, except for when he does that anus-carpet thing.  He sleeps with Big Pants at night - right in his bed, under the covers.  He cleans up any crumbs or toast-shards dropped on the floor. He will sit  and lie down for Tiny Pants, if and only if he has a treat to give him.  But that's about it. 

He doesn't fetch, or play with toys, or do anything particularly endearing. The best thing I can say about him is that he is tolerant. He has infinite patience with the children dressing him up (OK, with me dressing him up) and instead of a justified snarl his chosen means of retaliation is  simpering Bambi eyes. 



And yet, if he were gone, we'd miss him.  I bitch about the shedding, then smell, the pizza thievery, but in the end, he's our dog. And if we didn't have him, I'd want another asshole dog.  To me, a family is not complete without critters, even asshole ones. 

He is ten years old; I know he probably won't make it to see either of the boys graduate high school. (Not that he would care about the ceremony, he'd just be all about the cake and Doritos afterward.)  I know in spite of all his yakking and farting and shedding and inappropriate humping that I love that little fucker and I will miss him when he's gone. I don't know how our family would function without him. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tiny Pants had to make a turkey for Thanksgiving.


Like many kindergarteners, the school is pushing their Gratitude Agenda and forcing children to pause before the gimme gimme gimme presents rush of December to contemplate things they are grateful for that they already have.  

I'm sure they encourage them to consider being grateful for some non-materialistic things, because of the Gratitude Turkeys on display, most did not list toys, video games, or TVs, but that could also be because, to my children at least, these things are their God Given right and not something extra special. Most kids today, mine included, would never even think that a TV wasn't an absolute necessity, and they can't even imagine a life without toys. 

Tiny Pants has a history of interesting answers to class projects. Last month, he wrote down that his Halloween ghost likes to eat thigh.  When questioned, he huffed back at me, "I meant chicken!"  Because obviously ghosts prefer chicken to thighs. Or maybe they like chicken thighs. 

This is his turkey:



He is grateful for:
Mom
Dad
His Brother (ironically, the only legible word on there)
His Teacher
Books
Elbows

Yes, when having to choose the top 6 things he is happy about having in life, elbows made the list. 

I questioned him about it, and yes, he meant elbows, and he adamantly defended his choice.

Without elbows you can't eat.
Without elbows you can't drink.
Without elbows your hands would not stay attached to your body.

The kid has a point, and I guess elbows are better than knees because of that whole eating thing. I'd add that he couldn't snuggle his sleep bunny or hug Mama as easily without elbows. 

There you have it; gratitude, Tiny Pants style. The kid is a gem. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest Post: Accidental Co-Parents: Baby Daddy Just Doesn't Cut It


I found Martha at momsoap after reading her article on Brain, Child magazine. I liked her writing so much I chased her down and made friends with her. We decided to switch blogs for a day, and I hope you will hop over to momsoap and read her insights into parenting a biracial child, co-parenting as two very involved single parents, racism, feminism, and whatever else comes to her mind. You won't be disappointed.


Accidental Co-Parents: Baby Daddy Just Doesn't Cut It





For five years now, I've had this strange conundrum that I figure I will probably never really solve. But it comes up now and again, this first world problem that I have. What to call the father of my child?


We were never married. Didn't even live together, well, actually, we did, but not in that way. It's complicated.


The short version is, we dated; we stopped dating; stayed friends and kept screwing; and eventually we had a baby together.

Over and over again, I have to tell people, "He's not my husband. He's not my ex-husband."
It's not exactly complicated, but for a private introvert/extrovert (I'm pretty friendly, but don't go asking me personal questions) it is a continual source of mild distress because I hate to explain things to people I barely know. I wish there could be a convenient name we can give people in this situation, if only for my own convenience and comfort level. Because, since we are living now a few generations into the sexual revolution, I think that it's highly likely we are not the only people in this country with this problem.

In a casual sexual relationship, without a child, it's easy. Boyfriend/girlfriend, Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. Lovers. Ex-lovers. Friends. Friends-with-benefits. There are a number of easy ways to define the relationship until you throw a child into the mix. And all of those definitions fit the bill for us at one time or another, until our daughter was born.

Now, it's not so easy.

I generally refer to him as my ex, which is true. We were once in a relationship and we spawned a baby.

Because we have a child together, saying, "my ex" leads people to refer back to him as my ex-husband, which he is not. And even though I correct people over and over, I find that mentioning to them that were never married suddenly changes him in the eyes of some people. I've had people say, "Well, you're soooooo lucky that he's such a great dad (read: wow! He knocked you up and he's still involved????)!"

And I wonder, why? Why am I so lucky? Is it because only married men can be good dads? Is it because only men who love the mothers of their children can be good dads? Can't a dad just be a good dad because he's a good person and he loves his child? Does his accessibility as a parent need to be tied to our relationship with each other?

As casual as our relationship became, his relationship with our daughter has always been serious and dedicated. Any of the definers, other than ex-husband, come with connotations that don't fit them.

And they don't fit us either. In truth, we do have something meaningful. Although, I'm not going to try to express it here because it is complicated and sometimes confusing even to me. But suffice it to say, we are friends and we care about each other.

So, calling him my daughter's father doesn't signify what he is to me, which is my friend and parenting partner. He wasn't my husband, but there are characteristics about our relationship that are similar. There just simply are no terms that are easy to use and yet conjure up what we all are to each other.

It's not a heavy societal issue, even though it stems from living in a historically puritanical society. Really, it's just a pain in the ass. It's inconvenient.

Our culture's language doesn't make room for two parents who once were in love and conceived a child, without the benefit of marriage, but jumped into parenthood with the stability of two responsible adults.

We function more like a mildly dysfunctional family. He is not just a weekend dad. He is a constant in her life, involved in school and friendships, well, not as much as I am, but probably as much as many dads who live in the home. And no, I'm not trying to be stereotypical of the traditional dad-role. I'm basing this on current statistics and real-life observations. Statistically, and anecdotally, moms just do more than dads.

How We Function
Even though we aren't a traditional family, we still feel like a family as much as two single parents can feel like a family. We are financially separate. And we are physically separate, living in individual homes, but only three doors down from each other.

Our daughter gets the benefits of a two-parent home in many ways, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of two single-parent homes. We take turns taking her to school and picking her up. We both help with homework (well, I do that more). He puts her to bed sometimes. She has two bedrooms and doubles of many toys. But she also has to split her weekends between the two of us.

Out in public, we can function similarly to a married couple and we still like each other well enough. We get along well, and we even do things together as a family occasionally.
We have traveled together regularly since she was born, as his family lives out of state, but neither she, nor I, wanted her to travel without me as an infant or toddler. After that, it just started to feel okay. Although, I suspect that the older she gets, that will taper off.

There Are No Words for What We Are

So, we aren't just exes. We are co-parents. But that nicer-sounding, progressive term, co-parent, just doesn't flow off the tongue easily. And besides, nobody knows what you mean when you say that and they don't parrot it back. They just say ex-husband. I tried it out when my daughter was a baby and still got questions or assumptions. I was still either a divorcee or a few times, a lesbian, I think. I was never really sure about that one. And while I was flattered to be seen as such a progressive, lesbian chic, with a biracial baby, it just wasn't true.

So when calling him my co-parent didn't work, I tried on calling him my baby daddy. It didn't last long. That one was fraught with racism, and a tinge of bigotry. My ex is black and I am white, so it wasn't very funny to him and  he hates it/hated it when I said it, plus, I laughed every time I said it, partly out of nervousness because of the stereotypes it conjured up, neither of which fit us.

I have used the term, ex-partner, but people still hear husband/wife in that combo.

So, in the end, I just explain and explain again.

Yes, we have a child together. No we are not, nor were we ever married. "I just got knocked up," cue my solitary laughter as other later-in-life parents stare at me as if they can't believe I was too stupid to figure out birth control. Or perhaps they are battling their own assumptions while I stand there telling them I'm a single mom because that doesn't fit me either.

As an infant I still enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom and now, I'm self-employed, allowing for one morning a week of  volunteer work at my daughter's school and I pick her up at 2:45, rather than sending her to after-school care.

Single Parent Stereotyping is No Fun

I think that's the biggest problem. People can't see it. The stereotypes of single parents simply don't allow for non-married, friendly, not-young, people to be parenting a child together without some sort of explanation other than poorly functioning birth control methods.

So there you go. We actually fit the stereotype of well-to-do middle class suburbanites and with that goes the assumption that we must have been married to each other at some point. And I guess that I fit a stereotype of a middle class-ish suburban wife/mom isn't exactly the worst thing in the world. But it just isn’t true.

Martha Wood is a single, white, female; a work-at-home mom; mother to a biracial daughter. She blogs about race, parenting, single motherhood, and women’s issues at: http://www.momsoap.com ?You can follow her onFacebookTwitter and Pinterest 




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winning with Leg Warmers


If you were old enough to remember it the first time, you are too old to wear it the second time.


I have long held the above wisdom to be true. Nothing looks more ridiculous than an older woman desperately chasing her youth through fashion she is just too old for. I decided long ago never to stay on the fashion elevator too long. 


Fashion Elevator courtesy of artobserver.com



But then they brought back leg warmers.


In 4th grade I had pink leg warmers, after begging and pleading with my mother to let me substitute them for the hated snow pants.  I had only one pair, and they were perfect bubble gum pink.  I could wear them folded down over the lower half of my legs, or pull them all the way up to my crotch when I walked the mile and a half home from school.  They were my favorite thing in the closet.

Image: punkbabyclothes.net

My favorite TV show was Fame, and I even had the poster on my wall of the feet in ballet shoes and leg warmers that was in the studio on the show.

Image: allposterimages

Leg warmers were soon replaced with wearing multiple pairs of baggy socks worn over top of your jeans so that we all had fuzzy cankles. It was nice and all, but it wasn't the same. Yes, you could color coordinate your baggy socks and you could borrow socks from your friends if you went bowling and forgot to wear socks, because everyone else had 2 or 3 pairs of socks on at all times.  But baggy socks were like a redneck cousin to the pure joy of the leg warmer.

Then slowly, stealthily, leg warmers started reappearing again, all tricky fashion ninja like. 

So what if she's not
actually wearing leg warmers?
image: angelbodywear

My heart leaped with glee and I purchased several pairs immediately, though I was a little hesitant to wear them.  They were slouchy. I was old.  Did their slouch mimic and accentuate the slouch of my face?

In short, can a 40 year old wear leg warmers and not be ridiculous?  

Fuck, yes she can! 

Let's admit it; wearing a skirt sucks in the cold. I hate to freeze for fashion.  Leg warmers allow you to wear skirts and things and not freeze.  

This is good for:

A. Not Freezing, obviously,

and more importantly

B. Keeping your leg hair short.  Leg hair grows faster when you are cold and all goose bumped.  I guess it is trying to make you warmer.  Leg Warmers are fashions way of protecting you against this evil yet proven phenomenon. 


Plus, you can have so many looks with leg warmers!  

You can wear them slouchy and transition your shoes-that-go-only-with-pants 
into shoes-that-can-be-worn-with-a-skirt.


You can use them to turn summer sling-backs into a winter appropriate choice and thus hit the end of season sale racks with a clear conscience. You really can wear those in December:

Yes, these are my winter shoes.




You can wear them all sexy like

This much fabulosity can never go out of style.



And you can wear them around the house when you are too lazy to find pants. 
Or shave your legs. Or both. 

Pants? Who needs pants?

I don't care if I was old enough to remember wearing them the first time. I don't care if they are only in style for ten minutes. I am getting off the fashion elevator here with my leg warmers on, and I don't even care if they make my knees look slouchy. I love them like I love chocolate covered bacon.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Gimme Gimme Gimme Presents!

Image: paralegalhell.com


I am starting my Christmas List. By this I mean a list of things I want someone to buy me, not the kind of Christmas list consisting of things I plan to buy for other people. While it may seem childlike and cute, or perhaps egotistical and self-centered, the truth is that a good list of presents you want is a good thing to have.

When I was a child I would watch commercials with a pen and paper, so I could write down all the magical, beautiful toys I saw. I would generate a list of twenty or thirty items, far more than Santa had a budget for.  As I got older, my list got smaller, and I was praised by my mother for being less of a greedy materialistic consumer, though I think she probably phrased it more nicely. 

Eventually, I reached the, "I don't know, i have so much, I don't need anything, it's the thought that counts," stage of holidays.  Bull puckey.  Saying you don't want things is denying that you are a person, not just a mother, or wife. People always want stuff, we just are socialized to think we are not good people if we admit it.

If we don't have at least a few suggestions for people, do you know what that makes us? No, not nonmaterialistic people with strong values.  Heck, I bet at least on occasion the Dalai Llama thinks, geez I'd really like a new yoga mat, and you can bet that Mother Theresa always had a list ready of things she needed for her orphanages and charity work, even if she didn't like, request a pair of purple socks for herself. She knew what she needed and I'm sure she had it written down.

Not specifying your wants and needs  doesn't make you noble, it  makes you a Future Recipients of Bad Gifts. When you open a bad present and aren't genuinely excited, it hurts the feelings of the gift giver, and that is just plain mean. You owe it to your loved ones to allow them to buy you shit that makes you jump up and down like a five year old.  

If you really and legitimately don't want anything, then ask for handmade gifts. I had a friend who would challenge her sisters to see who could make the most fabulously bad item for under $30. You can make it fun.  

At another time in my life, we did a charity gift exchange.  We had to give $25 to charity in the other person's name, but it had to be a charity that reflected their personality. I bought pants and underwear for a homeless shelter in honor of a man who was legendary for dropping his drawers at  family parties.  It was as exciting to see what charity people could link to a funny story as it would have been to open bad gifts. 

So, please, Mamas, keep Christmas fun. Don't do that whole, "All I want for Christmas is for my family to be happy," crap. Yes, yes, I know it is true. All any mother really wants is the gift of making her people happy. But it's ok to want something for yourself, too. 

If you need inspiration, check out one of my favorite sites, PinUpGirlClothing, where you can be fabulously quirky no matter what your size. I'm sure you can find at least one item you can't live without!

Look how fabulous I am! Buy me here!


I am just as fabulous as you are, skinny bitch! Buy me here!








Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I will Always Suck At Keeping a Clean House


Some people are really good at managing chaos and keeping their house clean and tidy in spite of having children or hobbies or whatever.  These are the kinds of people who look at my house with frustration and entreat me to only do a few simple things:

1. Only eat at the table, 

and 

2.  Put something away before you move on to the next thing.

These people are 100% correct.  It really is that simple.  My house would be 10x cleaner if I issued just these two Grand All-Encompassing Edicts and enforced them all the time. 

Except that I'm not that kind of person.  First of all, I suck at all-encompassing edicts.  My inner rebel wants to demand an exception just on hearing the rule. I tend to view too many things as somewhat fluid. 

For example, this is what my No Eating In The Living Room Rule looks like in theory:  There shall be no eating in the living room, mostly, and never on the couch.


First off, I recognize that left to my own devices I always eat in the living room. As a child, there was nothing I resented more than "do as I say, not as I do," which I heard a lot of. SO while I recognize that children are messier eaters than adults, I also understand that everyone wants to eat on the couch in front of the TV.  It's where all the good stuff happens. So this rule is more like an ideal than a steadfast one.

In practice it's more like this: 

No, don't eat that in the living room. Well, OK if you sit in the blue chair, or on the floor, and are very careful. Or if we are watching a movie and I want popcorn and I am on the couch.  But never ice cream in the living room. No ice cream on the rug seems like a good rule. But now I'm trying to write something and the kids are making me crazy and fine get out of my airspace and eat that anywhere but on the couch! 

A friend  came over yesterday,and I theorized that if I moved to  a new house I could switch all the rules to new, more-better ones and the kids would just follow them docilely. Unfortunately, she decided to through a bucket of cold, wet reality on my plan.

"If you are the kind of person who eats in the living room, that's unlikely to change if you move."  

Drat. Why can't I magically solve everything in life with overspending?  And why do people have to bring reality into everything?

And as for the whole Grand All-Encompassing Rule #2 (Put something away before you move on to the next thing.) The people that can manage that successfully are either:

A. Less spacey and distracted than I am - wait, there's a squirrel!

B. Better at time management than I am - Holy hairballs, we had to leave five minutes ago! Everyone in the car, now!

C. Better yellers.  I found that because I don't have the kids everyday, I don't like to spend a majority of the time yelling. Yup, I'm playing the single Mama card. I'd rather play than yell.

But let's look at that excuse more thoroughly.  If I had them everyday, would I yell more? Sure. But probably not all that much. Really, a certain amount of mess doesn't bother me as much as it does other people. All I need is some clear space between the piles. As long as I have that, I really am fine with it.  Again, if you are the kind of person who is OK with mess, that probably isn't going to change all that much.




Of course I'd rather have a clean house.  We'd all like a clean house, but in the effort : reward ratio, my general day to day happiness is increased by not caring too much about it. 

Unless I invite people over. That changes everything. I actually view my house much more critically if someone new is stopping by.  But there's a theory on that, too.  If my house is clean the first time you come over, you will expect it to be clean.  If my house is trashed the first time you come over, you will disproportionately impressed whenever you see it clean in the future.  Or you'll run screaming. Hard to say. And if it bothers you that much, we can hang at your house instead, which is better, because that keeps my house cleaner anyway.  I'll even bring the snacks.