Friday, December 20, 2013

New Year's Resolutions Part I

Generally, I think making New Year's resolutions is a fairly pointless exercise, but I still do it almost every year--I like the idea of a fresh start.  And as a mother, I really, really like the idea of a fresh start (but not if it involves having a fresh baby.  Not gonna happen), because as much as it may seem (or maybe not) that I am comfortable with being a slightly disastrous mom--that I am a little too cool for mom school--the fact is, like pretty much every mother I know, I am wracked with guilt much of the time over my shortcomings.  Here's the deal: We (almost) all have a sense of how to be a good mom, what to do and not do, etc.  Vegetables are a yes, massive amounts of TV, a no. But actually DOING those things, consistently, day after day, week after week, year after year--all while being violently resisted and psychologically tortured much of the time--well, it turns out it is harder than you would think.  So then we fail and screw up, and then we feel bad.  And then our children probably turn out fine anyway.  But that is besides the point.  

In any case, in our household, we have established many, many bad habits and have failed to establish critical good habits, and I would like to believe that in 2014 we could maybe change a few things.  So, I'm going to lay out an overly ambitious family makeover plan here with the mind that if we do even one of these things, we can count it as a victory (right?)  My idea is that we work on one thing each month, then the next month, continue that good thing and add on another.  I can audibly hear the scoffing and laughter in my head.  Part II of this process is that I will blog about it (I can audibly hear the cheers of millions of fans all over the world. Oh wait, that's also coming from inside my head).  This will provide not only accountability for the makeover, it will hopefully mean I have at least 12 blog entries next year instead of 5 (pathetic!).  And that will change my life...somehow..?  

January
Absolute top priority for 2014 is getting a handle on the screen time/technology addiction, preferably before Lawson's check up with the super strict pediatrician later in the month, the one who actually asks you about screen time and then tsk tsks you for it (has he ever spent an entire day locked in a house with two small children? I think NOT).  It is completely out of control, for all of us.  Charlotte could be  a kids' film critic for the LA Times (although I can't say she's terribly discriminating; she even liked Little Mermaid 2 for pity's sake).  Meanwhile, Lawson goes through violent withdrawal when his iPod runs out of batteries.  As for me, I am ashamed to say I spend most of my days mindlessly flipping through apps on my iPhone.  It's like that thing is grafted to my hand.  I can't even get through an entire show on Netflix without skipping out to check my email, the weather forecast, do a google search, Facebook, SOMETHING.  My attention span has winnowed down to that of a Yorkie on meth. And we won't talk about Kevin, because he is an introvert, and we are not allowed.  But let me just say that it's bad.  It's real bad.  

Doing something about this is complicated by the fact that we have perhaps foolishly gotten the kids a Wii for Christmas.  I don't know why we would have done this, they don't even know what a Wii is and therefore can't imagine that they want it, but we probably got it for the same reason we have gotten all their other toys/games/tech and that is so they will LEAVE US THE H*** ALONE.  Which they still don't, but we keep hoping.  I do think the Wii might be slightly better than TV and iPods because a lot of the games do involve at least standing up, so perhaps it is progress on the obesity front, if not the ADHD front.  

So here's the plan so far, still in formulation.  For the kids: They can each have no more than 2 hours per day of screen time of any kind, because that is the recommendation of the experts, but the Wii counts on a .5 basis.  I realize that some of you are appalled, because 2 hours a day sounds like a lot to you, but let me assure you that in our house, this is actually an ambitious goal (sad to say).   For me, too, I am going to try to go mostly cold turkey with my phone, we'll see, that may cause seizures.  For Kevin, we won't go there, because we don't have the energy, and we are not allowed. But here is the most radical and important element of the tech addiction recovery plan: NO-TECH SUNDAYS.  Yes.  No TV, no Wii, no phones (unless we are talking on it to a loved one), no email, nada.  Just old fashioned family togetherness.  Let the weeping and wailing begin, and I expect the kids won't be too thrilled either.   The exception to the tech rule is that anytime the public would be endangered by a lack of technology (restaurants, planes, etc), all rules are suspended.  We must think of others.  

February
Now things are going to get really terrible, because not only will we continue with the technology rules, we will add better eating.  Yes, I know, I might as well send my children to a Russian orphanage (and don't think I haven't considered it).  Kevin and I actually eat pretty well, although I am hoping to stop eating so much sugar.  But this is more aimed at getting tough with the kids, who now eat a grand total of 5 things, none of them bearing any natural color to speak of  and none of them actually cooked by me, not because I don't cook but because my children are apparently terrified that I plan to poison them one day (and don't think I haven't considered it).  Their first rule in eliminating items from their diet is whether or not Mommy cooked it.  If she did, it is automatically inedible. Seriously, they will eat a bean burrito from Taco Bell, but they won't touch a homemade one.  I actually take it quite personally, I think they sense how much I hate cooking and how much effort it is for me, and they see this as their big chance to stick it to me.  So I am putting them on notice, and this is actually not primarily about their physical health, I think they are probably fine and not going to die from chicken nugget overdose.  This is about my mental health, because there is nothing that sends me over the cliff faster than nobody eating what I cook.  And most importantly, this is about winning.  And I. Am. Going. To. Win.  Period.  

So this is what is going to happen.  Every dinner, EVERY DINNER, will consist of homemade food (at times leftovers).  It will be served.  There will be no choice.  There will be no bribery with dessert.  There will be no dessert.  There will be no begging and pleading.  You either eat it, or you don't.  If you don't, you may see it again tomorrow night.  I pledge not to make anything too weird or crazy or spicy or offensive or hippie.  But You. Will. Eat. My. Cooking.  Period. And that DOES go for Kevin, too.  If I am going to cook, people out there better eat it.  And if they don't, starvation is the least of their fears, trust me about that.  

OK, that is all the time I have for today's installment.  Stay tuned for New Year's Resolutions Part II. ...How much Dickensian can it get?  We shall see.   

Monday, November 4, 2013

OK, so I'm not Oprah

Nor am I Momastery or Pioneer Woman or any of those other bloggers who have actual readers who are not their relatives and who blog more than once a decade.  A big reason why I hardly ever blog anymore is that I am becoming less cranky.  My kids are starting to annoy me just a tiny bit less.  And it appears that I can't be creative or funny if I am not cranky.  Now I guess I'm going to have to start trying to be "inspirational" and give all the moms out there who are still cranky hope for the future.

Except that I apparently suck at being inspirational.  You may recall how just a couple blog posts ago (which, granted, was like 7 months ago in real time), I arrogantly surmised that I would become a better mother once my children had real, human problems, as opposed to the baby/toddler/celebrity variety, which basically amount to not getting exactly what is wanted the exact nanosecond it is wanted, or else it is a showy display of having a problem when there is none in order to determine how long it will take a caregiver to run screaming out of the house.  By that standard, I am not a good mother.  But again, I had hoped that I could be the kind of psychotherapist/life coach/mentor mother that Oprah is for all her minions and that when my child faced a real challenge, I could expertly see her through it.

Well, pride cometh before a fall, and the fall in this case came in the form of a post-tennis-lesson-meltdown, or rather two identical post-tennis-lesson-meldowns, neither of which resulted in effective Oprah-parenting, despite having two chances to succeed.  I know what you are saying--at least I know what those of you who actually witnessed my pathetic attempts at hand-eye coordination in PE class are saying--why in heavens name is a child of yours taking tennis lessons? If it's a futile endeavor you're looking for, why not just keep reorganizing your kids toys or trying new acne treatments?  That's exactly what I said, but Charlotte somehow became seized with the game around the age of 2 and has not stopped begging for lessons since.  I could tell her, "Charlotte, I have news for you, genetically speaking, you are lucky you can walk in a somewhat straight line, and I think your playing tennis may push the boundaries of human potential to the point where the universe caves in on itself," or I could enroll her in lessons and let her come to that conclusion herself.  Much less cruel.  Or so I thought.

The first few lessons went OK.  All the kids sucked.  But then the other kids stopped sucking so badly, and she suddenly realized, wow, I'm actually bad at something.  This was probably the first time in her life this had become so apparent to her, since we are more of an "indoor" family that sits around telling her how awesome and smart she is.  In any case, you might say she did not take the news of her non-awesomeness well.   You could also say that Obamacare's rollout was less than seamless or that Sarah Palin is not a foreign policy expert.  In all cases, gross exaggerations.  When I say Charlotte melted down, I literally mean she MELTED DOWN, like she became a puddle of tears on the floor that more closely resembled the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy threw water on her than an actual human child.  For an entire hour, I helplessly patted her on the back and responded to her wildly unfounded, self-flagellating claims, which included such classics as, "Everybody hates me!"  "I'm not good at anything!"  and the ever-popular "I can't go on!"  Nothing I said or did made any difference at all, despite my best Oprah impression.  In fact, it seemed to just make her more angry when I told her she had inherent value as a person that had nothing to do with whether or not she could play tennis and the key is to discover how to use the gifts she did have in order to fulfill her God-given purpose. After that bombed (how could it?), I was not even going to attempt to tell her to try, try again, so I just told her she could quit.  That only resulted in about 20 minutes of her screaming, "I quit!!!"  Clearly my presence at that point was simply redundant.  What's worse, by the next week, she had decided she actually did NOT want to quit.  I was so very proud until the end of the lesson, when we all got to repeat the entire drama again.   There hasn't been a sequel that true to the original since Hot Shots Part Deux.  Nor one as lame, because I bombed out completely for a second time.  And, again, she does not want to quit.  Darn.

Even more disturbing, as I was recounting all this to Kevin, it dawned on me that I tend to display this same kind of quickly-passing, dramatic overreaction to events that has no long-term impact on actual choices or behavior.  Just ask Kevin about the time a billboard for Hooters airlines sent me into an absolute tirade about the exploitation of women, which was followed by me, about an hour later, sitting cheerfully in the booth of a Hooters restaurant, watching the OU-TX game on the nearest TV screen we could find in the vicinity (hey, they do have good wings).  Or, when a dissertation committee member told me days before my scheduled defense that I would have to rewrite the entire thing (granted, not a small matter), I proceed to have the mother of all adult fits, with plenty of loud proclamations of my life being over, followed by a year of diligently going to the Library of Congress every day to finish my dissertation.  I may or may not have been seen crying into my laptop by fellow patrons.  But I finished. So, as I'm telling Kevin about Charlotte, he asked what helps me when I have my own meltdowns and suggested that maybe I just do the same thing with Charlotte.  And I look at him blankly.  I have no idea how to help me during my meltdowns. No idea.

The bottom line being this:  I have no idea what I am doing as a parent even when my child is behaving exactly like me.  That's like a comedian not even being able to make himself laugh or an economist who can't manage his own finances or a politician who can't lie to himself or Oprah unable to live her best life.  Or something.  It's super lame whatever it is.

I may not be the best mother, but I will say that I am an exceedingly good predictor of celebrity journalism.  See that blog post down there that predicted the coverage of Princess Kate's post-baby bounce back?  Spot on.  They just needed a picture of her breastfeeding in a bikini, and it would have been perfect.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Celebrity Motherhood

In honor of the newborn Royal Baby, I give you a rant on celebrity motherhood.

I love a good, vapid celebrity gossip magazine as well as the next well-educated person who really should be reading The New Yorker.  And probably the Bible.  I somehow got a subscription to US Weekly a couple years ago.  No really, honestly, I have no idea how it began arriving at my doorstep every week.  I'm thinking it was an anonymous gift from some really really good friend who knows me well enough to know that I would LOVE an US Weekly subscription but am too ashamed to get one for myself or look a friend in the eye if I know they got me one for fear they would see gratitude lurking there.  In any case, we get two magazines in our household every Friday, US Weekly and The Economist.  I think you can guess which one I read cover to cover.

There is nothing the celeb journalists love more than a reproducing celebrity.  So many newsworthy items come out of such a blessed event--wedding news (since celeb babies almost ALWAYS precede celeb weddings; I mean, how do you know if you want to marry someone until you've had a child with them, duh), fat news (enough said), weird celeb behavior (naming their children after vegetables, giving birth wrapped in seaweed, giving birth surrounded by a gospel-Kabbalah-Scientology choir, giving birth without an epidural), celeb self-righteousness (I only name my children after organic vegetables; my children are not allowed to watch TV unless I am the star; my children are only allowed to speak Vulcan at home because it is the only language without paternalistic overtones; I take my children to strip clubs so they won't be ashamed of their bodies), consumer news (did you know you can buy cloth diapers that miraculously wash themselves, with the help of a nanny sold separately?), and of course actual babies, many of them cute, although some surprisingly not, given the looks of their parents, assuming those looks are the kind that can be passed down genetically vice surgically.

Now, my heart really goes out to pregnant celebrities.  When I turned into an acne-covered, overall-wearing, drama-dispensing Orca, at least there was no one around photographing me.  There were those who tried and got their lives threatened and/or cameras sat upon.  But unflattering photos of a massively pregnant Kim Kardashian have peppered my US Weekly every single week.  While I will argue that it is partly her own fault for letting Kanye pick out her maternity clothes and being generally annoying, I am still sympathetic.  She--and for that matter myself and Jessica Simpson, who also looked like those weird round Japanese stuffed animals while pregnant--desperately needs her waist to look thin, and the waist is of course the first thing to go.  Without our waists, all three of us just look like giant loaves of bread.  The two of them have the added misfortune of having breasts bigger than Smart Cars.  They look like planets with two moons orbiting.  I mainly looked like a block of cement or a massive twinkie.  In any case, I feel for them.

But then they have their revenge when the baby is born, and the celeb journalists are only too happy to oblige, mainly because the new celebrity mom is holed up somewhere and the journalists have nothing to report.  Every celebrity new mom story has the exact same elements, details that are no doubt carefully fed to the waiting public while the celeb mom hibernates in her home  "She is a natural mom."  "She feels like she's grown another heart." "This is the happiest time of her life."  "Breastfeeding is going well, and she loves it." "She doesn't mind not sleeping as long as she can stare at the baby all night."  "[Celebrity man who knocked her up] is just the best dad, and the birth of little Cauliflower Arugula has brought them so close they might even get married now."  "The weight is just melting off, even though she is not allowed to exercise yet, but she's just dying to."  "The baby is the most beautiful baby ever born and its poop smells like incense."  Cut to real mom either vomiting or crying into her US Weekly, which, incidentally, is the only thing she has the mental energy to read.

What I would love to see is a celebrity mom tell the ugly truth, assuming she even knows what it looks like without a fleet of nannies and spa services at her beckon call.  Having my first child was literally the most traumatic experience of my life.  I don't know what a "natural mom" even is, since based on my experience, the most natural reaction to motherhood is to collapse into a sobbing pile of hormonal insanity and scheme ways to flee to another country because you don't know how you are going to raise an actual human being.  I actually did feel like I grew another heart, probably because that is what I literally did--along with another brain, two legs, two arms and a bunch of other stuff--and man, was that a whole lot of work.  Kevin was a fine new dad, but he was almost as clueless and traumatized as me.  To his credit, he was not supportive of my fugitive scheme.  Having our children has pretty much brutally stabbed our marriage multiple times in their heart and left it bleeding on the sidewalk. OK I'm exaggerating.  A little bit.  And breastfeeding...well you know my feelings about that.  The UN needs to ban that crap.

Brooke Shields probably came closest to telling the truth when she spoke out about postpartum depression, and I commend her.  However, her condition was discussed as if it were some horrible anomaly in an otherwise joyous and beautiful experience.  In my experience, at least mild postpartum depression is kind of another day at the park with small children (I don't mean to minimize hers, which sounded severe).  Now don't get me wrong, motherhood is a beautiful experience in that it is a meaningful experience and is worth the pain.  I love my kids, and I never want to live without them, except on occasional child-free vacations during which I will deliriously live without them.  But in the moment--and certainly in the initial moments, days, weeks, years--motherhood is as ugly as a hairless cat--which is what some new moms actually look like, thank God I never went bald like that, but I hear it is a thing--and can feel as pointless too.  I mean, seriously, why would you ever get a hairless cat?

Somehow I doubt Duchess Kate is going to be much of a truth-teller here (she gained so little weight, I'm not entirely convinced she was actually pregnant).  I guarantee when my US Weekly arrives on Friday, it will be full of quotes from palace sources declaring what a natural, joyous, fat-melting, happily breastfeeding mom Kate is.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My time is coming

I think it's well established that the baby/toddler/small child phase is really not my specialty.  I know a lot of women who get a tugging in their uterus when they hold a little baby and breathe deeply to get a whiff of that "new baby smell," which to them must smell like rose petals dipped in chocolate.  To me, new babies smell like a poop milkshake.  And when I hold them, the only tugging that I feel is my entire being urging me to give it back to the mom and run like the wind before some kind of spontaneous immaculate conception occurs (which is what would be required for me to have another baby).

Which reminds me of a recent Charlotte anecdote, the one where I explained to her what the birth control pill is in order to avoid a more uncomfortable conversation about sex (I know that sounds absurd, but stay with me here).  She had become traumatized by the fact that her friend Oliver's mom had him without being married, because Charlotte thought that to have a child you had to be married.  As she had wisely discerned, having a child is kind of a big deal--an event that does weird things to your body, necessitates a "belly cut," and prevents you from achieving your full potential as horse trainer--so she had declared her intention never to marry, thinking this would also prevent childbirth.  But, alas, Oliver's mom had disproved her carefully constructed theory and opened up the possibility that she could be strolling down the street when Wham! she became pregnant.  And I have to agree with Charlotte, that is a very frightening prospect indeed.  So I told her she didn't have to worry because there is a medicine you can take that will prevent you from having a baby.  She then declared her firm resolve that she was gonna get some of that medicine once she grew up if not sooner.  So I have a 5 year old who knows about the birth control pill, yet, I suppose, still believes that children are conceived while one is simply walking around the neighborhood.     She also thinks her entire pubic area is simply called a "bum."  Yes, I am a very progressive mother.

But I digress, as is my habit.  So far, as a mom, I have not really brought any special skills to the job, because I do not have any.  My utter (or should I say udder) failure as a breast-feeder is well known. Nor am I especially good at being patient or selfless or going without sleep.  I can't potty train worth a crap, what do you think I am paying the daycare for.  And I am far too lazy to protect my children from chemicals, as seems to be the full-time occupation of many mothers I know, who make their own baby food and goldfish crackers and drive to farms to buy produce and milk.  I am terrible at crafts.  I hate to cook, especially with my preschooler, although I do it out of rainy-day desperation at times.   I am very skilled at not bathing for days at a time (I have introduced numerous friends to the miracle that is dry shampoo).   I am also very good at turning on the TV, but I don't suppose that is a bragging point.  

So what am I good at? Or, more realistically, what do I like to pretend to be good at?  In a word, Opraphizing.  This is a term I just made up (no, really) which combines Oprah with philosophizing and means: To offer deep insights into the nature and causes of human angst and to arrive at possible solutions that, when applied, will lead to personal growth and/or self-actualization.  Or something like that.  Basically I like to pretend that I am Oprah, without the TV show/now channel and enough money to buy everyone cars and the designer clothes that tell her she is a size 10 when in fact she is not (God love her though).  If you come to me with your problems (which few of my friends actually do, probably because I am not that great of a listener, but I'm working on it), I will give you my theories about what your problem actually is, deep down, and what you need to do about it.   I will probably do a poor job and annoy you in the process.  But I will do it anyway.  Or, if I don't do it to your face, I will definitely do it in my head, maybe with Kevin if he has time.

Well, guess what.  I think Opraphizing might be a handy skill to have as the mother of school-age children and/or teenagers.  Don't you think?  I can just see teenaged Charlotte coming home from school in tears because she got an 86 on an exam and got a big zit on her nose on the same day.  And I sit her down, look into her eyes and say, "Child, why are you acting like your self-worth is tied to your grades and skin clarity? Don't you know you have a purpose that goes so much deeper than that? You must find your true self, and nobody and nothing can touch that." Then she will go, "Mom, you are so right. I love you. I don't even think I need to go through adolescence now."  It's gonna be good.

In fact, we already had an Oprah moment just a couple of weeks ago.  Charlotte wanted her hair cut short.  Even though I asked her numerous times whether this was indeed what she wanted, I don't think she put a lot of thought into it.  She was mainly trying to avoid me messing with her hair.  So we got it cut, and she loved it. She was so excited to show all her friends.  When I picked her up from school the next day, the air had gone out of her balloon.  She informed me that her friends had teased her about her short hair.  One said it looked "weird," and the other said she looked like a boy.  While my heart broke for her, I also got a bit of a thrill.  At last, we had come to an actual "teaching moment," in Oprah terms, that just might even lead to an "A-ha moment" if I played my cards right.    So I asked her what the girls said, how that made her feel, and then I asked her if she liked her hair.  She said yes.  I said, well, that's all that matters.  Then, because I am a mom and not actually Oprah, I closed with, "And that's why you should never ever tease other people.  It will make them sad, just like you are sad now.  And if I hear that you have, you will be put in jail."  (OK I didn't say that last part).  Then she asked what was for dinner and that was that.

Not quite as profound as helping someone discover they overeat in order to triumph over the Oreos their mother used to throw at them when she was mad, but not too bad.

Charlotte is probably going to end up in therapy.  Or on some kind of 2035 version of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Flunking out of Pre-school

Ugh, look at the date.  Look at the date of the last post. Ugh.  

I recently enrolled Charlotte in kindergarten. She's going to do great in kindergarten.  She loves rules and order and learning stuff from adults who did not give birth to her.  She's going to rock that place.   God help any of her classmates, or even teachers, who do not follow the rules or who create mischief of any kind.  She will turn them in faster than you can say North Korean labor camp.  I'm hoping she takes a little time out from slapping 5 year-olds in detention to actually learn to read.  This will make my life so much easier.  Then when she comes moping around saying she's bored, I can just yell, "Read a book!" instead of turning the TV on and feel good about myself.  I'm all about activities that don't involve me in the least AND are beneficial to the child.  I might even turn into a good mother once my kids can reasonably be expected to take care of themselves.  Don't laugh, it could happen.  

Kindergarten has been my holy grail, the thought of it getting me through many days when I feel like I will indeed die of either boredom or multitasking or both.  Don't ask me how it is possible to be bored while you are multi-tasking, all I can tell you is the psychological torture that is small children is truly mystical in its cruelty.  On a rare day of mental clarity, I can tell you how many days there are until the opening day of the 2016-17 school year (This is not one of those days, so I can't tell you right now).  In my fantasies, I will spend the entire day in silence, with no one touching me, and by the end of the day, I might feel human enough to go to a museum.  Not an art museum of course, that will take years of rehabilitation, but perhaps like a historical-site-type of thing or Civil War reenactment.  

Unfortunately, I'm starting to catch onto the fact that grade school is in fact no mommy cake walk in this era of helicopter parenting.  It turns out that the entire K-12 experience is not simply an educational process for the child, it is the Olympics of parenting.  Children these days are apparently not capable of doing any of their school work or activities without a high degree of parental involvement.  Teachers ensure this is the case by giving them projects and assignments that they could not possibly do on their own.  And even if they could, if their parents don't assist them, they are permanently disadvantaging their little darlings.  How is Susie supposed to build a bird condominium and chart the daily eating habits of the 19 species of birds who inhabit it at a level on par with Johnny's Harvard PhD ornithologist dad?  I mean, Susie's poor mother, who only has an MA in English from some crap religiously-affiliated school in the midwest isn't going to be able to compete either, but she can sure as heck do a better job than Susie. Susie's bird condo will probably be some popsicle sticks stuck together with gum she found in her brother's hair.  And if Susie gets a bad grade in 2nd grade, well, it's all downhill from there.  You might as well just drop her off at a strip club and call it an academic career.  

Preschool has been bad enough.  Every day it seems has a new "theme" I'm supposed to dress Charlotte according to, or a new item I'm supposed to buy for the class, or a new dish I'm supposed to cook, or a new party I absolutely must attend.  It's apparently not enough that I'm paying these people college tuition rates basically to ensure my kids don't kill themselves.  In their defense, they are kind-hearted people who assume parents want to be "involved" with their children and are giving them lots of opportunities to do so.  How sweet.  Let me be perfectly clear: I don't want to be involved.  I want to drop my kids off with nothing but the clothes on their backs, go to the spa-like setting some people call "the office," and pick them up in working order at the end of the day.  That's what I want.  Just so you don't think I'm horrible--OK so that's inevitable--I do work part-time.  I have four entire days each week to be involved with my children.  I'd like to think that if I worked full-time, I would be all about the "Celebrate Spring-a-Palooza-Easter-Passover-Wiccan" party that parents just must attend unless you want your child to end up a psychopath and please dress you children as a fairy tale character whose name rhymes with your child's name but preferably a literary character instead of Disney, and also could you please bring in some shade-loving perennials and a pinata filled with candy, but not chocolate candy because Joey is allergic, and no peanuts (duh), and also no sugar because Amy is diabetic Thanks so much!  I'd like to think that.  But it's probably not true.  

Just to elaborate on how badly I suck.   Recently Charlotte was the "Student of the Week." A whole week of celebrating Charlotte and building her little self-esteem.  Each day I was supposed to bring in something that was her favorite--food, game, toy, book, etc.  I somehow didn't realize it was her week until Wednesday, then I forgot the item at home Thursday.  On Friday, I finally scored big by bringing in The Ladybug Game.  Epic fail #2: Week of the Young Child.  The Young Child gets to come to school dressed up in some kind of theme for each day.  Forgot, forgot, forgot, Snow White, forgot.  School fundraiser book sale: I'm supposed to volunteer for a slot.  The only slot I can make is filled up by the time I get around to signing up, so I don't volunteer  (Also I'm left wondering: So the school sells books every year to raise money...to buy books.  Does that strike anyone else as strange or is it just me?)   Every Tuesday is show n tell. Student should bring an item that starts with the letter of the week.  After a month or two of total and utter shambolic motherhood, I finally get into the groove and send Charlotte to school with appropriate item 90% of the time.  Except now they have moved on from letters to rhyming.  This week I need an item that rhymes with "air."  I'm thinking the hair from my hairbrush is probably not a good idea.  That's all I can come up with at the moment.  Stunning success though--I do have two hosta plants, one of which tipped over and spilled dirt all over my car, to deliver on time for the class garden.  And you thought I was joking about the shade-loving perennials.  

A huge reason why I am such an anti-helicopter-parenting curmudgeon derives from my own upbringing. My parents could not be called helicopter parents, unless the helicopter drops the child off at a boarding school in the middle of nowhere Kenya with little contact with the outside world (I do not exaggerate on this point; I recall a telephone with a turn crank in place of dial with numbers) and leaves altogether.  I'm not criticizing, I turned out fine.  I bathed myself, dressed myself, fed myself, did my chores, solved my own interpersonal dilemmas.  I even--GASP--did my own homework!  WITHOUT BEING TOLD!  I actually graduated high school people!  Yes I did!  It's a freaking miracle I even survived, I tell you.  So forgive me for thinking my children can and should finish grade school without my help.  It's a hard-knock life. And this is why I pay taxes.  

In my defense, my parenting style is not the result of pure sloth or heartlessness.  I actually think it might be good for my kids to fend for themselves, to be responsible for their own crap, and to reap the consequences of irresponsibility.  Charlotte, for one, is starting to catch on that her mother is not exactly Super Mom.  She has started reminding me what I need to do and gathering her own things together.  Way to go, Charlotte.  Keep up the good work. I'll just be over here taking a nap.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Myers-Briggs Analysis of Motherhood

Another two months gone by...A blogging phenom I am not.  An increasingly dumb and inarticulate mother of two I am.

I started off majoring in psychology in college.  Unlike most people who go into the field, however, I was able to admit to myself that my interest was based less on philanthropy and more on figuring out why I had a panic attack every time I shopped for cereal (it turns out I am NOT crazy, there are just too many kinds of cereal.  And, OK, I am a wee bit crazy).   So I became a historian instead, because there is nothing self-serving in that, trust me.

But I remained fascinated by myself, and why wouldn't I be.  And my neuroses. And my personality.  And others' by extension.  And in time I became a full-fledged pop-psychology geek.  And there is nothing more pop-psychological-geeky than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Rejected by real psychological professionals, it is nonetheless peddled to the employees of almost any organization or corporation worth its salt, usually in the context of an off-site-team-building-ice-breaker-leadership-extravaganza, right after the trust falls and donuts and just before the distribution of the Stephen Covey swag.  I am not mocking, I actually LOVE THIS CRAP.  Just like I love Oprah, even though objectively speaking I know she is a cult leader, albeit a benevolent one in my opinion.  The only danger from drinking her Kool-Aid is living your best life, and if that is not for you, well, I can understand that.  Some people just prefer to wallow in misery.  Incidentally, I have the same personality type as Oprah (and Bono and Nelson Mandela and all the best people--ENFJ), and whole-heartedly believe that I, too, could have a cult.  But while grandiose, I am also lazy, and running a cult is a lot of work.

After yet another round of Myers-Briggs analysis at work, I got to thinking about what personality type is best suited for motherhood (short answer: not mine) and the particular challenges different personalities face as mothers.  This is a real issue.  In other realms, you can choose jobs and relationships and hobbies and activities that are best suited to your natural personality tendencies, and you can maximize your joy and effectiveness in life.  But most women become mothers, and quite frankly, some our personalities dictate that we will either suck at it or be really stressed out while trying to not suck. This is a problem.

So let us apply the wisdom of the Meyers-Briggs to motherhood and see what we come up with.

1.  Extroversion-Introversion
In the context of modern, nuclear-family mothering, I think you are screwed either way on this one.  If you are an extrovert, that is, you get your energy from interacting with people, the good news is you will be interacting with people ALL THE TIME.  The bad news is they are really poorly behaved, selfish, and dependent people who are not the best conversationalists, unless you have an intense interest in the finer points of Disney mythology.  Also, unless you make herculean efforts or seek outside employment, these are the only people you will be interacting with FOR SEVERAL YEARS.  On the other hand, if you are an introvert, who gets her energy from being alone, while you may enjoy never leaving your home, you will probably be less than enthused by children bursting in on you in, shall we say, compromising positions and private moments, nor will you care for the layers of noise that accompanies kids and their demon-possessed toys.  So Es and Is are both in bad shape here, but on balance, I think it's probably be better to be an E, because as a mother, "alone time" is about as rare as a moderate in the House of Representatives.

2. Intuition-Sensing
This one is very clear cut and is in fact the basis for my inadequacies as a mother.  Those who are Ns prefer to exist in the world of imagination and ideas and find the details and logistics of life rather boring.  Well, guess what?  Motherhood is ALL DETAILS ALL THE TIME.  Add to your own personal details, which quickly go by the way side (who needs to shave one's legs when there are pants?), those of multiple other people, and you have one frazzled N-mama.  While my N-husband can spend his days solving Europe's economic problems and thinking about how a 3rd party could be successful in American politics, my head is filled with What will the children eat, what will they wear, when is their music class, which Little Gym is that birthday party at, when is their doctor's appointment, when did they poop last, What will I do with all these toys so that we aren't smothered in the night, Who can we have over for brunch so that I will still have friends in 10 years, when/what/who/where/how.  While the S can adeptly handle the moving parts and even relishes managing them, the N is likely to roll into a catatonic ball.  Not a best practice.

3. Feeling-Thinking
There are pros and cons on both sides here.  If you are a child, you definitely want an F mom, because Fs are probably more easily manipulated, are more empathetic, are more conflict-averse, and really want people, including their children, to like them.  On the other hand, Ts probably are better disciplinarians, which is a key component of parenting, unless you just enjoy being run over by a 2 year old terrorist and don't mind subjecting the world to a spoiled brat.  However, Ts can verge into the authoritarian and inapproachable, which is a problem particularly when parenting teens.  Those girls on TV who get pregnant, have the baby and rear him to age 10 before their parents know about it--methinks those girls have T moms.  I like to think I strike the right balance here.  I am an F, so deep down I am a sweetheart, but a complex mix of lazyness, selfishness, impatience and aversion to disorder makes me not that nice in most circumstances.  Especially ones involving small children.

4. Perception-Judgment
It's probably good to have somewhat of a balance here.  All things being equal, the planning, organizational, and decision-making skills of a J certainly come in handy as a mom.  The family of a J mom is less likely to be suffocated under a pile of children's art work because she just can't decide if that piece of construction paper with 2 stickers on it is trash or a crucial piece of Susie memorabilia in 25 years' time.  On the other hand, we would also have to vote the J-mom Most Likely to End Up in a Mental Ward, as the constant barrage of disorder and clap-trap that children bring is more than any human J can withstand.  Particularly if she is also an N, like I am.  The N-J combination is most unfortunate indeed.  I can't stand disorder, yet I am bored by having to manage it.  So I basically spend my life running between poles of panic and depression.  It's really fun.  The P-mom will live in squallor, yes, but she will probably not care.

In conclusion, I would suggest that the "perfect mom" is probably an ESFJ.  She loves people, including little people with no real ideas, and organizing all their crap is both her joy and her forte.  Hopefully the J side of her that loves order will rein in the F side that wants everyone to be happy, because I would argue that you cannot make a 2 year old happy and still have a stable existence.  If you try, you are living in Idi Amin's Uganda without the weaponry.  Not good.

If you are not an ESFJ, well, may God have mercy on your soul and those of your children.  Get you some Zoloft and do the best you can.