Friday, January 29, 2010

Haitian Babies

I aspire to stay ahead of the fashion trends, but as a parent, when I’m not dressed for work, I’m usually in sweats, a musty t-shirt and beat up sneakers. My husband gets Men’s Health and I get Lucky Magazine and they sit on our bedside tables with pretty pictures of pretty people wearing pretty clothes that we have neither the time nor disposable income (private piano lessons for two add up!) to invest in. But a friend of mine gave me the heads up on a new trend sweeping L.A. - Adopted Haitian babies as fashion statements!

OKAY, BIG PREFACE HERE – this post is so NOT to make fun of and diminish the real pain and suffering that is going on in Haiti, but rather, this is to make fun of and diminish the mothers at the fancy private school my friend's offspring attend who give as little thought to adopting a baby as they do to buying the season’s hottest new purse. And, if you are one of those rabidly politically correct folks and don’t have a sense of humor…stop reading now, come back later…

So, not a day after the shaking had stopped and Anderson Cooper held up an orphaned 5year old who smiled at the camera despite all the misery around him, these moms were on the cell to their husband's business managers demanding that they make arrangements to get them one of those orphans. Oooooh, I want one, too. I have the feeling this is going to be big and I have to be in on it.

I want to tote around an exotic little import, maybe one with a slight injury that is still visible but healing nicely, enough to show how wonderful I was to adopt the little rug rat from the debris of his/her own country, (oh and ripping him/her away from their culture and language.) I want to carry my Haitian baby to lunch at Ivy where I'll meet my other girlfriends after manis and pedis for cocktails and noshing, admire them toting their Haitian babies and then hand him/her off to my waiting nanny in the Range Rover before the first course is set on the table. I'll dress my Haitian baby in Hanna Anderson and Boden, colors and outfits matching mine, of course, a happy compromise which feels both politically correct and fiscally understated in these economic times and given the hardships my little adoptee has been through.

Speaking of nannies, the Hispanic one will have to go, replaced by some sort of Afro-Caribbean nanny I (again) order my husband's business manager to hire from somewhere south of Olympic near Fairfax in Little Ethiopia (that's not too far from Haiti, right?) It would seem the better choice to have a black nanny to raise my new black baby, since clearly, I won't be doing it.

And what about the hair??? I'll have to buy some Afro Sheen to comb through the ‘fro - and taking my new Haitian baby to Supercuts will only lead to confusion as they've ponder over how to cut a fad. But the best thing about having an adopted Haitian baby to tote around on my hip a la Angie J. (oh, I forgot, I'll need to get Botox injections in my lips) will be the ability to go to cocktail parties and fundraisers with a compassionate but smug look on my face when others wax poetic about the tragedy in Haiti. I'll be able to say that I've done my part and flash them digital pictures of my Haitian baby on my iPhone.

Seriously, I know the U.S. is streamlining the adoption process to get babies out of Haiti and move quickly to get them into the arms of parents who were previously in adoption process prior to this. Note - previously!!!! There are folks (incredibly committed, loving, caring people willing to open up their hearts and homes) who have been trying to adopt out of Haiti for years that have been caught up in government red tape. I hope they get their kids sooner now, but my head will explode if as a result of the quick adoption process, a bunch of dilettante adoptive parents crop up. When I was a kid, it was Asian babies. Every well-to-do mama seemed to have one, be getting one, or was desperately trying to convince their spouse that it was the right thing to do (but for all the wrong reasons).

Kids are not fashion statements. Adopting a baby for the sake of doing what’s current doesn’t show how compassionate you just shows you’ll do anything to be part of a trend. If you want to do something for Haitian babies, send money.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Head Colds, Tummy Aches and Sick Days

I have a head cold. Nicole has a head cold. My youngest, Natalie, has a tummy ache that may be constipation, may be a stomach flu, or may (I worry) be a concoction of her fertile imagination because she LOVES the taste of Children's Pepto. How sad it would be to be hooked on over the counter meds before the second grade...I had to leave work early yesterday when she called from school with news of her aching belly. The unspoken condemnation that I wasn't there in her hour of distress (okay, six hours) and she needed me, flooded me with guilt. It caused me to abandon my work and race out of the office, leaving only a briefest message on my supervisor's phone. I was babbling when I left it, something about stomach aches and Natalie and things I would carry with me to work on from home. I was out the door before the computer had even shut down and then felt horribly guilty about having to cut out from work early with unfinished tasks on my desk. So, I was guilty about not being there for my kid, guilty about not being there for work, ah, a guilt sandwich, how fun. I called my hubby, who is the only one in the house not sniffling and kicking back shots of Dayquil, and told him about Natalie's tummy ache. I was really asking him to relieve me of my guilt, to take on some of that feeling. Instead, he gave me a list of why his day was not going well either. A long list. Not what I wanted to hear. In the rational light of day, I understood that there was nothing he could do about my guilt ridden anxiety...I would need to work through that mommy madness on my own, but I wasn't ready to take on his list of issues as well, which I abruptly told him by not telling him directly. I just kept saying in a very curt, I'm not happy with anything right now way, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it." I hate being sick. I hate feeling guilty. Both at the same time stink.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Many Mothers, One Voice? I Don't Think So...

Crawled out of bed this morning at 4:30 after daughter number one – that would be Nicole - decided that coming into the room in the middle of the night, going to the bathroom, pulling a sleeping bag out from storage bench at the foot of our bed and going back to sleep on the arm chair on the other side of the room was: a) Acceptable behavior for a 9 year old; b) Not going to wake us up; c) Would be excused because she had a cough that was bad enough to justify not sleeping in her own bed, but not bad enough to keep her from going to school.

Now, permanently wakened, I followed my usual routine, grabbed my iPhone and dragged myself into the bathroom. My iPhone has now become the permanent substitute for my $10 Emerson alarm clock from Target that my husband teased me about when I bought it. (I defended my clock’s capabilities, only to have it go berserk on me less than a month later.) After making it into the bathroom, I was lying on the rug on the floor - yes, just lying there - go ahead, picture it – 4:30 a.m., sprawled out on the floor because the bathmat was far warmer than the bed (since David had pulled all the covers off of me) and I was not ready to face another week of workschoolhomekidshusband to drag myself up and sit on the pot. I know, too much disclosure – but there I was on the floor, checking my emails before the sun even dared to come up. Yes, I know that this sounds like I have something of an attachment issue with my iPhone and that perhaps I’m obsessed with it. And maybe that’s true. I live for that early morning email once over, where I can heartlessly delete all of the messages from vendors sending me notifications about sales and free delivery. I delight in following the email train of other parents volunteering all of us to donate even more money to the classroom kitty without the courtesy of asking anyone else (because it’s already like squeezing blood from a stone as it is). And I savor endlessly harassing friends and relatives by forwarding those horrible chain joke/inspirational thought emails that clog up my in box but that I’m too afraid to delete because they promise if you do you’ll get bad luck or it will prove what a lousy friend you really are!

But back to the point…so I’m reading this nifty industry email called Cynopsis ( and I’m horrified to read that some recovering Mormon from Tennessee who has been dubbed “America’s Mommyblogger” has been given a deal at HGTV to develop projects. What is it about the Mormons – first it was the Twilight chick, now this woman???? But before you think I’m “player hatin’,” let me tell you, I’m not. I applaud anyone who can (as I am trying to do) give voice to their own parenting experience and in some manner turn it into a greater platform. Here’s where the horrific part comes in – it’s in calling her “America’s Mommyblogger.” It implies that this woman represents all that is American motherhood. Moms aren’t a homogeneous group. I dunno if she titled herself that, or maybe some latte swilling marketing person at HGTV came up with that moniker, either way, that’s where the umbrage comes in. I went to her website to see what us moms are supposed to aspire to according to the press release and I have to say, her tone (dripping with sarcasm) is amusing and her experiences as a mother have been interesting and quirky. It is complete with job firings (join the club), throwing milk cartons at her spouse (not yet, I’ve been tempted with the idea of projectile food and stopped only by the idea of how messy it would be to clean up), and a hell of a case of postpartum depression (again, join the club) for which she checked herself into a hospital for treatment (no, I was never hospitalized - clearly she has better health insurance than I do). She’s even squeezed a book or two out of the experience – I mean really, what publisher doesn’t want to celebrate the total breakdown of a human soul and their rise like a phoenix from the ashes to grab motherhood by the ovaries. But I guess that’s the reason why I don’t get why HGTV or anyone else for that matter would want to consider her experience representative of the mommy/parenting experience or give her the title of America’s Mommyblogger! Her experience is so different from the excruciatingly ordinary, frustratingly challenging lives the rest of us have juggling parenting, work and family. There are some parallels, but her life is way more extreme (and probably way funnier). Yes, she has an amusing, acerbic wit and probably falls into that category of being way too hip and cool for me to grasp, but there are many mommy, parenting voices out there. Hers isn’t really gold standard, just the one which is being heard slightly above the rest of the screams, but does that make it any more valid than the others?

But what do I know? I’m a novice blogger with a parenting book which probably can’t even be found on the bookstore shelves anymore. So Bahati njema (Swahili for good luck– because we speak so much Swahili here in Southern California) on the new gig at HGTV. Hopefully it will allow America’s Mommyblogger to give voice to wide range of parenting experiences. I’ll even put her website here if you want to check it out, (further proof that I’m not a player hater) and you can judge for yourself.

I decided, at 4:30 a.m. and still on the floor, that maybe I, too, should aspire to a title like America’s Mommyblogger and brand myself with some fancy name. Here are some thoughts:

Parenting Diva
Queen of Domestic Multi-Tasking
Sultaness of Sassy Parenting (Because aren’t all black girls sassy?)
Goddess of Accidental Parenting: (You Mean I have to Grow Up to Do This?)

What do you think?

BTW - to make my point about the diversity of voices in the mom-parenting blogging hemisphere, with big thanks to Adam at a site called Blogtrepreneur,, here's a listing of fifty of the top mom blogs. And those are only the top ones. You can imagine the ginormous number it would be if you counted all the new ones (like this one) and all the ones that didn't make the list. We’re probably talking a number bigger than the national debt.

1. The Mommy Blog (
2. MommyBlog (
3. Just Another Mommy Blog (
4. Blonde Mom Blog (
5. Modern Mommy Blog (
6. So Close (
7. Kim Chi Mamas (
8. News From Hawkhill Acres (
(He missed #9 so I guess it’s 49 instead of 50)
10. Writing Mamas Salon (
11. Joy Unexpected (
12. Soapbox Mom (
13. Sarcastic Mom (
14. Mom101 (
15. June Cleaver Nirvana (
16. Absolutely Bananas (
17. Crunchy Domestic Goddess (
18. Committed Parent (
19. Play Groups Are No Place For Children (
20. Mom To The Screaming Masses (
21. Mother Goose Mouse (
22. Undomestic Diva (
23. Motherhood Uncensored (
24. The Dalaimama (
25. Crazy Bloggin Canuk (
26. Maniac Mommies (
27. Mother Bumper (
28. Three Boys Under My Roof (
29. Imaginary Binky (
30. Girls Gone Child (
31. Notes From the Trenches (
32. This Full House (
33. And Baby Makes 6 (
34. Antique Mommy (
35. Gwendomama (
36. Secret Agent Mama (
37. Whiskey In My Sippy Cup (
38. Temporarily Me (
39. Single SuperMama (
40. Crunchy Carpets (
41. Who’s the Boss Blog (
42. Beyond Mom (
43. Mommy Cracked (
44. Walking With Scissors (
45. Melia Lore (
46. Six Browns (
47. Blog That Mommy! (
48. Pundit Mom (
49. The Redneck Mommy (
50. CityMama (

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Ones Left Behind

“Honey, I have a business trip.” It is a phrase that sparks fear in the diaper clad heart of even the most stalwart of parents. My spouse dropped it on me a couple of weeks ago, but the reality of it didn’t sink in until he started to pack.

“You’re going away for how long?” I quizzed him again, squelching the panic in my voice.

“A week…I might stay the weekend if I can catch up with my frat brothers,” he said casually, as if the two extra days would have no additional impact on the spouse at home.

“Oh, that’ll be nice,” I said, biting my tongue until it bled to keep from screaming. I didn't remind him of the time my father went away on a business trip to Hawaii and didn't take my mother with him. He returned to find that she bought us the black lab puppy we had been begging for but that he steadfastly refused to get. I wanted my husband to know that going away on business trips and leaving us (and by us, I really mean me) behind could have serious repercussions.

But I’m, lucky. It’s not like my husband goes on business trips often, but when he does, it is a painful reminder of how (at least in our configuration of marriage, work and family) it really takes two to keep the balls we have in the air afloat. When David goes out of town, I’m out numbered. There are more children than adults. And I have discovered that two is an insufficient number of hands needed to juggle it all. When David goes on a business trip, inevitably I find myself forced into becoming a surburbanite Blanche DuBois, relying on “the kindness of strangers.” And by strangers, I really mean neighbors who cover carpool or co-workers who let you rearrange your schedule to get out earlier to pick up the kids or teachers who don’t report you to the Department of Children and Families because your kids are clearly not rested enough. Basically anyone who really has no reason to help me out with my temporary domestic labor shortage but does so anyway out of the goodness of their hearts or their desire not to see me end up on the evening news in one of those horrible reports detailing the exploits of a modern day Medea.

When David is gone, I go into survivor mode, which oddly, is a lot like my former (pre-marriage and kids) single life. In survivor mode, cereal is the meal of the day and the kids feast on it for breakfast, dinner and snack time. Thank God I can toss a dollar at them as they run (late) out the door so a hot meal consisting of something other than cereal and milk can be purchased at school. We devour cereal, the same cereal (or often variations of the too sugary sweet stuff) that no respectable parent would admit serving to their children. At least my kids haven’t yet figured out that they could put additional sugar on top of the Cocoa Pebbles (which I am sure would send them into a sweet induced frenzy followed by a crash of monumental proportions). We eat our cereal meals in front of the television, usually without napkins, sometimes without spoons, and any semblance of a bedtime disappears, replaced only by the vague idea that you better try to get some sleep so that the next day you don’t fall face first on your desk during a math test.

In business trip mode, standing outside in the rain, getting splashed with water and suds while helping me wash dishes in the sink and a cursory shower that lasts less than 30 seconds can all substitute for a daily, full scale bathing. If they can pass the smell test – in other words, not smelling too bad when they get ready for school in the morning - they will go to class slightly less scrubbed than on days when both parents are at the helm. We will arrive late for extra curricular classes, inevitably stumbling in after the lesson has begun and struggling to find a spot on the floor at dance class or an empty bench at piano. It’s just the way business trip survival mode goes. My kids actually like it. It’s an excuse not to have to always be on time, clean and healthy eaters. All the good habits I try to instill in them about how to negotiate life get tossed out the window as we just try to survive the week until the absent parent gets home. My husband’s version of business trip survival mode isn’t that much different except instead of cereal they eat endless amounts of McDonald's, their hair goes uncombed (unless another mother takes pity on them and pulls out a brush) and David forces the children to watch reruns of 1980’s sit-coms which make him reminisce about his teenage years.

As much as I hate it when David goes on a business trip, I like it too. I enjoy the freedom of survivor mode. The excuse to be the parent with the bad habits that I usually mock and scorn in others. I realize that I am who I mock. Just underneath the effort to try to balance it all, have well behaved, properly fed, squeaky clean children, I am the person who would be just dandy with dirty, hyped up, sugar stuffed monsters…at least for a few days. I can fall down on my job as a parent and if any one complains or comments, all I have to say is, “My husband’s out of town on business,” and they shake their head knowingly, absolving me of all my parenting sins.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Information Overload

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” -- Gertrude Stein, b. 1874, d. 1946.

That was Gertrude’s rant and she died about forty years before fax machines became popular, cells phones invaded all our waking hours, and just about everything in the world from sex to sippy cups could be purchased over the internet. Gertrude’s face was never booked and her thoughts were never tweeted. People didn’t get pissy at her for not responding to a text within seconds of it being sent. She did not have the option of watching news (with additional news crawling across the screen under the news) on over 300 channels of television or online or from her iPhone. And yet, she complained about how being bombarded by too much information could make you lose your common sense. Girlfriend, you have no idea…

My husband and I are at parenting odds over how much is too much information for our daughters to consume. When they were younger, I was fairly strict about what I let them watch on TV and listen to on the radio, what websites I would let them surf and what movies I’d take them to see – if it wasn’t G or maybe PG – their eyeballs weren’t getting anywhere near it. I recognize that “different families do different things” and it is a phrase I am constantly throwing at my kids when they try to get me to let them see something that one of their other friends has been allowed to see, so much so that they now taunt me with the phrase whenever they can. But I constantly find myself searching for the midline of how much information/media/stimulation makes sense for my kids to be exposed to.

David wants very little to filter down to them, whereas I think that as they get older, they need to be more connected to what’s happening in the world through news, the internet and the media. So we started by letting them spend more time on the web than the 1 hour a week they were currently logging. We got a few emails from them that were sent just for the novelty of sending. They checked out a few new websites – mostly puppy and fashion related sites – although when I walked by the computer in the family room and saw Nicole typing in something like Hot Games for Girls, I had a moment of panic about what would pop on the screen. Go figure, it’s a girl’s fashion designing game site!

Then we started to expand their access to additional information by letting them see more than the usual DisneyNickCartoonNetwork shows. Of course, David has selective snobbery about what he deems acceptable for them to see…in other words, if it is a show he wants to watch, then it’s okay if the show has some of the offending elements that he usually wants to keep them from – gunfire, bloodshed, an errant curse word here or there.

“It’s a fun show,” he’ll say in his own defense, “and I don’t let them see it all.”

Instead of offending fiction, I figure if their brains are going to be exposed to the ugly in the world, I want them to see current events. And even though these days the lines between fiction and reality are permanently blurred, I started letting them watch the morning news, which had both good and bad results.

I tried starting with local news, but then my oldest, Nicole, kept asking me about the proximity of the robberies, water main breaks, and political rallies they kept reporting on. She started sneaking off and putting the deadbolt on the front door and checking to make sure the burglar alarm was on even during the daytime. I wasn’t sure if she was afraid of a break-in or a visit from our congressman. So then I switched to the national network news, thinking that if the events were farther way, she wouldn’t feel so directly threatened by the stories. However, that particular week seemed to be wall-to-wall coverage about missing, kidnapped children, parent-child murder-suicides and workplace shootings. Great! My six year old daughter, Natalie, who is the tougher of the two and strives to be fearless, kept asking me questions about the news, trying to analyze the happenings rather than being traumatized by them. Turns out, I was the one who was traumatized. Ever try explaining child abduction and stories about parents who take out their whole families because of emotional distress in non-threatening, matter-of-fact, informational terms that a six year old can understand? It’s harder than having to come up with an answer for “Where do babies come from?” Natalie seemed comfortable with the news stories and satisfied by the answers I stumbled through.

“Tough kid,” I thought. “See, David is wrong and I am right…when there is all this information floating around in the world, kids need to be informed, aware, it helps them make sense of the information overload.” Yeah, right.

About a couple of days after my little news exposure experiment, Natalie reverted to getting in our bed at night…but only after waking me up first at 3 am to let me know she was crawling into our bed. Then a few minutes later, Nicole would follow her in, also waking me to let me know that she was climbing into bed or getting into a sleeping bag at the foot of our bed (for me to trip over in the morning.) This went on for a week, with us trying at first to follow all the parenting books and their advice about how to train your kid to sleep in their bed by getting up and walking them back to their rooms. That only worked twice. After that, David and I were too tired to bother and let them crowd us out of our queen-size bed. Several days of sore backs and sleepless nights, I realized that too much information, too young, was not good. They don’t need to be that aware, do they? At least not so aware and scared that it interrupts my REM cycles.

In my effort to have them take advantage of our new digital age and expose my kids to all the wonderful opportunities on the information superhighway, I lost my common sense. I overloaded them, worried them, and worst of all ruined all of our sleep. Like Gertrude said, there are too many ways to get information these days and honestly, maybe a little SpongeBob Squarepants is all we need.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Helicopter Parents - You Know Who You Are!

There were helicopters over our house last night (or should I say this morning) at freaking 3am! Apparently some jerk drunk thought it was a bright idea to go joy riding with a pipe bomb in his car (amazing how a little liquor will bring out the stupid in folks!). So for three very long hours, I listened to helicopters circling overhead, a combo of police choppers and the media, trying to get a bird's eye view if anyone blew themselves to hell and back.

The helicopters were looking down on us. A giant, airborne big brother following our every move. And no matter where I went in the house, the sound followed me. I got a firsthand feel of what it would be like to have a parent who was one of those helicopter parents. Haven't heard that phrase? It's the new catch phrase of the millennium, "helicopter parents." For those who don't know, and until recently I didn't, helicopter parents are defined (and maligned) as the parents who constantly hover over their children (both literally and figuratively) controlling them, directing them, over scheduling them). Two camps have shot up, those in support of helicopter-ing and those who advocate the slow parenting movement - termed to mimic the slow food movement. Give me a break -comparing how to raise my kid to how you cook beef roast! I hate that kind of parenting lunacy!

This debate got started good and ugly when this woman - Google World's Worst Mother and her name will come up - got the fine idea to put her nine year old son on a NYC subway by himself with enough money for his fare and change to use a payphone (do those still exist?) if things got dicey. She said it was an experiment, something he wanted to do, and a way to point out how today's parents are overprotective of their kids. "See, he made it home in one piece..." Honestly, I bet the woman did it to reinvigorate her writing career…and it worked! She got an op ed piece in the NY Times, a book and a ridiculous amount of free publicity, not to mention becoming the founding member of the anti-helicopter parent movement. (Maybe I’ll toss my children into the monkey cage at the zoo to prove that apes are just as nurturing as human mothers. Wonder what that will get me other than time in jail on a child endangerment rap.)

And of course, for every action there is a reaction, helicopter parents and the slow cookers have rules to live by. (If I had to put myself on one side or the other, I guess I'd have blades stapled to my butt, however I refuse to believe that parenting is that black or white). Slow cookers even have a parenting bibles of sorts (kinda like the old and new testament) called The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfillment Beyond the Cult of Speed, and, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting. My oh my...

Yes, kids should be given opportunities to test themselves, to learn responsibility and to try out new things without mom and dad constantly hovering overhead. But to allow them to do so without recognizing, acknowledging and protecting them from the obvious dangers of the world is wholly irresponsible. Yes, we played all day in the streets when we were kids growing up and our parents didn't have to slap GSP tracking systems on us to keep us safe. But it was a different time and even then horrible, bad things happened (we just didn't hear about as much). Both extremes stink as ways to raise your kids - the hovering parents always in the mix and the slow cookers just sitting back and letting their kids be all the time to the point of moss growing behind their ears. If I sit back and let my kids be, they would burrow into the sofa watching tv and eating sweets 24/7. What do they say, an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays there???? Kids need to be motivated, challenged and protected along with being given downtime and freedom. That's the problem with movements. They are generally followed in absolutes - it's less confusing that way. It's a doctrine to follow - tell me what to do to be a perfect parent - how easy is that? (If a book could really do that, I’d have it on my shelf). Unfortunately, parenting, just like most things, cannot be cooked down to a simple sauce like a balsamic vinegar reduction. Parenting takes thought, the ability to switch gears on a dime and the willingness to screw up, admit it and make things right. My grandmothers would bust a corset if I started talking to them about hovering and slow parenting. Hey, maybe I'll start the common sense parenting movement which demands that its followers think about what they're doing when they're raising their kids. Oh, but that would be another one of those movements I hate...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dust Bunnies vs. Paycheck

My six year old had a friend over the other day for a playdate. I will never understand playdates - they see each other at school every day, for six hours a day and then they want to set up "playdates" afterschool so they can spend more time together? But I digress. So my daughter's friend, a sweet little girl, whose family I suspect must have more in the way of household help than I do, looked around the house and asked, "Do you have a cat?" When I asked her why, she said, "Because you have so many dust bunnies on the floor." She was right. The dust bunnies were multiplying at an alarming rate and the very nice woman who comes in and helps me keep them at bay every two weeks (when I can swing it) had been off over the holidays.

But since Monday, when I went back to work, I had decided to ignore the dust, dishes, laundry and other things and hope that no one noticed. But she did. I felt bad about it for a moment. I bit my tongue and tried not to respond with some smartmouthed comment which showed my crankiness about having to let some things fall by the wayside in favor of focusing on spending time with my family and concentrating on my work. She was after all, six years old. But it made me realize my own feelings - conflict about what to spend my time on - cleaning vs. cuddling vs. paycheck, a small amount of jealousy that she was growing up in a dust bunny free zone while my children did not, and finally, a sense of relief in accepting that I can't have the three C's (cleanliness, cuddling and cash) and if I have to let go of something, it is not going to be time with my children or effort put into my work. So, let the dust bunnies run wild, at least for the time being.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The 3 Week Vacation

Last three days I had to take the girls to work with me. My husband had to take a day off to stay home with them and I'm off on Friday. Question: Who at Los Angeles Unified School District thought a 3 week winter break was a good idea when most parents only get one or maybe two weeks off during the same time period? I know there is probably a reason, but not a good one in my mind. At least not for homes where both mom and dad work. No nanny, no grandma to cover for you. Just you and the kids going into the office together. Not pretty.

Leaving this afternoon, a walked by two or three other parents with their kids in tow, sad faces on all of them. The parents looked wiped from stashing the kids in the office and hoping that their playing and laughter didn't interrupt or anger the supervisor next door. That's how I felt. I was stressed out and kept thinking that every time I was seen walking my kids to the potty when I needed to be at my computer finishing a project that I was going to be labeled "Mommytrack" or not serious enough about my work to merit the respect or pay or (in this economy) continued employment that I need and (in my mind) deserve. And I work at a great place. They are actually rather family friendly on some levels and my supervisor, who doesn't have children, is always gracious and flexible about my childcare related issues. And yet the fears linger. I know others have it worse with bosses who don't care or co-workers who are resentful of you bringing your kids in for a myriad of reasons and I feel for them.

Long day. My kids are bouncing off the walls from being pent up and frustrated that I couldn't pay attention to them even though we were in the same office space. I tried to explain, gave up, and hugged them instead.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Six Going on Seven

My daughters went scootering yesterday while I walked behind them trying to keep up, looking out for cars backing out of driveways into them and shouting warnings for them to stop at the corner and look both ways before crossing. My oldest, Nicole, is 9 and very able to negotiate the neighborhood sidewalks and streets. However, my other daughter Natalie, who is 6, born on April Fool's Day, is growing into her independence. She may not know how to do as much as her older sister, but she always tries to keep up, faking her way through it if she has to, and sometimes showing herself to be braver, stronger and more willing to try things than the older kids she wants to hang out with.

When asked her age, instead of saying she's six, Natalie will quickly volunteer that she is in her "early sevens." As her older sister raced ahead of her on the scooter and shouted for Natalie to keep up, Natalie yelled back, "I'm not your sidekick!" Seriously beginning to wonder if Natalie had been watching Oprah over the winter break, I asked her what she meant by her comment. Natalie replied that not being a sidekick meant that she didn't have to always keep up and do what Nicole wanted her to do. She wasn't a sidekick. She was her own person.

Natalie is moving from the stage of being a baby, toddler, kindergartner into a big kid. There is a part of me that is sad to see the little girl stage go (although I live in fear of the teen years), yet I love watching Natalie's growing independence. Her assertion that she's "Not a sidekick," her need to be not six, but slightly older before her time, her desire to keep up and strive to do whatever her older sister and friends are doing is a good lesson for me. It teaches how to push forward even when we may fear we are not quite ready or well equipped enough for the task at hand. I may not be in my early sevens anymore, but that's a good thing to remember at any age!

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Honey, I've Ruined the Kids

Several years ago, I co-edited a book called Three Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work and Family (Seal Press, 2004) which was a compilation of essays by working couples from all walks of life describing how they handled the career, parenting, home life juggle. It was both inspiring and overwhelming to read the often humorous, sometimes sad and always ingenious ways which parents found to meet the competing demands of the kiddies, the boss and their ever significant, if frequently overlooked other. Mothers and fathers who contributed to the book and those who read it - my father, my mother-in- law, my next door neighbor...I could name the others, there's room enough here - echoed the stories in the book, sharing with us their own feelings about taking the parenting journey. Most of the time we feel like we're doing a really crappy job at raising our kids and holding everything else together. And it might be true. Most of the time it's not, but we can't shake that feeling that somewhere, somehow there is another parent who has figured it out and is doing it right. We feel like if we had more - fill in the blank - time, money, intelligence, creativity - we'd be able to pull it off and win the parenting gold medal instead of feeling horrible because your kids think it's weird to eat off of real plates instead of paper ones and when you and your husband actually have a free, childless moment, you're both more tempted to sleep rather than indulge in any type of passion.

Yesterday I went outside to take down the Christmas lights from the front yard and my children seized upon the opportunity to ride their new scooters up and down the block while I worked. Unlike when I was a kid and we'd run out of the house in the morning and be gone all day without our parents knowing where we were, we (along with all the other parents on the block) are cautious about having our kids play in the front yard unattended - but more on that hover parent vs. slow parent issue in a blog yet to come. As my kids played, I was horrified to overhear their game - it was called "Let's Run Errands." The game involved going to the bank, taking their son to karate class, dropping the dog off at the vet and picking up clothes at the dry cleaners. Despite the fact that I don't have a son, a dog and I've given up wrinkle free clothing and other small luxuries in lieu of covering our mortgage payment every month, hearing them reenact this "adult" life which was totally centered around doing little errands mortified me. If they wanted to imitate adults, why weren't they pretending to be doctors and saving villagers in remote Amazon villages? Why weren't they play acting at being attorneys using their legal acumen to fight societal injustice? My husband is a deep space navigator for JPL/NASA and I write/edit non-fiction books and write for t.v. and film. But they don't even imitate that. No, they were pretending to run errands. That is what they see of our busy, over scheduled challenging, frustrating, wonderful lives. That is what they've gleaned and absorbed as their own experience, as their future. On the very day that I decide to blog about the challenges of the parent balancing act, they provide me a perfect example of what I've done wrong.

My father is a kiddie shrink with pretty darn good credentials if you don't hold how my brother and I turned out against him. I'm joking, only partially, my brother is fine. But you know what they say, "Dentist's kids have bad teeth, minister's kids are promiscuous, and shrink's kids are crazy." Many jokes are based in some level of fact. If there is a bit of crazy in my corner, it is in the belief that I can "have it all" all at the same time. My children running around playing errand girls is a perfect example of that. In my effort to do everything for everyone and complete everything, they see the busy-ness, not the content, the reasons and passion motivating the actions. Their game was amusing for them. For me it was a striking lesson in the need to step back, think about what we teach our kids through what we do as well as what we say. As a parent who strives to say the right things to my kids, I realize my actions, are as they say, much stronger than my words.

So that's what this blog is about - parenting, working, being married - trying to do your best and knowing that despite it all, our mistakes, flaws, screw ups, our kids will be okay. Maybe a little warped with your own personal family dysfunction, but hey, after all, who wants perfect kids anyway?