Thursday, August 27, 2009

Divorce--Just Say No

Is it a surprise to any wife that a man will announce he plans to do something and then not lift a finger?
I think this is the reasoning behind many women’s annoyance with the OTHER WOMAN rather than their own cheating husbands when the husband announces that he wants a divorce. Because wives KNOW without the other woman doing the work, the man would just lie on the couch at home and just complain.

My friends and I were talking about The Modern Love piece, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear“ by Laura A. Munson in the New York Times several weeks ago. Her husband announced that he wanted out of the marriage, but she just kept on telling him that she “didn’t buy it.” Apparently a lot of people felt she was brave or a doormat or both, but my take is...I am not sure. I am not sure how I would feel. I don’t think I could contain my rage. However, she obviously wanted to save the marriage and knew in her gut that by not doing anything—nothing would get done. Because one must remember—”men need CONSTANT direction.” Because if you are not flying into a rage and ringing up a divorce lawyer.... Do you think Mr. Dopey is going to do it?

Of course I cannot help but go back to the wise Ms. PR who has told her husband many a time “Darling, I can see myself as a widow, but never a divorcee—just a tip.”

Chugging Vodka in a Minivan and other Old Drinking News

Give me a joint, my kids and a box of Legos and we are good for the afternoon” one mother reported to me once...unprompted. I could definitely see how the combination is close to perfection, yet it is not my sentiments exactly...but only because finding a good joint in the suburbs is like finding good bread. Plus it so much easier to just to open a bottle of wine and you don’t have to worry about being posted on the crime blotter in the local paper.
For some reason many people e-mailed me about how the woman who wrote “Naptime is the New Happy Hour” has decided to stop drinking...for good. I don’t take this need to inform me personally. The woman in question obviously had some deeper issues that she was combating with cocktails rather than prescription drugs or long term psychoanalysis like anyone else would who had suffered through a horrible childhood. Yet even before this bigger issue came to light-- the fact that this mom enjoyed an evening drink and talked about it seemed to strike a puritanical cord in many people. I am curious as to when this puritanical mind-set infected parenting...

I can’t remember my parents ever holding back on the wine when their friends came over on Saturday afternoons because kids were present. They would hang out on the brick patio and watch the kids run wild in the backyard as they ate and drank and, of course, smoked until the sun went down. Everyone was happy. The little monsters were happy and the parents were happy. Where did this new idea that alcohol is never appropriate around kids come from? The orange juice council? The Coca-Cola/Pepsi companies?

In the NYT article, A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up by Jan Hoffman on August 14th, she suggested that perhaps one of the reasons the Cocktail Mom made a public announcement was because of the tragedy in New York where a mother had driven several miles the wrong way on a major highway and ended up killing herself, the kids in her minivan and people in another car. Just horrible.

Although it was a mystery to everyone, at first, why that should have happened...other than the fact that she had a minivan full of kids...probably screams and whining... The investigation ultimately revealed an open vodka bottle (the size that comes with its own built-in handle) and some weed. Any parent who has ever driven a bunch of children any where beyond a local destination will understand the temptation, if not to drink oneself, at least to add something to those sippy-cups to get those bratty children to doze off so one can listen to NPR in peace. But what leads one from merely thinking about possibilities, as I am sure we ALL have, to actually doing it, is a horse of a different color.

Drinking is one of the joys of adult life. By pointing out people who go to the extremes, who are reckless, who endanger kids and then condemn the whole practice of having a drink seems so Fox News..and really rather silly. Of course not quite as silly as the new Maine law I just heard about on Free Range Kids that bans children from witnessing wine tasting...check it out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Discipline--Such an Ugly Word

As I mentioned before...other than that first horrific year with The Beast, who refused to sleep through the night and demanded CONSTANT attention while awake, she has been a rather easy child. She is thoughtful and kind , lazy at school, but so smart that the teachers rarely notice... generally a very good girl with just that kooky streak which is fine since we live in this artsy-fartsy town where kookiness is strived for....

So discipline is rarely an issue in our family and the reason for this, other than The Beast’s naturally good nature, is that I have always taken my childrearing clues from Ms. Church-Lady. She was not always Ms. Church-Lady, but that is another story. Ms. Church-Lady is a disciplinarian, but you would never know it. Never a yell, never a dramatic exit with a screaming child, never a threat.

I first witness Ms. Church-Lady ‘s technique with her oldest daughter. The child was young at the time—maybe six and she was good...very good...and charming... A LOT of fun..really everything you would want in a child.

We were up late with the child and the child was getting a little...just a little...loud. Nothing that I would notice, but a certain pitch was hit and I saw Ms. Church-Lady’s index finger go up and she called to her child, gently,--”one” The child looked up, acknowledge the finger and continued to have fun, but more quietly.

A little while later the noise level was breached again and again the child was alerted with a peace sign-”two.” said Ms. Church Lady.

I turned to Ms. Church-Lady and said—”how far do you count and what happens when you stop.”

“Three is the limit—when she gets to three she loses TV for a week.”

“Seems sort of harsh” I said.

“I know,” she said, “it is very harsh FOR ME, but you have got to do what you’ve got to do—there is nothing worse than having a brat around the house—creating a spoiled brat can ruin a lifetime. Besides a week without TV is not going to kill the child—she will just read more “

I watched the child. She was happy as can be. Not threatened, not confined by some brutal force...happy and comfortable and loved. Discipline is not about force or yelling or threatening it is all about is all about giving the child attention.

I am watching you. I love you. I am watching you because I love you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Married to Dopey? Welcome to the Club

“Please.... You should know better than to talk to a father” The annoyed mother scolded after I tried and failed to get information on a school event from her poor clueless husband.

I married a very smart man—he is a brilliant designer, wonderful father, great cook, great sense of humor and he has many other talents I will not go into for fear these heartless suburban women might try to steal him away from me...BUT regardless of these beautiful traits and superb skills—the man is dope.

But, really, it is not just my man--ALL men are dopey. It is the condition of being a man. A lot of women feel they put on this act of being dopey...but really—NO. Men just are dopey and there is no point beating yourself up about it, or for that matter, your husband.

As Ms. PR will tell you—Men” Need Constant Direction” and yet they fight it. They argue and they moan that you are nagging them, but god forbid if you don’t give them direction it is your fault for not telling them that:
The child IS going into kindergarten next week...YES--the “graduation” from preschool a few months ago was a clue that I thought I did not have to elucidate on and NO—we cannot postpone the first day so you can take off work to take photos.
Yes—Christmas is tomorrow and NO—I did not get your family presents.
Well...YES you do need your passport to go to Paris and NO—I cannot get it for you.

My husband and I have had many conversations like this because I lack the skills of a long married woman. Just like grandmothers know how to quiet a screeching baby with nothing more than a soft sound and gentle rock—being married is a skill that requires practice, patience and honing.

Ms. PR uses a lot of different techniques to give her husband direction, mostly involving flattering (while I am there) but I am sure she escalates it to all out niceness and perhaps even sexual favors once I am gone. Regardless—whatever she is doing—she is doing it well. The man happily listens to instructions that most often start with “Darling...I am sure you are already aware, but the child will be attending kindergarten for the first time tomorrow—perhaps we could drop her off the morning...once you shave and dress like an adult” Thus giving him the benefit of the doubt (regardless of the deer in the headlight look on his face) that he is aware, but she is just filling him in to make small-talk.

Of course, Ms. PR is a special case and her years of training in PR have given her an ability to remain calm whereas I sink into unhelpful sarcasms at the first quizzical look on his face when he hears about his mother’s birthday our house OR our wedding anniversary... But I have been trying. My technique, for those who are severely limited by a mean streak of humor, is e-mail. There is no need to maintain a straight-face while writing an e-mail and you can re-read the note a few times to check for any hints of derision.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What Happens at Camp--Stays at Camp

”NUDITY?” I queried the mother in-line ahead of me as I waited to pay one last bill in order to release The Beast from this camp in the middle of the wilderness.

“Oh yes...” the mother said nodding in a conspirator’s gesture —”on the boys side it is common practice to sprint across the field buck-naked from the shower house to the bunks…but I guess the girls hang out nude during most of their free time.”

“And just how does your 12 year old son know about this practice on the ‘Girls’ Side’ of the camp?” I ventured.

“Well” she explained to clear her son’s name “I told a friend about the camp because my son loves it here and her daughter came and the daughter was horrified by all the nudity on the girls’ side of the camp.”

The Beast is very closed mouth, unlike her mother. So any little insight into her world is welcome…usually…

Interesting, I thought, ...that explains the Beast and her fellow camp friends’ free and easy dancing through the YMCA locker room in nothing other than their towels...around their necks.

Cornering The Beast at home...I mentioned my new knowledge of the Girls Side at Camp. Apparently there was A LOT I did not know and for some reason the child was suddenly willing to divulge ALL such as the games that the older campers play. She started to describe one game that at first explanation sounded like a hybrid of Spin the Bottle, British Bull Dog and Tag. As my eyes glazed over as I tried, in vain, to erase the image of my baby kissing A BOY...the Beast starts to explain the game to me AGAIN...more slowly this time...since I was obviously not getting it. BUT I AM getting it...I am getting it all too well...I stop her....

“Please...please...” I say as I silenced my beautiful beast, who is now almost my height, with a kiss and a hug.

I tell her. “What happens at camp, stays at camp--let’s go see the new Harry Potter movie before you are too old for it. “