Mommy’s Little Monster

My child is spending way too much time with me. And I think it may be turning her into kind of an asshole. I heard her talking to her dad in the kitchen and she said “you’re killing me John!” I could picture her hands on her hips standing the same way I do when I tell him how he is literally causing my slow and painful death by loading the dishwasher wrong. I am kind of an asshole, so I spot one when I see one.

Every day she spends with me makes her a little mouthier and a little more judgmental. She is even starting to point out who doesn’t take care of their landscaping in our neighborhood and who is driving like an old woman on the road. She says things like “Don’t those people have like six kids? Can’t one of them cut the grass?” and “Oh man, that guy must be going to the doctor. He’s too old to be out driving.” I have been remarkably quiet in the car with her voicing my inner dialog. 

Most of the time I find her sass amusing, but when she turns on me, it’s like being in a battle with a clone of myself. She’s  full of sarcasm and she knows all of my buttons. When she wants to get under my skin, she knows the quickest way to burrow right in. When I complain that I should be getting a chore done, she shames me with a “yeah, ya should!” or when I tell her she needs to do something around the house she retorts “maybe YOU should do that!” Watching her little smirk makes it even more like arguing in the mirror with myself. The child is a master at having the last word too, even if it is as her bedroom door is being closed on her or it’s muttered under her breath. I’m beginning to understand why she and I both talk in our sleep. We are both trying to have the last word.

All I know is when they say you will get exactly what you deserve in a child, they’re right. They’re assholes, but they’re right. My only comfort is that girls are afraid of turning into their mothers as they age and my poor little girl is already just like me before she has even reached double digits. She is getting her paybacks as she goes. It’s like instant karma. I, on the other hand, have reached middle age and am still not much like my mom. The similarities between me and the old man are a little frightening, but that’s a conversation for my therapist. My karma has come in an entirely different form, but it’s just as fitting.

**Music for today… Mother’s Milk would have been more appropriate but, but Catholic School Girls Rule was on my mind.

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Guilty of Being White

Some days I feel like I am living in an alternate universe. I have often said that the last few years have felt like a Marvel Comic movie where an evil villain has taken over and some dude wearing tights will show up at any minute and save the day. And I just keep hoping it’s Henry Rollins, but maybe without the tights. But the last week has left me flummoxed. So flummoxed in fact that I am using old-timey words like flummoxed. I’m not shocked and horrified by people protesting and causing chaos, I’m shocked that everyone is not joining them. I am shocked and horrified that the same people who are so vocal about the rioting and looting happening around the protests are the same people who didn’t have a word to say about any of the black men and women who have been killed by police in our country. But I shouldn’t be shocked. These are the same people the system takes care of. These people are me, just less mouthy and more comfortable with the status quo.

People aren’t out protesting because they have nothing better to do. People are protesting because they have had enough and they want their voices to be heard. And now they are being told that their voices are too loud. They are being told they are free to be angry, just in a way that is more pleasing to white middle class America, and that is bullshit. This is an abused child throwing a tantrum because that is the only way he is heard. This is the consequence of a broken system and the masses that were kept comfortable by that system don’t want to be disrupted. Apparently when a tantrum is thrown in the form of a white man marching up to the state capitol with a gun to protest a stay at home order, it’s okay, but when it’s the disenfranchised demanding justice it’s a threat. A bunch of entitled brats can protest not being able to get a haircut, but God forbid anybody hold up a Black Lives Matter sign and march down the street. Let’s just keep ignoring injustice and hope it goes away (or not).

It’s sad to me that things haven’t changed much in terms of racism in our country. I think if anything the racists have crawled out of their holes more in the past several years since they have felt protected by our current administration. And when they first started coming out I thought it might be a good thing because it’s easier to fight a known evil than one in disguise. But now I see that it’s kind of like turning on a light in a cockroach infested apartment. You just want to turn the lights back off and close the door. The problem with that is the cockroaches are still there. And what that light is shining on more and more is the systematic discrimination that our country has perpetuated throughout history. We feed the prison system young black men like Hitler feeding Jews to the gas chambers. It feels like trying to stop the gears of a machine by shoving a toothpick in between it’s teeth. But I am reminded that if all of the toothpicks are lodged into the machine, it will jam and break. So today I am a toothpick, along with all of the other toothpicks, trying to jam the gears of this broken system. 

I don’t want to preach, but I will. Silence is complicity. If you want to see change, use your voice. 

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Sad Semester

There are many reasons I send my child to someone else during the day to learn her three Rs. I don’t understand new math, I don’t explain things well, I need to look at a map to tell you where Nebraska is and I can’t figure out which fingers go on which holes on that godawful instrument called a recorder. But at the very top of the list of why homeschooling is not a good idea for this family is because after three days of too much time learning together, we all want to murder each other. Strangely, I am more of the victim in this situation than the instigator.

If I were my daughter’s real teacher, she would be hiding my erasers and writing dirty limericks about me on the bathroom walls. Luckily she isn’t old enough to even think about skipping school or I would be showing up to an empty room by now. I’m fairly certain the last person she wants teaching her anything is me. Second to last is her father. I don’t want to say my child is critical of my teaching style, but she is. Very critical, in fact. So critical that she can find fault in anything I do, down to the pencil I choose to help her with a math problem. When both of her parents are in her learning space with her, she gets even more annoyed. We apparently breathe too loudly. I get it, we are not her teachers, we are her parents. She doesn’t want us to be the ones teaching her math and science. She wants us to be her cheerleaders, not her coaches.

What makes the situation harder is that I feel like I am failing, all day, every day. There is nothing that will make you feel more like a monkey trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle than trying to work through a math problem you have been using a calculator to complete for the last 30 years. With my mini-me peering over my shoulder, it feels like I am trying to defuse a bomb on a school bus full of children. My daughter’s teacher is great about sending the parents instructions to guide us through this process, but even with instruction I feel like I have forgotten more than I will ever know and I am a small step above useless to my kid. All I see on the internet are supportive posts from fellow parents and mommy blogs telling me to be gentle with myself and my child and to let things go, but that is just not my nature. I want to thrive in this situation. I should be good at this. I tutor kids my daughter’s age. I spend time volunteering at her school. I left a job I hated several years ago to spend more time with my kid and now that I have all day every day with her I kind of want to run far far away. 

The thing is, everything is weird right now and as humans, we are uncomfortable with uncertainty, which is pretty much all we have today. I am certain about a few things – my kid enjoys me dancing with her to fulfill her PE requirement and she will follow instructions from her dad for music and art, so we have that going for us. I am focusing on these areas more than I am arguing about how to properly add fractions. She is getting more time on her skateboard and piano. She is also cooking and reading like a middle aged single woman.

I am helping when I can, but sometimes I think my child is better off working on her school work by herself. I attempted helping her with her french work but only managed to teach her how to swear in a foreign language. I mean, realistically, it is one of my few areas of expertise, so I may as well pass it on. She gets her musical ability from her father and her ability to say “go fuck yourself” in four languages from her mom. In my defense, the instruction was totally unintentional, just like how she learned to swear in her native language. 

If nothing else, my child is learning to be self-sufficient. She is doing more for herself than ever. Since both of her parents are busier than usual, this kid is actually figuring things out for herself. In the past six weeks she has had more training in technology than she will in the next six years. She is trouble shooting problems herself before asking for help which is going to serve her well later on. She has also had a lifetime’s lesson in patience and grace. She is watching her mom be frustrated but keep going and she is doing the same. She is watching her dad come up with new ways to get things done when the old ways aren’t available and she is doing the same. She is being coached by her cheerleaders in unexpected ways. Most importantly, she is being gentle with herself and with her parents. She has yet to swear at me in french or any other language for that matter. And as always, I am learning much more from her than she is learning from me which I think is kind of how parenting works. 

**I wrote this while listening to NOFX who are masters of making me laugh when I want to be outraged. 

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Let’s Get Physical

The past month has been strange to say the least. My child is home all the time, my husband is home but working long hours, we can’t go to church, the library, my beloved Target or out to dinner. But the change that is most disruptive to me is that I can no longer go to the gym. This was such a concern to me that before I even thought about getting my daughter set up in her new remote learning space I was online ordering an elliptical to be delivered as quickly as possible. I was fully aware that not everyone in my house would make it through this crisis if I was not able to sweat it out for an hour a day. While everyone was out raiding their local grocery store for toilet paper, I was online comparing elliptical specs. I don’t know why I bothered since I picked the one that most resembled my favorite machine at the gym. When shipping options appeared I opted for the white glove set up after remembering our last experience with purchasing gym equipment. My husband and I nearly killed each other trying to get a treadmill down a flight of steps into our basement twelve years ago. Clearly that experience scarred me for life as it was the first memory that popped into my head when I was ordering.

When I clicked “submit order” I was a little surprised to see that it would take two weeks to deliver. I set up a delivery time for a saturday afternoon and headed outside for a walk. Over the next few weeks I discovered all kinds of new places to walk around my house. There is a nature center less than a mile away where I spent hours at a time walking and watching wild turkeys and deer while I made observations about my fellow hikers. The one thing I didn’t do was sweat. I was getting desperate to get back to my routine when I received a call from the delivery company informing me that my equipment would arrive the following day between noon and 2 pm. That night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I actually dreamed about riding my shiny new elliptical. I had cleared out the space in my office where my new machine would be placed and I even vacuumed the floor. I was going to sleep in my workout clothes just to be prepared, but I thought that may be a little much.

The following morning I was awoken by a truck rumbling outside my window. I knew it couldn’t be my delivery since it was not due for several more hours, but then my doorbell rang an there was an immediate pounding on the front door. I shook my husband awake and told him to run downstairs since I was in my underwear and my hair resembled something from a bad new wave video from the 80s. Within that ten seconds my phone started to ring. These delivery men were anxious to get in our house. Maybe they had heard about the mass amounts of hand sanitizer I had lined up on the counter.

When my husband answered the door he was informed that they were not all that anxious to get in our house, they were actually not even allowed to enter our house. They rang our bell at the crack of dawn to tell us we would have to reschedule or they could leave the box at our door. As I heard this from the top of the stairs I yelled down “LEAVE IT!!” knowing I would not survive another few days without a good workout, let alone another few months. They shoved the enormous box through our front door crashing right into the closet, knocking the door off the track. They said that was their “white glove service” and scampered away. My husband later informed me that we were supposed to have received a call about the delivery change which we still have not received a month later. As a matter of fact, the $250 charge for the white glove service has also not been refunded. Apparently Nordictrack charges a fee to send a couple of guys out to break your closet doors, just in case anyone needs this service. Maybe this is a ploy to get people to buy additional equipment. I can attest that after several calls, e-mails and online chats with no resolution, I need a good workout to burn off the anger secreting from my pores.

Delivery day turned out to be a lot less like Christmas day than I had anticipated. It was more like Tuesday at a work camp. After my husband and I stood staring at the box for an eternity, we finally got to work. It took a good 30 minutes to get the giant box on it’s side and cut open, and that was just the beginning. We decided that if two delivery men could lug this monstrosity up the stairs, so could we. This was the same magical thinking that had us believing we could set up a treadmill unassisted twelve years ago. We spent a much longer time than we should have walking around the machine trying to determine the best way to approach the lifting. Then we proceeded to circle the machine several more times trying to lift it periodically, both of us convinced that we could lift the side that our spouse was clearly too weak to lift. Neither of us could lift one side alone and we didn’t want to scratch up the hardwood floor trying to drag it. We were able to come up with several solutions to our problem, all of which included having other people move this beast which was not going to happen for awhile.

We finally conceded and dragged the machine into the living room using rugs. We were only able to move it an inch at a time and about halfway through I laughed that we had ever thought we could carry this thing up the stairs by ourselves. I did finally get to sweat the way I had been craving and was getting a full body workout just trying to situate the machine in the least obtrusive place. There is no such place with a piece of gym equipment in a living room. Gym equipment is obtrusive, especially in a living room. While we used the tiny tools to attach the arms to the machine I thought back to going to a relative’s house for a party where they had an entire gym in their living room. It was the first thing you saw when you walked in the front door and I was perplexed about why they would do such a thing. Now I know that they probably moved into the house and gave up on trying to move the equipment once they got ten feet through the door. Luckily nobody would be coming to our house to see our new home gym/living room.

The good news about this is that our living room faces the street so I still get the people watching I got at the gym, just with more dogs and kids. I get to read my book while I peddle away as well as watch the neighbors walk their dogs and weed their gardens. My kid has also decided that riding the elliptical is a blast so she hops on for a half hour at a time when she can’t get outside. My husband hasn’t used the machine much. I can’t determine if it’s a matter of not having the time or if he is holding a grudge from when one of the arms swung down and beamed him on the top of the head during assembly. Either way, he isn’t complaining about it being an eyesore in the middle of the living room. I’m just happy that I am able to get in a good workout in my own house. Lord knows I need it after the pandemic pantry bingeing that’s been happening around here.

*I wrote most of this in my head while on my new elliptical, but here’s some good workout music in case you decide to open a home gym in your living room…

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Don’t Stand So Close To Me

This social distancing thing has been really eye opening on a lot of fronts for me. I have learned that some people just don’t understand what combinations of words like “social” and “distancing” mean together, much like “self” and “checkout” at the grocery store seems to confound people. I have also learned that people have spacial relation issues and do not understand the difference between six feet and six inches. And worst I have discovered that I may actually be a rule follower deep down.

Let me start by saying I am not a catastrophizer, I am also not a joiner. But when I heard that we could avoid spreading an illness and give our healthcare workers the space they needed to help the sick simply by staying away from other people, I hopped on that bandwagon, and quick. I promptly took off my pants and crawled under a blanket on the couch. This kind of social action is right in my wheelhouse. It took me a full two days to realize that my family would also need to stay at home putting an end to my month long pants-free marathon of Jaws and Taxi Driver on repeat.

Luckily the weather has been beautiful, and I am taking advantage of it when my house gets too peopley for me. I have been going for walks at the nature center up the road which is where I have been learning all kinds of things about nature of the human variety. There are usually a handful of people walking the paths, but for the most part people are pretty respectful of the distancing rules. We see each other coming and both parties walk out to the far edges of the path to allow about 8 feet between each other. I have seen plenty of teenagers wandering around, reeking of weed, holding hands and climbing on tree stumps, that I can only assume are not from the same household, but they stay away from the other pedestrians. I have seen old people, young people, moms with their littles and dads with their older dads.

But a week ago I saw something that made me wonder what the hell is going on. I was approaching a little bridge and from about 50 yards away I saw what I thought was a punk rock mom with turquoise hair and a baby stroller standing at one side of the bridge headed my way. I calculated the time it would take me to get there and assumed they would be across by the time I got anywhere near them. As I came closer to the bridge I realized that the figure I saw was not in fact a young mom with a stroller but an elderly blue haired woman with a walker. She had only made it about halfway across the bridge and as I approached she started yelling hysterically “give me 6 feet please! Stay back! Give me 6 feet!” I was at that point about 30 feet from her but I stopped where I was. I watched as she hobbled with her walker closer to me. I was wondering why she wasn’t at home seeing as she was elderly and clearly worried about coming in contact with other people. I was also wondering why she chose to take her walker for a stroll through wood chips and tree branches instead of the sidewalk. I was wondering if she would make it up the hill ahead or if they would have to medivac her out once the sun went down. I was wondering if I should warn her that the entire trail was engulfed in mud a little further along. I wondered if the wild turkey would have a run at her seeing that it’s mating season. I wondered about a lot of things. Mostly because I had about 40 minutes to wonder as she crossed the bridge. I may have taken a short nap as well. It’s hard to say now. She finally passed and I headed back down the trail. I have yet to encounter her dead body or discarded walker so she somehow managed to make it out by the following day. I’m just thinking if you can’t distance yourself from other people and you have to rely on others to make room for you as you are out and about, maybe you should not be out and about. Just saying.

A few days later I was back out in public, avoiding being around people. I had a few large envelopes that needed to go in the mail. I figured going at night and using the kiosk would allow me to avoid people, but I was mistaken. I pulled up and saw two other cars in the parking lot so I waited to enter. As I waited, another car pulled up and a woman jumped out and walked in with no mask or gloves. She emerged a few minutes later, as did another person. Only one other car sat in the parking lot so I went in. Of course the car belonged to a woman who was using the one operational kiosk in the building. I took my place in line about 10 feet behind her and waited as patiently as I could. She had been in there for at least 5 minutes prior to me walking in so I assumed she was near finished. I was again mistaken. It took her another 7 minutes to finish her transaction. I know this because I timed her. I’m not sure what she was doing, but she only mailed out one package in the end. During that time another woman walked in and jumped in line right behind Molasses Sally. She turned to see me standing there, made an uncomfortable shrug and proceeded to walk right over and stand next to me. Not 6 feet next to me, not behind me, but directly to my right. We could have held hands. Said woman was not wearing a mask or gloves or anything. Although she was wearing pants, so she had that score on me. I was in fact in pajamas and flip flops. I stepped away from her as she jabbered at me about how she had been to two other post offices already and just had one envelope to mail but couldn’t get it done. I looked around and backed away like she was holding a bomb. She clearly was unable to judge 6 feet or was one of those people who just didn’t understand what is going on right now. I literally doused myself in hand sanitizer when I got back in my car. I try to view all people as if they have a really bad case of head lice. That’s how far I stay away. If I can picture one of those little bastards jumping on me from someone else’s head, I back up. Maybe that’s how the media should be explaining the six foot rule to people.

I told my husband the other night that I have seen a lot of people who are treating this whole pandemic like it’s end days or something. I’m watching people have no fucks left to give and it’s kind of pissing me off. Mostly because it’s making me be a rule follower and be all church lady about the lawlessness going on. I saw a young couple walk into the nature center the other day with a dog. They stood in front of the giant “no dogs allowed” sign discussing it before they entered, and apparently made the decision that rules don’t matter in a crisis. I was livid. Like, unreasonably angry about their brashness. And this was not the first time I have seen such guffawing at the law. People are riding their bikes down the middle of the road in my neighborhood, people are getting in the express line with 11 items and people are unashamedly jaywalking. Jaywalking, I tell you! I saw a guy smirking at me as he strolled across the road the other day while I was driving. I said right out loud “Yeah, keep smirking. I’ll run your ass over!” God help me, I’m not only following rules, I am disgusted with the people breaking the rules. I have turned into one of those assholes. I came home, told my kid to quit doing her homework and go play in the street just to prove everything was still okay. Tonight I am going to drop a Henry Rollins book in her hand just for good measure.

The world may be a little upside down right now, but I’m confident we are going to come out of this a little better than we were as human beings. I’m going to give the hysterical old lady twelve feet instead of six. I’m going to just let the clueless lady cut in front of me instead of breathe on me next time. And I’m going to try my hardest not to mow down any jaywalkers. I can’t make any promises, but I have been getting away with breaking the rules my whole life, so I am going to just let that shit go.

**”Waiting Room” has been in my head since my husband started singing it to me last week. Put it in your head too!

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