Miss Communication

They need some form of parental warning on television that reads “Warning – may induce uncomfortable conversations.” Forget about sex, violence and swearing, I need a warning to leave the room before a subject like puberty comes up. My child has asked me about the female anatomy more than I cared to discuss in the past week.

The first time she was watching The Babysitters Club. In one episode the girls talk relentlessly about getting their periods. When my daughter asked me what that meant I told her we’ll talk about it next year but it’s something that happens to all girls and she doesn’t need to worry about it at the moment. Luckily when one of the characters mentioned that a sculpture she created was themed menstruation it went right over her 9 year old head. Thank sweet baby Jesus the sculpture wasn’t actually constructed out of tampons and maxi pads. She was later watching a show with teenage girls where they discussed underarm hair. I found my kid with her head shoved into her pits an hour later. She has already asked me when she can start shaving her legs after she noticed she has more leg hair than the boys in the neighborhood.

YouTube can be problematic because there are a lot of channels with a variety of content, so it’s hard to keep track of what is appropriate. Even when she searches for “water fails” or “funny videos” sometimes she gets videos with people dropping F-bombs. One would think after spending the last nine years as a passenger in my car, cursing wouldn’t affect her, but she reacts to swear words like she is being physically assaulted in the ear. She hears someone yell “oh shit” as they fall off a trampoline and she immediately changes the channel. I am left wondering if “oh shit” actually happened or if they bounced right back.

I have banned more “kid friendly” channels than I can name. She used to love watching this baking lady named Rosanna until she went and changed her face to look like a Kardashian. When a little girl says “why did she make her face look like that?” you may have a problem. I had to have a chat with my kid about the sad and stupid reasons people get plastic surgery. Watching this “entertainer” has led to conversations about how many women play dumb to get more viewers and how she probably spends more time in hair and makeup than actually filming. It’s annoying that every time I turn on YouTube I feel compelled to explain to my daughter how pathetic people are and why it’s scary to me that half of the kids her age want to become internet stars. I would rather talk about menstruation!

An uncomfortable conversation warning would have been most helpful this morning when my daughter was scanning through channels like a remote control ninja. She was watching 30 seconds of the scariest amusement parks then 20 seconds of a Harley Quinn makeup tutorial when she stumbled upon a video about the most shocking people in the world. Of course she had to see the video when the cover shot was of conjoined twins. The video started with “Meet Sarah, the woman who has up to 1,000 orgasms a day!” Thanks YouTube. My daughter immediately turned to me and said “Mom, what’s an orgasm?” and it took every ounce of my being not to make some joke like “a myth according to most men” or “something your sex ed teacher will tell you is unnecessary.” If my brain was not currently melting from the question, I could have responded with something like “I think they said organism honey” and gone into a detailed explanation. Instead I blurted “this is kind of adult content. Let’s watch something else” and hoped she didn’t notice that I was about to pass out. Now I am searching her school’s website to determine when she will have a sex education class in school.

I pretty much ignore ratings on television and the internet so a warning probably wouldn’t help me anyway. I allow my child to watch a lot of content that would not be deemed suitable by those placing warnings all over the internet, but I also don’t plop her in front a screen unattended. We have countless conversations about fairly heavy topics and she asks questions like “why are most of the parents in movies divorced?” These are questions I am equipped to answer. Why Sarah is ultra-orgasmic is not a topic I am ready to tackle just yet. YouTube has a rating system that covers violence, nudity, drug use and even strobe lights. What they really need is a warning that states “Content may cause your child to ask when she will grow pubic hair or what a dominatrix does.” That would be helpful. It would have been REALLY helpful yesterday.

**I wrote this while listening to the very first lyrics I had to explain to my kid. Thanks Glenn Danzig.




Get Out of My Sandbox

I do not work well with others. Generally I find people annoying, so having to rely on them to complete a task is a real chore for me. I am in school again, and the program I am in apparently requires me to work with others quite a bit. I have collaborated well for the most part. I haven’t lost my shit on anyone…yet… but some projects are more difficult than others. Group papers are especially challenging. I have come to the conclusion that in any group paper situation, when the group consists of more than three people, you end up with a problematic character. 

I had a group paper last semester which was about a consulting situation. It was actually kind of perfect considering the paper was about collaboration and we were collaborating. One of the young women I was working with literally wrote one paragraph of a ten page paper and then kept asking to have zoom calls so we could discuss the paper. When we finally did, she managed to get one of the other women to write her part as she dictated what she wanted to say, which sounded similar to a drunk parrot reciting words out of a medical textbook so had to be revised anyway. I understood why she only wrote one paragraph after hearing her for five seconds. She only had one paragraph worth of information in her tiny little brain.

This semester I was assigned a group paper with three other students, and once again, I successfully managed to identify the problem child right away. Interestingly enough he was the only PhD candidate in the group. We had a couple zoom calls in this class, and this guy appeared for the meeting late both times and then asked to be caught up on what he missed. He also thought that the question “how are you?” was an open invitation to talk about himself at length. When this paper was introduced, his first response was “should we set up a zoom call?” I was not falling for that trick again.

The paper was about diagnosing a fictional character. When our professor suggested that we use a TV character the egomaniac started describing a show that I wasn’t familiar with. I mentioned another show and he said that was the one he was talking about. I am still scratching my head about what season or episode he was referring to. He said the guy lived in a house with a bunch of people and was involved in a school scandal. I figured out that he did live with “a bunch” of people… his family, but I still have no idea what scandal he was referring to.

Since I was the only group member that had seen the entire series, I took on the task of writing the character narrative. Even though the other group members weren’t all that familiar with the character on the show, they had no problem using my narrative to write their parts of the paper. But not Mr. PhD-bag! No, he decided to binge watch the show for a week rather than writing the assignment. And when he finally started working on the paper, less than 24 hours before the due date, it was to edit what we had all written and send us articles that he thought we should all read to start working on the paper. He seemed to be completely unaware that we had created a document and shared it with him a week prior and we had all done our parts.

He finally added one of his two parts literally less than 12 hours before the paper was due and it was a recap of one of the episodes that had nothing to do with what I had written in the narrative. When I mentioned this, he left a comment that I could go back and update my part to include the new character he introduced. Sure buddy, I’ll change what I wrote a week ago to discuss a meaningless character because you just happened to watch that episode.

The worst part about working with someone like this is that he actually thought he was being helpful by editing all of our work. But we never asked him to do this. We asked him to write the part of the paper he was supposed to write. One of the other group members and I ended up texting back and forth wondering what the hell Dr. Dumbass was doing. We were pretty sure we were being punked. We both communicated to him several times that everyone was waiting for him to write his part and that he was holding us up. His response was excuses and assurances that it would be done by the deadline. He completely ignored that collectively we had set an earlier deadline due to our schedules. He clearly didn’t care. He was obviously driving this paper and we should be grateful that he was even lending us his expert opinion on our work. 

Our professor was pretty harsh in some of his critiques. I am not proud to say this, but I was happy to get a B on the paper for one reason and that is that I was right. I argued about a few points in the paper, and the PhD-bag insisted on covering a situation that was meaningless and bringing up points that went against our approach. Our professor agreed with me on both points and as far as I could see, the areas where we lost points were all from our self-appointed editor. The paper didn’t affect my grade in the class much and even if it had, it would have been worth it to be right. 

**When I am feeling antisocial I like to listen to music that reminds me my people are out there.

Die, Die My Darling

While boating the other day, I told my dad we were trying to kill him. An hour later my husband and dad almost killed me. Karma sometimes acts pretty quickly. Seriously karma, I was just kidding! Not that my husband trying to kill me is anything new. In fact, I’m pretty sure he has been working on a plan since the day we were married based on the amount of “accidents” I have had in the last 16 years. I am going to ignore the fact that I am accident prone here.

Let me start by saying that my kid and I are daredevils. When it comes to dangerous activities, we are all in. So needless to say, when we go rafting, we are the ones screaming “faster” as we bounce along the water. Saturday was no exception. My dad spent the better part of his afternoon pulling me and mini me around the lake on a raft. My mom spent the better part of her afternoon having a panic attack and covering her eyes. At one point we were almost completely sideways on the raft. I looked down and I was literally on top of my kid as we bounced over a wave. On the same trip around the lake my dad nearly plowed us into a family of ducks as he turned and we flew out to the side of the boat. Luckily it was not a family of swans or they would have popped our raft and pecked our faces off.

After an hour of my mom glaring at my dad he took her to shore. The thrill seekers were still up for more rafting so we took one of the wave runners out dragging the little two person bouncer behind. Everyone took a turn riding and driving. I didn’t drive since I drive one speed no matter if I am alone or dragging bodies behind me. I have been told that 55 is too fast for rafting. But I learned that you can injure yourself at any speed. My husband was going only 9 mph when he almost killed me. After the old man and mini me took a trip around the water she decided she wanted me back there with her so my dad took over the spotter duty while my husband drove. We were just getting ready to head back in when the men decided it would be fun to whip us around in a circle so my husband proceeded to spin around at single digit speeds while we circled. We had gone around twice when all of a sudden we were air born. A wave came out of nowhere and we hit it like a ski jump.

Both passengers were able to hold on with one hand, but we came down fast and hard. I landed on my side and was immediately pummeled in my ribs. I was clinging to the raft wondering who threw a bowling ball at me when I heard crying from above. My daughter was sitting on my rib cage right under my armpit holding her mouth and crying. She had apparently bitten her tongue. I eased her off me and tried to see inside her mouth while not moving. I felt like a baby holding it’s breath right before an enormous scream comes out, but no scream came, just small gasps. When we finally got back to shore, I slid off the raft and walked onto the beach still gasping for breath. I have had the wind knocked out of me on many occasions so I knew it would take a minute or two to catch my breath, but when five minutes went by and I still couldn’t suck in any substantial amount of air I was getting a little nervous. It didn’t help that three people were in my face asking if I was okay. I couldn’t get enough air to talk which was the scariest part. Not being able to talk for 10 seconds is torture for me. I would rather be water boarded than not be able to spew every thought in my head for five minutes. Since I couldn’t argue, being unable to speak and all, I was at the mercy of my family when they insisted that I go to urgent care to get an X-ray.

Luckily, I managed to worm my way out of actually seeing a doctor. One urgent care was closed and the other one didn’t have an X-ray machine (seriously!) so we headed home where I splayed my body on the couch with a bell while my family waited on me. I argued that even if I had fractured ribs there was nothing they could do anyway. I guess my husband figured if I was well enough to argue with him, I was well enough to carry on. I’m guessing I’ll discover some abnormality six months from now while getting a massage, which is the same way I found out I had a rib in my back that managed to flip over the wrong way and stick out under my arm. Until then, as long as I can get enough breath to keep ordering my family around, all is well.

**I wrote this while listening to the Beastie Boys takeover of XMU which is the best station to have on while driving around to urgent care centers!

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.


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. 

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.