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.

 

 

 

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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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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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Down in a Hole

My mom fell in a hole last week. To be more specific, she fell in a hole that my dad put in the floor, while she was trying to help him. So, he pretty much pushed her into a hole. Actually, it’s not that surprising. My dad is consistently creating hazardous situations and my mom is pretty consistently falling down. The fact that my mom hasn’t fallen halfway into the basement due to a giant hole in the floor before this time is pretty impressive.

I remember most of my dad’s home improvements based on how someone was injured by them. I have incurred scratches, bruises, burns and punctures to pretty much every extremity. I know now that when I see a piece of loose moulding on the floor that at least a few dozen nails are waiting to bore into the soles of my feet. While fetching my dad a tool one year during the closing of the pool I stepped on the diving board that had been unhinged and was catapulted into the half empty pool. The diving board followed me, whacking me in the head on the way. During my thirteenth birthday party the doorwall in the family room fell on top of a few party guests when a breeze blew it in. My dad was in the middle of a build out and the doorwall was free standing. It had literally been that way for at least a month prior to the party. I remember this because my mom was hoping to have just one home improvement completed within a calendar year. One of the constants in my life has been part of my parents’ house being a construction zone.

They bought a lake house 8 years ago and it took my dad an hour to start renovating. He may have actually brought a hammer to the closing, ready to get started. One part or another of that property has been under construction for the last 8 years. This bathroom renovation began last spring. I spent days swinging a sledge hammer at a shower wall for the better part of April. My mom spent that time following us all around with a broom and putting tools back in the toolbox (sometimes while still in use). I’m sure she tripped and fell at least three times back then too. That is why I was not at all surprised to hear about her tumble last week. She stepped directly into a hole my dad cut in the floor to accommodate the plumbing for the shower. There was a big hole in the floor right in front of her and she stepped directly into it.

My mom is spatially challenged. She falls often and sometimes even takes someone with her. When I was about 7 she was walking on ice and quickly grabbed me to use as a human pillow as she fell. She still somehow ended up more injured than me. I have seen her trip over her own feet and end up sprawled out on the floor on more than one occasion. You would think after living in a construction zone for the last 50 years that she would occasionally look down before taking a step, but no.

The combination of Mr. Fix-it and Mrs. Bumbles living in the same house is akin to a 24 hour version of American Ninja Warrior. He sets up the obstacle course every day and she tries to run it. I think she is just happy that this game has moved from their main home out to the lake where she can escape. When I heard about her fall I decided to do what all good daughters would do, I found a way to tease her about it. Then, feeling guilty about this I ran right out and bought her some flowers. Strangely, there are no greeting cards for such an occasion. Apparently the greeting card companies have never met my parents. I may be their only customer, but I would certainly buy in bulk a card that read “Sorry Dad tried to kill you. Get well soon!” or “Seriously, don’t break a leg. Sorry to hear about your fall.”

**I listened to the Beatles when writing this because they are my Mom’s favorite.

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Keeping up with the Amish

At the beginning of the summer I had all kinds of plans for my child. Some of the plans were just for fun, like spend a day at the zoo and check out the zip lining place that we’ve been meaning to check out for two summers. Other plans were more practical, like teach my kid how to tie her damn shoes already. Sometimes I am amazed at my laziness as a parent when it comes to the little things. My husband likes to remind me that our child has been cooking since she was four and reading a year later. But I still cringe when I think about the things she can’t do, like tie her shoes, ride a bike unassisted or roller skate.

As part of some unseen action plan, my dad took mini-me out to buy a bike last weekend. I’m pretty sure this is his way of telling me I am slacking as a parent. He bought her a baseball glove last year and a scooter the year before. This is also coming from the man who put a fur hat on me as a helmet when I was a toddler and padded me up to shoot hockey pucks at me when I could hardly walk, so I’m not going to read too much into it. She got a pretty little white Trek with lime green flowers on it. Her last bike was also white and looked as new the day we got rid of it as the day we bought it. She walked it around the block on occasion and spent many hours packing and unpacking the cute little purse on the handlebars, but even with the training wheels on it, she was terrified to ride. When we forced her to go for a trip around the block she stopped at every corner dismounting her bike to turn it. She was afraid turning the handlebars more than a millimeter would topple the whole package and she didn’t want to get run over by her own bike.

She is behaving much the same with her new, bigger bike. She sits in the driveway ringing the bell and walks it up and down the sidewalk. At least now she actually straddles the bike while walking it instead of standing next to it like it’s a puppy she’s taking for a stroll. Her dad had to cover the pedals with washcloths and duct tape to prevent them from scratching her legs. I’m not entirely convinced she will ride the bike even after seeing her balance on it while coasting for about 50 feet. All I can picture is the episode of Friends where Phoebe is finally learning to ride a bike as a 30 year old.

My child can be great at 100 things but the 3 things she can’t do will take a sledge hammer to my self-esteem. I feel like I am a total failure as a mother when my kid can’t get the little bunny to go through the hole with her shoe laces. Or maybe the bunny is supposed to go around a tree. Or maybe it’s just bunny ears that are supposed to be tied together. I’m not even sure, which is probably part of the problem. Regardless, my kid might still be wearing Minnie Mouse velcro shoes in high school if I don’t get it together and teach this kid how to loop, swoop and pull. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night and keeps my therapist in business.

After realizing summer is already half over, I have been attacking my to do list like a sniper in a bell tower mowing down college students. I have been knocking off trips to the zoo and the movies while reading multiplication tables out loud and picking up books from the library. We spent the morning at our local historical museum where we walked from building to building with no indoor plumbing or electricity and antiques like chamber pots and looms. In a log cabin a woman dressed as a pilgrim demonstrated a toy that essentially taught children the motion to milk a cow. It was a little monkey that climbed two ropes when you pulled them. As my daughter struggled to get the monkey all the way to the top all I could picture was myself lounging on a hay-stuffed couch crying to a pioneer therapist about how my family would probably starve because my daughter was never going to master her milking skills. Luckily there were no sheep shaving games or carrot harvesting challenges or we probably would have been asked to leave due to gross incompetence. We would never have survived as settlers.

I have decided that I need to put a few things on my own to-do list and the first thing is quit freaking out about insignificant shit that I won’t remember worrying about five years from now. I like to put things in perspective by thinking about how I will look back on them in a year or five years. It helps me realize what is worth focusing my attention on. Instead of wasting my time worrying about how I am going to find shoes for my daughter to wear to gym next year, I’ll daydream about her attending Harvard or Yale. Of course she will be wearing her velcro Hello Kitty sneakers as she pushes her bike to class, but she won’t starve!

 

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