Us vs Them

Browsing through Huffington Post a little while ago I ran across an interesting article written by a wife and mother with an interesting stance on the two roles she has assumed in her family life. The title of the article “Why My Husband Will Always Come Before My Kids” spelled it out pretty clearly.

Oh, I have to read this, I thought. Being a mother myself and having spent over half of my life in the position of “wife,” I was aching to see where this article went. Predictably, it did not disappoint and left me quite shocked by the end. Long story short (if you can’t open up the link above and read it for yourself), husband is numero uno in her life. Kids: second-tier citizens. Let me pull some key quotes that help illustrate this provocative stance even better:

“I love my kids and would do anything for them. But I love my husband more.” This seems quite contradictory to me. Let’s go ahead and play this out. Say a burglar creeps into the house one night. The heist goes south and the burglar puts her in a Sophie’s Choice situation. He (or she…burglars can certainly be women — I’m all pro-gender equality over here) holds both her husband and her kids at gunpoint and tells her to choose who lives and who dies. Based on the quote above, she would pick her husband. She would save him rather than go with her human instinct to do what she could to make sure her genes made it to future generations. The goal of life is to proliferate. From a purely scientific standpoint her stance sounds vaguely anti-Darwinian.

“If we can only afford to take one vacation a year, we take it alone…” I’m all about having a “date night” with your significant other. A romantic night at an Italian restaurant drinking wine with your beloved and remembering that life doesn’t have to be about the kids 110% percent of the time can be great for maintaining sanity. But squirreling away a little vacation nest egg for months or even years just to leave your kids on the porch while you jet away to the Florida Keys, Catalina, or wherever, for a week of indulgence is pushing it.

The author wants her behavior to be an example to her kids of a healthy relationship between caretakers so that they know how to “form bonds when they get older,” but what about the bonds being formed when they’re still young? When I was growing up, family vacations were an integral bonding moment for us and they’ve given me some of the best memories of my life. Those trips certainly make for some of the best stories ever told around my parents’ holiday dinner table.

As a parent myself, I can’t imagine not sharing such moments with my kids. If I had a chance to take a one of a kind trip, I’d want to share that experience with my children. But then again, I’m not drawing a line in the sand like the author of the article seems to be doing.

As one commenter to the article put it: “I don’t think it’s an either or situation.” To this I agree. The entire article has a generalized air of confusion about it (in my mind) because I don’t understand why a competition or some sort of a familial hierarchy has to exist.

To me, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. She’s creating an “us” vs. “them” mentality which seems unnecessary. Everyone – wife, husband, son, daughter – can all live in harmony, on the same plane of love without relegating certain individuals to the lower classes. Sure compromise will need to be exercised on a daily basis, but that’s a part of the entire process.

I agree with her that marriage is work and you must do what you can to keep it alive, romantic, and intimate. I think this is what the author was trying to get at but it came out in a much more cold way than intended. At least I truly hope this is what her message was supposed to be.

If she doesn’t understand that once you have children they become priorities, then she is not the type of mother I would want raising any children. Love your partner, yes. Take measures to keep that flame alive, sure. But don’t place them on a pedestal without reason. Narcissism has no place in a family.

Sibling Wars

Let’s hop back in the time machine and go back to Wendy’s childhood; a time and place that—if I’m forced to be honest—might be best left in the past. Why? Possibly because at my mature(ish) age now, I can admit that there were moments in my family’s history in which I might not have been the nicest member of it.

An example? Still to this day I come damn close to crying with laughter when I think about the time my brother knocked himself out after he ran off our porch and into the clothes pole in our backyard when he was about seven. Absolutely hysterical to me. The funniest part wasn’t that he hit it so hard it left a long, pole shaped bruise down his torso. The funniest part is the fact that the pole had been there, literally, our entire lives. How he forgot about it so completely that he ran into it so hard he knocked himself out is pure comedy. Don’t roll your eyes. It’s my duty as a sister to laugh at stuff like that. That’s what siblings are for, for cryin’ out loud.

Not like he didn’t have his moments of payback. Like the time he hit me in the head with a hardball (a.k.a. baseball) when I was about 6. He and his friends were playing a game we called “rundown” which was similar to what is commonly called “monkey in the middle.” Or if you’re good at baseball terminology, it’s a game centered round being caught in a pickle. When I got beaned in the head, I was the monkey. Being the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys, I was always the monkey or whatever unsavory role there was to be had in the street game du jour. (To be fair, being the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys got much, much better as we got older). But I digress. So, I was the monkey. My brother was manning one base. His friend was holding down the other. All of a sudden—BAM—I got socked right in the head with the ball.

Now I’m not saying it was on purpose or anything. Let’s be clear about that. I have no evidence supporting wrongdoing. BUT if it was orchestrated, I probably deserved it. I could hold my own in the never-ending “war of the siblings” which means I had to commit a few acts of questionable morality to keep up with my brother’s torment.  Need I refer you to the mushroom incident?

That was the great thing about my brother and I. We always went tit for tat. It was never a lopsided fight between the two of us. Sort of like our own personal version of Spy vs. Spy. Neither one of us would have the upper hand for too long before the other took it right back just when the dust was about to settle.

Now, as a parent, I look back on these acts of juvenile recklessness and am stumped on how my mother survived with her sanity intact.  I can totally understand now why she always had that anxious look on her face.  She was probably in a constant state of worry about what one of us would either do to ourselves or to each other next.  Would this be the day we’d have to make a another hospital run? Are the cops on speed dial in case one of us went missing…again? Actually – that’s a funny story and one I’ll tell another time.

Luckily my brother and I both survived (not without our fair share of nicks and bruises along the way). We made it to adulthood and, call me crazy, but I think all that silly cartoonish competition as we were growing up only served to make us better friends in the end.  It certainly has given us some great stories to tell around the holiday dinner table.

Keith_Wendy Easter 1971 (2)

 

Keith_Wendy Easter 1971

 

Keith_Wendy unknown

 

View at Midnight

This is my view while enjoying late night cake. Either they’re trying to make me feel guilty enough for breaking my “not so much sugar” diet so that I’ll slip them some to keep them quiet or else they’re trying to sway me by telepathy…not sure which.  Either way, it didn’t work. They were stuck with plain ol’ dog treats. Okay. Well. Maybe they did get just one taste of icing when I was done. Their combined psychic power was strong, I tell you!!

 

view at midnight2

Unlikely Plaything

Kids can be so cute, can’t they? The way they have endless curiosity about everything they see; their exuberance over new experiences that we have grown jaded to and take for granted; the wide-eyed openness to everything the world has to offer regardless of how taboo, odd, or grotesque. They’re simply amazing.

Take this video of a little girl traipsing around her front yard playing lovingly with a dead squirrel:

If it were a doll or a stuff animal or a photo of a family member I’d be letting all sorts off oohs and awwws escape my mouth. The only thing holding me back from sharing in her happiness is that it’s a freakin’ dead squirrel! Mouth agape, eyes rolled back in its head, limbs hanging heavy, neck slack, this squirrel is deader than dead. And recently dead. As in their dog just killed the poor thing. So of course, why not let the kid play with it. It’s the natural order of things, right?

I don’t wag my finger at the girl, though. She’s so young, she obviously doesn’t understand what her newest toy actually signifies. I’m more angered at the parents. The Dad who saw this as the perfect opportunity to grab a camera and film his daughter being so oblivious that it’s “cute” and the Mom who can only stand there, hands on her hips and smirk on her face, looking at the camera with an inner monologue that screams, “Don’t kids just do the darndest things!?” What is wrong with these parents?

You don’t have to agree with me, but in my opinion the Gods that be (or whoever you want to name) just gave them an absolutely perfect teaching opportunity about oh, I don’t know, empathy, compassion maybe, life being a sacred thing, and they squandered it. This could have been a prime moment to impress upon their child a lesson about the sanctity of life, the inevitability of death, and the respect that we can show the dearly departed. But no. What do they do instead? They mock the animal that tragically lost its life (in the jaws of the family dog no less…not even a natural death) and turn what could be a window into the frailty of life into playtime. The little girl sees the squirrel as a toy (again, not blaming her for this because she’s too young to know any different) and the parents just go along with this little show, encouraging it even — with the Dad calling the dog into his video masterpiece so he could introduce “the killer and the killed.”

I could also go off about the fact that his kid is rubbing a dead carcass all over her naked chest and the obvious health implications of that. I’m not saying that the squirrel definitely has fleas or a virus or a disease or whatever, but until I’m 100% certain a wild animal corpse isn’t going to pass along some transmittable illness, I wouldn’t want my kid laying a finger on it let alone using it for playtime. But I’ll let the other YouTube comments harp on that point.

My main concern centers around this one question: Where is the empathy? Clearly not with the parents and because of what they are either knowingly or unknowingly passing on, the kid has none either. What message does this send to their child? Sure, it’s all fun and games for now, but I wonder what they’ll do when she drags home a dead dog to play with.

Eternal Love

Everyone knows I’m a bit strange when it comes to love stories.  I’m drawn to the “odd” ones you find in horror movies or action flicks…yet I also feel a kinship to those told through tales like Pride & Prejudice and The Notebook.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to like every chick flick out there though…there aren’t too many chick flicks I do like actually.  For a while now I’ve been seriously crushing on Ava and Boyd from Justified and hoping their relationship survives the season finale. If you don’t watch the show, suffice it to say they’re not your average couple. They’re more along the lines of a criminally hardcore Bonnie and Clyde. As I said, I’m a bit off. That’s okay. I embrace my weirdness.

But back here in the real world, who doesn’t want eternal love? It does exist. I’ve seen it. My parents for one. They’ve been married just shy of forever and while they bicker, they still hold hands to cross the parking lot. I’ve also seen it with my grandparents who met later in life (it was a second marriage for my Grandmother whose first husband, my Mom’s father, died in the mines), but most definitely married for love. My Grandfather had his hands full with my Grandmother (she was a spitfire and then some) and he loved her all the more for it. I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have done for her.

And then I came across this article today, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure the newspaper planned it that way on purpose. A feel good story for Valentine’s.  But truly, it is indeed inspiring.  For here are the stories of individuals whose love is so strong that it withstands all odds – for even when their better half is lost within themselves so deeply that they cannot remember the shared love, the lives intertwined, or even their own names – the devotion never wavers. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrendous illness.  It invades your mind; it steals your memories. But the men profiled in this editorial are not willing to let go of their wives to the likes of Alzheimer’s, because while their spouses may not remember, they do.  If that’s not eternal love, I don’t know what is.

Affair of the Snowflakes

Although not animal related, this entry could kinda sorta be considered a rant. Do you ever read an article or news story that, while having nothing whatsoever to do with you, annoys you to no end anyway? That’s what happened to me the other day. I just mentally couldn’t let it go. So. Lucky you.

This should sort of go without saying, but my point of view is that someone who’s married really has no way to justify an affair. That may sound like common sense to many of you, but it’s not quite so cut and dry to a lot of others out there. I read this article yesterday about one woman’s dainty traipse through infidelity and couldn’t help but think to myself: “Well, isn’t that just lovely.” That’s a nice way of putting it anyhow. Remember, my New Year’s resolution was to try to be a better person (rein in the road rage and the like) so I’m trying my best to censor my evil thoughts.

In reality, I’ve essentially picked apart most everything this woman spouts off about and have pretty much an opposite view of how this whole marriage, commitment, and faithfulness thing should work.

The one sentence in particular that got to me was when she wrote, “I think that there are times, such as when your marriage is essentially over, and you are just in limbo mentally and emotionally, when a relationship that begins with an affair can end in a happy relationship.” Maybe it can. She might be right. I just personally believe that there should never be any overlap and thus never any way of really proving if that is true or not.

Your vows aren’t just something you say while you wait for the reception to start – they’re something you’re supposed to take seriously. And if your feelings change for whatever reason, no matter who is to “blame,” then you cut ties first before you move on to the next partner. It’s having a little thing called integrity and respect.

In my opinion someone in a troubled marriage should 1) try to fix the marriage somehow be it counseling, time apart, whatever, before 2) officially (a.k.a. legally) separating or divorcing prior to courting new romantic partners. Never should the twain meet.

Another thing that got to me about this piece was the very sly mention of her ex-husband’s substance abuse. “We failed at marriage in just about every way possible, all leading up to me saying “enough is enough” when it came to his substance abuse and… in the end… my falling in love with another man.” I’m sure a few steps were skipped in those literary leaps, but it sounds to me like his addiction was apparently enough rationale for an affair yet not quite bad enough to pack up the kids (who shouldn’t be around drugs) and move to a safer place. So she did what she needed to do to console herself – falling into the arms of another man, but her kids’ needs were secondary? Right. I see how that works.

She brings up many times in the article the age-old dilemma of if you can trust someone when you know they’ve cheated before. Can you trust a cheater? Well, according to her, she and her new man are “different.” They’re the exception to the rule. They’re unique. They’re the ultimate snowflakes. All other cheaters, yeah, you might have to worry about them, but not this woman and her side piece. They’re the real deal. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode “The Deal” where Jerry starts sleeping with Elaine and he’s explaining to George that he and Elaine figured out the whole “friends with benefits” thing.

Jerry: Well, we’ve tried to arrange a situation where we’ll be able to do this once in a while and still remain friends.
George: (maniacal laughing)
Jerry: What?
George: Where are you living? Are you here?  Are you on this planet? It’s impossible. It can’t be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego?

So where does this woman get the ego to think she and “40” are the cheaters that have broken the mold? I’d bet dollars to donuts that most couples that began their relationship through infidelity thought to themselves or even went so far as to tell each other the exact same things. “I’ll never cheat again.” “This is the person I was meant to be with.” “I just needed to get that out of my system.”

There’s absolutely nothing unique about how she found herself in the middle of an affair, so why should the aftermath be anything above average either? Maybe they’ll make it, but I’d sure love to see the statistics on how many of these relationships have the partner cheating with someone else in the future and if so, how quickly.  And if they do make it, all I have to say is, they deserve each other. Is that harsh? Well, maybe my New Year’s resolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but there you go.

Frankly, I find it a little sad that she’s straining so hard to get people on her team. Why do I say this do you ask?  Well…today I found yet another article she wrote about the same affair – although this time she took a different tack in her subsequent explanations.  In this one, she speaks to her marriage “being over,” how she was the only working on it for too many years and how it drove her into an emotional (and then physical) affair…blah blah blah. Really, for two people who are sooo different, the reasons for their affair have simply been done to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging her for having the affair. She’s an adult and can do whatever the heck she wants.  I’m judging her for trying to rationalize it. To justify something that has such ramifications to others around you seems amazingly selfish to me. How did her affair affect her kids? Not to mention what is she teaching them?  How about her ex (we don’t get much back story on him)? An affair doesn’t just touch two people. It has a massive ripple effect that she seems completely oblivious about.

So my advice, readers, is to cheat if you want to. I’m not your mom. Live your life. I simply ask that you own it. Have the balls to step up and say, yeah I cheated because I just felt like being selfish and putting my needs above those of my family. At least be honest and above-board about it.  Oh wait