Meeting Place

When I was growing up, our house was the one where all the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. It was a meeting place, a drop off spot for bikes, a checkpoint for organizing the next set of adventures, and a lounge for just relaxing. If my mother ever had a problem with the steady stream of scraped-kneed kids filing in and out of the front and back doors, she never said anything. Or if she did, it was never loud enough for us to hear at any rate. We just lived in a time and place where you could literally yell out the window for someone to come over and they’d be skipping up to the porch 30 seconds later.

Not quite the case when my kids were growing up. Their friends weren’t always in shouting distance. Sometimes a car was necessary to get them where they needed to go. But they did have a few neighborhood friends in walking distance, and for those few, I kept the same policy as my mother. They were always welcome in the house and could always return there after their daily shenanigans through our unsuspecting neighborhood were done.

It was important to me to let them know their friends were always welcome. I mean, so long as their friends weren’t mini drug-dealers-in-training or something…which they weren’t as far as I know.

I will say that there were ulterior motives to letting my house be a meeting spot. I could eavesdrop on the latest juicy gossip. Not only is gossip just fun to listen to, but it also gave me important insights in to my kids’ lives that they might not be comfortable sharing with me directly. Then, I could use these slivers of information to better my parenting. I could support them in ways where I might otherwise be lacking. There are so many pros here and very few cons. It wasn’t always cost-effective having an extra mouth or two or three to feed, but hey, the local dollar store always had cheap snacks and these were passed around to the crew while they were visiting so that everyone had a little something to keep them from starving.  It’s not like they needed a full buffet or 7-course lunch platter.

Not everyone shares this parenting outlook. I recently found an article written by a mother who is simply tired-tired-tired of having her kid’s friend over every day in the summer. Apparently, she feels taken advantage of for the “free babysitting.” Now I’m assuming this kid is not a toddler, I mean, he shows up at her house on his own in the middle of the day, which means he has to be old enough to navigate the neighborhood on his own – so I’m not really sure how much “drop everything I’m doing and watch the kids like a hawk” kind of babysitting this mom is really forced into doing. Oh sure, the kid may be taking up space in her house, but is he really taking up that much more of her undivided time?

When the doorbell rings, this put-upon mom claims her son looks at her funny because his friend is there yet again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the deer-in-the-headlights look from her son is because he knows his friend was just there and shouldn’t be there again today – I think it’s because he knows his mother is irritated because it’s likely she doesn’t hide her irritation well.  If you ask me, she’s the one feeding that energy, not the neighbor kid.  Or at least, that’s just my opinion (without knowing any of these people…just a wild guess, mind you).

And as the mother states herself, she wouldn’t even think of sending her kid to his friend’s house. My question is, why the hell not? I mean, flitting around the neighborhood, hitting up friends to see who is home, and hanging out is what summer vacation is all about. Plus, when he’s out of the house she would get a little time for R & R (which she so obviously needs if you ask me). Maybe when the friend comes over, she can say, hey, how about you guys go to YOUR house today? I bet they’d love that (so long as he’s not actually trying to escape his own house for some very real, very sad cause…in which case, all the more reason he should be allowed to hang out).

These kinds of spontaneous friendships are special. Instead of trying to squash them, we should be encouraging them.

 

To Mom, with Love

I’ve apologized and I’ve waxed somewhat poetic and throughout it all, I’ve tried to be completely honest about my hand in the plot to drive my mother insane.

my mother’s look from 1963 on

Oh, she did get me back for some of my shenanigans, although it may have taken a few years…but her curse worked. Worked very well, indeed.

Despite our demonic childish antics — and indeed, those that have continued into our adulthood, my mother has loved us through it all, my brother and me. And you know, I don’t think it’s because she had to. I think she just liked us. Still does, apparently. I can tell. I’m just not sure why.

Motherhood is the only job where your subordinates can do everything in the world to undermine you, yet you still excel in your career…still have a passion for your work…still have pride in your venture. If that’s the case, then my mother deserves some kind of a service award. What will she get on Mother’s Day? Us. She gets us. Maybe cake. Definitely a houseful of love.

Celebrating the Love of My Life

It’s just past midnight, so technically it is now my son’s birthday. The love of my life is 25 years old today. And I remember him learning how to walk as if it was yesterday. I’m going to reiterate something I’ve written before — as it still holds the same meaning in my heart now as when I first put it down on paper a couple of years ago.

A carnival gypsy once told me that the love of my life would be tall, dark and handsome.  Somehow she failed to mention he would arrive on the waves of excruciating labor pains.  Now, 25 years later to the day, my son can legally buy alcohol, towers over me, and resembles Paul Bunyan.    He’s out on his own and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Still, whenever we talk, I oftentimes offer unsolicited advice.  No, really, I do.   Other mothers do this too, right?  Right??  Well of course Jake’s response is usually one borne of frustration because, according to him, I’ve not kept up with his birthdays all these years and therefore don’t know just how old he is.  My response is one he will never understand until he has kids of his own – he’s always my baby regardless of how old he may be.  Or how tall.  Or how thick a beard he decides to grow (I mean really, you do own a razor after all Jake!).

Yes, I do know he’s “all grown up.” But sometimes what I see in Jake’s face (despite his tall stature) is the same little boy who went out to play with me in the snow when we had a midnight storm, the small child whose laugh was forever a bright spot in my day.  He is still a bright spot in my day — our conversations always, but always, interesting and spirited with amazingly broad topics. He keeps me on my toes. Of course, I take credit for his love of Marvel Comics and the MCU, even though like Sarah, he knows more about the subject than I do. He has a strong work ethic, integrity, a desire to stand up for those he feels are maligned, and a good heart. In other words, everything a mother could hope for…and more. I could go on and on — but the point is very simple. I love my son. He makes my world a better place just by existing in it.

Perhaps his views will change when (and if) he has a child, but for now, Jake, as with most young people his age, doesn’t understand that when I look at him, I still see that wide-eyed, precocious boy who stole my heart the day he was born.

Karma delayed is still a…well, you know

So. My computer died. Some awesome tech gods are valiantly attempting to piece together the burned-out technology that was my hard drive and salvage the data I so blithely left lying about without a backup. Meanwhile, using my handy-dandy phone, I will leave you all with the below thoughts.

A neighbor child of about 5 years of age, for some reason only known to the Gods that be, has come into possession of a shrill, ear-piercing, toy of destruction known as a whistle. Not just any whistle mind you, but rather a whistle that seeks out an adult person’s last nerve and gleefully wreaks havoc on the few tattered shreds of sanity that remain intact, albeit not intact for long. I suppose this is karma. A bit delayed, but karma nonetheless.

You see, back in the day, oh many, many years ago, I gave my then very young nephew a set of drums for Christmas. When my kids came along, I was thankfully never repaid in kind by my brother. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he forgot,  perhaps, being an experienced parent by that time, he had sympathy, or perhaps the drums never made it to their house after all and thus my attempts at being the mean sister “cool aunt” were all for naught. Whatever the case may be, I don’t recall my son or daughter ever receiving similar noise-makers to test my patience.

Now, after my kids are grown and the only noise coming from our house is the unpredictable, staccato bark of an anxiety-ridden dog protecting our hearth and home from that rogue leaf blowing across the yard, this child…this neighbor child…comes home with an amazing, mind-shatteringly loud whistle. Just in time for nice weather and open windows. It’s a curse. I just know it. Right when I assumed I was home-free, my brother’s been dabbling in voodoo, black magic, or the like.

And all I can say is: well played brother, well played indeed.

Movie Theater Playgrounds?

A few weeks ago, we discussed having playrooms in libraries where kids could do anything except what they were supposed to do in a library setting.

In the latest installment of stupidity, indoor playgrounds are now being introduced in movie theaters.

Yes.

Read it again, slowly.  In. Movie. Theaters.

Now apparently, the gym is not to be used while the movie is playing. Small comfort if you ask me. Reportedly, for an extra three bucks a ticket (no choice here folks, if you use the theater, you pay the playground toll), the kids will be allowed fifteen minutes before the movie starts, fifteen minutes after the movie ends, and a fifteen-minute intermission during the movie to play.  My thought is: if we need to have a playground in a movie theater to start with, how good will these parents be at keeping the kids off the equipment while the movie is playing? And how much whining will there will be heard throughout the theater…”But moooomm, I WANT to go in the play area!” Oh yeah. Fun times.

I remember a time when libraries were to be used for, oh, golly, I don’t know…maybe reading?  And movie theaters were to be used for…wait for it…watching movies?

I get it; the idea is aimed towards kids and to be used during kids’ movies.  You won’t stick your kid on a jungle gym and watch Nightmare on Elm Street.  If you are taking your child to the movies, though, isn’t it expected that seeing the movie itself is the draw?  If your child can’t sit still through a one and a half hour movie geared towards his age group, maybe he doesn’t belong at a movie theater yet.

If I sound cynical and jaded, it’s because I watch over and over again as parents give up their parenting roles in exchange for an easy way out.  Or, they simply don’t have the foresight to recognize that an ill-behaved young child does not belong in a five-star restaurant.  The bottom line is that certain parents refuse to accept that some kids just aren’t ready for the responsibility of sitting silently through certain activities.  These same parents will be on blogs crying because someone looked sternly at them for allowing their children to hang upside down from the ceiling fan at a funeral.

I, for one, would not go to any theater with a jungle gym in it, even if my kids were still young.  I know this whole playground premise is oriented to kids and families and it’s not as if they’re going to be showing Deadpool or Logan or Chainsaw Massacre, but as a connoisseur of kids’ movies myself, some parents who go to see kids’ movies want to be able to oh, I don’t know, SEE the movie. Of course, I’ve always just assumed that was the entire point – to watch the movie.

As well intentioned as this playground idea seems, it won’t be long before some parent will most likely decide it’s ok for Junior to go down and play while the movie is running if for no other reason than to shut him up. Although we know how that works – it might stop the kid yelling into his mother or father’s ear but it will release him on to the rest of the movie goers.

These theaters will charge $14 a ticket to start with; now I will have children screaming throughout my overpriced movie.  I repeat, you are counting on the success of this venture by balancing it on parents who need these features to begin with.  If a parent can’t successfully take their child to a movie without other distractions, how will they stop them from playing while the movie is running?   It will start with one bored child who is allowed to go “play quietly” and end up as some kind of twisted Lord of the Flies story.

Co-incidentally, these same theaters serve beer and mixed drinks.  Which is a good thing. Because then, I can either drink my way to tolerating children throwing balls at the movie screen, or I can drink until I go join them myself.

In related news, I heard that Chuck E Cheese has announced it will be building libraries and movie theaters in all its locations.   Chuck could not be reached for further comment.

A Shameful Cycle of Shaming

These days, it seems like every mom with a computer becomes an immediate motherhood professional. From website to blog and back again, these moms pour out their wisdom and advice.  I find myself marveling at the wealth of information I can find in any one of these sites, and also the ridiculous amount of judgmental bull crap that I read in nearly every one.

On one site, a mother proudly proclaims she let little Junior cry himself to sleep last night; best decision she ever made and just who the hell in their right mind co-sleeps anyway?  In another article on the same site, a mom is complaining praising herself because she slept in a rocking chair all night, soothing her baby to sleep and why on earth would anyone in their right mind let their baby cry it out?  Both are shaming the other in their storytelling, while complaining that they are being shamed for their own choices.

It’s not so much the contradictory advice I constantly see (sometimes in the same damn blog) that bothers me.  It’s the sheer hypocrisy I see from some of these New Age Mothers. This “newer, softer” generation of parents are outraged at anyone who dares to judge them for their parenting techniques. They shame the “mommy shamers,” brutally. They encourage the battle cry “mothers unite!” and push hard against those who have the audacity to judge other parents.  This in and of itself is a very good thing.  Mothers SHOULD stick together.

I guess these writer-moms must be exempt from their own outrage, though, not to mention their own rules, because every other article I’ve seen is a harsh judgement against parents who think differently from whatever parenting protocol they happen to be writing about. When they run out of “their words,” they resort to memes to make their point.

When I’m navigating my way through these “Mom” groups and see memes outright mocking so-called “helicopter” parents or zingy little one-liners criticizing those with only one child (because apparently, they’re not actual “parents”), I think to myself:  For a group who berates mommy-shamers, you guys sure do a lot of shaming of your own. Why do you care how others parent their children so long as they’re loving and caring, and not abusive?  Isn’t mocking someone else’s parenting technique the very thing you get angry about, or is that just when others do it to you? Alas, I get no answers to my questions since the inquiring voice is only in my head.

Now as I’m sure you know, I’ve never been one to say I won’t judge. Hell, I do it all the time. Oh, I won’t judge you on your looks, your education, your job, your religion or anything of that nature, and I won’t judge someone doing the best they can with what they have.  BUT, I will judge you on being a hypocrite. I may judge you for white shoes after Labor Day, not stopping at the crosswalk, or for using the Express Lane with eighteen items, and I will definitely judge you for being a jerk, a bully, or an asshole.  It’s part of my charm. But some of these writer Moms are caught in an endless shaming cycle. While they decry those who judge them on their parenting choices, in the next breath they shame others for choosing a different path for their kids. You can’t have it both ways.

Bottom line, despite the competitive nature of the world, raising kids should not be a game or a contest, and if your child is growing up healthy, polite, and able to function respectfully in society, then congratulations.  You’re doing it right.  It’s a wise mother that knows there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to raising kids; it’s mostly just a hell of a lot of trial and error and making shit up as you go along.

Choose your parenting path, and travel it proudly.  You do need to take ownership, though, and realize that if you choose to judge – those you are judging will be judging you right back.

The Sear and Slide

Throughout history, there have been many devious instruments of torture.  There was the rack, the metal slide, and the iron maiden.

Now you haven’t really lived if you haven’t slid down a metal slide, in shorts, during the midday summer heat.  There is nothing as satisfying as scorching the backs of your legs on a downward spiral into Hell; if you’re lucky, your shorts will hike up and cause your skin to adhere to the slide itself and you may be fortunate enough to get stuck halfway down Satan’s Skillet.  You may even be lucky enough to sort of stick and slide all the way down, causing amazing degrees of Indian Burns from the friction of your skin on the metal. Talk about adding insult to injury.

My mom taught us a trick. And she says she loved us. Yeah, right. Anyway, we used to add to the fun of a hot metal slide by sliding down on wax paper a few times, or just using the wax paper to rub on the metal slide, making it super, SUPER slippery.  It worked like a charm, let me tell you! It created a whole new level of thrill.

Now my Grandma Jimmie was a rather hip grandma, and she and my mother both loved to go down the slides with my brother and me.  That’s how I remember it, anyway.  Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the coffee in their thermos had been spiked either…I mean, they did have my brother and I to deal with after all.  Anyway, on this particular day, my Aunt Margaret joined us for the fun. Nothing like having a few witnesses. We had been waxing the slide a couple of times that day, and maybe…just maybe…it was a little slicker than we had thought.

My sweet grandmother climbed the metal rungs of the slide, and perched at the top for her innocent, fun ride.  She gave us a smile and a wave, and set off on her journey.

Perhaps you’ve read about my grandmother in some of the more obscure history books; she was the first grandma ever to achieve space flight. And we were there to witness it all. She flew down the slide at Mach speed, and sailed off into the unknown at the end.  Her feet never even touched terra firma as she flew into orbit. I’m telling you, she flew. All things that go up, must come down as they say. She landed on her rear end, about ten feet away from the slide. It was impressive, really.

I’d like to say we were right at her side, concerned and helping her to her feet.  I’d like to say that, but the reality was we were laughing too hard.  Luckily, my grandmother was okay.  Told you, she was a hip grandma.  And apparently tough as nails to boot. My mother, my Aunt Margaret, my brother, and I were useless to our elderly astronaut.  If they had cell phones in the 70’s, I cannot even imagine the fame she would have gotten on YouTube.  It would have been phenomenal. Truly. Naturally, once we saw my grandmother flying across the playground, we all wanted our turn on the Amazing Slide of Doom.

We live in a generation of kids who have plastic slides to coddle their behinds and will never know the joys of burning yourself to death on metal slides at the playground. In a way, it’s a shame. Third degree burns on the playground are a rite of passage. Not to mention the joys of becoming airborne when the right accoutrement is used.

Today’s playgrounds feature rubberized mats, monkey bars that are only about three feet off the ground, and safety swings.  In my day, we had solid concrete under our feet, skyscraper monkey bars that we were afraid to try to climb back down, and chains on our swings that ensured we would get our fingers caught in them at least once.   I also remember one unfortunate incident with a hippity-hop, a jump rope, and a baseball bat, but I digress.

Is it evil to want to see little Tommy Joe, in his perfect Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls, take the searing slide of sadism?

If I have any consolation, it’s that the new plastic slides feature those gigantic metal bolts at the end that guarantee an unbelievable electric shock from the static built up during the slide.

It’s a beautiful thing.