Thursday, March 27, 2014

No More Wandering, Cause I'm Not Lost

This piece…

…from the New Yorker has been everywhere this week because it is, you know, perfection.

Having been a parent for exactly five-and-a-half years this week, I've been through countless iterations of the "new must-have parenting system!!!!" 

I've been told:
  • Be a TIGER MOM and your kid can go to Juilliard on a harpsichord scholarship! AT AGE NINE!!!!
  • Don't be a HELICOPTER MOM! Let your kids roam wild like we used to when we were young! You are stifling those young folk through your obnoxious insistence on safety gear!
  • FEAR the unrelenting terror of the BOOMERANG CHILD who moves home after college --- JOBLESS! If this happens it will be YOUR FAULT and society will judge you even as your reprobate offspring steals pieces of that pizza you and your husband thought you ordered JUST FOR YOURSELVES!
  • Practice ATTACHMENT PARENTING and save your offspring from the deep psychological scars that will result from your overwhelming desire to, you know, put them down sometimes!!!
  • CHICKEN NUGGETS??? For God's sake, woman -- are you not aware that at this very moment young children IN FRANCE are sitting down to a delicious 9pm meal of smoked octopus for the simple reason that their parents ESCHEW SNACKING???
It can get a little, you know, overwhelming. 

The truth is that most responsible people want to do important jobs well. It is also true that most of us are responsible people. It is even further true that raising children, as important jobs go, is way up there. But it's not a job quite like becoming a doctor, which takes years of schooling followed by residency training. Or becoming a lawyer, which takes intense study, the results of which must be proven by passing the bar exam. 

Becoming a parent takes, you know, getting laid one time, and then 9-months-later someone hands you a precious infant and tells you to care for it into adulthood. Oh, and please don't have it turn out to be crazy or annoying or a drain on society.

And, having no idea how to do that one is tempted to think,

"OK - there must be someone out there who has already figured this thing out!" 

"Perhaps they have answers for me as to how to stop this creature who has now invaded my peaceful home from doing all this screaming and peeing and tantruming and biting and OMG did you just put my shoes in the toilet????"

Such questions are asked with all good intent, but all too often this proves to be the first step on a road of crazy that finds one attempting to parent like a Maori tribeswoman one week and like an authoritarian Tudor monarch the next. 

So I'm taking a break from all parenting advice which arrives in magazine article/internet-forwarded form. If I need practical help with things like potty training or educational options I may call an experienced mom for advice, but other than that I'm boycotting articles that promise to hold the key to ultimate child development.

More accurately I guess you could say I'm adopting MY OWN parenting philosophy and I invite you to join me. I call it the "Glinda and Dorothy" mode of parenting. 

Sure, I may feel tempted to wander to far off lands to unlock the secrets of how to raise my children best, but the parenting my children actually need from me?

I'm going to try to remember that it's been inside me all along.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On Nagging


nag (næɡ)
vbnagsnagging or nagged
1. n.  a person, esp a woman, who nags

Do you know that there is no equivalent male word for "nag" in the English language? Men weigh in, women nag - or so goes the logic.

As one half of a married couple I find myself attempting to run the equivalent of a small corporation alongside my husband. We are the only two employees and our job involves toiling under a team of three unrelentingly demanding maniacs.

It takes an enormous amount of work for both of us and it can get super frustrating. I admit that, as a result, I occasionally fall into the mindset that I'm the one running the joint and my husband is merely my assistant, who I must constantly direct to meet the tasks at hand.

Which leads me down one of two paths:

a. Nagging


b. Setting traps

Let's say, for example, that for the household to function properly, one needs one's spouse to fix the only toilet. There are five family members who use said toilet, and thus getting it repaired is a matter of some urgency.

You make a request for it to be fixed first thing in the morning and then realize an hour later that your husband has become distracted and forgotten all about it.

Which means you now have two choices:

a. Gently remind your husband of the task you wish him to complete


b. Wait and then become enraged when he fails to complete it

Path number B is, of course, terrible. It's pretty clear at this point that fixing the familial toilet is the FURTHEST THING from your husband's mind. He may remember his favorite NFL player's high school jersey number but I assure you he does not remember that you asked him to render the toilet functional.

So you remind him - but still nothing happens.

At which point you have two choices:

a. Gently remind him


b. Wait and become slighting more enraged when he does nothing.

Except for the fact that it is practically impossible to gently remind someone of something for the second time. So your voice gets a little, let's say - EDGY.

He responds by smacking himself in the head. Perhaps he shouts aloud something along the lines of, "OMG! So sorry. I got busy finding the kid's shoes and I totally forgot!" 

You are forgiving and he promises to get on it right away.

But "get on it right away" he does not. Instead he attempts to recall where the current center for the L.A. Clippers went to college and in doing so forever wipes from his mind any remnant of the toilet issue.

At which point you have two choices:

a. Gently remind your husband of the task you wish him to complete


b. Wait and then become enraged when he fails to complete the task

You'll choose option number A and guess what? 


I've heard the anti-nagging argument that our husbands somehow managed to survive just fine without our helpful suggestions for years before we came along. But allow me to offer a counter-argument:

Before we met my husband lived in a one room apartment inside which he subsisted almost entirely on fast food takeout and repeated viewings of the original Star Wars trilogy.  If his toilet broke and he didn't feel like fixing it for a month he could go to the gas station across the street and/or hold his business until he got to the office.  So, yes, he did survive just fine without my repeated requests but it was a lifestyle that DID NOT HAVE FIVE PEOPLES BUTTS DEPENDING ON HIM.

So I think it is fair to say that we both need to make some changes.

After six years of marriage and three kids my husband has come to accept that he needs to write down a detailed To-Do list and prioritize things that we need help with at home. For my part I've accepted that what people call "nagging" is going to be part of our relationship dynamic - so all I can do is try to limit the obnoxiousness of my tone and set some reasonable limits.

Yes, I need my husband to fix the toilet (and before you suggest the option that I learn to do it myself let me kindly respond - NO, JUST NO) but I probably don't need to remind him 16 times to bring his lunch to work. I can just hand it to him on his way out the door, or I could even imagine the possibility that even if he forgets, my 40-year-old husband will be able to figure out a way to feed himself as men have been doing now for thousands of years.

And should he choose a repast made up entirely of Doritos and chocolate chip cookies purchased from the vending machine? I can live with that...

…just as long as it provides my beloved with the necessary energy to come home and eventually fix the toilet.