La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for March 2011

This article: http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/parents-who-hate-parenting-the-latest-trend-2466533 asks whether Parents Who Hate Parenting is a new trend.  My dear friend Kay-tay posted it for discussion and it really got me thinking about happiness, contentment, joy, irritation, quality of life and every parenting-induced emotion in between.  After noodling on the article for a little while I have come to a few conclusions about its major thesis, which is as follows:

“Parents of young children report far more depression, emotional distress, and other negative emotions than non-parents, and parents of grown children have no better well-being than adults who never had children…” which is evidenced by liking one child more than another, not wanting to be home full-time, and often rationalizing your choice to have kids in order to make yourself feel better.

Conclusions #1-752: No shit, Sherlock!

But specifically:

A.  Hello, my name is Mama. I am a human person with thoughts, feelings, dreams, goals and and entire inner life beholden to no one.  As a human person, I sometimes find other humans to be unlikeable, even and especially the small ones. As a human person with more than one set of interests, I often look at my job (that of being a full-ish time mother) and think, “I gotta get outta here before I go insane.”  And, as a human person with a brain and emotions, I am completely comfortable with my habit of rationalizing the joys of parenthood in order to make myself feel better on days when my only purpose on the earth, it seems, is to talk so no one will listen and to serve food no one will eat.

This article is a big diaper full of apple juice-fueled poo, and here’s why.  There’s a difference between “hating” parenting and being a normal human person with a brain, a life and beating heart.  I hardly think that sometimes liking one kid more than another qualifies me as the Goebbels of Motherhood, do you?

So let’s just say it here so we can say it out loud among friends elsewhere:  sometimes our kids are assholes.  There. It’s been said.  Sometimes your little darling snowflake acts like a giant asshole.  And guess what?  I don’t expect you to enjoy it, even if all those study authors do.  I don’t know about you, but you wouldn’t hang out for too long with someone who constantly said “no” to everything you offered, would you?  “Jim, want to get lunch?” NO.  “How about we all go for beers?!”  NO.  “Sandy, what say you and I finish up this project together so we can get out of here early on a Friday?”  “NO! I won’t! You can’t make me!  You’re not my boss! I’m not even talking to you anymore!! [door slams]”  Please tell me you wouldn’t prefer the company of someone else almost 100% of the time.  Likewise, some days I would prefer the company of more cooperative individuals than my children.  Doesn’t mean I hate being Mama.

B.  To their second point, I also hardly think that not wanting to be home full-time means I’m a flight risk.  Some days the only thing that gets me to 6:30pm when the BabyDaddy arrives is reminding myself that women have done this for centuries with fewer resources, so I’ll be fine as long as no one is bleeding.  But why would me not wanting to do this for the rest of my life, 24 hours a day, mean that I am imminently out the door or “hating” parenthood?  Again, I am simply being human, and being human, I am confessing to you today that some days cleaning poopy butts and saying ‘Wow” to yet another drawing of a crazy stick person are not necessarily the fuel for the quick mind and active intellect I’m hoping to maintain.  Doesn’t mean I hate being Mama.

C.  And, finally, to their larger point, that of non-kid people being happier than parents.  Well, I could have saved some university sociology-based human relations department the cost of that little endeavor by simply saying, “DUH, MORONS!”  I’m not sure about you, but I absolutely was Quote-Unquote “happier” before we had kids.  We went to restaurants! I had a mad shoe collection!  We took trips! We worked out together at an expensive gym!  We never really thought, “Gee, we won’t be able to afford that…shirt.”  Our pre-kid life was all about our happiness, and please believe me when I tell you that it WAS!  Life was good. Life was happy.  Now life is complicated. Life it tiring. Life is messy. Life is a series of endless and thankless tasks involved in the raising of decent, good-hearted, emotionally-functioning, intelligent humans.  The BabyDaddy and I recently reminisced about those pre-kid days when we’d GET tired, as opposed to BEING tired.  Back then, a long week at work, a vigorous hike, a good workout; these things made you get tired.  Nowadays, we get about 6 hours of sleep a night if we’re lucky, we’re mentally “on” all day, we’re physically “on” all day–and, much as I hate to admit it–we just live tired.  I don’t remember the last time I GOT tired; I just simply am.  And there will be no letup for another few years.  Doesn’t mean I hate being Mama.

So what’s the point of all of these articles?  Well, I think they are designed to make normal human parents feel like shit for feeling normal human emotions about our children, who have somehow become these untouchable creatures we can’t be honest about.  Don’t say you don’t like them, you mean mommy!  Well, I’m not going to say it to their faces, idiot!  But, if you’d shut up so the grownups can talk, you’d see that it’s normal. What’s not normal is pretending you don’t feel something you do, swallowing it, and drinking three glasses of wine before dinner.  Or obsessing over your kid’s reading prowess. Or competing for best school admission.  Just drop the facade and be a human already, admitting that while parenting sucks a large percentage of the time, when it’s good it’s beyond good; when it’s fulfilling it’s cosmically fulfilling.  When it’s joyful, it’s heart-achingly, burstingly joyful. When it’s rewarding, it’s truly, deeply, soundly rewarding…and not because it was easy, but specifically because it was hard.

These studies are designed, I think, to put a wedge between parents and non-parents.  I know several couples who do not–and do not plan to-have kids.  They are treated rather less sensitively than my punkass kids for their temerity in denying the world their offspring.  Please listen when I say this: you know you know people about whom you think, “They should NOT have had kids; that situation is one giant hot mess.”  So why do we judge other parents but on the next hand denigrate people who assess themselves, their lives, their dreams, their goals, their very inner selves, and say, “that’s not for us”?   The only solace in parenting, sometimes, is the knowledge that you are sleeping in the bed you made.  If you don’t see that bed for yourself, then rock on and no judgment (but a little jealousy) from me.  Because you WILL be happier on a daily basis than I am. You WILL encounter less depression and emotional distress. And you WILL be called to babysit my children when I finally get the chance to go out.  🙂

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A quick but necessary post:

Bill Maher has recently said that he’s sorry if anyone was offended, but he wasn’t wrong regarding his calling Sarah Palin “a cunt” and a “twat” earlier this week.

Two things:

1.  I’m not going to write “the C word” because then people over the age of 75 (and my mum) will not know to which word I’m referring; and because I’m not sure being called a twat is any nicer than being labeled a cunt.

2.  I think Bill  Maher is often funny and often on-point.  As a good friend JamesJ said, “Maher’s an asshole, but he’ s my kind of asshole.”

3.  I think, however, that no one’s interests are served, politically or socially, by the use of these terms for any reason.

4. Except to say that if Todd Palin weren’t such a pussy, he’d be in Los Angeles kicking Maher’s teeth in as we speak.

*NB: No alcohol or mind-altering substances were used in the writing of this post that does, I admit, appear to defend Sarah Palin.

A school in (where else?) Florida has erupted over the issue of peanut allergies.  GreatSchools just wrote a good piece on it: http://blogs.greatschools.org/greatschoolsblog/2011/03/parents-gone-nuts.html

The issue at hand is a young girl who is so allergic to peanuts that she can die from sniffing them.  The other children in the school therefore must have their mouths rinsed and hands washed three times a day. The school has also brought in a peanut-sniffing dog.

Hold me back, folks. Hold me back.  Before I rant, let me say that this little girl’s life must be tremendously difficult and inordinately limited as a result of her condition.  You know I”m sincere when I say I understand what a terrible thing that must be, especially for a child.  That said, this is an outrage beyond measure.  I would NOT allow school officials to be rinsing my daughter’s mouth three times a day.  What the hell business is that of the school?!  Why are they touching my kid?  And why are they taking educational/learning time and using it to clorox desks and have a dog sniff classrooms?

As unkind as this sounds, it seems to me that this little girl has a serious disability that precludes her participation in a standard classroom.  Imagine if during my transplant I felt entitled to continue working.  I therefore could have sued my company if they did not make all my coworkers wear N-99 masks, latex gloves, and submit to fever checks daily.  Because, you know, I am entitled to a  life like yours regardless of my disability.  I know the analogy is not perfect, because I am an adult and my job is not a right like public education. But do you see the lunacy of such an approach to societal interactions?  What if, before Baby Sister’s surgery, I demanded that her preschool allow her to attend as normal but they had to make sure she caught no viruses or bacterial infections before her surgery? I’m pretty sure I could have made a case.  But that makes no sense. The solution was to keep her home for two weeks FOR HER SAFETY.  When one person with a major limitation can so subvert standard practice,  it simply becomes a farce.  I absolutely believe in modifications like peanut-free classrooms or the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Every building should be accessible to every American.  But if that American’s life is endangered by breathing the same air as other Americans, it is not for the majority to stop breathing air too, it is for the majority to help that American find a way to live within her limitations.

Another example: when I was four in Scotland I had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease of the hip.  I was in a cast for two years.  That’s not a typo.  The solution was for me to have a tutor, to attend playgoups, and to live as normal a life as I could within my limitations.  I was clearly not able to attend school, and so missed kindergarten and first grade.  Tragic at the time? Certainly.  Does it matter now?  Not one bit.  In fact, I think I did better academically in later years because I essentially had a teacher all to myself early in my school years.  Another example: Bambina’s class has kids with various forms of aspergers or autism. Each of those kids has an aide who takes care of them/directs them/essentially makes decisions for them that they are too young to make for themselves.  Bambina’s life is enriched by the presence of these kids, their lives are enriched by participating in a “regular” classroom, and–most importantly–no one is taking time out of learning to manage issues.  And no one is making my kid rinse her mouth in order to make it happen.  It’s a win-win because no one’s rights are being violated, and because everyone’s life experience is being enhanced.  Bambina learns kindness and patience and compassion–not to mention that kids whose “brains work differently” as she says, are funny and cool and neat just like her.  It removes the “otherness” from the child’s life.  At the same time, none of these kids is in mortal physical danger should the aide step away for a moment.  Which is the key difference here.

Of course, as with most child-centered issues, the primary instigator is the parent. In this unfortunate case, the father is (genuinely, I imagine) concerned with his daughter having a “normal” life with school friends and teachers and all the other things we take for granted for our kids.  I feel that, acutely.  But the father of this poor girl has taken his responsibility for protecting his daughter and spread it to a classroom full of children.  What if Bambina forgot and brought something made on the same equipment as peanuts (check the labels–there is almost nothing that hasn’t been). Now my child is responsible for killing your child?  If I had gone to a concert while immune-suppressed and died from an infection, is it the fault of the concert-goers and the band? Or is it an issue of me refusing to accept that I Can’t Do That? (Which–another post–seems to be a primary strength–and flaw–of American society).

So what is the solution?  To my mind, it is this: find this girl opportunities for education (another class, an aide, something) that allows her to do what she can, while not infringing on the rights of every single other child in the school to not be bathed by their teacher.  Sadly, there comes a point when acceptance of your child’s condition requires you to accept certain realities, unpalatable though they may be, and the better part of valor is to teach your child how to persevere regardless, how to stay positive regardless, and how to live a full life regardless.

So we spent two hours at a birthday party today for one of Bambina’s friends.  Sweet girl, lovely parents, stern Popos (Chinese grandmas).  Love them.  But why on God’s green earth did they have to pick Chuck E. Cheese for the party?!  I know; because some decisions have nothing to do with me and my tastes. Got it, as ludicrous and grossly unfair as that is.

Most times the parents just drop their kids off at the parties and come back at pick-up time, so I planned to do the same. But for some reason, none of the parents (except for one dad) were leaving.  So I asked what gives.  Almost simultaneously they all said that the place was too crazy to leave your kid alone.  And finally my distaste for this joint completely clicked.  Chuck E. Cheese is Abduction Central, y’all.  As you know I’m not a major freak about this kind of stuff (read my Target post from last month).  I think my kid is going to be okay in almost every instance.  But let us examine the beast that is a CEC party.

1. When you enter CEC, they dude at the door gives you a handstamp sight unseen. No request to show an invite, no ID check, nothing. Upon exiting, the dude at the door checks your hand for a stamp and then says, “Bye!”  End of story.

2.  There are 10 long tables, each full of kids attending a party.  So you have TEN parties going on simultaneously.

3.  The games and attractions are therefore JAMMED with wall-to-wall kids running, yelling and in most cases having a great time.

4. At the appropriate time, “Chuck’s” voice calls all the kids back to their tables for “the show” which features giant animatronic vermin lip-syncing to something terrible written by a Raffi wannabe.

5.  After the show the kids eat an Ellio’s or Mama Celeste pizza, after-after which they go back to jamming the games and attractions so they can “win” one silly band for 40 tickets.

Here are my concerns:

1.  The mystery handstamp.  The CEC website says it is their “Kid Check area where parents or guardians will have their hand stamped with a number that matches their child’s. This is our special way we try to assist you in helping that everyone who comes together leaves together. (This program is not a substitute for adult supervision.)” I call bullshit, because I walked in with Bambina early and OUT with Baby Sister, and BabyDaddy did the same thing, vice-versa (came late with Baby Sister and walked out with Bambina).  “Have a nice night with that little girl you’re abducting, sir!”

2.  The ten tables.  Hello, birthday factory!  I mean, even at the gymnastics parties, the gyms make the pretense that the kids in the gym are not about to be sitting right where you are in the cake room as soon as you all head out to where they are.  At CEC, there is no shame whatsoever in heralding that your kid is not that special. Again, I’m not buying Bambina a pony for her birthday, but I do want her to feel like it’s HER special day and not that she’s hogging a table for the next kid whose party is in an hour.  And don’t get me started on the communal happy birthday song for all 1200 people in the facility.

3.  Unbelievably, I have no issue with the kiddie chaos. If you book a party at CEC, you probably like and expect that.  Even Bambina was having a great time.  But…well, okay, I guess I DO have an issue with the chaos.  Here’s my beef: please understand that if I drop my child off at your child’s party, I hold YOU responsible for her safety.  Right?  If your kid comes to my house and goes missing, well I’m a shitty hostess, right?  I need my membership revoked, right?  So please tell me how you are ensuring my kid does not go missing or get molested in the bathroom at a CEC party, where you cannot even keep track of your own kid, much less 20 others in the crowd of hundreds.  What is your plan for handing my kid back to me in the same condition I left her if you are essentially sending them into a crowd of hundreds of strangers (most of whom, forgive me for saying, seem weird)?  Yes, I know Bambina knows all the rules about strangers and whatnot, but I don’t as a rule send her into the stands at Fenway alone for two hours.  Nor do I have her go to the Stop and Shop without an adult present and actively engaged.  She’s not a dummy, but she IS six.  I’d like to know someone knows where she is (and “over there somewhere I guess” is not the answer I’m hoping for).

4.  Not a kid at this party found this “show” to be anything but creepy, and worse (for them) disruptive to their gaming and talking fun.  Make the bad puppets stop!

5.  I think my “Mama Celeste” pizza says everything that needs to be said about the culinary aspect of this birthday mill.  I”ll leave it at that, except to tell you I feel bad that you spent $19.99 per kid on it. I want to say that the BabyDaddy and I catered our wedding for less than that, and no one (who didn’t want to be) was touched inappropriately in the bathrooms.

So no disrespect to this family. Their daughter loved it and that’s concern #1 for them, as it should be. But, as even the Chuck E. website says,  there is no “substitute for adult supervision,” and anyone who has even two kids knows that there is no such thing as “supervision” with one adult and twenty kids in a sea of hundreds of strangers.  It’s bedlam, it’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s so incredibly not fun to go, but from here on out I’m staying put at Chuck E’s.  You never know; I might play a few games,  might even have some pizza (Abbondanza!), and BELIEVE that I’m winning that silly band.

It’s Yiddish, of course, for “crazy.”  And that’s pretty much the day that was.

BabyDaddy had a work-related board meeting ALL DAY, so I was flying solo with the cheedren.  I usually do, of course, on a regular day, but weekends alone just suck the big one because the kids are bummed he’s not here and so start acting like kooksters because their schedule and expectations are off.  So Baby Sister began the day by falling down the stairs because she was imitating Bambina who was running down the stairs.  It was all I could do to not yell out “Fuck!” when I saw her go down.  Luckily I just involuntarily  screamed her name over and over sans the expletive. But it was shit-your-pants not funny.  And then it got worse. She fell down AGAIN.  The same stairs. From the same spot.  Why? Because she was giving me the toddler finger, that’s why.  “Baby Sister, go SLOW, remember what just happened, okay?”  Her:  That “fuck you, authority figure” smile as she goes down once again. This time I was seriously trying to figure out if she needed to go to the ER, or whether I was going to ensure she needed to go to the ER.  Punkass kid!  For the record she was totally fine.  I, however, was not.  If I hadn’t had to drive them to Bambina’s horse riding lessons, I would have had the liquor cabinet opened and emptied before noon.

So we determine everyone is fine and begin to play.  But–gasp!–Baby Sister TOUCHES Bambina’s new (pretend) headphones.  The gates of hell open. “SCREEEEAAAAMMM! She’s touching my new headphones!!!”  Oh, okay.  Is she breaking them?  Is she taking them into her room to establish possession as 9/10 of the law?  Is she na-na-naing you with “finders keepers?  No?  Then shut the fuck up and don’t give her the attention she is so adept at extracting from you.  But poor Bambina is an easy mark when it comes to The Touching of Stuff.  She’s like that guy Psycho in the movie Stripes:

“The name’s Francis Soyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you… And I don’t like nobody touching my stuff. So just keep your meat-hooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I’ll kill you.”

And in the role of Sergeant Hulka, me:  “Lighten up, Francis.”  To no avail. In ten seconds flat both girls were wailing from The Injustice of It All, and I said very bravely and courageously and mother-like: “Okay, I’m going upstairs to fold laundry while you two have your drama. If you want to come up and join me, you have to stop crying, stop fighting and stop touching each other.”  So up they came within 3 minutes.  I sat them on our bed and did what any talented and caring mother would do:  I gave Bambina my phone to play Angry Birds and Baby Sister my laptop to visit Sproutonline.com. All with the caveat: “The first person to touch or look at the other goes downstairs to sit alone.”  Do not fuck with me, children.  I’m within an inch of scaring the shit out of you both with my “now you’ve really made mama crazy” eye-popping tirade. Let’s not go there, shall we?

But on the bright side, (oh, there’s always a bright side, darlings) I’ve now lost enough prednisone weight that I can fit into my old underwear.  Not “old” as in the B-team stuff you bring out for exercise or laundry day, but old in the “stuff I used to be able to wear” sense.  Friends, as much as I would like to have someone be able to say, “This woman went to her grave never having worn anything labeled ‘briefs,’ “the sad truth is that for the past year that is precisely what has been occurring right here in River City.  Briefs.  Or as Bambina always called them, “Big Lady Underwear.” And, boy, was she right.  For kicks today I put them side-by-side with my old underwear to show the girls (after lifting my “don’t talk/look fatwa on them), and even the two year old, who knows not a thing about a lady’s delicates, fell out laughing at the visual.  I then announced that I was officially throwing them out because it bludgeoned my spirit without relenting to open the drawer and see them.  (I didn’t actually say that out loud, but seriously: any half-wit can imagine that you’re not going to feel your personal best when wearing underwear shilled by people dressed as giant fruit and when the key marketing feature is a “comfort waistband.”  Oh my hell, that underwear stole a little bit of my soul every day.  But no more!  We sent them packing while yelling, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass!”

Speaking of “ass,”  Bambina schooled me today.  She said, “Mama, do you know what a boy’s penis is for?”  {oh crap oh crap oh crap, please give me something good to say in this millisecond)…

“Mama, that’s how they POOP!!”

Me: “My love, I’m thinking that’s not the case. They do pee out of it, but not poop. Boys poop the same way you do.”

Her:  Not true. Alex told me that it’s for poop.  I saw the horse do a big poop and it came out of that big dangly thing that’s the penis.

Me: I think you think you saw it come out of that, but I promise you it didn’t.  Horses poop out of their bums just like humans, boy or girl.

Her: Totally exasperated at my ignorance and pushback:  “Mama!! Enough! Who cares about penises anyway?!!”

I was going to have her repeat it on tape so her dad could sleep nights, but I figured I’d let the moment pass since she was so irritated at my total stupidity regarding human excretion.

And speaking of stupidity, I’m sitting here blogging while my cute husband, who has been gone all day, is sitting next to me on the couch at his laptop.  I’m going to go and chat with him, rather than with you. No offense.  Although, I’m not sure how he’ll feel when I say, “You leave on a weekend again, and I’ll kill you… And I don’t like nobody encroaching on our Sunday. So just tell your boss to keep her meat-hooks off. If I catch you in another all day weekend meeting, I’ll kill you.”  No wait! I know exactly what he’ll say (because he’s well-practiced after all these years):  “Lighten up, Mama.”

By now you know that #winning refers to the musings of Charlie Sheen on Twitter.  For those of you unfamiliar with what a person I know calls “The Twitter,” it’s a social networking site on which you can say anything in 140 characters or less.  I’m there as Haggisgirl, if you’re inclined to read tweets, which I deliver infrequently.  Any celebrity who is anyone has a twitter account, it being the new press conference.  Back in the day, publicists would issue statements regarding a star being “indisposed” or hospitalized for “exhaustion.”  Today, the star (or a rep posing as the star) tweets information directly to you, the adoring public.  In exchange, the star (or individual or business or author or whomever) gets to say how many “followers” he or she has.  I’m simplifying in a 140-character kind of way, but I hope you get the point: it bypasses the traditional media model of celebrity communication.

And so we have Mr. Charlie Sheen on TV and on the twitter, entertaining us with his clearly deranged and chemically-fueled thoughts:  “I’m just so tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect and bitchin’ and winning every second and I’m not perfect and bitchin’ and just delivering the goods at every frickin’ turn.” (Read = I’m a highly functioning addict)

He has more than a million followers–and with it, many ducats in advertising revenue.  He may be an addict, but he’s got drug money for a reason: dude is no dummy.  On the one hand, the entire situation is rather hilarious (note the online quiz: “Name That Statement: Ghaddafi or Sheen?” wherein you struggle to determine which nutjob said what), and yet on the other hand it strikes me as inordinately sad.  Here is a man, a father, a son, a brother who is clearly under the influence of las drogas and who is clearly in full-on denial, to the heartbreak of his family (his father is Martin Sheen).  He’s not only in denial, he’s doubling down on his insanity, having his show cancelled and offering more and more rants on morning talk shows for the pleasure of the public who, let’s be honest, don’t really give one shit about Charlie Sheen as a human.

So why am I writing about him?  Because I think we probably all know a Charlie in our lives.  Maybe it’s not lost weekends with drugs and porn stars, but it’s something.  Something that’s easier to laugh at or ignore or avoid than to substantively ponder the ramifications of.  (Like people who end sentences with prepositions, for instance).  For many years I was friends with someone who was beyond self-involved, but I chose not to see it, address it or handle it, preferring to laugh at his “oh it’s all about YOU, isn’t it?!” ways.  I spent years “good naturedly” making fun of him for being a selfish bastard when he’d unleash his id on others…until the selfishness bit ME in the ass.  Looking back, there was never a moment when this friend was ever concerned with anyone but himself, and I knew it.  But it was easier and more “fun” to laugh along, go along, and be strung along than to throw down and refuse to play my role in the relationship dynamic.  Why? I don’t know.  But as I hear about his life now, it’s clear that I did my friend no favors.  I could recite chapter and verse of the He Done Me Wrong bible, but the truth is, I did him just as wrong by failing to stop the madness sooner than I did.  Sure, we’re no longer friends, but to what end? My life is better, but his isn’t, because no matter where he goes, there HE is, unable to step outside himself for the benefit of another.  That’s the kind of shit that rolls downhill to wives, kids and coworkers, and everyone involved with him remains poorer for it.

I mentioned a few times in StarSpangledHaggis how I finally found happiness once I gave up the job of trying to fix other people.  I’m still unemployed in that regard, and happily so.  But “fixing” others is not what I’m advocating.  I’m simply suggesting that we cease to find the self-immolations and embarrassments of others to be entertaining or worthy of our collusion. I’m proposing that we unfollow Charlie, we tune out Charlie, and we deny the payoff to Charlie, be it Sheen, or your drunk Uncle Charlie or your always-complaining coworker Charlene.  You can’t fix Charlie, but you can fix yourself by refusing to play along and play into it. The wheels are going to come off the Charlie Sheen train (or, as he calls it, his F-18), and psychically, spiritually and ethically, the follower hordes will have played a role in his crash.  Even if you think you’re only an observer, you are actually part of the action because your observing is driving the story forward.  If no one was listening to Charlie, would Charlie still be speaking?  Sheen himself said, “Change the channel. I dare you.”

On that, Charlie “High Priest Vatican Assassin Warlock” and I agree.

There is something I have to confess.  It’s always been on my mind but it’s either never been important enough to me to bring up, or it’s been too important to someone else to bring up.  But today being his birthday and me being on the receiving end of a nasty literary surprise, the time has come to lay my thoughts bare:  Friends, I cannot stand Dr. Seuss.

I have always struggled to understand his appeal to children and the adults who procure books for them.  All I can think about while reading his “stories” is “oh my god when will this end?!”  They strike me as overly-long, overly-gobbledy, and just plain over-rated.  “But the message!” you say.  “The message!”  Assist me with this.  When I read these stories with Bambina, I’m reaching, grasping to answer her “what does this mean?” questions.  Um, it means that you should totally let someone into your house while your mom is away as long as they promise to clean up before she returns?  Um, maybe it means you should always listen to your pet goldfish?  No! I’ve got it! It means that..hell, I don’t know, but Hector McRumpledy-Pumpledy sings! A song about hoofity-poofity things!  WTF, Theodore?

Truth be told, this all came to a head this evening as I read If I Ran the Zoo to Bambina at bedtime.  Imagine my horror as I realized I had just said, “helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant” to my Chinese-born daughter and then noticed that the illustrations of little McGrew searching for unusual animals included lots of slanty-eyed people and lots of minstrel-type African people.  How lovely.  Luckily Bambina is not familiar with the term “slant-eyed” yet (I am sad to say that the “yet” is a reality), so she didn’t catch it. But I did.  My mouth spoke those words. My child was looking at blackface and Asian caricatures.  In a book we allowed in our house.  In 2011.  Wow.

You could chalk it up to one story, the year 1950, the fact that those were “different times” and hope that makes it okay when your kid gets older and really reads it.  Or you can say, “That is fucking racist and it’s not going to be in my kid’s library.”  Your call.  You can think I’m overreacting if you’ d like to.  But substitute a hook-nosed Jew or a drunk Irishman or whatever the negative stereotype of you is, and tell me  you’re not concerned.  I’m not saying Dr. Seuss was a racist.  I AM saying that those lines and those illustrations are racist, to the point that I’m trying to figure out how they got published in the early 2000’s IN A KID’S BOOK.

Such  illustrations and attitudes are not isolated to that story, it turns out.  Mulberry Street only in 1978 changed “Chinaman eating with sticks” to “Chinese man.”  You know, still eating with those sticks.  Dr. Seuss also drew a lot of WWII propaganda, mostly involving giant buck-toothed “Japs” and mostly sowing fear of a Fifth Column.  Again, I don’t know [as George W. Bush says] “his heart,” but I do know my stomach, and it can’t allow shite like this in my kid’s library.  So, as with all the other “classics” that are beyond offensive to anyone with a modern brain, the Dr. Seuss Compendium will find its way to the storage bin in my cellar, hopefully to be swept away in an unfortunate basement flooding incident (that I may have to engineer).

I plan to also add to the deluge:

Ping (slanty eyed people in “coolie” hats pounding on tardy ducks. Nice!)

Eloise (who, for sport, rips her clothes to look “like an orphan” for the front desk people at her home in THE PLAZA. Punkass rich kid! Her middle name is probably “Gwyneth.” )

Seven Chinese Brothers (every single Asian person in the book is yellow. I shit you not:  Actual yellow)

Curious George (not for being racist or “old-fashionedly offensive” but just for being lame as all hell and for overuse of the Eisenhower-era nonsense filler “why” at the rate of almost one per page:  “Why, it wasn’t a ghost at all! It was George in a sheet!” And please explain why George never gets his ass kicked [or medicated] for being a total hoodlum. )

So happy posthumous birthday, Theodore Geisel.  You’ve accomplished a lot:

People with two young boys get to call them Thing One and Thing Two to gales of appreciative laughter.

Drunk people get to make up rude chants involving “would you could you in a boat?”

Last minute Halloween celebrants can always throw on a striped red hat and call themselves dressed for the occasion.  Extra points for carrying a fishbowl and a rake.

Jim Carrey will never want for funds now that his Grinch will be shown every year after It’s A Wonderful Life and The Island of Misfit Toys.

You reminded me that I’ll “look up and down books. Look ’em over with care. About some I will say, ‘I don’t choose to go there.’ With my head full of brains and pride in my name, I’m too smart to read a story that’s racist and lame.”