La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for June 2012

Oh, I’m as jubilant as any non-Fox watching Mama can be today, what with Chief Justice John Roberts’ assist on the Affordable Care Act. (Discussions of his canny long-game strategy in neutering the Commerce Clause are for another blog entirely).

Today was also important for another reason. My status as Mama in Chief and Creator of All Mandates was affirmed. By a vote of one. Mine. Bambina is now 8. Which means, in 2012 terms, she is like me when I was 13 back in the 80’s, only without the self-awareness. When I was an ass to my Dad between the ages of 13 and 15, I knew I was being an ass. I was cultivating my ass-ness on purpose just to bust him, to show him he was not All That even if he could ground me for life. I was all about cutting off my nose to spite my face if it meant that I could have some kind of “boo yah!” moment on my Dad. Yeah, I was a real peach, folks. But when I’d harangue old JP that he was not respecting my human and individual rights as a member of this democratic family and who died and made him boss, he just said in his thick Scottish accent: “Oh, we had an election…And I won.”

Fast forward to summer 2012, and Bambina seems to think she is wildly witty and smoothly smart assed, when all she is is rude as fuck. She is testing me every damn day, friends. All developmentally appropriate, and all doomed to painful, self-immolating failure if I have anything to do with it. Don’t misunderstand; she is still a sweet kid overall. She is just seeing what she can get away with, much of it stuff I’m certain she did not see or hear in our home.

So she thinks it’s funny to replicate American Ninja Warrior feats in our house. One ottoman dead and counting. Yes, standing 4 feet off the ground in a doorway, held up only by her feet and hands was impressive to see, but I’m not running a gym here. This is not an episode of Jackass. It’s our house, and she needs to respect it. And yet I have to say at least twice a day, “Stop using the couch back as a high wire.”

She is a recidivist interrupter. I cannot recall how many times I have said to her, “Do you see my mouth moving?! So why are YOU talking?” It drives me absolutely insane, because she is not 4 years old. She gets very snippy if you interrupt her, “Excuse me, but I was speaking” in a Madonna-style faux English accent. But I could literally be discussing the bleeding gash on the side of Baby Sister’s unconscious head with twelve EMTs, and Bambina would cut in mid-sentence to say, “Can Ellie come over to play because she hasn’t seen my new blah blah yet blah.” It makes me certifiably homicidal.

And, most winningly of all, she is a smart ass. She has a habit of saying, “boo you!” when we say no to her. To the point that she has been sent to her room about 3 times a day for weeks now. Maybe it sounds like no big deal to you, but I think that is just straight-up disrespect. You go to your room and call me a fathead under your breath. On what planet do you think you can give me attitude to my face? I flipped out last week and (another pledge I made to myself pre-kids down the toilet) said, “I’d like to see you say that to your grandmother. Because if I had ever done that to her when I was 8 I would have never seen the light of day again. Do it again and I call Grandma. Whatever punishment she sets, you get, 1986 style.” Bambina: You wouldn’t. Me: “Oh, believe I would. Please say Boo You in that tone again so we can get the party started.” Silencio, sweet silencio.

Of course The Threat of Scottish Grandma wore off after a day, and so Baby Daddy and I did what any parents of a hustler, always-be-closing kid would do: we started fining her for infractions. Like, real money. I have to tell you twice to not jump on the (broken) ottoman, you go to your room and give me 50 cents. You throw some shade my way when I ask you to please clear your own plate from the table? 50 cents. You deliberately ignore my request to stop doing whatever? Oh, that’s gonna be a dollar.

The kid is out 5 bucks so far, and mama needs new shoes, baby! When I pointed out her current fine total, I could see the wheels turning in her head, like, this is a little bit too real and perhaps I need to check myself. Whenever we resolve an argument or behavior issue I always say, “I am always on your side, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I am never against you ever.” And I mean it. But if taking her paper route money is the only way to get her attention, please believe I will do it.

So she gets it, and yet, this being real life, we still have moments. Today she had her annual physical at the doctor. I had to bring Baby Sister along because I don’t have babysitting on Thursdays. By the end they were both at each other’s throats while eating the lollipops given by the doctor. As the public and embarrassing rancor increased I simply said, very calmly, “the next one of you who speaks loses your lollipop.” She smiled at me and said, “Ha ha, I’m speaking.”

I’m sorry. Did you just give me an 8 year old “fuck you”? Because I’m pretty sure that was a direct, shock-and-awe fuck you to your mother IN A PUBLIC PLACE. I narrowed my eyes at her and I (secretly) felt overjoyed to see the smug smile–and all color–drain from her face as she realized, holy crap, I just stepped in something BIG.

I very quietly, but in that “your little world is about to end” clipped voice said, “In the hallway, NOW.” Hand it over. Nooooo! Hand it over. I took it out of her deflated little hand, and said, “Please watch me as I put this lollipop in the trash, and think about whether you want to publicly act like a jerk to me ever again. Oh, and you owe me three dollars for outright disrespect.”

Well, it was not a fun ride home, as you can imagine. But back at the ranch, I could tell she got it. Finally. Not forever, of course. But for now. We all figure it out at some point. You think you’re funny. You think you’re letting your personality shine. You think your words are sprinkled with humorous fairy dust. But you are really just being an ass because you are chafing at authority. Yes, the day will come when Bambina will throw off the shackles of my Rules and Regs household. She will think I am the worst dictator and termagant ever to walk the earth, the Queen of the Mama Shrews. But she will understand respect, for others and most importantly for herself. And in our house, that’s the mandate I want as my legacy.

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Slate has an interesting series of articles recently written by people who do not want to get married and/or have children. The articles are well-written and often funny, but the entire series makes me uncomfortable simply because of the premise: individuals and couples justify to us why they choose to be “childless,” as if such a justification ought to be necessary. And yet, in our society it is, isn’t it? We are obsessed with making, having and raising babies, as if those who do not are somehow shirking some unspoken patriotic duty.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that people are too invested in the reproductive status of others. The BabyDaddy and I were married for seven years before thinking about kids. SEVEN years, folks! And you know people were wondering what was taking so long. Well, hello. BBDD was in grad school and he had this quaint notion that one ought not to have children until one had a JOB with which to feed them. I was building my career that involved heavy travel, we were moving a lot, and we just knew (even before all my health drama hit the fan) that our lifestyle was not remotely appropriate for child rearing. And, truth be told, the bottom line is that we just didn’t want to have a kid at that time. We weren’t remotely interested. Until we were.

And please believe that once you decide to adopt internationally you get very used to all kinds of people thinking your family planning decisions are their business. Why China when there are so many needy kids right here? Well, asshole, let me ask you the same question: why your uterus when there are so many needy kids right here? Are needy kids now the sole responsibility of women not having biological children? And since when did my building a family become some kind of charity event? And please tell me why I’m explaining this to so and so’s great aunt–whom I’ve never previously met–at a BBQ?! Why are we discussing my personal business again?

So it must be for those poor, wayward “childless” couples. To be named for their lack of children, in the negative. I mean, we are not a dogless, catless or SUVless family, right? But if you don’t have kids? You are childless. And now you must tell us, to OUR satisfaction, at a random family event, why you choose this deviant path of living a full life without young humans to raise. Don’t worry, though, you’ll change your mind. Just wait and see! Heh heh.

The pressure to not only couple up but to also produce heirs is suffocating, even in today’s “modern” culture. I feel terrible for my single friends and for my DINK friends–not because I think their life is probably anything but awesome–but because of this pervasive sense that a woman not in a relationship or married is lacking something. That couples without kids are lacking something. When the real lack is in our imaginations, that perhaps someone not experiencing what we are experiencing is somehow missing out on life’s special joys.

Well, let’s agree that something can only be a joy if you want it. I have no interest in white water rafting, summiting Everest, doing lines of coke, baking pies, or having my toes sucked by Quentin Tarantino. None of these activities remotely interest me, and I don’t have to explain why for you to accept my position. And yet, if I had added “having kids” to the list it would have precipitated all manner of blowback. I’m sure my life would indeed be “richer” by climbing Everest. But I just don’t want to do that. Much like people who choose to stay single or not have kids. They just don’t want to do that.

So let’s get off the backs of the “childless” and call them what they really are: people who get to sleep all night, have sex with their partners at a time and place of their choosing without fear of interruption, wear clothes that will not be destroyed by grape juice or vomit, finish sentences and complete thoughts, avoid all manner of preschool viruses and bacteria, spend all of their disposable income on themselves rather than on child care and camps, have disposable income, and never have to contemplate why they now sound exactly like their mothers.

Well played, childless rebels. Well played.