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Archive for March 2014

Mean Girls

Posted on: March 30, 2014

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2014/03/25/mean-moms-suburbs/#.UzXIiXc28-k.facebook

Read that article. Then come on back for the skewering of everyone involved.

The article is entitled, “The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing, and Altogether Miserable World of the Suburban Mom.”  It really should have been called, “The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing and Altogether Miserable World of the Wealthy, White, Low-Self-Esteem Suburban Mom.”  Where to even begin with this mess of neurosis, psychosis and grandioseness?

The thrust of the story is that in this one wealthy town (and potentially in yours) there exist Mean Moms who control everything and everyone by being Queen Bees. So: high school. On a municipal level. Shocked I am not. But stunned I am to read of grown women participating in it and then acting surprised when their lives consequently suck.

News flash to adult women everywhere, particularly the rich white ones in rich, white towns like this one: living like this is a choice you are making. Befriending nasty women is a choice you are making. Allowing your kids to see this play out is a choice you are making. These are all choices you are making. You are not trapped. You are not homeless. You are not penniless. You are not marginalized in our society. You are endowed with the privilege of being able to make choices that most of the planet’s women would dearly love to make. So make better ones, even if they make you feel unpopular. In short, grow the fuck up. For the love of God.

My 4th grader had an issue with a Queen Bee in her class last year. We talked about it at length, about how this girl got to be the QB: because my daughter and her friends were allowing it. She is running the show because you have all somehow agreed that she is running the show, either by silent assent or active participation. Either way, the nanosecond you decide she’s not in charge–voila–she’s not in charge. A leader has to have followers in order to lead.  So stop following. It will hurt at first. Maybe no one else will get on board and you’ll have to find new friends. Maybe things will get worse for a time as QB rages against the dying of her might. But die it shall. As soon as YOU decide to stop participating. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun. But it doesn’t sound like your average day under the iron fist of QB is easy or fun anyway, right? So just refuse to be a part of it.

My then-3rd grader figured it out in about 30 days. You can do it too. But it requires–REQUIRES–you to love yourself. It requires you to remember that you are not in high school anymore; that you are a grown-ass woman WITH CHILDREN! It requires you to filter your daily actions through the prism of “what am I teaching my kids by this example?” Right now, you are teaching your girls to be bitchy, mean jerks or compliant, frightened doormats. You are teaching your sons that females are irrational, emotional dumdums. Is that really what you’re going for?

Listen, I’ve been there. Those moms do exist in my town, especially at my youngest’s preschool. I went to a parent event one night at 6:30pm. I was wearing dark-wash jeans (ie, a nice pair) and a nice shirt, having run out of the house as soon as the BabyDaddy got home from work, and having spent the time leading up to that moment feeding the girls, doing bath time, checking homework. All the stuff a parent does at that hour. Well, I apparently didn’t get the memo that I am supposed to have a nanny or babysitter come over so I can spend the hour beforehand showering, putting on makeup and donning a little black dress. I shit you not. Wine and cheese in a preschool classroom–all those little teeny tiny chairs and mini-desks–and grown women competing for Best Fucking Dressed. At 6:30pm on a g-damn Tuesday.

I would be lying if I did not admit that I absolutely felt like a loser surrounded by these put-together women. Like, cue the Sanford and Son theme tune when I enter the room. I was supremely uncomfortable until another mom–a normal freakin mom–showed up and we locked eyes like, “WTF with this crowd?!” Relief. Palpable relief. So I get it. When I got in my car I immediately dialed my friend who lived in another town like mine and had told me similar stories. (And let me add that my friend is supermodel beautiful; an absolute blockbuster stunner of a woman, and even she was struggling with feeling less-than around other moms). She and I declared to each other on the phone that night that we would never give in, that we would never wear a little black dress to a preschool event. That we would never get sucked into believing that what we wore to drop our kids off at school somehow said anything about us beyond “this is what I’m wearing at the moment.” We swore to ourselves and each other to never be part of that Bitchy Mom Machinery, no matter how much it might hurt. We swore that we were Awesome As Is, and eff these high schooly moms for trying to extend their 15 minutes of “greatness” from adolescence. We would not be participating, even if that meant we didn’t get the coveted invite to the Mom’s Night Out at Paint Bar.

I swear to god I have never looked back. I know I don’t get invited to stuff as a result. But I don’t care because–and here’s the relevant, oft-forgotten fact–I don’t actually like those women. I don’t want to have dinner with them. I don’t want to scour my brain for something to talk about besides Where They’ve Traveled Recently, How Much They Have Worked Out Recently, or What Expensive Activities Their Kids Have Excelled At Recently.  I mean, kill me now, right? Rather than being all upset that you’re not invited to an event at the Yacht Club, why don’t you consider that these are not people you want to hang out with anyway? My mom once said to me in high school, “I find it strange that you spend a lot of time trying to impress people that you don’t even like.”  BOOM.

So what’s the solution? Maybe if:

We stop trying to impress people, especially those we either don’t like or who engender feelings of worthlessness in us.

We diversify our friendships. We never say no to an offer of friendship simply because that person is of a different color, ethnicity, or income level from us. A good friend (and totally not bitchy fellow mom, Miz B) noted  that Bambina’s school is almost devoid of this QB stuff precisely because of its racial and income diversity. There aren’t large swaths of idle rich ladies having lunch on a school day, cooking up ways to be evil. A good percentage work outside the home–and a good percentage of us who do not have paying jobs don’t, as a result, have the discretionary income to be Evil Lunching on the regular. In short, there just isn’t the homogeneity that is required for this type of insular bullying to either occur or be tolerated.

We opt out. Consequences be damned. Sotto voce reassurance: your kids will turn out fine regardless. Let them see this play out. Let them see you be chill–although honest–about not getting the invites. Let them witness their mother love herself enough to opt out of destructive relationships. Let them see that a little exclusion won’t kill them or you.

As one of our favorite authors, Todd Parr, says in his “It’s Okay to Be Different” book: “It’s okay to say no to bad things.”

Memorize and repeat as often as we need to.

youcandoitTodd

 

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This is for our younger daughter who came rolling into our lives four years ago as a toddler, almost 5 years to the day after her big sister. I’m supposed to say it was the Happiest Day of My Life, but it just wasn’t. You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child, even if you’ve only known her for a few minutes. So her actual adoption day was a heartbreak because she was so sad and confused.  I was filled with love and gratitude for her, but I was not happy or joyous or anything at all celebratory in the least. I was sad for her, worried for her, and hoping I was worthy of the leap of faith and trust this beautiful, scared little person was taking toward us. I just wanted to tell her that everything would be okay, that she was safe, that she was loved. “Mama zhe li” (Mama is here) and “Bie haipa” (Don’t be afraid) were all I had to offer. By the grace of God, it was a start. And now we are here! Four years–and so much fun, happiness, joy, love, and laughter–later, I know the Happiest Day of My Life with this little girl is today, tomorrow and every single day to come.

Limerick for My Youngest Daughter

Cute little Love from Taizhou

Disliked me from the word Go

I looked funny and blonde

Thank God you were fond

Of your Dada and sister, hey-ho.

Sweet little Love of my heart

Always ready to laugh at a fart

You bring us such joy

Such pride–and such oy!

Being funny, for you, is an art.

Beautiful Love of my soul

A good time is always your goal.

You’re mighty and strong

Which we’ve known all along

You do nothing by half, only whole.

Wondrous Love in the world

I thank heaven that you are my girl.

Our family’s complete

With you, brave and sweet,

We all let our freak flag unfurl!

True Grit

Posted on: March 12, 2014

You want to see me pop a blood vessel? Just show me anything written, produced or inspired by “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua. Good lord. This woman. Her latest book, written with her professor husband, details the ways in which certain ethnic groups are superior to others.

Boy howdy, that’s guaranteed to sell. Which is why I think she does it. She is a trolly person trolling America, saying things that are sure to set people like me off and get others to part with their money. Which is why there is no link to her book in this post.

Here is her premise: that all “successful” groups share three characteristics.
1. A belief that their way is superior
2. Insecurity/a need to prove themselves
3. Impulse control/ability to delay gratification

Fair enough, if that’s what she believes the data reflects. Successful people all share these characteristics. Fine. But what irritates me is the immediate belief in the inverse: that if you are not “successful” then you must NOT have these characteristics. So if we could just get these lazy, poor, overly-gratified no-goodniks to inculcate these values into their communities–VOILA! Success for all Americans!!

I have one thing to say to that: BULLSHIT. Please allow me to go on my Former Poor Kid Rant, something the BabyDaddy allows me periodically when someone in our upper middle class town says something moronically “rich person” sounding and I have to bite my lip and pinch my wrist to forestall obvious eye-rolling and shade-throwing.

Let’s take these tenets one by one.
A belief that your way is superior.This is nonsensical. Everyone thinks their way is superior. That’s why they do what they do. My Scottish immigrant parents obviously thought that their way of raising us was superior to “American permissiveness.” We had curfews where my friends had none. We had rock-solid punishments for stuff that my friends got away with. We had epic shouting arguments about how much my parents obviously hated me because they would not allow me to do stuff everyone else was doing years earlier. Even parents raising their kids to be hooligans probably think they are doing it right. That their culture is better than those tight-assed parents with all of their rules. So-this is just Tiger Mom’s way of trolling for support among the groups she considers superior. Don’t fall for it, Jewish Mormon Nigerians!

Insecurity/Need to Prove Oneself:
You want insecurity? Try applying to colleges when no one you know has ever applied to a college before. You have no idea how to even fill out the application. I wrote my essays in handwriting. I shit you not. Didn’t have a word processor, folks. Just a real nice BIC pen. And I’m not alone. And that’s assuming you can even afford the application fee. I applied to 4 colleges. Four. Because that’s what we could afford, at $50-$100 per application. So please do not think for a minute I didn’t understand FULLY that I had something to prove. I remember being asked what my “safety” school was and being mystified. What? There is no “safety”! I better get into them all! Or I’ve wasted the application fee! And have nowhere to go! Are you kidding me? Safety school? Spoken like someone with money to burn…and “successful” parents. The very notion that there is a “safety” is a privilege that the “haves” do not seem to fully comprehend. I always knew that if I didn’t get into college, flunked out of college, or lost my job that I was (pardon my language) FUCKED. I knew it. My parents could not have supported me, nor would i have wanted them to. If I failed I was screwed. No trip home to the old bedroom, no free dinners made by mommy. Nothing. Just plain old screwed. The default state of every single “unsuccessful” kid in the world. So please take your “safety school” and shove it up your cluelessly privileged behind.

Impulse Control:
As a kid who grew up poor I can tell you that NO ONE does delayed gratification and impulse control like poor people. You know why? Because we HAVE to. Sure would like some yogurt for breakfast. Too bad Dad’s check doesn’t arrive until the 15th of the month which is therefore grocery day. Which is when you shall have your yogurt. Until then, store brand super sugar crisp is your breakfast. A poor kid’s life is NOTHING BUT delayed gratification, assholes. Please believe that I see more lapses in impulse control among children of “successful” people than you can imagine. My college was filled with rich kids “impulsing” all over the place. They still somehow managed to land sweet jobs at investment banks! I simply have NO IDEA how that happened. Do you?! I sure hope they didn’t receive some kind of preferential treatment! (Sarcasm detection level: HIGH). So to insinuate–to say flat-out!–that people are not successful because they lack impulse control is slander, when there are epic, legendary examples of quote-unqote successful people grossly lacking it.

My issue with this book and others like it (does your child have grit? how to raise resilient kids!), is that it breeds a certain smugness among the “successful.” See? We’re doing it right. And worse, it becomes just one more thing for “successful” parents to turn into a goddamned contest. I look forward to “Grit Coaches” popping up all over my town. 200 bucks an hour to give your kid the “grit edge.” Which is entirely my point: that a kid in Roxbury could have every single one of these characteristics in quantities your coddled kid from one of the “W-Towns” (Wellesley, Weston, Wayland) could only dream about–and STILL not reach the success of your child. It’s just a fact. It’s a fact. A fact. A fact. A fact. Because that kid won’t have coaches. He may not even have someone who knows how to fill out a college application. He may not have the money to fill out but one application. He can be as insecure and gratification delayed as all get-out, but he remains at a disadvantage. YOUR kid will get in somewhere and do just fine, grit coaching or not. So let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are doing something better than others. We are just lucky to live where we do, to have the support that we do, and–it’s time to own it folks–to have the money that we do.

For my amazing, resilient, kickass daughter on the 9th anniversary of us becoming a family.

Haiku for Bambina

You. Placed in my arms.
So sweet and fuzzy and small.
I felt so small too.

The weight of your trust
Your bravery. Your faith leap.
Hit like Guangdong heat.

Instantly bonded,
We belong to each other.
Now and forever.

Every year March
I thank God you are my girl;
Still sweet. Less fuzzy.

Every year March
I cry for your birth mother
Who gave life to you.

And to me.

Fat Chance

Posted on: March 9, 2014