Shitty Pizza, The Past, The Future…

…and The Now

Last night, John Oliver did a bit on charter schools, primarily the regulation or the lack thereof.  Believe it or not, Opinionated Public School Teacher’s Step-Daughter has no clearly defined opinion on charter schools.  I have seen models which are disasters.  I have seen models which are successes.  My son is currently number 78 on the waiting list at a charter school in our area.  We find that mildly hilarious because number 78 should really be “OHAHAHAHAHA!  Why bother?”

After flirting with and subsequently becoming involved in a two year relationship with private schooling, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is one significant component missing from private school – baseline (quantifiable and measurable) standards for performance.  This conclusion helped me realize that private schooling may not be the best approach for our family.  It’s simply too loosey-goosey and subjective for my comfort level as a parent and that is before we address the annoying political bullshit of dealing with the private school mentality.  I am a busy human who doesn’t have time for that nonsense and even if I did, I find that sort of thing too tedious to entertain.

In Oliver’s closing, he summed up charter schools by addressing the business aspect of the “scheme” (or scam, depending on one’s perspective).  While tangentially related to private schooling, based on the tax status of the school, that isn’t as relevant to this essay as his last statement which I have highlighted for emphasis.

If we are going to treat charter schools like pizza shops we should monitor them at least as well as we do pizzerias.  It’s like the old saying ‘Give a kid a shitty pizza, you fuck up their day.  Treat a kid like a shitty pizza and you can fuck up their entire life.’

The reason why this statement is so impactful is because it isn’t limited to any particular form of schooling.  This can be applied to charter schooling, private schooling, home skooling and public schooling.  This statement is the most succinct summary of my son’s first year in JuniorMAPP (otherwise known as a combined first and second grade classroom) at his old private school.  It defines our current reality and every single obstacle we as parents have to help him manage, that he as a student must overcome and that his teacher has to work with by luck of the draw.

Last year, my son was treated like a shitty pizza.  The toppings were one teacher (nicknamed “Lizard” by my son) and one autocratic, considerably neurotic control freak of a school administrator who goes by various names depending on the source.  The side-effects of said treatment have been generalized anxiety, erosion of self-esteem, stomach ailments, occasional vomiting and nightmares for the child.  For the parents, a leave of absence from work was required to manage the exhaustion as I could not keep up with the demands from work, an ailing parent and the train wreck that was happening to my child at school on a daily basis.

The shitstorm began approximately five weeks into the new school year for the Milkface with minor, aggravating issues.  Initially, I thought he was just being petulant and having issues adjusting to a new teacher given that his previous teacher was so stellar, anyone who had the misfortune of following her would be bound to fail in some way, shape or form.  I was quick to coach and possibly quick to dismiss some of his concerns.

It took Milkface’s bursting into tears and refusal to leave the car during morning drop-off to make me understand something was critically wrong.  Milkface had been in daycare and/or a preschool environment since 12 weeks old.  The only other instance when he refused to get out of the car was while he was being bullied at the YMCA camp.  It was at this moment I realized there was a serious problem and requested a conference with his teacher.  His teacher, following protocol, extended an invitation to the school’s director.

In spite of what we (Dock and I) thought was a productive conference identifying gaps and weaknesses, along with developing a plan to keep Milkface focused, busy and engaged, nothing improved.  Milkface remained disconnected and physically ill.  His teacher continued to verbally intimidate the students, yell and refused to engage six and seven year-olds in a manner which six and seven year-olds should be engaged.  Milkface was legitimately terrified of school for the first time ever.

Over the course of the school year, what seemed like millions of emails were exchanged, heated conversations were had, unpleasant conferences were attended and accusations were lobbed by all parties.  Dock and I had enrolled Milkface in the program with the intent that he would stay there for his entire K-12 education.  Milkface approached me and asked if he could explore other schools to attend for the following year (hence the charter school reference).  I approached the director and asked if it would be possible to skip his second year in JuniorMAPP (as he had started first grade at the second grade academic level) and promote him directly to SeniorMAPP (and a different teacher) to avoid the horrible Lizard.  We made it clear there would be no re-enrollment until we had a guarantee that Milkface would not be looping with his current teacher.  Then, we started the search for another school.

Around the beginning of April, after another trip to the doctor for vomiting and stomach upset, Milkface decided he couldn’t take any more of his current school.  He stoutly refused to return to the school in the fall.  He did not care about leaving behind his friends and other teachers he adored.  He did not care about ending up ridiculously out of contention in the charter school’s lottery.  He did not care about being the new kid in a huge, public elementary school with a year-round calendar.  Milkface wanted out and that was it.  Dock supported Milkface’s decision.  I did not.  I reluctantly completed the enrollment paperwork for the public elementary school near our home but held off as the director said she would have her answer for us on May 1st.

Then, this happened:

Sad Max

I promptly enrolled Milkface in his new school and sent an email to the director the next day informing her of our decision.

So, that’s the past.  The relatively recent past.  The close enough past that we’re still dealing with Milkface’s nightmares, his uncertainty about his academic performance (which was excellent in KinderMAPP), his low self-esteem and his anxiety about school.  Fortunately, we don’t seem to have any more issues with nausea and vomiting from nerves.  Thank goodness for that.

There are days I will vent to my friends who are still involved with the school on one level or another even though three months have passed.  I vent even though Milkface has started his new school three weeks ago and appears happy in the new environment, is making friends and managing the new kid blues really well, has a lovely teacher, the school runs like Mussolini’s trains and he’s catching on to Common Core quite well.  I mention the past because it’s not so long ago and the differences between the two institutions are so significant, his new school makes the old school look like some faith-based home-skooling network run by Trumpanzees and Duggarfangurls.  I mention the past because when you leave Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, you become a Suppressive Person; not unlike Scientology.  You made noise and challenged authority.  You pointed out the flaws.  You may have even said unkind things while your child was being treated like a shitty pizza.  Worst of all, you showed your emotions because observing any child being treated like a shitty pizza upsets you in ways people who do not know you (or don’t know you well) will never understand.

The past isn’t exactly the past.

Your friends will tell you, encourage you, to look toward the bright, brilliant future your child has ahead of him.  Focus on the positive!  Be happy you made a great decision for your child (or, in this instance, listened to your child as he made a great decision).  Think of all the negativity he is avoiding.  Enjoy the fact that he is thriving.

This is wonderful advice.  It comes from the right place.  It is said out of love and concern.

Unfortunately, it overlooks the immediate:  The Now.

Today, because my son was treated like a shitty pizza by shitty adults, I have a child who is damaged to the point where he is afraid to seek help or clarification from his teacher because the previous teacher wouldn’t allow that behavior in her classroom.  She either refused to help the children because they had to be “self-sufficient” or “independent” (she is a lazy one, that one) or she would yell.  As Milkface adjusts to Common Core, he has questions but is reluctant to ask for help.  When Dock asked him when his library books were due,  Milkface said “I suppose I could ask Henry.”  Dock coached him “Well, isn’t there anyone else you could ask?”  Milky responded “Logan is very nice.  I could ask him.”  Dock prodded a bit more “Milkface, think for a second.  When you have a problem, you ask a…grown-up.  Who is the grown-up in your classroom?”  Milkface said “Oooh!  Mrs. T!  I guess I could ask her.”  But the latter part was said with a great amount of apprehension.  Milkface remains terrified to engage his teacher unless he is engaged first.  He is entirely reactive in this situation.

It’s not limited to asking questions, either.

Last week, Milkface melted down over instructions for his Math Mountain homework.  The word “and” threw him for a loop and it took him well over 30 minutes to calm down enough to approach the worksheet again.  Math has always been his strongest and favorite subject.  By the end of last year, he was so deflated and demoralized by being told he wasn’t smart enough to learn material that he was already learning on his own, he has zero confidence in his skills or his intelligence.

I can look to the future but not right now.  Right now, Milkface needs me to help him get through The Now.  Milkface needs all of the adults to help him find his safe zone, rebuild his self-esteem and restore his confidence so when he makes a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.  In our family, mistakes have always been a learning experience.  A wrong answer is still, in a round-about way, a right answer because we learned what not to do.

The Now is so negatively impacted by the past; we do not have the luxury of time to fuck around.  We are in the process of rebuilding what was considered an ideal student because two adults didn’t do their jobs.  And this makes me angry, hurt, devastated and sad.  This makes me a ball of negative emotions I have to hide when my child is around.  This makes me feel terrible.  This makes me question my decision making:  was I right in leaving Milkface in a toxic environment for an entire school year to avoid the trauma of forcing him to be the new kid in the middle of a school year somewhere else?

While it’s natural to think that I’m overreacting because that is something a mother would do, it’s important to understand:

  • My child was in the first grade last year.  His first year of elementary education was phenomenally negative.  The foundation of his education was traumatic.  One of the most important years in a child’s education was an emotional nightmare.  This is wholly unacceptable.
  • The behavior on the part of the teacher was not an isolated instance.  Complaints were lodged by other parents in previous years.  This is a problem that should have been solved years earlier.
  • Administration’s response was, at best, marginal.  The issue clearly was not a priority if the bad behavior was permitted to perpetuate year over year.  For a person who speaks of her institution as “her life’s work,” she seemingly overlooks a crucial detail:  a parent may view their children as their life’s work.  Mutual respect goes a long fucking way in my world.

How does one let go of the past when it is present and requiring attention?  One can look forward and set all the goals they wish but that amounts to nothing more than daydreaming if you are not addressing The Now.  Willing things to happen, wishing for things to happen does not make things happen.  Working on things, fixing what is broken and healing will make the future happen with positive outcomes.  Ignoring the past, living in denial and pushing aside the past’s problems that exist in The Now is merely perpetuating bad behaviors.  Pure and simple.

(and I say this not to chide those who are encouraging me and helping me through a really difficult time)

After Milkface’s experience, I want him to have what I have always wanted him to have; what I want every child to have:  an emotionally stable, safe, secure environment in which he can grow and learn to the best of his capabilities.  An environment which fosters respect for others, a love of learning and fun.  I want him surrounded by positive behaviors exhibited by children and adults, alike.

Neither Dock nor I are perfect parents, let alone perfect people.  We’re flawed.  We fuck up.  We parent in ways people find atypical, nontraditional or entirely bizarre.  And you know what?  We give zero fucks because this works for our family.  When we make a mistake, inflict harm or screw up as it relates to Milkface, we own our foibles and apologize, just as we expect Milkface to do in turn.  We also do not expect any other person in our lives to be perfect but we do expect accountability.  We saw very little of that at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns last year which, in comparison to the year prior, contributes even further to our heartbreak and pain.

The past is not the past.  Not yet.  It’s still very much The Now for all of us.  Maybe, this time next year, we can all look back and all that we will have to talk/laugh about with regard to PCSGU is the music teacher who cannot sing, the amazing friends made and that magical first year.  Maybe, this time next year, Milkface will be whole again and his new school will be his domain – a place where he can come out of his shell, entirely, and his love for school will not be dampened by adults who let their pettiness, selfishness and personal grievances snuff out what little professionalism lies within.

Teachers and administrators remember:  Treat a child like a shitty pizza and you can fuck up their entire life.

No amount of rationalization, blame-shifting, saying the problem is with the student or his parents will change that, either.  The burden for the student-teacher relationship never falls on the student when the student is six years-old.  Additionally, if you have enough time to spare to critique parenting methodologies (yes, the erstwhile Lizard tried to blame Milkface’s performance issues on us), you have enough time to ensure your administrative tasks are complete and correct (something Lizard never seemed capable of doing).  And, portraying a well-behaved child as a discipline case only makes you look inept when the next school sees no evidence of what you tried to pass off.  It’s your own form of bad press.

For us, The Now will consist of repairing the broken child and guiding him towards a (hopefully) auspicious and happy future.  This entails working with him to ensure his self-esteem is not defined by a very unfortunate experience.  His new teacher is aware of what she inherited and is on-point.  Milkface adores her (“She doesn’t yell, Mommy!), so we’re fairly confident that he will do his best to please her.  Furthermore, we have seen his excitement for school return in the way he approaches his homework.  There is very little grumbling or pushback.

But, I also have some work of my own to do for The Now.  I need to remember while I’m healing Milkface, I need to take some time to make sure I’m healing myself because this process took quite a bit away from me, too.  Watching your child hurt is brutal.  Hurting along with your child isn’t exactly a good time.  Openly hurting and feeling as if others are not only watching you but judging you for what they do not understand is frustrating at best.  Heartbreaking is more appropriate.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I forgot to do one of the things I’m really quite good at:  giving zero fucks because people, as a rule, don’t understand what makes a person who they actually are.  They don’t know the experiences that formed you.  Shit, people don’t know what you had for lunch.  As you go through a significant trial with an audience, you suspect you’re being judged for whatever loopy behaviors you may exhibit (and maybe you’re merely being slightly narcissistic because it could be that no one gives a damn); crying, puffing steam through your nostrils and ears, kicking rocks, laughing manically, babbling to yourself in a foreign language you don’t necessarily speak well.  For a long time, until PCSGU entered our world, I didn’t give a good goddamn what people thought of me.  I have no idea what changed my attitude but I found myself less Kang and more Maxsmom.

Fuck that.

I’m 45 which should be “old enough to know better.”  I get angry when children are treated like shitty pizza and I’m done explaining myself or apologizing for it.  If you don’t want the side-eye of doom or my wrath, don’t treat kids like shitty pizza – directly or indirectly.  An adult’s series of bad days can very well become a child’s legacy and battle scars.  If you’re not remotely prepared to accept that level of responsibility and accountability, you need to get the fuck out of education and stay the fuck away from children.

The Magic Slide…

…a dreadful ride.

When I became pregnant, the already weird family dynamics became even more so.  I’m not entirely sure what caused the giant explosion but there was one and little bits of dysfunctional family whatsits lay higgledy-piggledy throughout the Central Atlantic region.  By the time the Milkface arrived, X wasn’t speaking to Y.  Y wouldn’t acknowledge Z’s existence.  Kang tried to mediate which proved as fruitful and productive as herding the metaphorical cats.  Only one thing came out of that attempt and it was a spate of vicious emails.  My sister (we have a mutual disdain for each other) said to me “Just you wait.  After you have been a parent long enough, you’re going to become really angry and here is why:  being a mediocre parent is easy.  Being a good parent takes a lot of work.  Being a shitty parent takes a lot of work, too.  Think about it.”  Then she hissed something about that being her rationale for speaking to no one in the family (save the most dysfunctional, imho, branch).  From my esteemed perspective, my sister’s emotional fuels of choice have been anger and resentment.  They propel her.  It’s her base.  My base is sadness and confusion so I cannot relate.  I’m too busy scratching my head, crying and trying to figure out why everyone acts like a blistering, selfish asshole which, I hasten to add, is a total fucking waste of time (my insatiable compulsion to understand the incomprehensible).

That wisdom was filed in Kang’s “Big Book of No.”  The Big Book of No is, essentially, how I parent.  I look back on my experiences as a kid.  I think of what my parents did.  I do the opposite 90% of the time.  Right now, the outcome is one Milkface who is compliant, happy, well-adjusted, exceptionally intelligent and a genuine pleasure to be around.  Granted, I’m only five and a half years into the whole parenting gig but I’m confident I’m on the right path.  The Big Book of No, combined with advice from anyone remotely sane seems to be working.  Suck on that, those who say you can’t break cycles and unlearn bad behaviors.  This bitch isn’t accepting that excuse at all.  This bitch has also been in therapy for fourteen blissful years trying to be anything other than some of her parents (when you have more than two parents, you get to use the word some).  It’s not fun.  It’s not a comfortable admission.  But, it is the truth and my reality.  Furthermore, if it makes Milky’s life better – then, by all means, I’ll spend another 14 years’ worth of time and money in therapy and maybe my darling shrink can get another boat out of it, as well (The man works hard and puts up with my shit.  He should actually get two boats.  Possibly three.).

This past weekend was graduation at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.  The graduation ceremony is dramatically different from the traditional ceremony we have come to accept.  To me, it was lovely but emotionally exhausting – pretty much like a majority of my experiences with the school this past year for I have learned that being in a loving environment when you’re not exactly used to such a thing is fucking overwhelming.  Each of the students had a letter read to them by a faculty member.  The letter was actually written by the family (parents or grandparents).  It was loving, supportive and nurturing.  Then, each of the seniors prepared speeches.  As with most things PCSGU, the students are encouraged to put themselves out there.  Filtering is not something that happens at this school.  Exploration is desired.  Expression is encouraged.  These were positively amazing expressions of love, support and gratitude.  For someone raised in an environment where there was very little of this, it boggled my mind.  Emotional feral cats don’t receive this.  Wait – I really shouldn’t use that term without a qualifier.  I wasn’t entirely emotionally deprived.  I was on the receiving end of a good amount of emotional feedback; the majority of it was of the soul-crushing, esteem-destroying variety, however.  While I had more of my fair share of the negative, I was starving for the positive; distended belly and all.  By the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I did have some decent adults in life:  my father (with whom I did not live), Kate’s parents (who become more and more heroic to me as my journey down Parenting Lane grows longer), my Swedish parents (to whom I will never ever begin to articulate how much they mean to me or how they actually saved my life) and some amazing teachers and school administrators who knew to look beyond the propaganda (the smear campaign towards anything related to Kang’s paternal side) and see the hungry child beneath the surface.

Approximately a third of the way through the commencement exercises, I was a legitimate mess.  While fumbling through my sack of magic tricks, I managed to locate the tissues but realized the much needed bottle of Klonopin had been left on the kitchen counter.  On the verge of becoming overly emotional and feeling like I would cause I scene, I excused myself and slithered to the bathroom to get my shit together.  Because while the glowing words from the parents were read and the seniors spoke candidly of their experiences, something was overriding everything in my head.  My selfish bitch wouldn’t stop whispering “Soooooooo very different from your graduation, innit?  These kids are really lucky.”

My graduation was different.  It was typical.  252-ish students packed in the circle gym of our high school (we had two gyms – check out the badasses up in here) in the stagnant June air.  Everyone in their nice clothes, polyester blue robes, caps, etc…  Aqua Net, Drakkar, Ben-Gay and boy sweat (the boys had the circle gym, the girls were stuck in the creepy, old, wooden gym) fumes permeated the room further contributing to the inability to stay awake while people droned endlessly about whatever it is we’re supposed to drone endlessly about during occasions such as these.  I was separated from Kate because her last name begins with an M and mine begins with an L.  The bobby pins holding the mortarboard in place were stabbing me in the scalp.  My coworker tied my hair into a nice french braid but it was a bit too tight so I was crabby about that.  The darkest cloud came from looking in the stands.  I saw my father, his girlfriend, my then boyfriend (a college lad…ooooh) and my aunt and uncle.  So, 50% of my parents were represented.  50% were not.  Incidentally, the absent party included a teacher in the school district.  One who worked directly across the street from the building we were in.  And if you didn’t think that wasn’t the dominating thought of the evening for me, you’re wrong.  It was so present and cause of so much shame for me, it was a large contributing factor to why I drove the 40 minutes back to my father’s house instead of going to a post-graduation kegger.  Yes.  40 minutes to a house that wasn’t even in the school district.


You see, my mother’s house had a very unique feature:  The Magic Slide.  If memory serves me correctly (and it does because I have one of those weird memories that recalls just about everything vividly), my sister and I came up with this one day at my dad’s house.  Where my sister lived.  She lived with him from the age of 14 onward and not by choice.  My mother decided that she no longer wanted to parent my sister so my sister was shoved down The Magic Slide and landed straight in my father’s yard.  Locks were changed.  My sister was banished.  I only saw her on my father’s custodial visitation schedule.  I was seven years old and I basically became an only child.  This was only mildly upsetting since my sister wasn’t exactly the nicest person to me, even then.  But still, personal contempt for my sister aside, shoving her down The Magic Slide, separating siblings and the trauma it caused her was pretty horrific.  I also knew that I would eventually suffer the same fate.  The only questions were “when?” and “how long could I evade it?”  My father moved out of the school district to a more rural area and this bitch wasn’t going to a cowtown high school in the middle of nowhere.  This bitch had visions of going to college and nothing was going to get in the way of getting the fuck out of dodge for good.  Sweden was a legitimate way to run away but that was only a temporary escape.  Even I knew that.  Returning to America remains one of the saddest days in my life.

My mother and stepfather were long convinced that I was a loser with zero prospects in life.  They would have lengthy discussions at the dinner table (my presence irrelevant) about how I would amount to nothing, how I would be lucky if I could score a place at the lowly (they looked down upon it yet my stepfather eventually taught there so go…irony?) community college.  I was my father’s daughter and therefore I was only partially human.  The fact that I had a solid B GPA was irrelevant.  The fact that I wasn’t a troublemaker at school, also irrelevant.  The fact that I worked two jobs in high school also did not factor into any character assessments.  Rather than spending time parenting me, I was, more often than not, grounded for the slightest infraction.  Granted, I did develop quite a sarcastic mouth and contempt for their authority but it’s next to impossible to respect those who have zero respect for you and spend most of their time shitting on you for things you cannot control – like your own fucking DNA.  That I loved my dad did me no favors at all.  That I didn’t care for their incessant trashing of me and that I would stand up for myself didn’t bode well for me.  After a while, when you realize whatever you choose leads you to punishment, you start to care less and less.  You cannot change the opinions of others so why bother?  Survival mode kicks in and all you do is try to make it through the day without sustaining some form of abuse.  You cling to your friends, your hopes and your dreams.  You build a strong work ethic and save your pennies to get the fuck out of the hell you’re in as quickly as possible.  You stop caring altogether yet you don’t because there is no possible way to fully accept that the person who is supposed to love you the most, your mother, not only doesn’t love you – she hates you.  She hates you because you remind her of a mistake she made.  You remind her of her bad judgment.  You’re a scar but you’re human so you can’t literally be thrown away.  You can, however, be used as a pawn, belittled, emotionally destroyed, mocked, slapped around, deliberately deceived and outright tricked.

I knew I had a game to play if I didn’t want to go down my sister’s road to cowtown high.  I had to eat the shit, develop ways to minimize the damage to me (as my father referred to them, “catatonic fits.”) and generally try to be as invisible as possible.  Unfortunately, being a teenager and knowing everything, I was a bit too precocious and audacious so I would battle back.  It’s unrealistic to expect a human to be trampled on so many times before they rise up and say “Really?  Fuck this shit.” and return fire.  I returned fire one too many times.  My punishment:  hearing in May of 1989 that my ticket for The Magic Slide had arrived.  My mother declared that she was done with being a parent and that I was my father’s problem now.  Like my sister before me, I was given my termination date as her child which would be repeatedly barked at me in a harrowing, taunting fashion.  No one stopped her.  No one corrected her.  She was rife with fury and completely out of control.  In her mind, she had “suffered” enough and was done.  Her horrible, evil ex-husband was to pick up the slack he never did in her mind.  The minor child of whom she had custody was no longer her problem.  Let’s completely disregard what the law would say about that, too.

Here’s the thing she never fully understood:  be as angry as you want at your ex-husband.  Rage all that you want towards your ex.  You do not, under any circumstance, let your child see that shit go down for every time you do, you send the message to the child that 50% of that child is a piece of shit.  You send the message to the child that you think the child is garbage.  You send the message to your child that you don’t love your child because you don’t love your ex.  You send the message to your child that you hate your child because you hate your ex.  And this is exactly what 17 year old Kang received for high school graduation.  Validation that her mother hated her.  Plain and simple.  Then, after packing her bags with the help of some friends (because she received none from the parents who were all too anxious to get rid of her), she was pushed down The Magic Slide, just like her sister before her.

The school district, having seen this happen with my sister, had mercy on me and allowed me to finish the year and graduate as a student in spite of no longer residing in the district.  They knew the score.  They felt badly for me.  My college recommendation letters from staff and faculty had references to my stellar home life.  “Look at what this kid did in spite of…” Yay.  I was marketed not on my achievements but on the fact that I came from a fucked up family and managed to survive.  And this is why I loathe pity from others.

The Monday after my magical ride down The Magic Slide, I foolishly returned to my former residence to collect my mail.  It seemed like an obvious thing to do.  I was paying a good amount of my own bills then (because I was treated like a tenant rather than a child).  I arrive at the door, stick my key in the lock and turn.  Nothing happened.  I had been gone less than 48 hours and the locks were changed.  It was then I accepted that my mother didn’t love me and likely never would.  I walked to my car and broke down in tears.  To be dismissed and rejected by your own mother is a special sort of agony.  It’s a pain that doesn’t abate.  Ever.  You will always walk around with that and wonder if people know that part of you.  You can convince yourself that it says more about the other person.  As a parent, I cannot wrap my head around this behavior and think it speaks volumes of a parent’s failure and character flaws.  As an individual, it’s a shame I’ll never be able to scrub off, no matter how many showers I take, no matter how many times I may be decontaminated, no matter how many years I will spend in therapy.  Not only was I told by my mother that she was done being a parent, the locks were changed.  The message was driven home – not only was I not welcome, I no longer existed.  It set the tone for the rest of my life.  And for as many times as I tried to build a relationship with her after (why on Earth would I even try, I have been asked – because…no matter how hard you work to get better, being rejected by your mother is insuperable and I’m only human), I know in my gut, she will never love me.  So, I tried building a relationship with her for the sake of my son.  It has been a very hard struggle for me.  I feel like I have built a constructive relationship with my stepfather (finally…he approves of me and is proud of me).  My mother – not so much.  Today was another exercise in stepping on an emotional landmine and I’m not sure how to proceed or if I should even bother at this point.  I will not have my perspective devalued nor will I sit and be screamed at.

Sixteen years ago, I made a promise to myself to take myself out of the line of fire.  Two years ago, I put myself back on the range as a target to do the right thing (I maintain zero regrets there).  Two years later, knowing full and well that people don’t change, I remain heartbroken that lessons haven’t been learned by either party.  Fourteen years of missed opportunities – a wedding, amazing career progression on my part, the arrival of a grandson – have taught her nothing.  Fourteen years of deep introspection and I’m left to wonder if I’m making a huge mistake letting certain people into my life.  And what do I do about my child who has developed an attachment to a potentially harmful person?  He can’t be pushed down a Magic Slide but he can be hurt if he doesn’t toe the line to the exacting specifications.  Right now, he’s perfect.  What happens when he isn’t?  What kind of mother will I be if I set him up for a similar disappointment – to be emotionally dumped on the side of the road because of whatever reason my mother deems fit?

The families who experienced the joys of commencement on Saturday – outwardly – had a blissful, wonderful experience and I’m genuinely happy for them.  I hope that the same is going on behind closed doors.  Shit, a reasonable facsimile would be fine with me.  Anything other than my experience, at least.

I think I’m still going to wrestle with the positivity that surrounds PCSGU for years to come.  Milky thrives there.  My struggle to manage the feels and the good vibes will not become his burden.  I’ll slink off to my car and save the tears from the overwhelming feelings for the ride home or share them with my dear friends who understand the same pain, the random internet people who read this rambling nonsense and the wise shrink who has made me well enough to parent my child in a very different fashion than the models I had.  Eventually, I will learn to accept them as familiar.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to fully embrace them as normal, however.  My normal is different.  My normal is rooted in confusion, heartbreak and consistent disappointment.  My normal, no matter how far away I get from the hellscape that was my childhood, is always going to have an undertone of “Why?” and “How” and “Why?  How?  Who?”  To be able to entirely let go would be ideal and the desired outcome but I’m realistic.  I don’t think that will ever happen.  There is a part of me that doesn’t want it to happen (for now, at least), either.  That part of me allows me to remain hyper-vigilant and ensure that my son’s childhood isn’t mine; that he grows up knowing his parents love him, that his parents will always be stable and reliable and will do anything and everything it takes to make sure he is secure and provided for.  It’s my touchstone.  It’s my Big Book of No.  It’s my parenting manifesto, if you please.

And to those who may think that I’m disconnected from reality or not focused on my son – they should take a long, hard look in the mirror.  When Milky was a few months old, my father stopped by to visit.  Milky was fussy that afternoon and crying a bit.  I turned to my father and said “I don’t want to fuck this up.  I want to be a good parent.”  My father turned to me and said “You’re already a much better parent than most.”  And with that, I knew that things would be ok for my kid.  That, at the very least, my priorities were in the right place and the behaviors weren’t inherited.  There would be no Magic Slide in my back yard.

The cycle was broken.

A very middle class…

…sort of afternoon.

Let me start by saying that I have an extreme disdain for A Southern Season on the weekend.  For the years that I worked at the hospital, I was able to skitter over to A Southern Season during lunch, snap up what was necessary and get the fuck out without having to deal with the doddering, old people trawling for free samples.  I was able to avoid overhearing the annoying conversations between Bitsy and Tweety about their quilted handbags and their grandchildren.  I didn’t have to dig down deep within myself to find the restraint necessary to avoid grabbing a Wüsthof knife and driving it through the heart of a Junior League member lamenting about how hard it is to find good help these days.  Also, I didn’t have to play dodge the portable oxygen tank.  As I have said previously, that is the must have accessory for a majority of the clientele.

I have long maintained that there should be certain hours set aside for those of us who need to shop for actual groceries so we can get in and out without any irritation.  Call me bougie all you want but there are certain food stuffs that I can only get there or I can pay 50 trillion dollars in shipping to some weird internet shop specializing in French salami and Kalles kaviar (not that I would dare eat that shit).  Also, blame my father for this.  He was the one who foisted this upon me.  I was perfectly fine with a diet of Pop-Tarts and scorched meat (my stepfather, my lovely, learned stepfather…my wonderful stepfather who should not be permitted to touch meat at all) until I moved in with my father.  Then my life turned into “eat like a proper European and like it or starve.”  Also, have some wine with dinner…even if you’re only 9 (ok…even if you’re only 17).

On Christmas, I made a horrible discovery.  We had one jar of lingonsylt (lingon berries) remaining.  There is an Ikea in Charlotte but it’s an Ikea…in Charlotte.  People go there as a tourist destination.  Anyone who needs to get in, get lingonsylt and get the fuck out does not have the time to waste driving two hours only to deal with drop-jawed morons stumbling and bumbling through a low grade furniture store, massacring the names of Scandinavian towns.  Also, there are no meetings for work scheduled in Charlotte in the near future so I have no actual reason to go to Charlotte.  Further complicating my life is the obliteration of Ericsson’s footprint in RTP (thank goodness I left Ericsson for the current job).  Finding Swedish anything at the regular grocery store is no longer a possibility.  No more Ballerina cookies.  No more Felix anything.  My choices for acquiring Swedish foods are now limited to Ikea, the internet, begging for parcels from my friends or going to A Southern Season (or ASS as my husband calls it).  I make köttbullar (Swedish meatballs or shitballs, if you’re my husband) often enough that we must have a reasonable inventory of lingonsylt.  Köttbullar without lingonsylt is like college without beer – why bother?

So, I break the news that Milkface is going to have to run a marginally uninteresting errand with Mommy today.  He was in his fort in the living room and stayed silent in hope that I would forget that I had a child.  I lured him out with the promise of a handsome reward/threat of death.  It never ceases to amaze me that the child who is never tired always seems to come down with chronic fatigue syndrome whenever it’s time to get dressed to run an errand.  I manage to get his limp body into clothes, bundle him up and stuff him in the car.  Then he forces me to listen to Avril Latrine (yeah…Avril Latrine.  When you have to listen to Avril Lavigne over and over and over again until your ears bleed, she becomes Avril Latrine.  And believe me, this is one time I find myself wishing my hearing impairment is way worse than it actually is, too.) ½ way up I-40.  The child, he’s good.  He’s already mastered the art of manipulation from his conniving, scheming and evil mother.

We get to ASS, walk through the doors and Milky inhales.  He immediately recognizes the smell of happiness.  The smell that brings much joy and harmony to the house.  The smell that represents comfort, sanity and security because Mommy isn’t losing her shit over something inconsequential:  coffee.  Milky is intrigued.  Milky is comforted.  Milky is willing to push the cart and cooperate.  We head over to the jam aisle and start our search for lingonsylt.  There were four jars.  We scooped up three.  I always feel guilty taking the entire stock of whatever in the event that there is someone else who is having an emergency.  I would hate to be the asshole that caused distress because I took everything (see, I am considerate!).  Then I noticed the rows and rows of French jams Dock and I fell in love with while on one of our trench hiking holidays so I placed a few of those in the cart.  After that – marmalade because my father loves marmalade.  Examining the cart, I’m thinking we have the equivalent of Milky’s freshman year of college tuition in jam and decide it’s time to move along.  But where to next?  We satisfied the need:  lingonsylt.  We obtained the want:  jam.  Oooooh…bread!  Must have bread for all this glorious jam.  To the bakery, we go.  And now, my ambivalent sloth of a child is getting into the experience.  After a brief discussion, we decide brioche would be better than several croissant so we get a loaf of that.  I think that may have cost more than my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Milky drifting towards the left to the case with the desserts.  Of course.  There are two King cakes in the case and Milky loves anything that is sparkly and purple.  The whining begins in earnest.  Lower lip protrudes, eyes well with crocodile tears but I manage to convince him to hold off for a minute.  What Milky doesn’t realize is that ASS has a candy section that is something to behold.  And this is where things get a little weird and where I fail to understand how the brain of a five year old functions at times because five year olds glom on to some really weird shit.

On our way to candy land, we cruise by my mother’s concept of heaven:  cookware and cutlery.  Rows upon rows of knives (which she may or may not wield when I arrive home with another tattoo; not unlike the first time I came home with a tattoo when she waved a chef’s knife at me and was certainly not smiling) twinkling beneath the lights strategically placed to showcase the wares.  Shelf upon shelf of Le Creuset cookware and bakeware.  Milkface notes the lack of purple cookware and wonders if Bubbe can do anything about that (note to mom:  I’m totally serious).  A table display of Scanpans are taunting me.  Then my weird kid fixates on a pie bird.  Of course he reaches for it (what five year old wouldn’t grab something fragile) and demands to know what it is, what it does and, of course, can he have it.  I explain why pie birds are used and that Mommy isn’t big on baking pies but this is irrelevant.  Milky now wants a pie bird.  Oh…and the pie bird should be made by Le Creuset (properly pronounced) and preferably red or purple (because purple is his favorite color and red is the favorite color of his bestie).  Somehow, I’m now finding myself in a lamentation reserved for an Op/Ed piece in The Guardian about Middle Class Shame.  This is all very confusing.  Especially given the fact that I look like something that has been pulled out of a shower drain and dressed in a Ponyville Public Library shirt, jeans and ratty cowgirl boots.

I finally manage to lure the child to the candy section and watch what every parent dreams of, even if they’re unwilling to admit it, a face awash in joy at the sight of endless candy and impending tooth decay.  As is Milky’s wont, he stands still and processes all that he sees before diving in.  Then the “May I have…” begins.  At first, I restrain him much to his chagrin.  I don’t want him loading up the cart with the first thing he sees or stuff he can get anywhere (supply chain toady represent – we do not buy M&Ms at an exorbitant markup).  I want him to explore a bit.  I want him to have the full kid-in-the-candy-store experience.  We cruise the aisles looking at all the things.  He recognizes the goodies Uncle Magnus brings him from Sweden.  He sees lollipops with insects in them.  Then he finds the good stuff…the stuff of infinite possibilities…the bulk candy:  jelly beans, chocolate of endless varieties, gummy this and gummy that, licorice, gumballs, jawbreakers.  Then it’s time to really blow his mind, I put on one of those non-latex gloves, grab a handful of empty bags and tell him he can have whatever he wants.  Who has two thumbs and is mom of the year?  This train wreck.  And load up the bags we did.  The staff smiled.  The other patrons sneered.  Let them.  My kid and I were having a moment, dammit.

Even after we had cleaned out a good bit of the gummy inventory, Milky still had his mind on the bakery and the pie bird.  And, because I have done a stellar job of spoiling the child rotten, I suspected that there was going to be an addition to what was already in the cart.  I managed to distract Milkface from the pie bird by taunting him with stinky cheese.  Then we negotiated a deal – there would be no King cake coming home (it was large, it’s not yet Mardi Gras and I don’t care for holiday creep as it is) but Milky could have petit fours or an individual cake.  He chose sponge cake with strawberry mousse.  And somewhere, the bougie brigade agreed to overlook the fromage foul, grant me a pass on the pile of gummy goodness in the cart and allow me to keep my tastefully muted membership card granting me access to the most exclusive of food and beverage markets provided Milkface partake of ethically sourced foie gras by the end of February.

Once that was all said and done, we left ASS and walked through the remaining shops of University Mall (all four of them – maybe five?) where Milky was additionally rewarded with his first pieces of art glass because a cultured lad is never young enough to start building his own collection.  He selected a plane, a turtle, a heart and an octopus (or maybe I chose that for myself?).

And as I sit here, with Scooby Doo (might I say – I really dislike Scooby Doo) in the background, I’m having a hard time figuring out if today is 2015 and Milky’s childhood or if it’s 1976 and my childhood.  My parents saw nothing wrong with taking me to a gourmet grocery store and feeding me food that grown-ups eat.  They didn’t see anything wrong with allowing an outrageous indulgence now and then.  If there was something random and weird that I wanted and I was well behaved, I could, conceivably, have been rewarded with the random and weird object.  Today, it appears that I gave Milky a little of what was given to me – a little bit of the weird, magical, offbeat childhood that I had that a lot of kids didn’t necessarily experience.  While I may make fun of myself for the excess, I’m also quite proud to pass along the some of the kookiness.  And, maybe there will come a day when Milky is flying solo with a kid of his own, doing the same nonsensical, silly things while thinking about the day that his goofball of a mom did the same with him.  Parenting may feel like a series of really long and really frustrating days but the reality of the situation is that it is a very narrow allocation of time.  The ultimate goal is to raise kids to be self-sufficient and self-actualized adults.  But…who is to say that the process can’t be fun, too?

Fuck me, right?

Look.  At.  The.  Picture.  Assholes.

Look. At. The. Picture. Assholes.

Yup.  I’m sprawled across the bed, perusing Better Homes and Gardens, City of Durham edition.  Oh who the fuck am I kidding?  There is no such thing.  After today, after seeing one too many homes with one damn bathroom for a family of three (and shut your mouth, I don’t care what you think.  Princess Demandy-Pants shares a bathroom with NO ONE.  Not even the cats), one too many homes that need some TLC (eat a bag of dicks, realtors) or one too many homes out of my price range, I’m about to give up on this fleeting fantasy of moving closer to PCSGU.  I will resume the 147 shuffle and I will like it. I will miss the gym and I will embrace the flab.  I’ll get up at 04.00 instead of 04.30/05.00 when Dock is travelling so I can write the pretty stories with the hyperbolic flourish and profanity overkill.  Yup.  Fuck it all! Oh…and I’ll even pay through the nose when the lease on the white VW expires because heaven knows when we’ll repair that lovely dent I put in the front quarter panel of the blue VW (compliments of a garage in Durham – yet another sign I need to stay the fuck put).

Yes.  Sprawled across the bed I am when I hear my son talk about the time that tickle juice (otherwise known as cortisone cream) ended up on his itty-bitty toothbrush instead of actual toothpaste.  I remember this morning well.

In the audio-sound-engineering-bleeping-blooping-noise-making industry that is Dock’s, the work seems to be feast or famine.  Either he’s in town and grating on my last nerve or he’s out of town on a road gig and I’m plotting his death because he left me alone to deal with *everything.*  Let me say this right here, right now:  if anything happens to my husband (heaven forbid), I will marry the first man I can find with a pulse, a non-negative bank account and remotely respectable credit score because I am not built for single motherhood.  The man can have tombstone teeth, Leprosy and Typhoid for all I care.  Just so long as he’s capable of taking out the garbage, running the vacuum and unloading heavy shit from my car – we’re good.  And, it goes without saying, mad props to single moms.  How you do it and not end up in a straight-jacket mystifies me.  Furthermore, if you doubt me – see if I’m walking upright and speaking in full sentences at the end of this month since Dock will be away 10000% of the time.  I won’t be and there’s a really good chance that I will have had to forgo the shower that day, too.

That morning was one of those that started off decently.  I woke up early enough to grab several pots of coffee, read websites bearing no relevance to my job and get cracking on those wild and crazy spreadsheets I whip out at a snail’s pace only to rework and rework again.  I wake up the Milkface, get him dressed, drag his blanket, select fluffies and his limp body down the stairs and force him to feed the dog.  I likely kicked the dog out the door after arguing with him to drop his stupid toy which he always tries to sneak out of the house and then I focus on feeding Milky.  Dishwasher (the glory hole free version) is unloaded, dishes put away, more dishes thrown at the sink, several rounds of “eat your fucking breakfast, I don’t give a single fuck about what so-and-so did at pre-k yesterday” later and it’s time to scrub up. Dollars to donuts, it was one of those mornings I said “fuck it” and threw a bra on beneath the pjs, pulled the hair up in a knot and considered myself appropriately attired for morning drop off.  For some reason, I did have to take off my glasses.  Milky probably spewed syrup, tears or allergy medicine in my face.

Life may begin at forty but your eyesight will fuck off at forty.  Guaranteed.

Life may begin at forty but your eyesight will fuck off at forty. Guaranteed.

Of all the things one comes to value when they turn 40 – it’s the glasses.  I have had the esteemed pleasure of wearing glasses since the summer after freshman year of college. Progressive lenses, at that.  But I could manage to fumble around well enough without them for a few minutes without setting the house on fire or causing bodily harm to myself or anyone else within a five mile radius.  Once you’re in your 40s, things change.  You need your glasses on your face all the time because everything becomes small and blurry.

Milky is at the sink and I hand him his toothbrush.  I’m yelling at the dog (the dog and I, well – it’s complicated.  I love him.  He’s a good dog but…he is a dog and I…I am a cat person) about his stupid toy or something and I hear this retching and gagging noise followed by screaming and wailing.  Milky with teary wide eyes looks up at me and says “Moooooooooooooooooooommy!  This is not toothpaste!”  Fuck me, right? Turns out, what comes out of the Tom’s of Maine kid’s toothpaste tube bears a strong resemblance to “tickle juice” (cortisone cream).  So, on that particular morning, I inadvertently poisoned my kid.

I do not panic.  I’m too cool to panic about these things.  I work in healthcare!  I know people!  I know people who have degrees in sciency things and do the medical stuff like put bandaids on booboos and replace heart valves.  And, because I know these people and I play with this shit all day long, I am :drumroll: a doctor by extension.

No.  Really.  My mail is addressed to Dr. High Priestess Kang.

No. Really. My mail is addressed to Dr. High Priestess Kang.  All the glory and none of the malpractice and student loans.  GO ME!

Not really.

What I did do while I was certainly not panicking about potentially killing my kid was google “cortisone cream instead of toothpaste.”  Turns out, I’m not the only moron on the planet.  I scream “Did you swallow?” (here, have some bleach for that gutter mind of yours) and Milky responds “No but this tastes awful!”  “Spit!  Rinse and spit” I bark back.  I rip the toxic toothbrush out of the kid’s hand and then spend the next 20 minutes trying to convince him that the new toothbrush has actual toothpaste on it and Mommy promises she won’t try to kill him again.  He takes the bait and off to school we go.  I spend the remainder of the day waiting for child protective services to show up and take Milky into foster care.

This evening I hear the words:  tickle juice, toothpaste and Daddy.  I scratch my head and holler from the room “No, Milky.  Mommy tried to poison you; not Daddy.”  Milky walks into the room followed by Dock.  Dock turns and said “Wait…you did that, too?”  Dock is the worst about wearing his glasses.  Bitches and moans like you would not believe.  It’s one of those things about your significant other that invokes images of their heads on pikes. Left eyebrow raised, I look over Better Crack Homes and Whore Houses of Durham Weekly and ask Dock “Did you try to kill our child with tickle juice?”  Milky interjects “YOU BOTH DID!” Uh.  Oh.

Silence washes over the house for the first time since 2004 when the deed was passed to us.  Then, our sweet, loving, freakishly intelligent child says with his finger pointing in the air “I have a suggestion.  JUST LOOK AT THE PICTURE ON THE TUBE.”  And with that, two 40-somethings were given the giant bowl of STFU from a five year old.  Looks like we’re getting our money’s worth from Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.  Either that or he’s morphing into a horrible smartass.

Oh for fuck’s sake…

…do grow up.

Nothing grabs my attention more than the moans and groans of “Mah Christmas was ruuuuuined forevaaaaaah!!!!”and “ZOMG! Scarred for life!”  This is likely due to the fact that I have zero compassion for anyone or anything.  Really.  Years ago, my husband turned to me and said “I have finally figured it out.  You’re basically the real-life version of Frank Pembleton from Homicide.  No emotion or compassion what-so-ever.”  Now, we all know he’s wrong.  I do emote and feel the things.  It’s just that I only feel the things that are important or relevant to my own interests (ok…that’s called sarcasm, kids.  Narcissist, I am not).

Trying to get myself excited about working on bariatric analyses, I needed to surf the old internetz for inspiration (erm…riiiiiight) and I happened upon this bullshit on Gawker.  Apparently, some parents had a very unmerry Christmas because Santa brought their precious snowflakes a Play-Doh kit with a penis.  Working in healthcare for as many years as I have, I immediately assumed it was clinical and thought “Golly jeepers!  Educational play, at last!”  Nope.  The kit in question is Play-Doh’s Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain Playset (so girls can prepare themselves for the workforce, I suppose).  Within this set is an icing extruder that happens to look phallic.  Maybe.  I mean, I’m pretty much the most frigid woman on the planet and I have neither seen nor touched a penis since I did my wifely duty of procreating five years ago (for the record, when I closed my eyes, I did not think of England) but after reading that it could, potentially, resemble a penis – I admit – I can see it.  I can also see that it looks like a really bizarre syringe.  We have tons of play syringes around the house for Milkface because he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up (or maybe he wants to be a smack addict and lacks the temerity to fess up to that).

Christmas day comes ‘round and those blessed with the Make-Your-Own-Dry-Crumbly-Fondant-Nightmare-Cum-Poor-Excuse-For-A-Cake-Kit open their packages.  Much to their parents’ chagrin, the penis comes tumbling out.  Twitter goes bananas, as does every other form of social media.  The verbal spanking of Play-Doh begins.  The screams of “YOU RUINED MY CHRISTMAS!” echo throughout a good, Christian nation.  Appointments will be made with qualified mental health professionals to deal with the impending PTSD.  One family member will inevitably snatch up the icing extruder/penis and spirit it away to the bathroom to perform unspeakable acts which will be featured in DeadSpin’s “What Did We Get Stuck In Our Rectums Last Year” series.  Trauma will be inflicted upon otherwise clueless children who see things for what they are because that is what egocentric children do.  That is how the child brain works.  It is what it fucking is to kids.  You can hold up a pipe cleaner, tell them it’s a mind-reading device that detects fibs and they will believe it.  And, once again, a grown-up who is supposed to be setting the example of appropriate behavior shows the child how to behave like a fuckstick.

Behold the circle of idiocy.  Is it not a thing of beauty?

As Milky grows and his genius brain expands, I try to instigate some profound discussions with him in the hope that some of my wisdom and/or observations make an impact.  One thing I often tell him is that while grown-ups are the voices of authority and are to be the voices of reason, grown-ups are flawed and far from perfect.  Grown-ups make stupid mistakes from time to time.  It’s imperative to not only observe the mistake (and it is exceptionally impolite to point it out) but observe the follow-through; how the grown-up remedies the mistake.  There are times grown-ups won’t because they don’t understand they have done something incorrectly or, to be blunt, wrong.  There are times grown-ups won’t because grown-ups can be prideful which is foolish.  We don’t dance with fools.  Time is precious and precious time is not invested in fools.

The mind I previously considered a curse because it never shuts off, never stops thinking and never stops formulating ideas has become an actual blessing in this regard.  I’m able to quickly examine the situation, Milky’s behavior, my behavior and what the long term implications are going to be from my example.  It’s why I would never scream “Christmas is ruined!” in front of my kid.  If the phallic icing extruder came tumbling out of the box and landed in front of Milkface, I’d likely laugh and just carry on like it was nothing.  But, if I was genuinely offended, I certainly wouldn’t carry on in front of him and potentially ruin his experience (tainting the toy and potentially making Christmas awkward).

These stories pop up in the news and result in two outcomes:  a source for moral outrage for those who feel they are more righteous than others and a source for intellectual validation for those of us who feel we are smarter than others.  And yes, I ate the bait and am giving it play by writing about it and looking down on the ridiculous idiots who let their entire Christmas be ruined by something that really wasn’t worth being upset over.  So, shame on me.  And, shame on me, again, for being higher and mightier for laughing at people for being so thin-skinned and tight-assed.  Triple the shame for my judging their parenting.  Although, in this instance, I really think my brilliant approach is better.  If you don’t make a big deal out of something, your kid won’t either.  If you leave things be, you don’t run the risk of ruining a pleasant experience for others.  If you manage to keep your mouth shut, you may actually be giving the best gift of all:  selflessness.  You may also be teaching your children something, as well:  use of histrionics does not result in a positive outcome.

…where I have been

Ah bless.

Between the stomach virus that will not leave our house, the abortion of a project from hell and usual mental malaise, I have been absent. I am terribly sorry.

Where I have I been, you ask?  Scraping stuff on my body that does not belong there.  Be it bodily fluids of varying types or food, I have been scrubbing myself raw.  Tonight’s joy was applesauce.

In order to maintain a pleasant demeanor and not take my frustrations out on a toddler with zero understanding of the world, I put myself in time out when I’m frustrated.  I have been in time out a lot these days.  I really wish time out was in a bar.

…sick mommy vs sick daddy

Alternatively, sick woman vs sick man.

Yes.  Go ahead and roll your eyes for this is yet another post about the superiority and strength of the weaker sex – the woman. You know, those of us who behave irrationally because our hormones make us act like a rabid dog.  The woman.  The crier.

Here is a picture of my daily existence:

Ouch. That fucking hurts!

For those of you not overly familiar with all things spine related, this is a basic x-ray of my spine.  Or what is left of my spine.  Each day is a joyous exercise in spasms, sciatica and mind-crushing pain.  I’m truly fortunate that I am currently able to postpone the inevitable ALIF surgery.  While I may feel older than dirt, I’m a little too young for such drastic measures.

On a good day, I have back pain.  On a not-so-good day, I have the back pain and whatever ailment is ravaging my body.  Be it a cold, dengue fever, malaria, sinusitis, ears that won’t work or a really angry menstrual cycle, I’m left to manage it.  Sometimes, I get to do all of this while my husband is travelling, leaving me to care for the Milkfaced toddler by my bad self.  Quite the conundrum when your orthopaedic surgeon strongly advises against lifting anything heavier than five pounds.

This is really hard work when you’re suffering from the above *and* you are stuck dragging around that cross and having a crown of thorns poking your scalp.  Alas, I am woman.  I will do.  Then I will spend your money out of spite and frustration.

Men, on the other hand, take an entirely different approach to illness.  THE WORLD GRINDS TO A FUCKING HALT.  A hangnail may require an amputation.  A runny nose and a fever requires hospitalization in a plastic bubble with an IV.  A stomach bug – oh just get the fuck out of the way.  The man is vomiting, for fuck’s sake.  Food is coming out of the wrong orifice!!!  This is a horrible fate and means death must be near (let’s completely overlook the first trimester of pregnancy when all the mommy does is spew).

Dock falls ill two or three times a year.  Most of the time it’s a nasty cold or a headache (hey – I never said I was easy to live with). Unfortunately for all of Raleigh, this time he has the pukes.  Milky and I have both had the pukes this week so it’s a safe assumption that he caught whatever bug we had been hosting and that he hasn’t been poisoned by some decaying morsel that he would sooner eat than throw out.

A sick Dock is a marginally useless Dock.  I have seen this throughout the years but nothing quite like seeing a pancake in the sink. I presume that my husband was far too weak to make the three steps to the garbage bin and press down on the lever that opens the lid. Profuse vomiting can render the strongest man to the feeblest 90 year old woman.

This post isn’t meant as an indictment.  Dock is genuinely ill and I do feel (somewhat) horribly for him.  My intent is to paint a picture of the male patient and how poorly they handle being sick.  The Earth needs to freeze in its orbit until male feels better.  It’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

Back at the ranch, the woman with the deteriorating spine will somehow manage to get the laundry done, shower and unclog the kitchen sink (I don’t believe that is pancake related).  Then she will manage to wrestle herself onto the sofa, cross, crown of thorns and all and ponder the injustices of the world.

The Four Hour Reading Pledge

By Arvind Jain originally posted to Flickr as "Match on TV"

According to a Nielsen study, Americans spend an average of four hours a day watching television.  I first thought that sounded like an awful lot, until I realized how much the television is on in my own household.  I generally watch the news in the morning if my youngest one is not watching The Jungle Book for the millionth time.  During my lunch hour I usually catch the news again, and in the evening my wife likes to watch The Biggest Loser or American Idol, and we both like PBS and some of the crime dramas.  It seems every time we are home, our television is on.  I can imagine it’s the same in every American household.  Pretty soon four hours does not sound like so much.

But it is a lot.  It is a lot of time that is wasted.  Time that could be better utilized.  Time that could be spent with your family.  Time reading perhaps.  I’ve got nothing against television.  Like I said, we do a lot of television watching in our household.  I just think it’s time for me to expand my brain and fill it with something useful.  Reading stimulates the brain, it’s an active thing.  It requires thinking.  Watching television does not really require much thought, and it really does depend upon the program you are watching whether or not it stimulates your brain.

I propose the following, a Four Hour Reading Pledge.  Instead of turning on the box with moving pictures, perhaps we should spend those four hours on reading instead?  Who is with me?  Let’s try this and see.