Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Mom Tip #176: In the absence of a cure, treat the symptoms

If you have ever read this blog before you are fully aware that I don't deal with politics.  Most of my posts are goofy, self-deprecating reflections on my failures as a mom.  Since last Friday, however, I can't get the families of Sandy Hook Elementary out of my mind.

That first little name is Charlotte, like my oldest.  There's a boy who wanted to be a policeman/fireman/soldier like my second oldest.  There are cowgirl boots that will never be worn and that mom is going to have to decide what to do with a Christmas present that will never be opened.  Like a lot of Americans, my heart hurts and I can't let it go.  I feel guilty when I'm enjoying my day or spending happy moments with my husband and kids.  And I just kept thinking, surely we can do something to protect more Americans from catastrophic violence.

So I did some research and I fought with my thoughts for a while and I finally wrote a letter in support of new gun control legislation that I sent to my congressman, my senators and my governor.  The letter below is addressed to Congressman Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia who chairs the House Republican Policy Committee and sits on the House Committee on Ways and Means as well as the House Budget Committee.  I edited a few pieces to make more sense in the space of this blog while still explaining my position and why I feel we need change now.

Dear Congressman Price,
I am writing to ask you to lead congressional support for new gun control legislation in our country.  I know that this is a controversial topic and that in the past our district was not likely to support changes to current laws.  The mass shootings of this year have changed my mind and I believe that meaningful legislation concerning firearms is now both necessary and possible. 

I am the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of a hunter.  My brother is a police officer and my brother-in-law is a soldier for the U.S. Army Special Forces.  I am also the mother of 4 children aged 8 and under and a former public school teacher.  I have practiced lockdown drills after Columbine and in the wake of September 11.  I have run through scenarios where I planned the best way to defend the lives of other people’s children in my classroom.  Today, like every school day, I will stand at the bus stop waiting for my own baby to get off the school bus.  I represent the evangelical suburban parents who make up a good portion of our district.  I do not believe guns are evil, but rather tools used every day by men and women who are protecting our streets and our nation.  I support our second amendment rights to bear arms and to defend our homes.  As matters currently stand, however, we are failing to protect our children while safeguarding the hobby of a relatively small number of Americans.

No citizen truly needs to own the type of high velocity, high capacity assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting.  The use of such rifles is debatable among hunters and generally thought of as overkill in most cases.  I did read in Field and Stream online that some hunters use them for hunting predators and I can see wanting such a weapon against a bear.  I have no idea how many Americans enjoy hunting predators, but I can guarantee that it is fewer than the number of Americans who send their kids to school, or attend a movie, or go to the mall.  Even home defense with such a weapon is impractical.  If you were to fire 30 rounds from almost any modern weapon in your home you would not have much of a home left to defend.  Furthermore, I believe that access to militaristic looking weapons may add to the fantasy mass shooters create when they decide to strap on military vests and evoke a feeling of power and invincibility for themselves.

There have been laws on the books that address “assault weapons” in the past, but they were too convoluted to be effective.  We need straightforward language to eliminate the possession of high caliber weapons with high capacity magazines.  I understand that Adam Lanza was probably mentally ill and having a ban on weapons that hold more than 15 or 17 rounds wouldn’t necessarily have prevented him from a shooting rampage.  It could, however, have lowered the body count.  If he had to shoot his way into the building with a 9mm limited to 17 bullets it would have taken longer.  If he had to reload his Sig Sauer after 14 or 15 shots instead of pulling the trigger of his rifle 30+ times without pause maybe one more door could have been locked or one more child could have gotten into a closet.  Early reports are that Lanza shot himself upon hearing the approaching first responders.  What if the number of bullets he had been able to fire was cut in half?  Could that be the life of the teacher who was set to become engaged this weekend?  Or the little girl who wanted cowboy boots for Christmas?  I don’t know that we can stop gun violence as a society, but I know that without a .223 Bushmaster in his hands Lanza couldn’t have fired as many rounds as he did before the police arrived. 

I realize that the main arguments against gun control are about constitutional rights and the effectiveness of the laws themselves.  When our constitution was written it took 1 minute to load 1 bullet and mass shootings were not a concern.  There were no police forces and no citizen soldiers of the National Guard so a “well-regulated militia” was a security necessity.  As society has changed so must our interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.  Our right to bear arms does not encompass all arms that are at the disposal of the military.  I cannot plant land mines in my front yard or lob grenades at intruders into my home.  The 2nd Amendment does not state in any way that we have a right to own all guns that are made available to the public.  I believe that we can limit the legal number of rounds in a magazine or limit barrel length in conjunction with number of rounds without harming our constitutional right to protect ourselves.   As far as effectiveness goes, I believe it is time to at least try something.  What we have to lose is the ability of a small portion of the nation to enjoy shooting with military-style assault rifles.  What we have to gain is the life of a movie patron or a first grader. 

Mr. Price, you are needed for any change to happen.  Many of my conservative friends are afraid that their guns will be taken from them and they cannot hear anything after the words “gun control legislation.”  However, if respected GOP leaders like you present a measured and reasonable proposal we have a true chance to lessen the impact of attacks like the one on Sandy Hook.  Speak out, sir.  We cannot prevent evil from rearing its head and attacking our most vulnerable citizens, but we can certainly stop making it so easy for evil to win. 

I have no idea if the leadership of my district and my state will listen to what I have to say or not.  I have no idea what they will do with my letter.  But I had to write if for no other reason than to get these thoughts out of my head.

I had a sick kid this week who gets recurring ear infections.  The cause is something that needs to be addressed by an ENT and possibly surgery.  While holding a crying toddler tugging at his ear at 10pm, however, I was willing to take the prescription and the best efforts of the physician's assistant at the urgent care near my house.  

This is where we are with gun control.  I know the causes of mass shootings are a complex set a variables including lack of mental health care and societal glorification of violence.  Since The Godfather is my favorite movie I'm feeling a sense of responsibility there as well.  In the absence of the ability to cure the problem, it's time to at least address the pain caused by the symptoms.  Let's go, people.  Be reasonable.  Change your mind.  Write your congressman.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Best Mom Tip #175: Keep your eyes on the road

So Georgia, like a lot of states, made texting while driving illegal.  There's also something about phone calls and hands free, I think.  OK, really I'm not sure what the law is but I know that I'm not supposed to be on my phone while operating a vehicle.

Lately, I've really been thinking about being an example to my kids.  What is my behavior and what do they see me do while driving?  I will admit to the following distracted driving infractions:

1.  Talking on the phone--I do this all the time.  I spend a lot of time in my car schlepping people from place to place and calling my mom or my friend Cheryl allows me to not go crazy.  I use the speaker phone option and only dial while stopped if that makes it any better.
2.  Looking for a song on my iTunes so that the children will stop asking me to hear Love Story, Devil Went Down to Georgia, or Highway 20 Ride.  They have odd tastes for children.
3.  Texting at red lights.  I know it's wrong.
4. Once, in college, I changed clothes while driving down the highway on my way to an interview.
5.  Eating.  Like 4 times a week.  Chicken nuggets, complete with dipping sauce, are a favorite.
6.  I also put on makeup at red lights.  OK, that one is embarrassing now that I've written it down.

Here are things I have seen other people do and for which I judge them:
1.  Shaving.  I saw a dude full on using his electric razor while the car was in motion.
2.  Teeth brushing.  What do you do with the toothpaste?  Swallow it?
3.  Smoking. Can you believe that cars actually used to encourage you to smoke with their awesome lighters and hidden ash trays?
4.   Holding pets.  This one makes me both concerned for the driver's ability to watch the road and for Fido's life expectancy in case of an accident.  No one wants to scrape puppy nose off the asphalt.
5.  Pumping breast milk.  Now, I realize you might not believe me on that one, but I'm serious.  I had an entire conversation with a woman at the YMCA the other day about how she saves so much time by pumping breast milk while driving.  She hooks her boobs up to a dual pump with a bra thing that holds the shields on and then pulls down her shirt.  Her stretchy workout shirts work well for this.  I just kept thinking, "what if she gets into an accident?"  Can you imagine the EMTs having to cut off her clothing on the side of the road and saying, "what is that noise?  Is her chest motorized?"  Anyway, that one really horrifies me. But somehow makes me feel better about myself at the same time.

I'm trying to really think about what my kids are watching me do and I have definitely limited my distractions to moments when I'm not moving.  Well, except for the speaker phone.  And eating.  Dang it.

What is your worst violation?  And how would you react if you saw your 16-year-old do it while driving?  Scary, huh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Best Mom Tip #174: Ask for help

I am not good at asking for help.  I don't like to admit I can't do anything, I don't generally like the way other people do things I want them to do, and I don't want to have to help other people do anything in response to their helping me.  I am obviously kind of a jackass.

Right now, I am a jackass drowning in laundry, sticky floors/door handles, and diapers.  I change a lot of diapers.  In fact, I have spent about 7 years regularly changing diapers with a solid 2 more years to go.  I hate diapers.  But I digress.

Since Jack, my sweet 4-month-old, was born I have been very overwhelmed.  I can't seem to get any tasks accomplished in the amount of time I think it should take.  I am late everywhere.  And the real kicker is that I can never really pinpoint what went wrong or why I am signing my kid into school while hoping that the school resource officer doesn't notice the other 3 kids unattended in my car.  You know, in theory.  I'm not saying I did that, DFCS.  Even right now I can't seem to remember what I was going to say next.

I guess it was about asking for help and why I don't want to do it.  I feel like since I quit my job, surely I should be able to accomplish the menial tasks I have to do every day.  Any idiot with a driver's license and enough literacy to read Go, Dog, Go should be able to do my day.  I suppose I am embarrassed that I'm really bad at being a stay-at-home mom.  I don't understand Pinterest. I have no interest in home schooling.  I don't make creative dinners or clean the toilets all that often.

Shouldn't I be able to both clean the house and get places on time?  And why do I care?  At no point in my life did I hope to be a really great housekeeper.  The fact that I am disappointed in my housekeeping skills angers me.  Gone from my life is the chance to win at something, the sense of intellectual challenge, and the encouragement of colleagues.  It all makes me want to hit something (which is why I take classes called Boot Camp and Kickboxing, but that's a different topic.)

So, help.  It admits failure in areas I didn't really want to succeed in anyway.  It makes my fears and worries vulnerable to others and open to their judgment. I don't like sharing emotion.  I don't usually like sharing my real self.  If it weren't for my burning need to have an audience on a regular basis, I would be a pretty good hermit.

I am good at hugging little people.  I am good at fixing boo-boos and teaching them to read.  They feel loved and valued and are becoming good human beings.  I get that that's the most important part of what I do right now.  But they also have to have on clothes and eat every day and clean up spilled food and I just don't have any idea how to get better at organizing all of it.  Mommyhood is surprisingly difficult when it turns out that your primary gift is snuggling. Snuggling and sarcasm.  I'm also good at sarcasm.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Best Mom Tip #173: Count to four

Hey, I just found this blog I used to post on! Cool, huh?

Honestly, I've been a bit off of social media over the last several months.  I've been pregnant, had my fourth baby, and been really hot throughout the oppressive summer months here in Atlanta.  Those three items led up to my really not having anything to say that wasn't whiny.  I certainly could have made fun of myself and the annoying aspects of pregnancy and heat (stuck to the car seats on several occasions, belly button sweat marks) but my life is pretty good and it seemed really ungrateful to complain.  Even if it makes other people laugh.

Our family has enough money to live on, my husband has a pretty flexible work schedule, and my kids are healthy.  Detailing how difficult it is to take three kids to the pool while wearing a whale costume/maternity bathing suit seemed petty.  So I just didn't say anything at all.  I learned that I don't really need to read facebook every day.  I learned that my life is not greatly enhanced by WonderWall photos.  I learned that if you ignore twitter for long enough, it will start sending you sad emails like a guy you're trying to get rid of by not answering the phone.  It says it misses you, it tries to tell you what's going on with all of it's other friends while you're out of touch.  I'm still not responding because the Please Come Back messages make me feel far more wanted than my 14 followers do.

So, what have I been doing for 5+ months?  Well, I had a baby.  Sweet Baby Jack is now about 6 weeks old and he is warm and precious.  I had painful contractions that went nowhere for weeks.  Eventually, I had another natural childbirth experience, but this one was a lot more difficult.  I walked for hours, I knelt by the bed, I had to change positions to get him to finally come out.  I don't know if you realize how hard it is to change positions while laboring, but it is not pretty.  I helped pull my last baby out because the midwife said I had done all the work and that I deserved to deliver him.  When it was all over, the nurses brought me cake.  Real, painful, beautiful.  I did post that on facebook.

I have been barfed on and pooped on.  I've had nipple shields, a bout of thrush, and a scary test to make sure that Jack does not have Cystic Fibrosis.  He doesn't.  And I am still amazed at my blessings.

When I bathed the baby for the first time he pooped on me.  I looked down and thought, "oh, good.  At least my stomach caught all the poop so I don't have to clean the floor."  Then I thought, "that's the most depressing positive thought I've ever had."

We went to a Braves game with Jay's work and while trying to nurse in a stadium full of people I lost a nursing pad.  I decided to leave it on the ground with the peanuts, spilled beer, and frozen lemonade cups.  It seemed less obvious than searching the floor for it while Jay's coworkers offered to help.

One day this week I woke up sitting up in my bed with a baby on my lap and I wasn't sure how long I'd been there or if I'd nursed him yet or not.  In my most exhausted state I am really bummed by my pudgy belly and inability to get ahead of the housework and bill paying.

One morning I woke up silently cursing and chiding myself with "yeah, well, this is what you picked." This loud, career-less, messy, painful, schlumpy world of nursing and diapering and washing sheets.  Then I leaned over to pick up the wiggly little baby with eyes like mine and thought, "oh, no.  This is what I picked." This loud, messy, cuddly, warm world of love.  And also diapers.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Best Mom Tip #172: CYA. Literally.

Today I got stung in the ass by a wasp at a two-year-old birthday party.

I tried to think of a clever intro to work my way up to that statement, but sometimes, you just gotta start with the punchline.

The day started out pretty well-I woke up and read to the kids, we went to church, had lunch with friends.  I wore what I thought was a pretty romantic maxi-skirt I bought yesterday at Old Navy and a maternity tank top and thought that I was hitting just the right note of boho-70s-earth mama.  I'm in the mostly fun phase of dressing while pregnant when you're obviously showing, but nothing has started spreading out the sides yet as though your frame couldn't possibly hold all the baby plus ice cream you have going on in there.

Turns out that my white tank top really highlighted the hollow of my belly button in the sunlight and that the skirt just made a great trap for a really pissed off stinging insect.

The moment I got stung I was with Jay watching our three kids and my sweet niece (the birthday girl) play on the playground at the park where the party was held.  They were all cute and laughing and playing so happily, but this random kid I've never met before and who wasn't at our party kept telling me I needed to watch what he was doing.  He was yelling, "hey! watch me jump off of this" and I was explaining that I was watching three other kids right that moment when I felt this really awful pain in my left cheek.

I tried to just let it go and keep watching the kids, but the pain kept coming in waves and I started to get the chills and I thought, "I've never had an allergic reaction to a bee sting before, but it has been 30 years or so since the last one."  I told Jay I needed a minute and I went and got my mom to come help him watch the kids on the playground.

I tried to go into the bathroom, but it was locked, and this is why I wound up bottomless in my minivan trying to get a good look at my butt in the review mirror.  I didn't realize that I could feel worse about my behind than I usually do, but inspecting a swelling bull's-eye in a mirror made to give you the best possible view of traffic 30 yards behind you accomplished that goal quite nicely.

I returned to the playground and Mom asked if I was o.k.  I told her I got stung in the butt and she suggested (while laughing) that I ice it.  Jay made the same suggestion, but I pointed out that it might really change the mood of the party were I to go sit down in the cooler full of drinks--although I bet I could've laid claim to all the diet cokes I wanted to at that point.

My smart-ass mom and my smart-ass husband then made helpful comments like "doesn't matter where we are, it all comes back to her in the end" and "yep, she really has to be at the bottom of things."  On the way home, I had to sit awkwardly on my right side and I got "you're going to talk about this all night, aren't you?" and "you're really running out of ways to sleep, huh?" from my loving husband.

So now I'm blogging my pain with a baggy of ice on my rear end wondering why in the world I'm the funny sidekick in my own life story.  Shouldn't I at least get to be the beautiful and graceful lead from my own point of view? But even I recognize that bee sting to the butt at a birthday party is pretty darn funny.

I have to go now--my ass is getting numb.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Best Mom Tip #171: Ask a kid what they want to be

I saw a comedian one time say that the reason grown-ups are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up is because they're looking for ideas.  I thought it was funny then.  I think it is profound now.

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.  I was a teacher for 10 years or so.  That was fun, but didn't make enough money to warrant my soon-to-be three full-time day care and one after-school care bills.  So I stay home and wonder what I want to be when I'm done changing diapers and generally performing the duties of a domestic drudge.

I can't really think of anything and that is perhaps the saddest thing I've thought in a long while.  I wonder if I could ever make any money off of writing something.  But then I realize you have to have people willing to pay for the privilege of reading your work for that to be a job.  Or by teaching again.  Or by finally learning how to be a contortionist and joining the circus.  I've been trying to grow a beard for years, but that has been unsuccessful so Bearded Lady is out.

My 3-year-old son is quite insistent that he is a police officer and continues to "handcup" friends and relatives against their will.  My daughter says she would like to be a doctor or a Mommy or a teacher or make cupcakes.  But that really just covers the jobs she knows about through life and TLC shows.

Harry, my youngest at the moment, mostly seems to want to run away to the nether parts of the neighborhood where he can explore at will and play with his ball without interference from his siblings.  I don't think that pays very well and I cannot think of an adult equivalent.

I'm too old to join the army.  I'm too young to become a Wal-Mart greeter.  I am too uncoordinated/chubby to work on pole dancing skills.

I'm not sure what is left.  Even astronaut is apparently no longer a fall-back option.  Which is disappointing, because I really wanted to ride the space shuttle.  So please ask around.  Maybe your kids have a good idea I could use.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Best Mom Tip #170: Watch all of the credits

I have mentioned before that Jay and I like movies.  We REALLY like movies and usually average about 2 a month in the theater over the course of a year.  This is made possible by our proximity to our parents and the fact that we ask for movie money for every birthday and Christmas.

Last night we saw The Grey starring Liam Neeson.  It was rather more emotionally intense than I was expecting (it's about a plane crash in Alaska and these guys trying to survive it while being tracked by angry wolves) and there was a scene where Liam Neeson recovers his rifle and some shotgun shells from the plane wreckage.  The rifle is broken and useless, but where was the shotgun?  Or the rifle bullets?  Anyway, unless the movie makers wanted us to believe he had a scope on a shotgun, his bag was short either some ammo or a weapon.  But other than that I was involved and interested in the story.  And we stayed until the very end of the credits.

Jay and I always stay until the end of the credits.  I like to see who they thank and where it was filmed and what versions of the songs they used and who the gaffer was.  I like knowing that the movie last night needed both "wolf wranglers" and "snow mobile operators."  I like letting the emotion of the movie, good bad or ugly, work it's way out of me while I listen to the carefully chosen soundtrack of the credits.  I like being able to give validation to the craft services personnel and every other little name that warranted a mention on the giant list.  You had better believe that if my name ever made the credits of anything, I would want everyone I ever knew to watch it scroll by.

There are a lot of reasons I enjoy being wrapped up in someone else's story for two hours.  I like to imagine and pretend and I do so in my head quite a lot.  I love to read and get lost in great (and not-so-great) books, but I tend to be obsessive and sacrifice sleep to finish books so movies are a shorter time commitment for me.  I have a wonderful and full life, but it is also one where I wonder about things like why people keep posting song lyrics on Facebook or why decorating magazines recommend "bringing the outside in" when most of my day is spent trying to keep the outside out and off of the floors.  Guys in mortal combat with wolves is somehow more exhilarating.

Sometimes, I'm even rewarded for my credit-watching patience.  Finding Nemo's credits have the animals interacting with the words as they scroll by. The Hangover reveals the pictures of what you didn't see happen in Vegas.  Last night there was a split second at the very end of the credits that helped to tie up a slightly loose end from the movie itself.

Mostly, though, I just like to linger over the feel and flavor of the moment.  To bring my heart back out of the woods, or off the sinking ship, or home from the war.  Before I get back in my minivan and ride off into the sunset.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Best Mom Tip #169: Major in something useful

This tip is about 15 years too late for me.  I have a Bachelor's of Business Administration in Economics and a Master's of Education in Social Studies.  It seemed at the time as though these degrees would provide me with a stable income as a teacher and the ability to manage what money I actually earned.  And although those things were true at one point, they aren't worth jack at this moment in my life.

What should I have studied, you ask?  Any of the following fields would have been a better choice:

1. Any thing in the medical field.  I spend $20 every time I can't figure out if a kid has a cold or if death is imminent.  I spent $150 at the ER last Friday because I made the wrong call about Harry's breathing and the pediatrician sent me to the hospital.  A nursing degree may have helped me out there.  Even studying to be a witch doctor would give me some sort of confidence when I'm faced with decisions about what to feed a kid who's been projectile vomiting all over my robe for the last three hours.

2. Building contractor.  One of the things I really didn't consider about stay-at-home motherhood is the fact that I have to make decisions about the never-ending home improvement projects around our money pit of a house.  Our garage doors are bent?  The painters discovered that the chimney is 90% rotten and needs to be replaced?  Our water meter has stopped and we need to pay the difference for the last three months while we didn't notice?  Anyway, if I could use a circular saw with authority and assess water damages accurately, it would make my life a lot easier.

3.  Dietitian/exercise scientist.  I wouldn't make any money at these while staying at home, but I could at least be aware of how many calories are in prepackaged cookie dough rounds BEFORE I eat 12 of them.  And maybe I would have had some sort of defined muscles on the lower half of my body before I had kids.

I suppose that sometime in the future it may again matter that I can name all of the dynasties of China in chronological order.  Or that I can explain the positive and negative qualities of the Julio-Claudian rulers of Rome.  My knowledge of World War One has recently enabled me to predict events on Downton Abbey before they occur, but that's about as useful as it's gotten lately.

Charlotte did ask me if I knew who Harriet Tubman was this week and seemed awfully disappointed when I said yes, so I suppose that annoying my children will have to be my major benefit until I return to work.  Or until I just become a street lecturer sharing my knowledge on downtown corners in the hopes of making a buck.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Mom Tip #168: Be intentional about how you raise kids

Although I don't really know if this is true, you are probably doing a fine job of parenting.  Unless, of course, you're not a parent and you're just reading this because you know me.  But otherwise, you're probably doing fine.  The thing is, there's no real way to tell if we're doing alright.  And there's certainly no way for those outside of your family to be absolutely sure that you're not wacko.  We probably won't know if we've succeeded until our kids are 40 and we're watching them parent their own kids and we think, wow I'm not not sure I would have bought little Jenny that stripper pole for "exercise".

Our culture tends to over-encourage parents by pretending that we're all o.k. and whatever you decide/believe/do is right for you.  As though there are no absolutes or best practices when it comes to relationships.  There may be a wide spectrum of ideas, but there are some absolutes.  Trust, for instance, is a pretty key component of any relationship worth having no matter who is involved.

My best example of the "love is all you need" mentality from today is this article about Beyonce and Jay-Z's new baby.  In it, one of the other children of destiny calls Beyonce a "wonderful mom."  Now, I'm sure she's a lovely person and all, but isn't that kid like a week old?  How could she be a wonderful mom already?  As long as the baby is fed and cleaned, you've reached motherhood perfection with a week-old baby.  Which puts you right on par with cats.  When your child is a newborn, as long as you haven't abandoned your family or resorted to abuse you've pretty much got it nailed.  Why comment on her ability as a mom?  Just say the baby is precious and let's move on.

This whole I'm-okay-you're-okay crap in our culture is why it is also a news story that Paula Deen has type 2 diabetes.  Of COURSE she has diabetes.  Have you seen what that woman has been eating/cooking for the last decade?  And that's just what was on television.  There are obviously consequences for putting two sticks of butter and 4 cups of sugar in every dish you make even if they're vegetables.  Likewise, there are consequences for allowing your child to have a cell phone at 8, a Facebook page at 12, and a brand new car at 16.  These consequences aren't necessarily all bad.  Paula, I'm sure, is quite happy that her fat-based cooking has made church pot-lucks everywhere tastier while also making her lots of money.  And while your kid can call you from elementary school if she needs to be picked up late, she will also have opinions on the best apps for tweens and stunted spelling due to text-speak.

I realize that most of us want to be told we're doing a good job because our culture also offers unrealistic expectations of motherhood. We are taught that we should be Martha Stewart at home (without the jail time), Hillary Clinton at work (without the philandering husband), and some combination of the "Sex and the City" girls with our spouses (without the angst and sexual over-sharing).  But who cares what everyone else is doing?  You will raise the best kids possible with the following three steps:

1. Love them enough to be willing for them to be mad at you
2. Respect them enough to see the moment from their point of view, and
3. Teach them some actual morals and values.  In our household we've focused on integrity, faithfulness, generosity, independence, and a sense of adventure.

People with those qualities are people I want to know.  They are people I want in charge of my community. They are people with whom I want to go on vacation.  Which is good, because I have to take my children on vacation with me.
The details will work themselves out. Or not.  Despite my best efforts I could wind up pulling a granddaughter off the stripper pole anyway.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Best Mom Tip #167: Stop using the couple WE

European kings used to refer to themselves in the third person and as though they were, in fact, more than one person.  They called this quirk the "royal we."  For instance, "WE are not pleased that you looked at our wife the wrong way and now you will be beheaded.  WE are going to lunch."

The idea was that they were the embodiment of the state and, as such, represented the entirety of the nation they ruled.  That divine right of kings concept must have been pretty heady stuff if you happened to be born into the right family.  Louis XIV of France went so far as to have the courtiers at Versailles face him in the chapel while he faced the altar.  They worshiped the self-titled Sun King while he worshiped God on their behalf.

But you (and I) are not royal.  WE are parents and partners and owners of minivans.  WE are also guilty of poor speech patterns.  You probably began using what I like to call the couple WE sometime after your marriage if not before.  WE had such a great time in Barbados-WE hardly even noticed the jelly fish stings!  Or WE just love the new Biggest Loser-WE think the ex-football player will win.

This kind of WE is totally appropriate if your spouse is standing next to you and is mute.  Otherwise, it is just annoying to the people around you.  I first became aware of my use of the couple WE while talking to single friends at work.  Did I really need to say WE started a new diet and WE are having a hard time with it?  Why couldn't I just start talking about my own point of view and leave my interpretations of Jay's thoughts in my head?

Unfortunately, it gets worse when you add parenthood.  WE are working on the letter C this week.  WE are potty training at our house.  WE are a little overtired.  Really? Because you are 35 years old and if you are uncertain about the sounds the letter C makes or where to correctly place your bowel movements I think our association is just about over.

I know I'm guilty of too many WEs, but I'm drawing the line at this one: WE are not pregnant.  I am pregnant.  Really. I am pregnant. With our fourth kid.  I'm sure there will be more about that later.  Until then, WE are not barfing up our really yummy looking smoothie.  WE are not feeling the waistband of our jeans dig into our belly ALREADY because, honestly, how loose must those stomach ligaments be now on this fourth go-round?  WE are not dreading being enormously pregnant in July in Atlanta.  Again.

I will grant that WE are probably both terrified at being outnumbered two to one.  But I don't know for sure because Jay doesn't usually have any visible emotions.  Which I like, by the way.  It allows me to be the whiny/crazy one without interruption.

WE are having a baby.  WE will never sleep again.  WE will spend more time at the doctor/dentist/soccer field than WE ever will in Paris.  But WE are not bloated and grumpy.  Or if WE are, I don't want to know about it.