Don Quixote and Some Links

I am a useless waste this week. The only thing I have accomplished is almost finishing the first part of Don Quixote. But I am beginning to suspect that Tome Club, while a high-minded idea, might not be a thing whose time has come. I think, like maybe me and two other people are reading the book, which is hilarious and full of poop jokes, and I have a lot of important THOUGHTS about the book. I’ve also enjoyed some great Twitter conversations about it. But perhaps, maybe, I’ll just make it a Facebook thread once a week?

I’ll take the sound of crickets chirping as my response.

Okay, here are some links to things I’ve written recently on the internet. I feel like a jerk, always pimping my stuff. How about you all leave links to your things in the comments, so I have something to read tonight while I’m ignoring my family.

YELL. ALWAYS YELL! SCREW PEOPLE WHO SAY NOT TO YELL!

I’ve been ranting a lot about modesty and clothing.

The baby wants things and he will hurt me if I don’t cave to his demands.

Okay, your turn.

I’m Done With “Happy”

Ellis Leaves

Before I became a parent, I was assured I would never know such love as I have for my children. “Holding your baby is the most amazing experience of all!” I was told by parents, relatives, friends and random strangers in the check-out aisle of the grocery store who saw that I was great with child.

Imagine my surprise, when I first held my daughter and felt absolutely nothing but fear. Was I going to drop her? Would I raise her correctly? Had we chosen the right name? What had I done, thinking I could raise a human child?

My fear of course made me feel even more fearful. I was afraid, so did that automatically mean I was a bad mother? Where was that overflow of love I was promised? Was I broken? I was probably broken.

The overflow of love didn’t beat out the fear until two weeks later, when one night, as she screamed at two in the morning and I had exhausted all means of stopping her, I started crying. “Please,” I said, “I’m doing my best, just stop crying.”

And she did. The whole moment was so improbable, so ridiculous, that I laughed. I looked at that mewling little baby who half-resembled her father, and half-resembled Mikhail Gorbachev and I realized, she didn’t have a clue about anything either. The fear abated.

I thought about that moment again, when a well-meaning relative assured me that this time with my baby and three-year-old was a golden stage. “You will miss it when it’s gone,” she said. “It was the happiest time of my life.”

My days are full, meaningful, frustrating and involve a lot of poop, but happiest time of my life? I’m not so sure. But even admitting that makes me feel afraid that I am failing, I must be doing it wrong if I’m not overjoyed to scrub poop out of my 3 year-olds carpet.

A dearth of parenting books, manuals and how-to websites, assure parents that if there is a problem that you can fix it. That if something is wrong or frustrating or if your kid insists on biting your arm flab, that you can overcome this with firmness, patience and a few other products that can readily be purchased online. Bottom line: if you aren’t happy, it’s your fault and you are broken.

I wish the word “happy” would be stricken from parental vocabulary. As if a perfect bliss were the realistic end goal for raising children. It’s not. Life is messy, it is hard, and sometimes things don’t get better. Our self-help culture implies that all problems can be overcome. But when that “problem” doesn’t understand that she’s not supposed to keep peeing on the floor because the potty-training book says she won’t, well, good luck with that.

No parent who has ever lain on the floor crying because everyone else is crying around them, is broken. No mom who has ever looked at her child with eyes of sheer terror needs to be fixed. No mom who’s wished themselves away from the living room floor that’s always sticky and smells of poop, is doing it wrong.  I wish instead of parenting books that showed you how to be better, we had books that just taught you how to accept what is before us, with all the grace, joy, frustration, anxiety and fear that comes with the territory.

Because I’m done with happy.

 

This article originally appeared in my Gazette column, which is not online. LOL. Newspapers.

How To Raise Your Children According to the Rules of Literature

640px-Hansel-and-gretel-rackham

1. If you are a mother, you need to die or contract a disease that leaves you bed-ridden but also lovely.

2.  If you are a father, you need to marry an evil woman as a mother substitute for your children. The occupation of woodcutter is preferable.

3. Chronically neglecting your children means they will have delightful adventures which don’t always end in death.

5.  Abandon them in the woods.

6. Orphan them, but in a shipwreck. Or find an evil practitioner of black magic to off you. Really, you are holding your kids back.

7.  After death, appear to them as a magical creature and give them cryptic advice.

8. Sew them dubious red garments.

9. Send them on errands in the woods.

10. If you aren’t a woodcutter, are not married to a woodcutter, you better know one.

11. Buy an investment property in the woods. Raise your children there.

12.  It is preferable to be very poor. The worse of a provider you are, the better parent. So abject poverty is the goal here.

13. If you are rich, marry your girls off to men who have beards and a lot of missing wives. Your sons are probably screwed. Or swans. I bet they turned into swans.

14. Treat the younger child worst than the oldest.

15.  Forget college, always send them off into the world to seek their fortune.

16. If you find a bear, fish, or other woodland animal in a trap, let it go.

17.  Accept that at some point, one or more of your children will transform into an animal.

18. Teach your children to talk to the bleeding heads of donkeys with respect.

19. The best dowry is an invisible cloak.

20. If your daughters are doing something suspect, have them followed by a poor soldier.

21. Your child’s hand in marriage is a pretty good solution to ending most wars, strife, threats from beasts who speak with a human tongue, or other minor annoyances.

22. Black magic.

23. Do not under any circumstances let your daughter’s sell matches.

24.  Your daughter who only wants a rose is the best one. The others are garbage. Burn them.

25. The youngest is probably the best one. But you have to hate him. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules.

26.  Fear the huntsmen.

27. Wishing your daughter to be beautiful will incur the wrath of witches, queens, and evil fairies.

28. Always vaccinate your child against sleeping illnesses.

29. Should your child fall prey to a sleeping illness, create for them a bower as if they are dead. Solicit men to kiss them.

30. Stop being a jerk, of course you kid will win the golden ticket.

31. Ensure that your child has shitty, rich cousin to make his or her life miserable. If you refuse to die, this is really the next best thing for them.

The Evening Apocalypse

An accurate image of my house around 5pm.
An accurate image of my house around 5pm.

The last hour in the day waiting for my husband to come home makes me feel like an exhausted prophet awaiting the Rapture. All I can do is decry downward fall of my home. Helpless to stop the destruction or the wailing. In this metaphor, my kids are both the antichrist and the godless masses.

Let me explain. Like most women in America, my work and home situation is complicated.  I work and write from home, but I don’t have set hours. Only deadlines. So, I often end up working at night, naptime, when I give up and put on “Horton the Elephant,” and in the two days a week I have childcare. The rest of my time is spent with my children. And I am outnumbered. There are two, mostly mobile, human beings who believe it is their mission in life to destroy my home and sanity and in the process, destroy themselves. I don’t know why I’m using the plural pronoun. It’s just the baby who believes that. My three-year-old just follows him around the house hang-wringing and wailing that “Bubby is making a big mess and ruining fings again!”

I do my best. We plan activities. Go to parks, the library and museums. We glue macaroni to things. But by 4pm, I’ve run out of ideas. I’m scraping the bottom of an empty barrel and I need to start dinner. Because my family somehow believes that it is their god-given right to have dinner right at 5:30 and no later. I tried explaining to the baby that people in Europe eat as late as 7pm, but he just screamed and started chewing on the table leg.

But, I’m loathe to turn on the TV. By which I mean, turn it on “again”, because let’s be honest, TV is my crutch in the morning, there are no TV atheists in foxholes. And I seem to unreasonably expect my kids to play with their manifold toys for an hour, while I thaw the chicken and lie on the floor and weep. I grew up without television and recall spending hours playing in the sticks and mud with my brothers and sisters until my mom rang the giant, Texas shaped, rebar bell, summoning us for dinner.  But my kids, surrounded by a wealth of toys and crafts, can only manage to play a game called, “Scream for the toy that the other one is holding.” The game ends when I come in and take that toy away. There are no winners.

I thought I had more time. The baby is only 15-monhts old, after all, I thought I had a few more years until I began screaming things like, “Stop touching each other!” But the baby loves to tackle his sister, who loves to wail that her “brudder” is touching her again. And I have to emerge from the kitchen, spatula in hand and say, “Then get up and walk away! You can walk! He can’t!”

Last week, as I exited the living room to prepare dinner, I didn’t hear the usual screams and wails that signaled the ritual evening apocalypse. I cooked, untrusting of the happy sounds I heard from the playroom. Finally, convinced they had kidnapped the neighbor’s cat and were enslaving it, I peeked in on them. For two seconds, I saw my daughter rolling a ball to the baby and him laughing and tossing it back. It was magic. Then, they saw me and the baby screamed. The three-year-old cried. I should have known, the end was nigh. Come home quickly, dear husband!

 

 

This article original appeared in my Gazette column, which is not online, because OLD MEDIA. RIGHT?

 

 

Please don’t fire me.

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