Awkward Social Situations And Chinoiserie

This year I talked my daughter, Riley, into having a birthday party in an effort to help her manage her social anxiety. I wanted to show her that being the center of attention doesn’t have to be traumatic in a safe, low pressure environment…and also to make up for the fact that the only other party I threw for her sucked.

Okay, I need you all to look past my fragile ego and narcissism and focus on my desire to be a good mother here. Thank you.

Anyway, this party was much better than the last one. Our theme was Awkward Social Situations in a Chinese Setting, and I think we pulled it off. I’ll admit that the whole theme didn’t fully gel until the middle of the party when one of my daughter’s eight year old friends asked me for my full name and if I had a Facebook account. But then it all fell into place.

Awkward social situations are much more pleasant under paper lanterns and balls of tissue.

Awkward social situations go well with paper lanterns and balls of tissue.

This particular friend is a sweet girl, petite like my daughter with an innocent face…exactly the kind of person who turns out to be a sociopathic stalker in a Lifetime movie. And because that’s the way my brain works, an image of this girl boiling our rabbit on the stove a la Fatal Attraction immediately popped into my head, even though we don’t have a rabbit and the girl is really too young to be cooking without an adult’s supervision.

"I won't be ignored, Mrs. Redican."

“I won’t be ignored, Mrs. Redican.”

Since it would be inhospitable to answer “None of your damn business!” to a guest in my home and also highly unlikely that I would be granted a restraining order against a third grader with dimples, I opted for the only reasonable alternative, feigning hearing loss, a language barrier and incontinence.

At that point the other girls were trying to draw and quarter each other in the living room so I figured that she would forget her need for my personal information. Eight year old stalkers have notoriously short attention spans as they are easily distracted by Littlest Pet Shop toys and Justin Bieber. As soon as she was safely in her parent’s car I put it out of my mind.

However, four days later at a school function the same girl approached me and complained that I hadn’t answered her friend request. Having not checked my Facebook page in a couple of days, the complaint caught me off guard. I hadn’t had a chance to carefully craft a casual but responsible response to such a request using my best understanding parent voice.

"Stop stalking me!"

“Get away from me, evil child!”

Instead I said, “You sent me a Facebook request? I haven’t gotten it,” as if I had a friends list full of minors. Then I ran home and checked my account.

Sure enough, there was a friend request from an eight year old waiting for me which triggered a horrifying string of imagined situations: me hosting keg parties for grade schoolers, getting a stripper for my son’s sixth birthday party, taking prepubescent girls on secret runs for birth control. It’s a slippery slope. One day you accept a friend request from an eight year old and the next day you’re on trial for having inappropriate relations with your Middle School student.

I told myself that I was overreacting. I don’t even have a teaching credential.

To which I responded: Of course I’m overreacting. THAT’S WHAT I DO! You cannot expect me to receive a friend request like this and not descend into a downward spiral of parental panic anymore than you can expect me to sprout wings and fly. It’s in my nature.

Point taken.

But to be fair to my psyche, because it’s the only one I’ve got, an eight year old girl friending adults on social media who her parents don’t really know is dangerous. It might be antiquated thinking but I’m not a big fan of kids this age on social media to begin with. I’d like to go back to the days when kids played on the street without having to worry that some pedophile they met in a chat room was going to abduct them or that the suggestive pictures they took on their smart phone and then forwarded to the boy they had a crush on were being circulated across the internet. Thank God there were no smart phones in the 80s or there would be suggestive pictures of me all over cyber space.

lisahartman

Am I right, Lisa?

And even more importantly, where would I spill intimate details about my children and their tiny stalker-like friends or look at inappropriate memes and risqué comments if my Facebook news feed was invaded by young impressionable eyes? Seriously, you can’t expect me to be responsible all of the time and you really can’t expect that of my friends, some of whom are at least as crazy as I am.

So it looks like I’m going to have to have an awkward conversation with somebody’s mother while trying to avoid suggesting that their child is a stalker and/or that they are a bad parent. Am I the only one that doesn’t see this going well?

*********

Photo Credits:

ecuflicktalk.blogspot.com

freeinfosociety.com

guyism.com

 

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Five Reasons To Have Children When You’re Young And Stupid

I was the accidental product of older parents. A bonus child, as it were. By the time I came a long Mom and Dad were as laid back about parenting as they apparently were about birth control.

It's called a condom, you silly beatniks.

It’s called a condom, you silly beatniks.

I probably would’ve taken this fact for granted but my sister, Lori (the closest in age to me with a nine year difference) told me often while making me touch the electric fence as penance.

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence!

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence.

This generously imparted knowledge left me with a Rainman-like reaction to electrical shock of any kind and the desire to wait until my thirties to have a child. I reasoned that as an older parent I would be able to avoid giving birth to a sociopathic child who enjoyed torturing younger kids and avoid stretch marks in my twenties.

Look, my Mom’s stomach was a road map of maternity and I wanted to spend my twenties in a bikini. Yes, I was shallow. Let’s not judge.

There I am living the dream--the extremely shallow dream.

There I am achieving my goal.

Well as luck would have it (and by “luck” I mean a rampant fear of commitment) I did wait until I was older to have children. Even older than my mom. I had to have special tests for elderly pregnant ladies and everything. Who says I can’t stick to a plan?

No seriously, who says that? It’s not nice to talk about other people behind their backs. I have feelings, you know.

Anyway, I’ve been very happy with my decision for the most part, but last night I was lying in bed after a particularly taxing bout of ineffective parenting and I started thinking about the down sides of my plan. Nothing is perfect. Not even Meryl Streep (but don’t say that out loud in Hollywood).

I'm an acting tour de force and a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence toucher."

“I’m a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence-toucher!”

  1. First of all, let’s address the stretch marks issue since it had such an impact on my decision. If you’re going to ask your skin to perform the greatest of all hat tricks and stretch over an additional human, you want to do it while you’re still producing some collagen and your skin has all of its elasticity.  Later on your skin is going to stretch out and then give up, much like my father in front of prime time television. And despite what I thought in my teens, you don’t stop caring about your looks and life in general when you hit 40.
  2. Also, grandparents are more valuable than gold. Aside from being the only people in the world who want to watch your kids without a salary attached, they will also keep your kids supplied in quality socks, underwear and the type of frilly dresses that you would never buy but little girls go ape-sh!t over. You want to get grandparents while they are still alive and young enough to care. Let’s face it, when you’ve gotten to the age where you’re deaf and in a diaper, you don’t get as excited about tiny sticky humans. My kids only have one set of grandparents left and we have a team of doctors forcing them to stay alive. It’s a lot of pressure.
  3. When you’re young you think you know everything. There’s a certain freedom in that. You don’t have to constantly second guess yourself. You are free to blissfully screw up your children with complete confidence. I agonize over screwing up every day, which ironically doesn’t make me screw up any less. It just takes the fun out of it and screwing up should be fun. Like a Van Wilder movie.
  4. Parenting is stressful and it’s hard on a marriage. If you get married and have children young you have the chance of getting through the challenging years and then rekindling your marriage while you and your spouse are still young enough to travel without breaking a hip. Or you can cash it in while you’re still young enough to take an attractive picture for a dating website.
  5. One word: resilience. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m more fragile than I was at 25 when I thought that knees magically went on working forever and at 2:00 a.m. I have a hard time caring about anything other than another four hours of uninterrupted rest. You have to have a fever, the likes of which could start a house fire and make you speak in tongues to rouse my empathy at that hour and even then you’re guaranteed terrible parenting the following day.

So there you have it. Now you can make an informed decision, justify/regret the decision you already made or just pour yourself a cocktail and ignore this post all together. Personally, I recommend the latter. I also recommend Tylenol PM, so that you don’t lie in bed crafting lists like this until all hours of the night. Trust me on this.

******

Photo Credits:

Midnightdirectives.wordpress

Safe Travels

I woke up at 3:00am yesterday filled with anxiety. A friend’s father has been struggling with a long-term health issue and at 3:00am my mind decided that the issue required my immediate attention, so there I lie at that ungodly hour, fraught with foreboding and a full bladder.

At 6:00am I found my daughter sitting in the hall, mortified that she had uncharacteristically wet the bed with her best friend sleeping next to her. She was so exhausted that she just didn’t wake up. That happens when you party like a rock star at a gazillion back to back sleepovers. Then my son woke up and realized that he’d done the same thing. Everyone passed out and just peed where they lie. It smelled like the Rolling Stones tour bus.

“Our tour bus smells much better now that we all wear diapers.”

When I looked in the bathroom mirror I discovered the ice cream that I had used to comfort myself the day before made me break out, which was cool, since I’d been planning to take the promo picture needed for an upcoming show. I was going for a hip and semi-youthful vibe and nothing says “youthful” more effectively than pimples. Even Loreal Excellence Creme in light auburn can’t compete with that.

I thought to myself, Aha! Those feelings of anxiety were about giant chin pimples and loads of laundry, and breathed a sigh of relief, which wasn’t easy because the pimple on my chin was blocking my oxygen supply.

An aerial view of my chin. (image via wikipedia)

And then I got a call about my friend’s father, who had a health crisis from which he wasn’t expected to recover and I realized that laundry and epic breakouts were the least of my worries. Periodic weeping commenced and continued all day. If you’ve ever seen a red-chinned woman sob while folding piles of laundry you know it wasn’t pretty. Definitely not the day to take a promo picture.

Ever met someone’s family and liked them immediately–even wished fervently in an obsessive but completely uncreepy way that they were your family? My friend Sabra’s family is like that. Everyone loves them. They remind me of my own family minus the baggage–the family of my imagination, with all of the love and humor and none of the addiction.  Her mom, Lynn works in hospice care and health research. Her dad, Al was a professor and researcher at a University. They were in the Peace Corps in Africa when my friend was born and then they trekked across the continent with their newborn. One of their Peace Corps friends read an African prayer at my friend’s wedding. How cool is that?

My dad stepped on my dress repeatedly as he walked me to the altar and then turned me down for the father/daughter dance, which is awesome in its own way (because it makes for a good story), but it’s no African prayer.

I look maniacal and Dad looks confused. That’s about right.

When I was pregnant with my daughter I sat next to Al at a dinner party to celebrate his and Lynn’s visit. Across from us sat a woman who had some extremely negative views on prenatal medicine. She had never been pregnant but she had a friend who was and had accompanied that friend on a doctor’s visit, which clearly made her an expert.

I wish I didn’t have to work so hard for my expertise. Shoot, I wish I had some expertise.

Anyway, she took the opportunity to demonize, at length, the medical and scientific community to which Al had dedicated his working life in the most arrogant of ways, while instructing me on how I should proceed with my pregnancy. Al smiled and was good-natured about the whole exchange, though his medical knowledge dwarfed hers and she was being rude. I mostly kept my mouth shut because I was busy imagining my water glass hurtling toward her head. Sabra told me later that Al had remarked that I’d handled the exchange very well.

In actuality he was the one who handled the exchange, but he gave me the credit. That epitomizes the kind of man he was: kind and engaging, intellectual without being arrogant, unassuming and generous. And when someone of that caliber likes you in return, you feel validated. Or at least I do, because sometimes I see myself in the reflection of the eyes of those I really respect. If those eyes are myopic and mistake me for being more bitchin’ than I actually am, it’s Christmas for my self-esteem.

Now this incredible person has come to the end of this leg of his adventure, his family is suffering and all I can do is tearfully write a blog post, awkwardly extolling his virtues. Well I never said our association was mutually rewarding.

Thank you, Al, for the privilege of your acquaintance. My life is richer having known you. Safe travels. Wherever you go, they will be lucky to have you.

 

The Gigli Of Mothers

I received my second negative parental review from one of my daughter’s friends. This one was delivered indirectly, second-hand from my daughter.  Apparently one of her friends, who we’ll call Spazmonkey here in order to protect her identity, thinks that I “could be better”. Interesting. Riley followed up her report by adding, “But I think you already are better,” which, though meant to soften the blow, was less than effective.

Could be better. Already is better. Better than what? A crack ‘ho? Or mother of the year? Because it does make a difference.

Better than Britney driving with a baby in her lap? (image via BBC News)

Or better than Angelina and her multi-ethnic child convoy? (image via celebritydiagnosis)

But the good news is that Riley thinks I am better, which suggests that I’m getting over my parental faults like a cold. I might still have a little post nasal drip but all in all I’m a better parent already.

I told Riley that we shouldn’t speak ill of other people’s parents, that nobody is perfect because we’re all human and trying to be better people, etc. At no point did I refer to Spazmonkey as a poo poo head or question her intelligence. I felt I was very adult about the whole thing. But as soon as Riley left the room I had to admit to myself that I was secretly crushed.

Eight year old girls are diabolical. Sure they look all cute in their Target outfits and speak politely to your face, but then they cut you down behind your back like little Pokemon-loving Judases. I’m going to have to start emotionally frisking these girls before they enter my home. They’re dangerous.

Granted, I shouldn’t give this too much stock. The source is a girl with whom Riley has already been having issues. However this puts me in an awkward position, because I see this girl regularly at Riley’s school and it’s going to look bad when I throw her into a headlock and give her a noogie, yelling “Who could be better? You could be better!”

I’m going to end up looking like the bad guy when in actuality I’m totally justified.

Can’t a woman give a child a noogie anymore without being castigated?

So why am I crushed over this mild insult from an eight year old girl with a questionable nickname? Well I suppose part of it is because it’s totally unexpected. I think in my heart of hearts I always expected my kids’ friends to love me. I’m the cool mom. I’m funny. I have many faults but kids aren’t supposed to notice them, because…I’m cool and funny.

Did I mention that I’m cool and funny?

Yeah well, cool and funny go a long way.  They make up for a lot of other deficiencies.

My main concern however is not my own feelings, but those of my daughter. Do you remember the first time someone said something less than flattering about your mom or dad? I do. I was in middle school and it was not the best day ever. How devastating is it to learn that your parent’s are not perfect in the world’s view? Riley shouldn’t have to face that yet. She should come to that conclusion on her own in a puberty-spurred epiphany, the way God intended.

I didn’t expect the few years I have left of unconditional love from my children to be undermined by my daughter’s peers. Nor did I expect to have to use a high-powered pellet gun on eight year old girls.

I’m just kidding about that last part. I would not use a high-powered pellet gun to shoot young girls in the butt no matter how much they subconsciously begged me. Because it is wrong! And if you hear any stories about that sort of thing happening to an eight year old girl, it wasn’t me, I have an air tight alibi and we never talked about this.

Liar, Liar Easter Bunny On Fire

"Easter bunny, are you real?" "Sure, kid. Now get in my van." (image via dreamstime)

Last year while walking down to school, my daughter, Riley and I were talking about inconsequential things, as we usually did in the morning, when without warning, she segued into:

 

“Debbie told me there’s no Tooth Fairy. Debbie’s brother told her that it’s really our parents only you will never ever ever admit it. Are you the Tooth Fairy?”

 

“Uh…”

 

Keep in mind that I was still in the sweatpants in which I’d slept, my hair unbrushed and thrown into a sloppy ponytail. I might have been prepared for discussions about breakfast cereal at that hour, but I was totally and completely unprepared for a discussion entailing the loss of childhood fantasy. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would be having the conversation with my innocent, fairy-loving daughter in the first grade so I was caught flat-footed between my commitment to honesty and my love of childhood innocence.

 

Why didn’t Riley want to discuss something easy, like where babies come from? I’d spent numerous hours preparing for that question. I would’ve hit that one out of the park. But Debbie Downer had stolen my opportunity for parental success.

Waa Waa. (image via Wikipedia)

 

 

Who was this Debbie? And why was she heading a massive conspiracy aimed at undermining  my parental acuity? I felt the powerful urge to kick her first grade butt. She was ruining my morning.

 

Thanks to Debbie, I was under the gun with no time to Facebook my friends and set up some sort of parental poll regarding effective ways of navigating this crisis. I had to handle it on my own. Like an adult. I need to be warned before I’m asked to do that. Or at least caffeinated.

 

I longed desperately for someone to run out of their house at that moment and yell “I have something really important that precludes all deep family conversations!” but our neighbors were seemingly oblivious to my predicament. Unlike dogs, my neighbors can’t smell fear and desperation. I scrambled to buy myself some time while I wrestled with my moral dilemma.

*Hey do you smell that? Smells like a cornered rabbit." "Mmm, cornered rabbit is my favorite."

 

“Wow. Really? She said that? Huh. What’s Debbie’s deal? She sounds like a very unhappy and possibly unstable girl. And what’s up with her brother?” (When in doubt, undercut the credibility of the source.) “Can you imagine me in a tooth fairy get-up flying around, and getting stuck in your hair while trying to wrestle your tooth out from under your pillow?” (Then deflect with humor.)

 

I added a visual demonstration of myself as a fairy struggling through Riley’s hair to sell the absurdity of the thought but Riley was unswayed by my comedic genius.

 

“Are you the Tooth Fairy, Mom?”

 

In that moment I was reminded of a conversation I’d had as a child with my own mother about Santa’s existence. A boy in my school had unloaded the “Santa is actually your parents” bomb on the whole 4th grade class and I felt the need to get reassurance from my mom. Her answer: “The spirit of Santa is real.” Not the definitive answer I wanted. I asked her about 50 more times and received the same answer on loop. I desperately wanted my mom to tell me outright that Santa was real. I looked into my daughter’s trusting blue eyes and remembered my own desire to keep believing.

"I'm what you call a Christmas poltergeist." (image via dreamstime)

 

“No, I’m not the Tooth Fairy, Sweetie.”

 

There it was. Bald faced lie.

 

I felt the weight of guilt crushing my skull and I realized that my mom probably had the right approach. She didn’t lie. She gave a nebulous answer that, while unsatisfying, did afford me the opportunity to decide for myself whether or not I was ready to let go of my childhood fantasies.

I hate it when my moments of clarity come just after I actually need them. It’s seriously inconvenient.

 

I tried to make up for my misgivings and feelings of guilt with a long, rambling speech about how different people believe different things and some people just don’t believe in magic and magic is important in childhood…yadda, yadda, yadda. I can’t remember the whole speech but frankly it was embarrassing. I think I included a whole theological discourse on the differences between Paganism and Christianity. I was in the midst of a shame spiral and could not stop talking. By the time we got to Riley’s school her ears were bleeding from my verbal onslaught. She ran onto the school grounds screaming “Please stop the madness!”

 

That last part might have happened only in my imagination.

 

Flash forward to this year’s Easter. The kids discovered their Easter baskets, which I had packed full of things specific to each of their tastes and needs. Riley pulled out a box of Altoids from her basket and said with a disturbing lack of incredulity,

 

“The Easter bunny must know I like mints.”

 

Translation: I’m onto you and your little bag of tricks, you bald-faced liar.

"My mom's a big fat fibber."

 

Cue shame spiral. Somebody please get me a muzzle.