Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fashion, More or Less

As a mother of daughters, I believe in fostering their creativity, letting them develop their own sense of fashion and design, and encouraging them to choose their own outfits. True, my youngest often heads to school in head-to-toe Gymboree, complete with matching socks and hair bows, but there are also days that I want to pin a button on her that says, "I'm FIVE and I dressed myself today!"

This morning, she came down wearing an ensemble of her own creation: an almost-too-small blue and green flowered dress, black capri leggings, pink polka-dotted Hello Kitty socks, and a brown Hannah Montana sweatshirt. She also sported a ponytail she did herself. And then she put on her pink cowgirl boots, because "these socks don't really match my dress, so I think I need my boots." Yep, pink cowgirl boots go with EVERTHING when you're five. Her much older, much wiser sister (who once went to the library in denim shorts, suede boots, and a red cape) told her, "You look like Harper!" I don't think she meant it as a compliment, but I couldn't really nail her for being insulting, either. (For those of you whose TVs aren't permanently tuned to the Disney Channel, Harper is Alex's best friend on "Wizards of Waverly Place." You know the one - she wears somewhat, um, eclectic outfits that showcase her, um, individuality and personal sense of style. To use the term loosely.)

Now, in my Super Mom days, I'd have sent that little girl back upstairs to find some clothes that matched. Or maybe I'd have marched upstairs with her, to pull out cute leggings and a coordinating shirt, or a dress that says November rather than April, or even a pair of jeans and a plain tee shirt to wear with the pink boots and Hannah sweatshirt. Heck, I'd probably have made her put on the same outfit her sister was wearing. (Yep, I'm one of those "matchy mommies" who buys her daughters matching outfits. At least I used to be. The oldest mutinied about the time she discovered Justice. Lucky for her, they start at size 5, so her sister couldn't get the same outfit. Score one for the kid.) But I stopped myself. Does it matter what she wears to the store? Really, we're getting diet Dr. Pepper and cookies for our tea party. Who cares what she's wearing?

This is a girl who, at 13 months old, refused to leave the house unless she was wearing a Disney Princess crown. Brand conscious even as a toddler, sad but true. At 2, she insisted on a pair of pink canvas Keds that she wore until her little feet wouldn't squish into them anymore. She'd wear her bright pink, feather-trimmed cowgirl hat to church if I'd let her. But in her defense, my mother-in-law (and I swear on my life that I am not making this up) thinks that if it's all the same color, it matches. Pale blue gauchos (yes, I said gauchos; see what I'm dealing with?) and a navy blue shirt that says "blue footed boobies!" on it - well, it's all blue, right? So there you go! And my husband? He just got rid of his circa-1985 black high-top Reeboks about a year ago.

So off we went to the grocery store, my little fashion plate undaunted by the smiles and chuckles of little old ladies and mommies of preschoolers. She thought she was stylin', looking good in her pink boots, feeling good that she dressed herself. And you know what? She had a big smile on her pretty face, she wore a dress she loves, and she was happy. Maybe we should all follow her cue. Wear what makes us happy, wear what we love. Shoot, pink cowgirl boots look good with everything, don't they? If I could pull them off, I'd have a pair, too.

If letting my kid out of the house in a crazy, mismatched outfit is a crime, lock me up. Soon enough, she'll have a clothing crisis every day before school. Soon enough, the world will end if she doesn't have the exact right shade of red lipstick before the prom. Soon enough, she'll realize that the world judges us by our clothes, our hair, our weight, our shoes, our bags, our cars, and everything else.

Slacker Mom Says...let go of the little stuff. Why make mountains out of molehills? In the time it would've taken me to talk her into a matching outfit, we were gone and back and having our tea party. And that was a much better way to spend an hour. Soon enough, she'll develop a sense of fashion that mirrors her peers - but I sure hope she retains that Harper quality that I've come to know and love.

Just Say No to Bad TV

Slacker Mom feels a rant coming on...

After hearing all the controversy about Adam Lambert's AMA performance (which I didn't watch, because, let's be honest, I just don't care, and besides, there's got to be something better on my 800 DirecTV channels than the AMA awards), I decided I'd take a look at the video clip on YouTube. Full disclosure: I've never even once watched American Idol. The only reason I know who Adam Lambert is has more to do with the fact that he and I both hail from San Diego, and I read an article about him at the hairdresser's once when I couldn't find anything more interesting to read, like maybe "HairStyles For the Modern Grandmother." So I went in expecting his performance to be total crap. But I watched it. Twice. And I'll admit that I was shocked.

Oh. My. God. An aspiring rock star uses sexually explicit moves and lyrics to gain major publicity, millions of YouTube hits, and stir up controversy? What is the world coming to? What a ground-breaking move by the former American Idol contestant, to use sex to sell an image, to shock the establishment with his performance and costumes and dancers! Who does he think he is, Madonna?

Come on, people. What is the big deal? Aren't most of us old enough to remember the 80s, when the Material Girl pissed off the Catholic Church and the Moral Majority (and certainly my mother, who objected to her name just on principle) by dancing around in white, singing "Like A Virgin," wearing lots of crosses and a torn-up lace wedding dress? Or how about that MTV Music Video Awards show, where a hairy-assed, midget-sized Prince wore see-through yellow pants? Eww. I object. And it has nothing to do with his sexuality. (It might have to do with the fact that he changes his name/symbol so often that I don't really know what to call him. Who can keep track?)

But Adam Lambert? OK, so the fact that he's from San Diego may help him score some points with me. But really, the boy wears more eye makeup than I do, and he's prettier AND skinnier than me. He spends more time on his hair, too, and uses more product. So right away, he's on my list of guys I can't be bothered to pay attention to. (Ask my college roommates; those are deal breakers, baby. He has a smaller ass than me? Spends more time getting ready to go out? Forget him!) Add to that the fact that I think my cat has more talent than he does, and no, I'm not a fan. Gay or straight, that's not the issue. So he simulated sex. Um, don't you see more action on your typical daytime soap, with actual naked people? My kids have yet to see "Madagascar 2" because of its sexual innuendo. Turn on the TV during an NFL game, and start counting: you'll see more sex and violence (and hear more objectionable language) on the commercials than I saw on that video clip. And no, I didn't watch the "edited for the West Coast" clip. (Which, by the way, was stupid, because West Coasters are a LOT less shocked and upset by that sort of thing. They have to be. It's LA, home of boob jobs and lip implants for 15-year-olds, after all.)

By far the biggest complaints I've heard seem to be of the "but kids watch this stuff" variety. Really? Kids are watching prime-time TV music shows? That seems to me to be the problem. When that show aired, my children were sound asleep in their beds, where they should be, not watching a music-industry awards show during prime-time hours that was aimed at an ADULT audience. And had it been aired at noon on a weekend, they still wouldn't have been watching it. Because they are children, and in my house, I am the parent. I decide what is appropriate, I am the Keeper of the Remote. You don't like what's on TV? Turn it off. Go play a game, read a book, take a walk, phone a friend. Do you let your kids listen to explicit lyrics? Then why let them watch a TV show where it's likely they'll hear those lyrics, and see them performed? Was it really such a shocker that a singer (for lack of a better term) like Adam Lambert did something inappropriate?

Yes, his performance was inappropriate and distasteful. Isn't much of what's on TV these days inappropriate and distasteful? Reality TV where we "swap" wives and then watch the children cry? That's tasteful? Crime dramas depicting rapes and murders and violence against children? If you ask me, it's all crap. Even so-called children's programming is often offensive. Disney shows like "The Suite Life" and "Hannah Montana" contain bias, disrespect, inappropriate language, offensive comments. And let's be honest: Barney? The Teletubbies? The freakin' Wiggles? I OBJECT! They're offensive! They're annoying! And their songs are waaaaay too catchy! NO ONE over the age of 4 should be subjected to that kind of programming.

Slacker Mom Says...get control over the remote. If my kids are watching it, it's because I let them. I won't be blaming anyone else for what goes on in my house, and that includes TV programming. My kids watch TV, sure. In fact, they're watching it right now. But they're watching shows with appropriate content - which varies from family to family, certainly. I don't trust the networks or even other parents to decide what is right for my kids; I am picky, choosy, like those moms in the Jif commercials. I don't want to watch crap; I don't want my kids to watch crap. But common sense needs to prevail. If you don't like it, turn it off. If you're offended, write to the networks and their sponsors and tell them what you want to see. Take action rather than merely complain!

And now, I'll be stepping off my soapbox to go make some pies. It's Thanksgiving, after all, and I don't have to get up early tomorrow. So I can watch the last three episodes of "Desperate Housewives" on my DVR. Inappropriate? Distasteful? Crap? Yep, and I'm addicted. But I'm a grownup, so it's OK.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There's No "I" in "Mommy"

A recent Saturday morning found my husband (chief of the Indian Princess tribe - don't ask) and daughters getting ready for their "tribal outing": a father/daughter hike and lunch date. I was supposed to have the morning "off", and planned to hit the gym and then head over to Barnes and Noble. First, a pumpkin spice latte - grande, of course - and then a little browsing, in ANY section other than the children's, please. I'd been looking forward to it all week. I even put the sunscreen and bug spray on the kids, packed his backpack, and loaded up the car for him. (Is it wrong to be eager - I mean, helpful and considerate?)

But alas, it was not to be.

Mere minutes before their departure, my oldest decided to clean up her room by throwing her clean, folded clothes into the hamper. I guess she didn't want to put them away - again - but since this was, oh, the third time in as many days, and she'd been told that if it happened again she'd be grounded, guess what? She got grounded. Meaning, in effect, that I ended up grounding myself. My day alone? Gone with the wind. The gym? Nope, they have a Wii in the Kids Kare that would be entirely too much fun for someone who's grounded. My trip to Starbucks? I wonder if pumpkin pie spice would work on drip coffee. Leisurely browsing the fiction section at the bookstore? Replaced with laundry, cleaning, and one angry mommy yelling, "Why? Why? WHY?" Over and over again. At top volume. At least in my head. Out loud, she said appropriate things like, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time" and other equally lame-sounding mommy-isms. (Did I mention I always wanted to be a criminal prosecutor? Like Susan Dey on "LA Law"?)

In frustration, I posted something on Facebook about my daughter's transgression. Some mommy friends thought the punishment was too harsh, but my friend Tricia commented, "Glad to see that other parents out there ground for pure disrespect." And that's it exactly: My child was disrespectful. There was a demonstrated lack of respect for me, for the work I do, for my time, for the natural and financial resources involved in re-washing a load of laundry - not to mention the fact that I'd just told her NOT to do that very thing or she'd be grounded. And yes, at nearly 8, she's become much more focused on herself, her wants, her friends, which is all normal and typical "tween" behavior - but that doesn't make it OK to just ignore what your mother tells you. (And if you figure out at what age I CAN ignore what my mother tells me, please let me know!)

Think I was harsh? My husband's friend Jose got tired of constantly telling his boys to turn off their video games when it was time to do homework, chores, go somewhere. He gave them a final warning: If he had to repeat himself, even once, the entire system would be gone. And what happened? You got it: The very next day, he told the boys to turn it off, but they didn't. Jose stomped over, yanked the joysticks out of their sweaty little hands, ripped the wires out of the TV, and threw everything in the trash. Message received. You've never seen such well-behaved children. Those boys LISTEN. (And no, he didn't replace it. Nor did he allow Santa or Grandma to replace it. Game over, boys.)

Some parenting "guru" wrote that not following through with consequences is the same as lying to your kids. (I can't remember who. I might have read it on a bathroom wall.) If you say, "Do it again and you'll be grounded" and then they do it again and you DON'T ground them, you weren't really telling the truth, were you? Can they count on your word for other things? And you've taught them a not-so-easily-unlearned lesson, namely that Mom doesn't always mean what she says. I'll admit, I toyed with the idea of letting her go because I really wanted some time to myself. But that would have taught her that there aren't consequences for breaking the rules, and that she doesn't have to show respect for people, their work, their time. Hard as it was to give up my day alone, hard as it was to watch her disappointment and disbelief as her daddy and sister left her behind, she got the point. She did laundry, cleaned, studied, while her sister and her dad went off together for 4 long hours. And now? Those 4 hours bought me 3 weeks (and counting) of near-perfect behavior from this repeat offender, who has yet to be reincarcerated for breaking the terms of her parole - that is, she hasn't put any clean clothes in the hamper since. (AND she's learned to do laundry, so I've got that going for me. Talk about a two-fer.)

Sometimes it's hard to be a mom. Sometimes it breaks my heart to punish my kids, to take something away, whether it's a toy or the joy of spending a day outdoors with friends. But what's the alternative? Allowing them to do whatever they want? That isn't good for them. (We all know moms who do that, and sure, it's easier in the short term. But Slacker Mom tries to practice long-term parenting. Even when it puts her back in baby jail.) This motherhood thing can be tough. To paraphrase author Carrie Adams, "there's a big difference between wanting a baby and wanting to be a parent. One is selfish; the other selfless." Good, effective parenting strives to be selfless, not selfish. After all, there's no I in Mommy. (But there is a Y, as in WHY? WHY? Dear God, WHY?)

Slacker Mom Says...don't be afraid to disappoint your kids. They'll get over it. Remember our goal as moms: to raise confident, well-adjusted kids who can go out into the world and survive, thrive, WITHOUT us. It's OK to let them know what's expected of them, and then call them on it if they don't meet those expectations. In the real world, they'll have bosses, roommates, friends, professors, husbands and wives. None of these people will consistently let them off the hook; we have to teach them how to live with and learn from the consequences of their actions.

And, after all, there will be plenty more opportunities for daddy/daughter hikes. I'll see to it. I have a date with my friends Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Just" a Stay at Home Mom

Last weekend, we were outside enjoying some beautiful fall weather. Most of the neighbors were out, too, giving me the chance to catch up with my neighbor, Tracey. She works full time and has a 10-month-old, so I don't see her as much as I'd like to. We chatted about babies, sleep, going back to work. At one point, she said, "I don't think I could ever just stay home all day doing nothing. I think I'd get bored."

She didn't mean any offense, and I didn't take any. But I realized that there's probably a gap between what working moms THINK we do all day and what we ACTUALLY do with our time. My friend Beth, who's home with her young baby, says, "Staying at home is harder than any job I've ever had. No lunch breaks to get things done, no bathroom breaks by yourself. Yeah, my career was WAY easier than this stay at home mom gig." Tiffany, whose son just started Kindergarten, says, "As if we sit around watching soaps all day!" And my single friend Bobby Jo says, "I don't even HAVE kids and I could never be bored at home. Too many things to do!"

When our kids are babies, there's so much hands-on caregiving that goes into mothering that it's easy to see where our time goes. Our houses don't need to be perfect; our kids take priority. As my friend Maria says, "I didn't give up my law practice to scrub floors. I left work to raise my kids!" Playing with them, feeding and diapering them, reading to them, convincing them that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing, and it's simply not socially acceptable to wake up happy at 5 AM - it's a full time job. We do all the things that a working mom's daycare provider does, but without the pay. Who has time for chores? But once the kids are all in school? Even I thought I'd have tons of free time once my youngest was in Kindergarten. I'd work out every day! Reclaim my pre-baby body! Get manicures! Have a spotless house! Take time for nooners! Put those baby pictures in a photo album instead of in a shoebox under my bed!

Yeah, right. In the past year, I've managed to meet my friend Jennifer for lunch only twice. We're both "home." So where does the day go?

In a typical 7-hour school day, I spend a few hours on chores and errands, volunteer in both kids' classrooms, write, take care of the pets, start dinner, and prep snacks for after school. Then I pick up my kids, and, if they don't have ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, basketball, soccer, Indian Princesses, or a playdate, we head home for a snack, homework and school projects. Once that is done, I still have to feed them, help them bathe, read to them, play with them, help them choose (age-appropriate) clothes for the next day, make lunches, pack (organic, sugar-free) snacks, clean and fill their (BPA-free, stainless steel) water bottles, sign homework and reading logs (Teachers! Listen up! NO MORE READING LOGS, PLEASE!), sort through school papers and multiple copies of school newsletters, get them to bed with prayers and songs and kisses and drinks of water and one last kiss, please Mommy please! Then my husband comes home, I make him some dinner, we spend some time together, and before I know it, it's 10 PM and I still haven't finished the dishes. Free time, my (still not a size 4) ass.

Working moms, I think you have it rough. I can't imagine working an 8-hour day and then coming home to work at your "other job." You have to run your errands and do your chores on the weekends, or you have to drag your kids around town after a full day of school and day-care. Either that, or hire someone to do it for you. (Not that I'm complaining - if I worked, you'd better believe that I'd have a cleaning service!) You probably sleep even less than I do.

But while you are working and talking to adults and eating lunch with grown-ups (without having to cut anything up for your co-workers), don't make assumptions about what "at home" moms are doing. Just know that many of us "at home" are actually at school, helping your child with reading and math, or planning the Thanksgiving feast, or rescuing lost Kindergartners on the first day of school, or stapling and gluing endless little books, or making copies for the teachers, or checking in library books, or baking 4 cakes for the PTA fundraiser, or even watching your darling kick a soccer ball during recess because budget cuts mean there are no aides for playground duty. If I were working right now, I couldn't do any of it. And when I go back to work, that's it for me. Game over. But right now, while I can be "home", I'm going to do what I can for ALL our kids.

Slacker Mom supportive of the moms in your life. Working or staying at home, we are all just moms, facing the challenges of raising a family in difficult times. Those of us who stay home choose to be home, so we won't complain about our job. Those of us who work, whether because we have to or because we want to, are doing the best we can too. Motherhood means making sacrifices, but it's also the best job in the world. Whether we work or not, we all give something up - money, time at home, job satisfaction, financial gain, sleep. Whether we work or not, we all get paid for being moms - sticky kisses, warm little hugs, unconditional love. What could be better than that?

Friday, November 6, 2009

When Mother Knows Best

Before I had my first child, I was obsessed with motherhood. Trying to get pregnant, month after month, seeing babies and bellies everywhere, but it wasn't happening for me. ("Visualize," the books said, "and it will happen!" What a load of crap. As if it were that easy. Heck, Ill just visualize myself as a supermodel with 3 gorgeous kids and no stretch marks. Ain't gonna happen.) I knew something was wrong, but my doctor kept telling me to relax. Relax, my butt. I changed doctors, found out I had a hormone imbalance, and started taking progesterone.

Then I got pregnant. And I got heartburn, all-day-all-night sickness, stretch marks, varicose veins, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, pre-term labor, pre-eclampsia, every symptom under the sun. But I didn't care: I was finally pregnant! I was over the moon, elated, giddy with happiness, just the way an expectant mom is supposed to be.

When my daughter was born, I cried tears of joy. She was perfect, beautiful, healthy, AND a good sleeper. I hit the jackpot. I quit my job, I stayed home with my angel, and felt so lucky and so blessed. When she was six weeks old, I sat and cried, thinking how hard it would be to put her in daycare and go back to work.

And then we had a bad day. I mean, a REALLY bad day. The kind of day where you desperately need to go to the grocery store, but everytime you try to leave, you're drenched in spit up. You know, that projectile spit up that defies the laws of gravity, where you're sure she's dying of malnutrition because HOW could she be getting any breastmilk at all when SO MUCH is coming back out? It took an hour to feed her, then change her, then change myself, then change her again when she spit up all over herself, then on get the point.

When we finally got home, 4 hours after we started, the screaming began. She screamed for 7 hours straight. If she wasn't nursing, she was screaming. Of course, my husband was out of town, and of course it was after office hours, and the on-call pediatrician (a Doogie Howser look-a-like right out of medical school) was no help at all. (Yes, you idiot, I DID try feeding, burping, changing her; I DID look to see if she had a hair wrapped around a finger or a toe; I DID give her gas medicine. Do you even HAVE children? A medical degree? A CLUE?) His advice? Just lay down with her and try to get some sleep. Meanwhile I'm thinking that babies don't scream for that long unless something is wrong, so...something is wrong!

Finally, in desperation, I ignored him and drove to the ER - and she promptly fell sound asleep. Which meant that the nice triage nurse thought I was a psycho first-timer who had no idea what to do with a crying baby. "Oh, Honey, babies do cry, you know." Really? You think? I guess after SEVEN HOURS OF NONSTOP SCREAMING, you'd fall asleep, too, Nurse Ratchet!

But I guess I argued loud and long enough to merit an exam by the pediatrician on duty that night, if for no other reason than to get the weeping, leaking, crazy new mother out of the crowded waiting room. He diagnosed my infant with an allergy to my breastmilk, told me to use hypo-allergenic formula and follow up with my pediatrician the next day. I cried all the way home, my dreams of nursing my daughter until her first birthday shattered.

But then I started thinking: an allergy to breast milk? How? I may have been a new mom, but that made no sense to me. Something just felt wrong. How does a six-week-old suddenly develop such an allergy? And what do women in Third World countries do, buy formula? No, they breastfeed. So when she woke up again a few hours later, I nursed her. And in the morning, I nursed her. And then I called my own pediatrician, who said to bring her right in.

When I told the pediatrician, a mom of 3 and breastfeeding advocate, what the ER doctor had told me, she said, and I quote, "That is the MOST ridiculous thing I have EVER heard." She took one look at my baby and diagnosed her with a double ear infection and acid reflux. (And then, much to my amusement, she called the ER and yelled at that doctor for a good five minutes straight and told him he was never to treat any of "her" babies again. So there.)

I ended up nursing her until she was 13 months old. She never had a drop of formula.

Which leads me to this: I was right. I'm not advocating that we completely ignore medical advice, but if something feels wrong to us, we need to investigate a bit more. I'm sure that both the on-call pediatrician and the ER pediatrician are fine doctors who have helped many families, but, as my friend Jill says, it's called "practicing" medicine for a reason. No one is infallible. People, even experts, make mistakes. If I hadn't sought a second opinion, I'd have weaned my daughter 11 months earlier than I wanted to. I'd have spent thousands on formula. I'd have doubted myself and my ability as a mother. I have never doubted myself since. I KNOW when something is wrong. I KNOW my kids.

Slacker Mom Says...this is one area where we can't slack off. There is truth to the old adage: Mom knows best. We know our kids, and we need to trust ourselves. Seek professional help, to be sure, but use your mommy instincts when it comes to your kids. Follow your gut. Listen to that little voice inside. Argue and insist and make people listen to you when it comes to the well-being of your kids. Whether it's a doctor, a teacher, a coach, it doesn't matter - if we don't advocate for our children, who will? Don't let anyone blow you off. NO ONE knows better than Mommy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ask a Stupid Question, Get a Stupid Answer

Our high school teachers were wrong. It turns out there IS such a thing as a stupid question.

Last week, I was washing dishes when my husband called me into the bathroom to ask (and I am NOT making this up), "Did you throw up in the bathroom sink?"

Now, I am neither hungover nor pregnant, and if I had a stomach virus I can give you an iron-clad guarantee that I would NOT be the one doing the dinner dishes, so yes, this was a stupid question. Are you kidding me? Yes, honey, I tossed my cookies in YOUR sink, then came back out to do the dishes instead of cleaning it up. (A sink? Really? Who pukes in a sink, anyway? And trust me, I don't even wash my hands in his sink.)

So yes, there IS such a thing as a stupid question. Want more proof? Voila, a partial list of stupid questions I've been asked recently, and my responses:

~ Do you know what happened to my belt? (I swear to God, if your belt fits me, I'll kill myself.)
~ Where's my thing? (Probably with your other thing.)
~ Is my appointment today? (Huh?)
~ What is there to eat? (Um, I'm guessing, food?)
~ Do I have any clean jeans? (Again, if I'm borrowing your jeans...)
~ How old is my mom again? And when's her birthday? (no comment)

And it's not just my husband. The kids do it, too. Apparently, I am the keeper of all things for all people. I am supposed to know where all the toys and books in the house are (never mind that it's not THAT big of a house - check your room, your sister's room, or the playroom) as well as knowing the phone numbers and addresses for every member of the family and all friends, as well. Library book due dates? Related arts class schedule? Birthday wish lists? Doctor and dentist appointments? You name it, no one else has to remember it if Mom's around.

If only someone would invent something that would help us keep track of all of our appointments and keep our schedules straight, like someplace we could write it all down or something. Wouldn't that be nice?

If only there was some way to keep track of our possessions and be able to easily find our own things when we needed them, maybe with labels and drawers or something. Wouldn't that make life easier?

(Sarcasm aside, I do keep a master calendar in my kitchen, but it only works if you WRITE ON IT. And we have plenty of well-organized storage in every room and closet, but again, it only works if you PUT STUFF AWAY.)

So I'm on "stupid question strike". If anyone asks me a question that a) they could answer themselves or b) I shouldn't even know the answer to, then I just give them the deer in the headlights look and a taste of their own medicine: I answer, "I don't know." (Hey, it's everyone else's FAVORITE answer to many of my questions. What did you do in math today? I don't know. Where are your tap shoes? I don't know. Did you finish your homework? I don't know.) Or, if I'm in a particularly sarcastic mood, they may get a particularly sarcastic answer. (Where's the milk? In the dishwasher, don't you think? I mean, really, did you even LOOK in the fridge?)

Slacker Mom Says...I'm tired of enabling. If they can't keep track of it, they can spend their own time and money looking for it. I'm no longer the Master of All Knowledge or the Keeper of All Treasured Possessions. And if it's left out after the kids go to bed, it goes in my Lost and Found. Need a sneaker for gym class? Missing your library book? It'll cost you, an extra chore, 50 cents, I'm not sure. As for my husband, I'll have to come up with a different payment. It'll cost him, too, but maybe something more than 50 cents...

I am Mommy, Hear Me Roar

Today I yelled at my kids on the way to school. And I mean, YELLED at them. Raised voice, nasty tone, just let 'em have it. Why? I'd had it - the little one had picked her nose and wiped it on the wall, the older one was reading (yes, reading - that's why she got in trouble. We should all have such problems, I know.) instead of brushing her teeth and getting dressed, and no one made their beds or fed the cat or put their dishes in the dishwasher. Including my husband. So I was fighting mad because...because why, exactly?

Because no one listens to me.

Yep, that's it. That's the whole reason I ruined everyone's day at 7:30 in the morning, because no one listens to me. And then I cried all the way home, hating myself, hating that I got so worked up and shouted at two small children, all because they didn't listen to me, because the morning "routine" wasn't smooth and routine, and no one cared what I said or what I wanted.

So, as usual, I started (over)thinking: why is this such an issue for me? Why do I get so upset when my kids and my husband (and let's be honest, it's also my husband - who asked me FOUR times what time we were due at the neighborhood party even though it was on the calendar) don't listen to me, don't hear what I have to say? Is it because I don't work? If I had a job, some feedback from a boss, some underlings to scurry around doing my bidding, would that help? Or is it because my family is my little corporation, and my entire identity is wrapped up in the labels of "wife" and "mother"? And if so, whose fault is that?

I mean, really, is it THAT big of a deal that my third grader was reading a book instead of putting on her shoes, or that she forgot to put socks on before she came downstairs and then had to run back up? She's pretty fast, after all, and at only 7, shouldn't I be glad that she reads on a high school level? Is it really a big deal that my 5-year-old wanted to put out a cereal bowl for her stuffed doggie when she ate her breakfast? No, it's not. At least, it shouldn't be. And most days, that stuff rolls right off me, like the proverbial water off a duck's back. And besides, isn't it fairly normal for the kids to pretty much ignore what I tell them? Granted, I didn't think it would happen until they were teenagers, but I'm pretty sure if you asked my mom, she'd tell you that's what WE did when we were kids, virtually ignored most of what she said unless there was food or money involved. So why did I freak out and get so annoyed with everyone on this particular morning?

I think it has something to do with being heard, and not necessarily in a literal sense. I get so wrapped up in meeting the needs of my family, taking care of my house, creating a home for us all, and then one day, SNAP! There I go. Who's taking care of ME? Who's putting MY needs first? And suddenly I'm yelling at the kids for getting toothpaste on the bathroom counter that I just finished cleaning. It's a bathroom counter! It's there for that exact reason, to hold the damn toothpaste, but I can't see past my own anger: I cleaned it, you messed it up, I'm not the maid around here, clean up after yourself, no one cares about how hard I work, I'm sick of cleaning up after all of you, wipe off your own spit, stop being so inconsiderate, and on it goes. (And I'm pretty sure after the first sentence or two, all they're hearing is the teacher's voice from Charlie Brown - you know the one, wah wah wah, wah wah, wah. They've tuned me out. Hell, I'd like to tune me out.)

And the thing is, my kids are good kids, by all accounts. They make good grades, they are polite and respectful, they are well-socialized. Teachers, parents, and coaches like them. They are kind, considerate, responsible girls who thank me for making dinner and driving them to ballet class. But sometimes, now and then, they act like, well, like ungrateful kids. And then I get mad and everyone hears about it. And it's worse when I feel like my husband doesn't see the effort that goes into keeping the house clean, the laundry done, the kids fed and clothed, the homework and projects and recitals and practices and games handled on time. He gets up, goes to work, comes home again after the kids are in bed, and never sees the actual labor that is involved in running my little business here. Like a stockholder who merely reaps the benefits, he never thinks about what the janitor does or how hard the mail clerk works.

If I went to work every day and saw the results of my labor and my efforts, would I care so much about a little mud on the floor or a bowl left on the counter? I don't really know, because I quit working when I had my first child. But I suspect that if I had a little outside feedback, a little praise for a job well-done, some gratitude and appreciation for my work, I might be more able to let these little things go. Because they ARE little things. After all, how awful would it be to NOT have little muddy cleats in my garage? to NOT have little handprints all over the windows that I just cleaned? to NOT find purple grape juice all over my counters? What a sad, lonely life I'd have without my kids "messing" things up all the time.

Slacker Mom's time to give ourselves some positive feedback. I'm going to remind my husband to thank me for doing laundry, and I'm going to thank him for working hard to provide for us financially. I'm going to remind my kids to thank me for clean bathrooms and new shoes and playdates, and I'm going to thank them for sticky kisses and tidy playrooms and good manners. I'm going to remind myself that I'm a damn good mother and wife, and that in their own way, they DO appreciate me, even if they don't say it out loud. As my husband says, I'm the glue that holds this family together. I'm the heart and soul of it. I'm the one who knows how to make the monsters under the bed go away; I'm the one they want when they are hurt, tired, sad. I'm the MOMMY, after all. And one day, maybe not until they have kids of their own, but one day, they will call me and say, "Thanks, Mom. You were right. About everything."

And if they don't, I'll feed their kids chocolate ice cream and send them home with extra candy and some of those loud, noisy, talking books. That'll teach them. Payback's a bitch.