Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bibbidi Bobbidi Blue (Or, Painting as the Path to Self-Awareness)

A recent winter weekend found my husband and I painting our girls' playroom Bibbidi Bobbidi Blue. (You know, the color of Cinderella's gown. Yes, even our paint belongs to the cult of Disney.) Now, when I paint a room, it takes one weekend, start to finish. I tape off the baseboards and ceiling line, and just get to it. One day to tape, paint, check for "bald spots"; let it dry overnight and put everything back to rights the next morning. If I start on Saturday morning, the kids are playing in there by Sunday afternoon.

But my husband? Well, he's a LITTLE bit of a perfectionist when it comes to painting. Yes, when HE paints, he spends approximately 14 hours "prepping" the room. (This involves taking out all the furniture, taking down the blinds and hardware, removing switch plates, spackling all nail holes, taping, retaping, retaping the retaping, putting drop cloths over every single surface, and - I'm not making this up - checking the ceiling line for any trace of Boring Beige, the color the builders used, which he then painstakingly paints over with white paint. On the ceiling. Which is like 15 feet high.) Then he's pretty sick of the room, so he takes another day or two to start the painting, which invariably takes at least 2 days - because he needs a day to "see" the room in different lights so that if he missed a spot he can go over it again. Then he needs a day or two to find the time to take down the tape, pull up the drop cloths, and put the furniture back. By this time, the room has been unusable for approximately 9 days and we've all been tripping over its contents, which are stuck in some hallway somewhere. (This is especially problematic if the room being painted is a bathroom and he hasn't put the toilet back together yet.)

Now, surely at this point you are wondering, "Why the hell doesn't Slacker Mom just paint the room herself and quit complaining about it?" Well, you see, my husband really, really doesn't like anyone else doing the painting. Really, REALLY doesn't like it. In his defense, he does a VERY thorough job. I'll admit that he does a much better job than I do. And the only two areas where he gets a little psycho and overly concerned with perfection involve walls - both painting and hanging pictures bring out his inner control freak. But I think he's forgotten that I'd painted many, many rooms before I met him; I painted my room three times just while I was in high school. Without help. At age 14. And he'd never painted a room at all until we bought our first house together and I convinced him that bare white walls are boring and builder's paint is crap. So when he starts with his "helpful, friendly reminders", I kind of want to shove a paint stirrer up his ass. He says things like:

* Don't you want to stir that paint more? How many times did you stir it?
* Don't forget to really tape it well. Really well. Do you want me to do it?
* Don't put too much paint over the taped-off area. That's too much!
* Don't forget to check your feet for paint before you walk out of the room.
* Don't dip the brush too far in the paint - only put it on the ends.
* Don't let any paint drip down the wall when you use the roller.
* Don't get any blue on the ceiling line. I already painted over the beige.
* Why don't you let me do that part? Really, I don't mind.
* Any chance of getting some cheeseburgers?

Seriously. He asked me to make him cheeseburgers. At 11:00 at night. I think he did it just so I'd leave the room and he could "check my work". And like I counted how many times I stirred the paint. If I thought it needed more stirring, WOULDN'T I HAVE STIRRED IT MORE? Jeez. When he acts like that, I think, "Give me some credit! I'm not a moron. I have SOME skills. And who made YOU the President of Painting, anyway! Leave me alone!" Any more painting and we'd need some serious marriage counseling, stat.

So as I'm flipping burgers and it's nearing midnight (of course I did it; if I'd stayed in that room any longer I'd have strangled him with his blue painter's tape), I sulked because, to be honest, he's not a lot of fun when he's painting. Me? It's Saturday night! With the right person and the right attitude, I can have fun doing anything! (Nina and I once spent an evening working on a project for her Masters and drinking wine, and, school geeks that we are, had a great time.) But he was far too intense and serious about the whole thing. I wondered why my usually mellow, laid-back, goofy husband barks orders and stresses about a little paint on the ceiling, about why he feels the need to "remind" me about things that I obviously already know (like I'm going to track paint on the hallway carpet, dude), about how this one task makes him into a bossy control freak. And I came to a startling conclusion: I do this to my kids all the time.

Think about it. They've barely finished their cereal and I'm "reminding" them to put their bowls in the dishwasher, even though they've been doing it since they were 2. Give them a chance already! I'll remind my 8-year-old to wash her apple first, even though I know she will, she always does, and I buy organic apples anyway so really, how bad could it be if she were to forget? I automatically remind them to say "Thank you", not even noticing that they've already said it and they certainly don't need me to remind them as if they're toddlers. I hurry them along every single morning with reminders like, "Put on your shoes!" as if they'd walk out barefoot into the cold. I suggest moves they should make when we play board games, even though they are perfectly capable of playing the game on their own. I take over and do things for them simply so it will be done MY WAY, even if it isn't important that it's done my way. Just like my husband does when we are painting, I get bossy and controlling and make unnecessary comments about the jobs other people are doing. "No, not like that, do it like THIS!" is something I hear myself say all too often. And I decided to be (gasp) grateful to my husband for teaching me something about myself. A little self- awareness and self-improvement, all for the price of a gallon of paint.

So yes, he was annoying and irritating and bossy. But maybe, just maybe, it was a good thing he was - because it forced me to examine my behavior a bit. It made me realize that when I get that way, it affects my relationship with my kids. It makes them think that I don't trust them to do it right without me hovering over them, barking instructions and reminders; it sends the message that I don't think they are capable, smart, responsible girls who know what to do and will do it if they are just given a chance. How annoying. And irritating. And bossy.

Slacker Mom Says...sometimes we have to back off and let our kids have a chance to do things their way. My way isn't always the only way, and that's hard for me to swallow. But kids need to know that we trust them, that we believe in them, and that if they do fail - and they will - we'll be there to help them fix things, to start over, to wipe the blue paint off the ceiling. No one likes being bossed around or treated like they don't know what they're doing. A positive comment and a pleasant tone of voice goes a long way, as I told my husband - and myself.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"That's Not a REAL Toilet!" is Something You Never Want to Have to Say

Last Saturday night, my husband and I were curled up in front of the fire, about to watch Vince Vaughn in "Couples Retreat." We'd been looking forward to it for months, ever since we kept missing it in the theater. (Every time we had the babysitter booked, someone got sick. Swine flu, seasonal flu, sinus infection, pneumonia, yeah, you name it, my kids got it.) So when it came out on DVD, we were ready to laugh our asses off. (Ever seen him in "Wedding Crashers"? Rent it. But make sure to pee first. You know what happens when you laugh too hard after popping out a few kids. I'm just sayin'.)

So in the movie, Vince Vaughn's character and his wife are in a home improvement store, looking at tiles for their remodel. Now, most husbands hate that kind of thing and are happy for any reason to walk away from looking at 3,492 different options - most of which look identical to them - and Vince's character is no exception. So while he's on his cell phone talking to his buddy, he's not really watching what his kid is doing - probably assuming that his wife is on kid-duty. Suddenly, the camera pans to the boy, who is peeing in a display toilet as customers and sales people look on in horror. Vince shouts, "That's not a real toilet!" to his son. Then he gets off the phone, picks up his kid, and says, "There's not really anything more to say," and walks away. No embarrassment, no wiping up the pee, no apologizing to the manager.

Yeah, that's the Hollywood version.

In REAL life, in MY life, I'd find myself with a makeshift glove made from wads of generic paper towel wrapped around my hand, scooping "I've eaten nothing but fruit all day" type poop out of the display toilet. In REAL life, when my 3-year-old was playing in the design center's kids' area when she told me she had to poop, I told her to put on her shoes - and then, distracted by my Level 5 flooring options, promptly forgot about her "needs". So a few moments later, when I heard, "Mommy? I can't find any toilet paper!" I knew EXACTLY what had happened. And so did my husband. In one of those "are you thinking what I'm thinking" husband and wife moments, we looked at each other in horror, shock, disgust. And mentally calculated who'd have clean-up duty.

Thankfully, our real estate agent, the designer, and the sales manager did NOT realize that the Ecru/Low Flow/Elongated Bowl Display Model was now completely full of crap. Literally. No, in REAL life, the kid doesn't merely pee into the model toilet. She poops, and poops, and poops. And it's after hours, so the deserted design center is also completely without its custodial staff. Nope, just us and our helpful real estate professionals, ready to sell us $40,000 in upgrades but unable to locate a little bit of bleach and some rubber gloves.

Yes, in a bizarre twist of "Art Imitating Life", I found myself flashing back to that May day several years ago. (I should get a cut of the movie's profits! If only I'd written about this and then claimed Hollywood stole it from me!) There I was again, crouched in front of a fake toilet, paper towels wrapped carefully (but ineffectively) around my entire hand, shoving my manicured fingers into the toilet to clean it out. (Truly, you have no IDEA how long that pipe from the bowl to the tank is. Truly. Thank God I have long hands.) It took about an hour, two rolls of paper towels, and all the Purell wipes I had in my car and my purse - but that toilet was cleaner than it was on the day it was installed. It shined like the top of the proverbial Chrysler Building. There was no evidence at all that we'd ever been there. We apologized, washed our hands, and got the hell out of Dodge. (And we DID buy a house from them, Level 5 upgrades and all. Heck, it was the least we could do.)

Slacker Mom Says... motherhood isn't always kisses and pretty Hallmark cards and sweet-smelling baby powder. Sometimes it's a dirty job, and sometimes you get the short end of the stick. Sometimes our kids ruin things that aren't theirs and we have to take care of it. Because that's what we do. We take responsibility for our young children and their actions, even when they poop where they shouldn't. Even when it's going to be disgusting. Even when we know it will take approximately 825 gallons of scented soap to take the smell out of our hands. We take responsibility. We take care of it. Because what's the alternative? Walk away from the situation? No, that only happens in the movies. In real life, parents have to teach by example. What would I have taught my daughters if I'd walked away from the mess? My toddler was too young to take responsibility for it, and it was my fault for putting her off so long. It was my job to take care of the situation, no matter how unpleasant or truly vomit-inducing it was. And my kids saw me do just that. Our society is plagued by a severe lack of personal responsibility. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Caring for our kids, teaching them to take responsibility for their mistakes, to own up to what they did, to make it right and to apologize for inconveniencing others, that's our job. We're moms.

Besides, now I have a really fun story to tell at her prom, or graduation, or rehearsal dinner...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Ever Happened to "Because I SAID So!"

A recent Friday afternoon conversation with my daughter went a little like this:

Me: It's chore time - you need to clean your room, empty all the trash cans, and then set the table for dinner.

Her: But I want to finish (reading, playing, coloring, dancing, anything but what you want me to do at this moment in time) first!

Me: And I want a million dollars, my pre-baby abs AND boobs, and Brad Pitt on a stick, but that's not going to happen. (OK, what I really said was more like, "Chores first, then playtime" or something along those lines.)

Her: OK, Mom. (There may have been a sigh involved, but I was too busy heading to the other one's room to give her a chore list, too. My ears have become rather sigh-proofed, what with my daughters inheriting this lovely habit from their father.)

And then? And then she DID HER CHORES. No, I didn't have to tell her again. No, I didn't offer her a bribe. No, I didn't pay her for cleaning up her own crap and setting the table so that our family could eat a meal that I prepared. I did thank her for being cooperative and helping our family; I did tell her that I appreciated how quickly she got her chores done without my having to remind her. But the bottom line is, she knows what she needs to do, she knows what will happen if she doesn't do it, and she knows that it's in her best interest to get it done quickly. Because I'm the mom, and I said so.

And that was the five-year-old.

As one of many tools in my parenting arsenal, I'm definitely in favor of using incentives to induce desired outcomes. If I want the children to do something, I'm OK with offering something in exchange. For example, if they clean up their rooms, I will continue to let them sleep there. If they put away their toys, I won't donate them to charity. I may even take it a bit farther and say, "If you behave while I get my hair done, I'll thank you by taking you out for ice cream afterwards" or even "If everyone manages to get a flu shot without Mommy losing either an eye or her sanity, or having to place anyone in a full prone containment restraint, we can stop at the book store on the way home." At times, I'll offer the children an explanation for certain rules and requirements. Like, we get flu shots because we all have asthma, and the flu could be very dangerous for us. Or, you must do your homework to reinforce the skills you're working on in class. Or even, no, you cannot watch "Twilight" because if you do, you'll be totally freaked out and no one will sleep for approximately the next 125 days.

But I'm not above the use of those four words used by our parents and grandparents and their grandparents before them. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about the infamous and often underused "because I said so."

So many parents seem to think it's necessary to negotiate with their kids or give their kids input into every single decision. They ASK their kids to do chores. They ASK them what they want for dinner. They even ask them if they feel like coming inside and taking a bath. Are you freakin' kidding me? I can tell you right now how my kids would answer those questions: "No, thanks, Mom, I'd rather NOT do chores. Dinner? Ice cream sundae, extra whipped cream. And I think I'll have it outside while I continue to play in the sandbox. I'm skipping the bath tonight."

So many kids have a terminal case of the "whys". Why do I have to come inside now? Why do I have to clean up my room? Why can't I have candy for breakfast? And too many parents try to answer those questions, thinking they are educating their kids, patiently explaining that breakfast should contain protein and fiber for optimal learning at school, or that toys should be put away so that no one trips over them in the night. Seriously? Do you really think they need the explanation again? Do you really not know that "why" is actually about stalling for time, trying to wear us down until we give in out of sheer exhaustion, that it's about trying to see exactly how far they can push us?

Nah, I TELL my kids to do their chores. And I don't always say please. (No, it's not rude. It's called parenting. This is not a request, so don't ask, "Will you please make your bed?" unless you're prepared to hear, "Um, no, thanks for asking.") And then I MAKE SURE they do their chores, even if I have to stand over them, check back in a few minutes, take away privileges - in other words, even if it's inconvenient for me. I put dinner on the table; they can eat it or not. And I certainly do not ask IF they want a shower, I just tell them "Get in. Now. And don't forget to wash your hair." What's the incentive? Do it and you won't get in trouble. Do it and Mommy might thank you for cooperating. Do it - wait for it - BECAUSE I SAID SO. I'm the mom; you're the kid. It's not rocket science. And it's definitely not a democracy, more like a benevolent dictatorship, one where I rule with absolute authority because I love my subjects and want the best for them.

So why do our kids think they are entitled to an explanation every single time we tell them to do anything at all? I'll tell you why: because we give them one. We over-explain things. Constantly. And why do we do it? Because we hated it when our parents said, "Because I said so!" to us. So we vowed NOT to say it to our kids. But here's the kicker: our parents said it because it works, because it's the truth. "Because I said so" really means "because I am the mom, and I know best; I will keep you safe and healthy, and you can trust that the decisions I make for you are necessary and right." As my sister tells her daughter, "My job is to raise you right."

Slacker Mom Says... let's bring back "because I said so!" Not all the time; not for every single demand. Sometimes, kids need to hear the "why" behind our rules. Sometimes, they don't. Sometimes, it's just about respecting a parent's authority. Sometimes, it IS simply because I am the mom, and you are the child, and I TOLD YOU TO DO IT! Our job as parents is to make sure our kids go out into the world with all the skills they will need to be successful adults who contribute positively to their communities. When they have kids, they'll understand the why. Until then, it might just have to be "because I said so."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stinky Socks and the Men Who Wear Them

Tonight at dinner, my husband was telling me about his day. It was just the two of us, since he usually gets home after the kids are in bed, and he'd had a busy and frustrating day at the office. I was trying to "listen actively" and be supportive, really I was, but all I kept hearing was, "Yada yada blah blah blah." Yes, I'm a Slacker Wife at times, too, but it's just that I was so tired and had so much on my mind that still had to get done - lunches to pack, a birthday cake to make, laundry to wash/dry/fold/put away, reading logs to fill out (will NO ONE ever listen?!?) - that I just couldn't stay focused on his monologue. (Similar to the time my roommates and I met some very cute, very drunk Irish guys we couldn't understand - smile and nod, smile and nod - my technique was much the same. Just take away the Guinness and add some pot roast, and substitute over-tired for drunk, and it was pretty close.) I tried to toss out a few well placed "uh huhs", but I think he was on to me.

So I'm sitting there, my mind racing, nodding away like a bobble head, fake smile plastered on my face, when it hit me: This is EXACTLY what he does to me when I'm going on about something while he's reading. And when he does, it makes me CRAZY. I mean, how hard is it to just hear my voice, attend to what I'm saying, and pay some attention? And now I know. Sometimes, now and then, it's a tall order.

While motherhood can be tough, this marriage thing can be pretty challenging, too. At least with the kids, I rule all. They're small, they don't take up much space, they don't snore or shed hair on the counter. They sleep a lot and don't eat very much, they're easy to clean, and their stuff is generally confined to the upstairs area. They pretty much have to listen to me and do whatever I tell them or face the wrath of Mommy. My husband? Not so much. He'll ask me the same thing 4 times in one day. No matter how many times I ask him not to put my tweezers in his drawer, guess where I usually find them? Shoes are anywhere BUT the closet. If he's driven my car all weekend, I can pretty much assure you there won't be gas in it come Monday morning. He can drive me crazy. Don't get me wrong, he's a great guy. But when I've had to pick up his dirty socks off the floor three days in a row, or pull dirty underwear out of the shorts he's left on the bathroom floor every day for a week, or - my personal favorite - when I find a toothpick he left in MY car (and no, I don't know if it was clean or dirty because I was NOT about to investigate too closely!) I start to get a little bit crazy. I start to think about all the ways he makes my life more difficult, about all his annoying little habits. I start thinking about "Friends", about the episode where Rachel is moving out so that Chandler can move in. Monica turns to Rachel and wails, "You get to live with Phoebe, and I have to live with a BOY!" He makes me crazy. He makes extra work. He doesn't always listen to me or remember what I tell him or put my needs ahead of his own.


But what if there were never any socks on the floor? Or toothpicks in the car? What if there was no more Monday morning panic when the gas gauge is a LOT lower than I remember it? What if he weren't around to leave a full water glass teetering on the edge of the kitchen counter every morning, just waiting for the cat to knock it onto the tile floor so it will shatter into a million little pieces, simply because that's what cats do?

Here's what I know: He cleans my hair out of the shower drain every single morning without complaint. He gets up with the girls when they've had a bad dream - even though he's the one who has to go to work the next day. He once drove 3 hours in the middle of the night just to bring me sore throat medicine when I was pregnant and he was on a business trip. He thinks I am beautiful, stretch marks and all, and tells me often. He'll go grocery shopping after a long day of work when I've been stuck home with sick kids all day. He'll stay up half the night to put together toys on Christmas Eve. He held my hand while I cried on the due date of the baby we lost. He shows our daughters in a thousand little ways all the things a husband and father should be. And so I can overlook a few annoying habits, pick up a few dirty socks, separate some stinky gym clothes.

Love is a choice we make, every single day. I choose to love my husband in spite of his annoying habits, and maybe because of them. I choose to believe in him, in us, despite dental floss that doesn't always make it into the garbage, despite the fact that the towels would have to put themselves in the hamper before he'd think to change them, despite the fact that he's not perfect. My friend and mentor Beth recently told me, "Always be sure to maintain your primary relationship - and it's not the one with your kids. When your first child leaves, you'll feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. By the time your last one leaves, you'll remember why you got married in the first place." Her kids are grown and gone; she and her husband are taking motorcycle tours and have, as she says, no need for locks - or even doors - anymore. Wink wink. Wise woman. Well said.

Slacker Mom Says... be careful what you wish for. I'd rather pick up his dirty socks than not, because dirty socks on the floor mean he's here with me. The best thing I can do for my kids is to love and cherish their father. Marriage, like motherhood, is messy and inconvenient and annoying and hard. Nobody's perfect, and boys are stinky and messy, it's true. The toilet seat may be up, but that's because my husband is sharing my bathroom - and my life.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When Mean Girls Grow Up (Oh Yeah, They Don't)

My third-grader has had to deal with several Mean Girls this year. There's one who calls her "Miss Know-It-All" for always raising her hand, one who tries to steal her snack, one who tells her she's stupid for making a mistake in math. (To this last one, I feel like saying, "Honey, you're NINE and she's SEVEN. And you're in the same grade. YOU do the math.")

So, in the interest of showing that I both acknowledge her feelings and understand her pain, I prepared a lovely Mother/Daughter conversation called "Dealing With Mean Girls: A How-To Handbook for Nice Girls", and cornered her in the car one afternoon when my youngest was on a playdate. (After all, studies show that kids are more likely to confide in parents during a non face-to-face conversation, and car rides are the preferred time to attempt such parent/child bonding. And besides, she can't run away from me with that "OH MY GOSH, MOM! You're so WEIRD!" attitude when in a moving vehicle doing 60 on the highway.)

Now, I don't really remember any mean girls in elementary school or even in junior high. I mean, there must have been some bitchy girls back then, but since I can't remember any, either they must not have been that bad, or they weren't important enough for me to remember. (And I have the memory of an elephant. Just ask my friend Nicola, who has known me since Kindergarten: I can remember who forgot free-dress days in first grade, who cried at the sleepover in second grade, and what we wore when our fourth grade teacher got married.) But I do have a few Mean Girl stories from my adult life.

Take, for example, my friend Lynn. She's a drop-dead gorgeous personal trainer with impeccable fashion sense. One summer day at the local pool, she was wearing a cute Target bikini. Not slutty in the least, mind you, just cute. It was from Target! How could it be slutty? But I noticed a group of women giving her the eye. You know, the eye - that look that says, "OH MY GOD, BECKY, LOOK AT HER BUTT!" like in that Baby Got Back song. There they sat, in their matronly one-pieces, not wanting to stand next to her and look bad by comparison. Jealous much, ladies? No one said anything, but I remember thinking, "She works damn hard for that body, so shut up! And the rest of us could take a page from her book and maybe slap on a little waterproof mascara and do a few sit-ups instead of eating Pringles with our kids!"

Or my former friend Jeanie. We met through our toddlers, who became fast friends. But one day, she bailed out on a playdate with no explanation. When I finally reached her, she said she fell asleep. The next week, she didn't show up for my annual Halloween party. Instead of calling me, she called a mutual friend and asked her to tell me that her garage door wouldn't open so she had to wait for the service guy to come. Now, call me crazy, but faced with a choice between a party and a "sometime between 8 and 5, Ma'am" type situation, I'm putting up the door manually and hauling myself on over to the party. She never once returned a call or an email. A year later, I ran into her at Starbucks. She looked right at me and walked past me without saying a word. I never found out what happened.

Or the current crop of Mean Mommies. Now, I'm no Queen Bee, but I am pretty involved in my children's school. I'm the room mom for both of my daughters, I volunteer in their classrooms, I chair a PTA committee, and, as a former teacher, I've got a good relationship with the teachers. I even do lessons with the girls' classes now and then. I like it; it's fun. (I spent 10 hours a day for 10 years in a classroom; of COURSE I'm a total school nerd!) But a couple of months ago, I found out that some of the moms in the class are more than a little nasty. One of my best friends was walking through the schoolyard to pick up her child from another class, and she overheard a conversation between a couple of mommies in my daughter's classroom. (Note to Mean Mommies: Don't assume that if I'm not there, I won't find out you're gossiping about me. Duh. I know a LOT of people. You might want to look around and make sure you're alone BEFORE you start the bitch fest. And don't actually name names! Morons.) So anyway, my girlfriend heard an earful about how I think I'm so great and I'm always in the classroom and I'm the only one who the teachers let do anything and how just because I used to be a teacher doesn't mean I should get to be room mother. (Which is, I think, the crux of the matter. I'm guessing SOMEONE wanted to be the room mom but SOMEONE wasn't asked.) Being a good friend, she struggled with the decision whether or not to tell me what she'd heard, but since these women are saccharine-sweet to my face, she figured she'd better tell me what was REALLY going on.

These Mean Mommies are old enough to know better. (And incidentally, none of them do a freakin' thing for the school or the teachers, claiming they're "too busy" to help out. Too busy, my ass. They have an hour to sit in the parking lot and bitch about everyone and everything, but they don't have an hour to make some copies? Yeah, right.) But that's not what bothered me about this Mean Mommy situation. What bothered me (briefly, before Slacker Mom got a clue and decided that it's kind of funny when you think about it, for grown women to spend part of their day talking about my decidedly unglamorous life) is that these women are super friendly to everyone's faces. What is that? If I don't like you, I will be perfectly polite, but I'm not going to pretend that we're friends. (There are many things you can say about me, but phony? Not since my fake-name giving, bar-hopping, "sure I'll call you" days. But that's another story.) Why ACT like you want to be my friend if you don't? Don't have an answer to that one yet.

So anyway, after I shared my Mean Girl stories with my very, very, un-mean daughter, she asked, "So it NEVER ends? I'll have to deal with this forever?" Oops. That wasn't really my point. But she did feel better. She felt understood, validated, heard. And she was able to look at her own Mean Girl issues in a new light: That girl who's always trying to steal her snack? She never remembers to bring her own, so she wants someone else's. The math girl? Turns out she's jealous because she didn't make it into the gifted program - and her mother is always telling her how much smarter she is than everyone else. (And the "Know-It-All" girl? She's just mean. What can I say? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.) She also felt good knowing that, even though there will always be Mean Girls, she won't care so much as she gets older. She seemed to understand that Mean Girls are all about THEIR issues. After all, if someone is truly happy in her own life, she doesn't feel the need to go around trying to make other people feel bad about theirs. Happy people don't tear others down just for sport.

Slacker Mom Says...there will always be Mean Girls. Our daughters have to learn to cope with them, to find snappy comebacks that aren't rude, but convey the idea that "I just don't care what you think." And sadly, Mean Mommies are out there, too. Just don't be one of them. Be part of the solution, not the problem. If we'd all just refuse to engage in negative trash-talk about other moms, about other women, we'd have time for a nap, a manicure, a romantic dinner with our husbands. Mean Mommies need to be told: Take all that energy and time and put it into yourself, ladies! If you need to feel better about your situation, do something about it instead of trying to tear someone else down. Isn't this motherhood thing hard enough without having to worry about bitchy playground talk? Let's act like the smart, beautiful, responsible, capable women we want our daughters to become - and our sons to admire. Build each other up, don't tear each other down.

And if you really need to feel good about your life, turn on some reality TV. I guarantee you'll get a little self-esteem boost!