Monday, November 30, 2009

No, I can't.

Y'know that old adage "I think I can, I think I can"? And is there some song that goes with it about a rubber tree plant? (Why I'm compelled to think of Lavergne and Shirley when I remember that is beyond me. If you know, do tell.) Am I rambling already? Yes. Forget that part. I'm on something else. I'm on "I think I can".

"I think I can." Really. Really? You can? How do you work a full-time job, keep a tidy home, love and pay attention to your children, be a devoted spouse, provide support and care for your aging parents, spend time with your friends and extended family, and keep a trim, healthy figure, stay fresh on current events and make appropriate facial expressions during group conversations? You know how? No you don't. You don't because I don't and I call bull! It's really impossible.

I'll admit, it has never been easy, but there've been times in my life where I had most of my stuff together. Then, like the plate spinning fool of old television, I added more and more spinning articles to my repetoire. I added a spouse. He came with in-laws. (Should have read the manual on that purchase!) We bought a car. Then a building. Then had a baby.

I was fat, but that wasn't new. And all the other plates were happily spinning along, so we had another baby. Oh. Uh. Yeah. About that. Make that two. Ok. No worries. We can handle it. Bought a house. Kept the building. Got another car. (I'm saying car, but what I mean is disgusting green minivan. But show some kindness and let's just say car, o.k.?)

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

Anyone who watched those shows knows that the more plates that spin, the more poles you need in the air to hold the plates. And the more plates you put up, the faster each must spin, in order to give you time to get back to the first plate.

Family needs me - SPIN. Mother needs me - SPIN. School needs me - SPIN SPIN SPIN. Friends neglected - SPIN! Kids need me - SPIN and need me more - SPIN SPIN. Family spin teetering on the brink of collapse - RUSH SPIN SPIN SPIN. Wait! Clients need me. SPINNNNN!

And then, despite all the frantic racing back and forth, all the late-nite spins, the early morning spins, the coughing and tired but still spinning spins - despite all that effort a plate crashes to the floor. Loud, embarrassing, and halting. If you stop to stare at the smashed china you'll not have time to get back to the other plates wobbling and flailing on their respective poles. So you give a brief eulogy in your head for the innocent plant that turned into a potted ode to death in your dining room and get back.

Adding to your grief, someone who's equally busy - or maybe moreso - seems perfectly calm and mania free and advises you to stopy worrying. And if you're me, she's probably thinner than you! Where's the justice I ask?

The sad and pathetic truth is, if all this plate spinning had me model-thin I'd probably not give a hoot. But I'm one of those people who does not get slimmer with stress. I get facial rashes. So, I'm tired, have bags under my eyes, I'm fat and have a 3-D multi-colored rash on my forehead.

I don't know how I got into the plate-spinning business, but I will tell you this: I hate rubber tree plants.

As for "I think I can". Actually, no. I can't.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why This One?

Thanksgiving should be the most important holiday ever. Why? (I just knew you'd ask.) Because this holiday is the very essence of what a holiday should be. A holiday is a respite from the ordinary, a vacation - even if for only a few hours - from the every day. So the table is set a little more beautifully, the meal is prepared a little more carefully, and the occasion of being together with ones you love is felt a little more deeply. Isn't that lovely? In theory, it is. And that's what I want you to focus on.

Because the actual setting of the table, when your back hurts and your feet ache and your family is helping about as much as a collection of lawn gnomes might isn't always pleasurable. And the frantic resetting of the table when the cat knocks over your fancy glasswear and pulls down the tablecloth two seconds before people arrive isn't any better.

Meal preparation in the magazines and t.v. shows doesn't look anything like it does at my house. Here, the kitchen generously donates itself not only to the task of boiling, baking and burning (let's be honest here) the most important meal of the year, but also bends to receive the automotive project du jour, the incessant display of whatever "mommy LOOK" item is being paraded by a child, and the hotel switchboard-like ringing of the manic house phone.

As for holding the occasion of bringing loved ones together more closely? This is probably the most complex brush stroke on the painting, isn't it? 'Some of these folks,' you're thinking, 'I wouldn't admit to knowing on other days of the year.' Or am I the only one that thinks that? No matter. It's so hard not to be grumpy about the repeated loudness of some, or the chronic lateness of others. In fact, the same things that bug you on other days can seem magnified instead of lessened on holidays when you are stressed and excited and tired.

I know. But when that happens to you tomorrow, try something new. Close your eyes for a minute and think to yourself - 'This moment, this person is a gift to me that I could not have received on any other day but today.' And then, allow yourself to be glad for it. Give thanks that your mother, so slow, so annoying, so picky, is here to share this day with you. Smile broadly at your baby who, despite every instruction to stop bugging you, has come into the room to show you yet another stick-figure picture. God willing, that baby will grow up to celebrate with his own small family some day, and you'll not be there to smile. Wrap your arms around your husband, partner or companion, and thank him for working on that messy project in the middle of the kitchen. He's spending his holiday working to solve a problem so you don't have to. For that matter, gentlemen, remember to warmly thank your wife or sweetheart for the care she devotes to you on this and every other day. She loves to hear it, and doesn't mind at all when you repeat it.

This holiday, this brief journey away from days of drudge and drear, is a day to give - and give generously - of something you don't need to budget, save or shop for. Just thanks, in copious amounts if you're doing it right. Spend freely, without limit, and enjoy the bliss of reckless abandon that we've all come to avoid in other, more traditional expenditures. Tomorrow take a break and open your heart deep and wide and give thanks, as I do to you for sharing this moment in your day. And in keeping with my own advice - here's an extra for the road - Thank You!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Last Word

The American system of justice in all its glory is nothing to be feared, avoided or circumvented. It is the envy of all justice systems. It is the reason we are so great. A display of our fair, impartial and corruption-free system of justice as it carries out the proper consequence for the greatest terrorist act against our country is entirely the right thing to do, and should go far to restore the world's confidence in our moral justification for global leadership. Now if you're afraid that our system is not fair, impartial and corruption-free, or you believe we are not great, or that we have no moral justification for global leadership - if that's what you're afraid of, then you've an entirely different problem. I am not afraid. I have faith in our system. I believe, in the parlance of some on my ideological right, that "these colors do not run", nor do we whine when we don't get our way, nor do we fight one against the other. Our enemy is not our brother. Instead, our enemy, after too long a wait, will be brought to justice as he should be, in the place where he can smell the unity of our cause and feel the palpable truth in our one step. In this country he will be tried. In the country he tried to sink but failed. In the country where justice is blind but not stupid and our pursuit of it is righteous but not arrogant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

When Tony and I bought our first property, I was pregnant with Lucy. It was a time of great hope, dream and joy for us, despite the attendant drama that goes with such a big move. We bought a modest building in a comfortable working-class neighborhood and settled in for the work of updating, upkeeping and making home.

Next door, a couple with their two children served as ambassadors for the neighborhood. He knew everyone and everything and if he didn't he bragged on as if he did anyway. She was sweet and mild and easy to laugh. Their children, both beautiful, were lively and precocious. We became fast friends.

And through them, we became friends with everyone on the block. There was a couple down the street with two young boys, a family of five with kids of every age, and a single guy living with his elderly parents. There was an unmarried gal living in their place and a couple with two older children to the north. Everybody knew my neighbors and so we got to know all of them.

We were unlikely matches, all of us, crossing economic, language, cultural and religious barriers to enjoy a backyard barbecue or hang out in front while the kids played. But we were comfortable with each other, like warm sweaters, and we all enjoyed the time we spent together. When I became pregnant with the twins just a year and a half after I had Lucy, the whole block joined me in being excited and nervous. It was a wonderful time.

Time marches on, as they say, and of course, things change. We'd had a longer term plan in mind when we bought the building, but the twins altered our math a little and we soon found ourselves bursting at the seams. Mostly by accident, we found a house nearby and were the first to leave the block. We kept the building as an investment (hah!) which kept our ties to the neighborhood strong and our friendships continued even after we moved.

Sadly, the young man who lived with his parents had to say goodbye to his father, who passed away after a brief illness. Tony sold the building and helped the mother find a nearby apartment. The young man moved off to a far away suburb to escape his sadness. (It didn't much work, from what I can tell.)

Another family - faced with the prospect of having to place their sons in less-than-desireable public high schools, decided to move closer to a private school. Tony sold their building and helped them buy another place. The neighborhood got markedly quieter after that.

The large family that had been renting several doors down decided it was time for them, too, to go. The older children to the north of me went off to high school and then college. Their parents, who always kept to themselves anyway, retreated further.

And so the only ones left were our original next door neighbors. Steady, dependable, always willing to lend a hand, this family had always been there to openly receive newcomers and to wave goodbye as family after family left.

And now it is their turn. The father, our friend, has become ill with, mostly, self-inflicted ails. It's terribly sad. The son, now college-age, returned after a year away at school to help out at home. The daughter, a few years older than my Lucy, is just now coming into her own, but it's a slow walk. And the mother, our quick-to-smile friend, is carrying on despite the hardness of the situation. Tony's selling the building and we're going to help them find a new place, hopefully close by.

The thing is - this is not the way I thought all these lives would carry out - with death and loss and injury. I can look at it all and find the incredible good - the two gorgeous boys who moved away with their parents are every bit of wonderful and good and smart; the widow who moved into her own place has found new life with friends and family members and a granddaughter who lights her life; we have gone on to live a magic-induced dream of a life with beautiful babies, and a warm home and lots to celebrate. And I know my friend will find peace and happiness in her new life with the children, away from this place where I think many sad memories reside.

So I can look at all that and be happy for what has and will come.

But I have a sentimental desire to return to those September eves when we'd all be out in front, kids laughing, moms chatting, dads mowing - when none of us had lost a parent or watched a loved one wither. I always think, if I could just go back and hug those moments of my life a little tighter, it would make me feel better.

But I can't. I know. And I wonder what lies ahead, given what has gone. It is, indeed, a long and winding road.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can't Be Completely Original Every Day

Some days, it is better to borrow someone else's words, isn't it? This, from the lovely Miss Sara:

As I Go To My Mother

As I go across the

Valley of blossoms

I see the nature of leaves

Coming to me

I feel the cold and chilly

Breeze of fall

And how I wish

I had some nice crispy pumpkin pie

I jitter my fingers upon my toes

So soothing

I could feel my mother

Call me

So Softly

As I could feel her in my heart

As I sit upon a sturdy branch

Waiting for my mother

Running to get me

I feel the soothing dreams

I scooped out all of my


And run to my

Beloved mother

From Sara to Mommy

Not to leave a good weep unpaid, I will reply to my treasure with the following.

I Go Because

I run to you

Because I'm lost

When you are away

I am brash and foolish

When I don't


You are my reason and center

My soul

The cool breeze carries my wishes

To soothe you, surround you

Sweeten your sit

Upon the sturdy branch

Until I can come

And draw you into me

Gentle, Soft, Kind


I Go Because You Are

My Baby

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Church Wants My Money

I had an interesting moment yesterday when I got home and picked up the mail. I got a letter from my church. They want money.

I suppose I should clarify. When I say 'my church' I mean the church in my parish. I am a registered parishioner, and I have been to the church on a few occasions. So, loosely, this is 'my church'. In fact, however, the church and all its attendant accoutrements are largely absent in my life.

Not surprisingly, the pastor remains blissfully unaware and so wrote to me that the parish is 'struggling to meet [its] fiscal responsibilities', requiring '$48,000 to operate monthly'. Wow. That's a big number. That's more than half a million dollars a year. The money, according to the letter goes to 18 teachers, 5 pastoral staff members, and 7 support staff members. That's 30 people. Okay.. ummm... carry the 3 and... that's less than $20k per person. Oh. That's a small number. Like the fine Catholic I am under this fast-talkin' veneer, I immediately began to feel guilty.

But wait - I've always presumed the church was getting a boatload of money all the time. I paid for my wedding mass, my children's christenings, have contributed to every funeral mass I've attended, and have provided regular donations to Catholic Charities ever since I was an adult. They ask for crazy money to enroll my children in their schools. If I can't afford that they ask for mortgage-worthy money to have the kids participate in catechism classes. They ask for money every week at mass, for St. Pete's sake! They've got money, haven't they? So they need more money?

I tried to talk myself out of feeling guilty but I'm a damn good Catholic at heart, and the guilt riddled me as I continued my bipolar grumble through the rest of the mail. I couldn't dispel the anvil of obligation weighing on my shoulders. So to ease my mind - and occupy the three minutes the babies were elsewhere entertained with Daddy - I sat down to skim through my latest edition of Time magazine.

And there it was. Page 34. The highlighted excerpt caught my eye.

Right-wing Catholics lobbied the

Boston archdiocese

to refuse the Kennedy family

a church funeral.

Read that twice.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, according to the article, claimed that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who presided over Ted Kennedy's funeral, was 'under the influence of Satan, "the father of lies"'. I read on, mindful of my rising temperature and its implications for the health and well-being of the innocent magazine becoming more and more fiercely clutched in my grasp. Details followed about the on-going debate among Catholics regarding politicians - or any flock members I suppose - who believe that a person's stance on abortion defines the entirety of his rights to the Catholic church, its services or its support.

I'm sorry, what?

Yes. According to some, if you are a pro-choice person, regardless of your otherwise stellar Catholic comportment, you deserve no funeral mass. You don't have to have an abortion. Your attitude sucks the worthiness right out of you. Believing in another person's right to make their own choice makes you such a grave embarrassment and disappointment to the church, that even in death, you cannot be redeemed sufficiently to allow your loved ones to grieve in the house of the Lord.

I've been horrified by the church before, but this one really made the bile rise.

Forget Kennedy and forget this Archbishop or that Cardinal. Just like voters who have no grasp on the constitution, Catholics who have no understanding of the simple tenets of the religion ought keep their opinions silent.

From the Gospel, According to St. John, Chapter 12, 44-50, King James Version

Jesus cried and said, he that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

Where does it say there that some imbecile from the Vatican gets to decide that I'm not Catholic enough because I believe people should make their own choices? May the good Lord help me to understand those who judge the world when not even His own son would do so. How dare these pastoral phonies presume to speak for the Lord, in whose name the Son forgave Judas, saved Mary Magdalene, and gave His life for all sinners? How impudent can they be to suggest that Satan resides in the heart of a man who humbly presides over a ceremony to respectfully dispatch a soul, seeking God's acceptance? It is not the right of the presider to decide whether the soul is admitted into His heavenly home. This is the purview of the Lord Himself. So if the celebrant usurps the Lord's authority, is he not more guilty than the supposed lost soul in the coffin? Blasphemy is the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.

Quotes, definitions and interpretations aside, is not the Lord's teaching one centered on compassion and forgiveness? The filth and vitriol integral to the modern Western political process is finding false roots in our religion and I for one will not abide by it. The right of choice may be a debatable one. The choice to allow others to choose does not a sinner make. And the judgement of sin is best left in the capable hands of He who has not sinned.

I silently affirmed this to myself as I held my Time magazine in one hand and the letter from my pastor in the other. In essence, my pastor must know that the reason his church is failing to meet its fundraising goals is because my Time magazine tells me that my church won't bear - at least not without argument - my funeral. The journey of every Christian's life is one through Christ to God. I shall let Him decide whether I deserve to be received in His home and it is there that I shall pay - with all the life I have spent - my contributions to the church.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cannot Escape The Random

More unrelated thoughts/questions that need to be expressed. My inability to focus seems to play well with the masses.

Will the gentle people from the United States yield for a question? If a little-known rep from a non-headline-making state wants to get into the history books for all his descendants to see, what should he do?

If that rep joins his opposing party in passing a reform bill that has been at least a century overdue, in a country that calls itself 'the richest country on Earth' and turns a blind eye to the 1 in 8 of its citizens who struggle with hunger, he deserves his 10 minutes. Hunger, in case you didn't know it, affects your health.

My daughter said to me "I think you'll be sunshine." 'What?' from me. "When you die, and you come back to visit me, the way David visits Daddy as a bird. I think you will be sunshine." Unrequited joy.
"Wouldn't it be cool if Daddy was moonlight?" Yes.

There's only one tree on my block with leaves on it. It's in front of my house. It drops a seemingly never-ending shower of leaves on the lawn that my husband so painstakingly cares for all year long. Raking is futile. I shouldn't find that funny, right?

I'm having an incredibly hard time releasing my daughter into the world, even just a smidge, so she can have a little freedom. I've become a storied clown fish on this issue. Funny.

The tepid temperatures, while gorgeous and silky and sumptuous, are enjoyed with a modecam of modesty. Either they are a generous gift from God, a benevolent, unexpected respite to distract from all the other woes and worries - OR - they are a sign of the end of days. Tough one.

I've regressed from my earlier statement about staying home on Thanksgiving to wear comfy pants and eat pie. Having family and friends in the house on holidays is part of the whole thing. Somebody talk me off that ledge, please!

At what point do you call it quits and realize that no amount of cleaning will ever render your house clean? I believe I'm nearing the finish line and I just want to know so I can do a little 'woot woot' dance.
Saw a little fuzzy puppy this morning. I want one! I can talk myself down from that one, but thanks for offering.

Totally plan on writing a book. Any second now. As soon as I can collect three or four thoughts that go together and make sense. Might not be any second now.
Turns out CSPAN in high def is just as borning as CSPAN on the regular channel. In case you were wondering.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Come On, Get Happy!

I can't think of a single thing to write about. Lucky for you, that means we're having 'random day' again!

I tried telling my husband yesterday how much I love him and he didn't get it and made a joke. If you care for him at all, I'd suggest you warn him to have a food taster for the next few days. I love him, but I am part Sicilian.

My children did presentations in school today, one dressed as P.T. Barnum and the other as Barbaro (the famous racehorse). It was delish. I wish my mom could have gone to some of my in-school activities, but I'm even happier that I can do it now for my babies.

That reminds me that my father is a total nerd for missing out on all of my growing up, and he's a double nerd for missing out on all my kids' growing up. Nerd.
Speaking of which, I found out that my oldest daughter is considered a 'nerd' in school. When I was growing up, she would have fallen entirely into the 'popular' category with her green eyes and slender figure and perfect white teeth in a row. I've said many times I probably would not have been friends with her in school. Turns out, it's not because she would have been popular, but because she would have been a nerd! Go figure.

On the subject of crazy, I have this: Glenn Beck is isolation-cell-worthy crazy. He should be quarantined. Or at the very least his mouth should be.

Before you go there: I of course recognize his right to free speech. I therefore further recognize my right to speak my mind about how completely absurd his speech is. It's ridiculous. It's "My shoe has an ear and he'll have pie before the bus comes!"-type crazy. Crazy.

Am I wrong to think that Bob Marley is seasonally inappropriate for office background music now? Somebody needs to cue the DJ.

If I've learned one thing as an adult so far its that all the people I thought were way smarter than me may not be, and alot of the people I devalued may be way smarter than I gave them credit for.

That said, I'm still terribly impatient with people who are not as smart as me. If I've been impatient with you, please disregard that remark.

Forgiveness is a talent learned by example. You first.

I've become one of those people who obsessively puts on hand creams and lotions. Finally, Estee Lauder is going to get her money's worth after all the free samples I've taken from her counters and gift bags over the years. I've been feeling guilty about that.

I wonder if she feels guilty charging me $25 for a stinkin' hand cream.

It is one of life's great mysteries how I always happen to be in a quiet room with my family while all of them crunch, munch, and slurp some food or drink. I've come to believe that it is entirely on purpose and that they're all trying desperately to drive me mad. Joke's on them. I'm already nuts!

I want to see everyone in my family for Thanksgiving and give them all warm hugs and kisses and tell them how much I love them. Alternatively, I'd like to stay home in my snuggly pants and eat pie in front of the t.v. The pants are currently winning that contest.

I've decided that if I keep comparing my figure now with my 17-year-old figure my current figure is always going to suck. I'm therefore going to start comparing myself to a 17-year-old elephant. Amazing how gorgeous I become with just that little shift in thinking!

When other people grow their hair out, does it actually grow OUT, as in across instead of down? Because I think my hair is confused about how this thing is supposed to be going. Figures. I'm terrible with directions.

People who do not understand the concept of reformed healthcare because the government can't successfully run any programs should forego the use or benefit of any federal programs, departments or agencies, including: the legislative, executive or judicial branches of the government and all the services they provide, the military, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the VA, Medicare, Medicaid, the postal service, FEMA, the treasury, the EPA, the FCC, the State Department and so on. They should refuse to read any books kept in libraries that are subsidized by the federal government, withdraw from the use of any federally subsidized highways or bridges, refrain from attending any national parks, and for that matter, keep far and clear of the election process - a federally run initiative. They should reject any federal monies in their schools, especially if the government is holds the schools to any standards as a tie-in to receiving the money. They should blow whistles whenever they see federal workers inspecting packages as people enter federal buildings. They should, in fact, never enter a federal building because, let's face it, the government can't do anything right. The building might collapse while they're in there? And then who'd take care of them? Not us. We don't have healthcare coverage.

If you could only give thanks to one person in your life, who would it be and why? I can't answer that question so I'm hoping you give a good one and then it'll inspire me to find my answer. (Do not pick God. That's cheating.)

Where do you leave your cares when you're told to 'leave your cares behind?' Because I think I've been doing it wrong all these years, which is why my behind is so dang large. But not as large as a 17-year-old elephant!

Which leaves us with "Forget your troubles. Come on get happy. You better chase all your cares away. Shout hallelujah. Come on get happy...." If you're about my age, you'll hum it but may not know all the words. YouTube the video for Judy Garland's version - it's sure to make you smile - as I hope the few moments you spent here did.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pay Attention, Mensos - Here's the Manual

I've heard people say that parenting ought to come with a manual. I agree. And since no one else seems to have a good one and Spock is dead and was not aware of the phenomena that is in-class texting, I'm going to lay down some simple rules. If you're a bad parent, pay extra close attention:
Rule Number 1. PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention to your kids. Listen to what they say. If they're annoying you, turn, tell them to wait until you can pay attention - then follow-thru and pay attention. Go back to them after you're done doing the dishes and say, 'OK honey, show me the picture.' If you don't pay attention to your kids, they will certainly not pay attention to you. That's a hard one, but an easy one to understand.
Rule Number 2. YES. You do have to give up a good portion of your own life in order to participate in what's going on with theirs. Yes, you do have to review school work, even if they (or you) don't like it. You have to read the homework, calculate the math, at least flip through the books they're reading. Suck it up. You have to turn off the show you want to watch and talk to them. You have to have their friends over even if you'd like a peaceful evening to yourself. You have to say 'no' to the dinner out with friends so you can be with your kids. Yes. You do.
Rule Number 3. RESPECT IS EARNED. And that street travels in both directions. Your child deserves your respect if he/she is behaving the best they can. And you only deserve respect when you act like a respectable person. Work. Keep a watchful eye over your babies - at every age. Be valuable and value your children. Speak intelligently. Maintain healthy relationships. Read a dang book once in a while. You are the model they follow. Even when they stray at certain points in their development, they will always return to you if you deserve it.
Rule Number 4. LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH. Love is critical, no doubt. Without it, the whole thing collapses. But love does not compensate for inattention, laziness, abdication of responsibility. You can't only love from a distance. The school educates, babysitter picks up, the grandparents watch on weekends, the best friends' mom has the sleepovers. And you go to soccer games and show up for holiday pictures. Gee thanks. That doesn't cut it. You need to be present. Don't leave them behind when you go to the store. Take them with and talk. Don't make them play outside or downstairs all the time. Let them play right where you are, and you play too sometimes. Don't just hand them a prepared meal. Let them make a salad or toast some bread while you work on the main course. These things matter. They are, in essence, the expressions of love that make up the fabric of a life. Rule Number 1 followers take heed - your children's little hearts depend on it.
Rule Number 5. HARD WORK MATTERS. Of course its easier to do the laundry yourself - or better yet - have hired help. But what is your child learning to help themselves do laundry? Bust your butt a little. Drag them down to the laundry room and teach them how to do it. Then follow them on several trips to do the same thing until you feel they've got it right. And then, this is tricky, insist they do it on some regular basis. Get up off the couch. If you're following Rule Number 1 this gets easier. Just know that everything you teach your child makes him smarter, more capable, more confident. The more you fail to teach the more likely your child is to fail.
Rule Number 6. BEING WEAK IS OK. There are days when you're really going to flop. That's fine. It doesn't mean you don't have a leg to stand on. It means your children have to see you as human - gasp! So you didn't do the dishes yesterday? That doesn't mean you can't demand they be done today. You weren't on time for pickup Monday? Tell them you're sorry you were late. Then be on time Tuesday. When you're sick, let your kids see you be sick and teach them how to show kindness and care for you. Their expressions of compassion will enlighten you both.
Rule Number 7. PANIC OFTEN. I think the whole calm parenting thing is a crock of doodle. For crissakes - you've got a little life in your hands! That's a miracle - magic the likes of which we cannot completely understand. Is there anything in your entire life that you'll ever have that'll be more important? (My husband might quibble about the relative value of his iphone and his plasma screen t.v. but for those of us still rational to think clearly, the question stands.) Of course you should worry where they are after school! You should worry that they're sleeping o.k. - and make damn sure of it! You should freak out if they're not taking school seriously and find out why right away! You should have your heart in your throat if you think they've been hurt! That is your baby, you idiot! See Rule Number 1.
Rule Number 8. DON'T ACT LIKE YOU'RE PANICKING. Rule Number 7 does not give you carte blanche to act like a raving lunatic. It just means you can't take the whole thing with a glass of chardonnay and a long 'welllll' approach. You need to get heated and excited and thrilled and furious and protective. Love is an ACTION word. Your child needs to know that you are having genuine and meaningful reactions to the things that happen in their lives. This is their measurement of whether or not you are paying attention. See Rule Number 1.
Rule Number 9. BE GOOD. We tell children all the time to 'be good'. But are we? Are we kind to others, faithful, fair-minded, unbiased and compassionate? Don't just drop your kids off at school and assume that everybody in the building was brought forward to this moment in time to educate your child. Walk in the darn building and find out. Talk to teachers and volunteer when you can. Don't just use the swings at the park and then go home, leaving behind your trash and your spent energies. Show up on clean-up day. Talk to the kinds whose parents aren't there and show them a little smile or share a laugh. These are children in your community and they need you, along with all the other adults in their lives to notice them. (Pesky Rule Number 1.) If you care about your church or your politics or your environment, participate and take your kids with you to participate. They will do good, be good when they follow your example.
Rule Number 10. LOVE IS EVERYTHING. Despite the tone of Rule Number 4, it is to be understood that love is all we live for, as children, as parents, as humans. Love is expressed in a million different ways, as above, and more. For me, love spills out and covers everything. It touches and holds and smiles. Love is warm and sometimes fierce and fiery. Love is whispery and gentle and delicate. My love for my children is constant and permeates all of me, every move, every action. It is in my voice, even when I am angry, and it is in my food and my furnishings. My children may walk away from their childhoods knowing full well that as crazy as I am, I have loved them as completely and thorougly as a body could be loved. And that truly is everything.
The 10 items above are the rules that came naturally to me as I started out on this little adventure. I've other, less critical bits of advice in my head like:
- don't let them put captain crunch in their noses (don't judge me!)
- if you believe in Christmas, a real Christmas tree is environmentally irresponsible but entirely necessary to a successful childhood
- walking the kids to school is the right thing to do, but if you're too lazy, it's better to drive with them than let them walk alone
- after your first child has had three doctor visits about coughs you needn't ever call a doctor again about a cough; they always say the same thing
- dress your kids like you care how they look; appearances matter, whether we like it or not. also your kid looking like he just dropped his rumpled butt out of bed does not help him with the ladies, either
- candy, in moderation, is good for all of us; candy, in exaggeration, makes your kid a lunatic and prevents me from inviting her over after school. your call.
- if you reprimand my kid in front of me and you're right, we're all good; if you reprimand my kid in front of me and you're wrong, apologize or prepare to be decimated.
- children should be respectful of all adults, but obey only the ones they trust. this is an important one.
- children are a joy and should be treated as such, unless they are being annoying, in which case they should be called on it so they know how to identify annoyingness in the future - its a public service
- kisses, hugs and snuggling are always o.k. except when mommy has cramps. this is especially true when your son weighs over a hundred pounds but still likes to jump in your lap.
- potty training is the devil's work. hire a professional.
- gardening with children inevitably leads to lots of mud, mangled flowers and a frightening array of toys in your garden. it's great. you should try it.
- PB&J on a suede couch is a bad idea. just trust me on this one.
- cats prefer not to be petted when the petter has superglue on his or her tiny little hands.
-capes are dangerous when worn over the face. in case this wasn't obvious. as it wasn't in my household. (again with the judging?)
- if you have children in your life, you are blessed by God and should be thankful every day. maybe that should be rule number 1.