Suburban Snapshots

Easy to love, but let's
not move in together

Monday, June 27, 2011

Steve's been busy tearing plaster off of our bedroom walls and while he's in the midst of this project, our mattress sits in the middle of the living room floor making the room either one giant trampoline or an orgy den, depending on which of my co-habitants you're asking.

The rest of the place is equally upturned — the expanse of one room's worth of stuff is pretty impressive. I continually circulate through the house trying to maintain some kind of order, and what I keep finding is that as much as Anna can't seem to return a single goddamned thing to its proper place, I might actually be worse at it.

Below, I present photo evidence that while I am a good wife in many ways, I might also deserve to be smothered in my sleep.

I made this snack an hour ago, and I smeared some yogurt in the jelly jar.
I prefer to leave cold cups of coffee near pricey musical instruments.
I park dead center, Steve has to butter himself to get out of his own car.
I stick my hair to the shower wall. I then forget to throw it away.
This is no where near a door and those Pumas are just gross.
This is my plan to expedite the new laundry chute.

Thankfully, it would be really hard for my current roommates to evict me; one would risk certain malnourishment while the other would spend weeks wandering around the house yelling, "Somebody wipe me!" I'll let you all sort out who's who.

Clawing at the Slippery Slope

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Next week Anna's moving up from her current room at daycare into the adjacent preschool class. I have no problems with her current school; I like the teachers (after some turnover, the fortuitous return of her most-favorite-ever teacher, and the long-overdue resignation of an inexplicably cranky one), the location couldn't be better, the rate is beyond reasonable, and she has the most adorable, miniature friends — even one kid who's been the source of two incident reports seems to be chilling the hell out. So it surprised even me when I found myself researching other area preschools. Still more unexpected is that I was doing it based entirely on what other moms were doing.

Who am I?

It happened at a birthday party over the weekend. I was chatting with a very nice, well-put-together mom with a little boy in Anna's class. Both she and the mother of the birthday girl were pulling their kids from the daycare and enrolling them in a stand-alone preschool. Knowing the shorter hours and likely higher rates at dedicated pre-Ks, this move had never been a consideration for us; we need the full day and God knows we don't need to up our expenses. But minutes into the conversation I felt something start whirring in my brain, questioning my decision to stay put, wondering what benefits I might be denying Anna by keeping her at a mixed daycare/preschool. Would they teach better at the other school? Could I be squandering precious learning years? Am I supposed to teach her to read?

Ultimately we've decided to keep her where she is. She's adjusted and happy, I love that all of the other classrooms' teachers know her, that at pick up all of her tiny friends scream, "Anna! Your mommy's here!" as though I'd arrived on a pony with my arms full of kittens dipped in sugar.

But even as I'm putting this moment behind me, I find a similar pattern starts to emerge when considering Anna's activities. Today I combed the websites of three local dance schools, cross-referencing each program with the schedule for the soccer camp I signed her up for and the gymnastics class she's been taking for three months. I'm not sure what triggers it but I know I never wanted to be this mom — next I'll be spending two hours a day at the gym, volunteering for bake sales, and organizing preschool study groups. I'm jeopardizing my lazy laid-back mom title with each intramural.

I guess in this scenario like in every other parenting situation I've encountered these past three years, I'll just wing it, trust my instincts, and hope like hell I'm not messing up my kid in the process.

To Profanity and Beyond

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If you follow my Facebook posts at all, you know that Anna's been experimenting with some colorful language lately. It's not the first time she's spouted obscenities, but at three she's got the context down too, so that when, in the middle of a crowded sporting goods store on a recent Saturday she dropped an entire bag of pretzels, her, "Oh that freakin' CRAP!" was delivered with the inflection and emphasis of a fifty-year-old construction worker.

And what's amazing is how she picks up on the exact wrong word in any given sentence when she barely hears the phrases I've got on perpetual repeat, like, "Don't get in the dog's face," or, "Please take the macaroni out of your underpants." In a single hour I deliver any number of non-expletives, but the second I trip over a dog begging at my feet and mutter, "Dammit, Henry," the house fills with tiny, little dammits from door to door.

I joke that it's my electrician husband who's at the root of all the R-rated turns of phrase in our house, but we're both really careful about dropping those big swears. Mostly it's me, tossing PG grenades at annoying situations; a broken glass, poop in the house, slamming the funny bone I didn't know existed near the knee cap into a table (this totally deserved a giant, screaming, "FUCK," but I exercised  restraint). Finger nails bent too far backward get furrowed, "Oh, crap"s. Jars sealed shut by solidified jelly are usually "freaking pain"s.

We don't want to raise a foul-mouthed kid, and the folks who've commented on my status updates suggest guiding her in her use of expletives rather than disciplining her. I get the philosophy behind that, but also remember an ex-boyfriend who frequently called his mother a bitch, and I wonder if maybe that had been her method for dealing with his preschool potty-mouth and it backfired completely in his teen years.

Admittedly it's almost impossible not to laugh when she says matter-of-factly that the melting of her ice cream sucks, or shouts, "Oh, mandammit!" in frustration. Usually I hide my convulsive laughter and try to ignore the offending word, distracting her into something else.

I know some of you have teenagers, I wonder if you had a strategy for this or whether you just let it work itself out. Were there bars of soap? Wooden spoons? Time outs? Did you use different levels of discipline according to the volatility of the four letters in question? If you've been here or are currently stifling your own laughter, I'd love to hear from you.

Where Guilt Finds Me

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I've probably mentioned before that I work full-time from home. It's a gig I'm lucky to have — I get the security of a job with benefits and the freedom to run a few errands when I need to. Anna and Steve are home with me two days per week but generally stay out of my home office during work hours. (By 'generally' I mean that Anna has to be asked repeatedly not to photocopy her face while I'm on conference calls.)

We share all the household responsibilities, but because of how our schedules work out Steve does the bulk of the child care and whatever chores have to get done during the day; mostly this involves washing the same three sippy cups four-hundred times and pulling Anna's hands out of the candy bowl in seven-minute intervals.

I don't know if it's the nature of our personalities or gender differences, but not once has Steve asked for time away. He's never complained about being exhausted by our daughter, beaten down by her demands, her after-market rotten attitude, or her inability to clean up after herself. He's never said to me, "Honey, I just need to go get a coffee or meth or something for a few minutes." And yet he can glance at me and know the second I'm about to grab my keys and slip out the garage door for a ten-minute latte run.

I admit to you all that I need these breaks. That sometimes I'll walk out of my office into the living room, greet my family, and within seconds Anna's yelling to talk over whatever conversation Steve and I are trying to have, we both cut off sentences to ask her to say, "Excuse me," and she complies, now shouting, "EXCUSE ME!" insistently, even louder than her previous interruptions until there's nothing but half-finished sentences filling the air. In that moment I just want to return to the quiet of my little office and shut the door.

I'm okay with not being stay-at-home-mom material. I know if I needed to I could manage it, but I am in awe of women who choose it and who are great at it (though I suspect as a condition of motherhood none of them actually consider themselves great at it.) But damn I have hella guilt over being a working, fulfilled mom with one measly kid who's really good and super adorable, and a husband who just handles what needs to be handled and who understands my frustrations and gives me the space for them, and still feeling the need almost daily to be away from them, just for a few minutes.

Please chime in on the topic, even if it's to say, "Someone call the whaaaambulance." And click over to Mommyfriend's vlog on the subject of working mothers, me time, and guilt.