Category Archives: Writing

My Childrens’ Dark Side Emerges

I was always a strange child.

When I was seven, I used to cover my drawings with another piece of paper, shaded in black, so you’d have to hold it up to the light to see the images behind it. One was of a beautiful dead woman at the bottom of the sea, draped in wilting flowers. Every year, her lover would return to the place where she had fallen to her death to drop another rose.

When I was eight, I frightened my parents by building a guillotine out of Tinker Toys, which didn’t actually work. I used piano wire to make hoop skirts for my Barbies and cut out little folded fans with drawn-on birds and landscapes. I painstakingly covered their faces in white paint, drew exaggerated beauty marks, and pinned cotton balls and feathers into their heads until they looked just like 18th century aristocrats. I only owned one Ken doll, though, which complicated my reenactment a bit.

And when I was eleven, I won an award for a Thanksgiving short story I casually penned  one day in class. My parents’ faces were so proud when they asked me to read it to them, then slowly fell as they realized it was written from the point of view of a turkey whose wife had been pulled from their humble wooden shack for slaughter, about how his heart had burned upon watching the pink-cheeked farmer’s daughter, with her bouncy blonde curls, giggling as she dragged his shivering wife to the block.

My grandmother proudly pulled the turkey out of the oven later that night. I was genuinely surprised when my parents went awkwardly quiet.

Maybe it was their fault for buying me all those kid-friendly Shakespeare books, or letting me watch Wagnerian operas at two, but I had never been the type to sell lemonade for a quarter with an adorably messed-up, hand-painted sign. Because I was too swept up in the beauty of tragic romanticism to understand what a creepy little kid I was.

But in time, I learned that adding a few punchy pop songs to your opera death-scene playlist was socially helpful. That maybe you shouldn’t bring up the history of torture and what it might mean about human psychology when people are discussing politics, or that when you’re in mom circles, maybe you keep to yourself that trying to make friends with bullies is really bad advice for children because sometimes, just windmilling your arms works ten times as well.

I had nearly forgotten that dark imagination until its echoes crept up on me today, in the form of my five-year-old daughter Brontë…

It would be Brontë, the child I named for my love of the Brontë sisters. I was in high school, having lost my taste for books for years, even though I felt guilty about it because reading was something smart people were supposed to do, even though it bored me senseless until I was forcing my way through a school-required Wuthering Heights and found the scene where Heathcliff runs to the broken window to scream for the ghost of Catherine to return…

Well, I was playing with the kids outside when I finally asked them why they kept throwing flowers into the rickety birdbath in the back of the yard.

Brontë’s face took on a quiet, reverential tone as she solemnly spoke to me…

“This is NOT a birdbath.”

“Okay, what is it?”

She took a breath. “This… is the monument to our dead queen.”

And, shocked that she knew the word “monument,” I prodded her further: “Oh?”

Pointing to the pool house, she continued: “That was her house and we don’t go in there. She was very old and very nice. She had long white hair and always smiled. She was so… kind. The bad guys killed her,”

Then, wiggling the top of the birdbath, she said, “You can never push this over because if you do, you will break the queen’s bones and destroy her soul. They killed her father too, but they cut off his head and all his body is in pieces so we can’t find his body, which is a very sad thing.”

“I see,” I told her, trying not to disrespect the sacred site with too casual a tone. Bridget nodded sadly, placing another picked flower on the birdbath and grabbing my hand. She walked me over to the gazebo to explain how this was her house, where they serve tacos, and sometimes chocolate cake.

“And we play hide-and-seek,” Brontë added. “And you should play with us…

But DON’T knock over the queen’s bones.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seniors in Hotpants and Toddler Book Reviews

Tuesday is library day, which the girls love because of its set routine.

First, we load water and snacks into the girls’ backpacks and the past week’s books into mine. Then, we walk out of our neighborhood, pausing on our way to stare at the bizarre cacophony of objects in the Vietnam Vet’s front yard.

Doll heads, Snoopy statues, American flags, ancient tools in a gravel maze of cacti and rosebuds… to me, it represents lingering existential puzzles. But for Brontë and Bridget, it’s a Where’s Waldo of disordered beauty. They always point out something random before moving on.

We hit the boulevard where I always pick up Bridget and squeeze Brontë’s hand to cross the street. Knowing this, Bridget reaches both arms up as we approach, then pushes her face into my neck as we wait for an opening before trotting across. I set her down as we continue past the lost animal posters, the guttered fast-food cups, the place where the skateboarding kids’ skunk-toned air turns to jasmine bushes.

The kids greet the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in front of the library in flowered dresses and well-ironed suits, then they charge toward their respective book return slots. Bridget always goes to the left, and Brontë to the right. I hand them books to return until my backpack is empty.

Then we walk to the park to play before Storytime begins at the library. Sometimes we meet our neighbor there, but she was busy last week. So instead, the girls ran to the playground after immediately ditching their backpacks and shoes, as they always do.

I sat down on a nearby bench, trying hard not to judge the lady who was at least well into her seventies wearing short-shorts that just walked by because I hate those preachy 30 Things Not to Wear After Thirty lists and shouldn’t be so damn hypocritical. It was warm outside, so I should cut her a break, even if I’d never wear something like that myself. Even Jessica Simpson would have trouble pulling those off.

Showcased flesh aside, I was wondering if we’d have to drive next week because it would be too hot to walk when I noticed Bridget walking up the big, spiral slide again. Dang it… I’m always telling her not to do that because it creates a traffic jam with the kids at the top, but there were no kids at the top right then and sometimes parents have to pick their battles so maybe I’ll just let it slide.

Let it slide, let it slide… shut UP, annoying brain with your terrible puns. Climbing up the slide must be incredibly fun, considering how badly kids want to do it. Like a spiral mountain-climbing event. Aerial geometry. 

And that’s when Bridget started screaming.

I walked over confused, because she’s climbed up that slide a thousand times before.

“They boarded up the slide because the slide is hot,” the grand dame in short-shorts told me.

OH. Bridget’s freaking out because she’s trapped. That makes sense. I reached my arms up toward her.

“Come here, baby,” I said. “I’ll get you down.”

And then loudly, the lady said, “Well, she CAN’T walk down the slide because she ISN’T WEARING ANY SHOES!” (subtext: Only a monster of a mother would let her child run around without any shoes on).

Then, without missing a beat or pausing for breath, she worked up her most martyred-sounding tone and yelled, “I guess I’LL have to GO GET HER THEN,” before shoving me out of the way to reach the slide bottom.

Panicked by the sight of a crazed old lady in hot pants advancing upon her, Bridget shrieked before jumping sideways off the top of the slide into my arms. Irritated by the forced parkour, I twirled her away as the lady let out a frustrated HMPH! and one more “she WASN’T wearing any SHOES!”

“She walked UP the slide, didn’t she!?” I yelled back, wondering why the woman thought trying to cart a hysterical toddler backwards down a spiral slide wouldn’t be dangerous and whether she would later recount her heroically-attempted rescue of the poor kid whose mom wanted to boil her feet to all her friends, who would then pontificate on how social media and participation trophies ruined the Millennials.

Well, we made it to library Storytime, where the kids had a blast and learned all about the Storybook Summer Reading Challenge. If they read five books and log reviews into the website, they get to pick out a free gift book. If they read twenty, they get a SUPER READER medal with their name on it.

This is beyond exciting for my kids and all they can talk about. They want that medal. They’re hungry for it. It has their NAME ON IT.

It will be easy, since I read Brontë a different story every night. We always check out three books for Bidgie to choose from, but she always picks the same one… whatever one she happened to read first. Bonus points if it’s Dr. Seuss though, whom she loves, even though Brontë inexplicably HATES him.

For Brontë, I try to select a bunch of different styles and genres to open up her brain. I usually get a couple of weird ones to make her think. She usually loves them.

But not the one we read last night.

Sendak-nightkitchenIt’s called “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak. It was published in 1970, but looks like something out of the 1920’s: a little boy falls asleep, floats out of his clothes and into  the dough of three chubby bakers who want to cook him because they think he’s milk…

The boy fashions the dough into an airplane, then flies over a huge glass bottle of milk. Jumping inside it, he gets a pitcher to bring back to the bakers, who then sing a happy song about having milk for their cake. The boy makes rooster noises before floating back into his clothes and his bed.

It was mildly disturbing, to tell you the truth. I was curious about Brontë’s take…

Night Kitchen milk
Frankly, this creeped me out too

Me: So, what did you think?

Brontë: That was… weird.

Me: Yeah. I’m sensing you didn’t like it.

Brontë: No, because that little boy was NAKED.

Me: He was.

Brontë: And then he GOT into the MILK. Naked! I do NOT want naked boys in my milk, momma. He could PEE in there!

Me: True.

Brontë: Or even POOP!

Bridget: GROSS!

(The girls laugh hysterically).

Me: Okay, so in your review, you want to say, “I thought the naked boy in the milk was weird because he could pee in there.”

Brontë (very seriously): YES. Or poop. Don’t forget that part. I don’t want to see any more books about naked boys in milk. You write that.

Me: Okay.

And I did. Anyone researching children’s books in Sacramento libraries can now read all about how this one contains disturbing imagery of naked little boys in milk jars who could spontaneously pee and run everybody’s breakfasts. I can’t help wondering if that lady in hot pants will someday come upon it and spontaneously combust.

I also can’t help wondering if there was some deeper, more intricate symbolism in the book that both of us missed. That couldn’t have just been about being baked naked in Oliver Hardy’s cake, right?

Hopefully, Brontë will like tomorrow’s batch much better, but on the other hand, her negative reviews are much more entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonderful World of Marketing

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A New Perspective

You might’ve noticed that Bubbles and Beebots looks different now.

I may keep on tweaking it until I’m happy. But see, B&B is now getting enough foot traffic to receive advertising invitations and I had to rework its layout into a more ads-friendly theme.

Which is kind of exciting, though I won’t be expecting more than pocket change for a bit. Maybe just enough to get my kids some ice cream at the zoo… don’t you want my adorable kids to be able to eat ice cream, folks?

There. That was my best attempt at salesmanship because I’m so NOT a natural saleswoman. I figured I’d try the guilt angle, since it comes so naturally to parents and as far as I can tell, advertisers usually work their magic using one of a few tools:

Guilt

vintagecaradAgain, a natural selling-point for parents, since we already feel so responsible…

Hey, buy these spoons that tell you when food is too hot, so your trusting baby won’t end up burning her poor little mouth!

Sure, this cereal costs three times more, but there’s a cartoon princess on the box and cartoon princesses make your kid HAPPY. What kind of a monster doesn’t want their kid to be happy?

Using dogs and cats works well too. Aren’t they your best friend?? Don’t they deserve the best!?

Fear

Mostly of being socially ostracized because not buying Product X will make you disgusting.

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Preventing heartbreak with the right soap

I mean, what if you use a substandard deodorant and end up stinking up the subway? You’ll put your arm up to hold onto the rail, and… BAM! No more invites. You wouldn’t want to gross out your taxicab cab partner, would you?

Or toothpaste. What if that woman you’ve had a huge crush on for ages finally walks up to talk to you and you melt her eyebrows with your jalapeño egg salad breath? Don’t be so GROSS.

It also works with more literal fears about your physical safety. There are always tons of commercials for home alarm systems whenever  you’re watching a crime show.

Envy

I’ve been noticing a theme here, and it mostly involves our fears of being judged. We don’t want other people to think bad things about us.

And on the flip side, we DO want them to think good things. Like, it’s great to have a fashionable product because then everyone will know you’re on the level. Or if you’re a hipster, you want a product that ISN’T popular, so you can be part of the elite club that actually appreciates it. We don’t want the ads to look too rehearsed or glossy, in that case.

Let’s say you think that girl from the Sketchers ad is pretty hot and you’d like to look like her or date her (or both, depending on your persuasion). So, maybe if you wear those tennis shoes, some of her hotness will rub off on you and then you can rock her awesome figure without having to do any crunches or lay off the Cinnabons.

soda
I don’t think this is really about the soda.

And hey, Benicio Del Toro is pretty macho and successful and maybe you could also be a world traveler if you tossed back a few Heinekens. At the very least, you’d be cool.

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Umm… or the beer

Eh… my terrible natural salesmanship is becoming all too apparent. In fact, I should probably pull this post before any actual advertisers read it.

And go back to being a manic pixie who occasionally mentions poop tantrums. It’s what I do best. 🙂

Bubbles and Beebots In the News!

Yesterday was Bridget’s 3rd birthday. She spent the daylight hours indulging in cookies, cat-stalking and sunshine in the kind of present-moment-savoring paradise that most adults wish they still had the freedom to enjoy.

She was playing on the porch swing when her big sister Brontë put one of Douglas’s dog toys in her mouth, barking and crawling around on the ground.

Oh gross, I chuckled. Brontë, put the dog toy down!

She did. We later went inside to start the birthday celebrations, the girls forgetting all about the dog toy incident… until a startling discovery the very next morning:

 

That’s right.

A photo of Brontë with a dog toy in her mouth splashed across the front page of the The Sacramento Bee today, visible from every newspaper stand in town.

I’ll admit to being a little bit mortified.

And it’s not that I don’t believe most little kids have had far worse in their mouths at some point (kids chew on everything); it’s that random snapshots of our lives can create unbalanced impressions. I didn’t want people thinking I routinely let my kids chew on dog toys that have been sitting outside in the dirt because that’s not usually how we spend our time.

This idea didn’t bother Brontë at all, however. She was too busy being thrilled by her joke making the local news. She grabbed a paper and spent the next couple of hours running up to strangers to point out her featured photo. “It’s SO FUNNY,” she kept telling them. “They put it IN THE PAPER!”

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My girls become local celebrities.

Now, you may be wondering how this all came about…

Months ago, I wrote a blog post called Americans Are Too Damn Clean, inspired by parents who get rid of pets during pregnancies or use hand sanitizer before handling infants from what I consider to be good intentions gone awry, encouraged by our national tendency toward germ paranoia.

In it, I bring up scientific studies showing how kids who grow up around pets actually have fewer allergies, lower rates of asthma and eczema, and better gut ecosystems. No need to get rid of your pets.

Apparently, the Health Reporter for The Sacramento Bee came across my article and was intrigued. She called me for an interview and to set up an appointment to take photos of my girls being natural kids in a laid-back environment around a mom who would let them get dirty.

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Wondering how this will all be spun.

And Brontë, being the natural performer that she is, supplied the piece de resistance by chewing on a dog toy for the cameras, which ended up being a teaser on the front page. Oh, and she also grabbed the camera from the cameraman when he wasn’t looking and snapped some photos of me. Luckily, he was a really nice guy who has twin 8-year-old girls of his own, so he completely understood.

Fortunately, the article didn’t portray me as a filthy lunatic, just a mom who wasn’t convinced that disinfecting everything was the best idea. It was on the first page of the section section and the online version is here: Are Your Kids Too Clean? Microbiome Research Reveals Dangers of Killing Germs.

The only real bummer is how the reporter promised to mention Bubbles and Beebots in the article, which would’ve been great press in a nationally-known newspaper… especially since I live just outside of Sacramento, talk about the area from time to time, and since some of the studies mentioned in the article came straight out of my blog post. There’s a link included on the online version, yet the actual newspaper only referred to me as a parenting blogger.

Dang. Well, maybe the editor cut it. You never know.

At any rate, I think it’s pretty cool that Bridget’s birthday will be forever remembered as the day before she appeared in the local paper. She seems to think it’s pretty cool too.

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Why Parents Keep On Parenting

As many of you know, I recently wrote an article trying to explain baffling parenting behaviors which is currently being reamed throughout the childfree subreddit universe. challengeThe leading criticisms involve my failure to explain what makes children worth all the hassle, despite this never having been my article’s intention.

Well, that sounds an awful lot like a challenge.

And intellectual challenges can be downright fun. Just last month, I wrote an article about how every major American holiday glorifies one of the seven deadly sins and despite being a fan of Disney, I’m currently kicking around the idea of explaining the sick & twisted values many Disney films promote.

Yet picking up this childfree subredditers’ gauntlet will mean trying to explain the inexplicable, rationalize the illogical, and transform the uninitiated via hypothetical vision… this doomed quest probably has about as much chance of succeeding as inventing a mathematical formula for defining love.

Why do I say that?

Because despite all the arguments about needing to replenish the workforce or have someone to take care of you when you’re old, having kids still doesn’t make sense on paper: You put your body through a terrible ordeal, then spend many sleep-deprived years catering to an irrational being who must be constantly fed, soothed, changed, and trained into socially-acceptable behavior while fighting you every step along the way.

It really doesn’t seem like a good deal, right?

I have to imagine many childless people wonder if we secretly regret having children but aren’t allowed to admit it. That would make sense, except… most people who have a baby end up trying to have another one.

Why?

To be honest, most parents don’t need to work the reasons out on paper because they instinctively make sense. We already know we wouldn’t give up our children for anything. The only difficult part is explaining why we feel this way to people who don’t see the point.

But I’m about to give it my very best shot…

1) Because We Don’t Want To End Our Story

Many of the more strident childfree folks think we’re crazy for the pride we take in breeding, considering that every other animal on the planet has been breeding since the dawn of time.

But there’s another way to look at this.

Around 3.7 BILLION years ago, the first bacteria started teeming around dead rocks on a sterile planet. It was a miracle… that delicate bacteria turned into cells which evolved into amoebas who spontaneously mutated into fish, and so on, in an epic Darwinian battle of 10 – 14 million species, 99 % of which are now extinct.

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Every step along the way, from the first vulnerable flash of cells through the lumbering age of dinosaurs, though every geological shift and catastrophic extinction event, every fight for limited resources leaving trillions of disembodied enemies and starved animals in its midst, led to YOU… with your app-filled smartphone and instantaneous drive-through coffee options.

Over billions of years, countless generations fought off neighboring tribes and vicious animals while your foremothers gave birth without any pain relief, facing the potential of dying in unspeakable agony every time. They managed through famines, wars, and droughts. Nature selected the luckiest and best equipped over millions of years, each generation holding onto survival by the skin of its teeth, in hopes of passing along that torch one more time.

Up until you, who could either snuff out that unbroken line like a candle while vegging out to Netflix, or allow your story to keep playing on for thousands of years.

2) Because Looking Into Your Child’s Eyes Explains The Universe

We’re a complex species that’s invented everything from air-conditioning and bullet trains to vaccinations and space ships. We’re so far removed from our primate ancestors that it’s easy to forget we’re all still animals deep down.

That is, until someone who once wasn’t once there looks to you with the kind of ancient recognition that transcends space and time. At that moment, you become a god who doesn’t feel worthy, a flawed human being whose every move, perspective and judgment will affect the mind behind those shining eyes for as long as they’ll recognize anything.

And you’ll spend the rest of your life struggling to wield that overwhelming power in the face of your mortal confusion.

For moments, you realize that underneath the surface, we’re all still the same primordial beings driven by the same primal urges that have dominated everything from mice to giraffes since the very beginning.

Food, fear, love, sex, and death…that’s what it’s all really about.

When cats go into heat, they don’t understand the broader implications of what they’re looking for. They only feel an immediate urge, and why shouldn’t they? Take care of that urge and nature works out the rest.

mama.jpgAnd yet, the moment they have kittens, they collapse into purring, snuggly heaps. They’re not only primed to nurture those kittens, but willing to do anything and everything to protect them despite having no socially-trained biases toward doing the “right” thing. Same with Mama bears. Same with dogs, or wildebeests, or hyenas, or any other mammal on the planet.

Sure, some animals will abandon or even eat their young, but only for specific survival purposes, unless they’re insane. No species that fails to nurture its offspring lasts very long in this epic Darwinian survival battle.

And we’re no different. Whether it’s caring about getting a promotion, trying out the latest mascara, or shelling out our hard-earned cash to buy the latest BMW after noticing the airbrushed beauty in the ad, the grand puppet master beneath the surface remains our overwhelming need to pass on our genes.

The invention of birth control may temporarily obscure this fact, but it’ll smack you square in the face from the first moment you look into your newborn’s eyes.

3) Because Love Matters More Than Money

People with pets live longer than those who don’t have them.

Now, I don’t want to  get off on some tangent at this point, arguing about whether having pets is actually similar to parenting. You could make a good case for pets being easier to deal with and I wouldn’t disagree… you can’t leave kids at home with some food and water while you go out partying with your friends and kids will definitely challenge your authority in much more ingenious and creative ways.

dog baby.jpgBut my question is: why do people choose to have pets at all? You have to clean up their poop while shelling out your hard-earned money to feed them, fix them up when they’re sick, load up on flea-prevention methods and compensate for any damage they caused to your apartment.

So unless your particular pet is literally earning its keep, the math of pet ownership also doesn’t work out on paper. What do you get in return?

Companionship. The belief that you matter to someone, that someone loves you and cares if you ever come home. It’s enough to add years to your life and the same reason Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol is considered a tragic figure, despite having all that wealth.

Now, I realize that many people will still be tempted into making arguments about why cats or dogs are better than children, but that’s not my point. My point is that intangible factors make an enormous difference to our happiness. Even if your dog is awesome, he still represents a net loss of money and freedom.

As do kids.

Yet, people still want them.

4) Because Kids Aren’t “Cool”

And I say that with the utmost respect.

They don’t care about listening to independent bands no one’s heard of and won’t decide whether to like you or not based on your music collection or the stylishness of your clothes. They also won’t be disgusted by your overeagerness to be with them.

Because kids like what they like, unafraid of anyone judging them as they tear off their clothes and scream while running around in wild circles. They’ll unabashedly worship Mickey Mouse and take more delight in chasing bubbles than you’ll probably ever take in anything again in your entire life.

Sure, this disregard for public opinion can be an inconvenient quality, like when kids start throwing spontaneous, epic tantrums about such unbearable oppressions as having to drink water out of cups that are red…

But it also brings a lot of unbridled enthusiasm to the table, because kids don’t yet get the appeal of all-encompassing, world-weary blasé.

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Kids haven’t been burned yet, so they don’t affect quasi-sophistication by keeping others at a distance or automatically assuming everything’s going to end in doom.

Kids don’t understand that running along a beach is free, so you’re not supposed to revel in feeling the sand beneath your feet or giggle about chasing seagulls until they fly away.

Kids appreciate the simple pleasures in life like the amateurs they are, not understanding that anything harder to come by is supposedly better, or that the highest mark of intelligence is a default stance of misery.

What idiots, right? Except that most people are nostalgic for childhood. Whatever reminds them of that time before cynicism sucked their souls into crispy husks remains strangely compelling.

Children help bring that back. They even appreciate you at your very dorkiest.

A joke that bombs with other adults will make your children choke with laughter. My kids find it downright awesome when I make car sounds while pushing them around the grocery store, telling them we’re about to head down “cheese street” for more cheddar. They know all about Cerealopolis and the hidden valley of Cheerios.

It doesn’t matter if I do this in yoga pants with my roots coming in and countless grown-up observers assuming I’ve lost my mind… my kids might randomly grab these judgey strangers while yelling “GROCERY MONSTER,” and I can’t help but chuckle as the unexpected contact makes the grabbed adults go rigid.

My kids help me escape the prison of caring about “cool.” I can appreciate the simple things in life without feeling simple-minded. The ecstasy they feel in just being able to run at full speed toward a squirrel is infectious… and the unclouded observations they bring are profound.

I know that someday my children are bound to have to have problems with my lack of coolness, finding me embarrassing and having issues with my selected style of jeans. It’s because they’ll need to feel independent, having to go through many stages to achieve that end.

And I know I’ll make many mistakes along the way, despite trying my best. And they’ll be angry about them.

But no matter what, on some level they’ll still want my approval.

Because no matter what, they want me to love them. There is no trial period. There is no baseline of hipness for me to satisfy. It was a done deal from the first moment we met.

This is unconditional love in its truest form and I’ll try my very best to be worthy of it.

5) Because They Make Us Better People

While I’m not saying kids are the only way to become a better person, I do think they generally have this effect. Because children teach us at least as much as we teach them…

You learn to be patient.

You learn to value someone else at least as much as yourself.

You learn to have faith in your choices because you’re forced to make decisions even though someone’s bound to criticize your every parenting move. But you can’t just run away, so you learn to deal with it.

Even better, you learn to appreciate deeper layers of your world…

You know how you always notice more details when watching a movie for the second time? Well, watching kids learn about the world is like reviewing life all over again.

And when you consider life, you could just as easily make the same arguments about it not working out to our benefit on paper as you do with having kids.

For what is life, if not an endless series of waking up before we want to and fighting irritatingly slow traffic to get to boring, routine jobs that probably wouldn’t miss us, then coming home to figure out dinner before settling in at night to rinse and repeat?

We get older and older, struggling through fatigue as we watch our bodies break down and our dreams of changing the world elude us. Why not just collectively put our heads in the oven to escape the endless cycle once and for all?

In the end, it’s not the big things that keep us going, but the simple pleasures… something funny that a friend once said. A steaming croissant we once ate on a chilly morning at sunrise. A perspective-changing talk we once had over wine at a moment when we’d almost started believing everyone else was evil.

And kids bring these moments of clarity back. They claim to have just turned into a mermaid, except you blinked and missed it. They try teaching the cat to walk. They ask you where China is and if you’d like to take them there someday.

They bring you out of the world you thought you knew to remind you how it’s all still a mystery.

They’ll make you feel irreplaceable.

Because you are.

In the most unique yet boring ways.

My Childfree Post Hits a Nerve

Stephen King once said that if you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society will be numbered.

And I’m finding his point reassuring as I watch my 5 Points I Want the Childfree to Consider article get shredded across the childfree subreddit community.

I’ve never spent much time on Reddit, to be honest. It’s the virtual Mos Eisley Cantina: a wretched hive of scum and villainy where hacked-off limbs barely rate second glances, a den of anonymous hostility and unbridled trolling…

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“We don’t serve their kind here.”

Still, you can’t help being curious when people are talking about you. It’s gratifying to have written anything interesting enough to warrant its own discussion threads, even if those threads mostly consist of people wanting to kill it with fire.

You need thick skin to speak your truth. But in my case, constantly wondering whether my critics even read the article softened the blow. Defeating my logic might’ve been devastating, yet my critics seemed far more interested in contradicting points I never actually made.

The two most common complaints were that I:

  1. Think everyone should have children because anyone who doesn’t is a bad person, and
  2. Didn’t convince them that parenting is wonderful enough to make them change their minds.

It’s actually quite baffling, since I directly said that choosing not to have children is a  reasonable, respectable choice that society should accept.

And if I’d wanted to talk people into the glories of parenting, I definitely wouldn’t have used public tantrums and the lack of American leave benefits as major selling points…

I’ve always tried to be very honest in my blog, never pretending that every aspect of raising kids is wonderful or that it doesn’t sometimes challenge you to the very limits of your emotional and physical well-being. Yet despite the entire nature of my article being the need for greater empathy on both sides, I’m just left feeling as though I’d sold out the whole parenting experience.

Apparently unable to grasp the idea of neither side being “wrong,” these critical subreddit members seemed more interested in either having their own choices validated or being convinced to change their minds.

And since they don’t understand why anyone would want children, they can’t be talked into reconciliation.

So maybe a different approach would help. In my next article, I’ll try explaining why so many of us believe parenting is worth the hardships.

 

A Followup Childfree Interview at The Rinky-Dink Life

snotHello, gentle readers! Sorry I’ve been out of touch (too out-of-touch to even wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy new Year) but my family came down with a wave of nasty sickness for the past week.

I’m sure other parents will know what I’m talking about, here. We all love our kids to pieces, but they really are walking petri dishes sometimes, what with all the touching and chewing on every random object they see. It’s sink-or-swim challenge to everyone’s immune system, I suppose.

In the meantime, I was contacted by the lovely Brittany at The Rinky-Dink Life for an interview. She writes a fantastic blog about the childfree lifestyle, which made it all the more surprising that she wanted to speak to a mommy blog author!

Apparently, she was intrigued by my last article, 5 Points I Want The Childfree to Consider, and wanted to ask some followup questions. She wrote up the interview here and I encourage you to check it out and leave feedback.  She’s an excellent writer who had many interesting questions and I think starting dialogues between parents and people without children is a great idea.

And I also hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas ( or Hanukkah, or Solstice, or winter break) and a very Happy New Year!

Six Word Story Challenge: Worship

worship.jpgAfter a hiatus, I’m back with the Six Word Story Challenges…

These are so fun! You write a story using only six words, based on the weekly theme. This week’s theme is “worship” and the challenge is open from Saturday 19th November 2016 – Friday 25th November 2016.

Anyone can play! Check it out at: Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge.

My entry for this week:

Worship is blind. Love sees everything.

Bob, The Pyramid Construction Guy, Has It Out With His Wife

I’ve talked before about how cool it is that anyone can blog now. Maybe everything published isn’t as polished as it used to be, but at least everyone’s voice can be heard.

It’s neat that future generations will have so many records of what we everyday folks were thinking, even if those thoughts mostly consist of bitching about annoying coworkers, talking about lunch, or showing off stuff we just bought.

That’s just not the case with earlier periods of human history, considering only the writings of highly-educated, elite aristocrats survived. I’ve sometimes wondered if we picture these periods as being more formal than they usually were because their lingering voices are always issuing edicts or chanting lofty works of poetry.

egyptcats.jpgTake Ancient Egypt, for example. Most people couldn’t write and those that could were chronicling important historical events or carving painstaking hieroglyphics across sacred monuments for billionaire employers. Stuff the gods were supposed to read for all eternity.

But what about Bob, one of construction guys hammering out the pyramid bricks? He had a life too. I picture Bob getting home after a long day pushing blocks and talking to his wife Della like this:

Della: Hey Bob, how was your day? Did you remember to pick up some figs?

Bob (groaning): No, I didn’t grab any figs.

Della: Dammit, Bob. I’m meeting Lucille at temple tomorrow and now I can’t make honey fig casserole. And I can’t make any honey cakes either because some rats got into the wheat bags last night. What am I supposed to do!?

Bob: Geez, I’m sorry Della. Guess I was too busy today HAULING 80 TON BRICKS UP WOODEN RAMPS to think about your figs. And how are rats getting into the wheat bags again? What good is your stupid cat? I don’t know why we keep on feeding it.

Della: Watch your mouth, Bob. She’s not just a cat, she’s the living embodiment of the Goddess Bastet.

Bob: Well, your goddess just crapped in the living room again.

Della: Great.

Okay maybe they never had that exact conversation, but I’m guessing more people were  worried about getting to work on time and wondering what they ate that was bothering their stomachs than thinking the highbrow stuff plastered all over city monuments.

 

Monday Motivations Challenge: It was over

Hey everyone!

Just found out about the Monday Motivations challenge from the esthernewtonblog. You write a flash fiction piece of between 50-100 words which includes an assigned line. This week’s is “It was over.”

Fun, right? A chance to flex your fiction muscle. Go check it out if you want to play!

Here’s my entry:

She had no idea why today, of all days, she dug out that ancient photo album.

Maybe it was the deep pangs of loneliness threatening to tear through her chest as she paced around the house. She poured herself a drink, turned on a once-important song, and started flipping pages.

She and Dean were so young back then, their eyes locked in burning intensity. Now they barely looked at each other, running mindlessly through the evening routine.

It was over. Yet she laid down next to him to fall asleep, as she would do for the rest of her life.