Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Stay At Home Moms (or dads); Ash Wednesday

I took some heat recently from about 10 different stay at home moms who were angry at my feelings towards the SAHMs at the Bagel Store the other day.

I got some "You don't understand how hard it is..." emails. And my very good friend Virginia even posted in her journal that I shouldn't be so hard on them.

First of all, I do know how hard it is. I was one for quite some time with Jessica. I worked nights, and stayed home days, while Doug worked. So I was there with the baby and hooking up with friends for walks in the park and busting my butt to keep a nice house. Then I had to return to work full time so we didn't have to declare bankrupcy.

I have nothing but the utmost of respect for moms who either elect to stay home for extended periods with the children (I know some dads who've done that too, because their wives were lawyers or well paid consultants, and they didn't make as much money). My invisible hat is way off to people who make that choice. If your life budget works so that one of you can stay home, I am envious, and very happy for you.

We don't have a dual income household because we love money and want to sacrifice our kids to the altar of daycare. We do it because the cost of existing in this area is prohibitive. Trust me. I'd be a stay at home mother if Doug made what I was making at my last company. Or, I'd love if Doug could stay home more. Thing is, we've made certain choices that make it so Doug gets home at the same time as the kids and has summers off. While they are in school, he'll make a lot less money than he's worth to the general market in order to work a school job on a school schedule, for our school aged kids. So don't think for a minute I scoff at SAHMs.

I dislike bad parenting. That's my beef in the journal from the other day.

The women at the bagel store could have also been executives who decided to take the morning off to get together and have their kids play.

I made the assumption they were stay at home moms just because I'm an asshole. I jumped to a conclusion based on the way they look, and I got the impression they are there a lot. And I'm sorry for that. Please forgive me.

If they were full-time employed doctors, or male, I still would have been just as irked with their children's behavior and their lack of supervision... their children were behaving badly and the moms (or it could have been grandmas, or nannies, or dads... doesn't matter who the adult was in question) let them.

I do understand the concept of how lonely it gets to stay at home with the kids during the day, especially in winter, when things get boring and there are fewer out door options. The companionship of another normal sensible human over the age of 10 is a blessing an a breath of fresh air. But it is no excuse to let your kids off the hook to run about higgledy piggledy so you can chat about local neighbors, friends and the stock market.

I suggest a play date at each others' homes. One stops to get the coffee and bagels on the way. Then you get together and allow your children to tear ass up in your own (or your friend's) home. Not a public place. These particular individuals viewed the bagel store as their own happy little meeting place, no worry if someone who works there has to mop the floor up from the full pint of milk that was dumped out because the girl doesn't know how to use a straw yet. The cute little run-amokers at the bagel store took over all five tables. The moms sat and drank coffee and gossiped. The kids put their Barbie dolls in the salad bar. I got hit in the back of the head no less than three times by paper straw covers being blown off the straw by the oldest of the girls before one of the moms stopped her. She had de-papered a few dozen straws. While that was funny as hell to her, and cute, and silly, and oh so rambunctious, those straws cost the bagel store owner money, and now... they are trash. And the mom in question? All she said was "honey, stop that." As if she was tapping her foot on the floor a little too loudly.

I am mortified when my kids do something in public that is in the traditional sense "unacceptable." Am I the only one on earth who feels this way anymore? Hell, I'm mortified when my kids do something awful at HOME when my back is turned!

When a tantrum is thrown in a restaurant, or a movie theatre, or church, the kid ends up in the car and one of us two adults sits with.

We don't subject the general public who are out to dinner to having to listen to our kids freak.

It is not charming, or cute, to have a child act out in public because they are bored or things aren't going their way.

No one should have to listen to someone else's kid in public, and too often parents, whether they are SAHMs or Execs or Blue Collar Joes, ignore their children. They let them rage. The world is their playground, their stage, their soapbox. As long as nothing gets broken. Are kids that big an inconvenience to that once a week or twice a week adult-chat? I sure hope not.

We still don't know for certain which of my kids desecrated the lipsticks at Taunia's, but you better believe neither of them will be allowed more than three minutes in someone's bathroom to pee the next time we go to a friend's house.

I am just saying... when in public, or on a plane, or in church... manage your kids. The planet is not their playground. Unfortunately, the mentality that the world is our playground is an American thing that has been growing over the last several years. We have TV shows where teams have to race across continents using any means necessary, tearing through villages where people are just trying to live for living's sake. Fear Factor (while I do adore that Joe Rogan Fella) is just an excuse to blast a shitload of money out the window on freakish stunts for the entertianment of the masses. Survivor? Temptation Island? Please. Even more examples of our combined mentality to treat the world as our big assed sandbox, without caring for anything else. And we as a culture either watch it on TV and enjoy it, or get the "chance of a lifetime" to actually participate.

And the mentality to just take over something and do what ever the hell we want grows from this kind of experience as kids. The bagel store. This no boundaries... no borders... free for all fun experience, is groomed in us from an early age. Does anyone else see this trend in us as a nation? Tearing up the bagel store will some day lead to base jumping off a bridge on Road Rules because hey, who gives a shit? I've always been encouraged to be a free spirit. It's all in good fun, and someone else pays for the damages if something breaks.

I'm all for being a free spirit, but fer chrissake... be a free spirit when I'm not trying to drink some coffee and eat a bagel. Please?

Okay. So being irked at those particular parents (I'll use the word parents instead of moms) yesterday is indicitive of a deeper emotion that I have towards this nation as a whole. I just think we need to do a better job parenting from the start. Pay attention. Please. And I am just as guilty as the next mom or dad when it comes to the kids, (see the Lipstick Debacle) but I think I spend a little bit more energy focusing on teaching my kids how to behave in public and I think it is slowly, slowly paying off. But I lord over them in public, and the minute they are out of line, yank -- they are out of there.

I know it works with Jessica. She's great in social situations, can still have a lot of fun without jumping up on a table and whipping her shirt out yelling "who let the dogs out!" (but we'll see where she ends up in 10 or 12 years).

Geoff still is a bit nutty, but usually we pull him out of the public situation, let him know that is his one warning, and he shapes up and flies right. Flying with him on the airplane was a heck of an experience, and it was hard but for the most part he didn't piss off everyone on the flight. He goes into stuff a little too excited, but I think reigning him in and letting him know he's gotta control himself works wonders. Sometimes he responds quickly. Other times it takes repeated efforts to stop him... but I don't give up.

In her journal, Running with Scissors, Dawn has a whole episode about a recent flight from Dallas to NYC. I think she'd agree with me. Her assessment: "Control 'em, Cage 'em, or Kill 'em." Check it out.

So if you are upset with my assessment of kids in public and lax parenting, that's okay. It is what it is. But if your kid hits me in the back of the head with a chunk of ice in a movie theatre, you better believe I'm turning around and yelling at him. If you aren't gonna, I sure will.

Okay. Off the soap box.

Geoff threw up at school today so his teacher called me to come get him. I was supposed to spend the day with a friend from Cambridge who was taking the train up, but after I picked up Geoff I went to the train station to meet her. I was at the wrong Damn Train STATION!!!!!! So she was there, a half hour away, freezing her butt off... I came home to check my messages, and she'd left her cell number, so I called her. She was a half hour away, and the next train back to Boston was in ten minutes. So she was just going to hop on that and head home. With Geoff coming home questionably ill, I thought it best. I felt like an idiot though. I mean, we agreed on this station, and I have no idea why I thought it was the other. I'm a doorknob.

It is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. I wanted to leave you with one final thought today on that topic. Lent is traditionally seen as the 40 days where you give up something, to cleanse your body and soul from sin. The way that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted, but holding his ground.

A lot of people completely ignore this holiday season, or, they become obsessive about it. They give up chocolate, or masturbation, or sex, or watching their favorite TV show, or smoking. And if they fail at whatever task or "sin" they've set up to avoid, they feel amazing guilt. What a way to get ready for Easter, eh?

For a change, if you haven't been giving up anything for Lent for the last several years, turn it on its ear. Instead of giving up something to deprive yourself, why don't you DO something special FOR others.

Volunteer at a shelter or a soup kitchen. I bet there is a big need for volunteers in your area. There is in mine. Look into finding out if a local animal hospital or clinic needs old sheets, blankets and towels, and go through your linen closet, cleaning out the stuff you haven't used since 1987, or 1979. Then, hand deliver it after you talk to the clinic manager or head vet. Nursing homes always are looking for people to help out with reading to the elderly.

There is a lot to DO for Lent that will purify you just as much as if you deprived yourself. Feed your soul this year instead of fasting. Or, do both. What the heck. Have at it. Let me know how you do if you want to share.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do volunteer-wise yet. I know my vet is looking for towels and blankets and God knows we have some serious old nasty crud that they would gladly take. My church is involved with a local soup kitchen called Mitch's Place. I know we serve there the last Sunday of the month. I will talk to the coordinator about being involved there. I will find something.

I am not going to Ash Wednesday services this year. There aren't any at my church, and other churches in the area have invited our congregation to participate, but I'm feeling reluctant to go someplace different.

I also don't enjoy the ash cross on the forehead thing. How long are you supposed to keep it on? I see people walking around with it all day, and it seems pretentious and showoffy, and holier-than-thou to me. A walking advertisement that says "hey! lookie here! I'm super Christian! I went to service and am gonna wear this black smudge ALLLLLLL Day!"

They are a sign of the dust of the earth, the location where we are to once again return... and a reminder that it doesn't have to be our permanent state. But how long do we wear that reminder in the day. It's always boggled my mind.

In the Book of Common Prayer, which is the prayer book of the Episcopal Church - this is the prayer for today. I'm saying it for me. You can say it for you too, just to begin this season, with our without a sooty smudge on your noggin:

"Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."

Amen to that.

Okay, enough of this from me. I've gone from the bitchy defensive Christine to the Vicar Christine all in one post.

I'm preachy and stupid. I'm judgmental and hypocritical. I'm boring and annoying. I'm going to watch Blue's Clues. Have a great day, fellow SAHMs, SAHDs, fulltime employed moms and dads, or humans without offspring. Have a beautiful day, and just enjoy the fact you live and move and breathe and have being. I know I will today. I promise. Even if Geoff pukes again... meh.

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