Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It’s Not That They Don’t Listen; It’s That They Are Kids, Human Kids

Parents are so much more practical than parents-to-be and people who don’t have kids.  Well, most of the times.  Don’t believe me?  Remember how you swore when you become a parent that you would never hit your kids or shout at them?  Remember how you swore they were always going to be well behaved?  Remember how you swore that their noses would never run without being wiped?  Okay that last one was me, and I was able to easily hold myself to it.  But the others, please!!! 

Years ago, I was on the subway and saw a child and her mother having meltdowns.  When the young mother cursed at the toddler, my heart dropped.  Who says words like that to an innocent child?  And how can a grownup not control herself in public?  Obviously, the child acts like that at home, so she will behave in the same manner outside.  Well, today, I wish I could apologize to that young woman because it doesn’t matter what expectations we have of our children, they will not always meet them.  Like any relationship, it is all about expectations.  In our minds, as parents, we expect them to do EVERYTHING we tell them to do; and we expect to talk only once.  After all, good kids listen, and bad kids don’t.

A few days ago, I told the kids to clean their rooms.  My daughter spent about 60 –90 minutes while the boys spent about 6 – 9 minutes.  I expected them to get rid of their junk so that when I go to vacuum, polish and organize things, it wouldn't take me too long.  I completed her room in about 30 minutes, but when I got to my youngest’s, I was appalled.  Snack wrappers, blankets, pillow cases, stationery, and the usual suspects, underwear and socks were piled under his bed.  Oh hell no!!  We are still doing this?  That is so two years ago.

The old me would have cursed him out, maybe throw in a spanking, but all that does is raise my blood pressure, get my heart pumping in a not so good way and just leave me frazzled.  And I’m not going out like this.  There is no way they are sending me to an early grave and have some young, perky stepmother take my place.  No way! 

My older son is obviously more responsible so I was expecting to spend the same amount of time in his room like I did in my daughter’s.  I won’t say I was shocked, but I took a pregnant pause when I saw he had taken a page out of his brother’s book.  School work and books under his bed, snack wrappers in a treasure chest and scraps of paper on his dresser.  I thought to myself, “How many times have I told these boys not to do stuff like this?  How difficult is it to put clothes in a hamper and garbage in a pail?”  Then it hit me.  In my mind, I expect them to do what they need to do before they do what they want to do; but in their minds, they expect to hurry up doing what I asked them to do so they can do what they want to do.

As I’m about to get angry again for having to repeat myself for the 1000th time I recalled another time when a parent expected kids to do what they needed to do so they can do what they wanted to do.  About 30 years ago during some school vacation, our father had some tomatoes that needed to be reaped.  I imagine in his mind he expected that with five kids, he can just get them to quickly pick these tomatoes so that he can get them sold and continue with his day.  In his adult mind, he is thinking he doesn’t need the get the workers because his kids can knock this off in a short time. So we all jumped in the pickup truck and drove to the farm to reap the tomatoes.

If you have ever picked ripe tomatoes in the hot sun, you would understand that it is not as simple as an adult would think.  We could not resist eating the pretty ones or throwing the rotten ones at each other when our father wasn’t looking, or when we thought he wasn’t looking.  He warned us so many times to quit; he threatened that he would make us walk home the 10 mile trek if we didn’t stop; but we just could not resist the tomato fight.  All the poor man wanted to do was to get the tomatoes bagged and sold and move on with his life.  But in our teenage minds, when else were we ever going to have a tomato fight like this?

When he told us to leave his tomatoes and leave the farm, we didn’t believe.  But when we saw his face, we knew he was serious.  When we were positive he couldn’t hear or see us anymore, we started cracking up, rolling on the ground.  We walked almost all of the way, fooling around the entire time.  Never once did we get serious until we entered the house and saw him.

Just as our father forgot what kind of child he was and expected teenagers to maturely and quietly pick tomatoes, that is how many parents are.  Even I, who put the M in mischievous, expect my kids to always do the right thing.  Please, every vacation day when our mother told us to take a nap, I would wait until everyone was settled in bed to tickle their feet.  You would think by the Thursday, I would come up with something different after hearing on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday to stop and go to sleep, but noooooooo, without fail, every single day I would obnoxiously tickle them until my mother called me and forced me to sleep right next to her.

The other day, I assessed my kids,  and I was sincerely impressed.  Okay, they might not remember to wipe the toothpaste out of the sink EVERY TIME, they might not remember to pull the shower curtain back EVERY TIME, they might not remember to clean the table, island and counter EVERY NIGHT, they might not remember to close and open the shades EVERY DAY, they might not remember to do everything the right way, but that is because they are NOT perfect.  They do quite well in school.  They play musical instruments.  They play sports.  They cook.  They clean.  They are well behaved in class.  Notice I said in class.  The other day at lunch, my youngest got written up because he and a girl put shredded cheese in another boy’s drink.  Between you and me, that prank is sweeeeeeeet.  And if the cheese and the drink are going in the same place, what’s the big deal?

Yesterday my eldest came home right after school because he said he had a project due the next day.  The next thing I know he is cleaning the table, the island, and the counter, throwing away the recycle garbage, making juice and sweeping the kitchen.  Chores that are split between him, his siblings and me.  Who is this person, and what did he do with my son?  Then he did his homework and played his flute for about 20 minutes.  Of course I’m still bewildered, then he said, “Mommy, can I practice my foul shots outside?”  How can I say no?

Parents want their children to be perfect – always well behaved, only speak when they are spoken to, always do what they have to do without being told, never having to be reminded of what they should do.  Parents want their kids to be perfect, not because they can brag, although that doesn’t hurt, but perfect kids imply perfect parents, perfect parenting.

A few years ago as I laid in bed, I noticed my daughter’s sock on the floor right next to our hamper.  After telling them 400 times to make sure the clothes go in the hamper and to put their clothes in their own hampers, I woke her up.  I brought her to our room and asked, “ What’s that on the floor?”  She looked at me blankly and snapping her fingers, replied, “Toes.”  Poor little girl was in such a daze that she didn’t know what was going on.  She knew it had something to do with feet, but she was too sleepy to know for sure.

Now, I’ve learned that it’s really not that serious.  First, my strategy is not working.  Second, my strategy is not working because I’m looking for parenting to be easy; but this is not ‘set it and forget it’.  Parenting is constant.  Parenting is repetitive.  Now when I see a sock on the floor, I pick it up.  I pick it up because obviously someone threw it in without looking to make sure that it went in properly.  Ten and twelve year olds are not going to double check.  Yes, it is okay to let them know when you do a job, do it to your best, but on the other hand, expecting everything they do to be perfect is CRAZY.

So my new strategy is to lower the bar.  Not lowering the bar where anything goes, but lowering the bar of perfection.  Do they sometimes make me breakfast in bed?  Yes.  Do they do their homework without being told?  Yes.  Do they sometimes do what they are not supposed to do?  Yes.  Do they sometimes say things they are not supposed to?  Yes.  And they do it because they are people, not because they are children, but because they are people.  There are so many things that I don’t do that I’m supposed to do and vice versa; and I’m a grown woman.  Although they do not always listen, I’m cutting my kids some slack because perspectively speaking, I don’t know anyone who listens all the time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Isn’t Watching Milk Boil Adventurous Enough?

My kids tell me that I have an assuming problem.  It’s not an assuming problem per se as much as it is my great power of deduction.  If I ask what’s wrong, if I am trying to ascertain the root of an argument, if I’m trying to figure out why kids just started fighting as I turn my back, and the responses don’t make sense, then I will have to deduce from their body language, from prior comments and from their actions what the real problem is. 

Usually when I write a post, I use my own personal experiences or feelings, but I think I am going to rely on my power of deduction for this one.  Oh, and from the research I gather from watching TV.

I know you didn’t ask, but since I’m the one writing this post, I’m going to go ahead and tell you what is Must See TV for me.  First and foremost, I cannot miss Real Time with Bill Maher, and for some reason it just doesn’t feel right if I’m not watching it live.  Nothing else is more stimulating to my brain than what I see at 10 pm on Friday nights.  Next we have my guilty pleasures: Scandal, Deception and Revenge.  It must be the soap opera appeal that keeps calling me back for more or the one name title, but I just can’t resist.  Then there is Criminal Minds; to me, nothing more is intriguing than a warped mind.  I mean, do these people have normal thoughts consistent with how we “normal” people have crazy thoughts?

And love her or hate her, Oprah has cornered the market for intensity on the Oprah Winfrey Network, (OWN).  I don’t particularly like reality shows, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes off Six Little McGhees.  They were ratchet, and by that I mean ratchaaaaaaaaaet.  But shows like Iyanla: Fix My Life and In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman really teach me a lot about myself.  And who doesn’t want to be a better person?  With Our America with Lisa Ling and Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal, I get to see what makes people tick, what makes us all unique; and they help me to see people for who they are without being judgmental.

Okay, I confess, when I am chilling I watch anything on Discovery Investigation, but enough about my TV watching.  Growing up I thought only men cheated.  After all, majority of the men in my neighborhood had at least one child out of wedlock.  Heck, I thought only black men cheated because on TV the husbands always did what the wives wanted; they always took care of their wives; and it didn’t matter how wrong the wives were, the husbands always responded, “Yes, dear.”   Okay there were one or two like Archie Bunker who chided his wife daily; but even he, at the end of the day, would never cheat on his wife.  Then we got cable, and Lifetime showed me that cheating had no barriers.  No one was immune from cheating – not race, not ethnicity, not gender, not socioeconomic status could stop someone from cheating or being cheated on.

So back to my powers of deduction.  In pretty much every episode of Unfaithful, whenever the cheating spouse gets caught, the illicit affair is over.  Stat!!!  It’s not that the mistress is suddenly no longer appealing; it’s not that the lover suddenly stops listening, being attentive or gives complements where the husband didn’t; it’s that the risk is gone.  The relationship has lost its thrill!  Most of these people who cheat don’t do it because they no longer love their spouses; they do it because they are bored stiff in the marriage.  And instead of finding ways to make the marriage more exciting, they decide it is easier to make their lives more exciting outside of the marriage.

I know Ludacris suggests that a man have ‘a lady in the street but a freak in the bed’, but who said that it had to be two different people?  Usually on Unfaithful, the cheating wife drops all inhibitions with her lover.  Doesn’t she know that this is the same woman her husband is seeking outside of the marriage?  Sprucing up and refreshing the marriage every so often to keep the fires burning have got to be a lot less stressful than cheating,  and a lot more exciting than keeping up with lies.

Several days ago, I watched Tyler Perry’s new movie, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, and it reinforced what I had already started writing in this post.  Monotony and boredom are the perfect recipe for a failed marriage.  But speaking of that movie, how dare Tyler Perry?  Don’t get me wrong.  I like the dude, but if he is going to write a predictable movie filled with every cliché in the book, would it hurt to throw Madea in?  It doesn’t even need any rhyme or reason, (you know, something like said movie), but jut for some comic relief.  And I know he has written 13 films, and I none, but I just paid for that movie, so I’m at liberty to criticize.  Dude just set me back about four years because my husband doesn’t like going to the movies, but I really wanted to see it, which I might add could have easily been an episode on one of his weekly shows, but he relented.  Now it’s going to take something as fresh and creative as The Best Man for me to get him back into the theater any time soon.

Now I realize I might be simplifying this cheating thing, and I understand that some people are just going to cheat no matter what, but if perchance someone is reading this and is about to cheat, can I just suggest some alternatives? 
·        Go outside and play any sport with your young child and see how long before you will need an oxygen tank.
·        See how long you can keep hot wax on your arm before screaming like a little beatch.

Or if you are really serious about being a grown up, I have two more suggestions:
§  After the kids go to bed, strip for your guy.  I suggest doing it to a sexy rhythm like With Ur Love by Cher Lloyd and Mike Posner or anything by Shaggy or Pitbull.
§  When the kids are not around, wear only an apron and cook something for your lady.  Not duccuna (Google it) and salt fish, but something quick like grilled fish and vegetables.

If none of these work, then maybe your idea of cheating to spice up your life was not a bad idea after all.  However, if you are the kind that is going to feel remorse for the rest of your life, think about it because perspectively speaking, all of these suggestions are just as exhilarating and take as much time as jumping in the sack with someone else, but without the guilt.