It’s a Dirty Job and Somebody’s Got To Do It

It’s a Dirty Job and Somebody’s Got To Do It

 

Summer’s coming and I am glad.

HowEVER…

While I love the change in routine that summer brings, there are some very key ways that I would like this coming summer to NOT resemble last summer. I’m a big fan of free time for kids. You know, time to decompress, daydream, be a little bored. That sounds good in theory but in reality, last summer, this was me:

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And this was them:

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As much as I hate to admit it, I do way too many things for my kids, and not because I’m all that nice. I just forgot to notice that while I’ve been busy wiping counters and making haircut appointments, they have been growing up.

And so it has come to pass that I am, in many ways, exactly the kind of mom I always swore I would never be.

Let me paint a picture: Recently, I handed my 14 year old a can opener to use, and he looked at it like this:

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That was my ah-hah moment.

This kid is capable of so many things. He is a fine upstanding gentlemen in the making and yet my perfectly smart enough teenager is mystified by how to get to the refried beans.

(Note to my son, on the very off chance that he may one day read this: Dude, this is on me. Why, if you have someone removing from under your bed the cereal bowls that have grown fur, would you ever need to do it yourself? And, in fairness, our can opener sucks. But still.)

I decided to do a little online research, with the goal being to find someone better at all this than me, and just, you know, do what they do.

Here’s a chart I got from a blog called Modest Mom. Her world view and politics are pretty polar opposite to my own, but you know what? She’s got six– count ’em six kids and they all do shit!

According to her chart, my boys have been skating by like eight year olds when it comes to their domestic duties. So while I may not want to party with this gal, I say don’t be modest, sister, because– except for the part where you give a pass to those freeloading one year olds— you are killing it in the child labor department!

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Sheesh- my kids don’t have to do daily Bible study and they don’t do half this stuff.

For. Shame.

But today is the first day of the rest of my life, and as Modest Mom is my witness, here’s what my two little stinkers will be doing come September, or else. (Do not ask me or else what. I don’t know what. Something tells me MM would have a few ideas.)

Make their own lunches. I can’t believe I’m outing myself here, but I’ll admit this has been a control thing for me. What can I say, I’m a little weird about the balanced meal thing. (Humble brag– learned it on Facebook.)

But here’s the thing– they don’t eat what I pack anyway, so I am finally doing what I should have done years ago: giving up.

I have a feeling Giving Up is the secret sauce to sane parenting, at least as it applies to cleanliness and feeding. So, I will clear my house of all the crap “food” and they can have whatever is left, with no comment from me.

Late to the party, I know.

Wash their own dishes, like, ALL THE TIME. Gone are the days when I will put lipstick on the pig of housework and try to make chores fun. My dear husband is a great one for turning on loud classic rock during dinner clean up, and that’s fine because he likes it, but I actually do not see this translating into my sons wiping down the stove with any more gusto than if AC/DC wasn’t blasting from the radio.

My plan includes a rotating schedule for dinner dishes, and then a clean-as-you-go kind of thing for the rest of the day. Loud music, timers, games and cheeriness optional.

Cook something that isn’t a quesadilla. My boys have inherited their dad’s complete and total aversion to all things culinary. When they were little, we baked bread. I know because I have the pictures to prove it. We made cookies and pancakes, and they took to it so naturally, it seemed, but it turned out that what I thought was an aptitude for cooking was really really just an aptitude for licking the bowl.

To all the young moms out there who’s kids love gardening and grocery shopping and your favorite bands, I say enjoy it now because one day all those things you thought you knew about your little darlings will come crashing down around you and you will be face to face with someone who is probably totally awesome but who is maybe not awesome in the exact way you *planned* for them to be awesome, and this can be quite a blow.

Just saying.

To get my kids up to speed with the pits and pans, I (with the help of Blue Apron 2x a week), plan to change that. I’m hoping that all that practice assembling Lego sets will come in handy when I hand them the box. What could possibly go wrong??

Do hard work that is not pretend hard work. Guilty. I have given my kids faux chores for years to make myself feel better. I could sleep at night knowing that my kids were not some special snowflakes– no! They fed the dog, for god’s sake. They unloaded the dishwasher and made sure the toilet was flushed before company came over (keeping’ it classy, y’all). I was raising young men who would know the value of hard work; why just look at them sweep the front porch, would you???

You guys, those are the same jobs they’ve had since they were in booster seats, and while I give them props for never giving me grief about doing them, I think that might be because they just don’t want to call attention to the sweet gig that they’ve had for the past several years. The last time I sent my son out to weed the front yard, he lasted twenty minutes and then needed to convaless for the better part of the afternoon.

No more, my darling.

Time to get real. Our fridge needs cleaning, the garbage bins need scrubbing and the patio furniture needs scouring.

From here on out, I will perform the duties of my new job as my sons’ Uber, with a smile. This will, however, require that I resign, effective immediately, from any job that includes me sweating under my boobs while scraping melted fruit rollups off the backseat of our Honda.

Seems like a fair trade.

In closing, this summer will not be last summer. This summer we will disperse the load. This summer I will give up a little control and my boys will give up a little free time, and all of us will struggle with that, I’m sure. But I’m optimistic.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

Stealing Time

Stealing Time

I am not what you’d call a fast writer.

I’m also not great at fitting writing into little nooks and crannies. In order to get anything down that makes sense, I need decent chunks of time. In my next life I’ll be super productive (I’ll also play the banjo, have delicate ankles and a good sense of direction), but for now I  have to accommodate this weakness.

Because we homeschool, solitude is in short supply, so I schedule a few hours on the two days when both my kids are in class, and I try hard to keep that appointment with myself.

I haven’t told many people about my writing time until now.

It feels undeserved. I haven’t done anything to earn it, in fact it actually costs me five bucks every time, on account of the dirty chai latte my thirsty muse requires.

But my life is full of things I don’t deserve. I am privileged AF.

PS: This is weirdly hard to talk about.

Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry compared the two kinds of naked? There was the attractive naked, he said, e.i. naked while brushing your hair, and the unattractive naked, i.e. naked while opening a pickle jar?

Stay with me.

Right now, I feel like I am naked, opening the pickle jar.

I imagine you wondering why, if I have this time

  • Do I have so many typos and grammatical screw-ups on my blog?
  • Don’t I employ a fucking thesaurus instead of resorting to all the four letter words since they are (I’ve been told) just lazy writing.
  • Do I not donate those five hours to helping others, instead of contemplating every waking moment of my completely regular life.
  • And finally, with all that time, why don’t I get a job, or a degree, or at least a gym membership, for gods sake??

If you’re not wondering those things don’t worry, because I certainly am.

I told a friend on Facebook recently that when I hear that critical voice I try think of it as a man named, oddly enough, Donald, and I like to tell Donald to shut the fuck up.

Try it. It’s satisfying on many levels.

Donald thinks he knows what people should do. He thinks money is the same as value. He thinks the world has enough blogs, paintings, poems, popsicle trucks and hamster sanctuaries, so zip it already and just be happy driving the carpool.

Telling Donald to back off  keeps me writing, and keeps me holding on to the hours I need to do it, but it’s not easy.

This morning I was talking to my friend Jo Dee, and I told her about my weekly writing date and how I’ve kept it secret because it feels self indulgent. Like a great pal, she didn’t miss a beat.

“It’s not self-indulgent, it’s your job.”

“Jo Dee, it is so not my job.”

“Writing is absolutely part of your job.”

“Writing is how I keep from going insane.”

“Well maybe that is your job… no offense.”

Ouch. That left a mark, but I loved her for it.

Up till now, I’ve hid my secret by just saying “I have some errands to run” or “things to do,” stopping short of actually lying, but not by much.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, she suggests treating your creative time like you would an affair. If you had a hot lover on the side, she says, you would steal any time you could to be with them. You would lie, you would sneak, anything would be worth just a few hours. She suggested we treat our creative time like that.

I love her analogy because that is exactly how I feel!

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Here’s Mark Ruffalo giving me a writing prompt. “Twenty minutes on your best meal ever– go, baby, go.”
As Emily Dickinson wrote, “The heart wants what it wants.” Time is a luxury I can’t pay for, but I want it all the same.

So I steal it.

I steal it from my from my family, my community, the causes I support, and all the other things I tell myself a good person does.

When I was a teenager, my father once said to me, “You’re no bargain, Mag.”

That explains a lot, I thought.

Who knows what he was talking about. It might have had something to do with me being a pain in the ass, because I totally was. He didn’t know that I would drag those words behind me for the rest of my life like a corpse, forever trying to be what I thought he wanted: a bargain.

But I would never feel like one.

So when I was saying good-bye to Jo Dee this morning, she told me to enjoy my writing  time. “Don’t lie about it,” she said. “Own it!”

But is it possible to own something you’ve stolen?

Maybe I should stop shaming on it and just say it. “I’m going to be writing from 9-12 today at the cafe across from the Indian grocery. I’ll be home after that.”

Bam. Just like that.

I am aware that it is not fair.

I am aware that I am not bringing in a dime with my writing. Not a dime. Probably ever.

I am aware that there are some things that don’t get done because I am here, from 9-12, at the cafe, across from the Indian grocery.

I am aware that Daddy may have been right. I am not a bargain.

But I am

free.

 

 

My Homeschooling Confessions

My Homeschooling Confessions

Back to school time, my friends!

Or not.

I haven’t talked about homeschooling on this blog yet, mainly because when I mention it to people at first, I often get a look like this:

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I get it.

Even though it’s becoming more and more common, it’s still sort of a fringe thing and a lot of people have yet to know any of the thousands of self directed learners that are quietly kicking ass out there in the world.

Because I’m in a mood, I’m just straight up going to tell you a few things that might surprise you about how my family does it.

I’m coming clean, people!

If you’re a homeschooler, please feel free to make your own confession in the comments at the end. I think we could all afford to let our hair down a bit.

If your kids are attending a traditional school, my hope is that this post will entertain and enlighten you just enough to keep you from putting me in the weirdo box.

Here goes:

I don’t homeschool my kids.

Wait, what?

There are those parents who sit their kids at a table and “do school,” with their state standards in one hand and an American flag/bible/green smoothie/Harvard brochure (take your pick– I might as well offend everyone) in the other.

The best kept secret is that most kids are perfectly capable and completely driven to learn, once released from the system of compulsory schooling. Homeschooling is not something that’s done to anyone. As for me, I research, pay, drive, fiercely defend free time, and help out when asked.

Also, I make a stupid number of grilled cheese sandwiches.

I don’t want to be with them all the time.

“I’d go crazy if I were with my kids all day!” people say.

Although I do know people, nice people, not lunatics, who don’t seem to need a time-out from their kids, I for one require frequent  breaks from my boys and their scintillating conversations around Minecraft, parkour, basketball and farting.

Of course, I’m always there for the wholesome family dinners and in depth discussions on the plight of global indigenous people (a mom can dream), I make sure to have occasional social plans that do not include my boys, and they have plenty of opportunities each week to get away from their ever-loving mother. Thus, we enjoy domestic bliss!

And also not killing each other.

I don’t have teaching credentials, or even a college degree.

And as if that’s not enough, I hardly remember any math beyond the fifth grade level, and am pretty iffy on the proper use of a semi-colon. I’m not proud of this, in fact, I spend a lot of time trying to fill in gaps in my own education.

But guess what?

Go online and take a look at what is now available free, to those who want to learn. Boy howdy, things have changed in the past twenty years! Add to this the fact that there are classes, homeschool co-ops, the help of smart friends, etc., and I can sleep pretty well knowing my kids aren’t going to end up like this:

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I get bored sometimes.

This is a tough one, since whining about boredom can get you an epic eye roll from stressed out moms with too much to do and not enough time, money, or both. It’s not fair that our culture expects so much of women and gives so little support, and I know a few of you would probably give your right arm and last Ambien for a little boredom in your life.

Roll your eyes, sister, feel free!

But to the mothers who look at me and say, “I could never homeschool, I’d be so bored!” let me tell you that I do get bored. Because they are not quite old enough to go to the beach or run around town on their own, I go with them. I wait while they are in a science class, or basketball practice. There are days when I’m completely swallowed in the mind numbing dullness of just waiting.

Oh well, big f’n deal. You can always piss away the hours working on your blog 🙂

I had a career, and sometimes I miss it.

There is an assumption people sometimes make about parents who choose to quit their job to be at home with their kids, and that is that they must not have had much of a job to quit in the first place.

Once upon a time, I had a career and it was lucrative, rewarding and fun, but as we learned more about homeschooling, it became clear to my husband and me that we wanted to give it a shot. We loved the freedom of it and I was up for the challenge.

And this is a topic for another post, but it has to be said, so I’m saying it: I am aware that we were crazy fortunate to be able to make that decision.

Here’s the thing, it’s not that you can’t work full-time and travel this educational path, you can, mainly because this path is one you make yourself. But it’s a trickier balance, and one I couldn’t quite figure out, even though I tried.

So, while I miss being offered coffee, hearing, “good job!”, and working for real live dollars that would come in very handy, it’s totally worth it.

My kids have never written a book report or done a science fair project.

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The upside of this is that I’ve never had to force, bribe or bully them into doing a book report/science fair project, and p.s., we’ve saved major bucks on Mentos and Pepsi.

The downside is that they might never make it in The Real World without the experience of the book report/science fair project, and will probably live at home until their mid-thirties, playing video games in our garage.

Welp, hindsight is 20/20, people.

I consider homeschooling my job.

I take it seriously, and even if we spend some days playing Battleship in our jammies, most of the time we have shit to do, even if it doesn’t look like it to you. So, while I totally love the fact that we have the freedom in our schedule to help friends out when they need it, I don’t call you at your office and ask you to come wait for the cable guy for me, since “you don’t work”, because that would be obnoxious, right?

Right.

I am not any more patient than you.

Here’s something we homeschoolers hear a lot: “I gotta hand it to you. I wouldn’t have the patience.”

Newsflash– I don’t have the patience either! Holy shit– someone call the patience police!

Of course,  I make it a little easier on myself by not forcing my kids to do book reports/science fair projects (sorry, I couldn’t resist), but my temper flares up big-time when we’re running late. I lecture, I yell sometimes, I just pretty much lose it in general. The only difference is that when I screw up, I have the luxury of time during the day to breathe, apologize, and move forward. It’s true that since we’re together more, there’s more opportunity for conflict.

But there’s also more time for the good stuff too, including practicing the art of repair.

I sometimes worry about what my kids are missing.

It might surprise you to know that I’m not talking about social stuff. Homeschoolers are nothing if not social, and I’m actually so bored by that worn out argument, circa 1970, that I can’t even bring myself to write about it.

No, instead I worry that they might not know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner, how to locate the spleen in a frog, make a spitball or work a combination lock.

I wonder if my youngest will have to teach himself cursive when the zombie apocalypse happens and the only people who survive are cursive-writing people, which might be unlikely, but this is where my mind goes at night, you guys.

For every hour someone else spends worrying about whether their kid will get into the gifted and talented magnet, I spend an hour wondering if my kids will look at me one day and say, “WTF were you thinking, Mom???”

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And maybe that’s our common ground.

We’re all doing our best, and it still might not be good enough, whether we checked all the boxes, or ignored the boxes completely. In reality, most of us fall somewhere in between. We all lose our patience, need a break, adore our kids and hope for the best.

Here’s to a great year ahead, whatever path you make 🙂