Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It Gets Better - Parent's Edition

 A few years ago Seattle columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began the It Gets Better Project for LGBT youth.  The project is a lifeline for gay kids who are being bullied in their communities.  The idea behind the project lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered are able to send messages of love and hope to troubled teens.  To remind them that no matter bad things might look or feel in any one moment, it gets better.

It is with this thought in mind that I’m beginning the It Gets Better Project – Parent Edition.  

I think it was spring when I first noticed the stripe down the front of the house.  “Is that mold,” I thought.  Is something leaking?  It just seemed so strange. 

Over the course of the summer the stripe got wider and darker so I decided to take action.   A bottle of “industrial strength house wash” and a quick pressure wash scrubbed the stripe away.  Score one for proactive homeowners!

By fall the strip was back.  Every time I pulled into the drive way I wondered if ghosts were leaking ectoplasm onto the house while we slept.  Is this toxic off gassing from the insulation under the siding?  Really, it boggled my mind. 

When winter arrived I ventured into the mess that is my son’s room to close and lock the windows for the season.  The yellow and brown stain was inside his window sill as well.  One sniff told the tale.  “Justin”, I screamed “have you been peeing out this window!?”

The 10 steps from his bedroom to the bathroom were, apparently, too far.  And so my clever Neanderthal opted for the short cut. 

 There are LOTs of stories like that in our family.  Kid decisions that made us homicidal in the moment - but they’re really funny now.

There’s the babysitter they locked in the basement and that time they flushed superman down the toilet.  Remember the time I napped while my toddler napped and he wandered down the street? Other mothers advised me “sleep when the baby sleeps”.  According to child services, that’s child neglect. 

There were times when I honestly wondered if we were failures as parents.  Are we raising future serial killers?  What kind of mind thinks it’s ok to fart on your brother’s head or run over the babysitter with your bicycle?  I saw the Omen.  Is that Damien sleeping in the next room?

And then a little time went by.  Peeing out the window (and in the closest and on anything he could find) gave way to other “exciting” phases.  Turns out, kids do ridiculous things all the time!  This should really be a chapter in “What to expect when you’re expecting.”  These are things I really should have known!

Earlier this week a friend called me nearly in tears.  Her [formerly perfect] 8 year old is driving her up the wall.  She knows he wrote on the sofa with permanent marker, but he refuses to confess.  He even wrote a confession letter but signed his sister’s name.  “Ah”, I laughed, and so it begins.  “No, no” she protested, you couldn’t possibly understand.  There are science experiments growing under his bed and he mines every rule for loop holes.  “You never said I couldn’t climb out my window” he objects while his mother is ready to scream! 

“Ah yes; the knee high legal scholar.  We have one of those”.  I offered my best advice.  “Set the rules, punish consistently and trust that this phase won’t last forever.”  In short- It Gets Better. 


This story originally appeared on The Huffington Post website and in Ricki Lake Magazine.

That Stuff You Put On The Grass

That Stuff You Put On The Grass
Despite outward appearances, I'm in a mixed marriage.  I was born and raised in Indiana.  My husband was born and raised in the Bronx.  He would tell you that I am VERY Indiana.  I can tell you that he's VERY Bronx.  He walks and talks like a guy from the Bronx. (thick NY accent) and he speaks the language of his people.  He knows all about beef and brocs, bodegas, deadass, park jams, etc. If you're not from the Bronx you probably have no idea what I just said, and that's ok.  Suffice to say he's VERY Bronx.

I, on the other hand, am VERY midwestern.  If you ask my husband, cartoonishly so.  I know how to fix things (a nice dinner or the dryer (link to dryer repair tips)).  I enjoy crafts and can bake a mean pan of homemade biscuits without a recipe.  (Here's a link to my biscuit recipe)  Like a nice midwestern girl I grew up in the suburbs in a nice home that my family owned.  My husband grew up in a high rise apartment that his family rented.

I immigrated to NYC in my early 20's and I've lived in the area every since.  Over the past 20+ years I've fashioned myself into a NY City girl, but scratch the surface and i'm Indiana all the way.  More than that i'm suburban.  Once the kids showed up I always assumed that we've move to the burbs.  I figured i'd make lemonade and my dh (darling husband) would spend Saturday mornings cutting the grass.  I'd can tomatoes and bake endless batches of homemade muffins while he enjoyed his weekend yard chores.  The only problem with this little plan is that I never bothered to mention it to him.

The first time I asked him to cut the grass he looked at me like I was crazy.  "Cut it?! he boomed (people from the Bronx talk loud), why would I cut it?  It looks fine."  "It's too long" I told him.  "When I walk in it it's up to my ankles.  It needs to be cut."  "Or you could just stop walking in it" he retorts.  "We bought a house with a yard, why would I not walk in our yard."  "Well apparently you don't like the way it feels on your ankles so stop walking on it.  It looks fine."  After 3 weekends of this same argument he FINALLY cut the grass.  Then I had to explain about edging.  Since he had no idea what I was talking about, I edged the lawn myself.

These fights persisted our entire first year in the house until i'd just had enough.  Early the next Spring I suggested that we hire a lawn service.  "What's a waste of money" he grumbled.  "But i'd like the grass cut every week" I tell him.  He responded with a grunt.  So I went on "if I can walk across the lawn and feel it on my ankles it's too long."  "Well, he replied "if we can still see the kids I think it's fine."  "What if I buy you beer?"  I bribed.  "What if we just let it go" he responded.  "Plus. he said, "I think all of that cutting is bad for it.  Plants need to grow."  "But it's our lawn.  I don't want to be 'those neighbors'" I pleaded.  "I think you care too much what people think.  It's a blessing to have a lawn - nobody cares what it looks like."  I could see where this was going.  I was pregnant with our third son and not up for a fight.  Sure I could have cut the grass myself but as a busy at home mom the last thing I needed was another chore.  So, I did what I had to do.  I hired a guy.

As luck would have it the week of grass argument I received a flyer on my door.  "New Lawn Service-Great Low Rates."  Perfect!  I called the number and a nice man named Joe came to the house.  We agreed on a weekday cutting schedule with the promise that he'd never cut the grass on the weekends.  He was happy to have a new customer for his young business.  I was happy to avoid a fight.

That spring I bought small bag of weed and feed and hand held seed spreader.  Every few weeks I used my spreader to fertilize the lawn and watered it on a daily basis.  Every Tuesday after dh went to work Joe came and cut the grass.  It was a beautiful arrangement.

Late in the fall we had a party at our house.  Dh's brother came with his family and long with a bunch of other people.  At one point I see dh pointing at me across a crowded room while holding court with a group of guys from his old neighborhood.  The only words I heard were "ask her - I have no idea."  Later in the night my brother-in-law corners me.  "Kat," he says, "you've got to tell me what you've been putting on the lawn."  "What are you walking about."  "There's some stuff you put on the grass that has it looking really great.  Dh says that I have to come and ask you."  Just then dh walks up.  "Yeah baby, I see you out there with that little spinny thing.  What's that you put on the grass."  "Oh," I say "it's just weed and feed."  "No," dh says "you put something on it this Spring and I haven't had to cut it all year."

Honest to goodness I could not roll my eyes hard enough at the entire situation.  "Wait" I say "you think I put something on the grass to make it NOT grow."  "Yeah" he turns to his brother "we used to fight about it all the time.  Now I NEVER have to cut the grass.  I don't know what she put on it but that -ish works man."  "I put a dude named Joe on it every Tuesday Morning!"  Brother in law busts out laughing.  "Seriously, dude you didn't know?"  "Wait" dh says "you've been PAYING a guy to cut the grass?"  "Yes, I tell him "I didn't want to fight about it anymore, so I just got it done."  "Oh damn" dh says "I saw you out there with that spinny thing and I thought that took care of it."

Then he turns to his brother.  "She also bought one of those Dagwood Bumstead things.  Man I LOVE the suburbs."

One of Those Dagwood Bumstead Things



Origin Story

Super Mom
As far as I'm concerned every great super hero needs a great origin story.  I don't know that my story is so great.  It's just what happened.

Yesterday I was minding my own business, sitting on the toilet, perusing Face Book - as one does.  It just occurred to me that maybe a super hero shouldn't mention the bathroom, but alas, it's what happened.  So anyway, I was um, handing my business, when I saw a post in my online book group about the book Rush by Lisa Patton.  The ladies in the group had praise for the book which, in my opinion, was well deserved.  At the same time there was one point about this book (and books like it) that these nice white ladies seemed to be blind to.  While Rush tell a good story I cant, for the life of me, read yet another book where white women (well meaning though they may be) come along and rescue black ladies.  I just can't do it.  That's when I did the thing that's hardest of all - I told the truth as a saw it and prepared for blow back.

The women on the site defended their point of view, but they also heard me.  One even commented that she had never thought of it from my perspective.

Here's my post:
I agree that we need these stories. There’s no question of that. At the same time as a women of color it gets a little old to watch a movie or read yet another book where people of color are saved by white heroes.
My feelings are so much bigger than this book. It makes me sad that so often Black is used as a synonym for poor or under served or whatever. At the same time I can’t help but celebrate activism and social justice.
I’m a middle class black lady. I have a lot more in common with people of similar standing than I do with with poor people. It makes me sad that I rarely if ever see myself and my friends represented in books. Maybe that’s the book I need to write. 

Other poster:
I've noticed that whenever there is a black character that is not poor, they have to be pointedly mentioned to be black, lest the reader assume they are yet another white character. There is also almost always something exceptional about them.....as though a regular every-day person who happens to be black couldn't possibly become a dancer/doctor/lawyer/whatever. White folks need no big back story. For black folks there is almost always some white savior in there someplace.

Just once I'd like a character who grew up watching television attorneys and decided, while witting in her nice middle class house, that she wanted to be an attorney so she became one.....

EXACTLY! I grew up middle class. My kids are raised middle class. I have loads of friend who are just like us. Yet were entirely absent in much of literature. The greatest obstacle my kids have overcome is a helicopter mom and ADHD.
ETA: our oldest complained about his “rough childhood”. I asked him what he was taking about and he had a detailed complaint about our slow WiFi. .
I could totally write a book about the nanny we fired because she “prayed” too much. And by “prayed” I meant slept on the job and when we’d catch her she’d say “amen” like she was ending a prayer. Or the time I hired a landscaper without telling my husband. He thought I put something on the grass to make it not grow. (He’s from NYC-land of high rises and no lawns). Or how my hubby thought it was rude to talk to our neighbors. I had to teach him that it was rude not to. You know - suburban hi jinks that’s not at all about race.
Other Poster:
Well land that helicopter and write a few books......especially about your NY husband in the Burbs......that sounds like a hoot!

So here I sit, helicopter landed, writing my own stories.  Being my own doggone hero.  Names and some identifying characteristics will be changed to protect the guilty.  Namely which son peed on what cause oh my lord do they pee on stuff.  Sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose.  There's just a lot of pee when you live with all boys.  A LOT - OF - PEE!

Mommy's little helper

It Gets Better - Parent's Edition

  A few years ago Seattle columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began the It Gets Better Project for LGBT youth.  The pro...