Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not Licensed to Parent

Today was a little bit of a roller coaster.  But I know my job:  stay hopeful, stay happy, stay strong.  Try not to fret about my bad-dog heart.  Be ready for anything.  It is very tiring. But I don't even have to look very carefully to find enormous gifts in this day.

 For example, I actually cleaned out my in-basket completely for the first time since last October.  There is a lesson to be learned from this kind of slacker behavior.  (With some very important exceptions) if you just leave shit in your in-basket for a really long time, by the time you are ready to file it, it is no longer relevant and filing is unnecessary. 
Additionally, it is impossible to hate a day with meatballs in it.  I was working away and thinking about how hungry I was; and there was a rapping at the office window!  The windows are those aluminium kind with a hinge at the bottom that you pull from the top - most of them in my office are stuck shut.  I found one that worked and jerked it open.  There was my student Maria M., standing in the rain with a little paper bag in her hand.  "Teacher!  You hungry?  I made abondigas!"  Oh, my God, Maria.  What kind of mind-reader ARE you?!?  I went to let her in the door.  "Maria!  Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!"  XXXXXX  In the bag were a lime and two chiles (for flavoring), and the meatball soup above.  Plenty for my supper tomorrow as well!  Maria does this sometimes:  during lent, she made a huge pot of lentil and nopale (cactus pad) soup, and her kids wouldn't eat it because they don't like nopales. I made out like a bandit that time!

I should also be happy because I posted Mark's job on Craig's this afternoon and I am getting INUNDATED with resumes. Tomorrow will be an interesting Inbox.  Most of them are gong to be stinkers; but for now, they are little unopened bundles of potential in my Outlook.  And I have found two houses for rent that are incredibly cheap.  I'm setting up a walk-through on one for tomorrow or Friday.  The other I will call on tomorrow. This one I'm going to see looks beautiful in the photos.  For the rent they are asking, I can't help thinking there must be something wrong with it.  Too good to be true. 

Mostly, though, today was about coming to grips with my parenting anxieties.  I was so miserable last night, and felt so guilty.  I had a ticket for the opera Falstaff this evening with a group of girlfriends, but I begged off because I figured that only a negligent mother would go to the opera after working last night and spending the four previous nights in another state.  I stayed home and played with Sara - she wanted me to come and hang out in her room with her.  We listened to her favorite tunes and lay on the floor, decorating the oilcloth "sit-upons" she made at Girls Scouts for our trip.  She told me all about her new boyfriend, Caleb. He likes to dance.  He shouts, "Hey, Beautiful!" at her from across the playground.  I didn't say so, but I remembered my sixth grade boyfriend, Billy. He used to shout the exact some thing at me.  While aiming a snowball at the back of my head.  We danced around the room and acted silly; and two thoughts came to me simultaneously:  my relationship with Sara is fine. I will be leaving soon.

Nathan is much more challenging.  He is angry about the divorce and sometimes yells and shouts at me.  He has always been a little mouthier and more volatile than Sara.  Lately, he has been acting like a twit at soccer.  He is a little advanced for the team he is playing on; and I hope that, when the club shuffles kids around next month, he will be put on a team that knocks him down a peg or two.  A the moment, he verbally berates his teammates when they mess up; or he has these rude, exasperated gestures.  When I told him that I expected better sportsmanship from him, he got defensive.  He's in it to win!  He wants the team to care about wining, like the players on Real Salt Lake. I pointed out that I have never seen Kyle Beckerman yelling at his teammates during a match.  I also pointed out that kids who are mean to their teammates soon find themselves without friends...  He didn't care.  WTF?  Nine-year old boys are a mystery to me.

I took this problem to the most passionate soccer person I know:  my colleague Ray M.  He understood immediately.  He told me about how, as a kid in Tehran, he started off playing barefoot in the streets with a rubber ball.  He was very good and was invited to join a club, which meant that he could play on a real field with a proper ball.  Just like Nate, he became convinced that he was God's gift.  He didn't yell at the other kids - he was too rough:  careless slide tackles; pushing; elbows. His father tried to talk to him about it, but he didn't want to hear.  Finally, his father met with the coach and they agreed to suspend him from any play for a month.  While he was grounded, he saw that the team was winning and making lots of goals without him, which was humbling. It reminded him that he wasn't indispensable, and that he needed to focus on his role as part of a team. 

I told this story at dinner at supper, under the pretense of general conversation about soccer-and-people-we-know.  It reached Nate loud and clear, though.  He laid his fork down and said in a shaking voice:  "Well, that wouldn't work in this country.  Coach wouldn't agree to that."  Simon said, "Actually, I think he would, if I explained why I thought you needed to take a break."  We'll see if he has been scared straight?

Parenting is no picnic. 

So!  Am I a good mother?  To answer that question, I look to my own mother.  I would call her an excellent mother, but in the same breath be able to list a whole bunch of less-than-admirable, insensitive, unfair or cruel decisions she has made.  When the situation played to her strengths, she was amazing.  Sometimes the situation played to a weakness.  Here's what I realize, now:  none of us was perfectly parented. Most of us are OK with that.  I will be deeply flawed as a parent, and I'll expect to be forgiven and loved anyway. 


  1. Sometimes being a good parent means doing things that teach kids tough lessons. Like

    Teaching your daughter that a woman needs to stand up for herself sometimes and demand to be treated as an equal. That just having a man is not enough, a woman needs to hold out for a man that will treat her right.

    Teaching your son that women have backbones too. That men should not be allowed to dominate a woman and if he tries, she will stand up for herself and do what needs to be done no matter how difficult. He needs to grow up around women that demand proper respect. A woman who remains a doormat for her husband is a bad parent because she is teaching her son the wrong way to treat a woman.

    Teaching your children that sometimes people need to do tough things to be true to themselves. They need to learn that being true to ones self is very important in life and sometimes requires sacrifice of other things.

    Teaching your kids that being happy is not sononomous ( Sorry about the spelling, I'm on a roll) with a big house in the suburbs. A woman can find happiness in a little rental with shitty appliances if other things are right in her life.


  2. I always feel like a total fuck up a a parent. I don't talk to Liv about her feelings enough, but I excuse myself by saying that neither one of us are touchy-feely people.

    I used to hide her Chutes and Ladders game when she was little and I was sick of playing it with her. BAD MOTHER.

    I sometimes went in the bathroom if I wanted to eat a cookie because she always wanted me to share and I felt guilty if I said no.

    But, I also did a few good things. Well, I MUST have. But, typically...all I can remember is the fuck ups.