Sunday, October 28, 2012

Introducing the Ostrich Party

This is not a political blog. Ever. I also try to avoid other polarizing topics like religion, social class, and college football. Today I will break ALL of these rules.

I am called to write this post based on a quiz I took yesterday at the behest of my most liberal friend. He keeps me in touch with the far left. And youth. After all, he is the age of my nephews and went to Berkeley where he majored in Human Studies. Even liberals whisper about how far to the left he is.

Anyway, I answered very broad questions about my stance on various party issues. Then I could choose how important this issue was to me on a scale that ranges from not at all important to really, really important.

You were given a couple of answers.  If those didn’t really represent your feelings in enough detail, you were then given a few more options that added some more qualifiers. For example, if the question was “Do you like to listen to Rush Limbaugh?” and yes or no didn’t cover it, these options would add in things like “Yes, as long as I have in ear plugs and can’t hear anything he has to say.” Or “No, because I am too busy searching for naked pictures of Ann Coulter.” Okay maybe not just like that but you get the picture.

Based on my answers, I was then matched by a percentage to each of the candidates so I could see who best represented my beliefs. So I read my results and literally had steam coming out of my ears when I did.

You probably don’t know much about my politics. That’s on purpose. My mother taught me never to talk about politics in polite conversation. Because of this, I feel that I should explain myself a little more before I tell you where I came down in the “How much do you love your candidate?”, political-quiz-goes-Redbook exercise.

I am a registered Republican. But if you ask me, I will tell you that I am an Independent. In California, however, you have to pick a party or you don’t get to vote in the primary.  So my mother told me to pick the very best one and democrat was not it.

So Republican won. Not that they really won anything since I don’t give money and I don’t vote the straight ticket. It really means that I get all their junk mail and a Christmas card from my Representative.

For years, I have felt frustrated by our two-party political system. But after the Perot fiasco of the 1992 presidential election, I recognize that when there are more than two parties, you just end up helping one of the big two by separating the other group’s votes.

So when I read that a lot of my opinions about political issues aligned me with Mitt Romney, I was a little surprised but not steamed. After all, you can take the girl out of the red state …

When I found out that I aligned with Jill Stein, I had to ask who that was (Green party). I guess that’s because I believe in global warming. I think that making sure  the epic film Waterworld doesn’t become a prophetic glimpse of our future is important.

Apparently, I am also a little libertarian, because Gary Johnson came up as one of my top four candidates. Of course, I just had to Google who the libertarian candidate was, so I guess old Gary can’t really celebrate my vote yet. Plus, I wouldn’t know what a libertarian was if it wasn’t for Penn Jillette’s book, which I only read after I saw him on Celebrity Apprentice. But none of these things made me mad.

What made me feel like stringing together a list of swear words that would make Yosemite Sam proud, was that I was considered a liberal on science. Because I said that I believe in evolution.


At what point did Republicans officially embrace a philosophy against evolution? What’s next? Will I be considered a liberal if I argue against the edict that the world is flat? And since when is evolution a political issue? I feel this argument plays out much better in a church basement or a poetry slam than on Capitol Hill.

If this is representative of the mindset of a republican party member, then count me out. I don’t want to be lumped in with this lot. I guess that makes me a reluctant liberal. I blame my liberal arts education. They insisted on teaching me science and math in spite of the fact I was a Theatre Major.

The truth is that I don’t feel like either party really represents me. Especially since we are a middle class family. Both parties have their plans for our W2 income and I don’t think any of it is in our best interest.

So I have all three debates recorded on the DVR. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I figured out that it doesn’t matter who I vote for in the presidential race because Obama is getting my vote no matter what I do in the polling booth.  I live in a blue state. In fact, I live in the blue state, so blue that we haven’t seen even one presidential ad. You wouldn’t know it was a presidential election year unless you get stuck in LA traffic on a day Obama is here collecting checks from the Hollywood elite.

I do have a stack of mail about the California propositions filed on my desk. I have the sample ballot in that stack of paper as well. I also have every intention of reading all of it maybe. Years like this make me long for the days when husbands told their wives how to vote. Cue women suffragists rolling in graves now.

Since I became a stay-at-home mom, I have gradually become less and less aware of the world outside my little bubble. A person well informed of current world events would think that not knowing what’s going on would affect his or her everyday life. It does, just not the way he or she would expect.

When really nasty stuff happens in the Middle East, I am blissfully unaware. When gas prices climb to staggering heights, I don’t know about it. I can blame the broken vase in the bathroom on the kids and not the 5.2 Earthquake I just rode on my couch.

Because I am wildly uninformed, I am worthless in a political debate. If anyone traps me in a political conversation, I usually listen with my eyes glazed over and make vague comments like, “What would the founding fathers have to say about that?” Or sometimes just a brilliant and almost always appropriate “Totally.”

My mom was really upset the other day about the news she heard on FOX. Actually, I should amend that to say that my mom is always really upset about the news she heard on FOX. But on this particular day, she told me about whatever she was worked up about and then asked me “And then do you wanna know what he said?”

My answer was no.  I don’t wanna know. That’s why I don’t watch or read or surf. I don’t even DVR the Daily Show. Ignorance is bliss.

So if the two-party system doesn’t work for me, the completely uninformed and woefully underrepresented middle-class mom, then I am forced to create my own party. I have the perfect one. I even have my animal mascot.

Announcing: The Ostrich party. We are a fledgling group, unwilling to meet in public and apt to run, at speeds from 30 to 60 miles per hour, from any kind of political conversation. And when we can’t run, we hide our head. Our political strategy goes like this:

Q: Hey, Terri…Should the U.S. raise the debt ceiling?

A: Foomp. (The sound of my head as it goes in the sand.)

Q: Hey Terri… Do you think we should have bailed out the banks in 2009?

A: Foomp.

Q: Hey Terri…Who should we bomb first: Libya or Iran?

A: Foomp.

Q: Hey Terri…wasn’t it awesome how USC lost yesterday and Notre Dame spanked a top ten school?

A: Fooooomp!

It’s nice down here. No pressure. No decisions. No endless streams of rhetoric that leave me feeling duped and depressed. No one is trying to tell me that we can replace our oil dependency with clean coal technology, oblivious of the fact that it’s an oxymoron. It’s quiet, dark, and peaceful.

Down here in the sand the U.S. economy is booming, China doesn’t own us, and USC still has a chance at the national title. Best of all, it isn’t considered radical to believe that over time, things change for the better to adapt to the world around them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

They Hardly Ever Bleed

There is a book I truly love called, “I was a Really Great Mom Before I Had Kids” by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Noble. You don’t even have to read it because the title really says it all. I learned so much about being a mom from that book. The funny thing is that even though I read it when I had one child, I didn’t really understand what the authors are trying to say until I had my third child.

That’s because I was a great mom when I had one kid. My eldest child was the focus of every minute of my type-A attention. I quit my highly compensated job at a marketing company because I couldn’t bear the thought of letting someone else take care of him. My entire world revolved around every smile, every new milestone reached, and every gurgle and coo.

I was focused and intense. And the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Because of all that one-on-one attention from my super-mommy days, my oldest child is focused and intense.

As an awesome parent, I was very into details with him. We sterilized our bottles. We washed his clothes in Dreft to protect his precious baby skin. We didn’t ever let him have refined sugar. We only gave him milk and water to drink.

I hovered and nurtured and all the other things first-time parents do because they think they should. It was my job to take care of him. My theory was as an awesome mom if I worked hard enough, took enough precautions and jumped through enough hoops, I could protect him from anything.

I also watched milestones like a hawk. I read two different books that categorized what are the likely things that he should be doing and when he should do them. One was by month and one broke it down into weeks. So I knew what he was likely to be doing when he was three weeks, eight weeks, 23 weeks and so on. And just to crosscheck my sources, I subscribed to an email program that gave me a weekly update on where my baby should be.

All this information convinced me that he needed to walk by the time he was one or I would have to enroll him in trade school because he wasn’t going to go to college.
He wasn’t convinced. It was maddening for me. He held out until 14 months before he reluctantly started taking tentative steps. Stubborn. I blame his father.

He was about 14 ½ months when I got my first lesson about parenting and control:

·      Short version: You don’t have any. 
·      Long version: The busyness you engage yourself in to protect your child is just a distraction so you won’t notice the impending event soon to occur due to circumstances beyond your control.

The circumstances beyond my control were an innocuous looking pile of books on my living room rug.

Brenton, at 14 ½ months and rushed into walking by his hyper-aware mom, ambled toward me in his wobbly early toddler gait and stumbled over the pile of books strewn across my living room floor and fell. He immediately began crying. I thought he was tired. So I put him to bed.

He cried throughout the night. I thought he was lonely. Or teething. This was my go to diagnosis whenever he cried inexplicably at that age. I would never have admitted that I didn’t know why he was crying. That was my job. I should know -- even though I had zero experience with babies and he doesn’t talk --  a mother should just know.  So teething it was and I gave him some ibuprofen and put him back to bed. He kept crying.

Then in the morning when I saw that he couldn’t put any weight on his leg, I knew something was wrong.

The doctor said it was a spiral fracture. Fracture, as in a broken leg. The child had broken his leg and this awesome mom got him to the doctor 15 hours later.

This had punched a big hole in my theory about how to be an awesome parent. If a pile of books can break a leg, how on earth could I protect him from every situation where he could get hurt? All the BPA-free, sterilized bottles and organic-no-sugar-added applesauce in the world didn’t protect him from this.

In spite of this incident, I still thought I was in control. So I was still an awesome mom when I had two kids. I had Hayden when Brenton was not quite two. He wasn’t thrilled to have a baby sister, no matter how cute she was.

In fact, the first words he strung together were “Baby Hayden out house.”  I was thrilled that he put a sentence together and then broken-hearted that he felt strongly enough about getting rid of her that he figured out how to put words together to make a sentence.

One day, my adorable toddler boy and delightful little baby girl were playing together in his room. I turned my back just for a second. When I wasn’t looking, Brenton picked up a toy truck and clocked Hayden on top of the head. She had a big nasty goose egg and shed a lot of betrayed tears.

This punched an even bigger hole in my certainty that I knew how to be an awesome parent. If a toy truck can be converted to a club with no premeditated warning by a person my daughter trusted, how can I protect her from getting hurt? All the baby guards on the coffee table in the world aren’t going to protect her from that.

Now that I think about it, I suppose I did have a little warning. He did ask me to get her out of the house.

I am definitely not an awesome mom anymore. When Gavin was born, everything changed. It’s like, the third time you have a baby you start over.  You aren’t stressed-out anymore. You just start over but without some of the little glitches. Like a reboot.

You remember how to do all the important stuff like feed, change, and dress a baby. You still remember how to change all the batteries in the swing and all the words to the lullabies. But you aren’t all worked up about the little stuff …and even some of the big stuff. And you know it’s okay not to know why your baby is crying.

These days, I am what I call a mother-of-three. I often find myself engaged in activities that would have shocked and horrified my mother-of-one self.  Like letting him play with the toilet seat. I figure, once he drops that on his hand once, he’ll learn faster than the time it would take to install toilet locks.

My mother-of-one self would also be rendered speechless when she heard that we don’t sterilize anything anymore. Soap and water is as extensive as anything gets around here. And speaking of soap, I bought Dreft before he was born. But then I didn’t use it when I remembered that it is absolutely useless at getting any actual dirt out of clothes.

She would be happy to hear that I still buy BPA free plastic items. Then she would be disappointed to learn that I frequently fill them with juice because Gavin likes it. Especially when I give it to him with a cookie I made with refined sugar.

I often get busy with housework only to realize that I have no idea where in the house my 18-month-old child is. Sometimes I have no idea if he is upstairs or downstairs. Sometimes, since we leave the door open to the backyard, I am not sure if he is inside or outside.

(Lately however that hasn’t been a problem because he has entered a separation anxiety phase that is driving me to drink. He is usually 6 inches from wherever I am and crying because I am not holding him. But that’s another post…)

He didn’t walk until he was 17 months. I complained about it a little. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t care that much. I kind of liked that he wasn’t toddling around breaking legs on books. And just think of all the money we’re going to save on that college education.

My youngest child so far hasn’t injured himself seriously. He did have an inexplicable injury to his hand last week. I still don’t know what happened. They asked me at the doctor, and then again at the X-Ray appointment how he did it. But I shrugged and said, “search me.” My mother-of-one self would have been furious with me. I am unapologetic.

The Xray was just a precaution. Besides, I had seen him moving his fingers so I knew it wasn’t serious. My mother-of-one self needs to drink a glass of chardonnay and shut it.

Maybe this laid-back attitude is because Gavin is surprisingly cautious. Many is the time I go searching for him and find him quietly perusing his library of board books in his room with no sharp implements and not one digit stuck in a light socket.

He hasn’t smashed his hand with the toilet lid yet either, although I fear that he may have touched the water a little. I just hope he didn’t lick his fingers after. Best not to dwell on that one too much.

For all of my shortcomings as a mother of three, I often find that people with one child are a little bit obnoxiously over-aware of their children. You can’t have a conversation with some of them, in spite of the fact their child is school-aged and fairly self-sufficient.

“(Child name), (Child name) don’t pick up that stick. You might poke someone with it.” And then to me, “I don’t know how you do it with three children.”

I’ll tell you how. I let them pick up all the sticks they can carry and let them figure it out for themselves.

I have a girlfriend that constantly watches her child while he plays in the park. You have to have a conversation with the side of her face because she hasn’t made eye-contact with me for the past six years.

The good news is that she will also watch your children too. It’s actually quite useful. I get a kid report from her while I deal with my toddler and catch up on gossip with the other moms.

Another mommy of one I know doesn’t let her kid go to the bathroom by himself. I understand this when they are young but her child is ten years old. I think that boys should no longer go to the bathroom with their moms if they are old enough to watch that film about their changing body at school.

Which brings me back to the book, I Was a Really Great Mom Before I Had Kids. I get it now in my reboot with my third child. While I am also not completely immune to my busy-as-a-defense-strategy tactics as a mom, there is less busyness about little stuff. But what the book says, and what I now know, is that an awesome mom isn’t the one who has all the answers and does everything perfectly. It’s the one that realizes she will never have all the answers and knows she’ll muff it from time to time, and forgives herself for all of the above.

This was further illustrated for me the other day in the hot tub. Two of my friends (both of whom are wonderful parents-of-one) and I were in the Jacuzzi while all of our kids, who can swim, were in the pool.

For those of you wondering, I had Gavin with me in the hot tub. I am not that bad about my third child. No, it wasn’t too hot for a baby. He’s a year and a half now, not a newborn. GEESH!

But what I noticed is that while I was letting the warm water wash over me and Gavin, relaxed and unfocused, my friends’ were standing up facing the pool.  Their mouths were having a conversation with each other but their eyes were glued to the pool.

Now I was watching my children in the pool. Just not on high alert. But honestly you didn’t have to watch them. They were squealing so loud you pretty much could pinpoint each of them with mommy sonar. Noise is usually a good sign because as any mom-of-three can tell you, it’s the silence that terrifies you.

They noticed my demeanor and laughed. They said something about how they only had one child and they were all up tight while I was relaxed in the hot tub with my baby.

Exactly. My. Point.

“Yeah,” I said, “I learned over time that kids are generally pretty tough. They rarely ever bleed.”

My friend told me that I should make that my next post. I told him it would never work.