Things We Forget

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There was a time, before we got all jaded and grumpy, that our main purpose was to have fun. As kids, we jumped out of bed every morning, eager to find the best ways to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs.

We had it all figured out. Why did grown-ups make everything so difficult? Politics, manipulation and sociopathic behaviors were things we didn’t understand. (I still don’t understand.)

After life punches us in the face for several decades, we get out of bed a little slower and rarely find time for cartoons or candy. Friends become precious. Chores increase exponentially.

But maybe those 10-year-old versions of ourselves were right all along. Maybe we need to remember some basic rules about life that were totally obvious to us before we finished elementary school. These things are truths at any age.

  • Going to the bank is boring—unless there are those chain-attached pens you can play with
  • If you’re good at the store, you might get a Butterfinger
  • Going to the zoo sounds like a good idea, but it’s actually exhausting
  • Visiting grandma gets you spoiled
  • Sometimes you need to stay in bed all day reading a good book
  • Making friends is easy
  • Going to bed early is a punishment
  • It’s okay to cry when your feelings are hurt
  • Saturday morning cartoons are awesome
  • Spending an afternoon in the park is the best use of your time
  • A $20 bill makes you rich
  • When your friend is mean, it’s okay to tell them that wasn’t nice
  • It’s fun to be excited for birthdays and Christmas
  • Eating cold cereal for dinner is the best
  • Throwing a water balloon at your sister is thrilling
  • You never have to watch your carbs
  • Shoes aren’t always necessary
  • Cloud watching is not a waste of time

So how did we go from being fun-loving kidlets to cranky adults? When did we decide it was better to be busy than to have fun?

As with most terrible things, I blame the teenage years. Being 13 years old can be devastating. If you watch the movie Eighth Grade, be prepared for some serious junior high PTSD as a beautiful young girl destroys her own self-esteem with anxiety, junior high romance and pool parties. Seriously triggering.

Once we drag ourselves out of the primordial swamp of high school, we’ve become a little less trusting and optimistic. Then we double-down on our cynicism as we enter the workforce.

When you were in elementary school, dreaming about the time you’d be a grown up with your own car and the ability to eat ice cream after midnight, you never considered the possibility that working sucks. Sure, we saw our parents come home from work, down a bottle of gin and collapse on the couch like a bag of old pudding, but that was because they’d had SO MUCH FUN at work!

Something needs to change.

If you find yourself scowling at happiness, it’s time to check back with your inner fourth-grader and do something fun. Skip work and go hiking. Have an ice-cream sundae, without promising to jog later (because 10-year-olds don’t jog). Start a conversation with a stranger. Spend $20 on something entirely useless. Have Lucky Charms for dinner.

We need to remember, it’s fun to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs. Life’s too short to grow old.

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-laughter/things-we-forget/

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A Brief History of Children

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When silly, old Eve chose wisdom over nudity in the garden of Eden, what was her punishment? That she would be fruitful and multiply. In non-biblical words, she was doomed to have children. Seems like the penalty didn’t really fit the crime.

Did she understand, as she grew rounder and larger and moodier, that a parasitic growth was stealing her nutrients, sleep and sanity? When the baby started kicking, did she consider the fact she might be possessed by an evil spirit? She was correct.

There were no childbirth magazines, no social media sites, no mommy blogs–nothing. She was alone. In the wilderness. With a baby. (Yes, Adam was there. Not sure what he was doing. Probably renaming animals and practicing his Tarzan yell.)

Depending on your level of belief in evolution, fast forward thousands (more likely hundreds of thousands of years) and motherhood has become a thing. I guess it caught on, even though the process is brutal, bloody, hormonal and excruciating. And that’s not even considering toddlers and teenagers.

As mothers there is only one absolute when it comes to raising children: You have NO control.

Your kids will scheme, manipulate, scream, disobey, fight and lie right to your face. They’ll make you feel like you’re the worst parent in the entire universe, and they’ll have data to back up their claim. They’ll be ungrateful, unforgiving, cold, unreasonable and impossible. You’ll often feel like hiding under your bed with a bag of Oreos and a warm blanket. (Don’t bother. They’ll find you–and steal your Oreos.)

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(Daughter heading out to go clubbing? Just smile and nod.)

You’ll seriously worry that your kids will end up on COPS or Dog the Bounty Hunter, and you wonder how they’ll tolerate you visiting them in prison. You’ll get upsetting phone calls from teachers, irate emails from neighbors and you’ll start avoiding eye contact with parents at the grocery store. You’ll be convinced that once your kids have left home (whether through arrest or by other means) you’ll never hear from them again.

But.

One day.

You’ll find yourself having an enjoyable adult conversation with this person who once threatened to call social services on you. You’ll receive a text message with a smiley-face emoji and you won’t wonder if you’re being manipulated. Your kids will come for dinner and no one will storm off to another room and slam the door. It’s almost like interacting with humans!

You’ll realize these tiny terrorists who never let you have one ounce of privacy are suddenly pretty cool. They talk in coherent sentences and speak without complaining or retaliating. You’ll watch them try to reason with their own little toddler tyrants, and while you might have the occasional eye tic of sympathy, you’ll feel an unconditional love.

There’s no right way to be a mom. We get up every morning with the best intentions. Sometimes we succeed. More often we fail. There are no accolades, awards, thank-you notes, pats on the back or even an encouraging smile. We all feel we’ve done it wrong.

I’m sure every mother since Eve has experienced that overwhelming feeling of inadequacy as we teach these children how to adult. We can only pray they’ll do better than we did.

The TRUE Cost of Having Children

The Department of Agriculture recently announced it takes $250,000 to raise a child through high school. Why the Dept. of Agriculture? Because children are similar to vegetables.

I think this estimate is severely low. Having raised four daughters, here are some expenses I don’t think the researchers took into account:

  • Home repairs including, but not limited to, repainting the wall that your 4-year-old “decorated” with nail polish. Or that Slurpee stain in the carpet that will NEVER, EVER come out–no matter how many times you pay a professional carpet cleaner.

(Scrub all you want. Even a nuclear holocaust won’t get rid of this stain.)

  • Every blankety-blankety-blank Happy Meal toy, cereal prize or other worthless trinket that fast-food restaurants/Disney dangle in front of children. This also includes temper-tantrum averting treats at the mall and impulse buys in the grocery store line that they won’t SHUT UP about.
  • School clothes–but not just clothes, the right kind of clothes. The expensive stuff that will only be worn once. This also includes the dozens of shoes you buy, not because your child grew out of them, but because she suddenly doesn’t like the way they feel, or she’ll “forget” one at her friend’s house, or they don’t match ANYTHING she owns.

(“But mo-om. None of these shoes match my skinny jeans.”)

  • Gas for driving them to and from school, work, their friend’s house, the mall, etc.
  • Face products, at least for daughters. If you don’t buy them their own face soap, moisturizer, etc.–yours will suddenly go missing. Strangely enough your daughter will “have no idea where your face mask is.”
  • Yards of fabric to make your teenage daughter a homemade princess costume for Halloween, only to screw it up and have to buy one anyway at the last minute–for twice the cost.
  • Every other Halloween costume. Plus accessories. And fake teeth. And fake blood.

(This Halloween costume costs $3,139. Then you still have to buy candy.)

  • The price of being “Santa’s Helper” during the holiday season. In December, I set up a direct deposit so my paycheck went directly to Toys R Us.
  • Birthday parties that MUST include the cool Disney princess du jour, gift bags for 20 little girls, an elaborate cake that no one will eat and tiaras.

I could go on (and on and on) but you get the idea. So if you’re in the process of child-rearing, save your cash. You’re gonna need it.

To Hell and Back

Remember those field trips in first grade where the bus smelled like urine, the children screamed songs and teachers were frazzled? Well, I just relived that experience when I chaperoned my grandson’s class to the aquarium.

(There was NOT a Loch Ness monster in our aquarium. Feeling gypped.)

Now, my grandson is perfect. That’s all there is to it. He’s handsome. He’s brilliant. He’s funny. And he loves me. However, every other first grader had either downed a high-octane espresso or snorted brown sugar before boarding the bus. Children were bouncing everywhere like Jell-O in an earthquake. The little girl sitting next to me kept screaming “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I guess she was channeling my thoughts.

When we finally arrived at the aquarium (the longest freakin’ bus ride of my life), chaos ensued. Teachers and parents scrambled to herd kids into the facility while the kids did everything they could to try to get lost immediately. The little girl who had previously been screaming in my ear, made a beeline to the sting ray tank and proceeded to slap the rays as they swam by.

I finally restored a semblance of order by saying the sting rays were a rare kind of killer that ate the flesh of young children. Interestingly enough, that was also true about the penguins, the jellyfish, the starfish, the otters and every other creature we came across. I’ve probably instilled a fear and loathing to all things “ocean.”

(It’s worse than that. He’s dead, Jim.)

And since we live in Utah, which, when I last checked, was hundreds of miles from any ocean, the aquarium lacked the “fun” aquatic creatures like killer whales, great white sharks and the Little Mermaid. Instead, we watched rainbow trout, river otters and shrimp from the Great Salt Lake as they lived in their natural habitat of a glass tank.

Kids get bored easily. Even when we’re pretending to hunt jellyfish. So we toured the facility twice and were just getting ready to watch them feed children to the small sharks when it was time to board the bus to go home. I volunteered to walk, but they insisted I get back on the bus from hell.

More frivolity ensued as the bus riders punched each other, fell off their seats, cried, slapped the people in front of them and threw their shoes out the window. And that was just the teachers. The kids were OUT OF CONTROL. I never remember acting that way on a bus ride. Of course, back then a “bus” was a wagon pulled by oxen. And teachers were still allowed, even encouraged, to beat us.

After I returned to the school, kissed the ground and headed back to my (quiet) car, I thought “That wasn’t so bad.” Hahahahaha! Just kidding. I didn’t think that.

Happy Whoreoween

(This is scarier than any horror movie.)

Helping little girls grow up too quickly, costume companies have sexed-up Halloween costumes for grade school children. Last year, third-grade girls came to my door wearing belly shirts, mini-skirts, fishnet stockings and lipstick. Isn’t there a vice squad created to prevent this? Where’s CSI: SVU when you need them?

Halloween has become “Whoreoween.” Instead of being a regular, innocent cowgirl or princess, little girls are now Raunchy Rodeo Cowgirls with a sexy lasso and spurs, or Peek-A-Boo Princess with fake boobs and high heels. Come on! Our kids are sexified early enough.

(If these little girls come to your door, hand them a coat.)

Adult women and teenage girls have used Whoreoween as an excuse to dress and act like a slut for years and years.  As long as men have eyeballs, you’ll have your naughty nurses and frisky pirate wenches–but seriously, do we need lascivious loan officers, vampy veterinarians or saucy sanitation engineers? Do you really want to see a lusty lunch lady in a push-up bra and stilettos? (If you answered “yes,” there’s a good chance you’re a man.)

But enough is enough when it comes to little kids.

Last year, a fifth grader came to my door, set up a stripper pole on my porch and started to perform. Luckily, it was cold and her bare belly froze to the pole. I called 9-1-1 and went back to watching TV. (I’m just kidding. I gave her some candy first.)

Can we return to innocence? I was Princess Leia when I was 8–and I didn’t stuff my bra. Hell, I didn’t even WEAR a bra. I wasn’t trying to be sexy or seduce the many Han Solos and Luke Skywalkers there were in my class. I just wanted candy, dammit. There was no hidden sexual agenda on Halloween.

IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE CANDY.

Top 5 Reasons I Worry About the Future

Children are our future. Of course, with Congress right now, children are also our present.

Have we done a good job teaching our kids what they need to know to run this world? Here are some potential stumbling blocks that maybe should be addressed before the kids take over:

1. No communication skills. This generation is being raised in cyberspace where things like etiquette, tact and emotion do not exist. Although they can text on their cell phones faster than a Kardashian can shop, children have no ability to actually carry on a face-to-face conversation. Eye contact is nearly extinct. (If you are a child and are not sure what the word “conversation” means, please Google it.)

2. Germaphobes. Back in the day, we drank out of garden hoses, shared soda pop cans and bathed only when necessary.Today’s kids have a world so sterile, it will be a miracle if they’ll be able to reproduce. Hand sanitizer is the new shirtsleeve. We’ve destroyed our children’s immune systems for the next 50 years.

3. No problem-solving skills. Is your child failing math? Well, for heaven’s sake, do his work for him. Is he having trouble with a teacher or another student at school? Take charge and fight the battle for them. I’ve seen parents write reports, put together science projects and even call employers to explain why their child was late for work. Really?! What part of “growing up” is hard to understand?

4. No attention span. This isn’t just for kids. Talk to anyone for a few minutes and you’ll see their eyes darting side to side, their tongue rapidly licking their upper lip and a fine sheen of sweat appear on their forehead–because while they’re talking to you–THEY ARE MOST DEFINITELY MISSING SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

5. Overscheduled. Kids today have more items on their agenda than the First Lady. Tennis lessons, French cooking classes, baseball practice, dance recitals, CPR training and meetings with their agents leave kids exhausted. And then we wonder why our kids are irritable and sleepy.

We’re raising the most globally-aware and socially-consicous generation ever. Let’s not screw it up.

File under: WTF

I just read in the paper about two young “adults” who filed a lawsuit against their mom for emotional distress in the amount of $50,000. First, isn’t that a mom’s job? Second, (you might ask) what constitutes “emotional distress” to these two lovely children?

Here’s your answer. (Did I mention they live with their father–an attorney–in a $1.5 million home?)

During their childhood, their mother:

  • Insisted that her 7-year-old son buckle his seat belt or she’d call the police
  • Haggled over the amount she wanted to spend on a party dress for her daughter
  • Called her daughter at midnight, asking that she return home from a school party
  • Sent the “wrong kind” of birthday card (it didn’t include a check or cash)
  • Failed to send her son a care package when he was in college
  • Wouldn’t take her daughter to a car show

These offenses make me wonder–WTF? If MY daughters decided to sue me for “emotional distress” (which is entirely possible), I would counter-sue and ask for the judge to order the following consequences:

  • They would have to mow my lawn with a PUSH MOWER every Saturday afternoon. In the heat. Without an iPOD.
  • They would have NO access to cell phones or the Internet.
  • They would only be allowed to watch network television.
  • They would have to WALK to school. Every day. Rain or shine.
  • New school clothes would consist of 2 pairs of Levi’s, 5 T-shirts, 1 pair of tennis shoes and 1 pair of dress shoes.

Sound familiar? That’s because that was OUR childhood. Sometime during the last 20 years, entitled, horrible children took over the planet. Should be an interesting future.