Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Adventures in Real Parenting: Just Wait
On the numerous occasions when I let go of my fears and give in to the knowledge that these people with whom I share a home and life are my best material and I'm desperate to write a blog post, I go ahead and write, but that writing makes me fret. I fret that I'm going to get one of those "Well, you just need to..." or "Well, when I was raising kids..." comments and it's going to alternatively make me angry and ashamed. And then I'll grumble about it to MathMan and throw myself onto the bed in a fit and vow to never ever ever write about my kids again because some people can't help being advice givers or sanctimonious and I hope their kids drive them over the cliff someday too.
And then MathMan follows me into the bedroom, puts his TI-84+ Silver Edition on the night table and stands next to the bed giving me that look. "Come on now. You need a thicker skin. Your readers have a relationship with you and they want to help."
When he's reasonable like that is when I want to refudiate him the most. With pain.
I realize that this makes me sound a bit too much like politicians who trot their kids out during the campaign only to whine when the media goes after those same kids later. But there it is. This exploiting your children for money or humor or a stupid blog post or elected office is a complicated thing. It's a field loaded with emotional landmines.
See it's one of those conundrums of being a domestic artiste. It's too close to the bone, to the heart. I'm allowed to poke fun at them. And you're allowed to laugh, but you are not allowed to join in the poking (much) nor offer parenting advice. Trust me on this. I'd bet anyone who writes about family feels the same way. I've just laid bare more of my inadequacies so that you might laugh. I'm not looking for someone to come in and tell me what I "need to do" or how they do it so much better than I do. I have therapists for that.
It occurred to me to check with an expert on this, but so far I've only managed to get distracted reading her quotes and reminiscing about her books.
If you haven't guessed already, I've been reading some of that Erma Bombeck book that's been assigned as bathroom reading apparently because it's been either relegated to or given the highest honor of being tossed into the big basket of bathroom reading material.
Now that I'm eating things like steel cut oats and vegetables, I've got more reading time than ever. Since it's been brought to my attention that reading on the toilet contributes to varicose veins, I'm careful not to spend more than one paragraph at a time on "business." While my leg veins that haven't already popped are grateful, I'm pretty sure I'll be dead before I manage to get through the Bombeck book and all those Prevention magazines that are supposed to prevent my death. Choose your battles, Lisa. Choose your battles.
But back to Erma, I wonder how she felt about reader feedback. I so wish she were alive to blog today. And I'm pretty sure she didn't make her career off the backs of her husband and children because kids in the sixties and seventies were any better at doing what they were told or by staying out of trouble. Bombeck did not once write that she'd be strapping tennis rackets to her children's feet like snowshoes to send them to school even if school was cancelled again because raising children is easy or delightful. It wasn't then, it isn't now. Don't let those fetishizers of parenting fool you.
I was one of those kids giving my mother another reason to reach for her nerve pills when I first discovered Erma. My mom had some of her books around, but I didn't realize how amusing she must have found them because I didn't grasp the misery loves company appeal of it then. I just saw Mom reading and laughing and thought what an odd thing that was. Rare really, more than odd.
Even then, I read Bombeck while locked in the bathroom. There was Just Wait Til You Have Children of Your Own and The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank . I still remember a Bill Keane illustration of a mom ironing her daughter's hair on the ironing board while speaking into the phone, "Oh, just ironing something for Debbie."
Back when I was laughing at that, I had no idea of the kinds of things I'd one day find myself doing for my own kids. Or the things I'd find myself saying. When you're fourteen and tan and can wear pink velour tube tops without the slightest hint of irony, you never imagine yourself telling someone to stop licking the curtains or wondering aloud who you should call to have Cinnamon Toast Crunch delivered via dumptruck load because you're going broke buying it by the box. No, you just give yourself another misting of Love's Baby Soft, apply some Bonnie Bell Seven Up flavored Lipsmacker and miss the opportunity to be glad for who you are then and how it all stretches out before you. The way we humans are wired shelters us at that age. We aren't able to peer into our futures for a reason, yo.
But now Bombeck is hilarious to me. I'm that mom with my own Debbies and Steves. It's me fishing keys out of the toilet and shouting down the heating vent in search of a lost hamster and wiping spills that no one else sees and praying to the laundry room gods for the safe deliverance from oblivion of all those random socks and finding new uses for old pantyhose and referring to my husband as "that idiot" under my breath.
And saying to my own darlings "Just wait til you have children of your own."