Anonymous Soccer Mom

Musings from the Mundane to the Marvelous


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Unplug

UnplugOkay, so I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to navigate this social media, internet marketing minefield. My book came out a week ago, and I am desperate to get it noticed, to get people aware of it, to gain Followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook and Mom Bloggers to mention it on their websites. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a bug starts distracting me. So I start batting at the insect, trying to wave it away so that I can concentrate, because this is important. This is my career. My book’s success or lack thereof will mean the difference between my writing full time and languishing in a job I can’t stand. I’m furiously swatting at the insect now as I retweet a tweet in the hopes of someone else retweeting mine.  And then I realize something that fills me with regret.

The bug is my son. And he’s trying to talk to me.

I totally suck.

My kids always come first. That was the deal I made when I birthed them—or more to the point, when the doctor yanked all 10 pounds of them out of my filled-to-bursting uterus. But lately, I have been letting them fend for themselves. That’s not to say I’ve shirked my responsibilities for the care and feeding of them. I still do the laundry. I haven’t told them to fry their own chicken tenders or make their own lunches or change the Sparklett’s five-gallon jug. But I haven’t been present. Because I have been sucked into the Matrix of the internet, although unlike Keanu Reeves, I have yet to conquer an Agent or do a series of back flips followed by serious butt-kicking and bullet avoidance. I admit, I have used the TV, too, letting them watch far more than their usual hour so that I can keep working, keep surfing, keep trolling for supporters. And you know what? I feel like a heel. Because too many Ninjago episodes are seriously bad for seven- and nine-year-old brains.

I try to assuage my guilt by telling myself that I am doing this for them. I want to be successful so that I can provide them with all of the things they need. So that I can be a happy fulfilled mom who doesn’t scream and bitch and take my frustrations out on them because I have to work in a crappy office covered with piles of papers that makes Hoarders look like the “after” shot of Makeover Home Edition.  I’m doing this so that we can actually take vacations instead of constructing a tent in the living room and calling it our pied a terre.  (Well, I call it that. The kids just look at me suspiciously.)

But the truth is, at some point, I have to unplug. We all do. The internet is seductive. It provides all kinds of free entertainment and pseudo connections with people who are strangers and LOL information—some of it true and some of it gloriously fictitious. The internet is an existence in and of itself. It’s an ego boost (“I have two thousand friends”) and a reality check (“I only have three followers”) and the lover we never thought we’d take.  But, again, at some point, we have to click the red box with the ‘x’ in it on the top right of our screen. Because real life is waiting, in the form of a nine-year-old boy who wants me to read him another chapter of Droon. And that is more important, more satisfying, and more fulfilling than anything Facebook has to offer. Because, let’s face it. Your Facebook friend can give you a virtual hug. And virtual hugs are nice, they really are. But a Facebook hug just doesn’t feel the same as the real thing. And the real thing is waiting for me right now.

www.janisthomas.com


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That Sucks!

mouthI will never forget the day, as a mother, I lost my innocence. It happened recently, therefore the situation is still vivid, the wound, as yet, unhealed.

It began like any other Saturday. The kids were having their weekend allotment of morning cartoons while I made them breakfast. The sun was shining on the yard beyond my kitchen window. The birds were singing. The eggs were cooking. All was right with the world.

And then it happened. My nine-year-old son, my precious first-born who I carried in my womb and nursed at my breast, for whom I dreamed the moon and stars, said two words that completely rocked my maternal world.

“Tinkerbell sucks!”

And then, as if I were trapped in a nightmare that wouldn’t end, my seven-year-old daughter, my sweet, Rapunzel-haired, future Ivory girl with the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, who is compassionate far beyond her years, echoed her brother.

“Tinkerbell does not suck!”

“Tinkerbell does so suck!”

“Does not suck!”

“Sucks!”

“Doesn’t suck!”

It was as though I were being simultaneously pierced in the heart as well as the eardrums. My beautiful children! My polite, well-mannered, vocabularily-advanced progenies were using the word ‘suck.’ Neither had ever used that word, nor any other foul language up to that point.

For the record, I am not a nun. I have been known to use colorful language. I ran a bar in New York City, for crying out loud. But I have always been very careful about what comes out of my mouth in front of my children. In fact, I have an internal switch I flip that turns on and off my personal Swear-Word Deleter. (Learned in childhood when we weren’t allowed to say the Lord’s name in vain, and could only use the expression ‘darn’ because ‘dang’ sounded too much like ‘damn.’) It’s damn—oops—darn exhausting, this habit of switching off the potty mouth. It takes a lot of energy to think about every word you say. But I do it so that my children won’t end up sounding like truck drivers.

Okay, I admit, the expression “that sucks” is not the equivalent of, say, Satanic worship. Still, I cannot tell you how upsetting it was to hear my children say it for the first time.

Not only was it difficult to reconcile such harsh words coming from the mouths of my innocent angels, it was harder still to accept that this expression had been learned elsewhere. They had never heard me say “that sucks.” Is it possible they’d heard my husband say it? Doubtful. For although he’s from New Jersey, and has the ability to make Tony Soprano sound like an altar boy—especially after a martini or two—he has that same internal switch I have, and is very careful around the kids. So where did they learn this expression? Elsewhere. At school. At sports. In the toy aisle at Target. (i.e. “Transformers suck, dude!”)

And this is what makes the whole situation tragic—this is where the naïveté for a parent ends. When we realize that our children are actually people, not just pets or automatons that will only say or do what we’ve trained them to say or do. They have outside influences that are beyond our control. They have their own lives. Even at seven and nine.

We mourn this realization, our lost babes who looked to us for every lesson, every cue, every need. We grieve our angelic offspring who only spoke flowery words that made TV-Y look like an R-Rated movie. We wonder what the next verbal assault will be—will they work their way up from ‘suck’ slowly, or will they head straight to the f-bomb?

But there is an upside to this painful disillusionment and evolution. We parents can relax a bit. We can set that internal Swear-Word Deleter to low. We don’t have to do penance or be racked with guilt if the s-word accidentally slips through our lips. Because if my kids can say “that sucks” then why can’t I?

And, as a parent, being able to relax, if only a little, being able to absolve ourselves of guilt over our less-than-perfect parenting skills doesn’t suck at all.

www.janisthomas.com


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Dishes

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Sometimes I feel as though my life is bookended by dirty dishes. Every morning, as I Frankenstein-walk to my stove to make coffee, I am confronted by dishes. Even when I washed every last cup, bowl and fork the night before, somehow a bevy of dirty dishes appears in my sink the next morning. It’s as though there are hungry elves living in my cupboard who wait for the midnight hour when they can rudely soil my plates and leave them for me to find. I realize a band of ill-mannered elves is a difficult concept to swallow, but the responsible party is either the elves or my husband. And if I blame my husband, that’s just one more grievance against him that I must add to the long list of grievances I already have, and if I add one more grievance, I might possibly strangle him in his sleep, so I choose to blame the elves. If you are married, you understand.

If I may digress for a moment, let me point out that my husband rarely does the dishes, and only does them when he is putting off a more unpleasant task. His answer to my dishpan hand-woes is the dishwasher. Just soak everything, fill up the machine, and crank it on.

There are, of course, two problems with this. Soaking just doesn’t cut it. I’ve seen the commercial—the one where the woman puts an entire cake in the dishwasher, yet still, every plate comes out sparkling clean. Well, let me tell you, either the advertisers are lying through their teeth or that particular dishwasher costs more than my car. You have to scrub the gunk of the plates, the peanut butter and mayo off the spoons, the milk ring off the cups. If you put a dish with any amount of skode on it in the dishwasher, it will come out with cement skode. And then you’ll spend ten minutes scraping the fossilized skode off the plate with a razor blade. Soaking doesn’t remove the skode, it actually spreads the skode around, so that before, there might have been only one skodey plate, but now every item soaking now has a layer of skode on it.

The second problem is that if I wait to run the dishwasher until it’s full, there is an imbalance of items and the resulting shortage of certain necessities. Like cups. And spoons. For some reason, we go through cups and glasses in my house as though they are going out of style. I like to think that we are a very hydrated family. And spoons, too. We use them for coffee, yogurt, cereal, ice cream, the hiccup trick. Lots of spoons. We run out of cups and spoons long before plates, forks, knives and bowls.

So there I am, standing in front of the dishwasher with nary a spoon or cup to be found. I have to open the dishwasher door, thereby disrupting the cycle, grab for a couple of cups and spoon that are screaming hot, but not yet clean, then restart the machine, which groans with protest before reluctantly starting itself again, and I end up scrubbing the necessary items anyway. To me, it’s far better to simply wash as I go.

So, every morning, dishes. Every night, dishes. Sometimes in the middle of the day, dishes. And my life happens in between. I am actually thankful for the doing of dishes, glad I don’t have a housekeeper to relieve me of this task. Because despite the fact that the skin of my hands cracks and bleeds regularly and my nails grow brittle and break, and I loathe the forty-two year old porcelain sink that we can’t yet afford to replace with the stainless steel Rolls Royce of sinks I saw at Home Depot, doing the dishes is very meditative. This task offers a momentary reprieve from the demands of motherhood and wife-dom.

Twenty minutes of not having to cater to the every whim of my children—I basically can’t hear their voices over the water rushing from the faucet. Fifteen minutes to think about absolutely nothing, or Hugh Jackman, depending on my mood. Ten minutes to pretend I’m on X-Factor, wowing Simon Cowell with my splendid white-girl version of RESPECT. Five minutes to figure out how I’m going to tell my husband that I mistook his favorite “comfy” shirt for a rag and bleached three gaping white spots into it. Suds, scrub, rinse, stack, repeat. I know it sounds crazy, but occasionally, subconsciously, I use more dishes than I need just to extend my subsequent dish-doing respite. Two knives for the sandwich—you know, one for the peanut butter and one for the jelly. That kind of thing.

Perhaps I’ve spent too much time pondering this simple fact of life. I’ll have to consider that notion, and I will, soon, as the sink is overflowing with–you guessed it–dirty dishes.

www.janisthomas.com