Thursday, February 9, 2017

F&*^ing Kids: A Perspective

Fucking kids!

If I had a nickel for every time I said that …

Why do we even have them? Speaking for myself, both of mine were surprises.

(Despite that, I still LOVE surprises!)

What is perspective? Perspective is a point of view. If you put a dot in the middle of a circle, you could stand anywhere on that circle and have a different view of the one dot. On the flip side of that same coin, if you stood on the dot and looked anywhere on the circle, even just a hair’s turn would give you a different view of the one circle.

Here is an example of perspective:

You’ve just come home from work after a long day and your kid immediately hits you up for a snack of pizza rolls the second you walk in the front door. While you know she is completely capable of waiting for you to put your bag down and take off your coat first, you know that the sooner you give her the pizza rolls, the sooner you can get to finally sit down ALONE with the cup of coffee you plan to reheat from the full pot you didn’t get a cup from in the morning when you rushed off to work. After you’ve put down your bag but before you even take off your jacket, you grab the bag of pizza rolls from the freezer, open the bag, dump a hearty amount on a plate and put it in the microwave. During the minute and a half they are ‘cooking’, you take your jacket off and rush into your room to change out of your work clothes and bra and whip on the sweatpants and T-shirt you threw on the bed when you took them off in the morning. You rush back into the kitchen, grab a napkin, and head to the microwave and open the door just as the timer goes off. With one hand you let the plate of pizza rolls cool for a moment on the counter while you grab a mug and pour the morning’s coffee into it and put that cup into the microwave with the other. While you’re patting yourself on the back at your forethought to get the pizza rolls in the microwave before you were ready to reheat your coffee – economy of time is important, and you wouldn’t have wanted to had to stand there and watch those damned pizza rolls ‘cook’ for a whole minute and a half before you could put that important cup of coffee in and watch that reheat for a whole minute – you realize that you are starving and grab a pizza roll off the plate and shove it in your mouth, chewing fast because it’s almost ‘magic’ time.

-- Wait! That thing is fucking delicious!

With thirty seconds to go until your coffee is ready, you spend twenty seconds eating half of those delicious creations and use the last ten to carry the plate to where your child is waiting in front of a video screen, throw it at her in the same manner a zoo employee would toss a steak at a lion, and offer up a prayer that what you left for her was enough to tide her over so you could enjoy your reheated coffee for a few quiet minutes for yourself as you rushed back to the microwave.

Two weeks later you are home alone on a Friday night because she is at a sleepover. You are wearing your usual “I’m home” uniform, and you’ve already decided that even though tonight would be a perfect night to go out and try to have a life you either didn’t have the money, gas, or motivation for it and chose to stay in. Because you’re still a little on the fence about making the official decision not to go out, you have no idea what you want to do. You putz around for about a half hour before you decide on watching a movie; you spend another 20 minutes on deciding what you want to drink and whether or not it should be a grown-up drink (just because you can). It’s another half hour gone before you decide on the movie and drink and you’re finally sitting down in front of the TV – then you realize you forgot a snack. The night’s indecisive theme hits you and before you play that ‘what do I want?’ game and waste any more time you decide to have some of those delicious pizza rolls. (After all, they only take a minute and a half to prepare.)

Okay. You are FINALLY ready to sit down and watch a movie with your drink and snack and – BONUS – it’s only 10:30, so you still have time to watch the whole movie before you go to bed. You take a first sip of wine, put the glass down on the coffee table next to you and pick up the plate of pizza rolls, pulling it close to your chest as you sink back into the couch while popping one in your mouth. The opening credits begin on your movie and –

-- What THE FUCK did I just put in my mouth????

Immediately, you open your mouth to spit out the partially chewed, disgusting concoction of processed cheese, imitation tomato, and triple the amount of pretend meat back onto the plate, throw the plate down on the table in disgust, suck down half the glass of wine to get that terrible taste out of your mouth and slam that down, too. Then you grab the damn remote, shut the TV off, and head straight to bed, giving up.

That is perspective. Same pizza roles. Different reactions. So many factors played into my enjoyment of them one day, and my disgust of them another day.

For a few years, I went through my own personal hell with my teenage daughter (this is not to say that I am done with that, either). Choices that she was making were affecting me in so many different ways. Of course, I wasn’t doing enough for her. Of course, it was my fault her life was the way it was. Of course, I had to deal with her father’s blame and outbursts on top of hers. While all of this was going on, I still had to function ‘normally’ – go to work, deal with other issues and other people, and try not to let this affect my younger child (at least, not too much).

I was in my boss’ office to raid her candy jar. It usually takes me a few minutes to grab the chocolate I want because it’s always at the bottom of the jar and I have to empty it onto her desk to get to my favorite pieces (and then, of course, put the rest of the candy back). I was just pocketing my bite-sized Hershey bars when she asked about my daughter, knowing that I had some ‘heavy’ things going on. She was sitting at her desk and I just threw myself in the chair across from her and ranted on and on about my fucking kids.

My boss is ten years older than I am, the half-way age between me and my mother - not too old that I would consider her of a completely different generation that she would have no idea of what I was talking about - and she did grow up in the ‘60s, which meant she wasn’t totally from a ‘simpler’ time.

She let me vent for a bit. Actually, I swore for a bit – I was past simple ‘venting’. I was ready to run away before I pulled all of my hair out (I like my hair; I want to keep it. Can’t be a Breck Girl without it).

She patiently listened to me with this particular look on her face. I say ‘this particular look’ because I can’t quite describe it. She was almost smiling somewhat, but she also looked sympathetic. And when I was done, she basically told me that things would improve.

At first, seeing that slight smile put me off a bit. I know my first reaction was to feel that mildly arrogant huff that we feel when we feel we are being patronized. But after she started talking a bit more, I realized she wasn’t being condescending.

She began telling me of certain exploits of her own fucking kids (and I’m sure she left many bigger details out), who managed to pull off more – different, rather – shit than my own, even without the added benefit of world-reaching technological exposure.

I consider this woman to be a better mother than I am – or at least, more of a real one than I am. Not only is she still married to their father, she cooks for all of them (you did see how prominently the microwave figured in my perspective example). And here she was, telling me about her own personal trials with her kids – kids who I would have said were raised better than mine.

It still wasn’t right away that I got any real comfort from our conversation; I did get some, but I got more out of it later when I realized a few other things.

My parents love me. I’ve always known that, even when I couldn’t stand them. My father raised us to live in fear of him, and I always resented that. When my firstborn started ‘acting up’ I only then understood why he chose that path of ‘parenting through fear’ – it would have certainly made things easier for me with my daughter if she feared me, because she wouldn’t have dared to say the things to me that she had just been starting to say. I still disagreed with his method, but understanding it made a huge difference in my understanding of him. It also showed me that ‘my way’ didn’t necessarily work out too well, either. I called him to tell him that.

I was in my 30s when I made that call.

Here I was, expecting my daughter to appreciate ‘all that I do’ for her as a teenager, and I was only just getting a glimpse of understanding my own parents’ methods - when I was in my 30s.

It was when I was having to really work at not reacting too … inappropriately(?) to my daughter during our many go-rounds that I had a tiny breakthrough: what she does, who she becomes has nothing to do with me.

One of the arguments I constantly used against my father all those years ago was that I was my own person. I still feel that way. And I don’t give my child the same credit. It's not all about me. While I have many responsibilities to my children as their parent, my ultimate responsibility is not for them. Whatever they do, good or bad, is their choice. Do the things that they do affect me? Of course. But I am not here to gain glory of any kind through them, and their choices ultimately only affect them. And I can be fair to them (which is not the same as giving them what they want) while being fair to myself to not let their choices wreak havoc on my life.

I understand that this is a bit of a fine line to understand, and not totally easy to explain. Certain perspective is needed to be able to fully comprehend what I’m trying to say without the first gut reaction of getting offended. I didn’t have it when I first sat across from Diane’s desk that day. I don’t have it all now, either; but I’m getting it. And I’ve noticed that this bigger perspective allows me a little more breathing room. I haven’t run away yet, and I still have my hair (chemical hair-product use consequences notwithstanding).

I began to see it more when someone recently vented to me about their own fucking kids, someone I did not expect to hear these types of war stories from - not so much that I believed he would never go through anything because fucking kids make that impossible - but that he would talk about it. I almost felt that same smile on my own face that I saw on Diane’s that day – and I finally realized what it was: a combination of everything from relief of the isolation that these stresses make you feel, the feeling of accomplishment of knowing you can survive that shit because the first real issue is always the biggest mindfuck (I say ‘first’ because the shit never ends with our kids), but most of all it was genuine parental love. It’s true, benevolent understanding with the back-door knowledge of future success.

My best friend and I swap war stories all the time. Friendships are more valuable than most people realize. I don’t know what I would do if I had no one to talk to – once I got past my own arrogance in thinking that there was no one to talk to that would understand. I understand the idea of not wanting to ‘admit’ certain things to others – you don’t want them looking at you in judgment (especially since you are probably already harshly beating yourself up), and you really don’t want them judging your children – because you love them, despite their bullshit, and even if what you are thinking about them is worse.

Yes, you want to run away. I still have my moments of wanting the same. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that someone else is going through some variation of your same issue, because when we are in the thick of it, we feel exclusive to it, because no one could understand the pain and frustration we are going through. That feeling of being unappreciated, that martyrdom of taking on the blame – or the feeling of helplessness when you feel someone else is to blame. Even that ‘surprise’ that your child flipped that switch and ‘suddenly’ turned on you.

That feeling of being unappreciated can go much deeper than we realize, too. It attacks our self-esteem and sense of worth.

What we go through with our kids is hard. It makes us question everything. And someone sympathizing with you is not their way of saying what you’re going through doesn’t matter or is ‘small’ – because everything we go through with our kids is HUGE, so big that sometimes we don’t want to hear someone telling us that we will make it through (because we know they are wrong) – any more than I did when I sat across the desk from my boss.

I know that because now I’m on the other side of that desk. I’m on the dot looking outward at the circle, and you’re on the circle looking inward at the dot.


Fucking kids.

I love them.