It has been something else around here. Thanks to my minivan music video, this blog received more hits in a few days than probably the last two years combined. Next, the Life Sherpa of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch devoted his entire column to my post “Apparently All-Inclusive Attitudes Aren’t Part of the Resort Package,” where I took issue with an earlier piece he had written chiding parents of young children. And then he went and briefly mentioned me again in this Sunday’s column. It appears that a younger woman offering to buy an older man a beer is newsworthy. I will take it, especially considering the fact that when my version of “Texaco, Texaco over the hills to Mexico” differed from my daughter’s, she told me that now they sing it different from how we did in “the olden days.”
I feel a little like a celebrity. I mean, the video has caught on like virtual wildfire. My daughter said that her friend told her that her older brother told her that practically the entire 6th grade class has seen it because a boy in their 2nd grade class showed it to HIS older brother who then showed it to all his friends when they came over. Um, did you follow that? Basically, I’m the Justin Bieber of the elementary school. Not quite Taylor Swift yet, but give it time. All I know is that I’m kind of a big deal in the parking lot at pick up time. And my daughter has been dubbed “famous” for her starring role in the video. Part of me hopes this doesn’t make her too popular though, as I have decided it is better for my kids to be nerds. Not tortured outcasts, mind you. I simply want them to have just enough social clout that people find them likable, but not enough that I will have to spend my Friday nights waiting up for them…because they will be at home watching 80’s movie classics and eating cheese balls with their nerd friends.
But these past weeks have also taught me that I am semi-uncomfortable with semi-fame. Compliments are like a funky little form of sadomasochism. They make me feel good, but at the same time, a part of me feels very uncomfortable. My immediate way of dealing with compliments is to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal: Oh, the video wasn’t really that hard to make. They have programs that any dummy can use. OR I’m just weird like that. I don’t know why I spend my time doing this stuff. OR Thanks, but it was just a fun little family project. The kids were just happy to be hams in front of the camera. In reality, I do spend a lot of time and effort on most things dealing with this blog. And I am over-Saturn’s-moon-slap-me-jazzed-do-a-high-kick-yell-SUPERSTAR-like-Mary-Catherine-Gallagher-happy when people respond to it in a positive way.
Then I got an email from a friend I went to high school with. This is what she said:
I just have to tell you that the reason I had been thinking about you is because in between all the mom stuff, house stuff, grocery shopping, etc (YOU KNOW!), I feel like I can get extremely short and cranky with my family and when I read your blogs and posts, I am truly inspired by your zest (decided to use a good word like that, with your love for words and all) for life and how much fun you seem to have. I seriously think of you and think of how lucky your kids are and your husband is and how much fun you have, while still being a great mom and teaching your kids what is right and wrong.
First off, that email made my day, more than the excitement of all the hub-bub that had been surrounding my blog at the time. To know that something I enjoy doing somehow helps other people navigate through their lives in even the smallest way is the gold medal of compliments. But here comes that flip side of accepting something nice said about you. She painted such a glowing reflection of me, a reflection I feel on most days I can’t claim to be mine. I joked with her that while reading my blog might help her stop being cranky and short with her children, I am usually JUST THAT with my own children while WRITING THE VERY BLOG she feels inspired by. Wow. I felt a little like a fraud. I stumble through motherhood just like everyone else; I just usually choose to only write about the more lighthearted moments of it. I don’t like to complain too much in public, mostly because I have little patience for others who do. But in doing this, am I unintentionally portraying a false image of my life? Am I somehow making other mothers say things to themselves like, “Why can’t I be more like THAT kind of parent?” Trust me, I am no model mother…nor do I want to be.
But I had to realize that wasn’t the point of her compliment. And you know what? My kids ARE lucky to have me: an imperfect mother who loves them like no one else can and who lets them star in music videos. And every mom who reads this has children who are lucky to have her: another imperfect mother who loves them like no one else can and who sometimes needs to read about the funny, heart-warming moments of my life to remind her that she has moments just like that in hers.
Needless to say, it has been nice that things have settled down a little around here, at least on the blog front…because my darned life won’t take a break long enough to let me ogle my site stats to find out exactly how many people have been reading my posts or let me plot my next strategy for taking over the viral world. In the meantime, here is a link to a post by Rage Against the Minivan that will make all parents feel better about striving for acceptable mediocrity most of the time. Happy Easter!
I’ve got a little bone to pick. And I’m warning you…I might get a little sassy.
This morning I sat down with my Cinnamon Chex and the Sunday funnies. Before reading the 74,502nd joke Dilbert makes at his boss’ expense, I immediately opened to the middle section to read one of my favorite columns,Life Sherpa by Joe Holleman. While I don’t always agree with his opinions, I really enjoy the common sense approach he applies to life; and he is usually good for a chuckle or two. Sometimes even a snort. He is kind of like a funnier, cooler, more likeable version of Dr. Phil. And he seems like a decent guy to have a beer with, which is one of my more discerning qualifications for liking people.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little miffed with today’s column. A reader by the name of “Eliza Dooalot” wrote in to vent her annoyance with parents who bring children to Mexican resorts or places like Las Vegas, thereby ruining the vacations of all the hard-working adults who paid good money for their trips. (Needless to say, I doubt I would want to have a beer with her. She would probably get all snippy that I brought my kids to the bar.) But I had no doubt that Sherpa would at least partially come to the defense of these parents she spoke of, seeing as how he is a man who usually acknowledges both sides of an argument.
I was wrong.
Instead, I felt a little betrayed. He painted parents of young children as people who think “the whole world finds their children as precious, fascinating and accomplished as they do.” He also states that the kids “can’t help that they were born to selfish people who are incapable of grasping the notion that they might have to give up some of their fun because they had children. And why should they? It’s so much easier to spoil everyone else’s good time than to deprive themselves.”
Oh, Sherpa. I would elaborate on more of what he wrote, but it’s just too painful to read again. But you can do so here, while I try to pull this knife out of my heart.
Now, I want to go on record as saying: Sherpa, I still love you. And I am smart enough to realize you don’t feel this way about all parents of young children. After all, you yourself are a parent, and your children were once young. And I will give it to you: there are irresponsible parents out there like those you speak of. We have all seen them, experienced them, perhaps even known some. I know I do. But if there is one thing that annoys me, it is generalizations. I can honestly say that 99.9% of the parents I know are NOT the kind of people described in the column, and they can’t be the only ones. It would be pretty silly to think I simply hit the jackpot when it comes to friends and acquaintances with children. Furthermore, if there is anything that gets me fired up, it is a misguided attack on something close to my heart.
So here is my rebuttal.
Kids Deserve Vacations Too
Let’s start with the obvious: flying with young children to a Mexican resort. Please correct me if I am wrong, but Mexico has about as many vacation resorts as they do tortillas, many of which are designated as “adults only.” Problem solved. And if it is the “flying with children” part of the scenario that seems “inconsiderate,” well, let’s take a look at that. Flying with kids can admittedly be a disaster of epic magnitude waiting to happen. So, of course, “considerate parents” would simply choose vacation spots to which they can drive, therefore keeping the horrific deeds of their naughty children confined to their own family vehicles, right? First off, this notion suggests that certain people have more of a right to fly than others. But that is just ridiculous, so I won’t even address it. Believe it or not, in today’s economy, flying can often be a cheaper alternative to driving, especially when long distances are involved. Not only have gas prices been insane, but many parents who travel for work enjoy the benefit of frequent flyer miles which they save up and use to pay for family vacations. (Also astonishing is the fact that resorts, like those in say, Mexico, can also be paid for with points. And before you say “use your points at DisneyWorld,” I will mention that I can practically fly and stay at TWO Mexican resorts OR fly across the ocean to Ireland before I have enough points for a family of four to go to DisneyWorld. That’s what you call a Magic Racket.) Considering the rising costs of raising a family, maybe these parents aren’t being so selfish after all. Maybe they are just treating their children to a memory-making vacation while at the same time, saving money that can be used on more important things. Like college funds. Or mortgage payments.
What Happens in Vegas Isn’t Your Darn Business
Now, onto Vegas. I, for one, would never choose Vegas as a destination for a family vacation. I don’t think most parents would. Those card flippers on the strip are enough for me to keep my children outside a very large radius of the city…you know, the guys who hand out naked pictures of girls to promote Caesar knows what. However, it could be possible, just possible, that a family with small children might be in Vegas for another reason, like a convention or a tournament, of which they had no control over the location.
Case in point: my brother played club volleyball as a kid. One year, Nationals were held in Reno. While Reno isn’t as soaked in debauchery as Vegas, there isn’t a whole lot more to do there than gamble. And guess what is in every hotel? A casino. And guess where the food court and restaurants were in the hotel? On the other side of the casino from the elevators up to the rooms. So every time a poor kid wanted a meal, he had to walk through the casino floor filled with chain-smoking old ladies at slot machines, groups of drunk guys yelling profanities at the craps table, and scantily clad bar maids wiggling what God gave them. The gamblers probably didn’t want the kids there, but neither did their parents. I guess the parents could have not let their children leave the hotel rooms, but no one wants to see or hear what happens when kids are confined for too long. Either be annoyed while gambling or have your sleep disrupted by adolescents bouncing off the walls next door. Your choice.
Basically what I’m saying is don’t assume you know the reason a family with young children might be in an unlikely place. The only thing unlikely about the situation is that the parents are “selfish people who are incapable of grasping the notion that they might have to give up some of their fun because they had children.”
Does This Look Like Fun to You?
Which brings me to another can of worms I want to open: kids misbehave. It is a fact as true as the laws of physics. And guess what? Even kids of good parents, well-intentioned, attentive, responsible parents, misbehave. And yes, it is annoying. But here is the most shocking part: NO ONE IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD IS MORE ANNOYED AT MISBEHAVING CHILDREN THAN THE PARENTS OF SAID CHILDREN. Is there a kid at the pool being a brat, yelling the theme song to “Go, Diego, Go” and splashing everyone within five feet of him? I suspect this might be the type of “other people’s children” that Miss Eliza Dooalot must suffer and “put up with” on her vacation. But who is really the one who has to put up with it? Sure, for people like Eliza and other bystanders, this behavior can be disruptive and agitating. But Eliza has a choice; a choice to find another area by the pool to relax, a choice to crank up the music in her earphones, a choice to leave. This child’s parents do not have that choice. They not only have to be badgered by it, but they also have to do something to remedy it. And might I add that most parents are not only frustrated in their child’s misbehavior despite trying to teach them manners and respect every chance they get, but they are also embarrassed that their failings are on display for all to see, and their reaction to it is likely being judged.
A perfect example of this unfortunately happened to a friend of mine several years ago. She was moving her family from St. Louis to London after her husband was transferred. He had gone to London ahead of the family to start work, so she was poised to make a trans-Atlantic flight alone with three small children. Things got off to a rocky start, and her kids were already whining and pushing limits as they boarded the plane. As she made her way to her seat, juggling three children and all their carry-ons, another passenger made some snide comment loud enough for her to hear. She turned to him and said something along the lines of, “If you think I’M having a good time here, you are SORELY mistaken.” If I had been on that plane, I would have given her a standing ovation.
The Moral of the Story
All of these above reasons are why I got so angry reading that column. And I am not an unreasonable person. I am actually probably a lot more “old school” than most older generations would accredit to someone of my generation. I have even proclaimed myself to be the world’s youngest cranky old woman. So for me to take offense to these attitudes means something. Parents KNOW their kids can be annoying to other people. We do get it, since other people’s kids annoy us sometimes, too. We are just able to cut them some slack because we know in our hearts that parenting bites everyone in the backside every now and again. And we don’t think everyone thinks they are cute and adorable. Heck, there are times when even WE don’t think that. So to imply that we are clueless, self-centered people who are not mortified if the actions of our children inconvenience other people is grossly irresponsible. Even worse, to imply that we are negligent enough to abandon our parental judgment to allow ourselves to have fun at the expense of our children and everyone else is downright hurtful.
Obviously, everyone has a right to feel however they want on this issue. All I am really asking is instead of rushing to judgment, perhaps adults without young children should consider the fact that they don’t have the whole story. The world revolves around no ONE person; we all have to share this planet, and occasionally a Mexican resort. That means we will step on each others’ toes sometimes, even if there is no malice intended. I can empathize with a hard-working person who is just looking forward to a relaxing vacation; hopefully that person can also empathize with the fact that parents on vacation with children really aren’t on vacation at all. But we go, for our kids. For our family. And to be frankly honest, it’s a free country and we can choose to vacation wherever we want. So do you.
So let’s mend the fences, Sherpa. I can respect your opinion. And now you know mine. All is forgiven. And if you want to hang out with some really fantastic moms who hold absolutely no delusions about the strengths AND faults of their children, usually posting the good and the bad on Facebook for you to block, come have a beer with us. It will even be my treat, since you’re still one of my favorite columnists. I’m even enough of a good sport to let you invite Eliza Dooalot. But she has to pay for her own beer. I work too hard trying to raise future productive members of society to waste my well-deserved mom’s night-out money on her unsympathetic attitude.