Sunday, October 19, 2008


I just had a birthday recently, and while I'm not going to start lying about my age anytime soon, I have to admit to feeling a little over the hill. I know, silly thirty-three-year-old whining. I'm the latest birthday among my closest friends, I've no grey hair to speak of, and all my faculties are intact. Maybe just a tiny amount of complaining?

The two main things that made me start feeling outdated were my daughter starting kindergarten and my attending classes at the junior college. On the one hand, I'm of the average age for parents of Small Person's classmates. On the other, I'm a generation older than my classmates, most of whom graduated high school recently. I feel somewhat out of place in both environments. Walking through campus to attend my own class, however, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I'm so obviously (to my mind) older, uncool, unaware of the social conventions. The texting, the clothing, music, slang, is all unfamiliar. I'm old.

To be fair, I felt very similarly when I actually was in high school. I didn't really fit in, and always felt some level of anxiety about that. I guess I had a coinciding level of impatience with those who did fit in, also. Maybe I was just old before my time. The phrase "those dang kids" already leaping to my lips a good forty years before it was necessary. Whatever. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop giving those kids dirty looks when their phones ring mid-class.

As for the kindergarten... That's just another arena for my social dysmorphia. What can I say, I'm a mess of issues. This one reads like this: I'm old enough to be more successful, better dressed, more organized, etc. than I currently am. Why am I not? These other people seem so much more together than I am. Except when they don't, and then I hope I look better in comparison. Lame.

The moral of this post? I apparently worry too much about what other people think of me. Quit it.

And, I should get some eye cream.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Daddy types

I want to be a man – but not any man, a stay-at-home dad.

You see them now and again in my liberal neighborhood, and they’re always so relaxed, rolling with their kids in the dirt at the playground; calmly reading a newspaper at the coffeehouse while the kid drives a hotwheel along the bench; looking relaxed and unfussed and handsome in their hipster trilbies or blue Oaklandish tees with an adorable toddler on their shoulders.

They seem so calm – maybe they didn’t remember extra clothes, a water bottle, the favorite stuffed bunny, but they don’t seem to care. They’re just taking the world as it goes.

It’s just that man thing, isn’t it? Less stuff to worry about so less worry. The optimism of the young, white, well-off bay area guy is justified, because things are pretty great for him. I just want to relax sometimes, not worry about all that household executive crap and just have some of the confidence of these men.

And then I pass a guy struggling to put his screaming baby in a backpack, looking harried and close to panic, obviously wishing with all his might that the mother would come and work that magic…

Then I pity them.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Face Off

I have a job which requires me to put in nine hours of face time every day. One of those hours is a lunch hour, which I am careful to take. I also have an hour commute each way, so my time spent at home during the week is limited. I am comfortable with spending nine hours at the office (I consider it to be part of the unspoken expectations for a job at my responsibility level and frankly I’m pleased they don’t ask more of me) but my husband objects to me falling in line with the nine hour requirement – he thinks I should work a strict nine to five day, and that no employer or job deserves more than that if you aren’t getting paid overtime. He sort of has a point.

There is history here, too – I once work a job which paid badly and demanded incessant fifty to 60 hour weeks, which I put in. That plus the commute to that job took a toll on my health and on our relationship, so I can see that my husband doesn’t want that to happen again. His fears are understandable, but from my perspective it’s a little frustrating – can’t he see that I learned my lesson from that other job?

From a practical point of view, there’s not a lot of benefit in it for me to insist with my employer on an eight hour work day. At work I have interesting, rewarding things to do that I get paid well for doing. Coming home earlier would just mean I had more time to do the housework. Sure, theoretically I could use extra time to get more writing done, but in practice my husband and I are both such neat freaks that I’d feel too guilty to be able to sit down and write while the house was a mess, so the housework would come first, and housework is such a time suck – there’s always more to be done – that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to carve out any more writing time than I’ve currently got.

But, you say, this is a dire viewpoint. Maybe my husband just wants to spend more time with his wife. To which I reply, that may well be true – and I’d definitely like to spend more time with him – but my husband, in addition to working full time, is in school half time and plays in a band. Of the two of us, I spend a lot more time at home than he does. And if I can deal with not seeing him as much as I’d like because of his obligations, why won’t he cut me some slack for my work obligations? It’s my career, I’m passionate about my field, I enjoy it, I’m ambitious. And as long as I’m able to maintain a good life-work balance, I think it’s okay to choose to spend 45 hours a week in the office instead of putting up a fight for 40.

So far, though, I’ve been unable to convince my husband of this, which makes me wonder if I am just completely off base. I also don’t know anyone else with this problem, so that’s hard too – I have no model to follow. I guess I’ll just continue to muddle through as best I can – which is what we all spend life doing, so I’m in good company there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Second Shift Begins

I'm just sitting down to write this at 10:30. Today I worked from 9 am - 7 pm (my husband had class this evening - after a full day at work - which meant I had the rare luxury of working late, since there would be no one at home tapping their feet and looking at their watch impatiently.)

I got home at 8 and started the second shift. (I don't have a bad commute, mostly sitting and reading on the subway and then a 15 minute walk at the end, but it does take an hour.) Once home, I changed out of and hung up my office clothes and made the bed (which I hadn't gotten around to in the morning) and fed and watered the cats. Then I made dinner (homemade mac & cheese with a bunch of leftover veggies thrown into the veloute and topped with crumbs from the end of a loaf of bread I made this weekend.) I did the dishes as I went along so the end mess wouldn't be too huge. My husband got home from school around then and we sat down for dinner, which was nice. After dinner he finished the dishes while I scooped the catboxes and folded a load of laundry. All of that brought me to 10:30, which is when I finally sat down and started writing this.

I don't really have a larger point to make here, except that jeez, being a grownup is tiring sometime. No wonder I don't have any dang kids; even if I could afford them, I'm tapped out just taking care of the cats and myself and my husband.

Friday, September 19, 2008

School work

Things are getting busy around here. There is always something happening around Small Person's school now; keeping track of the paperwork is a quite a job by itself. Today we got up early, put our work clothes on and headed to school for the annual clean up day. We could have slept in longer, but I'd rather get my chores done early to leave enough room for later fun. We rolled into the parking lot on time to find one other car parked there. One. It belonged to the parents facilitating the event.

I know the basic definition implies that a "Volunteer Work Day" is not mandatory. I know people like to sleep in, or attend services, or want their day off to be just that. I also know that the schools need all the help they can get. I am not excusing our state legislature (or our national educational priorities, for that matter) for its part in this situation, but, c'mon people. One hour? Is that too much to ask?

I don't really have extra funds to contribute to the umpteen raffles, sales, and incentive programs that the local parents' group coordinates. What I do have is some extra time, so that is the currency I spend. I also sincerely believe that my child will learn by my example and today that example showed her how much her parents care about her school. No matter that she tired of picking up garbage after fifteen minutes and headed to the playground. She's five, I give her a pass. I also thoroughly appreciate those that do contribute cash or are running the other fundraising events. I'm generous, I'll give them a pass, too. But, based on my glance at the list of expected volunteers, that must be the remaining 99% of parents whose children attend this small school and decided they didn't need to help out today.

Yeah, let's go with that explanation, it's the one most likely to cheer me up.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My old ponies

Butterscotch and Blossom sit on the windowsill in my daughter’s play area. They were born in 1982, so they’re getting on in age – Blossom’s got missing hair, artfully replaced by a bunch of lilac and yellow ribbons – but their expressions are still patient and placid, friendly and calm.

They’re My Little Ponies -- the Barbies of the animal kingdom, with their girlish prancing forms and large, coy eyes. And they are my My Little Ponies, accumulated during the years when pre-teen horse craziness and an affinity for bright colors intersected.

I had many, and last time we were at my mother’s house we dug them out of the closet for my daughter.

But I feel weird about them, the way they are anthropomorphized – in a way that suggests, if not overtly, sexiness and all the “girl” qualities of flirtatiousness and shiny, shiny hair.

Blossom and Butterscotch are from the first run of ponies, before they got quite so bad, but I have some from later years, too, and they only get more ridiculous.

I’m not sure if I want my daughter to subtly absorb all this weird stuff -- I mean, these ponies come with everything from sparkly combs to wedding dresses, disco gear and roller skates (all of which I own). I try to gracefully accept the fact that I should relax and let her organize them by size, which is what she does with them, and stop worrying. (Of course I could always sell them…)

But they do sort of bug me out. I don't approve and at the same time I cherish them in the way one cherishes a loved toy from a happy childhood.

Especially old Blossom.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Totally normal

Yesterday was my first day of volunteer time in Small Person's classroom. Oddly, the most reassuring thing about it was the evidence that my kid is excessively normal. Goofy, smart, distractible, entertaining, cute; but not any more or less than the rest of the class. I know the law of averages theoretically proves that most of us do not fall greatly out of the norm under any circumstances, and nowhere better to observe that than in kindergarten. 

The class is more noticeably full of individuals, and less raging herd than I expected. I managed to remember a few names, and I could definitely see the range in skills of varying types. I would like to say that Small Person was the most smart, the best in class, but I would be wrong. We like to believe that our children are the most unique, the most special, the cream of the crop, and although it is the exception that proves the rule, for the most part, they are not. It doesn't stop us trying to prove it though. All those high-priced preschools with infinite waiting lists, the private/prep schools with their innumerable extracurriculars, and the skyrocketing numbers of applications to well-regarded universities are better examples of tense parents than special kids, in my opinion. Believe me, I'm not excluding myself from this high-strung group, but I am trying to manage it.

How does a parent walk that line between interference and involvement? We're told over and over that we need to pay attention, help with homework, play sports, join healthy social group activities, all for the benefit of our kids' successful lives. It's another push-me-pull-you dilemma that is written about a lot, but rarely with any concrete, useful answers. Sure, kids need attention, but how does that translate to filling their lives with so much activity that they do not have time for the business of being kids? I do want my child to grow up to be a successful adult, but maybe my definition of success is different from yours. I'm delighted that she is having so much fun with school, in large part because I really didn't. I always felt awkward and left out, and would have given anything to feel normal and usual.

Normalcy is underrated. Who knows what angst we have yet to face, but I can take my shoulders down a notch about this one.