Month: February 2019

Think You’re a Bad Mom? Read This

My eleven-year-old daughter has been hassling me recently for “always” picking her up late at school and for being late to “everything” generally. So, this morning, I made damn sure to be early to her classroom presentation for Black History month.

First of all, I’m never really actually “late” to pick my daughter up from school. The bell rings at 2:30, so I arrive at precisely 2:47, when the line has (finally) started moving. I time it this way because I am damned efficient and because sitting and waiting in a not-moving, school car line makes me want to kill myself. But my daughter claims she’s “always” the last fifth grader to be picked up. Ergo, in her tweeny, hormone-surging, moody, not-yet-fully-formed mind, I’m always late.

So, and even though I’m never late but since perception is everything, this morning, I got to school at 9:20 am for my daughter’s 9:30 am presentation on Harriett Tubman, who I’m sure was never late for anything, unlike me, according to my daughter. I wanted to prove to my daughter how punctual I can be.

Now, I’m not a detail person when it comes to my own memories, and I’ve been to my daughter’s classroom exactly once, at the beginning of the school year (I work so I don’t do all that volunteer classroom shit like the good moms). I couldn’t remember where her classroom was. But being that the school has two floors, I knew it had to be on the first or the second, and I concluded, drawing on my memory, that hers was on the second floor.

I went to the second floor and walked down the hallway, searching for my daughter’s classroom. A teacher, seeing me wandering aimlessly, said, smiling, “You must be here for the presentation.”

“I sure am,” I said, smiling back.

“Great, just go on in, right here,” she said, pointing to a classroom.

Whew, I found it!

At that moment, I saw my daughter at the end of the hallway, walking towards some stairs, headed towards the bathroom.

I walked into the classroom and sat down.  My daughter’s teacher wasn’t there. Another woman was directing the kids. Teacher’s aid, I concluded. I recognized some of my daughter’s school friends from her fourth grade class.

I waited patiently for the presentation to begin. Another five minutes passed, and my daughter still hadn’t returned from the bathroom. I started to get a weird feeling, something felt off, but I talked myself down from it. She’ll be back soon, I told myself, she must have had to poop. Sometimes that does take a while, I thought to myself, pooping.

I started looking around the classroom, carefully. About ten other parents were in there. I didn’t recognize any of these people. Some of them were looking at me, too, a little strangely, like how someone looks at you at a wedding, trying to figure out your connection.  Bride or groom?

I scoured the posters and boards around the classroom. My daughter’s teacher’s name wasn’t on any of them. And these kids, some of these kids, they didn’t look at all familiar to me. I was starting to suspect something.

Finally, the teacher announced, “Alright, kids, let’s begin our presentations.”

I looked around again. Slowly.

My daughter was not in this classroom.

And that’s when I figured it out.

I was not in my daughter’s classroom.

I got up slowly, quietly, and walked in front of all of the other parents and walked out of the room. Maybe they’ll just think I had to pee, I thought to myself. I hoped I would never have to see them again.

The teacher was still there in the hall, and she smiled at me again, as if I still belonged there.

I said to her, honestly, because I was too humiliated by my stupidity to make anything up at that point, “I think I went to the wrong classroom.”

“Who’s class are you looking for?”

“Miss Smith’s,” I said, staring at my toes.

“Oh, that’s downstairs, go down the hall, down those stairs, first door on your left,” she said.

I hauled ass down the hall, flew down the stairs, and bolted into my daugher’s classroom. 

The presentations were just starting. My daughter saw me and smiled. I smiled back, found a seat, and watched the presentation.

After it was over, my daughter walked over, hugged me, and said, “Thanks, for coming, Mom.”

I smiled and said, “Sure, honey. And I wasn’t even late.”

What’s So Great About Jerks? Nothing.

Presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar was recently all over the news for her alleged abusive behavior against her own staffers, including demeaning and belittling their work, throwing a binder across a room in an angry tirade, and trying to sabotage some staffers’ attempts to leave for other jobs. And now there’s the latest New York Times story recounting a bizarre incident involving a comb and a salad.

As soon as the allegations came out, people lined up to defend the senator, including some of her former staffers.  According to a Vanity Fair article, one former staffer defended Klobuchar’s conduct, stating, “Her job wasn’t to be my mentor and cheerleader. Her job was to get shit done for Minnesota.”  Other Klobuchar defenders complained that she was being treated more harshly than her male colleagues who had acted similarly.

Bosses shouldn’t be expected to hold their employees hands and sing Koombayah. But I seriously doubt that getting shit done for Minnesotans requires throwing binders across rooms. This “tough boss” defense sounds a little like battered spouse syndrome. And I get the feminist argument, too. But that’s just saying it’s okay for everyone to behave badly, unless only some people get called out for it. Abusive behavior is abusive behavior is abusive behavior. The end.

And the senator’s own response is troubling.  She explained her behavior as having “high expectations,” of herself and others.  Sorry, Senator, but having high expectations doesn’t justify insulting staffers, or throwing things at them, or calling their new bosses to tell them to rescind job offers.  That doesn’t sound like having high expectations, that sounds like cruelty.

Our culture has developed an exceedingly high tolerance for jerkish behavior, as long as the jerk is extremely successful.  It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that excelling at something gives us a pass to treat our fellow human beings poorly.

If a homeless man screams at other people on the subway, he gets arrested. If a company manager screams at other people in an office meeting, he just might get promoted if he’s otherwise good for the company.

When did we become a nation of jerk apologists?  The internet is filled with articles touting studies proclaiming that jerkish traits will get you far in life.  Author Malcolm Gladwell has posited that Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad may not have built such a successful business had he not been so disagreeable.  Only after Steve Jobs died did people start speaking publicly about his jerkish behavior.

Of course, jerks come in all forms—they’re not all binder-throwing screamers. Jerks can also engage in subtler cruelty, like the master manipulators who quietly screw you over while they smile at you and shake your hand. The Frank Underwood character in Netflix’s House of Cards comes to mind.

Psychologists use the term “dark triad” to describe a cluster of traits of people who might fall under the category of “jerk” in the workplace.  These people have high traits of narcissism, Machiavellinism, and psychopathy, which all have the underlying goal of exploiting others for personal gain.  It’s an attitude of limited resources rather than abundance, where there’s not enough cake for everyone to get a slice, so you better get yours.  It’s a one-up, one-down mindset.  For me to win, you have to lose.

And some people simply have anger-management issues.  Their fears drive them, they usually feel out of control, and they rage at everyone around them.

Eventually, most jerks meet their comeuppance.  Their personal and professional lives usually implode under the weight of their negative personality traits. In other words, most of the time, karma happens, and decent people enjoy their moment of schadenfreude. But why must we? Why can’t our culture prioritize and cultivate kindness from the outset? What happens to a society when its workers start to believe they must strive for the lowest common denominator to become successful? Why must we continue to make excuses for “highly successful” jerks?

Ten Signs You’re Probably Never Ever Going to Make Any Money from Your Blog

1. Seven billion people in the world. One follower.

2. The only SEOs you know are drunk frat boys.

3. Understanding tags versus categories seems like quantum physics.

4. You still think Google Ads is a drinking game.

5. Your 10-year-old had to help you set up your website.

6.  You don’t know anyone even remotely famous.

7.  You don’t know anything about DIY crafts, cooking, sewing, pets, children, or beauty products.

8. Whenever you start telling someone about the theme of your blog, polite smiles and awkward silences ensue.

9. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband doesn’t even follow you.

10. Your blog doesn’t have at least one article and an ad for a paid course about how to make money from your blog.

The Importance of Instilling Proper Values in Your Children

Like most moms, I often worry about whether I’m raising my kids to be good, productive members in society. Just this morning, I got my validation.

We were in the school car line, a little later than usual, and still about a dozen cars away from the drop-off point. The shit was becoming precarious.

My daughter, in the back seat and highly agitated that she might be late to school, muttered, “Move it, Buttholes.”

I just looked at her in the rear-view mirror and smiled with that proud mom smile.

Because I realized, in that moment, that she clearly values punctuality.

And that’s very important to me.

No, I’m Not Going to Fill out Your Damn Survey

Is it just me, or does it seem that, lately, every time you buy something or pay for a service, within a few hours you get an annoying email, with the business asking you to take a “brief customer service satisfaction survey” to give you “feedback” on your “experience” with “our company”?

Go to the dentist. Get a survey email.

Eat dinner at arestaurant.  Survey email.

Order a sweater online.  Survey email.

Stay in a hotel.

Fly on a plane.

Order a pizza.

Apply for a car loan.

Watch a movie.

Play golf.

Buy a turtle.

Get a colonoscopy.

Or a tattoo.

Survey email.

It seems like I can’teven go to the bathroom these days without someone asking me to fill out a survey about it.

Look, I know what’s really going on here.  The American people have become the unwitting subjects of some super-secret grad school psych study on how many survey emails it takes to make the average American have a nervous breakdown.  Researchers are hiding behind bushes all over America, blitzing targets like me with survey emails, and then they’re just waiting to see how long it takes for us to be carried out of our homes, after we’ve committed some horrible crime, in straight-jackets and muzzles, screaming, “The surveys made me do it!  It was all those surveys!”

I used to fill out every single one of those stupid customer service satisfaction surveys because I believed, for some reason, that it was somehow my civic duty.  But after accounting for the hours each day that I spend working, shuffling kids all over creation, cooking, organizing, cleaning, doing laundry, etc., I realized I have precisely 57 seconds of free time left each day.  And I’ve decided I’m not going to spend any more of that extra time filling out any more damn surveys.

Listen, businesses, I’ve already given you my hard-earned money, isn’t that enough for you? Now you want my precious time, too?  How dare you. My work with you was done when I parted with my money.  I appreciate your service and your business, but we’re finished now, okay?

And here’s the deal, to all businesses I frequent: Going forward, If I buy something from you or pay for a service and you don’t hear from me again, that means we’re good.  And you can just go ahead and put me down for the five stars or the ten points, or whatever you want, I really don’t care.  Just please, for the love of God, leave me alone.

Or here’s another, better idea.  How about if I send you a survey, and you can tell me, on a scale of one to ten, whether you think I had a good customer service experience?  How about if I ask you all the questions, and you can fill out the damn survey yourself, and then I’ll let you know if your answers were correct.

Now there’s an idea that deserves a ten.

Ten Terrible, Awful Things I Might Have Said Once

1. “And then I had to go to the stupid funeral.”

2. “If the dog is dumb enough to eat my prescription medicine, then he deserves to die.”

3. “Sorry, sweetheart, we can’t go to Chucky Cheese today. I checked the website, they closed at 6 a.m.”

4. “How about if you ask your father if he’ll get you a pet snake at his house?”

5. “Yes, I’ll take you to the emergency room, but can you please just wait until Grey’s Anatomy is over?”

6. “She doesn’t know anything about parenting. She doesn’t even own a pet rock.”

7. “When are all these animals in my house finally going to die?”

8. “If one more stay-at-home mom tries to sell me beauty products on Facebook or talks about training for her latest triathlon, I just might have to kill myself.”

9. “Smart women don’t have jobs. Smart women marry neurosurgeons and then divorce them ten years later and get $10000 a month in alimony.”

10. “I couldn’t date him because he drove a Camaro.”

Salads, Combs, and Klobuchar

So, did you read the latest New York Times article about Senator Klobuchar’s Leona Helmsleyish treatment of her staffers? Holy arugula! A staffer forgot to bring her a fork with her salad once, so Klobuchar reached down into her yucky purse, pulled out her comb (yes, comb), and started eating her salad with it. And then she ordered the staffer to go clean the comb.

What an amazing life hack. I might pin it. Except, it’s also sooo disgusting. The only way I would ever eat food with one of my combs is if the food is chocolate cake.

Slow Loss: My Little Boy Is Growing Up, and It Hurts

“Stop babying me, Mom.”

My 11-year-old is in the front seat of the car. I’m driving. It’s pick-up time, he just finished his after-school cycling class. He’s sweaty and smells like onions, grass, dirt, and heat. He wipes his face, underneath his glasses, the black rims over his perfect, straight nose, and he stares out the window, far away from me. He’s been doing this a lot lately–looking away from me.

The first day I ever saw him, when the doctor lifted up his naked body, slick and wet from placenta, blood, and mucous, his big blue eyes stared straight into mine, fixated, curious, amazed. In the baby videos, the blue eyes stare back at me with wonder and love. To those infant eyes, I could do anything, and I was everything. I parted the oceans, walked on water, turned water into wine.

Now, as we ride home in silence, those eyes, his entire face, are suctioned to his phone screen, staring intently at something he will not share with me. When we get home, he’ll head straight to his chair near the television, put on his headphones, turn on his Xbox. Disappear from me again.

Stop babying me, Mom.

All I had said was I wanted him to be very careful on the road when he’s riding with his friends in his class. That’s why I don’t ride my bike on the road, I had said. Because of cars. I had asked him, did they drive around the streets downtown? Of course, they did, he had answered, rolling his eyes. What a dumb question. “I just worry about you on the road with all those crazy drivers,” I had said. All those crazy drivers. Those other people, who don’t, who will never, love you like I do. All those people who wouldn’t jump in front of a train, burn down villages, do anything, for you, my little boy, this pre-teen, who is now moving away from me, there in your seat. You are only inches away, physically, but you occupy another planet now. One in which you don’t want me to ask you certain questions, or say certain things in front of your friends, or hug you for too long.

Stop babying me, Mom.

I steal a glance at him as we ride home. I’m always doing this lately, staring at him when he’s not looking at me, catching his papery blonde hair and his little grin in my peripheral vision. I feel like a thief or an uninvited guest, whenever I do this. I can’t help myself. I’m seeing my little boy leave me so quickly and I’m trying to catch my breath, I’m trying to slow things down a little, because I know that, soon, in a puff, my little boy, my baby, the one who would never sleep in his crib, the one who insisted on me holding him every night in my bed until he fell asleep, that one will be gone forever.

He’s scratching his left ear now, hard.

“What’s wrong with your ear?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he answers. He continues to scratch. If nothing’s wrong with your ear then why are you scratching it so much? I want to ask this, but I don’t. Because now he’s turned in his seat, away from me. I can see only the words on the back of his t-shirt, his sweaty nape, the back of his head. His body is now literally crooked in the seat, and I realize he has intentionally placed himself in an uncomfortable position to get a few more inches of physical space between us.

Stop babying me, Mom.

It used to annoy me when he asked me questions all the time when he was little. Now, I’m the one asking all the questions. I stare at his profile. His chin, once plump, soft, and open, now has points and angles. These days, that little chin has opinions. It judges me.

I often wonder what he’s thinking about, what he’s thinking about me. I never seem to know, anymore. At the same time, I realize that I don’t really want to know, just like most people don’t really want to know when and exactly how they’re going to die.

Stop babying me, Mom.

Some days I get my little boy back for a few minutes. He might ask for a hug, or try to tickle me. Occasionally, he even asks for me to snuggle with him on the sofa. I know he still loves me. He will always love me. That’s not the point. The point is I know he doesn’t believe I’m magic anymore, not like he used to, and he never will again.

And for some reason I can’t explain and don’t fully understand, that really hurts.