Monthly Archives: February 2009

Ghost Dad

Did a double take at Wal-mart today. Thought I saw my father coming in the door.

I guess you'd call him my biological father. I was adopted at a young age by my other father. On second glance, the similarity wasn't very convincing. I probably thought about it for the duration of one breath.

But half an hour later I had the same experience. Different store, different man. Not a significantly better match, but enough to make me give him some serious scrutiny. Which made me remember the first man, and gave the whole morning a rather surreal feeling.

I've seen bio-dad once in the last fifteen years–and I'm sure I've seen lots of balding, mustached, middle-aged men in the intervening years without giving him a thought.  

Why I would search the features of a stranger looking for him intrigues me.

Is it just the novelty of familiarity in unexpected places?  

If I saw a woman who closely resembled me I'd probably give her a second glance, too. Just because. And maybe that's all it was.

Maybe there is something within us that demands we acknowledge our connections. Hey, I exist, and so do you. 

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Lines

You realize that rules like i before e except after c aren't as thoroughly useful as they sound, right? Even if you try to patch the gaps with a disclaimer–or when it sounds like "ay" as in neighbor or weigh–there remain a bewildering number of exceptions.

And at the risk of promoting moral relativism, I find myself considering a lot of non-grammatical rules that are similarly dysfunctional–they work . . . most of the time.

I'm not saying we need to get rid of the rules–at my house, believe me, we live by a lot of rulesbut are there rules we cling to primarily out of ignorance or fear? 

We all know children–and adults–who have no fear and no expectation of consequence. They have been enabled to cross so many lines and trample so many boundaries without repercussion that thinking individuals see them coming and promptly bar the door.

But we also know children and adults who are paralyzed by fear. Paralyzed from taking a chance or speaking their mind because they fear to cross some line they've drawn for themselves. Or maybe you've drawn for them and they love you and want to please you and so they toe that line for your benefit.

Where was I headed?

I'm not sure. Maybe just acknowledging how ill-suited I am at drawing lines for anyone else. Within my own life, in my stewardship as mother or caregiver or citizen, I believe I am entitled to inspiration regarding where those lines lie. But I don't believe, no matter how far up I situate myself in order to survey my neighbor's little plot of soil next door, that I possess sufficient understanding to plot out where theirs should be.

Or you, mine.

Agreed? 

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I Kid You Not

My eighth grader's second semester binder. As in the semester that started seven weeks ago. 

       P.S.  I stand corrected. Seventh Grade.  

 

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To Anyone Who Has Never Uttered a Heartfelt “Zip It!”

Why the "zip it" post? a reader asks.

Fair enough.

First, a definition.

(Brace yourself.)

"Zip it", as a phrase, is almost-to-the-point-of-breaking motherese for Shut. Your. Mouth. It's faster to say, and a little bit kinder. And it comes with this great visual cue–zippering motion over the lips–in case they can't hear you, because they usually can't.  Teachers have similar jargon that goes something like, "zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket", that comes with even more pantomiming involving not only the zippering of the lips, but the padlocking of them and the safekeeping of the key. Mothers only have time for two words, see.

As for why I would say such a thing.

I'm afraid that living the child-centered, child-bombarded life I live–daycare, in case you didn't know this about me–I assume that everyone understands the need for silence. Maybe some of you have too much silence in your lives. Maybe your mind feels like it will implode under the weight of the silence that fills your evenings and your heart aches when you see a mother and child conversing. I know women like you exist. For better or for worse, I'm not one of them.

For those of you who don't have children–let me explain.

Imagine this–

You need groceries. Plus a few other things that will require a bit of detective work–you don't know what aisle, exactly, these items might be located on, or maybe you only have seventy-five dollars and you need to stretch it far enough to cover an entire week's worth of needs.

You bundle, oh, I don't know, five or six children into their respective coats, hats, boots; and you not only successfully get them into the van, but out of the van and across the parking lot and into the store. This process involves a lot of questions, a lot of singing, and a lot of laughter.

Lots of laughter.

High pitched, almost grating, hilarious giggles from the back seat that make you smile in the rear view mirror. At a sufficient volume to be heard over the giggling, you must answer questions about gas prices, political correctness (Mom, why isn't it racist to say we elected a black president, but it's racist to say a black kid was arrested at lunch?), drug cartels, and the existence of leprechauns. All three explanations at the same time, directed to different corners of the vehicle.

This is motherhood; this is life; this is wonder.

You get into the store, likely carrying on three or four conversations at any given time. On auto pilot, you fill one cart with milk, eggs, meat, and the like. You assign the most talkative two to push that cart, and now you must concentrate.

Only you have your own personal guard. An escort if you will. No matter how fast or slow you walk, there will always be a child standing right beside you. Right in front of the miniscule price tags attached to the front of the shelves. Feint left; they step left. Duck to the right, another one blocks the view. There is no getting around them. They are everywhere. And talking.

Mom, why are you buying that? What's Mon-i-stat? What's that for? You could buy four t-shirts for the price of those socks. Did you know that company tests their mascara on rats? Mom! Why would rats wear mascara? Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM MOM MOM! What's mascara? That lady has earrings in her neck!  

Try comparison shopping with that going on.

You come home. You read stories. The word of God even. They all want to talk. Constantly. Only their comments are sometimes sincere so you endure the flotsam about day camp and wet laundry and the neighbor's dog because you don't dare squelch the questions that come up out of nowhere.

                          So Moses brought Israel from the–

                 Mom!

                           What?

                My feet are peeling.

                           –Red sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; and– 

                 Mom! 

                           What?

                 Can God really do anything? 

                           Of course.

                 Can he make someone who is sad happy again?

                           Um. God can help us to feel better when something is wrong. He can help us in lots of ways.

                 What if they've been sad for a really long time. Like forever?

                           Some people are sad for a long time, aren't they?                     

                 Well, can't he just–make–them be happy?

                            Well. No. No, I guess he can't.

It goes on like this until, if you're really, really lucky, they all go to sleep. It's life, it's good, it's motherhood, yes. But exhausting on so many levels. Not the noise even as much as the mental and emotional energy of formulating responses while still trying to do your taxes, balance a ledger sheet or just remember, how many teaspoons of salt did I already dump in there?

And if you think your own child has a lot of questions or that fielding six different conversations at once is difficult, imagine what happens when a significant number of other people's children corner you. If you find such imagining difficult, I refer you to this post. Or a day in my life, in general. We're talking–literally–five or six in the morning until ten or eleven at night. 

Believe me, you'd be out there with a toothbrush in Sinkiuse Square, too.  

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Odd

Thirty-seven balled-up socks on my boys' bedroom floor this morning. And we're not talking 7.6 socks spread out over five different bedrooms. One large room; 37 socks scattered across one floor.

Granted, if I figure five kids, at two socks per kid, per day, that's less than a week's worth of socks.

(Why weren't there 38?)

But still, wouldn't that bother a person just a little bit? Even at the age of 5, 7, 9, 11 or 13; wouldn't you wake up one morning and think, Good Grief, there are a lot of socks on the floor. I think I'll grab a handful, and on my way past the hamper, I'll throw them in that general direction.

No?

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Me, Unsupervised

I'm leaning toward a nighttime job polishing floors.

Or cleaning Sinkiuse Square with a toothbrush, I don't know. A completely mindless occupation that nonetheless shows results in the morning.

I'll even do it for free if you promise not to harass me while I'm on the job.

Don't ask me what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, or how long until it will be done. Don't ask what you can do to help or suggest other things I could do instead of, or in conjunction with, what I'm doing.

Don't ask. Don't talk. Don't even stand there looking like you might talk.

Just zip it. And go.

I mean that in the nicest of ways.

The other 18, 20 hours of the day, please–talk, tell me everything and more. I want to hear all of it. I do. But for a very small portion of the day, one day, any day. Just . . .zip it. Please?

A thinking person might ask why I don't take the energy required for such a project and clean my own floors in the night. Or at the very least fold my laundry. Any mother will explain to you that if the alpha female is conscious, guaranteed, someone will seize the day and want to spend quality time with her.

Heartwarming, I know. 

I'm not asking for my own personal hermitage here. Just an hour or so, unsupervised, on a regular basis. You can beat the door down while I'm in the shower or on the toilet or trying to sleep even. But sometimes a person needs to just be–no shoulder lookers, knee clingers, hand holders, clock watchers. No one.

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He Talked Independence With a 21-Gun Voice

In reading up on the revolutionary war, I come across a repeated theme:

A strong central government is necessary for the security and stability of any country. No brainer, right? Otherwise we dissolve into a lot of squabbling, self-interested tribes.

AND, a government must be able to collect tax.

Also not a stunning thought, but I find it interesting that taxes–the ability to collect, and the amount, and who pays and who controls revenue–these issues have been at the core of domestic concern since before our country was.

George Washington's army suffered terribly because the continental congress could not collect adequate tax. Indeed, if it weren't for the generosity and tenacity of such men as Robert Morris and John Paul Jones who begged and borrowed and dug deep into their own pockets to finance the cause of independence–if it weren't for them; well, who knows what might have happened?

Also interesting that the American Revolution was far from a mass movement of the people. Most colonists were going about their business with little or no thought for where the tide of history was taking them. Very few actually fought in the Continental army. Many even sided with the king, or at the very least, profited from selling supplies to his troops.

It was the passionate few who made the difference, who rose above the common rabble willing to wrest their living from any source, and saw a larger picture.

Now, as then, we cannot wait for the country as a whole to rise up and fix the system. For the voice of the masses to cry out and raise the standard of moral freedom and integrity. Real, lasting change always starts with and is carried out by the few.

The question is, are you one of them?

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