Monday, January 25, 2010

Are you talking to ME?

So, I got my first negative comment this week. On this site, I mean. Hell, I have been getting negative comments for as long as I can remember." Euww, you have freckles" and “I’m ethereal. You are like the 'real' version me" are two that come to mind. No, this was in response to my open admission of enhancing the referrals I gave of a not so great nanny to three other couples:

"Anonymous said...
I cannot begin to understand how you could possibly justify recommending a negligent, borderline-abusive nanny to other couples. This is precisely the same reasoning that sends abusive priests and teachers to other school districts: a shapeless, desperate hope that these people will just go away. All you did was redirect your misery toward other couples so you could avoid the faintest hint of confrontation. You should call every one of them and apologize for your naked lying.


Shame on you".

January 18, 2010 12:04 PM

Now, this individual isn't wrong, but I already know that I should feel badly about it. I guess they didn't read the entire post or they chose to disregard the part where I said that I was truly sorry. I can't call them all and tell them since I don't have their numbers anymore. The part that pissed me off was where Anonymous likened me to someone who shelters pedophiles. Not to mention that "shame on you" is never easy to hear.

So I wrote a comment in response:

"Well, Anonymous, thank you for your kind and forgiving words. As for the nanny being "dangerous and borderline-abusive", I think that is an extreme depiction. I never would have left my child with her if that were the case. Lazy and self serving, perhaps, but certainly not dangerous. I was trying to help someone who was in dire straits find the right fit. If I had wanted her to go away, I would have asked her to go away. She turned out to be someone that can't be helped. No, I shouldn't have referred her, but I actually thought that with the right family, she might thrive. To liken my actions to those of someone sheltering a pedophile is ludicrous and inflammatory. Shame right back at you".

The weirdest part is that I probably know this person. My blog is not exactly sought after reading. I have made no attempts to publicize it other than through Facebook, so unless some random stranger happened to search "nanny, nightmare, third child"(my labels), and my post popped up for them to revile, then it is a Facebook friend who thinks I suck. They are obviously entitled to their opinion, though they weren't there to see how it really went down.Aside from the paranoia I now feel about every single friend I have on Facebook, it struck me that this sanctimonious tone seemed very familiar.

A few years back, when we first got on the babysitter circuit, there was a lot of talk about price. I happen to believe that paying more is better. I can recall the numerous times that someone else gasped when I said
"Fifteen an hour", and then replied condescendingly "we pay ours nine!".I always felt like the butt of some parenting joke because I was continually hearing about other couples who paid next to nothing for childcare. My husband came home one evening and casually said “you know, we pay too much for the sitter. My friend Ned (not his real name, of course, now that I am paranoid), has a full time live-in for 750 a month". By the time I worked out the math, the poor live-in that he referred to was a making not quite 38 dollars a day for cleaning and childcare, minus weekends. If you break it down into a typical twelve hour day (7-7 is the norm for a lot of families) then she was earning three dollars an hour.

That is called slavery, people, and it is against the law.

It can't be healthy to have someone, who is ostensibly your slave, be left in charge of your children. It has to have a bad outcome eventually. Resentment does funny things to people. I imagine that some of the nannies that get caught abusing their charges are not bad people- they are probably just over-worked, under-paid and frustrated. I am neither over-worked nor under-paid, and I am plenty frustrated, so I can only imagine what goes on in homes all across America.

Anyway, during this babysitter competition period, I saw this post on a mommy group site that I frequented:

"does anybody have a teenage babysitter they can recommend? we need somebody for occasional evening babysitting and i don't want to pay $15/hr when the kids are asleep most of the time.

i don't know what teenagers charge these days but i'd like to pay around $10/hr. could go up to $12 for someone really special."

This struck me as a little short sighted for a two reasons:

First of all, the difference between twelve and fifteen is three. Three dollars per hour times four hours is twelve. That equals a couple of vente lattes and a brownie at Starbuck’s, or valet parking, or the cost of one Arclight matinee ticket. It is hardly a savings that is worth risking the safety of your child by leaving it in the care of someone who doesn't even have a fully formed frontal lobe yet. Second of all, teenagers are already notorious for poor judgement. They simply don't have the experience in the world that an adult does. I am sure that there are plenty of level headed teens out there that would fare better than many adults. However capable, it my not so humble opinion, a teenager is not the best choice for childcare. What happens if there is a fire? Earthquake? Break in? Flood? Angry boyfriend? Has no one seen "When a Stranger Calls" for Chrissakes? I think if the babysitter in that movie were an adult, she would have gotten the fuck out of there with the kids asleep in the car. The teen babysitter stayed and kept answering the phone. We all know how things ended:

“Sir, the trace is in. The calls are coming from 132 Bell Avenue, Sergeant"

 
"What? 132 Bell Avenue? No, no you've got it wrong, dispatch. The calls are going to 132 Bell Avenue. Where are they coming from, goddamit!"


“Uh, Sir, it appears that they are both coming from and going to 132 Bell Avenue, Sir"


"WHAT? That’s impossible, you must have gotten the number wrong...unless, oh my GOD....he's in the house...HE'S IN THE HOUSE!! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!"



Yeah, I STILL get hairs standing up on the back of my neck just thinking about that movie moment.

I would rather pay and feel confident that someone is more likely to make the same judgment call that I would make,so naturally,  the rationale of the parent seeking a special teen sitter was maddening to me.

I replied with this:

"I don't mean to sound negative but you are trying to save 3 dollars an hour.does it make sense to leave your kids with a teenager to save maybe 15 bucks for a shift?They may be special and seem mature but did you read the story in the news this morning about the 19 year old who put her 18 month old charge in a sleeping bag and ran around the house with him over her shoulder?She slipped,hitting his head on the door frame,killing him.Clearly a mistake and an accident,but perhaps a more seasoned caregiver would have made different choices.I think having someone who is an adult,with adult responsibilities and a fully formed frontal lobe should be watching your kids.Most of the good ones I have encountered are 15 an hour.
I guess I am tired of people looking for a bargain when it comes to their kids.I meet people all the time who act like I am getting taken by our sitter because she makes 15 an hour and no she doesn't clean my house. what you are paying for is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the person watching you kids is invested in it because they are earning a decent wage for a very important job.that is my opinion."
Wow, fuck me. Maybe Anonymous and I will be great friends, though I didn't throw out any shame bombs. I suppose it is implied, but please, what was I thinking? Obviously, I was having a mommy moment and saw an outlet. Soon after, another mom replied to my response and firmly but kindly said:

"WOW! I don't think that a posting for a teenage babysitter from a fellow mom deserves an unsolicited scolding. Peachhead should be a place where moms feel safe and unjudged.
I am sure if you think about it for minute you will agree with me and maybe want to rephrase your posting."

Her name was Beth, and to this day, every time I encounter a mom named Beth I wonder if she will recognize either my name or my kid's name from those emails. I was actually grateful to her for waking me from my sanctimonious stupor long enough to realize that it was none of my business. I was really unfamiliar with who that person was that felt the need to judge someone else so flagrantly. Behind their back is bad enough, but I was acting like someone's annoying Mother in a Law. I suppose I was still recovering from the story I had read about the sleeping bag nanny, but there is really no excuse for that sort of thing. I did apologize with another email but stopped frequenting the site out of sheer embarrassment.

So Anonymous, if you do know me, I hope you don't key my car, or continue to punish me when I have sufficiently punished myself. I hope you have a nice life, since I can assume that you have never done anything that you regret. You are obviously a person who,unlike me, embraces conflict (albeit anonymously) and would never have jeopardized the lives of those families by doing what I did. I hope someday you will tell me who you are, so I can say this to your face:

"SUCK IT. Read the Bible, you sanctimonious prick- the part about casting stones. Then, take a good long look in the mirror and try and recall the last time you had something nice to say about anything".

Oops.. did I say that out loud..?






:

Friday, January 22, 2010

I enjoy being a girrrllllll...............

This post is about PMS, so if that isn't your thing, skip this.

Ahhh, such a lovely aspect of being female. The period. A few mommy friends of mine have had their daughters notice their toilette activities with regard to the use of feminine products. There has been much discussion of what exactly to say to a three or four year old girl on the subject of "being a woman", because it's tricky. Too much information has them going to school and telling their friends about their mommy's bloody lady parts and too much secrecy leads to snooping and the resulting discovery that tampons do in fact disable entire plumbing systems in three seconds flat.

My earliest recollection of that sort of thing was in sixth grade. I certainly knew what it was from being in a family made up primarily of women. There was added curiosity after watching "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" where Jodie Foster refers to it as "the curse". I had no idea what she was talking about. We called it a period in our house and that was it. There was no feminine mystery surrounding it. It wasn't a big deal.

Apparently, it was practically a ceremonial ritual in the homes of my school friends. One afternoon we were at a swimming party and a great fuss was being made over a girl who couldn't go swimming. She didn't look sick, so I asked why she wasn't swimming. One of the girls replied in a slightly condescending tone, "because she can't?” The question mark confused me, and I asked again, "but why not?”This time three of the girls moved in on me and said emphatically “because she can't....." I was still really confused. I didn't really care that she wasn't swimming, but their cryptic response had me baffled. I asked again, and everyone groaned. The first girl yelled “BECAUSE SHE CAN'T!" and stormed off to the other side of the pool in frustration. Another girl murmured something about that time of the month and the light went on. Oh, really? Gee, that never stopped any of my female relatives from plunging into the ocean or going to aerobics or going camping. That’s what tampon commercials promised- pretty, dewy skinned women clad all in white riding a horse down the beach. I hadn't gotten mine yet, but we were not a self indulgent family in that regard. No one ever missed a day of school because of cramps. You took a Motrin and moved on.

This is not to say that we didn't have our share of drama. The days prior to the arrival of "Aunt Flo" were rife with murderous hormone induced rage. It was always unexpected, but it did explain the slamming doors and sudden disappearance of multiple pints of ice cream and entire bags of fun size candy bars.

Oncoming hormones feel like you are reluctantly riding in the front seat of the first car of a gigantic rickety rollercoaster, the feeling of nausea, dread and adrenaline explode inside your body all at once. Except the ride on the rollercoaster is voluntary and lasts three minutes. The premenstrual ride is mandatory for most and can last for two weeks. The remedies available are either too debilitating (I’m super bitchy not schizophrenic, okay?) Or simply don't affect the primary target- rage. Being prone to rage anyway, I feel it coming on like a bad acid trip, the slow drip of hostility toward everything and sensitivity to anything. My kid steps on my foot and it feels like a herd of elephants have decided to have a picnic on my pinky toe. I immediately become the Hulk, and it takes every ounce of my resolve not to throw her through a plate glass window. I don't, but I do yell "OW!!!" rather loudly and startle and frighten myself and everyone around me. With the rage comes the five extra pounds that preclude me from wearing any single digit size article of clothing in my possession. I destroy my closet trying to find something that is comfortable only to return to the same black sweat pants and black pullover sweater that I slept in. I also get the dropsies- where every single item I attempt to pick up with my hands gets dropped. Gallons of cranberry juice, raw eggs, a dust pan full of cat litter fragments, a peanut butter covered knife, a five dollar basket of organic blueberries( most of which roll underneath the refrigerator). It drives me wild. My unsuspecting husband often saunters in just after one of these dropping episodes and predictably grabs a handful of something dry and particularly crunchy to snack on. He stands there, innocently checking his phone messages while I swab the red juice spattered floor apoplectically with a roll of recycled paper towels. I pause long enough to hear the crunch crunch crunch of his chewing, and then wait for the sound of his hand digging in the box for more. I snuggle up to the perverse pleasure of exactly how irritating the sound is and swab a little more vigorously. I should spare him the inevitable outburst and simply explain that he needs to leave immediately or suffer the consequences, but it is usually too late. Seething and white lipped with eyes so narrowed that I can barely see the juice anymore, I fixate on the rhythm of the crunching and the digging, and we become a strange piece of performance art. He is the guileless bystander with a red bandana in his back pocket that is lazily waving in the afternoon breeze. I am the red eyed snorting bull in the dark recess of the shed that sees his red waving bandana as a purposefully thrown gauntlet, and I paw the ground, readying myself for the first thrust of my razor sharp horns...

I am startled from my reverie by the sound of his voice “what are you doing?" or one of the kids-"oh no! Mommy, what happened?” I pause, then acidly " I spilled some juicccccccce....!". The "c" sound is so sibilant that I am actually spitting all over my clean slightly pink floor. I try to stave off my imminent eruption by not saying any more, but they are on to me. My husband wants to know what's wrong. My kids want to know when I will be getting them more juice. No one offers to help. I ignore them until I can't stand it another second and then pull a Greta Garbo and leave them all standing in the kitchen in stunned silence. What I thought was a murmured”I vant to be alone" was actually a shrieked

" LEEEEAAAAVVVVEEE MMEEEEEE AAALOOOOOOONNNNNEEEE!!"

Luckily my family is fairly unflappable with this sort of thing. It generally doesn't faze them. They go draw and play "family", and I can assume that the part of "Mommy" will be an unpopular choice after my outburst.
I go upstairs wishing, for the only time in my life that I lived in a desert tribe where, right about now, I would be forced to go into the Red Tent for a week... I haven't read it, but evidently it is not the misogynistic banishment from the men folk that I assumed it to be. It is a place where women seek refuge during their time of the month and during childbirth. The tent is filled with love, support, camaraderie, and understanding. I have a feeling no one in the Red Tent is ever asked why they are being such a bitch, or told to go and bang their head into the wall. I have a feeling the ladies are drinking some herbal tea and playing Scrabble and having some laughs and watching "Terms of Endearment" ad nauseam. And I think the men folk they leave behind are probably happier for it.

I resurface about a week later having grunted, gnashed, pouted and eaten my way, like only a Wild Thing can, through another week long blessing from the Mother Nature that I am not pregnant. I am myself once again. It is a beautiful day, but I know the clouds will roll in again in another few weeks, and I will be waiting for them with several bottles of red wine and a jar of Motrin.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Honesty... such a lonely word...

My four year old, Big, has started lying. Most of them aren't whoppers, like stories about events that simply never took place, but she embellishes quite a bit and adds a different ending here and there. It makes the story better, but I suppose I should nip that in the bud. My favorite one so far is that "the scissors flew up all by themselves and cut the picture". Hmmm...

When I have caught her in a lie, she will question how she was discovered before admitting that she lied.She'll ask "did you see me?" or “did the teacher tell you?" Other times she simply tells me that I am mistaken and go on about her business. She has no sense of shame about being caught lying, which I guess comes later, and I have a hard time explaining it to her because it is really about character, which is an elusive concept for a kid. Hell, it's an elusive concept for me.

I like to think of myself as the insect sparing, keep the change, pay it forward person I dream of being, commited to the salvation of all things. I try and live right and am courteous enough to other people. Yesterday, I gave two dollars to a homeless woman who wanted some hot chocolate. Big watched the money go from my wallet to her hand with intense curiosity. She asked why I gave the woman the two dollars, as if she might employ that technique next time she hankers for some cocoa. I tried to explain that it was less about what the woman was going to do with the money and more about giving to people who have less than we do. (That was what my Dad told me after I asked him why he gave the obviously drunk guy in a wheelchair some money without being asked).I tried to emphasize the importance of doing the right thing whenever possible.


But then, I think, do I? really?

For example, I have walked out of the supermarket and the security alarm has gone off. The person standing at the door, if there is one, usually waves me on because I appear to be someone who has paid for my purchases and wouldn't be likely to steal. I get to the car, put the kids in their seats, and, as the stroller collapses to go in the trunk, the bottle of Children's Motrin I set on top of the stroller hood falls to the ground. I totally forgot about it. I did set off the alarm. I look back at the store from our spot at the very farthest edge of the enormous parking lot. I look at both kids strapped in their seats and grousing for a snack. I think of all the overpriced food I have bought in the last twenty years from the corporate giant with the nerdy name, and I get in the car and drive away, Motrin in hand. Crime committed and neatly rationalized.

Part of me worries that I will pay for this later. Perhaps one of my kids will desperately need some Motrin and they will be sold out? Or one of my kids will drink an entire bottle of Motrin and I will have to rush them to the ER? No, I don't think that Karma makes deals with corporate behemoths, but in my experience, Karma gives back in kind plus a little extra punch. I lifted a pair of Crocs from the lost and found at swimming class a few years back. They had been there for months, almost new lime green, the holes filled with little crowns and gems. I forgotten Big's shoes that day, and they were her size. I had every intention( sort of) of returning them when we came next week but somehow, Karma got me, and they evaporated along with a brand new pair that I had just purchased as well. Karma doesn't mess around with me- instant payback, within a week, and double to boot.


Earlier this year, a cat wandered into the backyard and never left. His name is Milo, and he is fabulous. He clearly belongs to someone and I intended to find his owner in the first few days, but the kids were so taken with him that I held off. My printer was broken (I just fixed it a couple of weeks ago, by the way), and I somehow never got my lazy ass to Kinko's to make copies of a flyer I had written about a found cat. Days turned into weeks. I took him to a local vet to see if he was chipped. He wasn't. I eventually took him in to get his shots and decided to keep him. No one came looking. No signs went up with his face on them and the desperate plea for his return. Ownership is nine tenths of the law...or something like that, right?

As I await payback for the cat, I do hope that Karma gives me some credit for enduring his ankle biting nature and his insistence on bringing his hungry relatives around for meals. I hope Karma understands that I didn't snatch him from someone's front porch. He found us. He won't leave. So, please Karma, don't rain cats on me, I can really only manage one.

On a more bizarre note, when I was in high school, I stole a library book. It was a Spanish English Dictionary, and I must have been going to do my homework outside the library. I got caught by the head librarian herself. Walked right past her, almost daring her to catch me. I had just been elected class president after the first one ate too many pot brownies and rushed himself to the nurse’s office in a stoned panic. Things weren't going so well that year, so it must have been a subconscious way to freedom. The librarian saw me, took it back and before I knew it I had said" But I got permission!” Well, at my school, any sort of lying was considered forbidden, amoral and grounds for the politically correct equivalent of a public flogging. We had actually signed contracts promising that we would not lie, cheat or steal while we were attending their prestigious prepatory school. Did they know we were teenagers? I mean, if the same principle were applied across the board then all of the girls would get in trouble for lying about their weight, right?


Well, I was "tried" before the Judicial Council, which was comprised of two teachers and two kids from each grade who would hear your case, deliberate and choose a punishment. I told my story, I cried. Mostly from the embarrassment. The entire school knew. Special meetings were held so each dorm knew exactly how lame I was. I had the Presidency stripped, and I think I had to formally apologize to the librarian. I handled it poorly and was so mortified at the lameness of my crime that I couldn't speak about it without sobbing. I burst into tears in front of the entire junior class while trying to explain that I was just as much of a fuck up as the first president had been. I desperately wished that I had vandalized something irreplaceable, stolen prescription drugs or alcohol, or kicked my annoying English teacher -anything less humiliating than lifting a Spanish English dictionary. I paid for that crime with being publicly humbled, though a few of my classmates thought it was absurd. My parents wrote angry letters to the school. The assistant principal had me come to his office so he could read aloud the letter my mother wrote. It was cutting and passionate, appropriately scrawled in red ink. It decried their methods and railed at their ridiculous standards. It said everything that I couldn’t. I actually left after junior year because it all seemed a bit surreal.


As much as I want to respect the doctrine espoused by my high school, it isn't realistic in the real world. I certainly don't condone lying, cheating and stealing but if a person doesn't have the ability to, say, save their ass when stopped by the police, for example, then all of that private school education is sort of a moot point. Again, I am not suggesting that people lie to the police as a matter of course, but if a person has a bag of heroin in their trunk or a dead body that they were about to illegally dump, and the officer asks them if they have anything in the trunk, it seems best to say no.

I have a relative who lies all the time. He used to tell his college professors that someone in his family had a stroke, car accident, lost a limb- anything to get more time to finish his paper or study for a test. I am a believer, if one feels that lying is their only option, to use things that have already happened, like grandparents that have already passed away, rehashing a leg that was broken as a child- not outright fabricating, but changing the facts enough so Karma gets confused and maybe you end up with a parking ticket instead of a head on collision.

It is difficult to teach the concept of truth to a child. All they are told is "tell the truth" from the minute they can talk. Some Buddhist's believe that lying is acceptable if is spares someone's feelings. People do that routinely, so "honesty" is really a relative concept. My child, who is generally an honest person, seems to think lying is an accident. I don't know if this is a smoke screen or that she just doesn't understand the difference between accident and a lie. I would like to say that my lie to the librarian was accidental, but was really just a stupid lame ass mistake. It also exposed me to the world as being what I truly am, which is a very uninteresting criminal and disappointingly human.


Cats don't lie. Dogs are fairly honest and will generally admit to farting with a sheepish look.They rarely protest when they are blamed repeatedly for other people's flatulence. Horses and pigs are not duplicitous. This is not to say that they don't make mistakes, but “I made a mistake" seems to have taken on a whole new meaning. I consider a genuine mistake to be a moment of bad judgment where fear intervened and took over or one put their own desire/need before the greater good. Greed, selfishness, whatever form it takes- it all boils down to getting away with something.

Take Michael Vick, who personally hanged, drowned or electrocuted a few of the low performing dogs in his stable of fighters. He said, after he was exposed, that he made a mistake. He said other stuff about bad judgment and needing to grow up, but the gist of it was that he "made some mistakes". Seriously? I think that knowingly involving him in something as base, amoral and unnecessary as dog fighting qualifies as a bit more than a mistake. He didn't need the money, so why did he do it? For kicks? If he had walked in on a dog fight at his house, for example, and didn't call the police right away, I might call that a mistake, or bad judgment predicated by fear or greed, but to have a dog fighting ring that has a name-Bad Newz Kennels-and a permanent residence on his property for FIVE YEARS is not a mistake. It is sociopathic, and he really shouldn't be allowed to step back into the million dollar game ever again. We tend to compartmentalize our heroes, so even if a hundred thousand football fanatics are also animal lovers, Vick is still a great player and the team might go to the Super Bowl, who cares what he does off the field? After all, he made a mistake. He’s only human. And don't get me started on Tiger Woods.

As far as the lying goes in my house, I guess that I will have to wait for Big to get caught in a really big lie, where the consequences are more than just a punishment. The consequences will have to result in the public acknowledgement that she isn't perfect. Hopefully, it won't be the operation of a dog fighting ring or multiple concurrent adulterous affairs outside of her marriage. Hopefully, we can tackle this before she turns five so her sense of character is intact and she can go forth as a righteous person.

When it happens that she gets caught, she will feel awful. She will feel regret. She will feel ridiculous. But once she recovers, she will realize that most lying really isn't worth it. Lying is after all, a form of self sabotage.Who needs self sabotage when there are plenty of people out there waiting to do it for you?

And I think she needs to learn this:

Instant Karma's gonna get you,


Gonna knock you right on the head,

You better get yourself together,

Pretty soon you're gonna be dead,

What in the world you thinking of,

Laughing in the face of love,

What on earth you tryin' to do,

It's up to you, yeah you.



Instant Karma's gonna get you,

Gonna look you right in the face,

Better get yourself together darlin',

Join the human race,

How in the world you gonna see,

Laughin' at fools like me,

Who on earth d'you think you are,

A super star,

Well, right you are.



Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun,

Well we all shine on,

Ev'ryone come on.



Instant Karma's gonna get you,

Gonna knock you off your feet,

Better recognize your brothers,

Ev'ryone you meet,

Why in the world are we here,

Surely not to live in pain and fear,

Why on earth are you there,

When you're ev'rywhere,

Come and get your share.



Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun,

Yeah we all shine on,

Come on and on and on on on,

Yeah yeah, alright, uh huh, ah-.



Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun,

Yeah we all shine on,

On and on and on on and on.



Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Yeah we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun

-John Lennon

Sunday, January 10, 2010

and baby makes three...

So it is no secret that my husband wants another kid. Now, before I am too old,he says, so we can have a big happy family. Well, I am not sure why bigger is better, or happier for that matter, because I can tell you right now, I will not be happier.
I love my children more than anything.I was lucky enough to stay at home with both of them and actually waited for two and half years to ask for some help. I really didn't want the help because it meant having to find someone who would be in my tiny house and caring for my tiny baby while I got to escape for a few hours and grocery shop or exercise without someone strapped to me or throwing everything out of the cart.
I was a regular at our local park and after awhile got to know a lot of the nannies by sight, but mostly by the names of their charges. Some of them were really interactive and others sat and texted on their phones while the kids ate wood chips.
 I was approached by Vicky one afternoon as she chased after two little boys.She was all smiles and energy and really enthusiastic. She was about forty five, and said she was looking for a few mornings a week. It seemed like kismet, since I was also looking for someone a few mornings a week. She came to the house the following Monday and, for ten bucks and hour, she watched Little, folded laundry and tried to organzie our cluttered life.As I left the house alone for the first time in nearly thirty months,I had a flash of concern that she might steal but quickly realized that we were so disorganized that she would have no idea where to begin.
The first day was great. I shopped and acutally got everything on the list because I wasn't distracted. It was great because I could sit and have a cup of coffee and read the LA Weekly without having to stop every three second to pick up a dropped crayon or nurse someone. It was a great day mostly because she hadn't sold my child into white slavery by the time I came back to the house.She did what she said she would do and it seemed like the beginning of something mutually beneficial.
Well, the honeymoon lasted about a week. The following Monday she came to work and, after discovering that we were out of creamer for her coffee said " Oh, well you better put that ,on the list. I need cream for my coffee." Then came the stories about her daughter in Guatemala who she was trying to bring here.We gave her an old laptop so she could communicate with her daughter more.She cried and told us about how God would bless us.The next week became about how she needed more shifts, and why none of her previous jobs had worked out, including the one whom I had called as a reference.She disparaged that family for being messy and inconsiderate of her needs. Then came the request for an advance on her salary.I actually drove her to the bank one time to be nice but soon realized that there wasn't enough nice to satisfy this person. I found her purse one morning when she was out walking with Little and actually went through it to make sure that she was who she said she was. She was, mercifully, but I had already decided that she would have to go. She was the incomprehensible combination of desperate and opportunistic with a healthy dose of outright lazy.
Her last week as our employee was filled with drama.She had been offered another better job and would need to start right away. I had given a reference for her and had lied on her behalf by saying that she had worked for us for a year and that it had been full time. I just wanted her to find her way elsewhere. She insisted on finding us a replacement and came to the house with a nanny who I had known from the park for years.She was lovely and shy. I gave her the job immediately.Vicky left without working a full week and I ended up paying for two nannies for the last three days due to the advance she took the week before. I found out later from the new nanny that Vicky had charged her a finders fee for the job.She wouldn't tell me how much it was, but I was incensed. She also told me later that Vicky rarely took Little out of the stroller, and that she walked around the playground bragging about how we had given her a computer.She begged me not to say anything to Vicky,who had become her friend, so I didn't.But it irked me that Vicky had come back from the park for three weeks talking about how much fun Little had when she had really been strapped in the stroller with her pacifier for two hours. It irked me that Little had started walking while Vicky was watching her, and that I had traded that once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Trader Joe's by myself.
However, the new nanny turned out to be a lovely caring person, so I suppose I am grateful to Vicky for bringing her into our lives.
A few months went by and then came the calls for more references.The job hadn't worked out because they drink too much, or because they discipline their kids too much or because they don't pay enough. She must have gone through ten more jobs in the next two years. I gave her a few more embellished references to unsuspecting moms hoping that she just needed to find the right situation, and for that I am truly sorry.All of her jobs ended the same way. She found something better and moved on. I actually called a couple of them after the fact and both moms described the same dynamic that we had experienced. The last reference that called was a lesbian couple, and I finally decided to stop trying to be Vicky's personal saviour and came clean.I told her not to hire Vicky.I told her everything, and she was really grateful. I don't think Vicky is a bad person, but who needs that sort of shit when they have a new baby?
I wrote Vicky a terse email and asked her to stop requesting references from me. She stopped, but about two months ago, I got an urgent telephone message from her.She said that she was at the immigration office and had to speak with me right away. I assume that she wanted me to lie to immigration for her. I never called her back, and I actually stopped feeling badly about it.
I realized that I am not the bad guy.I tried to help her in every way possible.She is a well intentioned parasite, and I was not interested in being her host.
So, aside from the total lack of physical or emotional desire to have a third, which is why I haven't mentioned my 1 in 40 chance of bearing a child with Down's Syndrome,it really comes down to this: I can manage what I currently have without having to hire anyone.I don't want a life that requires outside assistance to operate smoothly. I certainly don't fault others for having three or four kids, though the amount of diapers and food they must require nauseates me a little. I have a  fabulous life of my own with plenty of time to spend with my husband two adorable children.
A third upsets everything. It makes life chaotic and unmanageable.It means doctor visits, no wine,no sushi, constant fatigue,constant worry and nothing strenuous for almost a whole year.Then it's cracked nipples and stress and zero sleep and more doctor visits.I am intentionally omitting the part about the darling bundle of joy because I intend for this post to close the door completely.
Having kids isn't all glowing skin and baby booties. I found the moment of conception to the second birthday to be the most stressful time ever in the lives of both of my children. As fast as it has gone by, it feels like an eternity of Shirley Maclaine moments- constant worry and worst case scenarios playing out in my head.Is she breathing? Is she eating enough? Does she weigh enough?Was her poop just green? Is she choking?Is she retarded? Did she just eat a rock?  And I had great pregnancies and two easy babies. They weren't entirely without drama-the second one had a brain cyst in utero that "should just go away" but no one could tell me anything concrete. Basically it would go away or it wouldn't, but I certainly "wasn't supposed to worry about it"(yeah, right). Well, at six months pregnant,I saw a show on 60 Minutes about Jeremy, an idot savant who can ONLY play classical piano like Chopin after hearing it one time. He couldn't feed himself or talk or bathe or do anything except that one amazing thing. Then Leslie Stahl looks into the camera and says matter of factly, " Jeremey was born with a cyst on his brain". I nearly fainted, and then spent the next two years wondering when  Little would start her decent into savantism.(I would bite my lip when she showed interest in the piano). Her birth was ridiculously easy and, aside from her vomiting blood on the second day of life( cracked nipples), she was an easy baby.Too easy. I was constantly being told things like  "I have never seen such and easy baby before" and  " oh , my goodness what are you feeding her, she is so mellow!". Husband would make jokes about her being a simpleton ( I told  him about the cyst much later- he's a hypochondriac, and it would have wrecked him,) and my stomach would sink.
Needless to say, we are lucky and everything is fine so far, but I wouldn't call the process fun exactly. Rewarding? Absolutely. Life altering?Hell yes. Character building?Rivals the military. Fun? er, sometimes...
Husband says that a new baby changes things for a few years, but that isn't true.It means spending the rest of my life caring for yet another soul that I have to worry about,pack for, make lunch for, sooth, engage,love, entertain, second guess etc. And if it is a boy, that means a whole new pile of boy crap to organize and put away every day, not to mention that I have no idea what to do with a boy.
I just don't have it in me.I am already exhausted. Perhaps this makes me ungrateful or the anti-mother to some,but I can barely do a decent job with the two I have.
Our cup runneth over in every conceivable way, so can we just be happy with that? Please?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

party crashers

I have never,to my knowledge, crashed a party. I mean, I may have lied about who I was or why I was there but, ultimately, they unhooked the rope and stantion and allowed me inside. I am not sure what the term is for an univited guest who gains access via trickery or bribery,though I would say enthusiastic could apply if the motive is not burglary.
 Before he had the connections to score an invite, my future husband was very adept at gaining access to parties and clubs with a strict guest list that did not contain his name.
 In the beginning, when he was an assistant, and I an unemployed aging ingenue, we would hear about the parties that we really wanted to attend. We would get dressed and go to the party, hoping either someone he knew was standing at the door at the same time and brought us inside with them, or that he could talk his way in. Sometimes he dropped names of people who he knew would be on the list.Sometimes, he tried to talk me up as a rising star, but the person with the clipboard would usually give me the once over and look at him like " that all you got?". On one occasion he gave a guy an expensive cigar.Another time the bouncer got a handshake full of money.At the Sundance Film Festival he waited in a bathroom stall for an hour while the venue switched from one party he had attended to another swankier party that he hadn't been invited to.He casually left the bathroom and walked into the second party totally undetected. The best part was that there were several other guys in the bathroom doing the same thing,like a lurid scene from an early  homosexual movie.
He wasn't always spot on. Once he tried to say that we had already been inside  the club and got locked out by accident.That door person took the time to tell us why his lie wouldn't work. He said that first of all, I was wearing a red dress, and he certainly would have remembered it if we had gone through the front door in the last hour.Second, he said that we would have received a hand stamp when we paid the cover charge that also would have validated his story. My future husband stared at him, absorbing this constructive criticism and then said " thank you very much", and we left. He didn't try that trick again but a more devious version of it. If we approached a club with a long line, and he didn't want to wait, he would ask me if I had my migraine medication. I usually did because at that point the headaches were coming sporadically. I would take out the bottle, and he would rush us up to the front with  me by the arm.He would speak in a low hushed tone and say " excuse me, but my girlfriend really needs to get inside and take her medication." I would look appropriately pained, and buckle a little  at the knees.They would wave us in. Minutes later we would be having a cocktail and the vicodin would be snugly tucked in my purse for next headache/infiltration.
Will karma get us for the deception? Possibly, but we didn't really harm anyone specifically.All of the events were exclusive public offerings that exluded us initially,but then included us without much of an effort. I won't say that I enjoyed the process of lying to gain access to free food and drink, but it was a lot more fun than standing in line for most of the evening.
I have been on the receiving end of a crashed party as well  and was less than thrilled that people had spotted our mandatory valet parking and ingratiated themselves into my house. Some of the univited  were coming up to me, the birthday girl, and saying very pointedly " Hi (MY NAME),Happy Birthday,(MY NAME), thanks for having me." I had no idea who they were and I suppose their interaction was designed to protect them from the inevitable "who the fuck is that" moment.If they are seen schmoozing with the hostess the chances of getting ousted are much less likely.
I suppose I  understand the party crasher, but I experienced it on a whole new level a few weekends back.
A friend of mine had a party for her three year old.She invited twenty or so people and had a very casual afternoon hang out  in her backyard.She had a bouncer and grilled some chicken.It was very intimate and loose. About an hour into the party, she came over to our group and asked very discreetly if any of us knew the guy sitting at the picnic table with his daughter. Their yard isn't more than four or five hundred square feet in total, so blending in isn't an option. The guy in question was having some food while his daughter,who was about seven, stood next to him,waiting.
We all looked over at once, and none of us knew him.He looked really familiar to me but I never placed him, even now. The hostess sent in her tough as nails friend to find out who he was and why he was at her party. After some conversation, it was determined that, despite initally claiming that his wife had given him the wrong address,he had knowingly crashed the party. He never came out and said it, but it became evident by his total lack of embarrassment or even an  "Oh my goodness, I am so sorry...My wife told me it was on this block and when I saw the balloons I just assumed.."
He gave us nothing. He was treated with respect, and was invited to stay and eat so his daughter could play on the jumper, but he declined and then drifted out, leaving us all extremely unsettled. He appeared to be able to afford food, so it didn't feel like a situation where someone was  just trying to get something to eat. He also seemed a little out of it, which could happen to a parent for any reason, but I couldn't shake the feeling that he just did this sort of thing when he ran out of ideas. It made me queasy to think that the girl, who is fully aware at age seven, is being taken to parties with complete strangers while her father mooches what he can and pretends like he was invited.She must look around and see that she knows no one, and then watches as the inevitable " who are you" conversation happens, followed by a hasty exit.  I realize that her situation could be much different and that he could be prostituting her or worse, but I can only imagine the subtle psychological damage that is done by knowingly subjecting your kid to that kind of instability.  Seven is the age when they are learning about truth and lies and character and all of the things that give us morality and a sense of belonging to a greater good.
I guess I look at my own kids, who haven't yet had to survive anything but their mother's temper, their peers and a few close calls with bodily injury, and wonder when they will have to shake hands with the Big Bad World. I suppose the seven year old crasher will be a savvy street smart kid by the time she reaches her teens.With this economy, she will be the girl who talks my pansy ass kids out of their lunch money when they all end up at the local public school in a few years. I realize that my generation has a reputation for coddling their offspring.We probably do, which may create a generation of cream puffs, but I guess I figure that childhood is short and they can catch up to their tougher classmates later on.
 I think that it is our responsibility as parents to try not to fuck our kids up with our own shit. I plan on arming mine with truth and information and a little dash of fear so they don't trade their life to a pedophile for a Hershey bar. I will encourage them to see the "popular" kids as merely human, and to find a passion that will always take precendence over ditching Algebra to go on klepto spree or smoke an American Spirit in the bathroom.
But it isn't my life.It is theirs, and so are the choices they make. I remember two girls in my sixth grade class being sent home from a overnight trip for stealing a lipstick from a drugstore in Bakersfield. One of the same girls showed up high at school in seventh grade and told her teacher that she had been adbucted by a guy in a van and forced to smoke marijuana,then dropped off at school in time to make second period(wow, what a courteous abductor).Luckily they didn't believe one word of the story or it would have been mighty unpleasant for some poor van driving shmuck parked down at the beach minding his own business.
I hope my children make better choices than most kids do, but I suppose that the lumps and bumps are inevitable. I suppose they will have to make awful choices that they won't tell me about. I suppose they will be exposed to all sorts of heinous shit by their peers. I wish I could help filter out the bullshit, but I guess they won't ever learn or grow if I don't let them get a little dirty. I will impress upon them the consequences of taking unecessary risks with their bodies or their sweet little souls, and that I will never abandon them because of my principles.
So back to Crasher Dad,who still haunts me all these weeks later. I hope he was simply at the wrong house. I mean who in their right mind who seek out a kids party to crash? Isn't it commonly accepted that the constant birthday parties are one of the more annoying aspects of child rearing? We are facing five in the next two weeks- an embarrassment of bouncers, redundant gifts and partially hydrogenated oil dressed as birthday cake. Personally I'd rather hide in a bathroom stall.It is much quieter.