When I was a child we lived in, what was then, a pretty rural area. I grew up next door to my Grandparents and my Great Grandparents. I come from one of those good ole southern families that everyone you’re related to lived or still lives within a 20 mile radius. Our Palm Sunday family reunions (which is a family from 3 generations back) still has almost 100 people a year. Mainly cuz it’s always easy to drive about 1/2 mile down the road.
Now because we lived in a rural area growing up my Grandma had a party line. For those of you youngin’s who have never heard of a party line- let me explain. A party line was a phone line that was shared by many houses. Everybody had a phone, but not only did you have to wait for people to get off the phone in your own house, but also about 5 of your neighbors. Every home had the “phone table” in a public place, because every phone had to have a jack (and those babies were expensive). If you picked up the line in your house and your neighbor was on the phone you could hear their conversations. Needless to say this was a point of many a nights of endless gossip for southern women drinking sweet tea and snapping beans. It is also the origin of “I’m on the phone” This statement started off innocently enough to let you people know you were using the device at that particular moment.
The next generation of the phone was much easier device with push buttons and long cords and were actually private to each house. My house actually had two lines so we were living in high cotton. The jacks became less expensive so we put these wonder devices in every room. I even knew people that placed them in the bathroom right next to the throne. Nothing like bullshit coming out of both ends! 🙂 We thought these long cords were the best invention ever as a teenager. They allowed for much more privacy. I could take the phone into my room or a closet and talk (or whisper) for hours and hours. Our parents would stick their head in and we would say in a very annoyed tone- “I’m on the phone” Teenagers and phones were inseparable and parents all over the land hung their head in despair and thought they had lost their children forever.
The phone transformed again in my 20’s. We now had cordless phones. These developed before my parasites came along.. These phones were AMAZING. I could take them in to any room with or without a phone jack. I could even take them outside. These were essential to my survival with three young children. When I had two children in my lap crying at 2 am, my husband was snoring, and I really needed my mom- I could call her for help or at least see if she knew the number for a wandering band of gypsies to come buy them. I think I called her for that number several times, but she always convinced me that I would have to give a refund so what was the point.
As they grew we got this new and amazing invention. They were originally called a cellular phone or cell phone. It could be used anywhere. In the car or in the woods you were always accessible. The best part was I could now hide from the parasites on occasion and actually finish a conversation with a friend I hadn’t been able to complete for at least 3 years. My conversations for years had gone something like this:
Me: Hey -How are you?
Friend:- Fine- How are you?
Me: Bobby get your sisters diaper off your head and back on her!! Oh I’m fine
Friend: Good – How are the kids?
Me: No- I said now- get her diaper off your head!! Oh they’re great! How was your vacation?
Friend: Vacation was great- We spent two weeks on a yacht in the Caribbean. It was beautiful and the snorkeling was fantastic
Me: Oh that sounds wonderful! Crap- I’ve got to go Sally just stuck her finger up her brothers nose and now it looks like WWF in my living room.
After the invention of cell phones I could, just like in my teens, find nifty hiding places in my home to talk on the phone and have an actual adult conversation. I have hidden in closets under cloths, my car in the driveway, the bathroom, and outside in the woods. The woods seemed to be the best because the little detectives found me every where else. I think children can actually smell mother alone time like a hunter tracking prey. They can’t find their shoe’s laying in their bedroom floor, but they can find me hiding in the bottom of my closet under 3 layers of clothing to come find their shoe’s.
The one thing I am convinced of though is that once a mother picks up a phone it immediately becomes invisible to anyone else that lives in their home. It’s like a super power. They seem to be able to see it when it is laying on the counter, but put that baby up to a mothers ear and poof it’s gone! They suddenly come in and immediately start a conversation like there is nothing next to your face or your mouth isn’t moving at all.
Some days it seems like the only thing that hasn’t changed in my entire life is one phrase and it just gets more annoyed and louder. “I AM ON THE PHONE”
Everyone has lofty ideal’s when they start out on the joyful journey of parenthood. We all spend the 9 months of pregnancy excited and looking forward to this little bundle of joy which we will love and cherish. We will not and I repeat not say the things our parents said or do some of the things our parents did we did not like. We will negotiate and work out our differences with our children- they will be brilliant right?? . We will hug them and tell them we love them when they misbehave- they will be brilliant right? We will talk and have intelligent conversations with them- they will be brilliant right?
Then the inevitable happens and the child is born. Within the first year you start to have a sneaking suspicion the child may not be brilliant. You spend the whole year working with the child and the first word they truly understand and can say is “NO” and they have no intention of negotiating with you at all. You struggle with trying to explain: that’s dangerous, that’s hot, that’s bad, that’s scary, that will break etc etc etc. The child still looks at you steadfastly and says “NO”. After the negotiations fail you resort back to the tried and true method of – OK I’m bigger than you so I will just move you. This method works every time and you start to think- hmmm- maybe those who have done this before me, might of been on to something 🙂
As they grow they learn new words and start to use your words against you. I was a parent who never spoke baby talk to my children. My eldest was about 2 when we were standing in the grocery store check out line. He had been sitting in the cart through the whole shopping experience and was just about at the end of any 2 year old’s patience limit. He pointed at the ground and said “down”. I said “No” so he pointed again and said “Down” in a more forceful manner. I again said “No” at which point my two and 1/2 year old looked at me and said “Down- mommy that’s not negotiable” Now the negotiable was a little garbled, but hey- I got the point. He stayed in the cart, but I realized he was smart. He wasn’t smart in the way I had expected- more in the way I dreaded.
This new found child intelligence turns quickly into the “WHY” stage. Now for those parents who have not survived the “Why” stage yet- get ready because you will shortly find yourself saying things you never ever expected. The “Why” stage sneaks up on you. As a parent you have spent the last 3 to 4 years teaching this little being who you made all about the world. This little fat faced toddler now thinks you are the most brilliant human on the planet and know everything. My favorite conversation every went something like this:
Chid: Mom- Why does that man have a chainsaw in his truck?
Me: Because he was cutting down a tree (perfectly good explanation- I thought)
Child: Why was he cutting down a tree?
Me: Because it was probably dead (I think I’m doing well)
Child: Why was it dead?
Me: Because some bugs eat trees and they die (OK- now we’re teaching)
Child: Why do they eat trees?
Me: Because just like us they need energy and have to eat
Child: Why? Why? Why?
After the next few why’s and my explanations of each I found myself trying to explain a bugs circulatory system to a 4 year old. Right then and there I learned that sometimes a perfectly acceptable answer is “Just cause”
After the why stage their intelligence suddenly turns into the most evil kind of all. At about 8 to 10 they now have the skills to out negotiate you!! They ask to do something and you say “NO”. They then look at you, with that 4 year old cherub face (which they’ve mastered now) and say “Why?” Being the intelligent parent, who wants to always be reasonable, you spend about 4 to 5 minutes giving them many valid reasons for your decisions. Then something terrifying happens!!! That child- who until now thought you were the smartest person in the world- turns into Matlock, Ally McBeal, and Jack McCoy all rolled into one. He could now, at 9 years old, get a job in any court room in the land. He’s arguments are brilliant, valid, and worst of all – better than yours. You try to negotiate, but somewhere around 30 minutes in you realize by the smirk on the little shits face- you are beaten.
This is when you learn the most important and tried and true lesson of parenthood that has been passed from generation to generation. This lesson is painful to learn because it goes against EVERYTHING you believed while you carried them and changed their cute little diapers. It is a beautifully simple statement with no negotiations possible. They hate it because it seems sooo unfair. A perfectly good explanation to any child’s question is “BECAUSE I AM YOUR MOTHER AND I SAID SO!!”
We hear about “the one” a lot in life. “The one” perfect person, soul mate, friend, job, house, outfit and on and on. We spend most of our life waiting or searching for that perfect “The One”. I’m not sure I believe in “the one” in most of those circumstances. I know some do find it early, but I think most of us have many many “One’s” over our life times. These “one’s” fill different spaces and needs as our lives progress through the craziness.
I only started to believe in “The One” after this long insane ride through motherhood. If you have multiple parasites (or those wonderful little creatures who you gave birth too) you will understand my version of “The One”. My version is “That Child”
This “one” hits you right between the eyes- you weren’t waiting, or expecting, or probably even wanting it to come. It’s “that child” who was born with the innate ability to push every button you have until your head starts to spin like the Exorcist, you scream, threaten, and in general look like you should be committed to the asylum at any second. The amazing thing is that this child (who has accomplished this monumental feat of turning you into The Wicked Witch of the West) now stands looking at you confused. He has even said in these volatile moments “Wow mom- Why are you so mad?” I’m not sure if he really is dumb enough to not know or if I he believed somehow in that hollow head that this would help. Needless to say- either way- WRONG!
The first two parasites I birthed did not come out of the womb with this skill. They were pretty good at listening, minding, not arguing and in general not making moms head explode. Maybe that is why I thought having a third seemed like a brilliant idea. Note to self- more children than adults – never a brilliant idea!! The older parasites have their moments, but they are fewer and much farther between. They now sit and watch “the one” with faces of astonishment at – what they call -stupidity.
Now “the one” also came with a built in survival skill set. I believe God put him all together and looked and said “oh my, she may kill him before he’s grown so we may need to make him funny” Well they may of overdone it, but he IS funny. He uses his humor to convince perfectly normal adults to protect him when he turns me into the raging lunatic. When he was little he could wrap an entire room of adults around his finger in about 30 seconds flat. Now this would be great, but after he accomplished the feat he would walk up to an adult call them a fart knocker and smirk at me. I would get up to punish the child and most adults would hide him while laughing and say “Now Val, he’s just so cute and funny” OK- just cause he’s cute he still can’t call adults fart knockers. (NO I STILL DON’T KNOW WHERE HE EVEN LEARNED FART KNOCKER)
He can be stubborn, argumentative, loud, difficult, manipulative, never gives up, never forgets, funny and is the baby. Basically all of my husbands and my own traits that drive me bat shit nuts all rolled up into one package of my insanity. Basically “The One” is “That Child” that shows you your own strengths and weaknesses magnified by 1000 every day. Remember when your parents cursed you with “I hope you have to pay for your raising” Yep you guessed it – that’s “THE ONE”
There are divisions of labor in all facets of life. At work the engineers design, the sales people sale, the project managers manage, the installer installs, the stocker stocks, and the cashier checks you out. In most companies, these positions don’t overlap and people get downright testy when you step over into their role. Almost all conflicts in a business have to do with someone getting in and someone wanting them out of their world.
Marriage is similar to business. Every family does it differently, but we all have our divisions of labor. As long as they are negotiated and both parties are content and there’s no bait and switch in the agreement then everything should be fine. I was a simple lady and I hate bait and switch so before we were married I advised the love of my life that I never wanted to:
1) Touch Trash- ick
2) Change Light bulbs- Yes I know it’s a little thing, but it just annoys me
3) Mow the grass and do lawn maintenance- it’s freaking hot in Ga
4) Take my car in for maintenance- Those men lie to women
If I was going to have to do these things I saw no real reason to get married. I had a daddy who would help me if I was sweet to him and eventually I could hire a 17 year old to do them for the view. I will give him credit and I married good- cuz I haven’t done any of those yet
Now in exchange I said I would:
(Get your minds out of the gutter- that’s a whole different entry) 🙂
1) Do the Laundry- which I promptly hired someone to do
2) Do the Dishes- which I promptly didn’t do to his specifications so he demanded he do them
3) Do most of the day to day of the children- Damn he got me there!!!!
When I made this deal- I thought I had this licked! I had negotiated and pulled off the deal of the century. I had this made and he was a sucker- Boy Howdy was I wrong!
Through the first infant – things were going great and my deal was solid. I realized I had gotten out maneuvered after the 2nd child in 13 months was born. The night I realized I shouldn’t ever be allowed to negotiate again was the evening about 2 am as I had a 2 week old and a 13 month old in my lap crying as the love of my life lay snoring. This night- I realized I had been had!!!
Now I am reminded everyday that you should never negotiate without understanding the full terms of the contract. No one ever told me it had such clauses as:
1) All Children come to your side of the bed- even if you maneuvered it the farthest from the door
2) Bathrooms were made for audiences and the commode is just your stool for conversations
3) Getting children ready to go to school is a 3 hour morning ordeal
4) Philosophical questions are really hard to answer before coffee
5) Children only know your number when they forgot something
6) Taxi services for sports, friends, school, etc etc etc – require more hours a week than sex ever did
I’m glad there is no warning label or a true contract that allows negotiation before parenthood. There’s no way either party would ever agree to any of the stipulations. However; once the parasites are here and you look at their little helpless, wrinkled faces you know you’ve been had and will probably never sleep again. You believe it will get better as they age, but t doesn’t- because they just grow into much larger, deeper voice helpless parasites . So when I’m dragging myself out of the bed at 5:30 am for his weight training and look over at the love of my life who’s still snoring and want to quietly strangle him – I don’t. I remember – I negotiated this crappy contract and That’s my job!!
As I’ve said many times- I should not be allowed to watch the news!! It is a confusing and disturbing time of day for me. Today I saw a an 18 year old teenage girl in New Jersey sue her parents to support her because she didn’t want to live by their rules. Now I live in the South and I’ve watched Jersey Shore, but I truly thought those producers sure are good. There could not possibly be that many people that self absorbed – Well – I stand corrected. I have some great friends who are from Jersey and they don’t exhibit this trait, but hell they also moved to the south. Now- I also saw a New Jersey judge throw the case out so my faith has been semi restored
I’m by no means saying my family is perfect. Insanity comes in a takes a long slow stroll through periodically just for fun, but I was taught to respect my elders even if I didn’t want too. The reasons are many but her are a few:
1) They hold all the money so they hold all the cards
I thought I was all grown up about the same age and informed my parents I was leaving. My daddy being the unreasonable man he was promptly went in my room, put my suitcase on the bed, sat down and said “Pack” Now as I’ve told you my dad and I can both be stubborn so I obliged his request. As I folded my first shirt he asked “Did you buy that or did your mom?” I replied “Mom” He said “Put it back- you can take anything that you bought” This exercise was repeated through my entire wardrobe. Needless to say after I finished packing my 3 pair of underwear and one pair of jeans I decided to stay. Pride always cometh before the fall they say- well I fell off the cliff.
2) Youth and Enthusiasm will lose to Age and Treachery every time
When your young you always hear about this stuff called wisdom. You think it’s only a scam that old people say to feel better about getting the wrinkles. As I age I’m realizing there might be something to this thing. Wisdom isn’t really the ability to be wise, scholarly knowledge, or even good judgement. Wisdom is the ability to out maneuver your off spring. The parasites which you carried for 9 months, you fed, you rocked, you changed, you sang to etc etc etc and in general accomplished keeping alive will soon TURN ON YOU! They will think you are now the dumbest human alive. I am not insulted by this phenomena. It actually brings out the evil in me. I remember starting in the business world in my 20’s and having “men” underestimate me and me feeling the evil Grinch smirk form on my face- I get the same reaction now with my teenagers. I now just sit around and formulate plans. My favorite so far – If you get in trouble in any way during middle school- I will come eat lunch with you for a week. I will make a big scene about how cute my babies are and in general embarrass you to death. Two though middle school and no issue’s yet. Why are you crying mama cuz treachery is fun!!
3) Guilt is a powerful thing
My parents and I learned from the VERY best the ability to dispense quilt and it’s power to motivate and manipulate. Now over the years manipulate has taken on an evil context and I don’t understand why. We all manipulate. When we talk our spouse into watching the chic flick instead of the blow em up movie for a little nooky- that’s manipulation. Why is it evil to use it on our children? My Great Granny was the QUEEN!! She demanded command performances for holidays. It went something like this “We WILL be having lunch on Thanksgiving day and you will be there, unless you seem to think you have something more important to do than your family?” These could only be considered optional, at your own guilt free risk. The most powerful guilt manipulation words of all time are “We are disappointed in you” followed up with “if we didn’t know what you were capable of it would be ok” Now I always knew and understood exactly what they were doing and swore I would NEVER parent like them. Guess what I said to my eldest 3 days ago who is failing his first subject ever- yep – word for word! Amazingly it still seems to work.
Our families teach us many things as we grow. We learn respect. We learn to deal with people we don’t like or even understand. We learn to let arguments go because they’re not going anywhere anyway. We learn wisdom, treachery, and manipulation techniques. We learn the roots to keep us grounded and that we really need our wings to sprout so we can get the hell out for a while before we kill each other.
We all from time to time wish we could return or at least exchange a family member or two. Thankfully God made family with a no replacement policy cuz I’m pretty sure I would of replaced all of them by now at least once. Since it’s not an option I guess I’ll just learn and teach the lesson that many a generation have been passing down on to me- unconditional love. If ya can’t beat em might as well join em- and hey- the treachery part is fun!!