Friday, May 22, 2009

Not To Pile On But...I Totally Called It

Several months ago I had a vaguely weird dream which woke me up. When I woke up my first thought (though I did not remember the dream very clearly) was "Kate Gosselin has sold her soul to the devil". I said this aloud while lying there in bed. Kirk looked at me very strangely.

I explained to him that from a psychological stand-point, I really felt there were bad things in store for the children and for the Gosselins.

Let me clarify for those of you who somehow missed the phenomenon of Jon & Kate plus 8. The show chronicles the lives of parents of multiples - one set of twins and one set of sextuplets. I never really watched the show much. At first Kirk watched it once in a while. I think he found it soothing to watch someone dealing with the chaos of multiples - it made our life seem calm and sedate by contrast. Eventually I caught a few episodes here and there (it's on TLC almost all day sometimes). My daughter thought it was fun to watch. My best friend Shannon somehow developed a crush on Jon (not exactly sure what that's all about!). So I became gradually aware of the show. But usually I found Kate slightly annoying. She harps on Jon too much and she's too controlling with the kids. Control-freakishness is difficult for me to watch, it makes my skin crawl a little - so usually, I could never watch a whole episode.

But the kids are cute and how can you not wish this seemingly somewhat normal if noisy household the best? How can you not admire them for giving it a valiant go? So, if not a total fan of Kate, I still felt that I could understand the appeal of the show and certainly, I could understand the appeal of the cute factor of the children. Plus if you're a mom struggling with potty training one kid, I would imagine watching an episode of Kate trying to train 6 of them at the same time would be hugely reassuring.

But then...gradually, things about the show started to bug me.

Why are they ALWAYS going on vacation? When did Jon quit working and what does he do exactly? Why are Kate's parents completely out of the picture? Why does Kate have friends and people who seem to help with the kids and then suddenly, it seems they are written out of the show? What happened to that pretty Aunt Jody who used to be around and suddenly isn't? Why is Kate being psychotic about insisting that they ALL go to the furniture store to pick out furniture with the kids in tow? I only had two toddlers at once and even I know that's a terrible idea. Who is paying for all this product placement? Wow! They are getting a lot of free crap. Kate's fronting like she's worried about money, worried about how much she is spending on the bunk beds but she's making like $75,000 per episode! Come on! Suddenly they are moving into a giant compound like mansion on a bajillion acres and I'm suppose to still feel sorry for the struggle of a mom with multiples with a husband with a low paying tech job? The whole premise of the whole show is blown by the success of the show. Man these kids are whiny, whiny, whiny. Kate is getting shrill and awful. Kate is getting very tan. Kate is getting thinner. Jon now has hair plugs. Kate's clothing is getting expensive. and handbags. When they filmed a renewal of wedding vows ceremony in Hawaii last year I thought it seemed like the most joyless exercise in futility I've ever seen. That's when I knew it was effectively over for Jon & Kate.

You can't allow your personal life to become your job and not have it affect your personal life. Especially for the kids.

Remember back when the Dionne Quintuplets were born and the Canadian government practically set them up as a roadside attraction and then later we all thought that was horrible? The girls did not turn out well. What's different about this?

And consider:

Kate and Jon had only been married a little over a year when she decided to try fertility drugs to get pregnant with the twins. Then not long after that they tried it again when they got the sextuplets. Who does that? Who jumps right into fertility drugs so early? I think it's weirdly suspect. We've all thought octo-mom has lost her mind but is Kate really that different? And where do you suppose octo-mom got the idea in the first place?

Now it's all gone to hell in a handbasket. Kate and Jon are on the cover of most of the tabloids this month. A new season of Jon and Kate is starting next week. Divorce is in the air. Mark my words, this is going to get uglier and uglier.

And for the record, any of you out there thinking of starring in your own reality television show, consider these marriages and families from recent years:

Yep, all divorced now and/or kids seriously jacked up.

If Jon and Kate put their kids on a regular tv program and lived in California, child labor laws would prevent them from being on camera the amount of time they are on camera while being filmed at their home in Pennsylvania. Kate says they are trapped now - that in order to make a living they have to continue because this is their source of income.

Mark my words there is more trouble ahead for these kids. Kate will not stop though. I guarantee you it's going to become the Kate plus 8 minus 1 show. It will be all about how Kate copes with the divorce and being a single parent. The kids will be the fodder of the tabloids for years and years to come. As teens things will get really ugly. Look what often happens to child stars - how is this any different? It's actually far worse, because rather than playing a 'character' the character is themselves. A recipe for disaster.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tightrope Parenting

It has occurred to me several times lately that parenting is a lot like walking a tightrope. It requires a lot of skill, balance and concentration and it's pretty easy to get thrown off in the wrong direction.

When people complement me on my children or on my children's accomplishments - I feel a combination of a sense of pride and a pit in my stomach of vague dread.

It seems like the sort of pronouncement that could jinx everything.

My children are not perfect and I am not perfect and they will never be perfect and neither will I. My goal as a mom has never been to be the perfect mother (well maybe it was BEFORE I had kids, or for a very brief time before I realized reality was going to be very different from my fantasy version of motherhood) - My goal as a mother has been to be 'good enough'. Good enough to raise decent, relatively well adjusted, minimally mal-adjusted, functioning, contributing, reasonably happy children to become all of the aforementioned as adults with the least number of bumps in the road along the way as possible. I never anticipated raising perfect children and I never anticipated being perfect. Thanks Goodness! I've seen women drive themselves crazy with such notions.

Worshiping our children is always a bad idea too - because just when you start thinking they are truly wonderful, they will do something completely stupid and prove you wrong.

But it's hard sometimes to figure out how to raise children the 'right' way. I think I've been o.k. Probably I could improve in some areas. But sometimes when I watch young moms today it makes me exhausted watching them kill themselves to be perfect and to raise perfect kids. They make sure they eat all the right foods, they reinforce them in all the right ways so as not to hurt their little egos, they buy them the right kind of educational toys and send them to the right kind of pre-schools, they teach them to "use their words". I'm not making fun of these things - but I do find them silly sometimes. And I'm not saying I didn't do any of those things. But I think I was a little more laid back about my approach. I didn't worry too much if the food wasn't organic, I didn't think McDonald's once in a while was going to kill them, and I wasn't super concerned that my oldest didn't even go to pre-school because at the time, we just plain old couldn't afford it and he spent his days playing in a creek catching frogs and craw-dads and I figured that was education enough for a 4 year old.

Mostly I was right about most of those things.

But at the same time...

I have been very strict in other ways. I have been fairly controlling of weekend activities, friends and the amount of time spent away from my watchful eye. I encourage them to have people over here, but don't encourage a lot of time spent elsewhere (of course I allow it sometimes, just not excessively). You aren't allowed to just roam around without a plan. There's no roaming the streets for no reason. There should be purpose in our pursuits and activities. Our day should have some sort of plan or goal. If part of that plan or goal is that you really think you need to spend 3 hours goofing off in the pool, that's fine, but there should be some sort of plan - don't come whining to me that you're 'bored' or I will like to kill you. When Holden was 13/14 and giving me a little bit of a hard time, when I wasn't particularly crazy about some of his friends, and even less crazy about his attitude, we got into a little bit. One night, when I was super frustrated with where I thought his life was heading if he didn't cease and desist with some of his friends and his attitude, in a fit of frustration I told him (quite loudly) that I would begin from that moment on to "MAKE HIS LIFE A LIVING HELL". It was more complex and the situation didn't resolve itself immediately, but years later when I asked him why he finally got his crap together he said "Mom, you scared me so bad when you said that because I knew you really MEANT it". And I kind of did. But he knew that I still loved him, deep down and with all my heart, and he knew my frustration was coming from that place. It made all the difference I think.

Don't over-protect your kids. It's a terrible idea. They have to learn how to fail and get back up again. You'll retard them in ways you never meant to - ways in which you'll have a very difficult time fixing later. You'll instill in them fears and doubts that will over-take them.

Don't under-protect your kids. It's a terrible idea. They will make mistakes that can't be easily fixed, life will come at them so fast, they won't have the skills to deal with it. It's awful for children to be over-exposed to an adult world when they are too young - it leaves lasting penetrating scars that can't be healed sometimes.

I deeply believe both of the above paragraphs, which is why I find motherhood often taxing. It's a never ending process of trying to find that balance between those two worlds.

I'm not done raising these kids - I have 6 more years before the youngest is 18 and lots of things can happen in the interim. Everyday I feel like I have to be on my A game. Sometimes I'm not, sometimes I'm on my B or C game.

I'm an abysmal failure in certain areas: I can't sew, can't make a costume or even come up with a decent idea half the time for a costume, I forget dates and times easily, I get distracted, sometimes I just want it to be quiet even when they really need me, I'm not a fan of cooking because I hate the clean up all the time, laundry is my least favorite chore, grocery shopping is often a last minute after-thought, and sometimes I can help you with homework but not if it's math.

I'm good at enough things to compensate though I think. Maybe. I won't list them, because it seems like an unseemly thing to do - but I know I'm good at certain things and I think I've learned to be thankful for the areas in which I excel. And maybe sometimes those things are more important than having a mom who can help with math homework.

When I was pregnant with Holden I really thought about what I wanted for this baby - how did I want him to turn out, what could I do as a mother to help that? I thought about it for a long time and I realized what I really wanted was to have a child with confidence. I read a bunch of books, one appropriately titled "How to Raise a Confident Child". There were a lot of things in that book that influenced my parenting.

One day when I was on the playground with Holden there were several other little kids there about his age. He was two going on three. There was a big climbing toy there and some of the kids were climbing on it. Holden was an excellent climber. He started to go up higher and higher. I was standing several yards away and as he got higher I stood a little closer. But I never touched him, I never told him he had to get down. I just told him "be careful, watch where you step". I seemed to be the only parent doing that. The other moms were in two camps, there were the "You're not allowed to climb up there" moms and the moms who were drinking their coffees on the pic-nic bench with the other moms not even watching what their kids were doing. I've always been the mom looking for the happy medium between those two worlds and...dare I say it?

So far so good.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Being Bold

so we are in the middle of this project in the backyard -

and we are being kind of bold with some of the colors.

mainly this is because I really like color and Kirk really likes color -

also it is partially because I am nuts like that.

But I am having the HARDEST time deciding what color the exterior of the house in the back should be. right now it is a sort of off-white or a cream and I just don't think it works with the other crazy colors.

these are my thoughts:

1. It should be some other crazy color, as long as we're going nuts we should just take it all the way.

2. It should absolutely NOT be some other crazy color - your mind must have a place to rest somewhere in the midst of everything else that is going on.

3. It should be something unexpected - like the color of the pool or something like that...something cool instead of all the bold.

4. It should be one of the colors I've already used back there.

5. I should save up a bunch of money and cover it all in metal. (this one is not practical right now since the project is already so expensive - but I'm willing to consider it in the future)

6. It should just be like a kind of boring beige or something to just have it blend into the background.

What is your vote?

Here's what I'm mainly leaning towards (this are interior photos but they are just inspiration photos, all of this is "outside", although it feels a bit more like an extension of the interior to me); 1. Black (sounds insane but I saw it in a magazine and it looked cool)

2. Purple like the fence

3. yellow like the exterior of the fence

4. pool blue

5. bright orange

6. Bright stark white.

Advice will be appreciated though not necessarily followed!


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