Monthly Archives: April 2013

Grandparenting 101 – Observations From The Other Side

DISCLAIMER:  This is not entirely based on my own experience but on many poolside & patio conversations with friends and fellow parents. Some of it is, however, personal.  

I’ll probably pay for this one.  I’ll be written out of wills.  And I hate that because I was so looking forward to being able to slather on the leftover cold cream that is probably bequeathed to me by my in-laws.  But Grandparent’s Day……can we just cut to the heart of what this is all about, o ye school districts, both public and private?  Grandparent’s Day is a day set aside to honor the grandparents of children in said school districts by sucking up to them with such sweetness and adoration that they will feel the urge to get out their checkbooks and donate thousands of dollars or buy a stack of books at the “not-coincidentally-simultaneously-held” book fair that is so heavy they have to make two trips to their Cadillac sedan just to get them home with the child.  This is just a sneaky way of getting grandparents to spend thousands, with the annoying added benefit of cluttering up the kid’s home & pissing off his parents.

My child?  My sweet little boy who DOES love his grandparents very, very much & even enjoys a good stack of books?  BOYCOTTED GRANDPARENT’S DAY. And I let him.  He’s no dummy.  When teachers tell the children, “After your performance & lunch with Granny, your grandparents have the option of taking you home”, my kid hears, “There is absolutely no point in going to school today.”  He’s probably right & so he is home.  My mom took it quite well, I’ll give her that. I’m sure she was disappointed because she loves my kids and loves being there for them.  Lately though, I’ve been wanting to bitch about grandparenting and the image versus the reality, so today Grandparent’s Day is providing me with that jumping off point.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my kids and I complain to Chuck, “This shit would have never happened on the Brady Bunch.  Those Brady kids would never pull a stunt like this.”  Or, “Carol & Mike would sooo know how to handle this situation.  What are we doing wrong???”  Chuck then pulls out the “You do know the Brady Bunch wasn’t realistic, right?”  I come back with “Of course it was realistic.  The Brady grandparents made ONE appearance on the wedding episode & after that did you EVER see them come get those kids so Mike & Carol could have a weekend of hot, uninterrupted sex?  No. Never. They got dressed up, were there for the big event & then they were gone.  THAT shit is real.”  (It’s also quite possible they knew Mike Brady was gay.)

Perhaps I’m jaded, because as a child I lived in the same house with my grandma and great-grandma.  I lived behind my best friend who had older siblings with children and those kids were over at grandma’s constantly.  The grandparents embraced it and wanted it that way.  I see a HUGE difference in what grandparenting used to be and what it is now.  The problem is that many (& I repeat MANY, not all) of the grandparents still want to do what I call “walk the grandparenting runway” —- grandkids in tow, dressed to the nines, waving the wave to their fellow lunch lady grandmas so they can then gloat that  “these are our grandkids…..aren’t they beautiful…….they make such high grades…….they are so good at sports…….”  YET, when it’s time to do the dirty work and take over for a weekend so the parents can escape, they suddenly have work to do, parties to attend, etc.

My dad gets a pass on this one because he is generously keeping the children Labor Day weekend so we can escape for our 20th anniversary.  He didn’t even have to be coaxed!  BUT, herein lies the difference in my dad keeping the kids and many of today’s grandparents:  While we are gone, unless it’s a serious emergency, we will not hear from him.  He will handle what comes his way and should he have a legitimate question like, “Where in the hell do y’all hide the extra toilet paper?”, he will send us a text.  Unless he’s already sitting on the toilet and then we may get a call.  If the kids fight, he doesn’t call us. He handles it.  Every little thing is not an emergency.  Never during the trip or after we return does he feel the need to tell us every little transgression that transpired in our absence.  He doesn’t greet us with 100 concerns over how the kids dress, talk, text, play video games, treat one another, treat him, treat the dog, bathe improperly, eat too little, eat too much, are rude, are lazy, etc.  We get NONE of that, because he understands his role is to be their grandparent and friend, not their parent and prison warden.  And most importantly, he does NOT shower them with gifts to win their love and approval.  He just treats them like kids he could not be prouder of and they can tell he just loves being part of their lives. He will reprimand them if necessary, like a good grandparent should, but he is not constantly preaching to them & criticizing all that they do.  So…….that said, I feel the urge to come to the aid of other grandparents or grandparents-to-be & list some advice for you.  Trust me when I say this will not only help your relationship with the grandkids, but your kids too!  And trust me when I say that I’m glad I won’t need to depend on an inheritance in my elder years, because I’m screwed.  But seriously, some tips:

1) If you have grandkids, I can logically assume you had children.  You got to choose their names.  Your kids get to choose their kid’s names.  Do not offer suggestions or assistance. Do not take it personally if your kid doesn’t name one of his after you.  It doesn’t mean they hate you.  They just hate your name, Gertrude.  And for God’s sake, do not tell your kids how much you dislike their choice of names.  Even if they picked something like Nakkole, Zephyr, or Stump.  As PAINFUL as it will be to watch them write a ridiculous spelling such as Gynniphyr on that birth certificate, it’s really none of your business.  (I fully realize I will have trouble with this one day should it happen to me. Yes,  I realize that. I’m saving these to refer to in my own grandparenting years.)

2) Do not attempt to influence how your children dress their kids.  I was never a frills and bows sort of girl and I didn’t really want my kids to be that way. Yes, even my daughter. As a child, it was, at times, forced upon me and I hated it with a passion.  I also never wanted a bow on my daughter’s head that would be visible on Google Street View.  Easter bonnets were terribly humiliating to me and I did not want one on my own child unless she wanted one.  Do not try to buy your grandkids clothing that reflects YOUR taste and then get mad when the parent doesn’t make the kid wear it.  As a side note, on one side of our family there seems to be a notion that if your children are given something to wear and you don’t put them in it and line them up for a portrait, you are being disrespectful.  This is not true.  Disrespect is doing something you know your child or “child-in-law” doesn’t like and then pouting because you didn’t get your way.

3) Honor the wishes of your children in how they raise your grandkids unless they go totally freaking bonkers with Scientology or become Wiccan.  What I’m referring to here is simple stuff.  If they don’t want their kids to have sugar, respect that.  If they insist in making their kids sit in car seats and wear seat belts, respect that even if your own children “BY GOD,  SURVIVED STANDING IN THE FRONT SEAT & TAKING NAPS IN THE BACK OF THE STATION WAGON!”  Also, I might point out, it’s the law.

4) This may be the most important one yet.  Respect who your grandchildren are.  Do not try to make them what you want them to be.  My daughter is one of the most independent, spirited kids I know.  She was never a girly-girl, never wanted to learn traditional girl things like sewing and cooking, enjoyed being alone & had her own tastes.  Respect and in fact, EMBRACE THAT, even if it’s not what you envisioned your grandchild being.  Can I shout this one from the rooftops?

5) Do not say things about your grandkids based on speculation, not fact.  This has been a huge issue in our marriage/parenting.  I could write a whole book on how the townspeople where I grew up thought I was spoiled.  As a result, we have relatives who immediately thought that my child would be overly indulged and turn out to be a spoiled brat.  It has been assumed that because my daughter gets to go to Italy on a senior trip that she is spoiled.  No one seems to take into account that she works her little butt off babysitting during the school year, works at the pool in the summer and has earned it by being a wonderful kid who made us proud all 18 years of her life.  We have never once told her she has to work; she just chooses to. It bothers me that she doesn’t get respected for that.  Those same relatives assume that my kids are crazy about my dad because he “buys them stuff”.  This has never been further from the truth.  I can’t remember the last thing my dad bought my kids that wasn’t for a birthday or Christmas. He does slip them a $5 or $10 bill now and then because, “A feller oughta have a little money in his pocket.”  So the gist of this one is really, “Mind your own business, don’t make assumptions and keep your mouth shut.”

6)  Realize that times have changed and circumstances are different than when you raised your kids. ( i.e. This ain’t the 70’s!) We get constantly criticized because we do not force all the kids to attend family gatherings.  Hell, we get criticized if WE don’t attend all the family gatherings.  Things have changed, people.  Schools are not as lax about kids being absent. OR, we may choose to put baseball first that weekend because our child made an obligation to his team and coach when he agreed to be part of that team & it’s not fair for him to not be there for them.  Our kids grew up in the city with friends all around and things to do & they may not want to go spend 4 days in a town of 1,800 that, and I quote, “DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A McDONALD’S!”  There is no need to take it personally, but if you constantly criticize a child, chances of them wanting to spend time with you decrease greatly.

7) Understand that once your children are married that they have AT LEAST two families to consider now & sometimes with re-marriage, 3 or 4.  Sometimes you are the one that there isn’t time for on a holiday and PLEASE consider the stress it puts on your kids when you make them feel guilty about choosing.  This one is basically a “Put your big girl – or boy – panties on & realize you don’t always get your way.”

8) If you take your grandkid to the movie, buy him popcorn.  If you take him to the County Fair, let him play games.  If you take him to the town festival, buy him a snowcone.  It’s the little things.  Chances are, if you could afford admission, you can get him a treat.  This is not spoiling your grandchild.  This is avoiding looking like an asshat in his eyes.  Otherwise, just don’t go.  Would you rather them remember that you bought them a grape snowcone or would you rather them remember that you were to cheap to buy one?

9) Don’t go the guilt trip route, ever.  With kids or grandkids.

10)  FINALLY, just enjoy them.  Stop worrying about perfecting them and just enjoy them.

You’re welcome.  Or not.  Your choice 🙂

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Woke Up Sunday Morning……..

My day started perfectly.  Snuggling with the one I love (Chuck, not Tom Brady), with the bathroom window SECURELY locked so that we weren’t invaded by wayward children.  Peace….calm….birds singing….and of course, I had to roll over to check my iPhone. (Don’t effing lie. You do it too.) I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw a post by an artist whose work Chuck and I have admired since we started our married life together in Kansas City in 1993, Mike Savage.  He had a booth at the Plaza Art Fair & I swooned over his work.  He used to display it in Minsky’s Pizza, which we frequented and one of the paintings of a chef at the Minsky’s location in Overland Park, where we lived, looked JUST like Chuck’s uncle, Lowell.  Anyway, we admired his work and I always said one day I would own an original.  (That day is coming, Mike, I promise!)  This morning he posted another of his beautiful works on Facebook and I “liked” it and commented that he was immensely talented.  At some point, I rolled back over to sleep a bit more and when I woke I had a notification that he had posted on my timeline.  I expected a “Thanks for your sweet comment. Does anyone ever tell you that you look like Sofia Vergara?” or something similar.  What I found was this, with the caption, “Morning, mommy!”:

Is this not awesome?

Is this not awesome?

It’s one of the sweetest things that anyone has ever done for me! (And MUCH sweeter than lying and telling me I look like Sofia, though we DO both have dark hair.)  I had posted an Instagram pic of Apollo the night before and with a few strokes of a pen, Mike took that & created a work of art immediately recognizable to me as Apollo, right down to THE LOOK IN HIS EYES.  I’m humbled.

So, after having a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs and realizing that the temperature was perfect and the sun was out, I deemed my day awesome & did what all asshats do when their life is going nicely.  I posted it on Facebook! “The sun is shining!  Birds are singing! Chuck has his teeth in!  Happy unicorns just flew out of my ass!”  Later today,  I planned to stair climb with my trainer, take Brooks to practice, finish another book, organize my den, go eat fried pickles with my mother…..WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Well,  THIS IS WHAT.  My dog could go running into the neighbor’s yard and ROLL AROUND IN FECAL MATTER & come inside to present himself to me while I’m chomping on bacon & loading the dishwasher.  My dog that I paid thirty-six freaking dollars, this past Monday, to have bathed by people trained in that skill,  is now covered in the smelly excrement of one of his canine buddies.  He couldn’t be happier:  “Hey mom!  Wanna scratch my ears?  Where’s my treat?  Am I not adorable?  Odor?  What odor?  That’s just those boys you smell!  Really, can I have some bacon?  No, a whole piece, bitch!  Nice try though!”  I had to drop what I was doing and bathe his stinky ass so he didn’t rub shit anywhere in my house.  Read that as ON MY NEW COUCH, if you will.

So…… I now have a beautiful sketched portrait of my dog, who is once again fragrant and beautiful and sporting his new preppy bowtie that his best dog buddy, Senna Bartlett, picked out for him.  AND I have proof that the internet is a powerful thing & that random acts of kindness are awesome.  If someone will just beat Tiger for the Master’s title, I can move past having to deal with a dog flinging shit everywhere.  (Kidding, I’m over it.)  And if you would like to pass on the love of Mike Savage, go perform a random act of kindness.  You will feel SO good.  I promise.

The "dapper" version of Apollo

The “dapper” version of Apollo

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Crime. Close To Home.

So, one of my neighbors texted the other night and asked if I’m concerned about the crime in our neighborhood.  I’m really not.  For three reasons.  First, we now have a locally-based social media site that reports every single burglary in our neighborhood, from routine bike theft to armed robbery to someone reporting a sack of potting soil missing.* My theory is that most of this crime was going on in the past but we didn’t have someone obsessively reporting everything that comes across the scanner.  As a sidenote to this first point, I’d like to point out that our bicycles were stolen out of the front yard (except for mine, because according to Chuck, no self-respecting heterosexual thief would want my bike & its gay wicker basket) & we didn’t notice it for over 4 months, so it’s also entirely possible we don’t care.  I digress…….my first point is that crime is always happening & seems more prevalent when it’s brought to your attention on a daily basis.  My second point is that I try to make my house as secure as possible without making it look like the Cummins Correctional Unit with bars and razor wire. Past that point, if a criminal wants to get in, I guess he will.  If they want to bad enough, they usually do.  But I refuse to live my life in fear, imprisoned in my home.  My third point is that my dog, Apollo, is bat-shit crazy (postal, some might say) when it comes to protecting me so I think the sound of him awakening and threating to gnaw on your carcass like a dead buzzard after he chews through your jugular is at least a mild deterrent.  I hope so.  I continue to feed him well and make him watch Cujo on Netflix once a week or so.

Sooo……in review:  No, I’m not scared.  I don’t have anything material I can’t live without.  I try to keep my house fairly secure.  I have Apollo. HOWEVER, none of these things can protect me from my children.

I like privacy.  I LOVE being alone.  If you know me only through Facebook or my blog, this may shock you.  I grew up as an only child and I could stay in my room for hours, reading, crafting or just daydreaming about my future plans to have a pool, a cook, servants to wait on me & a hot husband that I could lie in bed with for long stretches of time without worrying that our parents would come home & freak.  So, now that I’m older, I still like time to myself.  To read, to stitch, to sketch, to dream about that pool, cook and servants & to lie in bed with my husband, uninterrupted.  This is, apparently, NOT possible.  I believe I’ve said this before but let me say it again.  Our house is small — around 1700 ft to be exact.  FIVE of us live here.  I love the neighborhood, our neighbors, and I’ve even grown to love the house despite it’s quirks and constant need of repairs.  What I DON’T love is the lack of privacy.  First, we have a bedroom with door access from the hallway & the kitchen.  Yes, the kitchen.  The downside is people just randomly stroll into your bedroom when they want to go out on the back deck or when they want to “cut through” to the hallway.  The upside is that when you want a bag of Oreos, a Coke or a martini at 3 a.m., it’s just a few steps to satisfying your craving.  From the day we bought the house, though, that door has been able to be locked.  So, if things were looking like one of us might get laid, we would lock that door and then go to the other door which leads to the hallway, be SURE it was completely shut and then open the adjacent closet door so that if an intruder (read: nosy kid) came in & we were in a compromising position, they would barge in, bang their head on the second door, & we would be alerted in time to pull up the sheets.  This plan is not foolproof.  It relies on memory, the kid choosing the correct door and, you guessed it, remembering to lock the door to the kitchen.  Right in the middle of our naked, heated passion, we hear the knob & both get that sick feeling in the bottom of your gut that you get when the realization hits that neither of you locked the door.  We both turned to see our middle child with a traumatized look of horror on his face turning to make a slow, stunned exit.  And well, let’s just say that an experience like that KILLS anything that might have been going on at the time.  We were leaving for Florida that very morning and I will never forget the serious, “holy shit, what did I just witness?” look on my son’s face as he gazed out the window all the way to the Gulf Coast.  If you’ve ever seen the Modern Family episode where the kids catch Phil & Clare in THE ACT, you’ve basically watched my life in action, as I am married to a real life version of Phil Dunphy.

Sooooo…….time to put a lock on the door.  Chuck spends part of one Saturday installing a doorknob & I am in heaven.  I can lock the kids out, the dog out, even CHUCK out!  I can have peace!  Napping!  Stitching!  Reading!  Sex without an audience!  Notsomuch.

Sunday morning, Chuck & I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in.  One kid was at a friends’ house, Ryder is unable to be awakened by an army of Iraqi insurgents & that just leaves Wyatt.  We’ve had enjoyed a little romp in the hay earlier that morning and at this point, would kinda just like to lie in each other’s arms and sleep.  Undisturbed.  Soon we hear stumbling around the house.  Hallway doorknob rattles.  No luck.  Footsteps around the living room through the kitchen to the other doorknob.  Rattles, but no luck.  We’ve been successful.  Privacy at last.  Notsomuch.

After lying there a few more minutes, thinking we are safe to nod off and sleep another hour or so, I begin to hear rattling and scraping.  I thought the dog was out so at first I ignored it.  He knows to come knock on the door when he wants in and I assumed Wyatt would be in there to take care of that.  More rattling and then I swear I hear a window open so I say to Chuck, “Do you hear that?”  He says, “Yes, I think we have a breach of security.  An inside job.” I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on in my head when the door to our bathroom that is INSIDE our master bedroom swings open and my 5′ 11″ 7th grader walks out, strolls past the bed and says, “Get up, Dad!  I’m hungry for bacon!”  We just sat in stunned silence.  He had gone out the front door, entered the backyard, climbed the stairs to the deck and lowered himself into the bathroom through an unlocked window.  All to tell us he wanted bacon, which he could have done by simply knocking and using his “outside voice”.  DUDE, did you not LEARN?  Do you want to be traumatized again?  And have some manners!  Chuck & I look at each other in defeat & Chuck says, “That’s it!  I’m telling the kids, if you come in our room unannounced there’s a good chance we’ll be naked and having sex. Being blunt with them will be our best deterrent yet.  THAT’S WHY DOORS LOCK.  Keep out.”  We shall see.  The only thing left is for one of them to throw a rock through the sliding glass door and enter that way.  Hopefully they have better sense than that but at this point I’m wondering if they have any sense at all.

So, now the bathroom window is locked securely & I’m still feeling relatively safe in the war against criminal intruders.  It’s the tribe of humans I birthed myself that I can’t seem to keep out. Maybe those barred windows aren’t looking so bad after all.

*You laugh at that last one but a guy who lived down the street actually went door-to-door a couple summers ago questioning all of us as to who could have stolen a small bag of potting soil from his driveway.  Don’t think I didn’t use some restraint in my answer. I said, laughing, “Can you look at my barren yard and honestly tell me you think I’m the thief?”  I COULD have said, “No one wants your peat moss, granola-head & yes, I walk my dog on a leash even if you think it ‘inhibits his doggie freedom.’  Also, my 8 yr.-old (at the time) refers to you all as ‘the drunk people’.  Now, carry on with your search for the real killers, OJ.”