Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Arguing With the Kids in the Room is OKAY.

When I was younger, my parents fought like their lives depended upon it. An observing anthropologist might have written in a travel diary  "The adult natives appear to actually gain physical energy and sustenance  from battling both verbally and sometimes physically with one another."

I swore, when I grew up my children would never see me argue with my spouse. They would only see the good. The happy. The idyllic.  In short, I was full of shit.

Today, the world pissed in my cornflakes, took a dump in them for added protein and then force-fed them to me while I was being made to watch 'Perfect Cousins' reruns. It was...a challenging day. So, when K came home, I was already full-throttle bitch mode.

K: ...*walks indoors,sets briefcase down*
Me: Hi!
K: Hey, listen, when's dinner ready? Ten minutes, you say? Ok, I'm just going to cut the grass before dinner. 
Me:...(TILT. TILT. TILT! )...Why did you even ask about dinner, then? G'head, cut the damn lawn. I've only got dinner IN THE OVEN and almost ready, but suuuuuuure. 

Now, granted, I kept the curse words to a minimum when D could hear, but she did, in fact, hear us arguing. And you know what? That's ok. Because after a few minutes to cool down, and collect ourselves, she saw this scene, too:

K: Listen, I didn't realize how hard you'd worked to have everything ready when I got home. Let's sit down and have a nice meal. I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention.  
Me: I'm sorry, too. It was a long day and I should have been more flexible. 
K: K. We're good? 
Me: We're good. 
K: Rays game after dinner? 
Me: Sure, but oh my God, have you seen their pitching staff lately? May as well watch the Walking Dead. Fewer zombies....

Sure, she does hear us occasionally lose our cool at one another, but she also sees forgiveness. Tenderness. Compassion. We talk to hear about the fact that sometimes grownups disagree and that yes, she's right, we really should use our indoor voices when we're disagreeing. We work hard at being good to each other, but sometimes marriage and proximity and challenges just push you past the point of sanity. 

The important thing is to forgive swiftly, wholly, and honestly. (And to check with each other about dinner first, because seriously, that damn roast took me an hour.) We are all continually learning more about the people we live with, be they old or young. I like to think that D is learning some pretty good things from us, even when we show her our imperfections. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Through Sickness and In Health

I'd like to take a moment to write about something that's near and dear to me: The Circle of Kvetching.

This article changed my life. Or, at the very least, my worldview. It  was as if someone had distilled the common knowledge of social attitudes toward sickness and pain into one sketchily drawn infograph.


Here's the thing about having a loved one who is ill. There is no downtime. There is no time when you're not worried, or scared, or contemplating the different alternative therapies you're discovered on the internet. (Peach pits to cure cancer! The Anti-inflammatory diet! Sacrificing a live chicken during the full blood moon!)  This is to say that is is FUCKING EXHAUSTING.

So, when your friend/neighbor/overly-intrusive-cubicle-partner begins comparing their hangnail to your husband's painfully progressed sarcoidosis, it's, well, challenging  not to throat-punch them right where they stand.

Compassion IN, dumping OUT. It's an elegantly simple rule for bitching about your life. When someone's issue is bigger than yours, you send compassion IN. When their teensy hangnail is smaller than, say, your loved one's cancer, you have full right to dump outwards onto them. (Literally or metaphorically. Your choice.)

Point being, everyone needs an outlet. And if you're a caregiver or advocate (God bless you, my friend) your life is a giant pressure cooker and kvetching inward is not an option. (Who wants to be the dick who puts more pressure on the sick person?) Your option is to kvetch outward. And so on, and so on.

It's the circle of life, but with matzo balls and chicken soup.

Wishing you and all of yours many years of happiness and health.

Why My Kids Will Never Hear "We Don't Have the Money"

When I was a teenager, my father lost his job. Times were tough and making ends meet became impossible. One morning, my mother ushered us out the door to drive us to school and oops! there was no car in the driveway. After she called the police, she called my father....who told her it, um, was probably reposessed. A few embarrassing phone calls and white lies later, my mother called off the police and she and my father had to figure out how to get our car back.

I didn't know at the time that the car had been repossessed. In my house, talking about money was verboten as discussing your grandmother's sex life.  All I knew was that Dad had lost his job and my mom had forgotten that he'd taken the car in for service. (Good white lies. Believable for a 12 year old, anyway.)

The truth came out (drunkenly) after my mom had one too many mimosas on Easter morning. Since then,  I've decided my children will never hear that we don't have the money for something. Ever. Instead, they'll hear: "Sorry D, that toy/milkshake/unicorn that poops marshmallows just isn't in our budget for the month. If you'd like to spend your own money on it, you're welcome to".
You see, money was such a taboo topic in my house that when I left for college, I had NO FREAKING CLUE how to manage my own meager stash of it. And, credit card companies being the thoughtful entities that they are, there were credit card recruiters EVERYWHERE on my college campus. I signed up for three. Mostly because they were giving away truly awesome gifts with the application. Like water bottles. Or T-shirts. Or a Koozie.

In addition to credit cards, financial aid was the other source of my 'free money'. I know, I know. I did sign papers saying I would pay it all back, blah, blah, blah. But to me, someone who had never learned about APRs and IRAs and any other acronyms thrown in there, it was all free. Gloriously, awesomely FREEEEE!

I have since learned that I may been a teeeeeny bit liberal with the meaning of the word free. And by liberal I mean "used the word like a fucking moron'.

So, my daughter will not hear "We don't have the money". She'll hear "that's not in our budget." After which, we'll talk about important financial things like budgeting. And bank accounts. And why knowing what you're signing up for on campus is important (in so many ways).

She's already started earning an allowance for her chores (she's four, so it's not as is she's raking in the cash. It's a dime every day she brings her water bottle down from her bedroom in the morning. If she keeps doing it for the next 3,000 years, she'll be rich.) But, she's learning about saving, paying for things with hard-earned cash, and how to prioritize whether something is a really worth all those dimes she's been saving. (Side note: the bank tellers just love  us when she brings in all those dimes.)

I'm now in the throes of starting my own company, paying off my 'free' financial aid, and trying to save for D's education down the road. In the meantime, though, I hope I can pass along some of my painfully-earned knowledge in the hope that my daughter will have a much firmer grasp of financial reality than I did.

And that she never has to ask where the car is.