Sunday, April 30, 2006

Day 3 with a 7-year-old

1. Disney Radio is getting old.
2. But not as old as the Disney Channel. And what's up with all the sexual innuendo in The Suite Life with Cody and Whatshisface?!? I'm sure the kids don't know why what they're saying is a joke, but DAMN.
3. The Game of Life is much more fun when you're playing by real rules. I can't decide if I should call her on her cheating ("no really, I spun 10 and not 1") or just let her have her fun. The game is dragging on and I'm very glad bedtime is fast approaching. (She's on the phone with Daddy now)
---she's finally asleep---
4. It is amazing the value kids put on staying up "late". It doesn't matter even a little what they're doing -- it only matters that they're up past their bedtime. Even 5 minutes is enough. Also amazing are the excuses for not going to bed.
5. My brother is *finally* getting a headache today (if he didn't get one by tomorrow the surgery is off). They're hoping it gets worse, so he's staring at lights and turning the TV on too loud in the hotel room. Looks like their trip to the mall today did the trick. It's so weird to hear my mom squeal with glee "maybe it'll get worse!!"
6. So what to do for the rest of the night? Clean up the mess we made, of course. We baked a cake (mmm, chocolate frosting with NERDS in it... kids are weird.) We already cleaned up Life and tidied up her room (she got to stay up 15 extra minutes for helping me with laundry and tidying her room), but there are still some stray groceries to be put away, and the dishes need doing.
7. Thank goodness she is such a well-behaved kid. It was amazing to see the contrast between her and most (I really want to say all, but it's very possible the well-behaved ones slipped past unnoticed) of the kids in the store. "Can I have that?" So I make her choose between pop-tarts and granola bars, which she does without argument. All the while another kid her age (possibly older) is having a fit because he can't have the Cap'n Crunch. She bought her gumball with a quarter and proceeded to drop it right out of her mouth, and I didn't get her another one. She pouted a bit but got over it quickly, all the while other kids are being dragged behind their parents screaming "I want a quarter!" She's really a very good kid and making this very easy on me.
8. And while I'm enjoying this time with her, loving that we're bonding and having a blast, I still don't want one even a little.

It's hard enough to take a GOOD kid to the grocery store, but kids have to tag along to the grocery store even when they're crabby. She certainly gets crabby and doesn't win Kid of the Year 24/7. Today was just a *really* good day. I can deal with the good days, but even those require constant vigilance, seeing what she's up to, whether she finished her food, making sure she doesn't stick her hand in the Kitchen Aid trying to snatch some cake batter. It's the constancy I object to. Yes I have a bit of time to myself now, but it's going to be spent keeping the house in order, just to have a tornado blow through tomorrow. Some women find this life wonderful, fulfilling, and bless you all because the world needs you. But while I am so proud of her and I'm filled with pride that she's such a wonderful kid who is so smart and great and she respects me so much, this ain't the life for me. We didn't hesitate to say "yes" when she was left to us in the wills of my mother and brother, and we raise her in a second if it came down to it, but this isn't the life we want for ourselves if we can help it (hence A's forthcoming snip-snip, for which he volunteered awhile back and I refused to let him do until I recently agreed we're ready to make the call).

At Amy's shower yesterday I told her that she really cleaned up. "If you choose to do this," she said, "you'll get to enjoy all this too!" I smiled and said nothing, impressed that she realized this was a choice. Sister-in-law Joy piped in "of COURSE she has to do this! It's so rewarding/fulfilling/enriching/etc." This went on for a while, the other mothers (nearly all the women in the room) chiming in, and I just said nothing. I think Joy eventually got the hint through my silence (it wasn't my place to "come out" at Amy's shower), which either means in the future the subject will be dropped or pressed even harder. I KNOW it's all those things to the women who choose kids. I don't question that even a little, but I will ALWAYS resent the insinuation (which Joy made, quite literally) that my life and marriage can't be complete without kids. If I have no desire to have and live with a child forever, how could motherhood (a word that makes me actually cringe when I consider it for myself) make me complete? How is that a risk we could even consider taking, that we might resent the child, which is the only emotion we can see feeling toward something that would require 90% of our energy every single day? I'm learning, as I try to fit this well-behaved, well-mannered, helpful 7-year-old into my life for just three weeks that this sort of life is so not for me. I'm not built that way, many women are. We're different and really, that's ok.

The day A and I have the desire to live with a child, we'll set about acquiring one. But until that desire is whole and complete, no babies here. I don't see that day coming anywhere in our future. We've talked about it extensively, exhaustively, and we always come to the same conclusion: We like being grown-ups too much.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Trial Run

It appears that starting next Wednesday, I'm going to be spending the following three weeks not "helping" take care of my niece, but living there and basically playing mommy for three weeks. And while I adore my niece and I agreed to do this because it's important for her and my family, I'm furious.

It was sold to me like this: while my mom and brother are in New Jersey for him to have surgery, my grandma and I will tagteam it and they'll just need me to "help out". Of course I said "sure!" This is a big deal that could mean a life change for my brother, which changes my niece's life and my mother's. How great is that? Well, we met with my grandma, and apparently she's the one who's going to be "helping out".

I realized as we sat at the table with my grandma how disinterested she was in doing this. I brought up a couple events that I am not willing to reschedule (A's stepsister's baby shower, the Depeche Mode concert, and Stromkern in Milwaukee), which, after some convincing, she agreed to. My dad is completely unwilling to help with ANYTHING, and the TWO days where he has to pick her up from school are a travesty, apparently. Even as we went round and round, my aunt Karen never offered her babysitting services once.

So here it is. I have to give up my life for three weeks because, as expected, no one is willing to help. Instead of spending 2-3 nights a week in Kenosha, with someone else picking up the rest, I'm spending 7 days a week in Kenosha, and if I want to see A he has to come and stay the night with me, leaving him with a nearly 2-hour commute in the morning. Oh, wait, we have one weekend in Chicago -- with my niece. I have to spend three weeks away from my husband, friends and home. When i need to go into a gig I'll be spending 4-5 hours in transit each day, with my grandmother reluctantly picking her up from school on those days.

I didn't have a problem agreeing to a couple days a week, but 24/7 is a bit much. It isn't even so much that I AM staying 24/7, but that I feel tricked. Tricked or betrayed. I told my mom initially that I can take her during the week OR for a weekend, and here I am now doing both. Three weeks is a LOT of time, and it's a long time to spend away from my home and my husband. Oh, he can stay in Kenosha! Yeah, so we can spend some quality time with my DAD. Because he's already made it clear that if he's going to spend any time with her one-on-one, it won't be without whining and a fight, and that's even if all he has to do is exist in the house while she's asleep. Plus, with all this, I'm going to be babysitting my dad too. I just hope and PRAY he doesn't think he can come home and work from home all day when I'm trying to work.

I'm lucky right now that I'm on this gig where I only have to go into the office one day a week (that was fun to negotiate with grandma *sigh*) andI can work from home. AND, it's on a PC, so I can install the software on my dad's computer. But as soon as she comes home from school she's going to be fighting for my attention, which means I'll have to do the rest of my work after her bedtime. She requires a lot of attention anyway, and she's surely going to be feeling really needy with her daddy and grandma away for three weeks. This is going to be really rough on her, without a doubt. She already thinks that "maybe we can go see daddy" sometime during the three weeks.

I know she needs me to do this, and that's why I'm doing it -- it's worth it for her. I just need to figure out how to do it without resenting the process. Without being angry with my mom for taking me away from my husband, my house, my life. I have the utmost respect for moms -- I'm struggling like hell to figure out how to work a fairly self-sufficient, well-behaved 7-year-old into my life for only three weeks, wondering how I'm going to manage getting up at 6:00 to get her ready for school at 7, being able to pick her up and entertain her for the afternoon, make dinner for her, then work late to make up for the time. Even if A was around, how would we have time for each other? If I'm waking up at 6 am, I won't be getting enough sleep unless I go to bed at 9, 10. If she goes to bed at 8:30 or 9, where is there time for relationships? If I didn't understand before how moms and parents survive children, I really don't understand now. It seems just impossible.

I've known for awhile that children can't fit into my lifestyle and that the sacrifices of having kids aren't enough return on investment. As I consider how this three week period -- ONLY THREE WEEKS -- will affect my life and relationship, I'm miserable. We wanted to see Spamalot while it's in town, but now we'll probably miss it because its sold out for the final weekend, the only weekend we'd be able to go now because I'll have her. I won't get to spend any time with friends, and forget about gaming Saturdays, dinner-and-a-movie Thursdays, date nights.

I understand that the sacrifices are worth it when you see your children, and that you love them completely. I don't question that at all. It's just one of those things… I can't remember where I heard the analogy, but it's true. I look at it and I think "I can't imagine it being worth it". A child is not like a pint of ice cream you can toss out or pass on to someone else if you don't like the flavor. Is it really worth trying and seeing if it really is different with my own kids? I love her as much as if she were my own. After this little 3-week experiment, my guess is the answer will be a resounding NOOOOOOO!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Kids These Days (What's grosser than a squidmonster?)


Okay, if there's one thing that scares me more than babies and toddlers, it's teenagers. There's a movie theater in town that we positively avoid at all costs because it's, well, pretty ghetto. (That's not a race thing, it's a reality thing). Full of teenagers of every hue talking during the movie, chatting on their cell phones, and having just a blatant disrespect of everyone esle there who paid for the movie not just to get out of their parents' house, but to see the damn movie.

My husband and I decided late last night that we needed a break. After reading some great reviews about Slither (and being huge Nathan Fillion fans because of Firefly and Serenity), we decided to catch the late show. We figured the place would be empty, so this theater was a viable option. (BTW, if you don't read further, go see this film. It's like Shaun of the Dead but American…it was great)

Sure enough, there were only four other couples in the theater. A couple in each corner and the back row, and one a couple rows behind us in the center. It became pretty clear that the last couple was the only one there to see the film.

Now, I'll admit, I hate talking in the theater and I can be kind of a bitch about it. A whispered comment here and there is acceptable, a full-blown, full-volume conversation is not. Talking on your cellphone? DEFINITELY unacceptable. So I pointed out to A about halfway through the movie that even with only a couple kids in the place, there was still someone on his cell phone. He was my hero, and went to politely tell the girl to please keep it down. Scared her pretty bad, too, which is funny because he was sweet as pie. But that ended that.

Another couple left about a half hour before the movie was over, but at the end of the show, I had a good hypothesis why. As the house lights went up, I glanced around -- and caught a couple of teegagers ZIPPING UP!! Pulling their pants up and zipping up. They couldn't have been more than 16. A light bulb went off in my head… THAT's why the kids were tucked in the corners. Oh eeew eeew eeeew!! They probably bought tickets to Slither because it's not very popular (seriously, see it) and hey anticipated an empty theater.

I would absolutely slaughter my teenager if I heard about them doing that! Making out is one thing, but these kids, IMHO and I'm no prude, were far too young to be doing the nasty in the back of the damn theater (nevermind that it's no place for that ANYWAY, especially when, as they were leaving, they got into a giant SUV which probably would've been more comfy… I'm just sayin'…)

But how can it be stopped? This is no world I want to be raising a child in. I see my niece and I am just terrified for her. Her friends who are in public school are already dressing like little sluts (no thanks to Bratz and the like) and speaking with potty mouths. I can sort of appreciate why homeschooling is a trend, but I don't think that's a solution either. This world is so sexually charged it makes ME uncomfortable sometimes. Sure, we had 90210, but I guarantee shows like One Tree Hill and The OC make promiscuity and drug use seem a lot more acceptable (and fun!). I can't think of anything but 90210 that was geared toward kids and featured sex a lot. I think back to 21 Jump Street and other favorite shows and remember all the morals -- don't do drugs, don't have sex 'til you're in love, etc. There were exceptions, but now the smut is the rule, and that makes me scared.

Nevermind that 30% of teens won't make it out of high school -- that's a whole other issue for another day.

It just pisses me off is all. I want to be able to go to a movie without teenagers being disrespectful and definitely without teenagers getting it on in the back row. I don't want to watch my niece grow up and start having sex at 14, 15, getting knocked up or something. I want to protect her from this world. She's ok for now -- she's a bookworm and doesn't watch anything but kids' tv. But she's 7. It won't be long before the girls around her start growing up too fast and she feels the pressure that I know I did to be popular and do what all the other girls are doing. I don't want to hear about my niece going down on boys in the bathroom at 12, 13, because that's what the cool girls do. I want her to have her innocent crushes and be a kid 'til she's at least 17, 18, and even then I want her to know how NOT to end up like her mother, strung out on drugs and abandoning her children.

I think it's important that in the next couple years we talk to her about the path her mother went down and how crucial it is that she not go down that path. My brother would tell me never to do that, to shield her from that, but when she grows up a little more, I think we're going to have a talk, Daddy be damned. She needs to know so the cycle doesn't continue.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Friendship and Fear

It's ridiculous how I censor myself to avoid hurting feelings.

Several years ago, there was a huge argument brought among friends (which extended to me) when my friend joined the Childfree Community on LiveJournal. My best friend insisted that it was the equivalent of joining a hate group. She honestly believed (or believes -- I've been too timid to ask if she still feels this way) that a childfree community was akin to the KKK or something.

I can appreciate this to a point. A lot of childfree people use terrible words when describing terrible parents or misbehaving children, and my best friend knows that I find this unacceptable. That said, I still crave the camraderie of likeminded folks who don't care to have children around them on a daily basis.

Yes many of us have a low tolerance for misbehavior and a high value for our personal space. We voice our frustration and vent, and we don't want to hear how "it's different when they're yours". We just don't.

So here I am, contemplating joining such a community again, and I quickly chickened out. I feel like I would die if she found out about this blog, not that it's private or anything. There is a fundamental difference between us now, and I understand that. But she's got to realize that as much as she enjoys talking to other parents, I enjoy talking to other childfree folks.

And, here comes the age-old argument… it's different when it's kids I care about. It's true! I love her boys, I love my niece, disclaimer disclaimer another effing disclaimer.

I hate that I have to be so afraid of my friends. Christ, it's just Livejournal, it's just an effing blog, yet I'm so afraid to talk about it I have a special "Childfree" filter on my LJ and I keep this and my CafePress store a secret. I'm proud of my decision to have no children, yet still when I tell my best friend about my IUD she says "that's good, then if you change your mind…" or when I talk about my career move she says "then if you have kids you can stay home".

If I called her today in tears and told her I was pregnant, she'd squeal with glee and shout congratulations all over the place. She doesn't get it.

I understand why she doesn't get it -- she can't imagine not being a mom, and that's okay. I don't say anything when she makes comments about "if" we have kids (at least it's not "when") because I understand it's her nature now. But I make room in my life for her, and I feel like I've been very accommodating. I keep the childfree commentary out of her face, and I genuinely adore her children. She's so sensitive and I'm so terrified of hurting her feelings, though. I just want confirmation that she gets it, and that it really isn't personal. Because noisy children in a restaurant make me angry, unattentive parents with squealing babies irritate me, and I'm just plain not fond of the babies of strangers, that doesn't mean I'm a bad person and it bears no reflection on the people I care about.

I just wish I could stop being afraid and just start being myself again.

Friday, April 07, 2006


There's a woman in the "Starting Over" house who lists one of her reasons for being in the house as "dealing with not having children." I look at women like that and can't help but wonder, even a little, if that could be me in 20 years. I look at my situation, my marriage, and it would be ridiculous to not wonder. It's human.

When I look at my friends with children, I think they're lucky that their families are as stable as they are. However, something undeniable has happened to their relationships: They are no longer a couple -- they are parents. I watch them give up time with each other (when it's often so needed) because they feel guilty leaving their children with family or a sitter. They sacrifice vacation time to nurse sick children. Romantic getaways? Not a chance. Maybe when they get a hotel room at their vacation site they'll get a suite so they're not sharing a room with the kids. But the destination is still largely determined by its kid-friendliness.

Would we ever be able to take our dream trip to Egypt with kids? Not for many, many years if we wanted him/her/them to appreciate it, and even then it would likely be far too expensive to travel. Traveling to Greece, China, returning to Spain -- never.

But it's not just about traveling. It's about living. We love our life together. I don't think of us lacking anything now, and I can see our closeness and intimacy suffering if kids were in the mix. Do I see us questioning this in the future? Honestly? Not really. If we run out of things to talk about, things to do together, then the last thing we want to do is bring children into that. I love my husband, and I want us to have the fullest life possible. Children would be a hindrance to that dream.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Filling In

In a couple weeks my mother and my brother, who are both raising my 7-year-old niece, will be traveling to New Jersey for my brother to have a headache surgery that could change his life. The surgery and the recovery will take three weeks. My niece C is nearing the end of her first grade year, and three weeks is a long time time be out of school, so my mother begged me for a favor.

We don't live in the same city as my parents; we live in Chicago, my folks are about an hour away. The problem? They need someone to be at their house and get C ready for school in the morning, and someone to stay with her at night. My dad can probably handle the nights, but because he's just starting a new job with a long commute, he isn't able to take C to school.

It boggles my mind how difficult it is fitting a 7-year-old into my life for three weeks. It would be easier if we were in the same city, but even then it would be very disruptive. As it stands, my mother expects me to stay at their house several nights a week -- my grandmother will handle the rest -- which means I won't be seeing my husband at all. PLUS, we've been asked to take her for the entire weekends that my mom and brother are gone.

This is a child that will be gone at school and after-school care all day. I only have to make her breakfast in the morning and help her get dressed, then possibly make her dinner and entertain her for a couple evenings. And a weekend shouldn't be that big of a deal, right?

I love and adore my niece, I cannot say that enough, and she's a great kid. But oh my god do I resent that we're going to have to spend the entire weekends entertaining her. Sure she'll stay at our house, but what about spending time with our friends? I might try and plan a girlie afternoon with my girlfirneds, but out normal routine will be smashed and destroyed, and I'm not entirely ok with it. I can't help it. I want my weekend with my husband and our friends. I realize as I try figuring out how to fit my niece into the way I enjoy my life, that having to do this full-time is not the life I want.

I'm happy to fill in because my mom never gets a break, and I truly believe this surgery has the potential to change my brother's life. It's incredibly important, so I'm willing to help out. I'm going to get irritated, and it's probably going to drive me a little nuts. This is an important thing for me to do, and I'm not going into it entirely negatively. I have a feeling that this is going to be a crucial lesson and affirming my life choice.