Standards are for People Without Blogs

The problem with anyone being able to film anything is than anyone will film anything, and everyone will watch anything, and the next thing you know we're all singing Gangham Style because we have been freaking assimilated

YouTube is banned in my house, mostly because of the racists, cat videos, and Johnny Knoxville. I don't want my kids accidentally watching 8-bit dudes snort lines of coke and and I don't want them getting any funny ideas like auditioning for Tosh.0 behind my back, so I just banned it. If you can't beat them, use your 17 years of training in the radical far right Christian patriarchy to completely eliminate them from your scope of consciousness. 

The problem with this line of thinking is, of course, that even if your kid doesn't own a camera or watch YouTube, someone else's kid does. And if you give a kid a dream and a camera? They're going to use it. 

I actually do encourage my kids to film and make movies (my dad and I had a small videography business once upon a time) but when they were little enough to care about something other than boobies, phones didn't have cameras. Cameras were hard to come by, expensive, and cherished. They were only put in the hands of my young children with the intent. My kids had to plan out their movies, gather props, storyboard plots, and then borrow my video camera. Which meant I always knew what was happening. Which meant my kid was never going to end up on Tosh.0. WHICH IS FINE WITH ME. 

Even more than encouraging my kids to make movies, I force encourage them to unplug, go outside, and play. This is honestly more for my mental health than their body fat percentages. Cooped-up kids who spend all day blowing out zombie brains eventually just beat each other to pulps, and then I have to yell, and then everyone cries, and it's just easier if they go outside to ride bikes and burn ants and blow up legos like normal kids.

This is precisely why my kids don't have smartphones yet, but they have decent BMX bikes. 

But if you give a kid a BMX bike, you know what they're going to do? Yep. USE IT. By any means necessary, even if that means is a big pile of dirt right in front of the main street through your neighborhood.

(The following video is short (4 seconds), but will give you The Buttchills. Proceed with caution.)

(I only show this because he's okay.)

You know how your kid moans at you that he's dy-i-i-ing and you know in his voice that he really just has a biology quiz before you even lay an eye on him? Turns out, we have this superpower in reserve. When your kid walks in the door and says "mom?" you, from an entirely different room of the house, can hear "Mom? I did something really, really not okay to the body you slaved nine months of your life away lovingly creating, and once the shock wears off, it's going to hurt like shit".

All he had to say was Mom. I almost threw up in my mouth.

I'm no stranger to injuries. I had to carry my baby sister in one hand and the better part of her kneecap in the other through Veteran's Stadium when I was 12 years old. I've been cleaning up people's blood and puke since I was old enough to fill the mop bucket. I have two sons who have a long-documented history of getting truly ridiculous injuries like broken eyesockets and cracked skulls. My daughter has even thrown in a concussion or two, just to stay competitive. But in all my years of burnt, bloodied, and beaten bodies, I have never once had to deal with a castable break.

Checked that shit right off the ol' life list this week, let me tell you what. 

When I asked him to stay little forever, I didn't actually mean "Please, fracture your wrist, twice, right in the growth plates, so maybe you'll always have a wittle arm for your momma to wuv." But that's what I got. NAME YOUR TERMS CAREFULLY, MOMS AND DADS.  

At first I was PISSED that his friend was being an idiot filming him being an idiot, but then I realized that getting two terrified 12 year olds to tell you WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED TO MY BABY OH MY GOD is a lot like talking to a toilet on crack cocaine, and then I realized that I didn't need them to tell me, oh hai! I could see for myself through the wonder of mobile technology. I knew it was fractured when we watched that video and hear his little bones go thwap against the asphalt. 

Not five minutes later, my son asked me what I had done, because his texts were ringing off the hook. (Shut up, I don't know what you call it when a bunch of texts come in. I'm ancient.) I told him I didn't do anything (except forward it to him, duh, because seriously, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS SHIT.) We looked at my son's friend and he just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, um, well, maybe I sent it to some people? 

And just like that, my son went viral in the middle of Hades, Arizona. 

And like any good viral video, *someone* turned it into a Demotivators poster. 

Which I can't stop freaking laughing about, because he's okay.

Only because he's okay.

He is okay. He has a cast for a month, which is pink because it's breast cancer awareness month and man, he loves boobies and is pretty sure getting a broken arm over fall break and a pink cast will get him loads of access to some *shudder*. He can hardly play Xbox, can't ride bikes at all, and can't even play catch with his friends anymore, which sucks for him. He also can't do laundry or take out the trash or tie his own shoes or practice the violin, which doesn't really suck for him at all. Force - Balance.

He still can't surf YouTube, though, even if he's totally on there now. Hypocrisy, thy name is Mommy Blogger. 

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Boy

This post was spotlighted on Huffington Post Parents. *blush*

Yesterday I was not a freshman in high school.  However, it was only a few mere weeks ago when I was a senior in high school, attending my first ever school dance. 

As the photographer. 

And I wasn't even very good at it. 

But I just can't even grasp the notion that a human begin who I grew inside of my body and bore unto this earth and fed and clothed and changed and loved for like no time at all has been on earth long enough to also have attended homecoming. I was just that girl up there. In too many ways, I still am.

How is this happening?

School dances weren't even on our radar of possibility growing up. I don't ever remember missing one, it was that far-off a notion that I'd ever go to one. Being raised by crazy cultists is a blast

So I went to my first dance when I was a senior. I don't remember much of the dance, but I do remember afterwards, I drove to Majestic View Park with my best friends, our ears ringing of Nirvana and Sir Mix Alot as we counted stars and talked about Walt Whitman and Robert Smith and had one of the very best nights of my entire adolescence. I felt a thousand feet tall and bullet proof that night. My life felt as limitless as the stars we laid under, as certain and true as the friends by my side. 

So when it came time for my *gulp* son to go to his *gulp* first dance, I kind of forced the issue. He didn't want to - he's a freshman, he's new here, he doesn't have a girlfriend - so I asked his dad to go buy him a ticket and I more or less told him he was going, for his own good. He begrudgingly obliged, which is really the only way you can do anything at 14, I suppose. 

I dropped him off at the school that night, fashionably L8 o'clock, and as we pulled up to the school my little man looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't know if I'm excited or nervous." What I didn't tell him was that I didn't know which one I was, either. 

Driving away from that parking lot was one of the hardest things I've ever done. 

Four hours later he  not kidding - lept into the car AND TALKED VERY LOUD AND VERY FAST FOR A VERY LONG TIME ABOUT ALL OF THE MOSH PITS AND THE COLOR GUARD AND HIS FRIENDS AND IT WAS SO AMAZING MOM THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME GO IT WAS OH MY GOD MOM I CAN'T BELIEVE OH MY GOD IT WAS SO FUN. 

He smiled.

He's not really a smiler, in case you hadn't noticed over the past seven years.

But man was he ever smiling on Saturday night. I saw that twinkle in his eye that I saw in all my friends' eyes on the night of my first dance, the same one I felt in mine, like he's starting to realize that there is something much more amazing out there in the world than he could have ever imagined, and he simply has to go find out what the hell it is. 

The Legacy of Rivalry

When I first met my husband, he told he he'd just moved to Colorado after college, so I asked him where he'd gone. His response, with a dismissive hand-wave,, was, "Oh, some little university in New Jersey." And then I, of course, made it all about me, as I a wont to do, and busted into some nervous, jumbled, I-really-want-to-find-common-ground-with-you so-that-I-can-have-your-babies-someday diatribe about how I grew up in Delaware and isn't the East Coast the greatest and don't you miss the fall foliage and I could see New Jersey from my house and I just realized that I am qualified to be the head of the Tea Party.

It wasn't until I had to learn the hard way (yeah, just go ahead and read into that whatever you will) where that little school in New Jersey was.


(Hairbrush simply for scale)


He doesn't like to talk about where he went to school. He says it sets unreasonable expectations and makes him sound pretentious. I, personally, avoid all college conversational entirely, ever since the day I was sitting on the stoop with the guy who was later to become the kids' godfather, and he'd asked me where I went to school. I didn't hesitate, even for a second, to give him every last detail about the school I went to, how amazing it was, the revolutionary drafting/architecture program I was so lucky to have been a part of, and how I still wasn't over the fact that I had to move to Colorado before I could finish, and the high school I went to had nothing comparable.

Turns out, when someone says, "Where'd you go to school?" they mean university. And I blame the fact that I never went to one on the fact that I didn't know that and irreparably humiliated myself in front of one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. I mean, he told his mom about that conversation. I have no idea why they're still friends with my uneducated ass.

My point is, Josh and I go to great lengths to avoid the 'university' conversation in almost all facets of our lives. He told me that a "facebook" is an actual book full of actual pictures of your actual classmate's faces that they give you in your freshman year at an Ivy League school two weeks ago. I've been with him for 15 years. We really just don't talk about it, ever.

Though we talk about college with the kids, he's careful to a fault not to create any expectations of 'legacy' in them. I only ever bring that up in the context of legacy status being a goldenesquey sort of ticket for them, if legacy is the path they choose. He's more likely to talk about the amazing swim team UofT had in the 80's than the Ivy League school he busted his goddamn ass to get into.

And I kind of hate it. I mean, so much of what I love about this man is his big, hard brain. He's wikkid smaht, and kind of the yin to my yang. Maybe these kids' mom never went to university, but their daddy went to the #2 university in the nation, so we balance it out, right? No one in my family ever went to college, and I followed that path skillfully. This is one of those times when I just pray to god they take after their father's side, but how are they going to if we never talk about it?

But like any awkward, uncomfortable topic, we just hadn't found a way to properly mock it enough to take the taboo out of it. Yet.

And then one day my boss wrote this blog post about how he went to a little school in Boston and I read the whole thing going, "Oh dear god, this is JOSH." And then Josh read it. And then Josh was all like, "God damn it, why didn't I keep my Fuck Harvard t-shirt?" And then Josh and Jim both realized they had an out, a way to be proud of where they went to school, because they once again had rivals, and there ain't nuthin' shameful about a good school rivalry.

And after about two whole minutes of brotherly commiserating, they jumped straight into an epic pissing match, spanning the past few years, revolving around who can get in the best, most unexpected dig. Jim and I were debating some grammatical thing for work one day on video conference and Josh jumped in all, "Take it easy on him with the pronouns; it's not his fault he went to Harvard." One time, on a work trip, Jim gave me a present for Josh. I gave it to him, he opened it, and inside was one shiny, new, official Harvard pen. They poke and dig at each other all the time about it and I love it because I think it's good for both of them to have someone they don't feel like they have to hide it from, someone who gets exactly what the other one feels about the whole thing, and it lets my boys see their father shit-talk, with the highest regard, in defense of his alma mater.

Because, really, I don't care whether or not they go to Princeton or community college or to the gas station down the road, so long as they can feel pride in the legacy they leave behind. So I have to be proud of mine, and their dad has to be proud of his, no matter how hard that may be for the both of us. And with all this Ivy League shit talk (and paraphernalia) swirling around, maybe if they do go, it'll be more of the norm for them than this big ugly thing they don't know how to balance against the scales of an average life.

But as always, I have underestimated my children. I have forgotten the cardinal rule of parenting, and that is this: The second your children find your weakness, they will exploit it at all cost, with absolutely no regard for their own personal safety and well-being. They will do this because this is how men bond, by poking each other with small, pointy sticks. They will do this because as much our children want to break away from us, they still want to be under our wings. And sometimes, the best way to do that is to sink to their parent's level.


And as totally horrified as Josh was at the sight of that, as much as he protested, "That's only going to fly in this house because Princeton doesn't have a medical school", I saw the glimmer of pride in his eye, that look that says, "Welcome to the inside joke. You have learned well, my son."

Circles

I've rambled on endlessly in this space about trying to break the circles that surround my family's history...of mental illness, of abuse, of neglect, of just generally being really shitty people. My brother and I both have struggled with this since before we had kids, more-so after. We both have days when we lay in bed at night, taking our searching moral inventories, balancing what we did that day against what was done to us and hoping the plus goes in our columns.

More often than not, however, those moments happen on the hour, on the half-hour, minute-by-minute. When something like what is ingrained in not just our memory but our flesh and our DNA becomes so wrapped into every minute of your life, it's a battle of epic proportions to rise above it. You blink, you forget for just one second what you know you should do, and you're throwing a child across a room because that's what you know to do. That's what you learned. That's the kind of person you were born to be

Except, if you're really really on top of it, it's not the kind of person you are at all. We are really, really on top of it, and more importantly, we're really afraid that we're not. There are no better motivating factors in the world than fear and love.

As so we fight every day to make sure that our kids lives don't even bear a vague resemblance to the lives we had. And you know what? We're doing it. I've had kids for 12 1/2 years, he's had kids for 9, and so far we've managed to raise kids who couldn't comprehend our lives if they tried. They'll never know anything we knew (except Douglas Adams, of course) and they'll never see anything we saw (except Labyrinth).

Well, at least, not by our doing.

The truth of the matter is that somethings are just out of your control, maybe destined to be, maybe just sickeningly predictable because kids are kids.

A few weeks ago my brother called me to tell me that his oldest almost-but-not-quite broke his middle son's arm. I laughed and asked if I should get the jump rope ready. He laughed, too, but only a little, because what he knows and I know but they don't know and that you don't know is that when I was four, he broke my arm with nothing more than a jump rope, a set of bunkbeds, an astonishing-for-six-years-old understanding of basic physics and a strong desire to again be an only child.

Like,' bone sticking out at an angle bones don't stick' broke my arm. Like, 'a night at the ER and a splint and a sling on the arm that I wrote with, right before I started kindergarten' broke my arm.

This is why I can kick your ass at pool today, because I can shoot with both hands. Everything has a silver lining.

But his kids did not succeed in reenacting one of the more traumatic events of our childhood (what happened after isn't exactly fit for discussion in polite society, if you know what I mean) but they did remind us how fragile the line we walk on is, the one between what is in our control and what is not.

And then, of course, last week, the phone rings at way too early for the phone to be ringing and it's my brother, who just says, "So..." and sits there on the line, breathing. I went through the Rolodex of people in our lives with whom I have not yet found closure with, and picked which one I was prepared to tuck into a casket with my unresolved issues before I asked what happened.

He said, "So, 2of4..."

And I said, "Oh no he didn't..."

And he said, "Yup, going into surgery. Best case scenario, 3 pins. Worst case scenario, 3 pins and a metal plate holding the bones in his arm together for life."

And I said, "Bunk beds?"

And he said, "Better. Dog pile."

And I said, "Do I need to get out the jump rope?"

And we had a really good, long, nervous as all fuck laugh because we are learning that, though we can't stop the timeline of history from repeating itself, we can stop the way the story plays out. Now we have the excuse, and quite possibly the responsibility, to share a little bit of our story with our kids, albeit re-written slightly, and that is a really exciting prospect. The idea of being able to look at our kids and say, "Yeah, that happened to us, too, this one time that we were really bored and testing the laws of gravity..." is foreign to us, and so is letting go of all that old shit we lug around with us every day.

But not every circle has to be a scary thing. Not every pattern needs to be broken. Neither do any more arms, children. You've made your point. Now get with wrapping each other in bubble wrap and staying in one piece forever, because you're giving my brother and me nervous disorders.

Not at all unrelated aside: I have a new post up at Polite Fictions, if you're into that sort of thing.