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avoid planning

 

I got married at city hall. I wore a white leather mini dress and white leather boots. I was going for an ‘Amy Winehouse retro’ look but ended up more ‘boozy Nancy Sinatra’.

Afterwards, we had a barbecue in our backyard. My lawn caught fire which I expertly handled by drinking copious amounts of tequila. I’m told I ran around the backyard in various states of undress, but I have no memory of that. It was pre-camera phones. Thank God.

 

I love to throw big parties, although admittedly, it’s been a while. I provide excessive amounts of food and alcohol, make an 8-hour mixed tape that whips the crowd into an orgiastic frenzy of dance, and pray that no one pees in my living room.

What I can’t do – or rather, what I loathe doing – is plan events like weddings. I got married at city hall precisely because I’d rather set my teeth on fire than worry about center pieces and invitations.

This is where “you do you” comes in. I’m sure there are scads of people who wouldn’t devote an entire Saturday to hunting down a Partridge Family lunchbox, like I did.

 

According to everyone in the free world, I should already have started planning my kid’s bar mitzvah. It’s in November. Most mothers where I live would have already booked a summer face lift.

There will be a Saturday morning service at the temple, at which time my kid has to read his haftarah– a portion of the Torah.

It’s endless pages of hieroglyphics, and everytime he practices it, I marvel at his ability to learn a language that’s written right to left, in a completely different alphabet. Considering most people I know mangle this one.

There’s a small brunch-y reception right after the service,the kiddush, and then a big party that night. I have to decide what we’re serving at both those events and it has to be kosher, and what foods are kosher?! and did I forget to mention that my Ex used to call me “the Shiksah” because I don’t know jack shit about my own religion?

I should have already picked a venue. Places are booked a year in advance. But they won’t re-open CBGB’s to host a bar mitzvah, and beyond that, I don’t care.

 

A month ago, I was asked what my kid’s “theme” will be.

Theme? I was having a fun little fantasy wherein I begin every conversation at the party with “So, these adult diapers I’m wearing” and then this…theme thing happened.

I went into protective mode. I became a hedgehog whose life is threatened. I shot up my prickly spine and hissed and hoped it would all go away.

The decor and centerpieces are supposed to reflect said “theme” and I’m wondering if the theme can be “themeless.” Just like this blog.

My kid is looking forward to a party – after all, he’s been studying for 5 years – but he’s not invested in how elaborate it is. He did, however, also ask about the “theme.” HISSSSSS.

I have to pick out invitations and pre-invitation invitations, ‘Save the Date! notices. This locks people in so they can’t get a better offer at the last-minute and ditch us.

I have to decide who we’re inviting, and who we’re leaving out because we’re not inviting everyone we’ve ever known and I’m capping this bitch at 50 people.

We’ll need a DJ. But not JUST a DJ.

You need pyrotechnics and flashmob choreography. People hire entertainment companies, complete with girls dressed like rap video hoes, to get everyone shaking it on the dance floor. And to get air humped by pubescent boys.

 

Traditionally, the bar mitzvah boy has personalized yarmulkes (beaniescreated in his favorite color, with his name and date printed inside. Little Dude cannot make up his mind what color to have, and recently suggested rainbow-colored. Which would be convenient, if we were going straight from the bar mitzvah to the Gay Pride parade.

I need to wear grownup clothes to this. Not just one outfit – I’ll need TWO. One suitable for a morning service at the temple, and one for the party that night. I have to buy these because I DON’T OWN CLOTHES LIKE THAT.

I’ll probably break tradition and wear a rock tee-shirt and jeans to the party that night because (this is becoming my mantra for the event) WHO CARES? My kid is fine with that, but has already put me on notice that I have to wear something “mom-ish” to the morning service.

I’ve decided to purchase an expensive, tasteful dress at a local department store. I’ll wear it with the tags still on it, Febreze the shit out of the armpits and return it the day after.

 

 

My mother passed away last fall, and while going through her belongings, I found ancient family photos. One yellowed packet contained photos of my eldest brother’s bar mitzvah. It was right before my father died, leaving my mother a widow with six kids.

It’s the only bar mitzvah my family had, although I have no memory of it beyond these photos.

I am 3 years old in the pictures. I don’t remember my father, or the mother of those pictures. She is laughing and whirling. She is beautiful; her body svelte and her flaming red hair matching her red lips. She is holding a cigarette in slender fingers just like mine, elegantly photographed at some catering hall in the Bronx, I suppose.

I do remember my brother, although he too, is gone now. There’s one picture of him holding me, laughing. Behind us are our parents, who are smiling for the camera, but mostly for the day and the joy it held.

Everyone but me in that picture is gone.

All that remains is a faded analog reminder of a different era; a time when we were all still alive and together and happy.

 

My son deserves his day.

Tomorrow, I start planning.

 

Are you good at planning these events? Do you want to plan this one?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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Swedish Bobo Music

April 5, 2016 — 65 Comments

Tween boy

Apparently, if you are searching for “Baba O’Reilly” on Spotify, and your kid is trying to wrestle the phone out of your hand so he can search for “Swedish House Mafia,” the search term morphs into “Swedish Bobo.”

Little Dude – is not so little anymore.

He’s 12, in middle school now, and he has LOT of opinions.

For one thing, he’s prefers electronic dance music to rock music. I like EDM when I’m wasted in a club, dancing at 2 am (which hasn’t happened a lot lately), but for purely listening purposes? Not so much.

He also listens to whatever is on Spotify’s Top 50. It ranges from “please pour battery acid in my ears”  to Twenty One Pilots. I know they are puppets of a soulless music industry, but I like them. They appeal to my inner angsty eighth grader.

I made Little Dude listen to Brian Eno, one of the pioneers of ambient music in the 70’s. Some might argue that ambient and electronic music aren’t necessarily connected, but too bad. I wanted my kid to know who Brian Eno is so I connected them.

Little Dude has braces now. They make him look like a little teenager and are a constant source of torture for both of us. I don’t always spend money I don’t have, but when I do, it’s $5000 on braces for a kid who accuses me of ruining his life between bites of jello.

He wears AXE deodorant. It smells horrific, but according to its last ad campaign, should have him kicking car doors open in no time.

 

HE SLEEPS LATE NOW.

He always woke at 6:30 am on the weekends, raring to go. I spent years teaching him to entertain himself and not wake Mama up until a more civilized hour.

When he was five, I had him convinced that those early Saturday am hours were HIS “alone time,” and he was free to watch movies and eat snacks and do whatever it is that five-year olds do when they have “alone” time.

I woke up at 8 am on one of those Saturdays, patting myself on the back because he let me sleep in. I stepped onto the top step of my stairs and tripped on a pencil that was rigged to protrude off of the step. It was tied to an empty soda can which I rolled over, and I tumbled down the stairs.

Little Dude had watched Home Alone early that morning, and decided to copy Kevin McCallister and booby trap my house. Did I mention he was FIVE?

A few months ago, I woke up at 8 am and my kid wasn’t up. By 9 am, I was in his room, putting a compact mirror under his nose to see if he was breathing.

Now, he sleeps sometimes as late as 11:00 am. Last Sunday, I celebrated by making myself a mimosa and listening to the local police scanner on my phone app and it was AWESOME.

 

His hormones are kicking in, which means he’s often moody and unpleasant. Normally, I don’t tolerate that, but this is different. He’s experiencing emotions he doesn’t even understand.

He simultaneously has the worst hygiene of his young life, while still managing to disappear upstairs for an inordinately long time when showering.

I don’t even want to think about that. EW.

He got an email from a girl the other day, a girl he’s told me he likes. When I asked him if she was pretty, he said, “Why does that matter? She is, but that’s NOT why I like her. She’s smart and nice.” I wish some boy in middle school had liked me, despite my braces, glasses and frizzy hair. I was in an awkward stage that lasted until 2015.

This girl had actually emailed him a copy of some Harvard admission essays. They’re in SIXTH GRADE.

 

Little Dude still enjoys spending time with me, one on one. Over spring break, we did a bunch of cool stuff together. We saw “Deadpool,” which was a little mature for him. How did I miss that it’s rated “R”? Luckily, he’s so innocent, all the sexual innuendos went right over his head.

At the end, he insisted we stay until the end of the credits. He was convinced there would be some kind of “bit” at the very, very end.

He was right.

As we left the movie, LD impulsively grabbed my hand in the parking lot. I acted like it was no big deal, but it was. He’s still very affectionate with me, but never in public.

 

Sometimes, he asks if we can talk, to help him sort through feeling lost or confused. We have talks that last hours.

Thank you Lord, Buddha, and All The Gods, that my kid still wants to talk to me about whatever is troubling him. Any day now, he’s going to become a Teenager, discount my opinion and silently plot my death.

 

He’s in such an odd place right now; no longer a boy, but not yet a teen. It’s a complicated, confusing and probably scary place for him.

It’s confusing for me, too. I want to hold on and let go all at the same time.
Most of all, I want it to slow down.

Slow down, baby boy.  I don’t want to miss a thing.

 

“I’ll Come Running” by Brian Eno. I can’t even tell you how much I love this song.

 

Do you ever wish you could slow down your kids’ growing up? How much longer do I have until he stops thinking I’m cool?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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dreamstime_xs_37009171

 

“NO, you be the SPACEMAN!!!  Here, put this ON!”

It didn’t matter that Benjamin didn’t want to be a spaceman. My son had already twisted him into a half nelson and was wrestling a plastic bucket onto his best friend’s head. At five, my son was bossy and inflexible. He had difficulty navigating unstructured situations, like playdates.

Which is a nice way of saying, he was a tyrant. I knew someday, his fierce little warrior soul would have its upside. But someday is a long way off when you’re exhausted from refereeing every playdate.

Even a five-year-old knows his basic civil liberties are being violated when he’s forced to wear an inner tube and dance like a ballerina.

 

One afternoon, I took my son and his best buddy to the neighborhood pizza shop. I mentally prepared myself for a migraine-inducing battle of whose slice was a millimeter larger than whose.

Behind the counter, the pizzeria owner whirled an enormous disc of dough into a velvety umbrella. The boys had already begun bickering.

I pointed excitedly at the Pizza Man.

“Look!”

Both boys turned to look at the Pizza Man, twirling and stretching the dough. They stopped squabbling and stared.

“This is an art form. It takes years of practice! Watch how he never stops, not even for a second!”

They stood, transfixed. With expert hands, the Pizza Man tossed dough high into the air and caught it without breaking his rhythm.

“See how he moves his hand in a circle? It’s all about the hand movement. It’s like putting a spin on a basketball.”

“Wow!” Benjamin said.

“What happens if he drops it?” my son asked.

“That’s just it! He NEVER does,” I answered knowingly.

 

The fact is, good pizza making is an art. It’s also a science – physics, to be exact.

“It’s science, you see? In order to keep the pizza airborne, the optimal motion is a semi-elliptical trajectory. The dough moves through the air at an angle, rather than flying flat!”

Their full-on blank stares jolted me out of my geek moment.

“It’s just SUPER COOL!  Okay, guys, who wants what?”

We munched our pizza, never taking our eyes off the Pizza Man and his magical feat of aerodynamics. The boys were united in a brotherhood of wonderment and a new found appreciation of pizza.

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And so it was with my son and his friendship-making abilities. The art of friendship is as finely nuanced as that of handling pizza dough. Today, at 12, he is a fabulous friend.

He still likes to bring his pals to watch the Pizza Man. It’s a tiny miracle to watch a lump of dough, rigid and unyielding, expand and become flexible in the right hands.

And there is very little in the world that a perfectly made pizza won’t set right.

 

————————————–

This essay was my submission into the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. I didn’t win, but I was totally stoked to try my hand at writing in a voice different from the one usually found on my blog.

I’ve been submitting my work to other publications lately, which is HUGE for me. I’ve been fortunate to have my work syndicated before, but I don’t usually submit my work to other publications.

Now I am.

I’ve had some really encouraging experiences, sandwiched in between lots of rejections. It’s taken me away from my blog a little bit. If I’m not around, just know that I’m pitching my little heart out, and I’ll be sure to share any good news I have with you.

Oh! Speaking of the competition. I am going to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the end of the month! Woo hoo! I’m not ready to throw up daily at the thought of it, like I felt when I was going to BlogHer. After all, I lost my blog conference virginity already.

It’s only a little daunting, because there are gonna be a WHOLE lot of kick ass humor writers there. This conference sold out like a rock concert in six hours. SIX HOURS. This has to be the most exciting event to hit Dayton, Ohio, since the 2014 conference.

Best of all, I get to room with my redheaded partner in crime, Quirky Chrissy! AND – I’ll be finally meeting two of my most fave online people, Michelle and Lola!

 

I’d say that I’m going to tell you all about it, but what happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton…

 

Anyone else have an intense, willful kid who dominated the other toddlers? How does that turn out? Please tell me they grow up to be CEOs and stuff. 
Can anyone recommend any good lesbian bars in Dayton?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

 

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tiger mom

By the time he was seven, my kid would tell his little friends “I do homework in the summer because when I grow up, my mom wants me to be able to compete in a global economy.”

I’m THAT mom, the one who questions her kid as to why he got that one A, when all the rest of his grades were A pluses.

 

I grew up in one of the worst housing projects in NYC. I’ve been able to forge ahead partly because of my intelligence and sense of humor, but undeniably because of my project girl survival skills.

My kid is soft. Thank God, he’s a soft suburban kid who never has to worry about gunshots in the playground. He lacks survival instincts because he doesn’t NEED them.

What if life takes a giant dump on him?

I can’t give him street smarts by dropping him off in my old neighborhood, like a Hunger Games arena, and see if he’s still alive at the end of the day.

I have no way to prepare him for emotional trauma or tremendous adversity.  But ONE THING I can give him – I can teach him to EXCEL at everything he does, particularly academics.

To help him establish himself in a career, I can prepare him to KNOCK OUT ALL THE COMPETITION.

I want him to be THE BEST.

Not just HIS best. THE best.

 

 

I taught him to read early, so he entered kindergarten already reading.  Around that age, I introduced him to numbers. By first grade, I was quizzing him on his time tables while we drove places.

Like most children, my kid initially balked at homework. But I reinforced in him the notion that homework is a priority. At 12, he’s internalized this voice to the point where he does his weekend homework on Friday – so he can enjoy the rest of the weekend.

I make my kid do homework in the summer. I buy him workbooks in math and language arts for the grade he’s entering, and he has to spend a half hour a day on each of them.

There is a documented loss of academic skills in children over the summer. Knowing that, why would I want such an easily preventable thing to happen? Yes, I KNOW summers are for lazy days of barbecues and swimming. I’m not forcing my kid to kneel on rice. It’s an hour a day, people.

 

I’m not a full throttle Tiger Mom, as in the woman who coined the phrase in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy Chua’s memoir of raising her two daughters chronicled daily hours of forced music practice, severe restrictions on extracurriculars, bans on social activities like sleepovers, and punishment and shaming if her children failed to achieve her high expectations.

My parenting style is somewhere in the gray area, between “tiger” and “dolphin,” albeit much closer to tiger. I’m a single working mom with sole custody of my son. Dolphin parenting advocates disciplining your child with “creativity and fun.” Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Furthermore, films of dolphins show them ramming baby porpoises to death. Probably because they snapped after trying to “have fun” disciplining their children.

The public loves to rip Amy Chua apart. I think it’s her combative, holier-than-thou attitude, and offensively pretentious tone she assumes in her book. She’s the Asian Ann Coulter, and it’s stylish Left liberalism to hate her. Her exaggerated version of Tiger Mom is more is an example of narcissistic personality disorder. I would never make my son practice his instrument relentlessly for hours, without bathroom or food breaks.

BUT. I did insist he LEARN an instrument, when in fact, he strongly resisted it. Playing an instrument has been shown to have real impact on cognitive abilities.

I also totally dig music, came from a family of musicians, and most importantly, need someone to jam with.

 

I was raised dirt poor; the kind of poor where I feared feeling my feet pressing the inside of my shoes. We couldn’t afford new shoes.
I’m better off than that, but not the kind of success I want for my child.

It’s simple Parenting 101. I want him to have a better life than the one I currently provide for him. He’s already having a better childhood, one that includes love, safety, security, encouragement, attention, real family time and memory-making adventures.

But achieving a higher standard of living than the generation that came before is nowhere NEAR the slam dunk it once was. So, I’m looking to hone his competitive edge.

Yes, he’s smart. Natural talent and innate intelligence, past a certain point, won’t take you far enough without a strong work ethic. At some point the ability to persevere is more important.

 

In America, the idea seems to be that we live in a land of opportunity and if you just follow your dreams everything will turn out wonderful in the end.

Not really.

The world is a hard place. Democracy is a sham and equality of opportunity is a myth. However, if you work hard to distinguish yourself among the pack, you have a better chance of clawing your way into the privileged class of people who can afford to not be enslaved by a soul crushing daily grind to make ends meet.

A lot of money does NOT equal a LOT of  happiness – but SOME money equals SOME happiness. No matter what your values are, being financially comfortable gives you the freedom to do things that struggling financially simply does not.

The problem with all the critiques of the tiger mom parenting style is that they feel Tiger Mom-ing only yields a socially constructed notion of material success. These critics fail to acknowledge “success” by a more accurate definition: growing up to be adults with power of self-determination. This is what money gives you. So deriding the single-minded focus towards “material success” as if it’s inherently wrong is just fashionable new age ethos.

When I came home with phenomenal grades, my mother ONLY looked at the one 97, demanding, “Why is this not 100?” I do not do that. I first congratulate my son on his A pluses. THEN I point to the one A, and demand,”Why isn’t this an A plus?”

That's what I call Fucking A

That’s what I call Fucking A

 

Unlike Amy Chua I never make my kid feel bad when he doesn’t 100% succeed, because learning to fail is just as important as learning to succeed. I do not want to raise a worker bee who is unable to fix situations that go wrong.

 

 

American parents use the emotional well-being of the child as an excuse for their own laziness in enforcing any sort of discipline and work ethic.

They assume fragility in our children, instead of strength.

My kid is loaded up like a pack mule on the days he has band practice. He has to carry his backpack, laptop, lunch bag and saxophone. Initially, he wanted me to walk him to the bus stop and carry his sax, because that’s what ALL the moms do.

Guess what? Who’s going to be at the other end of the ride, helping him drag all that stuff off the bus, and through the hallways? NO ONE.

So I refused. Instead, I helped him figure out the best way to juggle everything. He feels empowered.

 

And I don’t have to put on pants at 7:10 am. It’s s a win-win.

 

What is your parenting style? Are you a tiger, dolphin, kangaroo? Aardvark?
What do you think of the Tiger Mom style? 
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

 

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