Sunday, July 17, 2016

By Herself

Tonight's cocktail is a Blueberry Buck, which I had during a recent visit to Atlanta.

Blueberry vodka (I don't really like the flavored stuff because I prefer to infuse it myself, but it was OK), lime, ginger beer, shaved nutmeg.
In the spring, I had the honor of reading an original piece for Listen to Your Mother, a multi-city project that "gives motherhood a microphone" by asking people to present stories about mothers and motherhood. I was in the D.C. show, which you can (and should!) view in its entirety here. Part of the proceeds for every show go to nonprofit organizations that help local mothers in some way. Our show benefited My Sister's Place, which provides shelter, transition, and support services to survivors of domestic violence.

While many of the stories in the show were poignant and insightful and will make you cry when you hear them, mine was not one of those. I was part of the comic relief. Regardless, participating in the show was one of the best experiences of my life. Here's my piece (text below), before which I was announced thusly: "Kathleen Gordon is avoiding a work conference and bringing shame upon her family to read for us today. She deeply apologizes to her beloved mother for what you are about to hear."


My mother is a Southern church lady who would just as soon praise the Lord as bless your heart. She serves on the altar guild, is past president of the women’s service league, and attends weekly Bible study in addition to church services. On her night table is a well-worn, bookmarked Bible, and she is always praying for somebody. Most likely it’s me.

My mother missed the sexual revolution altogether. She grew up in a strict Southern Baptist household and, in the early 60s, attended a women’s college where she wasn’t allowed to wear slacks and had to have written permission from her parents on file to leave campus. When she was 21, she married my dad, her high school sweetheart. By the time of the 70s Equal Rights Amendment movement, she was busy raising me, and she didn’t think much of those “women’s libbers.”

During the Judy Blume stage of my childhood, when I asked my mom questions about periods and where babies came from, she would always answer truthfully - there was no talk of storks or euphemisms for genitalia - but she never mentioned that sex was supposed to be fun. Imagine my surprise when I realized for myself that it really, really is!

Past settling the birds-and-bees issue, I hardly ever talked to my mother about sex again. After I graduated from college, I spent the summer traveling in Europe, and my mom decided to join me for the last two weeks in Italy. Traveling by train to major cities in Europe with a woman who has spent almost no time outside the United States and who does not understand for the life of her why people will not put more ice in her drinks was sometimes a challenge, but we had a good time. We saw transcendent art, strolled through the sun-bathed lanes of history, and ate delicious gelato and pasta. One night, I even got my mom drunk on cheap Chianti to the point where she was giggling and singing a slightly risque song from college called “Minnie the Mermaid” while walking beside the Arno in Florence.

Then, we got to Siena, and awkwardness ensued. It was hot, and after we pulled our suitcases uphill to the hotel, I wanted to take a shower. My mom said that was fine, and she turned on the TV. I didn’t think much of it until I turned off the water and started to hear noises from the TV. Moaning noises. Sexy noises. Wrapping myself in a towel, I poked my head out of the bathroom to see my mother sitting on the edge of the bed, her eyes wide as dinner plates, staring at the quickly turned-off TV.

Me: Mom, are you OK?

Mom: [a little too fast] “Yes, I’m just fine.”

Me: You look upset. Did something happen?

Mom: [reluctantly] Well, I turned on the TV to see if there was any news in English, and I got to this channel, and it was very strange.

Me: How so?

Mom: Well, there was this woman, and she was very … excited. But she was by herself.

Me: Mom, what were you watching?

Mom: I don’t know. But she was REAL excited. And I didn’t understand, because she was by herself.

Me: [horrified, but trying to be soothing] Well, sometimes they put stuff on TV in other countries that you wouldn’t see in the United States, so it sounds like it was pornography. You can just ignore it, don’t worry about it.

Mom: [increasingly agitated] Kathleen! You do NOT underSTAND! She was VERY exCITED! And she was BY HERSELF!

Me: [to myself] Really? Am I really going to have to explain this? Sigh.

Me: [aloud] Mom, some people like to watch women … touching themselves. And enjoying it. So they made a movie of it. But it’s OK, you don’t have to watch it.

Mom: [indignantly] Oh, Kathleen, you don’t understand anything.

I let that one drop like a stone. We changed the subject and never discussed it again.

But, now that I have a preteen daughter, and I’ve had a few sex talks with her, I’ve thought back to that conversation with my mother. I don’t know if my mom was truly unaware of female masturbation or was too embarrassed to admit that she knew about it, but either way, it made me kind of sad for her. So I made sure to tell my daughter that even though sex sounds “so gross, Mom,” that it feels good, and it’s a nice thing for consenting ADULTS to enjoy RESPONSIBLY when they’re READY.

I also got completely indignant when I saw that the American Girl body book doesn’t label the clitoris on its female anatomy diagram, and I made a point of telling my daughter what it is, what it does, and that nobody gets to touch it without her permission. Which she said she is “never going to give anyone, ever, because ew.” That’s fine by me. But at least she knows, and likely the information will come in useful at some point in the future. Even if she is BY HERSELF.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

No Medal Needed

Tonight's cocktail is a blood orange mimosa. Equal parts blood orange juice and prosecco (or champagne, if you prefer).

Image via Pixabay, because I drank mine too fast to photograph it.

Not long ago, I had brunch with a friend and his adorable, well-behaved 4 year old son. My friend is a great dad: attentive, patient, firm, kind, and fun-loving. We were having a lovely time with our shrimp and grits and mimosas (the adults) and quesadilla and milk (the child). Every now and then, the little guy would get a little loud or whiny, par for the course with a child that age, and my friend would distract him with a joke or a question.

I was behaving as I do with other people's children. They're like cats - they have to come to you. So when the little guy wanted to tell or show me something, I was all about that, but if he was into his own thing, that was OK, too. And I certainly wasn't responsible for his behavior. Not my circus, not my monkey. Besides, it was all under control.

Eventually, of course, my friend needed to accompany his little boy to the men's room. After they left the table, I took a long sip of mimosa and was considering ordering another, only to be startled by a little old lady who was up in my grill, grinning maniacally. Confused, I smiled back. She put her hand on my arm. Why? Why with the touching? Finally, she spoke: "Your husband is a GREAT dad! You're SO lucky!" Ummmm, ok?

At this point, many evil possible responses entered my mind. For example:

  • "Well, if you beat a kid enough times, he does start figuring out how to behave."
  • "He's not my husband, but he IS a demon in the sack! Do you want to see my hickey? We also have matching tattoos, but I can't show you where!"
  • "Oh, he's not my husband; he's a paid escort. The service sent him this morning. Do you want his business card? The kid is extra."
  • "That guy? I have no IDEA who that was! He just wanted a free meal. He'll probably bring my kid back, though, right?"
  • "Whose child IS that? I keep thinking someone is going to come back to claim him!"
In the end, I went with my fallback: Southern charm. "What a nice thing to say. Thank you for saying that."

Afterwards, it dawned on me. The waitstaff at the restaurant had directed all child-related questions to me. Did he want a kids' menu? Did he want crayons? Did he have food allergies? Did he need a cup with a lid and a straw? The hell if I knew! His actual parent, who did know the answers to all of those questions, didn't merit a glance. But then when my friend parented in a competent way, he suddenly deserved a goddamn medal. I have NEVER had anyone come up to me in public and tell me what a great mother I was just because I was engaging with my child over a meal and making sure he wasn't being an asshole. I know everyone meant well, but what the hell?

It speaks to the low expectations society still sets for fathers. I can't even count the commercials, articles, and jokes I've seen that portray dads as hapless goofballs who can't be expected to parent or do housework. These things are not badly intended, but they still send a message we should not want to perpetuate. Not only can fathers braid hair, prepare meals, and wipe butts; they should, as a matter of course, be expected to do so. Society makes excuses for fathers who "can't" (read: refuse to learn how to) do these things. It doesn't hold them up for the ridicule and condemnation that a mother would earn if she did the same, but it should. Similarly, when a father is simply parenting, as he should be expected to do, he doesn't deserve exceptional praise, unless you're also going to give those accolades to mothers who are doing the same things.

My ex didn't know anything about babies or children before we had Tweak and Tink. He also didn't know how to cook or clean. All matters domestic were my responsibility, not by design, but by default. I remember one Thanksgiving, leaving a relative's house to make a 4 hour drive home. I was gathering the last of our stuff, and I asked my now-ex to put Tweak, then 2, in his carseat. 10 minutes later, I was trundling out baby Tink in her bucket seat, and my mother in law came up to me, beaming. "[Ex] got Tweak in his carseat, but it wasn't easy. I think he deserves an award!" In lieu of saying something unkind, I rolled my eyes so far back into my head that I had to smack myself to get them facing forward again.

When my ex and I split, Tweak and Tink were 5 and 3. He asked for 50% custody, and I gave it to him, thinking he would change his mind within weeks, but at least in the meantime he would learn to appreciate all the things I'd been doing. It was a bumpy start for him, but I have to give him credit. He kept trying, and he asked questions, and he got better, because he didn't have a choice. Does he always parent the way I think he should? No, but he parents well enough, and I'm sure he doesn't agree with everything I do, either. We love the kids, and we show up. Everything else is details.

I'm an unapologetic feminist. Part of wanting everyone, including myself, to be treated equally is not limiting my expectations of anyone based on gender. The gay dads I know get this - they aren't making excuses, and they're not asking for a commendation; they're simply parenting. What if the term "man up" included participating in all aspects of parenting? From diaper blow-outs to tantrums to bike injuries to dance recitals to the sex talk, nobody should treat these things as optional for any parent of any gender. What if we gave equal respect to parenting no matter who was doing it? What if our children didn't see dads being expected to do or know less than moms? How might that affect them as parents, when it's their turn? How much better off would our grandchildren be? We can make it happen.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Let's Move!

Tonight's cocktail is water straight up, served in the water bottle I got in my swag bag from the White House the other week. Oh, right. I went to the White House the other week (as one does), and now Michelle Obama is my BFF. Or at least close enough. No big deal. Our relationship defies labels.

The Presidential hand towel (left) wasn't in the swag bag. I might have stolen it out of the bathroom. In my defense, it was the disposable kind.
Awhile back, BlogHer/SheKnows Media asked whether I would be interested in going to the White House for a promotional event for the First Lady's (FLOTUS, for those in the know) Let's Move! initiative. I responded "Yes," because "Sweet baby Moses tapdancing on a popsicle stick yes!" was not offered as a choice. After agonizing over what to wear, getting my hair and nails done, and then, on the morning of the event, ditching my cab in traffic to sprint across LaFayette Park so that I wouldn't be late (destroying all my good hair and makeup intentions), there I was, a hot mess, as usual. At least I got a workout in.

Eleanor Roosevelt didn't mind. She gets me.
Like everyone who hasn't been in a coma for the past 7 years, I knew that the FLOTUS had adopted wellness in general, and childhood obesity in particular, as her featured causes. I'd seen that Congress passed legislation (the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010) that changed the nutritional standards for the School Lunch Program (perhaps not enough, but any improvement is good). I'd also seen and enjoyed videos in which the FLOTUS encourages us all to get off our duffs and move around, like this one:



It turns out that these efforts are the tip of the iceberg. My eyes tend to glaze over in shame when people rattle off statistics about how fat we all are and how much it costs society, because God knows I could stand to lose a few pounds, but the message wasn't like that. It was about finding ways to be incrementally healthier in our daily lives and making good choices easy for everyone, not just people who can afford fancy organic produce and personal trainers. It was about a long term national and personal commitment to wellness, not a fad or a cleanse. Like anything worth doing, it takes time and persistence, trial and error, and that's not only OK; it's expected.

For my children, unlike about a third of their peers (in African American and Hispanic communities, the number is closer to 40%), obesity isn't currently a danger simply because they are so active, and because they are at least somewhat willing to eat fruits and vegetables (tremendous progress from when they were younger and would only eat things that were white or beige). Fortunately, in addition to the sports they play outside of school, they have PE in their elementary school twice per week, plus daily recess - unlike 44% of U.S. schools, theirs hasn't eliminated or cut back on PE or recess. I'm thankful for this, because not only is it better for their health, having regular exercise during the school day helps them concentrate and do better in school, plus it enhances their emotional well being by giving them a healthy way to burn off stress. I think all parents should push back against short-sighted and counterproductive efforts to improve test scores at the expense of kids' physical and mental health.

Unlike my children, I didn't enjoy playing sports when I was a kid. I preferred to lounge dreamily in a chair with a book. Unlike the classroom, where I excelled, PE was torture to me. I couldn't climb the rope, catch the ball, run the laps, etc. It felt like drudgery, I was embarrassed, and I didn't want to do it. If they'd had workouts like this one, which Let's Move (and Beyonce!) designed and implemented in 600 schools across the country, I probably would have enjoyed it more:



As I work to motivate myself as an adult to be more active and demonstrate good self-care habits to my kids, I've realized that exercise can be fun, and even if I'm not especially "good" at it, the point is to do it and enjoy how it makes me feel. The rest will follow.

That's why I like the multi-faceted approach of Let's Move. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a menu of options that people can try as they figure out what lifestyle changes they need to make. From improving nutrition in schools and daycares, to bringing gardens into schools and communities where fresh produce can be difficult to find and afford, to promoting wellness through faith communities, to encouraging localities to provide low-cost opportunities to be active, to making National Park admissions free for every fourth grader in the country (and their families!), Let's Move aims to reach people where they are and give them the tools they need to become healthier as individuals, families, and communities. It all fits together.

While I didn't get to shake hands with the First Lady after her remarks (which was probably good because I might have embarrassed myself by trying to massage her flawless biceps), I'm so glad I got to attend this event and be inspired to work on improving my family's lifestyle. I encourage you to look at the Let's Move! website to see what kinds of nutrition and fitness programs are going on in your community and how to get involved. Whether it's adding a post-dinner family walk to your routine, planting a kitchen garden, or finding healthy, tasty, recipes, none of the lifestyle changes are particularly difficult or unpleasant. Try things, educate yourself, see what you can do, come back for more.

OK, I know her biceps don't actually light up a room, but that's how it felt to be in the same room with them.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Holidays Didn't Suck and I Don't Know How to Feel

Tonight's cocktail is a capairinha the size of my head, served at a restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach over the holidays. It wasn't as good as I would make it (muddle a bunch of cut-up limes with sugar, throw in some ice, fill to the top with cachaza), but it did hit the spot. Several times.



What really stood out to me about the winter holidays this year is how much they didn't suck. This is almost unprecedented in my memory, which is sad, but there it is. When I was a kid, Christmas was when people got mad and screamed and threw things, so when I converted to Judaism, I didn't miss it at all. Chanukah is fun with my kids, but it doesn't get me out of schlepping back to my hometown each December, which, given the history, usually leaves me twisted into a ball of anxiety.

As I've written before, my father likes the idea of having grandchildren better than the reality of dealing with them, especially my son, who has Asperger's Syndrome and who does not, contrary to my father's suggestion, just need to have his ass beaten. Though I love my family and look forward to seeing them, some years things have been so tense that I've had panic attacks. Throw in the fact that this is the first holiday season since my shitty shitty breakup, and suffice it to say that I didn't have high expectations.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The kids and I stayed in a hotel (which I should have started doing a long time ago), and it made a huge difference. I found things for the kids to do so that they could get their yayas out before family gatherings, and of course my cousin's adorable baby girl was a big focal point, with the kids wanting me to smuggle her back home. I felt relaxed and happy. It was weird.

After Christmas, my ex picked up the kids and took them to visit his family, so I was free for a whole week. I spent that time in Miami with a friend, hence the giant cocktail. I got in the sun as much as possible, trying to bank up heat and light to get through the rest of winter. I ate lots of oysters. I wasn't worried or tense. I felt great about my life. What dark sorcery IS this?

When I went to my first therapy session of the new year, I didn't know what to talk about, so I talked about how strange it is not to feel horrible about my life following the holiday fallout. Again, I recognize that this might be rather sad, but it beats another year of ball-sucking. And it means something I'm doing must be working. Here's the list of suspects.
  1. Sleeping. I've been prioritizing getting 8 hours of sleep every night. It's magical.
  2. Drinking less and eating better.
  3. Exercising.
  4. Taking folinic (not folic) acid and vitamin D supplements, on my doctor's recommendation (obviously, people should check with a physician before taking anything).
  5. Not volunteering for things I don't want to do.
  6. Not taking responsibility for other people's choices or moods.
I know, none of this is rocket science, but I never claimed to be quick on the uptake. And some of these things, like sleep, I simply couldn't have done when my kids were younger. I've been thinking of it this way: if I had a friend who struggles with anxiety and depression and whose heart has been put through the shredder, what would I tell her? Those things. If I would want this for a friend, then I should want it for myself. It's time for me to give myself what I want others to have. It's time to be my own friend.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dating And Vegan Eggs

Tonight's cocktail is a Lady Outlaw from Teddy and the Bully Bar in DC: vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon sour, and lavender bitters.



For those keeping score at home, 6 months out from having my heart smashed, burned, and the ashes scattered to the winds, I'm slowly but surely starting to turn this fucker around. Still, I fear I may end up like Miss Havisham, because I have zero interest in the dating scene. I haven't had a real first date with a new person in 21 years. The prospect would be terrifying under any circumstances, even without the profound and serious trust issues I've developed of late. If I were to, say, meet someone for coffee, the scenario in my mind is something like this:

Perfectly Nice Man (walks up to my table): It's so nice to meet you!

Me: Pffft. Yeah, whatever, dude. You want to ruin my life and make me wish I'd never been born? NOT TODAY, ASSHOLE. (flips off Perfectly Nice Man)

Perfectly Nice Man: Well, why don't we just have coffee?

Me: Coffee. (Making universal jackoff motion) RIGHT. You just want to get me to trust you long enough for it to really hurt when you dump me on my ass. No, thank you. I SAY GOOD DAY SIR!

Suffice it to say, I'm not ready. However, after watching a fair amount of Netflix with my pets, I decided to let an old friend take me out to a nice dinner next time he was in town. He came over and fixed my sink first, as a bonus. That's not a euphemism, I swear.

Finally! A working sprayer! Also not a euphemism!

The evening was going fine - relaxed chatter, cocktails, no worries. And then. I heard her before I saw her. High-pitched, nasal voice: "We're visiting from New York. You won't be sorry for giving us a table. We eat well, and we tip well." Wondering who in God's name says that, I spotted an admittedly hot-looking 20-something blonde woman in a tight, white strapless dress and red stilettos, accompanied by a standard-issue 20-something dude-bro. They sat at the table right behind us (I could see them, but my friend's back was to them), because of course they did.

Hot Girl: (disdainfully) Well, they SAID they had vegan dishes, but I don't think they know what vegan is down here.

Dudebro: Babe, you eat eggs. You're not a vegan.

Hot Girl: (loudly) That's BULLSHIT! (slaps table!) I only eat eggs from my family's chickens!

Dudebro: But they're animal products.  So you're not vegan.

Hot Girl: Those chickens are FREE RANGE! (slap) They're raised HUMANELY! (slap) They have a GREAT LIFE! (slap slap)

Dudebro: But eggs aren't vegan.

Hot Girl: But those chickens are VEGAN! I can't BELIEVE you'd throw that in my FACE! (slap)

Dudebro: Whatever, let's order.

Hot Girl (to waiter): Where's your ladies' room?

Waiter: Past the bar, first door to your left.

Hot Girl: Can you walk me there?

Waiter: Ummmm, ok?

Hot Girl (returning, with waiter, who she'd apparently made wait for her while she was in the bathroom?): Did you at least order the food?

Dudebro: No, I didn't want to order anything without talking to you first, because of this vegan thing.

Hot Girl: This THING? (slap) These are my CONVICTIONS! (slap)

Dudebro: OK, whatever, but you clearly have opinions ...

Hot Girl: (orders food, after extensively questioning the waiter and asking for about a million exceptions)

For awhile, I'm able to focus again on my dinner companion. We order the tasting menu. It's delightful.

*Food arrives at other table*

Hot Girl: (scoffs) This "FOOD" (she actually used air quotes) is NOT vegan!

Dudebro: How do you know?

Hot Girl: I just DO! (slap) They put butter on it, I KNOW it!

Dudebro: Well, maybe they talked nicely to the cows while they were milking them?

Hot Girl: There you go AGAIN! (slap) Always minimizing! This is SERIOUS to me!

Waiter: Ma'am, I specifically instructed the chef, and he assured me...

Hot Girl: Well, I can TASTE the butter!

Waiter: Ma'am, the chef used extra-virgin avocado oil to saute the ...

Hot Girl: Yeah, whatever. I want to go now.

Dudebro: Look, I'm hungry. I'm eating. You can do what you want. (to waiter) Can you please bring her another cocktail?

Hot Girl: (glares, sulks while Dudebro eats) Can we GO and get some REAL food now?

Dudebro: Look, I'm eating. It tastes real to me. You can eat or not. After, we can stop and get you a salad or something.

Hot Girl: I'm HUNGRY! (slap) I want more than a salad!

Dudebro: Well, then eat this. It's vegan!

Hot Girl: No, it's NOT! (slap)

Dudebro: Look, I'm sorry we came here. Let me finish my food. Then we will find you something to eat that doesn't have non-vegan eggs or whatever.

Hot Girl: MY FAMILY'S EGGS ARE VEGAN!!!!!!!

At this point, a lot happened. Hot Girl stormed out of the restaurant, or tried to, but got in a fight with the doors, which won. Dudebro followed, there was yelling, which I sadly couldn't hear. Dudebro came back in to pay, went out to try to reason with crazy, then came back to sign the charge slip. By this point, my friend and I left the restaurant. I tried to persuade him to let me hide in the bushes and spy, but he said that was tacky. Killjoy. Hot Girl was standing on the corner, looking like she might hurl into the gutter. My friend asked her if she needed us to put her in a cab to wherever she was staying. Hot Girl suddenly drew herself up and icily stated that she didn't need ANYTHING, thank you. So we left.

Here's what sticks with me. That guy had to have known his date was 10 pounds of crazy in a 5 pound sack when he agreed to accompany her on a trip to D.C. Obviously, she was drunk at dinner, but nobody morphs from normal to batshit crazy pseudo-vegan no matter how much they've been drinking. He got in an enclosed space - plane, train, or car - with all that crazy, voluntarily. I don't care how hot she was, or how flexible, or what things she could do with her tongue; there's no way a reasonably sane person of any gender or sexual orientation could spend more than an hour in an enclosed space with her without wanting to poke his or her own ears out with a ballpoint pen. I don't get it.

I'm definitely not ready.

Parenthood: Now With Science!

Tonight's cocktail can be with or without booze (I recommend bourbon), as the spirit moves you, or doesn't. Chanukah is already over for me and mine, but the wonders of Jewish Christmas (Chinese food and movies - yes, we really do that) await. Also, we still have another 2 weeks to drink eggnog. I'd like to be fancy and say I used Alton Brown's recipe, but I think we all know that I poured it straight from the carton. At least I used a glass.

This time.
"Eggnog2" by Dinner Series - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/6554389497/in/set-72157628525251275/lightbox/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eggnog2.jpg#/media/File:Eggnog2.jpg

If you're a procrastinator like me and still have gifts to buy, and if you have any parents on your list, I'm here to solve a problem for you. Buy them all copies of Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler. Trust me on this. In the midst of the chaotic, sometimes-isolated, sleep-deprived blur that parenting can create, this book is a much-needed reality check because it illustrates the univeral whatthefuckness of it all. You're not the only one whose child invariably needs to poop for 30 minutes when you're about to be on time somewhere for once. You're not the only one whose child decides without notice to stop eating her favorite go-to meal, which you've just put in front of her. You're not the only one who does not get the point of travel sports. We are all dealing with the same crap from our beloved munchkins, and, when we're able to see how funny it all is, life becomes more manageable.

For example, while playdates with kids you and your kid both like, and whose parents you like, are awesome, the book excerpt below shows that it doesn't always work out that way:

Play dates. They should really be things of beauty and harmony. Or at the very least, simple convenience. After all, the idea is that Someone Else is entertaining your child so that you get a few hours of peace to do things like scroll through Facebook. Or read a book  (hint! hint!) Or enjoy the pure pleasure of holding a complete, coherent thought in your head.

But, to crib a bit from poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans for play dates often go awry. As I discovered one Saturday afternoon when I invited a girl from my son's class — a sweet, blonde girl I knew he had a crush on — to come rollerskating with us.

I'll admit, while I liked the classmate, I was kinda meh about Blonde Girl's Mom ever since my kid reported that while he'd been at her house for a play date, he'd spent the entire afternoon shooting virtual deer with a rifle while playing Big Buck Hunter. I wasn't familiar with that particular video game, but seeing my babysitter's eyes go wide when he described it was enough to let me know it was hardly an all-ages game. Still, he adored Blonde Girl, so I was willing to give the play date thing another go. I figured the kids could skate; Blonde Girl's Mom and I could spend a little Mom-To-Mom time getting to know each other. Who knew? Maybe we'd bond over a shared love of '70s and '80s roller rink muzak.

And well, not even close.

"My toddler's having a melt-down, so could you keep an eye on these kids while I take him home?" was how Blonde Girl's Mom greeted me at the skating rink door. No Hi. No Great to see you. Glad you made it. Just a string of words that came out so fast, it sounded like one really long word: Mytoddlershavingameltdownsocouldyoukeepaneyeonthesekidswhileittakehimhome?

Wait. What?

My eyes hadn’t even adjusted to the darkness of the skating rink. But I quickly saw what was going on. I'd invited her daughter to go skating with my son. And Blonde Girl's Mom had shown up with an entourage that included her daughter, her daughter's younger sister and the girls' two besties. And, oh yes, the toddler who was flailing around on the floor screaming like he was being filleted with long knives. And she wanted me to keep track of all of them in a dark rink?  On wheels? So she could go HOME? Oh, hell no!

In her defense, I could see that request being made in a moment of pure temporary insanity. We've all had that unnerving three-year-old-tantrum-in-a-public-place experience. (And if you haven't yet, don't worry, you will.) But the horrified look on my face and my flat refusal to be responsible for five kids in a dark rink, on wheels should have snapped her right back to reality. I mean, in your head that might sound like a plausible, even good, idea. But once the words are out of your mouth and you actually hear them, you gotta think, Of course not. That's just crazy talk.

As I proceeded to rent my kid skates, I wondered why my darling child didn't want to go skating with any of the kids whose parents I like to hang out with ... who'd never think of saddling a fellow mom with an unruly, unfamiliar brood so they could make a quick getaway.

Still, the afternoon could have been a lot worse. And there was a silver lining: It was unlikely that Blonde Girl’s Mom and I would be getting together again. Ever.  

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel is co-author with illustrator Jessica Ziegler of the new book Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, published in November by She Writes Press. Follow Science of Parenthood on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Is Science of Parenthood coming to your town? Check out our tour schedule. Want Science of Parenthood to come to your town? Message us

*Note: I did receive a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which was easy to give because I snort-laughed through the whole thing. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post.*

Sunday, November 1, 2015

When the Kids Are Away, Mom Gets to Play

Tonight's cocktail is a Sailor Boy martini that I recently had at Teddy and the Bully Bar in DC. Ingredients: The Bay seasoned vodka (vodka infused with Old Bay seasoning) and dill vermouth with an olive and a cornichon. The name should have prepared me for disappointment - the vodka would have been great in a Bloody Mary, but as a sipping liquor, I don't think it works. Your mileage may vary. It was a great dinner, though, and there were tons of amazing-sounding specialty cocktails on the menu, so I'm looking forward to branching out.



As a divorced mom, people somehow feel compelled to tell me how horrible it must be not to see my kids every day, and that they can't imagine how I stand it. I have no idea how to respond - should I burst into tears? Should I announce, "You're right! I'll call my ex husband and see if he wants to get back together!" (which would be awkward, because I don't think his new wife would like it). Usually I just shrug and smile and change the subject, because I figure the comment is more about them than me. The truth is, it's actually nice to have some time to myself.

Of course, it was difficult at first, in part because they were still so little (3 and 5), and because at the time I didn't completely trust their father to make sure they were properly fed, washed, dressed, and rested. I had always been the one responsible for those things, and his initial efforts in that regard were not impressive. We had to have conversations about things like Tights Are Not Pants, Make Sure They Really Wipe After They Poop, and If I Have to Pick Them Up Sick From School Again Because You Won't Make Them Go To Bed I Will End You. He did, thankfully, improve greatly (and I was able to relax a bit), and we have a 50/50 custody split. We put a lot of time and effort into making it work, and we communicate well about parenting issues. The kids don't feel pulled between us, and we're able to be flexible when one of us has work travel or other circumstances.

I get two nights per week and every other weekend "off duty." Granted, most of that time is spent doing errands, cleaning, laundry, and other household tasks. But, if I wanted, I could take a lover and have crazy sex on my dining room table. It's nice to have options. As an introvert, I need more down time than most people, and as I go through the process of truly knowing and loving myself, I am learning to honor my own needs. Of course, I build in social activities with friends during my child-free time, but sometimes my need is to play 80s and 90s hip hop and shake my booty while making spaghetti sauce, and that's good, too.

The best part is that when the kids come back to my house, they're happy to be here, and I love re-connecting with them. We catch up on the past few days' happenings, they show me their papers and projects, and they settle back into the household routine. Of course, it's usually a matter of hours - sometimes minutes - before they start fighting like rabid weasels, but it's nice while it lasts.

For them, being the child of divorced parents isn't a tragedy, because the adults in their lives love them and want the best for them, which includes getting along with each other. My children are thriving, and so am I. There's no need to feel sorry for them or for me. However, if you're still curious about how I manage when the kids are away, you're welcome to come over for dinner. I'll be happy to pour you a drink and put on the MC Hammer.

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