Danger, Will Robinson!

WAKE UP, AMERICA. Donald Trump is Dangerous.

A year ago the idea of Donald Trump running for president and people finding him to be a refreshing voice amongst the doublespeak of many career politicians was vaguely amusing to me. As in, it was kind of a joke. That I could laugh at. Around the time the primaries were coming up in my state, I researched how I could change my party so that I could vote in the primary for the sole purpose of voting against Trump as the Republican nominee.  I wasn’t laughing anymore. People really believed this man was fit to be president. People I know and interact with on a regular basis. People in my community. Friends. FAMILY.

I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton. She has some ideas I agree with and many I don’t. The email thing bugged me. I mean, come on! Classified information on an unsecured server? Ridiculous. She totally knew better. I don’t have a high level of trust in her. But then, I don’t have a high level of trust in any politician. Although Bernie seemed pretty straightforward about his positions and not likely to sell the American people up the river,  I didn’t agree with all of his plans either. It’s not likely that there will ever be a candidate that is 100% compatible with anyone’s individual ideas and values, right? So we have to choose who is most in line with what is most important to us.

Here is what is important to me: raising my boys to be strong in character; I want them to be surrounded by people who value kindness, intelligence, good-humor, hard work, honesty and love. I want them to see these values in their community. I want them to look up to their teachers, coaches, local police, business owners and government as leaders and see these ethics present and at work all around them. I know they will encounter many people who don’t have the same ideals and philosophies and that’s OK. But what is NOT OK, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT is having the PRESIDENT OF OUR COUNTRY espouse HATRED at every turn.

I’m angry. This latest ridiculousness of Donald Trump’s is kind of like the proverbial straw. Maybe it is because it touched on one of my biggest fears–no matter what I teach and model at home, my sons are going out into this world without me and when they do they are going to be in locker rooms and parties with drunk people and groups of men and they may get the message that women are objects, that women who drink at parties and smile and flirt with you are yours to push up against a wall in the bathroom and grab by the pussy, and that boasting about who you’d fuck with a bunch of men is EXPECTED AND ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR!

Seriously, what the hell is going on in this world? Rapists are being set free with a slap on the wrist because male judges wouldn’t want to ruin a “young man’s future”. And now we have the potential NEXT PRESIDENT of the United States brushing off his repugnant remarks against women by essentially saying that “boys will be boys”! And people are shrugging their shoulders and saying that Hillary is untrustworthy and that her husband had an affair and she stood by him and bad-mouthed the women so all is really even-steven in this race and  women shouldn’t be all up in arms because Trump engaged in some “locker room banter” ten years ago?!

Is this really OK, America? This is where we are? In 2016? Women are still being shamed and blamed and objectified and seen as walking vaginas?

I want to scream.

And of course it isn’t just the RAMPANT MISOGYNY I object to. The hateful remarks he has made about pretty much everyone who isn’t a rich, white male deeply offend me. I do not care if the man could stop every job from leaving the U.S. or cut everyone’s taxes and somehow balance our budget (which he can’t), he is not fit to be the leader of this country.

I was going to let my sons watch this second debate since they don’t have school on Monday and can stay up a little later. Now I feel like I can’t. They won’t learn anything about the real issues facing our country and how the candidates intend to handle them. They are going to see a rude, hateful bully who has been given a MICROPHONE to spread his hate on the world’s stage. What are they going to learn from that??? Nothing I want them to learn for sure.

This has all gone too far. Are we going to let our country be run by someone whose audio we need to shield from our children? Are we going to allow someone who has basically condoned using their celebrity and power to sexually assault women to choose judges? Are we going to continue to defend his ignorant, racist, hateful remarks and say we need to overlook his personal flaws because he is better for our country than an experienced politician or one of the third-party candidates who “can’t win” anyway? Are we going to elect someone whose morals are so vastly different from our own?

Or wait. Are these morals not vastly different from your own?

Are you raising your children with a different set of values? Are you teaching your children that not all men and women are created equal? That we aren’t all afforded the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and safety? That we shouldn’t help our fellow humans when we can? That we should be lazy and dishonest and mean? That power and money should be obtained at any cost? That the only person who matters is yourself? That it’s is OK to be rude and disrespectful to people?

I’m no saint or paragon of virtue, let me be clear on that. But I try damn hard to be a good person and instill my core values and morals in my sons so that they may be good citizens of this world. And I think this might be the part that scares me the most: votes will be cast for Donald Trump. And each one represents a person whose moral compass points in the opposite direction from the one I’m trying to hold for my sons. And if it doesn’t point in a different direction, if your morals and values are the same as mine but you’re a “Republican” or a “Conservative” or “hate Hillary” or “third-party candidates can’t win” or one of the many other reasons I’ve heard GOOD PEOPLE use to defend their vote, I beg you to use your conscience and intelligence and figure out a way to reconcile all those things and DON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP.

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Light side/dark side

As I looked through my many half-written posts and jotted-down notes about ideas I should flesh out, I decided I was too damn tired after all to form good thoughts. I want to write something brilliant about raising my boys in this digital age or during a time of civil upheaval (which seems to be swelling); or something inspirational about never giving up even when life is smacking you upside the head consistently or how incredibly lucky I am to have amazingly strong, smart, resourceful friends who are always helping me out; but after spending a day stranded at home with a kid who seemed pretty sick in the morning only to rebound rather suspiciously in the afternoon, while trying to be productive at work, and waiting to hear the verdict about what was causing the horrible metal-on-metal grinding sound from my car and how much it was going to cost me 17 days before Christmas…I’m fresh out of brilliant insights and inspiring wisdom.

Instead, I’m wondering why the hell little boys’ pajamas seem to stop being sold in sets and only “lounge pants” become available. We’ve got roughly a bazillion pairs of pajama pants stuffed into our drawers–this is only slight hyperbole, G changes into them immediately when he gets home from school and never seems to run out, but I dare you to find more than two pajama shirts in our house.

I was distressed when footsies stopped being available for boys of a certain age, although I have recently been given some as hand me downs that look like they could fit a teenager which is disturbing in a different way. I guess you can really only pull off this look for so long:

C and Luna

Do boys of a certain age stop wearing shirts to bed and I have only just now learned of this? Is it a conspiracy with the t-shirt people? Because lord knows we have no shortage of t-shirts, and sadly, my little boys can just about wear some of my old shirts.

I am sure if I searched high and low (or did a google search for pajama sets), I’d find something that would fit the bill. However, it would be nice if I could easily pick up a pair of PJs during a casual shopping trip or, for instance, while I am online trying to finish my Christmas shopping during Kohl’s friends and family sale.

But no. I’ve got choice after choice for lounge pants, and only Darth Vader with a Santa hat or Scooby Doo with a wreath around his neck for Christmas PJs? Really?

I chose Darth Vader. Welcome to the dark side.

Age 7. Possibly the last cute Christmas PJs.

Stinkers

I have to move out of my house. Well, maybe I just need to throw out most of my furniture. And renovate my bathroom. And the basement. So, yeah, I should just move.

Of course, the problem with moving or throwing out all my shit is that in the end, I can’t actually get rid of the problem. And the problem is: stinky boys. Three of them, to be exact.

But wait, single mommy, you only have twins! You don’t have THREE boys.

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See this one here looking at me as if to say, “Is there some problem with me lying here on the counter?” Yes, he is my third stinky boy. The stinkiest of them all, as a matter of fact, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

No one prepared me for how dirty and smelly my boys could get at such a young age. I was prepared for the general smelliness of a teenager, but an elementary school kid? I had no idea.

It doesn’t help that both of my sons have somewhat of an aversion to socks. The results are quite odiferous, as you can imagine. And then when they do wear socks, I find them strewn about the house and stuffed into furniture like surprise potpourri.

Then there are the farts. Now, I had a brother. I understand boys and farts. And from what I’ve heard, girls and women fart too. But my sons seem to just let ’em rip at any and seemingly all times! One of my sons is rather gassy, but his farts are more sound than substance. The other, boy, watch out! He lets out the “silent, but deadly” ones and we all end up in tears.

I also had no idea how bad the bathroom situation would be. No matter how often I scrub or clean, or how many little deodorizers or candles I put in there, it still smells of little boys. Specifically, little boy pee. Not that little boy pee smells any different than regular pee, it just makes me feel better to know it is from a little boy. Sort of. Although, with each passing year, the “little” part is going to cease to be true and I have a feeling the smell ain’t going to get any better. I just can’t for the life of me understand why it is so hard to get it in the bowl. It’s a big target. And they have a pointer for Pete’s sake!

Anyway, all of this pungency has just worn me down. So imagine my horror when the last boy turned on me.

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I know. It is hard to imagine such a sweet looking kitty peeing all over my furniture, but he has. It started in one room, on one corner of a couch. Then another spot on the couch. Then a chair in another room. Then another chair. I’ve scrubbed. I’ve sprayed. I got an alarm for the couch so he couldn’t jump on it. I paid hundreds of dollars to Stanley Steemer. I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to the vet to make sure he isn’t ill. Turns out, he’s just a big, fat jerk.

The last straw came yesterday. After coming home from work and picking up the boys, I was stomping around the kitchen because I discovered that homework had not been done properly once again. Every few minutes, I would stop and pause and sniff and say, “Do you SMELL that?” The boys just shrugged. I eyed the cat suspiciously as I went about my business. “Ugh! Where is that coming from?!” I checked the garbage, I looked in corners for a wayward turd or rotting food (because my son has been known to leave food in some peculiar places), but nothing turned up.

So, as is our routine, we sat down on the couch to read. Golden, the stinkpot, had already climbed up onto the ruined chair next to us to listen. I opened the book and read a sentence before losing it.

“WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” I began moving the furniture and looking under things. I ran my hands across the slipcover on the couch.

“ARRGGGHHHHH!!!!” Sure enough, the cat peed on the last piece of unsoiled furniture. I ripped the slip cover off and found that it had seeped through to the leather underneath which was part of what was making the smell all the worse.

The boys sort of huddled near the cat; kind of laughing at my temper tantrum, kind of glad it wasn’t them, kind of protecting the cat from getting thrown out the window. I covered my face with my hands and started taking deep breaths. I stood there for a long time. G asked when I might be ready to talk again. I told him probably never.

Ready or not…

Dictionary.com lists the definition of ready as follows: Completely prepared or in fit condition for immediate action or use.

so much easier before they could talk

so much easier before they could talk

From the time the boys were very small, there were quite a few things that I was fairly sure I would never be “ready” for. Hell, I wasn’t ready to be a parent and yet I took the plunge anyway. Is anyone ever really ready to be a parent? Someone may think they are, but no one can ever be completely prepared for suddenly having your life consumed by a tiny, lovable tyrant (or two). Some other things I wasn’t ready for: the helpless feeling you get when your child is sick, having teenaged-sized attitude in a toddler, the incredible range of emotions children can bring out in you from unadulterated joy to overwhelming exasperation, and putting my keys in the freezer and milk in the cabinet because that’s how one’s mind functions when they have these lovable tyrants running around.

There are some other moments that I wasn’t ready for either, but when the time came I feel like I performed pretty damn well for a first-timer. Like the first ER visit. And the 2-10th. And answering questions about their dad. And about what happened to the tooth fairy when she didn’t show up. And watching them go off to school for the first time. And trying to explain why I couldn’t just give them a baby sister. But today I was faced with a question that I wasn’t even close to ready to answer.

The conversation was normal enough for us. We were driving in the car and the boys were in the back

discussing hospital visits and how many we have had (see previous paragraph) and I was stressing why we are hoping to never, ever have to go to the hospital again and how many people can actually go through almost their entire lives without ever having to go to the hospital and trying to explain the difference between going to the hospital for tests or something and going to the hospital for an emergency.

“Right,” C said. “Because everyone goes to the hospital when they are born. So technically, everyone has been to the hospital.”

“Well, not necessarily.” I said. This was my first mistake. I had learned from my previous wins at answering questions I was not prepared to answer that the key to a successful interaction was to stick to the briefest version of the truth possible. No additional details. No explanations. As a rule, I am not good at this. My sister has often said that my biggest problem is that I talk to the boys too much and as a result they will talk and talk and argue and explain and debate and talk some more about everything. This may well be a case in point. But I had no idea I was about to be trapped.

“What do you mean?” C asked. “You mean like people who are born in church?”

“Well, no, I think church would be an unusual place to be born. But some people are born at home or in birthing centers and different places than hospitals.” I thought I was sharing valuable information. I was really setting myself up for the question that I was least prepared to answer this morning.

“Babies can’t be born at home” G said. “How would that even work?”

“Of course they can, lots of people do that.” Suddenly, I had a bad feeling.

“What, do their husbands like cut them open with a butcher knife or something to get the baby out?”

“Ha! No. Not all babies are born by doctors doing surgery…” my voice had kind of trailed off. Sweet Jesus, what have I done.

“Then how are they born?” the two of them asked almost in unison.

Crap. “Um, well they don’t come out by the doctors doing a c-section and taking them out the way you guys were born.” I said repeating myself.

“So how do they come out?”

“Umm…they um…” Smooth as a porcupine, I tried to decide how to answer. There was really only one way and I was having such struggle saying it to my two eight-year old boys. If my niece had asked me, I think I would have just come out with it. Instead, I was hemming and hawing and knew that if I made any bigger deal of it, it was going to become WAY bigger of a deal than I wanted it to be. In the meantime, they decided to guess.

“Do they poop it out?”

“No.”

“Do they throw it up?”

“Ewwww…”

“No.”

There is already hysterical laughter, so I bite the bullet.

“No, the baby comes out of the woman’s um, vagina.”

“Oh.”

“Because the baby is in the uterus or womb and then it comes down the cervix tunnel and out the vagina…these things are all attached in the woman’s body and…” and, STOP TALKING, WOMAN.

So I stopped.

“Yeah, that makes sense.” one of them said. I lost track of who was saying what since they were just going back and forth like ping pong balls.

“Yeah. Because that is at the front of the body. Much more sense than pooping it out.”

I held my breath while they giggled. Please don’t ask how the baby gets in there in the first place, please don’t ask how the baby gets in there in the first place, please don’t…

“Yeah and it totally could come out of a butt more easily than throwing it up.”

I couldn’t help myself. “It isn’t in the butt. That is a different body part.”

“I know. I am just saying. It would be easier than coming up through the mouth.”

Right. I said nothing more and somehow we moved on. I am soooooooo not ready to have these talks. I don’t think I will ever be ready. Is anyone? I don’t even really remember having the birds and the bees talk. I do remember asking my mom where babies came from on a dare. I had already been told by a friend’s older siblings. The idea was so gross that I just couldn’t even fathom it. I also remember the “period” discussion in fifth grade where all the fifth grade girls and parents went and watched the movie about blossoming into womanhood or whatever craziness that was. It so didn’t prepare me for the actual thing. And while I want my sons to be well-informed and prepared, I wish I knew how to do it without actually having to utter the words. Somehow, I feel like as soon as these boys hear their mom say words like “vagina” and “uterus” it’s all over for them. And I bet they won’t enjoy me trying to explain what is happening to their bodies (Lord, help me). So parents, how did you get prepared? How old were your kids? And how did you do it? I’ve got a few years (I hope!) but today gave me a taste of what’s ahead and clearly I need to get ready.

Swearing, Salinger & SpongeBob

So I never thought that I would ever praise SpongeBob for teaching my sons any great truth.  In fact, I cringe when SpongeBob is on at the gym’s daycare.  I am not a fan. I just don’t get SpongeBob, but then I haven’t really tried either. Many accuse me of being anti-television altogether and that isn’t exactly true. I appreciate television for what it is and think that sometimes it can be very educational for kids. And it is a nice diversion from time to time. Even though I’d like my kids to find other diversions for the most part, I do believe TV serves a purpose. And apparently so does SpongeBob.

The other morning G decided to test the parental waters in regards to swearing. It started with some “rhyming”…

“Shift, shaft…” he says. Steals a furtive glance at mommy, “…shit, shat”

I continue getting dressed  and bite the inside of my cheek to keep from smirking or in any way acknowledging in case he really doesn’t know what he is saying. C is sitting on my bed in wide-eyed wonder at his brother so somehow I doubt that is the case. G continues…

“Shit, shat,” he singsongs as he walks down the hall, but then he gives himself away with a giggle.

“So, you know that is a curse word,” I say following him into the hallway. He turns to face me oh-so-innocently.

“You mean, shit?”

“Yes.”

“Yes.” He smiles at me and wonders what I’ll do next. Will I scream? Will he be punished? Will it be like the last time he admitted to knowing a curse word and mommy sighed with relief to hear that it was “Dummy”….

Now, I’ve got a lot of mixed thoughts about swearing. I once had a co-worker who claimed that swearing was for ignorant people who couldn’t think up better words to express how they were feeling. I sort of agree with this. I also had a co-worker who was certainly intelligent and educated but cursed “like a sailor” and I have to say that I think she did it in order to sound cool and be rebellious even though it sort of went against every fiber of her being. A grown woman trying to get some street cred by using the f word at work came across rather pathetic, actually. On the other hand, I consider myself well educated and fairly intelligent and I have definitely been known to swear and have found that sometimes a string of curses is an excellent stress reliever…I don’t know why. Maybe all the energy I use to think up better words on a day-to-day basis creates a certain amount of stress that letting some f-bombs fly out of frustration feels pretty good.  Dunno. Don’t care really. Cursing doesn’t offend me unless it is directed at me and I generally pride myself on being the type of person who doesn’t elicit curses from her fellow human beings. Although I’m sure there are some drivers out there who might feel differently.

Then I think about The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield. He gets so upset when he sees the graffiti on the wall at his sister’s school, thinking about how seeing those ugly words can only rob the kids of their innocence when someone tells them what it means and how it can paint the world as an awful and violent place. He wants to cover it up but realizes that you just can’t wipe out all the f-yous in the world. It is impossible. And old J.D. Salinger is right–on both points. When I think about swearing in that context, it does offend me. Why should my kids be exposed to such vulgarity and robbed of their innocence? On the other hand, this is reality and I can’t shield my kids from it forever. I also don’t want to give more power to those words than they deserve. Especially when scrawled on a wall or uttered in a moment of frustration. I guess you just have to teach kids the best alternatives and hope they reach for those words in the moment. And obviously modeling is the best form of teaching.

All this to say–freedom of expression is important.  And freedom of speech is our constitutional right (don’t even get me started on the irony of The Catcher in the Rye being BANNED in this country or those people who made a big deal over the Modern Family episode with the bleeped out swear from the little girl). If people want to curse that is their choice.  Do I want them teaching that to my kids? Not really. Do I want to teach that to my kids? No. What I want is to teach them creative ways to express themselves. But how? Enter SpongeBob.

So, I didn’t blow my stack about the swearing or anything, I just said, “We don’t curse in this house,” and went back to my room to finish getting ready. C who had been listening to this exchange with a lot of interest says:

“So, you mean that shit is a curse?”

“Yes. And now we’ve all said it. And now you know it is something we don’t say. I don’t use those words and neither should you.” At least not while you’re listening, I added to myself.

This seemed to resonate with C, who then asked:

“Why do people use those words?”

Hmmmm…how to explain to a six year old…

“I guess they can’t think of anything better to say. Sometimes people get frustrated or mad and they need to let it out so they swear. But we can think of more creative things to say, right?  Like…”

“Darnit Sauce!”

Yes. Exactly like that. SpongeBob’s expression is actually “Tartar sauce!”, but the McLaughlin boys long ago converted it to “Darnit sauce!” Creative, funny, and an appropriate exclamation for a six year old.  Thank you, SpongeBob. I couldn’t have said it better myself.