Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Far Is Too Far? How Much Is Too Much?

Boogers and poop.  That is what so many of our dinnertime conversations degenerate into.  It doesn't go straight from, "pass the potatoes," to "boogers and poop."  No!  It's usually a downward spiral starting about the time we have all shoveled at least three forks full of whatever's on the menu into the pie hole.  It begins innocently enough--someone (a kid) steps three whole feet away from the table and grins.  Whether we have heard anything or not, the best guess is always that there was some small attempt made at the mannerly relief of gas.  Me?  I personally think they should go outside and down the road a ways if we are all sitting around the dinner table, but that doesn't seem to be anyone else's conviction.  Sometimes, the offender mumbles the 2012 phrase for, "Excuse me."  My bad.  Next thing you know, it's fifteen minutes later, the kitchen is filled with raucous laughter, loud guffaws, people falling out of their chairs, and completely atrocious manners.

It is at this point that my dear hubby and I look at each other helplessly and say, with sad resolve, "Yes, dear, we have, indeed, become Dan and Roseanne .  But is it all bad?  Some of you would curl a lip in disgust, not even giving me the benefit of your correction. 

I had this conversation with a fella after we were pulled up about singing a TRADITIONAL camp song at a Cub Scout event.  My husband and I were both den leaders and the song, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," is adorable.  It involves a little bear going over the mountain, seeing a bunch of Girl Scouts, eating up the Girl Scouts, taking Alka-Seltzer, and then barfing up the Girl Scouts.  The Girl Scouts tell his mommy and she "spanks his little bottom."  You know why it was inappropriate?  It was not honoring to women.  In this conversation with the dad who was appalled by our choice of songs, I said:  "C'mon, [insert name], you have sons.  Can you honestly tell me most of your dinnertime conversations don't degenerate into boogers and poop?"  Ummm--his lip, indeed, curled in disgust.

"No," he whispered in a deep and slow and scary way.  "That is not appropriate dinnertime conversation."

Here's me:  "My bad."  (That means excuse me in today's vernacular.)

Sometimes things get out of hand--like if we have stiff company (which is not often) or we are at a restaurant.  Our kids don't seem to make the distinction between HOME and OUT all the time.  Sometimes, we don't--I'll admit it.  One afternoon, we were at an Old Country Buffet with another family (also given to fun dinners), and there was a small incident.  Several of the kids took some of the littler ones to the bathroom.  They were gone kinda long but we didn't notice--we were enjoying adult conversation for once.  Then a manager approached us.  His face was purple.  He looked frantic, angry:  "Where are the responsible adults?" he demanded.

We all four stopped in mid-conversation and looked at him blankly for a little longer than is polite.  Then, as if on cue, we all looked to one another and shrugged.  He said something about kids and the bathroom and stomped away.  We fell out of out chairs laughing.  Then, of course, the moms high-tailed it to the bathroom to correct our mannerless children.  (Our bad.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stop! In The Name of Love--Stop!

A few years ago, I found myself super busy and super overwhelmed.  I have a condition, you see, called AGH.  When my AGH kicks in, I know it will be a matter of only a few short months before I begin to feel poorly.  I start snapping at my family for no reason.  I don't sleep well.  I eat junk like it's going out of style.  I don't check the oil in the old Jeepforget to go grocery shopping, avoid my mother, let the kids eat way too many Ramen noodles, don't sift the cat box.  Lovely. 

My AGH is manageable, if I can manage to manage it, and could conceivably become a condition in lifetime remission.  But my tendency is to deny its presence in my life, to not treat it with lifestyle changes.  Like so many, I walked around for most of my life not realizing I had AGH.  I didn't know the symptoms.  All I knew was that I felt busier than most (or else I was a loser because I couldn't manage all my responsibilities).  And from the symptoms' onset until I flipped my plate completely over and walked away from every unnecessary item on my TO DO LIST, I felt progressively worse--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  The condition is cyclic.  I volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.  And then I lose my mind.  And then I flip my plate, thus, deleting every single item on my lengthy TO DO LIST.  After I clear my schedule, I feel liberated and wonderful.  These are typical signs of AGH, or Anti-Gravity Hand.

I raise my hand to volunteer for things on a regular basis.  A couple years ago, when my son's Cub Scout den needed a den leader, my hand shot up.  When our daughter and her husband needed a place to stay--oooo, stay here!  When the church was short a Wednesday night teacher--I volunteered!  When there weren't enough adults staying the whole week of camp--I packed my bags!  And so on, until my daily TO DO LIST resembled War and Peace.  At that point, I hit crisis mode and quit everything.  I forsook commitments and disappointed people who counted on me. 

Anti-Gravity Hand (AGH) is a very serious condition that, if left untreated, could cause damage in all areas of life.   Because, when the kids ask me to play a board game, or my sister wants me to pop over for lunch, I have too much to do.  I regularly forsake matters of the heart for things that don't matter, and that's terrible for a mother.  So, for today, I pledge to under-commit to stuff that other people could do, and commit, instead, to the stuff only I can do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Career In Modeling

Parenthood--that's why I titled this entry the way I did--is a career in modeling.  From the time they pop out of the womb, our children's eyes watch us.  They embrace our behaviors, our beliefs, our tastes, our prejudices.  They imitate our words and our actions, tweak them a little, and make them their own.  I will remember forever the day our oldest daughter spotted something on the floor across the room and asked, casually:  "What the hell is that?"  She was three.  Of course, our jaws hit the floor.  We were incredulous.  Where, in the world, did she learn to talk like that?  And, just as the words were on my lips to speak correction, my mind's ear recalled those very same words with those very same inflections--coming straight out of her father's mouth.  (Not mine!  Perish the thought!)

Most parents have similar stories.  This is the reason we cringed every single time Pastor Rudy asked questions after a children's message and shoved a microphone in our kids' faces.  We never knew what might roll off their tongues.  Still don't.  It was way back when the our little girl said the H-E-double hockey sticks thing that we realized we'd better watch our own potty mouth.  Remember the show a million years ago with Brandon Cruz and Bill Bixby--The Courtship of Eddie's Father?  Throughout the series, the little boy (Eddie) schemes to get his widower father to remarry.  They spend a lot of time together and Eddie imitates everything his father does.

One word:  Beware.  We have to be wise as we bring up our children.  Adults come with habits, beliefs, practices, prejudices.  Children don't.  Before we make ethnic jokes, bad-mouth the neighbors, ridicule the educated (or uneducated), espouse the evils of law enforcement, pronounce doom upon the future, lose our minds over a spider on the ceiling (It happens.), cuss a blue streak or trash our our spouses, we must ask ourselves what we want our kids to grow up believing about the world. 

The bottom line is:  We Have All Power.  That's a lot of responsibility.  How can we tell them it's wrong to steal when our stack of post-it notes were stolen from Daddy's work?  Too many thoughts conflict in their little minds and they have trouble sorting them out at first.  Eventually, they embrace and justify.  Wouldn't it be better for them to see us bring back the unpaid-for item that was forgotten in the cart at check-out?  Yes--far better than it is for them to hear us congratulate ourselves in our good fortune at getting a freebie.  It is so much more profitable for them to see us facing life on life's terms, taking responsibility for our mistakes, giving grace where it doesn't seem warranted, and continually working to better ourselves. 

Model good behavior.  Extended out, we are bettering generations, hundreds of future people, when we better ourselves.