Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Demise of a Super Mom

Dear Teachers, School Officials and PTA,

Thank you so much for providing my child with a wonderful school, great teachers, and very involved parent groups. Although I had high hopes for myself when my son started Elementary school, I fear I am not going to live up to my expectations. I was going to do things right, participate in all activities, and be a great Mom. Now I am clear that is not going to happen.

Let me start by saying, all is not lost. There are many things I have done to make you proud:

· Fed my kid breakfast almost every day.

· Made sure he was dressed in semi-clean clothes

· Got him to school on time or no more than 10 minutes late

· Only parked in the loading zone a handful of times.

· When I did park there, I always tried to “fast walk” to his classroom.

· Remembered his “sharing day” at least 50% of the time.

· Brought the camcorder, with a slightly charged battery, to each school performance.

· Volunteered in my son’s classroom and resisted the urge to wear a hospital mask.

Next, please let me make it clear that I am a Liberal, Earth Loving person. I believe in Global Warming and feed my kids organic chicken and non-antibiotic fed cow milk. I want to leave the world a better place for my children and my grandchildren. Unfortunately, there are two areas of school year that have simply kicked my ass.


It all started when my son came running home at the start of school and told me “Mom…Tuesday is TRASH FREE! I am going to save the planet so YOU need to go to this website and buy me one of these lunch boxes so I don’t ruin Mother Earth.” I thought to myself, “Of course I will help you, my little Al Gore!” I loved the idea. No more clogging up landfills or putting stuff in the trash! Amen! A joyous day filled with recycling and reusing…how could it go wrong?

At that moment, I remembered we had just bought a seemingly Earth friendly Superman lunchbox at Target for $10. I asked him if we could possibly wait until that one got old before we bought a new one. The look he gave me was devastating. It was as if I had just shot an endangered beluga whale. I quickly apologized, grabbed my computer, and got online.

As I looked at these highly overpriced, environmentally friendly lunches boxes, I realized it was simply a large plastic box that was divided into a few smaller plastic boxes. I had an overwhelming dislike for the creative stay-at-home mom who had come up with this idea and would now make a fortune from my parental guilt.

From the start, I didn’t think those things would work. If these things were so good, how come there was still such a large section for Ziploc bags at every grocery store? But who am I to stand between my son and his desire to stop Global Warming. I entered in my Visa number and hit order on his new, $50, astronautically designed, 5 compartment, stainless steel water bottle included, environmentally friendly lunchbox. Mom of the Year award here I come!

A few days later it arrived, and from the moment I met that lunch box, I hated it. Talk about a pain in the ass. Packing his lunch became an engineering project. Each compartment could only fit about 3 grapes and maybe 6 chips (if they were stacked perfectly on top of each other). I realized these lunch boxes would be great if you kid was anorexic, on a diet, or some type of modified fast. But if they were a regular kid who liked to eat regular amounts of food, you were screwed. I so missed my neat little plastic baggies, artificial flavored go-gurt tubes, and pre-packaged goldfish bags. To make matters worse, the lunch box included a built in dry erase board on the inner flap. I know you are thinking, “That is so genius. A lovely place to tell your kid how much you love them.” Here’s the thing, I don’t leave notes, its just not what I do. But now that empty white board was staring up at me and my guilt and anxiety became unbearable. That meant each day I had to think up something new and loving to write to my son that he could read and ponder while eating lunch. I quickly wrote, “Dear Jack, I hope you have a great day…and p.s. I hate trash free Tuesday.” It wasn’t perfect but it was the best I could do.

Turns out, I should have listened to Oprah and followed my intuition. That lunchbox did not work…at all. On the first day he used it, I got a call from the school. The teacher explained that when my son had opened his lunch box, the sandwich flew out of its airtight compartment, fell on the ground and ended up with dirt all over it. The applesauce I had carefully poured into container #3 had also spilled everywhere and my son was soaking wet. And the 5 chips I had jammed into container #2 couldn’t take the pressure when I had closed the space ship tight lid and had crumbled into tiny pieces. The teacher explained that my son was DEVASTED and CRIED SO HARD! She then calmly said, “Mrs. Chittick, next time I suggest you place his food in a plastic bag.”

Therefore this letter is telling you that my son will no longer qualify for the “I am a friend of Mother Earth” stamp. The lunchroom helper will not be able to smile at him and say “Congratulations, you don’t have any trash today.” Instead from now on, he will take his 6 little baggies (the ones that can kill sea turtles), plastic applesauce container, and paper napkin and throw them away with his head pointed down in shame. Please don’t blame him, it’s not his fault.

Walk to school Wednesday is even worse than Trash Free Tuesday. This Earth Friendly idea is physically and logistically impossible…at least for me. You want us to walk to school and make the Earth a better place; I want to somehow survive the morning. These are two honorable and challenging goals…unfortunately, they may not work well together.

For working mothers, the hours between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m are what we may call PURE HELL. In between blow-drying our hair, getting dressed, and taking a quick conference call, we must also get our kids up, dressed and fed. It is war and someone always wins. It is ‘us’ against ‘them’ and when you add the pressure of Walk to School Wednesday…we don’t have a fighting chance.

Each Wednesday my son says “MOM, can we PLEASE walk to school today? I want to help Mother Earth!” And every Wednesday we have to have this conversation:

Me: “My dear sweet boy, we can’t walk today. Do you know why?”

Son: “No, why?”

Me: “Because right now I am already 30 minutes late to a meeting and we haven’t even left the house yet. Because I make my living in outside sales, I am currently dressed in 6-inch stilettos and a miniskirt. I will explain why that is when you get older. In these shoes, walking 7 blocks (or even 7 steps) makes absolutely no sense. My boss doesn’t even know I take you to school and if I show up sweaty, it will give me away. If he finds out about how much I am juggling to make this work, he may just fire me. If he fires me, we won’t have anywhere to live and you may have to go to bed hungry.”

Son: “Hmm...I don’t want to be hungry”

Me: “And there is more. Your little sister, the one who is 2 and just learned to walk a year ago, she throws tantrums and runs away from me in public. I wish we didn’t have to bring her with us but we do. See, your father mysteriously leaves for work 15 minutes before you start school so I am stuck taking both of you. I have no choice. As I mentioned earlier, we live 7 blocks from school, which in my book is close to a mile. That qualifies as exercise and since I am not wearing a sports bra, it is not going to happen. Plus along the way there is a lot of dog poop on the sidewalk. This is because some people in this neighborhood are bad and irresponsible. I am pretty sure one of us would step in it on the way to school and then I may have nervous breakdown. So if you could PLEASE GET IN THE CAR that would be great!”

When we get to his Kindergarten class, the teacher takes role and then asks this question “Jack, did you WALK or DRIVE today.” Here is where he turns around and looks at me like I am the most disgusting person on Earth. He stands up tall and points to me with his little dirty, chubby finger and says, “Mrs. Murray, I drove because SHE wouldn’t let me walk.” The public humiliation is just too much for anyone to bear. (p.s. last week when I asked him if he wanted to walk to school on Friday because my meeting was canceled he said “Mom, we can’t do that. We can only walk to school on Wednesday’s”…maybe they are missing the point?)

So this letter is my white flag. I give up, you win, and I have done all I can. I haven’t been to any PTA meetings, I barely remember his parent/teacher conference, and I use plastic baggies and drive on Wednesday. I am not ashamed anymore and I will not hide from the truth. We recycle at home, we turn lights out when we leave, and we clean with non-chemical products. In the end, I am doing the best I can.

So please keep up the good work and thank you for all you do. If you happen to start Margarita Mondays, I will be the first to sign up!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Today is I am feeling grateful. This morning I dropped the last of our holiday visiting relatives off at the airport and I can finally breathe. Tomorrow I may wake up to cloudy weather, seasonal depression and a deep hatred for my job…but not today.

Let me explain...

The following questions have been asked hundreds of times over the past 5 weeks:

1. What are we doing for lunch?

2. What are we doing for dinner?

3. Where are the ------- (insert any item you find in your kitchen here)?

4. I hope I am not a bother but could you (insert any task that makes you crazy here)?

5. Which towel, sponge, bowl, etc would you like me to use?

6. Where is your husband?

And my favorite comment that family members make while visiting:

“I don’t remember my kids ever doing that when they were this age?”

But now that I put that down, let me get back to my overwhelming feeling of gratefulness that I have today. Yes, one of the obvious reasons I feel so happy is that they are all gone…and they went far…back to the East Coast. Yet the real reason I am so happy is that (almost) every minute of those visits was wonderful for my kids and me. It takes having everyone leaving, deflating the blow up beds, washing sheets and towels, cleaning out the fridge and recovering from those wonderful family arguments to really begin to look back and realize you wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, along with the every song by Journey and Air Supply, the following things are what I am truly grateful for:

1. My Husband: Although my husband went mute and suspiciously needed to work “extra” hours while our family was visiting, I fell in love with him all over again. After spending so much time with our families, we were again reminded that we are doing pretty well considering where we came from. He is a good man and I feel very lucky to have him in my life (this blog will treat him kindly…the man deserves a break)

2. My mother-in-law is an amazing woman. She made wonderful meals, spent quality time with my kids and fed them gummy bears and Oreo cookies before 8am. During one of our late night talks, we discussed the fact that sex is supposed to keep getting better for women as they age. She wanted both my husband and I to realize that mothers (including our own) are sexual beings just like everyone else. It was an extremely awkward conversation but the large glass of Merlot made it bearable. After our little discussion, she gave me a gift certificate to a fully nude Korean spa in downtown LA. She had gone earlier that day and just loved the experience. Between my mother-in-law giving me a nudist spa treatment, and my father-in-law giving me a Victoria Secret gift card a few years earlier, it has become clear that there are at least 3 people in this world who want me to have more sex with my husband (just to be clear, I am not on that list)

3. My brother-in-law celebrated his second year of sobriety. He is flourishing in his new life and more importantly was able to host his mother for dinner at HIS house for the first time in 10 years. This in turn gave me a night off as he helped share the joy of entertaining her. His sobriety is great; the fact that I didn’t have to do dishes one night…even better.

4. My 87 year-old Grandma came out to visit for the second time and we had a wonderful visit. Even though she says she prays that God will take her soon and told me she feels useless and unloved, I still can’t get enough of that old lady. At one point I had her take two Advil (her knee was killing her) along with a Bloody Mary and she accused me of trying to kill her. But then, after swallowing the pills like an expert, she said the truth was she would love to die, but just not in front of the kids and me. What a class act! She continues to make me laugh and always makes me feel like the most beautiful, talented, and amazing person on the planet...p.s. she still slips money in my purse and tells me to buy something for myself because I deserve it.

5. My mom and I got along really well and enjoyed the holidays together. She kept any rude or mean comments about my house, parenting, and/or entertaining abilities to herself. She only said one thing about my decorations when she mentioned that the front yard looked a bit 'white trash' and that the “mechanical deer on the lawn was pushing it.” This time, I even agreed with her. A highlight of the holidays was when she gave me a Breathalyzer for Christmas. I took this as a sign that she believed being her daughter could be hard; therefore I had every right to get hammered while out drinking with my friends. She just wanted to make sure I was sober or would instead take a cab. Now that is a great mom!

6. My brother and his fiancĂ© Skyped us over the holiday and I realized how happy I am to be getting a sister this year. As I watched my brother and his new family sit calmly on the other side of the computer, I prayed that they would have children soon. Of course I want nieces and nephews, but the truth is it would be nice not to be the only ones spending Christmas morning listening to kids scream things like “PUT MY TUTU BACK ON” and “I HATE BOOKS, THIS IS THE WORSTEST CHRISTMAS EVER!”

7. My sweet dad is happier than ever and enjoyed this holiday with an addition to his family, a golden retriever named Trooper. He has always loved animals (some may say more than people at times) and it was nice to see he had adopted another lucky dog. Sometimes when he is with my kids, he pats his leg or does a bird whistle when he wants their attention. The new dog will probably make this problem worse but what can you say, the man loves animals. While he and I talked on the phone during the holidays, he just laughed when I told him the stories of the family drama unraveling 3,000 miles away. I used to want him to be here, but now I realize he is exactly where he needs to be.

8. My aunt is a saint. When I think about love, I think about her. She listens to me, she makes me laugh, and she is just about the greatest person on Earth. She helped me fix my breakfast nook and helped my husband rewire his outdoor speakers, both things we valued immensely. She played trains with my son for 5 hours and has a relationship with my daughter that is beautiful to watch. Most importantly she watched my kids when I went out with my friends to the greatest gay bar in West Hollywood. And although I didn’t come home until 2:30am, she didn’t say a word. She must have known how much I needed a night out dancing with beautiful men that wanted nothing to do with me.

So on this day when I sit alone at Starbucks, truly alone for the first time in a while, I smile and think about how good life is. Sometimes it takes a little bit of reflection, the help of a babysitter, and a beautiful sunny day to make you realize it doesn’t really get any better than this. Happy January, it is going to be another great year!