Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UPDATED: Another non-gardening post!

UPDATE: new one up at UJ!

So I was asked is it worth it. 'It' being all the years of work and crap you go through making a family. It threw me for a loop. I think I ended up talking about compost or something.
Let's give it another try.

'Worth' as it relates to life is a way of thinking that I associate with being a Catholic. We were taught that any particular event in life was a test (and usually sucked), and if you passed it, God rewarded you. Guaranteed. You pay, you get.

Now granted, you could look at parenthood as a trial of endurance and not be far off the beam. You're broke all the time, you spend three years stuck with a short crazy person going through puberty, and then of course there's all the unpaid overtime spent attending those interminable goddamn school programs (oh sweet fuck the CHRISTMAS programs especially; gaaaaaaah!!!) Not to mention losing jobs because your boss just doesn't seen to understand that you can't leave a sick 4-year-old at home by herself, or same being eligible for free school lunches and then finding out that the poor kid's been doing without because of the stigma attached to that; yeah.

Are we having fun yet?

Still, here's the way I see it: In and of itself, no. Parenthood isn't worth it because it isn't a price you pay for something and there is no exchange involved. You don't get a guaranteed reward if you do it well. Most of the time you don't even get noticed. The fact of the matter is, you can raise a kid and make a home and do those things perfectly, and truthfully it doesn't mean a whole fuck of a lot in the universal scheme of things, all that effort and sweat and all those good intentions. It really doesn't. It can, but chance doesn't exactly favor that outcome, either.
True fact.

If parenthood ends up being worth anything, then that will be the direct result of your values and how seriously you take it. In other words, you make it worth something.

So that explains why I fumbled the handoff. You can take the girl out of the church, but once she becomes a nihilist she ends up talking about compost. Or however that goes.

For me, at least, being a parent sucked about half the time. That's the simple unvarnished truth. It wasn't the kid, so much...aside from a few episodes of 'stupid' the kid was pretty excellent. It was the other stuff. Mostly it was the constant terror. I had no idea what I was doing.

The worst part of having a child was the baby years. Of course then it was simply a problem of a baby not being able to express itself in words that raised the frustration level. Once I survived that, the 'kid' part was actually kind of fun a lot of the time. Certainly tolerable if nothing else. And if, like me, you haven't really crossed over into adult mode yourself, it probably was a lot more fun than it would have been otherwise, so there was that too.

The bad part is all the bullshit you have to put up with and all the crap you have to be on your guard about. I know I went head to head with shit on behalf of my family that I would never have put up with for a friend. And you have to win those battles, too. You HAVE to win. You have to go in and risk looking like a hysterical bitch or an idiot, just put the fear and the ego to one side and go deal with the scary nurse or the condescending bank teller or complain to the manager.

It's dealing with incompetence and indifference on the part of teachers, sanctimoniousness on the part of doctors, freakjob parents, attitude from strangers, and worst of all, the people with weird agendas they wanted to foist off in the name of good parenting. (Boy, there's another post right there. ) Religious nuts of every possible stripe come out of the woodwork, and the first thing they target is the kids. Awana, Tiger Cubs, the fricken' Ba'hais for heavens sake, the fundies with their VBS...oh, it's just wonderful. Then there's the media you suddenly have to be hyperaware of...a media which is WAY better at sneaking in and pushing childrens' buttons than it was when we were growing up.

One of my favorite 'screw the parents' ploys is when the fucking PTA decides to have a fund drive and your poor little six year old kid shows up with a sheaf of tickets or overpriced candy they have to sell or they get in trouble, and they're crying, and you realize that the only way that shit ever gets sold is if the parents buy it all because there's no way in fucking hell that you're going to send a six-year-old girl out door to door in this day and age....and you realize that you're being conned.
Oh yeah, that's a barrel of laughs.

Of course there was that whole issue of me not being the most socially well-adjusted person who ever lived, in the beginning (I am of course the very soul of reason now.) Being a chambermaid, no matter how evil, simply does not prepare you to to take care of a little kid; forget that suddenly I also had to be a manager, an agent of the Spanish Inquisition*, a spy, a cop, a public relations officer, a prosecuting attorney, an ambassador, a hostess and a rampaging berserker at a moments notice.

OK fine. The rampaging berserker part came easily. The rest, not so much. **

So. How did I make it BE worth it? And will there be coffee and donuts afterwards?

I guess first of all, I took it seriously. Dead seriously.
Things were absolutely NOT going to fuck up on my watch.

That attitude right there is what got me through those 18 years.

Second of all, when we made a decision, we always chose quality of our family life over any other consideration; including financial gain. Always.

Thirdly, I got a lot out of being the person whose job it was to teach a new human being the ropes. I really, really liked that. And then seeing that person learn it, and use it? And having it work? That's....shit, that's a big relief if nothing else!

Fourth, I liked my husband. No, seriously, I know plenty of parents for whom that's simply laughable; liking one another. We were able to share responsibility pretty evenly without any ego or entitlement issues involved.

Fifth, I just like being part of a family. That's the way I'm wired. So parenthood didn't seem like this big, onerous imposition because I expected it to be what it was and just dealt with it. In fact, I expected it to be a hell of a lot worse than it turned out to be. When it wasn't, that was pretty cool too!

Sixth, when it did suck, it NEVER SUCKED ONE TENTH AS MUCH AS A TYPICAL DAY IN MY PARENTS HOUSE. And that's sheer circumstance there. Still, it was a huge source of pride for me every single day of those eighteen years. Not even on my worst day did it ever even OCCUR to me to pull any of the sick shit that went on as a matter of daily fact in my family of origin.

Seventh, I never had to make my kid be like me. I saw parents who did this and it was just creepy. When she did something cool, that was her doing it, and I was like 'Wow! That person lives with me!' and was all blown away and impressed. Still am, in fact.

Eighth, I had my own interests. I didn't let being a wife and parent engulf me. I might be having a shit day as a mom, but I could still learn something new or make something nice and at least reassure myself that I wasn't a complete failure.

Being a wife and parent has not been the most personally rewarding thing in my life-working with plants and pursuing my studies and and interests has been just as rewarding. A whole hell of a lot less frightening, at least. That it all turned out well is nice, of course. Still, it could have gone off the goddamn rails so many times, for so many different reasons that I had no control over...yeesh. How much credit can I take for that? None.

I spent eighteen years flying without a net, and I'm glad it's over

So. Here I am. And here's what I have, some of which is at least somewhat due to good choices having been made prior...

Once I no longer had that third person in the house, I methodically set out cleaning out the joint top to bottom...and that 'mommy' persona got cleaned out right along with it.
Mommy is done. Mommy is OVAH.

Now that I no longer have to be a good example, I don't even fucking pretend any more. Things that I quit doing or ramped way back on for the sake of being a responsible parent are once again part of my life, like taking recreational drugs and cranking up my music really loud and being really vocal politically and artistically. My kids know me as an adult woman. I'm no longer their boss-fuck that. I'll give you my perspective on things if you ask, but I could give a hoot in hell how you fold your laundry or clean your house or what kind of soap you wash the baby in. Wash it in ketchup. Wash it in ranch dressing.

The time we formerly spent riding herd on the kid we now put into our interests; which, thank God, we HAVE since we didn't play the 'my family is my WHOOOOOOLE LIFE' thing. Let me tell you, sweet, uninterrupted TIME to concentrate and really get into the kind of depth you want to with something, without feeling that your stealing time and attention from your family responsibilities, is EXCELLENT.

Furthermore the sex is so goddamn much better now I cannot tell you. I'm one of those people who gets all squicked out if the dog wanders into the room, right; so having a little kid in the house was really really inhibiting.

That is no longer a factor. At all.

So yeah. Life is good! We have a lot more free time now and money to play! Come over and party some time!

Just, you first.

*which, if you do it right, nobody will expect. their chief element is surprise.

*not that i didn't catch on fast; i did. oh FUCK yes. soon those who would subdue us found themselves consumed. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA


  1. Can you imagine ME at a PTA meeting?

    No, I won't be needing this.

    *flings uterus across the room*

  2. ***ducks flying uteri***

    Sounds like a good recipe for surviving parenting.
    AND it all came out good :-)

  3. Having an adult friend with your kids is the best. Most parents never make that transition and keep on parenting their kids forever. Or they go the other way and try to be their kid's friend when they don't need a friend, they need a parent. It's amazing how many people don't understand that.

    Beast: how many uterii do you think mj has???

  4. I have often be referred to as "The Chief Element of Surprise."

  5. Tremendously honest..especially the flying without a net metaphor. Man I was terrified when my kids were could I possibly make the right decisions for them when I was such a dumbass?

    You just do..and if you screw up you try door number 2...they'll still love you the next morning and you'll love them even more.

    I always knew that it was a term position and that I absolutely needed to let them make their own mistakes because those are the only lessons that seem to sink in.
    That was hard.

    Best thing was to let them know that most obstacles are NOT the end of the world and that in 10 years nobody will remember or care what happened...other than the passive aggressives like myself who will nurture and massage it STOP
    the best thing was to make sure that they get stuff out in the open and get it over with.

    WHo am I kidding I love this job and I am thrilled to be starting over with my little guy..althoug oddly enough I don't seem to be any better at it..HA!

  6. thrive on neglect - that's what mine do.

  7. Keeping them in the cellar is the best bet. They won't get skin cancer in later life and will thank you for it.

  8. I come from a long line of PTA haters. However, I DID get sucked into Boy Scouts, den mother all that bushwah, it turned out okay.

  9. mj: I don't imagine that a lot of uterus flinging goes on in a PTA meeting, but perhaps Canada is different. well, that goes without saying though.

    beast: Luck. 50% luck. had she not been a smart kid, things would have been a lot different.

    cI: I didn't know if i was doing the right thing particularly, i just figured why do all that stuff when its no longer necessary? shes better at being an adult than I was at that age. plus after 18 years i NEEDED some recreational drugs, yo./oo, look at you in your new avatar rowing down the river there!!!

    champ: i often refer to you as the Chief Element of Lycra With Hair Poking All Through it! and a belated welcome back, sir!

    donno bobonno: i read back and i hadn't realized that you've had so many changes happen lately. I hope the memories are good ones. Im thinking of you. now take your simvastatin!

    ziggi: thats some affluent looking neglect, zigster. i think you're doing it wrong.

    cI; ohoooo. ahAAA. isn't Spring (not to mention impending marriage to a pirate) great? I'm in the latter stages of fricken' menopause and I'M broody too. happens every damn year. and babies are all...squitty. ew. babies. make me one IMMEDIATELY.

    garfy: you read about that man in Germany, then. He did that one better and kept the GRANDKIDS down there too.
    although i never looked at it from the 'skin cancer' angle. hmm.

  10. Now you get to spoil the grandkids.

  11. retroblog! sorry, you snooked in under the wire there! i feel yo pain. i did girl scouts for half a year. it was HELL. i had no backup whatsoever from the parents; they saw it as baby sitting. they should give out badges to the LEADERS, huh.

    joe: and you and I do it well!!!

  12. Those PTA assemblies are EVIL. The last time my daughter came home trying to hard-sell me junk I don't need (magazine subscritptions? Gift wrap? Who can remember?), I finally asked her why it was so important. She said that if she sold a certain dollar's amount worth of crap, she would win one of those extra large Hershey bars (the one about the size of a paperback book). I told her I would take her to Safeway that very minute and buy her three of them if we agreed never to speak of this buying of crap again. She was thrilled. I saved money. And no relatives were harassed about buying yet more fundraising crap.

    I hate PTAs.

  13. I refer to my little sunshine as mama's kryptonite. They make you vulnerable. And he was so great until the very month he turned 18. Sigh. I highly recommend against having kids. There's too many humans on the planet already. Too bad I figured it out AFTER the fact. D'oh.

  14. Still haven't figured out how to take responsibility for my own life yet. Good job I don't have any maternal instinct!

    Will have to join MJ in the uterus flinging (actually, mass uterus flinging is an ancient British custom, and contests are held in northern villages on the third Sunday in April).

  15. methinks you have mixed effluent with affluent!

    and I keep all the shit for meself doncha know :)

  16. Betty: Is the mass uterus flinging contest going to conflict with the annual Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling?

  17. I...uh...yeah. I didn't turn out too big. I guess I don't get the big dang ol deal about being a parent that most seem to share? It has its suckass moments. Ohhhh yes. I've noticed the moments are MORE suckass when you've got five drawing packages due out last week that are still in signatures, flam testing gone wonky, and your preschool teacher on the phone explaining your child's saying "fuck" often and loudly.
    At home....well, it's kinda like, "HEY! Misbehaving person! Go to your dang room and take out the trash (did you know 4 year olds can do this? it is excellent)". It is much better and not as stressful. At least for me?
    So.....uhhhhm. Not sweatin it, I guess. He's gonna be who he's gonna be, I just gotta give him some moral guidelines and societal norms to work within.
    Am I a freak for saying that?

  18. "turn out too big" s/b "turn out too badly" yes.

  19. The more I read from you the cooler you get.

    AND it's refreshing to not automatically hear someone gush on about their children as coated with gold and the perfection of their life...something is taking over my friends brains as they become parents...I'm glad to know normalish parenting and lives are possible. Still not sure if I want the little beans though...

  20. Dangerpanda: no shit. its emotional extortion-what a fucking racket. and the kids really get tricked into taking that shit seriously too. the teachers really push that 'peer pressure-peer competition' shit. PISSES ME OFF, MAN! *gets all pumped and snorty*

    joy: thats the truth, though. you'll do anything for you kids and not even think about it. once those instincts kick on it's all over.

    dinah: short and to the point!

    betty: I saw a youtube of the uterus for distance competition in Upper Liver Fluke on the Thames. really. now I have a better understanding of why the pilgrim fathers decided to leave and start their own country.

    ziggi: yeah, well, say that to the next chair that assaults you. *folds arms smugly and pretends that made sense*

    mj: not to mention the 'running of the Gimps' in Dorset?

    SSA: freudian slip! just because you're 3 inches shorter than me doesn't mean you aren't still stainless steel or an amazon. now go bring mommy a mirror and a razor blade.

    geo: I noticed that too! all of a sudden all those wild slutty girls and the passed out in a puddle of puke guys i knew were living in Stepford neighborhoods and going to Stepford church with their Stepford 2.73 kids, just the best little conservative citizens you could ask for, everythings hunky dory, yep yep yep...screw DAT.

  21. Maybe one day I'll have kids.

  22. Bg: welcome to you! Remember: its not a requirement. you could just buy a puppy.

  23. helena9:26 AM

    I loved this post - some of the most sensible stuff I've heard about being a parent!
    What terrifies me, is just how child-centric our society is becoming, not just in the way that the media manipulates parents but in the way that parenting has become the be all and end all of people's lives once they do have children.