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Archive for the ‘parenting the parents’ Category

I love the fact that birthdays are a really big deal as far as Spawn is concerned.  My upcoming 44th annus horribilis has got the kid all a-twitter (in the old fashioned way, not the social media way) with the notion of me celebrating something, anything.  There has been mention of a surprise, though with Spawn that could mean just about anything, and considering the fact that The Day falls on a Thursday this year, the biggest surprise I could (and do) hope for is no homework and a lot of “yes ma’am” spread liberally through my house.  I don’t want much, you see.

Well, besides the above-mentioned, my mother’s homemade German chocolate cake would be nice.

My husband is neck deep in a new store opening, and won’t be home for the actual day, and I must actually be getting older because I am all kinds of fine with that.  I don’t remember when birthdays started to be kind of “meh” for me, but I’m just not all that het up about it.  I don’t really want anything — at least, not anything that someone could actually give me — and I don’t want a big fuss made, which has been my mantra for several years now.

Truth be told, this year I’m just not all that into it.  My husband will be working for the next week to ten days and therefore out of town much of the time, my best friend is working majorly sucky hours (3-11pm shift), my favorite cousin lives in Chicago (and she’d certainly show me a good time), and my dear sweet friend Denise has her kids this weekend and is unavailable.  It’s times like this I wish I had googobs of friends, but it’s not my nature to be close friends with more than a few people, and that means that when everyone is busy with their own lives around my birthday, I end up on the couch by myself.

I’ve sort of made some tentative plans to take Spawn on a little road trip this weekend, since my husband won’t be home.  As much as I’d love to have a “me” weekend, filled with lunch and drinks and shopping and general low-level hedonism, my Plan B is to road trip somewhere and spend money on my kid.  Do I know how to live it up or what?

The only problem with Plan B is that my mother seems to be hell-bent on sucking what little joy there is out of it.  Joy-sucking is one of my mother’s specialties, and though I don’t know exactly what the issue is that she has with Plan B, it’s probably fairly safe to assume it has something to do with her not being in control of it.  I love my mother, yes of course, but the woman is a big-time major controller.  (Though if I were to be fair about it I would have to admit that I tend to have control issues too, and thanks mom for lending me those particular genes.)  If she doesn’t like something she rains all over it, which means whatever enjoyment you were going to get out of it gets tainted.  She’s worried that Something Will Happen to us out on the road, and yes, Something might (might! maybe! statistically speaking!) but good lord that’s just no way to live life.

At any rate, the one thing I have semi-looked forward to since I pieced together the fact that I was going to have a dull weekend otherwise has now been rained on by my mother and I am pissed off about that.

(Dear God please don’t let me do this to Spawn amen.)

So I’m going to do what I always do:  go ahead with my plans, perhaps even more stubbornly so, with the slow burn in the back of my mind that comes from being pissed.  Because that is how I deal.  And dammit, I’m (going to be) 44 years old — at what point do I get to do what I want without my mother weighing in on it?  And even that wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t just automatically dump all over everything just because it’s not within her control.  Weigh in with a “good for you!” once in a while, just to balance things out.  But no, my tentative plans got firmly concreted pretty quick.  Whatever ambivalence I felt about Plan B is now pushed aside in favor of Doing It No Matter What.

Can we say passive-aggressive?

— Mox

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So, when we last left off, I was kvetching about the cold and the snow and winter in general.  Little did I know at the time that it was about to get worse. 

What could be worse than (pfft) 3″ of snow, you ask? 

How about making a 128-mile trip, eastward, in a snowstorm that is tracking to the east.  In the dark. 

Yes, Gentle Reader, that was my afternoon/evening on Thursday. 

The roads at home weren’t completely terrible so I decided to keep my hair appointment for that afternoon.  As I was headed out my cell rang and my husband started asking me a bunch of questions about where I was, where I was going, and when was I going to get back.  Because, wouldn’t you know it, his father had had a heart attack. 

Next thing I know, I’m flinging clothes and makeup into an overnight bag, packing Spawn off to my parents’ house (because surely there would be no school on Friday but you never know), and heading off toward my in-laws’ city for what turned out to be a very tense and extremely long drive. 

We got to the hospital almost four hours later to find my father-in-law still sitting in the ER, hooked up to various monitors, pissed off, and waiting to get into a room in the cardiac care unit.  As it turns out he did not have a heart attack but congestive heart failure and severe anemia.  For 81 years my father-in-law has managed to avoid being hospitalized and he was pretty ticked off that his streak was broken.  But had he not been coerced into going to the minor emergicare clinic by my sister-in-law and then having control over the issue taken from him by the clinic staff, who called the ambulance… well, he might not be with us right now.  He was in pretty bad shape. 

My father-in-law is the lynchpin of the family.  I shudder to think what will happen when it finally does happen.  I would not be surprised to see the siblings bickering.  The family business will probably collapse.  Of course it’s a monster he’s created himself, making most of his kids dependent on him, and at 81 it’s getting harder to feed that monster. 

My husband and I stayed a couple of days, and we got a taste of what life would be like without his dad.  It was a little bit chaotic, like a ship without a rudder.  I am glad my husband chose to stay out of the family business, let me tell you. 

Lesson learned here:  it can always be worse. 

— Mox

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I hate to complain about my parents driving me nuts, since so many of my contemporaries no longer have their parents around to drive them nuts, but my parents have been driving me nuts here lately. 

It’s the bane of existence when you are an only child.  There’s just no one else out there to spread the crazy around to. 

I can’t really pinpoint any one thing that’s making me nuts, it’s just an accumulation of things.  Probably a little too much togetherness here lately. 

BUT my parents have left for a short four-day trip, a five hour drive from here, and I hate to admit it, but I feel quite free.  It’s that same feeling you get when you drop your kids off at the schoolhouse door and drive away, knowing that for a few hours, someone else is in charge of them and you can do your thing, whatever your thing is. 

For me, it means I can go to bed early and read a book, not having to have my nightly conversation with my mother.  That looks mighty shallow, written out like that, but it’s a luxury I can rare afford. 

It’s like I’m getting a mini-vacation, too. 

— Mox

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My dad is my hero.  I just want to get that out up front at the beginning of this.  He’s the guy I look to when things need fixing, and he is a wealth of talent and wisdom.  And I know that I am lucky to still have him around and that he’s still able to do things. 

But my dad is an old guy.  Old Guy. 

The older he gets, the Older he gets.  I suppose it’s a natural progression of things, to become more crabby as you age, to think that the world is going to hell in a handcart.  And though I’m growing older, too, it seems there is a widening gap in our generations. 

Last night I had dinner with my parents and afterward we sat in front of the fire and talked.  Conversation turned, as it sometimes does,  to cars that my parents have owned in their 48 years of marriage — the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Now, I don’t understand my parents when it comes to the subject of cars, because my father more or less dictates to my mother the car she will drive.  The first, last, and only time I let my husband have any influence over a car that I drove, I ended up on the side of the road, at night, in the winter, with a blown engine on a 1985 Mercedes.  We’d been married four months.  My father thought I had lost my mind, and after spending an unholy amount of money to have my car towed to the garage in the middle of the night, I thought I had lost my mind, too. 

Prior to that, and following that, I have always selected my own vehicle. 

But my parents are of a different generation, one that has more clearly defined gender roles.  And one of those roles is defined as “the man decides what car the woman will drive, and then pays for it.”  I like that last part, but not enough to let someone else dictate what car I should be driving.  Fortunately after the Mercedes incident, my father believes that I have better judgement than my husband when it comes to car purchases and lets that subject alone. 

But to my mother, he cuts no such slack.  The last two cars they’ve owned have been real stinkers, and my mother has not been happy with them.  Eventually she wore my father down on this last car to the point that he went and bought her a new one.  And we were discussing this fact last night when he told me that what he didn’t like about the last two cars were that they were both designed by women. 

And I quote:  “They need to get these women out of the engineering office and keep them from designing cars.” 

My father:  Old Guy. 

Of course this is the same man who raised me to believe that I could do and be anything I wanted to be.  He’s just… farther down the road than he used to be. 

I get pretty bent out of shape when I hear statements like that, because I know good and well that gender has nothing to do with a great many things that people are capable of doing, just like race has nothing to do with it.  Some people are better than others at certain things, and that’s got less to do with gender or race than it does with natural talent and aptitude.  To suggest that women have no place designing cars… well.  No.  Just… no. 

But there again, this is my dad.  And my dad is an Old Guy.  And sometimes, with my parents, it’s simpler to just smile wanly and say “okay” and get on with my life. 

My dad, who raised me to believe that I could do and be anything I wanted, is a master at letting things roll off his back.  I’ve learned this from him, and it’s helped me to live my life in a calmer fashion.  I can smile and shrug things off, because I realize that people’s minds belong to themselves, and they have their rights to their thoughts and opinions.  And I can disagree without being disagreeable. 

I bit my tongue so hard my mouth started to fill up with blood. 

— Mox

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This morning when I woke, the outside temp was 50 degrees.  That’s about 20 degrees fewer than I like for it to be at 5:30 in the morning.  My sinuses concur. 

The high here today is somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 degrees, which to be sure is pleasant enough.  It is fall, after all. 

But I’ve just checked the 10-day outlook for our upcoming beach vacation and the highs there are upwards of 85 degrees every single, blessed, beautiful day.  That’s pool weather, folks.  That’s beach weather.  That’s shorts and flipflops and paperback books in the sunshine weather.  That’s sit on the pier and drink beer and eat shrimp weather. 

In short, that’s my kind of weather. 

I just have to get out of here, first.  Which is more difficult that it might seem. 

One thing that sets my teeth on edge when it comes to traveling is… my mother.  My mother is not a good traveler.  When she plans a trip, the closer she gets to the actual date of the trip, the more difficult she is to get along with.  Now, I understand that mostly that’s her anxiety in action, which in turn causes her to be short-tempered and unreasonable and quite devoid of logic, but… makes me nuts.  Sometimes the anxiety gets so bad with her that she ends up making herself sick, usually with a killer headache.  I try to ignore a lot of her snark and foul mood prior to a trip, because I know that for the most part she’ll have a good time once she actually gets to where she’s going.  And it’s the same when I’m planning a trip.  The closer I get to my departure date the more sore-tailed that cat becomes.  Which means that when I’m actually on the plane and climbing into the sky, I feel like a weight is being pulled away from me.  Because for several days I don’t have to listen to it. 

This trip is no exception.  It’s a trip we make every year.  Part of the problem is that the trip includes a visit with a set of relatives that simply get on her every last nerve, and even though she’s not the one visiting them, she still frontloads my trip with snark and bad humor.  I try to ignore it, and most of the time I do pretty well.  With practice one learns to ignore one’s mother quite well.  It’s called self-preservation.  However, there’s just that unrelenting relentlessness that wears on my armor of studied indifference. 

I’ve got three more days of this to endure.  And then I don’t have to be anyone’s daughter. 

 

— Mox

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In this ever-shrinking world of ours, I guess it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise that my mother has received invitations to join Facebook.  I went over to my parents’ house on Sunday and set up her account, helped her to add friends, and put up a profile photo. 

She’s been marveling ever since at how many people she knows on Facebook.  A good many are family, yes, but my mother is such a social gadabout that there are plenty of others, too. 

I suppose it’s a good thing that my FB posting is for the most part G-rated. 

 

— Mox

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Last night my husband and I went to a movie.  I seem to remember a long-ago practice called “Date Night” where you did things like go to a movie, but that’s so far back in history I don’t recall much else about it. 

Anyway, we went to a movie.  We saw The Hangover, which was laugh-out-loud funny for the entire length.  After the week I’ve had, I really needed that. 

Walking back to the car, it suddenly occurred to me that when I told my mom what movie we’d seen, she’d want to know if she and Dad would enjoy it.  That’s the point at which I would have to tell her that it had a good bit of, well, language in it.  You know, to sort of discourage them from going, because they would be offended. 

There were a lot of movies I didn’t see as a kid because my parents (read: my mother) wouldn’t let me.  I missed Porky’s the first time it came out.  For the life of me I still don’t know why my mother would never let me go see Grease.  Because I’ve seen it many times since I was a kid, and I don’t know what she found so wrong about it back then.  Probably her 1950’s sensibilities were offended, since after all, she was Class of ’57 and the story depicted teens in the ’50’s.  And of course her generation was not like that at all.  Prim and proper, that was her bunch. 

Come to think of it, there were a lot of books I didn’t read either, because my mother deemed them too titillating for my young mind.  Not that (in retrospect) I missed a whole lot, since my mother favored bodice-rippers and my tastes ran decidedly more toward vampire novels.

At any rate, my generation seems to fling the F-word around quite a bit (including myself, I must admit) and if anything is going to offend my parents’ aging sensibilities, that would be it.  Ergo, The Hangover is not going to entertain them the way it did me. 

It’s come to this — me prescreening movies for my parents, like they did for me when I was a kid.  

 

— Mox

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