The F***-ing Fours

I like my children a lot better when I am not with them. It has nothing to do with the time then that I have to myself, such as for exploring the best lunch options in the area (Zinc Cafe on the fabulous Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach won out this week). I was also able to partake in a timely discussion at my children’s school on Raising Kids in a Device Driven World. Note, the handful of very young siblings who were brought along by mothers were all plugged into iPads or iPhones. (I decided it best not to make a snarky comment on the irony, as that is no way to begin friendships in a new community). I attempted to donate blood but was thwarted by my travels to Mexico last spring. Apparently the area around Cancun is now considered a Malaria risk– though my lack of any extreme fever leads me to believe that my blood is actually desirable. And I also participated in a friendly tennis tournament for Breast Cancer Awareness (more later on my reversal of retirement from the sport). How easily I can combine selfish time with selfless acts when unencumbered by children!

No, I like my kids better because I have to believe that they are at their best when I am not in their presence. Just yesterday I asked my son’s teacher if he is always as pleasant as he is at pick-up, or is it just when I walk into the room. She confirmed the latter– fortunately for everyone else.

I’m simultaneously envious of and repulsed by the starlets who incessantly tweet about how in love they are with their babies. Clearly Kristin Cavallari is years away from being called Didiot by her son. Oh yes, at least mine is clever enough to add a consonant at the beginning of “idiot” so that he is not technically saying a naughty word, or so he reasons.

There has to be a bright spot in this madness. I know there is because my daughter was no picnic at four, five and even into six. Now she has terrific moments where she really reminds us that her exceptional qualities can prevail. But my son, well, right now he has a personality that only a mother could  has to love. And for some reason being around me brings out the worst in him, very sadly. The Terrible Twos didn’t happen for us, and at three he was still quite charming. Now we are paying for those years with the F***-ing Fours! Just under six more months to go…

Come March 31st I don’t unrealistically expect a miraculous emergence from this trying phase. But with each passing day there is the promise of raising a self-sufficient, socially-conscious, critically-thinking, compassionate citizen. I look toward positive role models of talent, intellect and humanity to keep me going in these child rearing efforts. How incredibly moving is the plight of Malala Yousufzai, the bright, young Pakistani blogger who fights for her life after a brutal assassination attempt? She is just fourteen. She is a mere seven and ten years older than my kids. Is it possible that my oft whiny, moody, snotty children can evolve in just a handful of years into mature, admirable, inspiring leaders? That may be a stretch, but dreams are meant to be lofty. We’ll keep working on taming the Didiot-shouting beast.

And above all we’ll keep sending our best wishes for Malala Yousufzai’s recovery.

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Twenty-two Minutes

Sunsets are deceptive. They conjure up images of serenity and splendor as another day comes to a close. Thoughts turn toward relaxation, bedtime routines and welcomed sleep. But for those of us who surrender quite early, sundown brings on a mild sense of panic: There’s-still-so-much-to-do-but-time-is-running-out races through my head as I mentally organize the tasks left to accomplish. A handful of the seemingly endless chores include lunch packing, dish loading, laundry folding, school reading, teeth brushing, squabble refereeing,  phone-call returning, email sending, and the ever lovely thrice daily dog pooping. And so goes the list.

It’s at this time–at sunset–when I remember that thought-provoking college essay (I believe it was for Princeton, but correct me if I am wrong):

What would you do with an extra hour in the day?

As a high school senior I didn’t have an appreciation for time, or lack thereof. I wish I could tell you that I would have provided an intelligent, creative and profound answer– but I didn’t have it then and I likely don’t have it now.

What I would do with that 25th hour would be to follow the news. I make a minimal effort in that I put the 10 o’clock news on, but I am passed out within minutes. And our weekday mornings are so hurried (also admittedly a bit militant) that we don’t linger over the early news as I would like to if I had my way. Note that I do harbor some bitterness over Ann Curry’s ousting departure from The Today Show and I am silently protesting. As a result I know very little about current affairs either locally or abroad, other than the tidbits I pick up from peeking at gossip sites from time to time. But what good is knowing that Justin Bieber tossed his cookies on stage a few days ago in Arizona when I can’t tell you where the Obama-Romney debate is happening tonight?

It’s time that I emerge from under my rock. It’s time to create extra minutes in my day. When I was little I dreaded long car rides because my father instituted “driver’s choice” to determine what we listened to on the radio or tape cassettes (remember those?).  Somehow it was actually father’s choice, not necessarily driver’s choice, and he opted for 1010 WINS.  I can still hear that irritating promise: You give us twenty-two minutes and we’ll give you the world. Those were some loooonnnnngggg twenty-two minutes. Yet, I now long for those twenty-two minutes.

Funny how age brings about appreciation– I would love for my brain to be filled with all that I need to know in just a fraction of the day. Once I forgive NBC, and also figure out how to operate the DVR, I’ll start recording The Today Show so that sometime during the day I can plug through the highlights.

Then maybe if I could re-write those college essays, I would suggest that I don’t need a whole hour, just twenty-two minutes.

Glory Days

I recently realized where I went wrong: I wasn’t knocked up in high school. Nor was I an adolescent alcoholic. And no sexual dalliances were ever leaked online. My dysfunctions were never exploited for public entertainment, and certainly not so by my momager. Wow, I was am boring. And boring is definitely not profitable. But perhaps in my next lifetime I will come back as a much more trashy version of myself and cash in on my indiscretions.

The latest person who has found fame and fortune through pure poor decision making is Farrah Abraham from MTV’s series Teen Mom. I’m all in favor of the network airing the young mothers’ struggles in an effort to decrease teen pregnancies and to help steer kids toward positive change. But somehow the intentions have been distorted. For one thing, more than several of these young women have put their financial gains into breast implants and hair extensions. Initially, I thought this was idiotic, but now I view the strategy as ingenious. With flowing hair and bouncing boobs, Farrah has landed her own spin off. And more disturbing, she has reportedly penned a New York Times Bestseller called My Teenage Dream Ended.

Yeah, my teenage dream ended as well.  But the only thing I came close to birthing in high school was an ulcer. That’s when I was holed up in the library, having given up my lunch period, to study. I committed every afternoon, and sometimes early mornings, to one of my three varsity sports practices. I recall Saturday nights dedicated to SAT vocabulary words and college essay writing. And I completed my community service hours, not because it looked good on those applications but because I enjoyed the effort. This is what I was doing instead of getting high and sleeping around– but that memoir would not be a bestseller.

So perhaps with degrees from my tony New York City private school, Harvard College and Tufts University, I’m not that wise and worldly after all. I could have spent my more formative years shirking responsibility and profiting from the outcome. My bucket list would have been so much more interesting.

Instead, being responsible has proved quite dull and sometimes draining. Just ask Kate Middleton, who bears the burden now of no longer being able to sunbathe topless. It’s hard to be a gorgeous royal role model who is allowed to do no wrong!

No, I don’t aspire to be Farrah or Snooki or a Kardashian, and I most definitely don’t want to raise a Honey Boo Boo. But it would be nice to have been a little (ok, a lot) less reserved. My parents always said that I was born thirty-five. And not a free-spirited thirty-five. So that would put me at pushing seventy-one. I had better get living then!

Today I am going nuts. Throwing caution to the wind. I’m blowing off responsibility and treating myself to something completely unproductive and frivolous.  I’m off to enjoy a foot massage– one that includes back, neck and shoulders to boot.

I just need to switch the laundry and make those damn beds first.