Monthly Archives: March 2013


I’ve often thought that one of the most frightening things about getting older is the slow decline of your mental facilities. Especially for someone who has always been on top of things, it must be frustrating beyond belief to feel the organized life you have carefully constructed slowly slipping away. In fact, when I was younger (and considered myself one of the organized ones), I used to fear this process quite a bit.

And then I had my son, Clyde, and I stopped worrying about it so much.

No, Clyde isn’t some kind of miracle memory cure. In fact, the preceding sentence is probably the first time in Clyde’s (admittedly short) history that the words “Clyde,” “miracle,” and “memory” have all been used together. But while Clyde might not be a cure for memory loss, he certainly is a cure for the fear of memory loss, and surely that’s the next best thing.

How does he do it? The same way you cure any phobia: desensitization. Think of it this way: if I was afraid of spiders it would probably be recommended that I try to desensitize myself to this fear in small increments. First I would be instructed to think about spiders for as long as I was could, and only when I could do that without breaking into a cold sweat would I then be shown a picture of a spider. After I was okay with that I would be put in the same house as a spider, and then the same room, and so on and so on, until finally I would be able to hold a spider in my hand, at which point I would either die of fright or be cured. (Actually, I think I would be cured either way—dead people aren’t afraid of spiders.) The point is, though, is that I would be cured. Just like I am now “cured” of my previous fear of memory loss—all thanks to my wonderful son, Clyde, and his amazing memory loss desensitization program.

Of course, with Clyde’s program you do miss out on some of the beginning stages of desensitization. And by “some” I mean “all.” In other words, Clyde’s program is basically the equivalent of dropping an arachnophobe into a swimming pool of tarantulas. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me.

Here’s a typical day living with Clyde. Wake up. Have Clyde tell you that today is the day of the “big” field trip, and that he needs to be at school in fifteen minutes with six frozen squid (or something equally hard to obtain at seven in the morning.) Panic. Get Clyde to school on time, squid in hand, only to be told by another parent that the field trip is actually the NEXT day. Relax. Have the other parent add that they don’t need frozen squid, they need a yard of cow’s tongue. Panic. Spend all day searching for cow’s tongue. Pick Clyde up from school. Have Clyde say, as he gets in the car, “By the way, I have to be back here in half an hour for my concert.” Concert? “Yeah, the concert. It’s fifty percent of my grade.”

I’m not sure which is worse: having Clyde tells me something at the last minute, so that there is that element of doubt mixed in with my panic (Really? You have to be there at five in the morning? With squid?), or when another parent casually drops the bomb, so that instead of doubt I feel that stomach-clenching sense of shame. (“You didn’t know? I wondered why you weren’t at any of the mandatory parent meetings.”)

Luckily, as time goes by those feelings of shame have become less and less intense. I guess Clyde is helping desensitize me to that, too.

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The recent announcement by the FAA that they were in the process of deciding the necessary rules for introducing drone technology to the civilian world was met with the usual reaction of apprehension and fear. Some people immediately worried about the lack of privacy this could engender, with drones spying (and reporting) on their every move, while others were just afraid of a chaotic airspace above their heads, with large, potentially dangerous machinery being operated by untrained and unlicensed pilots. And, of course, there were those people who worried that the drones are out to kill them (or, even worse, that the drones are out to kill their next door neighbors, but are using an outdated version of Google maps.)

As a mother, I didn’t worry about any of those things—not because I don’t think that they aren’t very real possibilities, but rather because they are already the reality I live with everyday. Lack of privacy? Being spied and reported on? If there are any parents out there who think that this isn’t already their daily fate, then tell them to try having a real heart to heart conversation with their child’s kindergarten teacher. Or, worse yet, tell them to wait until their children are in high school and then talk to that child’s entire peer group, a group whose main topics of conversation seem to be “God, I hate this place,” and “Ten more reasons why my parents are the worst people ever.”

And as for living under dangerous airspace where large flying object are being operated by ill-trained operators? Try living in a house with a boy who has decided that the best way to give someone the object they have requested is to throw it to them, no matter what the object may be, and no matter how ill-prepared their recipient is to receive it. There’s nothing like getting a math book right upside your head to make you realize that there really are such things as irrational numbers. Or at least there are in my house.

And don’t even try and talk to me about my chances of dying at the hands of an evil, maniacal despot. I live with teenagers, remember.

Yes, being a mother is why, when I heard the announcement about drones, I didn’t start worrying about any of these things. It’s also why I immediately began to worry about something else.

Delivery services.

Okay, I’ll admit it: the first thing I thought when I heard about civilian drones was not their potential to search for lost hikers in remote forests, or even to more accurately report on traffic and weather conditions, but rather how they will invariably end up being used as a sort of delivery service for forgetful children. I can already hear the phone calls now.

“Mom, I forgot my lunch/science fair project/dance shoes/plate of cookies I made you stay up all night to bake for my class.”

“Sorry honey, I guess you’ll just have to do without; I’m busy today.”

“Aw, c’mon Mom—just send it on a drone.”

“Again? This is the third time this week.”

I pity the poor drone who has to try and make its way in American airspace on some sort of nefarious government mission: it will be knocked out the sky by drones carrying math homework and permission slips every time. Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be something we’ll be grateful for, rather than something else to complain about. I can just see the headline: Our Children—Keeping the Skies Safe With Their Forgetfulness. Yeah, I’m not buying it, either.

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Lying Liars I

I hardly ever watch congressional hearings on TV anymore, and not for the reason you might think. (It’s not because they are really, really boring, and I have more interesting things to do, like watching paint dry.) No, the reason I don’t watch them is that, invariably, there comes a point during someone’s testimony when I am so reminded of watching my children trying to tell a convincing lie that I just turn off the TV in disgust. The way I see it is, if I wanted to watch someone stumble over their own tongues I would just ask my children who left the milk in the bathtub. As pathetic as that can be, it’s not, unfortunately, as pathetic as watching some of the people who testify before congress. Case in point: a witness who recently testified about how the women of America really, really need semi-automatic rifles for home protection.

To illustrate her point she told the story of a a brave young mother fending off a home invader armed only with her wits and her trusty gun. She seemed to know every shocking detail of this young woman’s harrowing story—right up until the moment when the congressman asked her if she knew if the mother in question had been armed with the assault rifle she was there to support. That’s when she grew fuzzy.

“I don’t know,” she said, suddenly shifty-eyed.

And that’s when I turned off the TV in disgust. I’d already seen that drama several times that day—I didn’t need to relive it on TV.

Why is it that children (and lobbyists, apparently) seem to think that “I don’t know” (or its cousin, “I don’t remember”) is any better than a straight up lie? If the woman testifying before congress had just said, “Yes, she was; and she was also carrying a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range,” it would still have been a lie, but at least it would have been a funny one. (I can just imagine the CNN fact checkers realizing they were looking up the gun from “The Terminator.”)

By the same token, when I ask my children a question that they clearly don’t want to answer, I think I would appreciate a creative lie much more than a bland “I don’t know.” When I ask “Why didn’t you finish your homework last night?” I would much prefer to hear a breathless, “Because the President called and I had to go out and save the world!” to a monotone “I don’t know.” I mean, they’re both lies, (we both know that the real answer is, “Because I wanted to get to the next level in Skyrim,”) but at least the creative lie gives me something to work with.

“Well, next time tell the President to call and check with me first.”

Part of the reason I hate the evasive answer so much is that it’s just plain insulting; it’s as if I were someone so unimportant that it’s not even worth their time bothering to come up with a decent lie. A good lie at least makes its victim feel worthy of the extra effort—makes them feel like they are considered a worthy adversary. A bad lie, or worse, a pathetic one, just makes you feel like you’re not even worth the time. It’s a double insult. (I once knew a woman who turned down a date with the words, “No thanks: I’m going to stay home and rinse out my comb tonight.” After all these years I finally understand how that guy felt.)

Still, I suppose that it’s some comfort knowing that they will always have plenty of job opportunities when they get older. Even if all those jobs do happen to be in and around congress.

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Whenever I take my son, Clyde, to buy new shoes, I am always reminded of the Cinderella story. Not because he wants the most impractical shoes in the store. (Glass slippers? I seriously doubt that OSHA is cool with that.) And not because he needs to have the shoes (and his feet) home by midnight, or else. (Although, actually, he does.) And not even, surprisingly, because the reason he needs new shoes is that he has left one of them—just one—behind somewhere. (Although, yeah, he does do that quite often.) And no, not even because shopping with a pre-teen makes me long for my own fairy godmother. No, the reason that I am always irresistibly reminded of the Cinderella story is that watching him try to put his old shoes on is like watching the ugly stepsisters trying to fit their feet into Cinderella’s shoes.

It’s ridiculous. The last time I bought him a pair of new shoes they were three sizes larger than the ones he was wearing. Three sizes. It took him nearly five minutes just to get the old shoes off; I don’t even want to think about how long it must have taken him to put them on that morning.

“Oh my God,” I said as I glanced around the store, half expecting to see someone run up to me holding a “Worst Mother in History” banner, “why didn’t you tell me you needed new shoes?”

“Eh,” he said with a shrug. “They’re fine.”

Fine? Women in Imperial China had more room in their footwear. So did the aforementioned stepsisters. But as far as Clyde was concerned, they were “fine.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at this. After all, this was the boy who showed up to first grade wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt he had outgrown at age two. At the time I thought that it might mean that he had a future ahead of him as a Southern California roller dancing champion (or maybe one of Gladys Knight’s back up dancers), but now I realize that the only reason he wore them was because they were in his drawer. And if they were in his drawer, they must have been his, right?

At least, that’s how Clyde saw it. And still does. I don’t know why I even bother having a light in his bedroom at all: his preferred method of dressing is to reach into a drawer (or down to the floor), grab an article of clothing, and put it on. Not clean? Not a problem. Not the right size? Not a problem. Actually belongs to his older sister? Still not a problem.

I suppose that this is so odd to me because his sister could not be more different. She is so picky about her clothes that I whenever I take her shopping I make sure to bring along a book; it takes less time for the President and Congress to come to an agreement on the national debt than it does for Clementine to find a new pair of jeans. (And, like the President and Congress, Clementine uses the sheer torture of the process to wear me down, so that in the end I accept a deal I never would have considered in the beginning. Ninety-five bucks for a pair of jeans? Sure: can we leave now?)

In a perfect world, I would have a child that was somewhere in between the two of them—somewhere in between the “why don’t you just give me your credit card and wait in the car” and “why don’t you just take your credit card and let me wait in the car.”

Maybe that’s exactly what I’ll ask for—the next time my fairy godmother shows up to help with the shopping.

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