Monthly Archives: January 2016

My Own Personal IT Guy


The other night I was over at a friends house and we needed to figure out how to shrink and copy an image before printing it. Why? What difference does it make why? We just needed to, okay? Fine. Whatever. We were crafting. Satisfied? Anyway, we were both stumped as to how to do this, so we did the only logical thing we could think of: we called her teenage son over to help us. I explained the problem we were having in as clear and precise terms as possible (“We can’t make the thing do the thing. And we need the thing”), and he, in the aggrieved manner of Marvin the Robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being asked to use his immense brain power to pick a piece of paper up off of the floor, made a few clicks on the computer and showed us how to do it.

Then he showed us how to do it again five minutes later, when we forgot.

And then five minutes after that.

Then he left the house, which was odd, because up until that point he hadn’t mentioned having any plans to go out. That’s when my friend turned to me and said, “Yeah, he’s mentioned before that he’s tired of being the IT guy for the entire house.” She then shrugged and said, “ I told him I can relate: I’m tired of being the maid.” And then we went back to crafting (there might have been some drinking involved as well.)

After I got home I couldn’t get the IT guy comment out of my head, mostly because I know that my own personal teenage boy, Clyde, has expressed similar frustrations to me when I make him leave his disgusting midden (AKA bedroom) to creep out into daylight and show me how to work the TV. He makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he can’t believe he is being forced to teach the same set of very simple steps to the same simpleton over and over again; when am I ever going to learn to do it for myself?

And I feel his pain, and his frustration. I really do. Of course, I might feel it more if I hadn’t, in the not so distant past, spent nearly a year teaching this very same grumbling IT guy how to wipe his own ass. And not stick forks in the electric outlets. And to never, ever, stick your head in the ball return at the bowling alley, even if you really want to “see where the balls come from.” (Okay, I’ll admit I might have been a tad late teaching him that lesson. What? He survived. And I’m sure he’s almost as smart as he once was.)

When our kids were much younger, and more frustrating (or rather: frustrating in different ways than they are now), my husband and I would fantasize about the way we would treat them when we were old and reliant on them to take care of us. “I can’t wait to throw my dinner on the floor!” I’d say. “Yeah. It’s going to be impossible to change my diaper,” he’d add. We were certain of two things: one, that we’d have to wait a good fifty years or so to get our revenge. And two, that said revenge was going to be sweet. We were wrong about the first part—it took fifteen years, not fifty. And the revenge was had not in the form of toddler-esque tantrums, but rather in making our kids show us over and over again how to use instagram and photoshop. But we were oh so right about the second part.

It has been so, so sweet.

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The Invisible Cloak of White Privilege

There are a lot of things I worry about when my children go out into the world without me: I worry that they won’t look both ways before they cross the street (still), I worry that they’ll agree to carry that mysterious package in their luggage on their next trip to Turkey, and I worry that they will fall victim to financial scams like payday loans, adjustable rate mortgages and lottery tickets. In other words, what I worry about the most when it comes to my kids is that they are going to make foolish choices, because, unfortunately, the right to make choices and the ability to make reasonable choices don’t always arrive together at the same birthday party.

So yeah, I worry about them. I also worry about the things they have no control over whatsoever, like whether or not the plane they are flying in falls out of the sky, or if the economy will be strong enough for them to have jobs, or even if there will be enough clean water left for their children to drink. In short, when it comes to kids there is no shortage of things that we, as parents, can worry about. Except that there is one thing that has never once crossed my mind to worry about. I have never, not for one moment, worried that my kids would ever get shot by a cop. Because why would I? My kids are white.

That’s a hard thing to write. It’s hard to acknowledge that me and my children are part of a privileged class, that simply by virtue of something beyond our control we get a better deal than other, equally deserving folk. It’s also hard to realize that this is not something that I ever taught my children, but rather something that they needed to teach me.

My daughter Clementine taught me by pointing out each time I was inconsistent with my world view—each time I made excuses for what, in hindsight, were inexcusable actions. (If it’s not okay to shoot someone for drawing an offensive cartoon, it’s also not okay to shoot someone for stealing a candy bar.) My son Clyde, on the other hand, taught me simply by being a fourteen year old boy; in other words, by being exactly the type of person who is capable of making the foolish choices that, in another city, in another skin, could get him killed. (Would Clyde be the type of kid to bring his new pellet gun to the park? Without a doubt.)

It is a terrible feeling to be grateful for something that isn’t available to all parents everywhere, and I can only hope that the same people who have taught me that the world is not as fair as I once thought it was will be the ones to one day remedy that situation. Because, as parents, we already have enough stuff—both real and imaginary—to worry about. It’d be nice to think that none of us have anything more to worry about than any other.

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Good To Go

Back when I was in my college, I had a friend whose mother described his visits home thusly: “We love to see him come. And then, we love to see him go.” I was thinking about this the other day as I watched my daughter, Clementine, try to make some cream of wheat in my kitchen. As she held the box up at eye level to pour the tiny grains through the ragged hole she had torn in the top of the box (into a quarter-cup measure she was holding somewhere around her knees, mind you), I asked her if she’d like me to go get her a ladder so she could make an even bigger mess.

“I’ll clean it up,” she snapped in irritation, which was unfortunate, because the irritation caused her unsteady pour to become even unsteadier, and the stream of cream of wheat that had been hitting the counter shifted to the open drawer next to the counter. And then to the floor. I sighed and turned away, muttering “three more days, three more days,” under my breath as I went. And wondered why in the hell colleges think that a month long winter break is a good idea.

We were all so happy to see her come home. There was the joyful Love Actually-esque airport reunion, followed by the happy Welcome Home dinner, followed by the celebratory Martanne’s breakfast. And then the first week was over and the laundry started to appear. Everywhere. And the plates and coffee mugs began to make their slow migration to the guest room. And my guest room. My poor guest room will never be the same.

It was the same for her. After a week of seeing old friends and hanging out at the old spots she began to speak longingly of her new best friends at college, and the great coffee shop down the street from her dorm, and how warm it is there, all of the time, even when it’s cold. (I have to agree with her there—after this last three feet of snow Atlanta sounds damn nice.)

But most importantly, when she refers to “back home,” she is no longer referring to Flagstaff. Surprisingly, this doesn’t upset me at all. Probably because I felt the same way when I first left my “home” and moved to college. I loved my new friends, the weather (there was snow!), and the fact that such a thing as a coffee shop even existed (it was the 80s—most people still bought their morning coffee at the gas station.) And it didn’t take me long to start referring to all that as “home.” And also to start seriously annoying my parents on my first visit back to my old stomping grounds.

I know, I know: one day all too soon Clementine won’t be coming back for school breaks at all, and then she’ll start to skip Christmas Day, and that, eventually, the time will come when the only way we can really be assured of seeing her is to go to where she lives. And that when that day comes I will probably look back on these visits and kick myself for not living fully in the moment and enjoying them more.

Or at least I will, until I open up one of my kitchen drawers and look inside. Because I am pretty sure that even then there will still be some cream of wheat stuck in the corners.

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Goodbye, Live

The meeting with my editor at Live went just about like I’d expected it to—unfortunately. (Just once I’d like to hear the words, “We need to talk,” and have them be followed with good news, if for no other reason than to shake things up a bit.) Anyway, as you’ve probably all guessed by the fact that I have directed you to my website to read this column, Flag Live has decided to no longer carry The Mother Load. Which is fine with me. Really. The number of times I have been told over the years that “your column is the only thing I read in Flag Live,” has more than clued me in to the fact that Flag Live’s target audience and I parted company some time ago.

Still, even though I agree with their decision on the whole, I do take issue with the reasoning behind it: you see, the reason The Mother Load will no longer be running in Flag Live is that my kids are too old. “Clementine is in college now,” were the exact words.

I’m not sure if the thought behind that sentiment was that kids only “say the darnedst things” up until a certain age, or that after a certain point people don’t want to hear you talk about your kids anymore, but I must say that I take a bit of an exception to both of those arguments.

There is no age at which your children stop being your children. And, therefore, there is no age at which they stop being interesting. Or funny. Or frustrating, or endearing, or whatever the flavor of your relationship is that day. This is because, bottom line, the parent/child relationship will always be a relationship between people who so often don’t understand each other at all. Which, if you think about it, describes every relationship, ever. The difference between the parent/child version and other versions however, are, for one thing, the amount of grief we’re expected to take from our kids (it’s about quintuple what we’d be expected to put up with in a normal relationship,) and for another, the fact that for some reason we’re supposed to know what we’re doing when it comes to our kids. Which is laughable.

Hence the column. The continuing column. The one about my kids.

Think about it: there is no other relationship in our lives that we are expected to “get over.” No one expects comedians to stop riffing on their significant others, or their jobs, or even their customer service experiences. We all accept that these are ongoing, and often frustrating (and therefore funny) relationships. When it comes to your kids, however, there seems to be a certain point where you are supposed to “move on.” Embrace the “empty nest.” Return to your previous, “normal” life, now uninterrupted. And, of course, write about other things.

A few times I have been asked, “Do you really think the world needs another Mommy Blog?” (Strange, isn’t it, that poets are never asked if the world really needs “one more poem.”) And to that question, my reply has always been same: “I dunno. Guess we’d better leave that up to the world to decide.”

So here it is world, my latest column. You can decide for yourself if you need it or not.

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