Skip to content

Date archive for: April 2009

My Son's Peaceful Defiance

Parents can be so smug. We think we have life’s puzzles solved, and that our kids are callow dimwits desperate for our guidance. Admit it: We think of them as dense, doughy biscuits requiring the heat of our unparalleled wisdom to rise to their fluffy full potential.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if we’re wrong. If, in fact, our car seat-bound offspring are the ones who have the answers and we grown-ups are too culturally programmed, too set-in-our-ways, to see it.

The notion strikes when I ask my three-year-old to put on his shoes. Or clean up his toys. Or turn off his video, come upstairs and take a bath. That’s when he looks at me with utter impunity and says, “I won’t.”

There’s no willfulness in his voice. No shame. No guilt. “I won’t.”

He’s simply stating a fact, letting me know we’re going to have a problem here if I insist on pursuing this ridiculous mandate.

There’s a look of — is that peace? — that crosses his peanut butter-smeared face when he says it, and I’ll admit the whole situation stymies me. My linear adult thought process goes like this: How do I get the child clean if he won’t get in the tub? How “clean” does a person really need to be? What will his preschool teachers whisper when they notice the same dirt smudge that was on his knee yesterday…and the day before?

Continue reading My Son's Peaceful Defiance

The Mythical Cougar

Married, mid-thirties, and bereft of an urban feline’s riveting “Rowrrrr,” I’m no cougar. But I watched the season premiere of TV Land’s reality show The Cougar, a Bachelor-style series in which a foxy 40-year-old divorcée and mother of four is wooed by 20 hairless, pec-flexing beauhunks.

Stacy, the giggly Barbie-clone from Arizona, whittles the batch down by literally “kissing off” each episode’s winners and losers — a dweeb who told her “You’re under arrest; you stole my heart” got to stay while a dork who made a crude sexual joke was shown the door. Another kept blurting, “I have my own house!” as though the statement alone were an aphrodisiac. They were play-acting at being men.

Still, I watched. I watched because I wanted to see the mythical Cougar dynamic in action. I have no trouble picturing what my cougar friends bluntly call the “no-strings-attached athletic sex.” In fact, let’s all take a moment to picture it now together, just because we can.

It’s the hook-up that I get stuck on. The part where the mammogram-age vixen and the Halo-playing meathead lock eyes and fall in lust. In The Cougar, it happens when Stacy meets her wide-eyed, faux-hawked, hooting suitors.

Continue reading The Mythical Cougar

Sin City

It looked so much nicer in my head. The way I pictured it, we were going to spend a few days of bond-bolstering family togetherness at a Las Vegas resort that would cater to our every fickle whim. By day we would lounge poolside; by night we’d venture out to ooh and ahh over the city’s convenient cultural lessons: the Venetian’s canals, Luxor’s Sphinx, Caesar’s Trevi Fountain.

In my imagination — over-enterprising as it may be — we were going to find freedom in the clean light of the warm desert sun.

Instead, we got drenched in debauchery.

On reflection, yes. It was witless to seek a virtuous vacay in Sin City, the nation’s unapologetic adult playground. In the 1990s, Vegas’s tourism office made a marketing push to lure families there. But the campaign went bust and the tourism office did an about-face, adopting the decidedly grown-up (notice I didn’t say “mature”) motto, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

They no longer woo kids. In fact, the Bellagio hotel doesn’t even allow children inside unless they’re registered guests, and the new Encore and Wynn hotels have “no strollers” signs on their doors.

Continue reading Sin City

Notes from the Road

There’s a haunting scene in the middle of the Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona. A life-sized diorama depicts a family of forlorn-faced Dust Bowl refugees rolling slowly West along the Mother Road in a loaded-down pickup truck.

Pots and pans dangle from the side of the rickety rig and too many old suitcases balance up top. A baby pouts from under a torn blanket and a child in ratty duds perches on an overturned crate in the truck bed. Dad, suspendered, plods along beside them on foot. Blanketed in dirt, they seek a better life in California.

My family and I are headed in the opposite direction. We’ve driven from California to spend our spring vacation careening over this famous highway in a rented motor home. It’s 80 years after the Great Depression and the current economic downturn hasn’t yet incited the kind of desperation those hard-luck migrants faced.

And yet it’s funny how many times during our trip we’ve felt like those rag-tag refugees in their rattle-trap jalopy.

RVs make a racket as they rumble and lurch down the highway, dishes clinking, metal blinds clacking, engine barking like a tubercular wolf. We pull into abandoned parking lots to throw together makeshift meals of toast and cheese, then eat them in our cramped cabin because it’s too cold and windy outside to set up the folding table. We bump-thump over curbs, unaccustomed to the vehicle’s exterior dimensions, and whack-smack our heads on low doorways, unaccustomed to its interior ones.

Continue reading Notes from the Road

Bag o' Tricks

It’s not something I thought would ever come out of my mouth. Not something I’m proud of. But there it was: “Sweetheart, do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I have one in my purse.”

Prior to their birth, I carried my kids in my uterus. Ever since, I’ve been schlepping their equivalent weight in snacks, tools, and toys in my handbag. I think of it as baby weight that I never lost.

Gum, sunscreen, Play-Doh.

Tissues, Tums, Chapstick.

Nail clippers, plastic fork, Matchbox helicopter.

I could survive a nuclear attack–or at least a blitz of playground injuries, restaurant meltdowns, and unforeseeable grooming emergencies–using only what’s rolling around at the bottom of my handbag.

Most of the junk in a mom’s purse falls into three categories: Things we can’t live without (Tide stain stick). Things we tossed in for a specific occasion but haven’t bothered to remove because they still might come in handy someday (foldable scissors). And things we plum forgot were in there (soy sauce packets).

“The weirdest thing I ever pulled out of my purse was an edible eyeball from Halloween,” confessed a friend. “And it was January.”

Continue reading Bag o' Tricks