Not the Brady Bunch

I heard it again today. “WOW! Just like the Brady Bunch!” Jeez, I am tired of it. Actually, we are the polar opposite. We have nine children. Four are “mine” and five “his” and last I checked I was co-starring with myself as the housekeeper. If we could lose three children and turn divorce into bereavement we might be onto something, but until then, forget the sitcoms, this family is a reality show with no laugh track.

Mrs. Brady never had to wake belligerent children aged 8 to18 at 6am. Nor did she have to transport them to 5 different schools 40 minutes apart all before 8 am. Mike was never laid off, she never needed a job, the kids didn’t do dishes and they always had clean towels. In their world, following the rules resulted in a happy ending in half an hour. In our world, the trouble never ends and if it did everyone would be pissed.

We had a family meeting once explaining that there were no “mine” and no “his”. We loved all the children equally as an extension of our love for each other. It was a lovely, touching, not one dry eye in the house moment. Everyone hugged, said, “I love you”, went to their rooms and promptly chose sides. “His” agreed I was the problem, “Mine” agreed if they just hung in there HE would go away. Seven years later the only thing they all agree on is “old people” love is gross.

“My” ex hasn’t made a voluntary child support payment in ten years. “His” ex has four college degrees, won’t get a job and recently decided that 15 years of faithful support is just not good enough. We are not the Brady’s. We aren’t the Huxtable’s or the Cleaver’s. We couldn’t be Jon and Kate…we love each other.

Carol Brady never had to bail a kid out of juvie for shoplifting. Her kids never puked in the middle of the night. They certainly never uttered the words “I HATE YOU!” Those kids ate their vegetables, brushed their teeth, went to bed on time and wrote essays that testified to the greatness that was their parents. I am NOT just like Carol Brady, but we did have one thing in common. Enough is enough. Neither one of us was dumb enough to ever have an “ours”.


So you want to be a Mommy…

So let’s talk about PARENTING.  I have a lot of experience.  I have given birth to four children.  I am a stepparent to five.   We had a close call when Conner arrived three months early and Adrian seriously almost put an eye out, but I am proud to announce I haven’t lost one yet.  In fact, the two oldest are launched into the world and making a more than reasonable run at being responsible adults.

I get asked for advice all the time.  I do my best to help, but in truth there is only one hard, cold lesson I have taken away from the experience.  Whatever theory you study, whatever psychology you use to make sense of the experience, whatever totally unique personality God sees fit to entrust to you, there’s just one thing to do…prepare to be hated.

There is not one thing you will do in your life that can prepare you for this job.  Nothing else will ever bring you such soaring joy or all consuming pain.  You will be proud, confused, irritated, tickled, tormented, tortured entranced and amazed.  What you will never be…is sure of yourself.

If you work you will think you should be home and there will be people (mostly your children) telling you should be.  If you stay home there will people telling you to GET A JOB (mostly your kids) so they have a college fund.  If you spank you should use time outs, if you use time outs you’ll be “sparing the rod”. You won’t be right… ever…that much I know for sure.

These people, who you went to the trouble to give life to, will look you straight in the eye and tell you exactly why and with clarity just why you suck and why you are the stupidest human being on the planet.  They will lie, cheat, hate each other and make you crazy all in the same hour.  They will also learn, share, love and achieve greatness.  But not without doing their best to make your life miserable first.

I leave you a few moments of clarity I have lived for myself…

Don’t be fooled, children are NOT born innocent.  If fact an infant’s brain is situated somewhere in the vicinity of their heiny.  You will spend the next 20 years or so beating it up into the skull where it belongs.  I use the term “beating” loosely.  Don’t hit, it doesn’t help.

You are not doing your job if you don’t hear, “I hate you!” once in a while.  Don’t worry when they say it.  They will wreck the car and their love for you will come flooding back.

When your son pees in his own eye, don’t laugh where he can hear you.

Your parents were always right, but you won’t know that until it’s too late.

The kids won’t know about Chuck E Cheese or sugar cereal unless you tell them or some wretched kindergartner rats you out.

There is not a single, crappy, no-win job on the planet with better benefits.


Shopping is for Suckers

There is absolutely not one good thing to be said about what has become a national pastime for the fellow members of my sex and I just don’t get it. I hate shopping, period. My loathing begins with parking lot traffic and extends all the way to the paying for anything. Most people find that an unusual quality in a woman, but my husband, Joe doesn’t care what my problem is as long as it doesn’t involve spending money, so we are pretty much on the same page.

During our first trip as a couple to the local Super Center, with no verbal plan, we slid in the oil change entrance and split up. By the time I grabbed cold medicine, a Christmas Gift and contact solution he had 65.00 worth of groceries checked out and loaded in the van, leaving me in awe, and begging to marry him.

Retailers do not make it easy to enjoy the experience. Super Centers cross-market so well, that there have been weeks I can’t afford the trip to pick up the “cheap” diapers. One six dollar bag of diapers and a $174 dollar receipt later I can’t help but wonder what was so bad about paying drug store prices after all. If anyone ever listened to me they would serve cocktails.

Home Improvement stores are a great place to enjoy a little sexual discrimination. I can walk in carrying a fixture I need to replace, dressed in nothing but cash and wander the isles for days before locating an actual employee. Joe hits the front door and suddenly the cast from a Broadway musical is there to serve him. I am still carrying the cash, but no one, including the cashier seems to notice. I know this because she always hands him the change.

Don’t think I make exceptions for clothes either. I never have anything to wear and I don’t care. Besides my cash suit, I own 1 pair of blue jeans with a hole in the butt, 2 pairs of shorts, 18 pairs of sweats that don’t fit because I refused to try them on and 4 shirts I bought in high school. Joe has begun to protest the hole in my butt and actually suggested I buy some new clothes. I settled for camouflaging the hole by wearing his shirt.

My best friend makes it her mission to drag me kicking and screaming to the nearest mall no matter what the occasion. I pass the shopping hours constructively, sitting on the floor by the fitting room pouting. She counters by finding things for me to try on and nagging me until my ears bleed. At this point I have to strip naked in front of a 3-way mirror under fluorescent lights. If I liked seeing myself naked I would put a mirror in the shower.

The worst of it is grocery stores. The children can consume 6 boxes of cereal and a side of beef before lunch and since Joe gets paid for his job, I have to put down my typewriter and be the shopper. I cannot physically make myself pay a dollar more for a bottle of ketchup when I know which store has it for less, so I fuel my own fire by hitting at least 2 a day, where I always have a buddy.

My buddies are the shoppers that are oblivious to grocery etiquette. They pop up every other isle to impede your progress before beating you to the checkout. These people always have issues with the cashier and always pay by check. I want check writing outlawed. Haven’t you people heard of a debit card?

Now shopping on the Internet is a hobby I can deal with. You can’t get lousy service from a computer and the cross marketing isn’t too bad if you have a good pop up blocker. There is no one trying to run you over in the parking lot, no fitting rooms, no check writers, no salesmen, no hours, and you can wear your jammie pants, which is the best reason of all. Joe wore my camouflage shirt today so I am sitting at home with a hole in my butt.