Monday, September 10, 2007

shocking others with sucky mothering: it's your Drunken Housewife

So today was Iris Uber Alles's first day of school (yes, on September 10th. Her school keeps a more casual, truncated calendar than most, and this year's start was pushed back even further to allow for construction). Following our traditional division of labor, her father got up early to make her breakfast and take her to school, while I slept in with Lola.

Truthfully we needed the sleep. Lola had been traumatized by a giant, lunging Venus Flytrap playing "Second Life" the day before and had nightmares. She already had a pre-existing fear of Iris Uber Alles's venus flytrap and of one of my orchids, and running across a gigantic attack plant on "Second Life" caused the little phobic to utterly freak out. Lola's plant trauma is getting to be practically on a par with something from Scott Smith's "The Ruins" (which if you haven't yet read, you must read. It's out in paperback. Oh, and if you're an avid "Second Life" player and you run across a player who types in gibberish, keep in mind that on the internet, no one knows if you're a preschooler).

I did want to get up and kiss Iris goodbye on the first day of school, but after being up much of the night with Lola assuring her that blankets were not plants and that no plants were present in the room or likely to enter it, it didn't happen. When I went to pick up Iris, one of the other mothers quizzed me about this. "Isn't it normal that both parents go on the first day of school? I got up super early to be sure to get a parking space. Just about everyone had both parents there."

I scoffed politely. "That's people with ONE CHILD. I was home with my other child. I'm not going to drag Lola across town in the morning." The other mother (who indeed has only the one child) wasn't convinced. I could tell she was judging me as insufficiently interested in my child and/or her education. But for Christ's sake, we're talking about the first day of second grade. I was there for the first day of preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten. Is that not enough, people???

Over at pre-k, I noticed as I signed Lola in that there was a big old Venus flytrap in the classroom. "Fuck", I thought to myself. I had a confidential chat with the teacher and filled him in on Lola's nightmares and the fact that Iris's Venus flytrap had to be kept out of Lola's sight at home. He listened attentively, thanked me for letting him know, but then shook his finger at me sternly. "No more of this computer game for her!"

"It's Anton that does it with her," I said weakly. "It's not my idea." Talk about a rousing defense of my mothering skills! 0 for 2, people, 0 for 2.


Freewheel said...

One of the two biggest surprises of parenthood for me is how much people (other parents and even non-parents) judge your parenting. Of course, the moms bear the brunt of this -- there's an expectation that dads have no clue what they're doing.

The other surprise is how much people chalk up to gender differences.

2amsomewhere said...

I wonder just how many of these superinvolved parents manage to hold that same level of intense engagement throughout the child's education.

My guess is that a lot of them get burned out after a few years and by the time the kids are in middle school, they don't give a darn.

Stay strong! If your kids grow into wise, independent, loving, and happy adults, you will have done more than well as a parent.


Epiphany said...

Don't compare yourself to other yuppie mothers with too much time on their hands! There are thousands of mothers in the Bay Area who are too busy working and trying to stay afloat to make it to their kids' first day of school. Compare yourself to them, instead.

Not only will you feel better, but it will get you all agitated about the low priority given to the enormously important task of parenting in our society, and then you can write an awesome rant for us to read! (In the immortal words of Kurt Cobain, here we are now, entertain us!)

Trouble said...

it annoys the crap out of me when moms judge each other. Of course, I have been known to do the same, but only in the most egregious of circumstances, like dosing your child with tylenol and sending him/her to school sick, thus infecting the rest of the class. Or, as happened this summer, sending your child repeatedly to summer camp with LICE, the horror of every mommy.

Mommy drama...I've learned to nip that shit in the bud by just making some snarky comment like, "Oh, we can't all be overachievers like you are. I'm striving for underachiving because I've read it's more emotionally healthy for my child and fosters the child's natural independence."

Trouble said...

p.s. my son was utterly uninterested in reading until I let him get addicted to I highly recommend it. there are a ton of 5-9 year olds on there, wandering around, wearing interesting stuff and killing dragons with swords.

Unknown said...

Heh, like having two parents there for show on the first day makes up for the fact that they are probably crappy parents the rest of the year.

Also, I feel Lola's pain as I was terrified of sunflowers when I was in Kindergarten. I used to have to walk past a yard on my way to school that had sunflowers so big that the flowers hung down from the weight in a creepy, potentially child-eating way. I remember running past them each day. The sight of huge sunflowers still freaks me out a bit.

(Btw, Carole, I am Jen Grappone's sister, Janet. I've been reading for awhile, first comment, though!)

the Drunken Housewife said...

Interestingly enough it was a working mother who was going on about the two parents, first day thing.

Janet, welcome to commenting! I think I met you at the baby's bris, but it's all vague (as a shiksa, I was a tad out of my element and just taking it all in). That's funny about the sunflowers. There's a single sunflower at Lola's preschool, and so far she hasn't taken against it.

Anonymous said...

Perfectionist always assume that others WANT to operate under perfection's tyranny. I always say, I don't want to be perfect, I want to be happy. That shuts a lot of people up.

Silliyak said...

Funny the subject of sunflowers should come up...I got mugged by one the other morning during my walk. I was distracted by something else and walked into a lowhanging sunflower. Scratched my forehead the bugger!

hughman said...

sunflowers are sneaky buggers. there's a gang of them that hangs on the empty lot down the street from me.

they're all "we're so pretty, we're so big, we have seeds" but the minute you turn your back - KESHAW!
they're drooping and sucking all the water out of the vase.

pffftttt. who needs em.

Alison said...

It must be bad parenting week all around the world. I just had the parent-teacher meeting with 7-yr-old M's teacher last night. Got off to a very, very bad start when the teacher told me that M had recounted in full detail my husband's recent work drama, complete with the words my husband is sure he didn't actually say. Probably the first time in this teacher's career that a lovely blonde middle-class moppet has used the word "fucking" in actual conversation with her. And then I added to our bad parent status by blithely confessing that I don't usually see the week's homework till Friday morning, if then, and that we're not a homework kind of family really. I could just feel the love emanating from this teacher by the time I left ...

the Drunken Housewife said...

I love all of you Drunken Housewife reader parents (also the non-parents, for that matter). Trouble, I will check out that site. Alison, I'm surprised I haven't been in those shoes yet. I feel for you.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be utterly astounded at how much things have changed since I went to elementary school. (I have not reproduced.) On my first day of school (in September 1961) I walked the five or six blocks to schoool BY MYSELF (I knew how to get there already) and I believe I walked home with the neighbor kids. I was proud of what a big girl I was to be going to school, and I'm sure that's because my parents instilled that in me. Photos were taken of me leaving the house for my first day -- with my mother waving good-bye from the front door.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, you're funny.

Missy said...

In our house we make fun of the people who have two parents show up for any one event.

Trouble said...


I will cop to the fact that as a working mom, I may occasionally overcompensate to assuage my feelings of personal guilt for not being a volunteer at my child's school, working throughout their baby and toddlerhoods, and basically "not being there" a lot of the time. It was both by choice and necessity, but no matter how much necessity there is, mommy-guilt still takes a toll.

It wasn't you she was comment on, really. It was her own insecurities. Take it from someone who knows. I am deeply envious of all stay at home moms, and I know in my gut that I am inferior to them.

p.s. I lurve runescape.

the Drunken Housewife said...

You know what bothers me about the whole stay-at-home mom vs. working mom thing, Trouble? It's that the fathers are left out of the whole debate. Why don't we ever talk about "working fathers"?

I feel that often, but not always, children are better off with a stay-at-home parent, but that is not necessarily the mother. Some fathers are much better at parenting. And sometimes it doesn't work out to have a parent at home (and sometimes that's for the best. Not everyone is cut out to be a stay-at-home parent). But then if it doesn't happen, why do we get on the mothers? Why isn't it equally an issue for the father? Trouble, does your husband feel guilty about having worked?

In any event, we stay at home parents (be we mothers or fathers) often suck. I suspect the best thing is to have a part-time job, so you get a break from the kids and have your adult identity, but also have plenty of time with the child. It would be positively delightful if both parents could have part-time jobs and then divide up the housework equally and spend time as a family, but also time alone (not to mention precious couple time and those sacrosanct "date nights"). Who can afford to live like that, though?

Trouble said...

My now ex-husband (never the breadwinner) was offered, on several occasions, the opportunity to stay at home with the kids. He always pointedly refused, hands down. I think he prefered the idea of making ME feel guilty for working versus the actuality of caring for his children.

but I'm not bitter. ;)

No, really, I'm not. I like my job. I like my life. I just despise my ex for the hypocritical asshat he is.