The Pinocchio Effect

For those of you who have been around for the past three years, you probably know that I am an active tweeter.  I actually have my most recent tweets in the toolbar to the right of the screen, if you’re interested.  (You’re not.  I’m so horribly out of pocket there, you really don’t want any part of it.)  I’m just an interactive girl.  An extrovert.  I love speaking to those who address me regularly.  It’s not uncommon for tweets to become IMs, which become texting, which becomes hanging out.  Three of my CLOSEST friends I’ve made this past year, I met through Twitter.

A week or so ago, a young woman with whom I interacted regularly, was revealed to be a Pinocchio – not a real girl.  She and I weren’t necessarily friends, but we spoke regularly and laughed at one another’s jokes.  When she said that she got married, I congratulated her.  I also congratulated her when she said she was pregnant.  I prayed for her and her unborn when she told me she was going through cancer treatments.  It turns out that whoever was being portrayed in those pictures, was not her.  It’s such an odd feeling of betrayal.  What does one get out of faking an existence?

This past week, someone I interacted with regularly via twitter and IM TOTALLY went off the meter on me.  Since I respond to this person’s messages, as I spent time with my family, they proceeded to harass me not only all evening (during the Saints game), but all night, well into the morning.  I SPECIFICALLY asked that they stop contacting me, and yet they continued to insist that I speak to them.  Each time I shut off an avenue of communication, I discover another nook or cranny I didn’t consider.  In a way, he was a Pinocchio as well, because he existed in a mind state that was not rooted in reality.

I’m a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get type person, so when a person misrepresents who they are, what they want from me, and how they behave, it troubles me greatly.  What those two situations have done, is made me question the way I navigate twitter.  Is the mystery girl someone who still follows me?  It would stand to reason that “she” could be one of the people she regularly tweeted, to lend credence to her existence.  Maybe the person she ACTUALLY is follows me as well.  Do I tweet them regularly?  It makes me worry when it comes to my e-stalker.  Who’s to say that the next person I follow, that attempts to befriend me, isn’t him in disguise.  I do not like being made to feel unsafe.

I joked earlier about having a stalker, but this actually has me low key shook.  When a person misrepresents who they are, you are somewhat defenseless in how to approach them.  It makes me sad, because I’ve met some AMAZING people through Twitter.  But I need to feel secure, and I’m responsible for the security of other people.  I’m hoping that people who attempt to be “creative” with reality, whether it’s lying about who they are, or deluding themselves into something that isn’t, give consideration to the people they impact.  They should also give consideration to the fact that I am currently in the market for a weapon.  I don’t believe in living in fear, so something has got to gie.

Most of all, I hope that those people leave me alone.  Go right ahead and sell crazy somewhere else.  I’m all stocked up.

 

Come At Me, Shorty

Adorable, right?

Precious, ain't she?

Yeah. That’s how the get you.  Babies are a racket, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Sure, they bring joy, purpose and meaning.  You meet them and can’t imagine your life without them.  And this makes you ignore one enormous fact:  Kids are douchey little terrorists.

Oh, you think this is cute? Wearing this to meet your boss in a mint green dress? Yeah, so check it...I'm gonna shoot a deuce in this right quick...yes ma'am...all over it, 2 minutes before it's time to bounce. Enjoy being my bitch.

The other day, my almost two year-old niece walked up to my sister took her by the hand and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay.”  She led her to the living room and said, “Had accident.”  (When a two year old walks up to you and tells you “It’s okay,” recognize that these words are LIES!  It’s never okay.  Not ever.) My sister got to her living room and discovered she was late for the oatmeal finger painting hour.  Then she  gave her the puppy dog eyes and said, “But I sowwy.”

"Sowwy" don't sound like no country I ever heard of muthafucka! THE OATMEAL!? DID YOU SMEAR IT???

When I was nine, ten years and five kids into the game, my mom lost her shit.  There was screaming, things flying across the room and jumping up and down.  We all stood there incredulous, thinking, “This batty broad is headed straight for the boobie hatch.”  Now that I am a parent of only two of my own, thirteen years in the game, I look back with another type of incredulity:  Mama, what the hell took you so long?!  Not long after her freak out, she began to channel her frustrations into writing.  She wrote a classic poem in our household, “When You Grow Up and Move Away.”  I can’t remember the entire poem, but it began something like this:

When you grow up and move away, we’ll visit for a spell
We’re proud of our dear children, we so want to wish you well

Then, this lady proceeded to detail, and a two page poem, how she and the fanny packer would go in cahoots with our future children and dismantle our entire program.  She not only described things we had done (such as remove every inch of the tape which operated our burglar alarm system) and killing our friends pets (it was a hamster, and I was only trying to make it smell better); but she upped the ante.  I don’t think we ever swung from the curtain rods like Tarzan, and we never broke a window.  Who does that?  Who plots on their poor little darlings?

I’ll tell you who: a parent on the edge.  And yes, a revolutionary.

It’s time that we rise up against these ankle biting gremlins and reclaim our insanity!  Remind these interlopers that we run this.  Stop letting them win at games.  Once they turn eight, they’re going to beat you at everything anyway.  You’re preparing them for the future.  Don’t be gracious about it either.  “BOOM! LOST AGAIN! It hurts, don’t it? It HURTS!”  “You ain’t learn yet?  I’ve beat you the same way eighteen times son! Do you know what Plato says about that? HA! Of course you don’t, because you can’t READ!!!!!  If you could, you’d know that Plato doesn’t talk about Xbox at all! This bores me.  Change the channel on the way out.”

But we’re just getting started.  Did they get down on the floor and throw a tantrum?  You get right down on the floor with them and start kicking and screaming.  Are they in the room minding their business?  Walk into the room and spill your coffee all over their favorite doll.  Yeah Dora the Explorer. Fuck you.  You shouldn’t be running around with a monkey in the woods anyway.  Lil Man is chomping at the bit to see Fresh Beat Band?  Go right ahead and get the bubble guts 10 minutes after you were supposed to leave.  Of course, you’re 10 minutes behind schedule because you smeared chocolate on the shirt you were going to wear.  Kiki will just have to wait.

Game on younglings.  I’ve been making folks cry since the 70s.  Your arms are too short.

“ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE!”

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have all the answers in this parenting biz.  Sometimes, I have to stay at work late just to get my mind right (read: avoid killing someone for their crazy antics).  Other times I sit in my car and think about the days I took silence for granted.  But overall, parenting is a rewarding, albeit tough, gig.  I doubt seriously that I am the only parent who pensively sits and thinks, “What would Biggie do at a time like this?”  Imagine my surprise when I realized he gave us a road map long ago.  Without further ado…

IT’S THE PARENT COMMANDMENTS, WHA?!

“Rule Number Uno – Never let no one know how much dough you hold.”

Your finances are not your kids’ business.  I will discuss how you should teach them to manage their finances in a later rule.  They should also be taught to not be wasteful with household resources and respect your hard work, but that’s the extent of it.  Kids don’t need to see your pay stub and know that after you pay rent, you can’t buy milk.  This is especially true if you were ill prepared to have kids in the first place.  It’s really your issue, so chuck it up and deal.  Plus, if your kids are too young to understand proper decorum, they will put you on blast.

“Number Two – Never let them know your next move.”

This is especially for parents of those squirrely teenagers.  I don’t believe in lo-jacking kids.  I place the responsibility of doing the right thing squarely on my kids’ shoulders.  They will get into just as much trouble as we did, if not more.  It comes with the territory.  That being said, you don’t have to make it easy for them.  Come home at different times, pop up at school from time to time, check that cell phone.*  But it’s not all combat.  Wake them up early and take them for a one on one breakfast or an impromptu road trip.  Show them that you’re not only paying attention when they’re doing bad.  Life isn’t about living by rote.  Teach your kids that.

“Number Three – Never trust no-bo-dy.”

Folks are crazy.  Not everyone is fit to meet your kids, be it family, acquaintance or romantic interest.  People should first be fully vetted.  It’s not about everyone being out to harm your kids.  Think about a person who is always draining and negative.  Think about how they take from you as an adult.  Now imagine the type of impact that person could have on a young developing spirit.

“Number Four – I know you heard this before: Never get high on your own supply.”

Stop eating all your kids’ snacks, yo!  We’ve all been there.  It’s midnight, and you can’t sleep.  Maybe there’s an SVU marathon keeping you company.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the house but Capri Suns, Goldfish crackers and Fruit Roll Ups.  You. Go. HAM!  Stop.  1. You don’t have your kids’ metabolism.  Too many nights like that, and you’ll be looking like your always shrugging about the neck area.  2. Your paleolithic gastrointestinal system just ain’t what it used to be.  Within 20 minutes, you’ll be feeling like a living, breathing WTF.

“Number Five – Never sell no crack where you rest at.”

So, crack…let’s not sell that at all, ‘kay?  But we all have our proclivities.  Whatever your recreational vice may be, keep it as far away from your kids as possible.  Your random booty calls do not need your address.  Your weed man should NEVER deliver to your house.  I’m not telling you what to do with your me time.  But be responsible when it comes to shielding your kids from that.

“Number Six – That god damn credit? Dead it.”

Kids need allowances.  Giving them a set amount of money to work with, as opposed to being an inexhaustible ATM is one of the best ways to teach your kids the value of money.  Here is where they learn about saving, management and responsibility.  When their dough is gone, it’s gone.  I don’t play that “advance on my allowance” game.  It is equally important that you set an example in being timely and consistent in making their allowance payments. The onus on on you to teach them how to be prompt in meeting their obligations to others.

“Seven – This rule is so underrated:  keep your family and business completely separated.”

I can’t tell you how many family squabbles I’ve seen go down because of family-helping-family child care.  Having your retired aunt take care of the kids may seem like a good idea, but that should really be your last resort.  In business, we often take far more liberties with family than we would with other people, and vice versa.  The biggest problems care providers have with the parents they are “helping” are financial compensation and timeliness.  The biggest problems I’ve seen parents complain of are supervision and what the kids’ minds are being fed.  Too many parents are showing up at 8 pm and paying $40 a week.  Too many providers are watching the stories and teaching the babies everything on the radio.  Emergencies happen, but leaving child care to the experts typically is better in the long run for all involved.

“Number Eight – Never keep no weight on you.”

Do I have to tell yall not to walk around with heroin bricks?  Didn’t think so.  I’m going to take liberties and substitute “weight” for “heat.”  People have guns.  Cool. LOCK ‘EM UP!  I can’t tell you how my heart shatters when I hear about kids getting their hands on guns.  Typically they don’t recognize how dangerous guns can be.  And even if your kids are thoroughly educated about guns, their friends probably are not.  Between accidental shootings, suicides and gun violence at the hands of other kids, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

“Number 9 – Should have been Number One to me:  If you ain’t gettin bagged, stay the fuck from police.”

Parents, stop dry snitching on your kids.  As moms and dads, we have the inside tracks on our shorties, but that doesn’t obligate us to give other authority figures the cheat codes.  In some cases, our insights can unfairly work against our kids.  If you tell a kid’s teacher that your kid is “lazy” during the first week of school, the teacher may not take their requests for help seriously when they truly have issues grasping certain concepts.  It can actually stunt them from being able to develop who they are when they aren’t around you.  Our primary job as parents is advocate, not adversary.

“Number Ten – A strong word called consignment.  Strictly for live men.  Not for freshmen.  If you ain’t got the clientele say hell no, ’cause they gon’ want they money rain, sleet, hail, snow.”

Yes.  All that.  If you value silence, your sanity and a generally happy home, do not make promises to your kids if you can’t deliver.  It gets ugly.  Kids do not give a solitary flarn about your excuses.  Oh, and all those times they forget when you tell them to take out the trash and clean their room?  Yeah, that’s because that memory is reserved to remember stuff you said before they were born.  “YOU SAID YOU WERE GONNA TAKE ME TO DISNEY ON ICE!!!”  It doesn’t matter if you told it to your dead aunt in the 80s.  But our kids rely on us to keep our word.  That’s not an unfair request.  Things happen and breaking a few promises is unavoidable. But that should be the exception, not the rule.

I can’t guarantee you mad bread to break up, but this should at least guarantee you a retirement home with a door, running water and electricity.

Smooches!

B

* Complete privacy comes with adulthood/complete responsibility for yourself.  You’ll not plot cutting class on a phone with my name on the bill.

Straight Outta Convent

Today is my baby girl’s tenth birthday.  Essentially, I have no more babies, which is totally strange to me.  With each year comes a new set of concerns and responsibilities for me as a parent.  They have stronger personalities, more concrete opinions, and even new sensitivities.  (I remember my own puberty, when breaking into tears at previously harmless jokes told by my parents was the order of the day.)  It also means having to occasionally deal with difficult questions:  that includes being on the delivering AND receiving end.  Last night’s cannonball was fired by her:

Mommy, are you trying to be a nun? Then why don’t you get married?

On  another day, that would have gotten me all up in my feelings.  I’m not always loving the single life.  Frankly, I’m not always loving my life.  These streets can be rough on a girl.  There are days when I feel like Atlas, and there’s some fool that keeps punching the back of my knees.  (Yes, this makes sense.) Even though my kids are of age to take certain responsibilities, I still want them to have a certain carefree nature that comes with being kids.  So this requires me to be Atlas, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Elastagirl.  In my down time, I get to play Medusa, but we won’t harp on that.

Suffice it to say, a partner would be lovely.  Not just to “help me carry the weight,” but just to shoot the shit, watch movies and play Scrabble.  Not this new age Scrabble, where you can be in Boston and your partner can be in Bahrain.  I mean real in your face Scrabble.  Break out the paperback dictionary, turn up your lips, “that ain’t even much a word, yo” Scrabble.

But, I’m a mom.  I’m past the notion of hiding behind my kids because I’m afraid of relationships.  (I have.)  I’m past feeling the need to do everything.  (On the cool, I can, but that doesn’t mean I SHOULD.)  I don’t even believe that their happiness trumps all, but it is a weighty portion of the equation.  They want me to be married.  They want another little brother or sister.  They want a cool dude around to balance my womanly craziness. I’ll even be daring and opine that somewhere in all of this, they even give consideration to my own happiness in having a partner.   I just happen to know that forming and maintaining relationships just doesn’t happen to be easy.  I can deal with stealth breakups.  I have a habit of ending things before they even start, and my kids are none the wiser.  I’m loathe to even have conversations with men that are romantic interests around my kids unless we are actually “going somewhere.”  That way, should things end, there’s nothing to explain.  I’m not crazy about the idea of people disappearing from their lives.  I’m not searching for perfect, but healthy and stable is non-negotiable.

But I’m also not blocking myself.  I’m getting out more, meeting more people, and I have my eye on a hottie (or two…a girl needs options).  I’m not searching for a relationship.  I enjoy my autonomy and desire companionship in equal measure.  I’m praying that when the right person comes around, I’ll be smart enough to happily tip the scale in his favor.

So, don’t work on your rendition of “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Melanie” just yet.  I’d be a shitty nun.

A Little Lagniappe

The recipe called for a lot of “1’s”:  1 lb. beans, 1 lg onion, 1 bell pepper, and so forth.  My trusting mother left me in the kitchen with her instructions, to make my first pot of red beans all alone.  She reappeared about an hour later, apparently pleased that in the process of “frying down” the meat, I’d managed to avoid completely smoking out the kitchen.  She looked in the, pot, stirred it up tasted a bit of the liquid and instructed me to chop another, smaller onion and she added a little more garlic.  Responding to my quizzical expression, she said, “Baking is a science.  Cooking is an art.  In art, there’s always room for a little lagniappe.”  My first pot of beans was a huge success, and I actually became the cook of the family.

My mother and her two good friends, Virgie and Shirley adopted an unspoken child care circle, where one of them always managed to be stay at home moms, caring for the broods of others.  Shirley was the one most often in the position of caregiver, charged with no less than seven children at a time.  Food was carefully watched over, as it always had to be made to stretched to accommodate the masses.  One glass of Kool Aid with lunch, another with dinner if we were still there that late; everything else was water.  One day I was having a particularly off day, and Aunt Shirley called me back into the kitchen after everyone else had been sent outside to play.  She extended an extra glass of Kool Aid to me, saying, “Child, there’s a time for rules, and there’s a time for lagniappe, so drink this and don’t tell anybody.”

Such were the lessons of my upbringing.  A lot of life is following your routine, but when a little extra is needed, you shouldn’t balk at it.  Embrace it as normal.  There’s no such thing as not having time for another cup of coffee, or an extra moment for a hug.  If you don’t have the time to hear someone’s answer when you ask, “Girl, how you been?!” then you’re doing life all wrong.  We’re all living in these times of lean, where money is tight, credit won’t get it, and our day to day living is strenuous.  I don’t think that we should completely abandon looking for those stray moments, where “just a tad more” marks the difference between existing and living; functional and fabulous.

Now that I’m in charge of molding young minds, I teach them the importance of snatching little extras here and there, making all the difference in having a good day and a great one.

“Trying Real Hard To Be The Shepherd”

But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. See, now I’m thinking, maybe it means you’re the evil man, and I’m the righteous man, and Mr. 9 millimeter here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or, it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, you’re the weak, and I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.

Jules Winnfield

Being a mom, single or otherwise, is a dirty business.  There are a million different things you have to do, and kids like to test you at every turn.  I told a friend today that my kids are incredibly well behaved…in public.  That’s because of the all day long foot in the ass extravaganza.  One thing is certain: they do NOT want me to show my ass in public, and therefore, they keep their shenanigans to a minimum.  But in my quest to keep them in order, I feel like I’m at war all day.

Some folks, upon seeing my reaction to annoyance and adversity, may call me somewhat high strung.  That would be a gross understatement.  When my nerves are plucked, I tend to lose my shit, and whoa be upon anyone who gets in my path.  It’s a character flaw that I constantly work on.  One of the things I LOVE about my children going to school across town is that, by the time I actually get home, I’ve calmed down exponentially.  My knee jerk reaction is not always positive.  When my kids do something galactically crazy, I sometimes sit on my hands to keep myself from reaching out to “heal” them of their insanity.

But they do not make it easy.  They’re at the point where they’re getting too old to do some of things that they do, and it drives me nuts.  This is partially my own fault for being too much of an I’ll-just-do-the-shit-myself mama, which ultimately handicaps kids.  HOWEVER, if you sit your coke on the table’s edge, then start doing jumping jacks, cartwheels and kung fu, WHEN you knock the coke down, I’m gonna cuss.

Every morning, particularly since I have not had the added pressure of having to get myself out the door, I’ve taken some deep breaths and said, “Today, I’m not gonna spaz out.” Yet, I’ll come out the bathroom to two people sitting down with one sock on, still in their pajamas, giving me the booty look, asking, “Huh?  What’s wrong?”  I’m about to bust a cap in your ass, that’s what’s wrong?  The fuck is wrong with you?  But you can’t say that to the babies, because it stunts their development or some shit.  A good 50% of parenting is “help me help you.”

I’m not there yet, but I’m tryin, Ringo.