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Confession: I’m a Bad Parent Too

06/17/2016

I don’t think this parent shaming trend is perpetuated by those who don’t have kids. Those people are all like, “Ya, it must be hard.” I think it’s the parents themselves who are all judgey.   I myself have been the victim of the you’re doing it wrong mentality. I guess it’s not really a new trend actually, since I think I did pregnancy wrong too, based on people’s unsolicited advice and comments.

Below List:  Ways I did it wrong, and the way people made sure to tell me (italics). The kid is only 11, so this is a list in progress. That is to say, I’m fully prepared to mess more shit up. He is still breathing, so I feel pretty successful, you know, as a parent.

I only had one kid (That’s easy, that’s not hardly even parenting, you aren’t a real mom until you’ve had two, three or seven, how sad for him, he’ll have no siblings… Yes, he knows how lucky he is).

I didn’t give the kid a dad (Oh my God, two moms, that’s sad. A boy needs a dad. Does he have proper male role models? Who will talk to him about sex? There is not enough testosterone in that house.   His moms taught him about sex, with the help of books with cartoony sex pictures like all kids get. I like to think I did a better job at it than my mom did. I don’t know the correct testosterone level. Is there like a recipe? The kids eats a lot of home cooked meals. I believe in reading.  I’m sure he can read books about boys if he needs more testosterone. Or hang out with his uncles, grandpas and friends who have penises)

I put the kid in daycare and went to work (Don’t you hate having him raised by strangers?   Yes, but I hate living under a bridge more.)

I lost him at the San Diego Zoo once (Were you not watching him? How could that happen?   What can I say, he’s short, all the other people were tall, he saw something shiny while I turned for three seconds and he was gone. But, he got a free stuffed animal, drink and snack from the zoo employees in the Lost Kid Center, and that normally would have cost me about $30, so I’d say it was a win.)

I share custody of the boy. This is the biggest feeling like a bad parent event ever.  This one really does suck. (How can you share custody when you gave birth to him?    I guess to this I’d say, what would you have me do? Somehow deny access to half of the people he’s known all his life? I don’t own him. I get to know him for a while. He is his own person, and he deserves regular access to his whole family, which means parents too.)

He gets a sunburn every summer. (Cancer.   I know.)

He almost drowned in his Nana and Papa’s hot tub while I was inside the house watching TV.  (oh my God, where were you?   Inside, watching TV. It was hot. Hello, it was Vegas in June. He was being watched by his Nana, who fished him out, pounded his back, and never even dropped her smoke. She is cool like that.)

I guess my point is, I have more time to mess stuff up, since he’s only 11. And I’m pretty sure he’ll turn out okay. And some people do suck. But most people are giving it all they have.

What I’m rocking currently with parenting:  Well, he’s  getting a bit sassy and talk backy, and I haven’t strangled him yet. He is a good reader and I take some credit for that, since I’m the biggest geek I know.  I think I’m a good listener.  I have climbed what feels like a million waterpark stairs, read Good Night Moon hundreds of times, and made lots of healthy (and delicious I should add) dinners that he only sort of wants to eat.  So I feel good.

Currently Reading: Lily and Dunkin, The Urban Monk, What is the What, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome.

Please read The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. Please. It’s so good.

Summer Goal: Lots of writing time.  Create a habit.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself

01/29/2016

This 2015 Christmas, we decided to spend our money on experiences, rather than things. I’ve always enjoyed the doing of Christmas rather than the having and getting of things, so hitting the beach was a solid plan. By beach of course, I mean home. Back to San Luis Obispo, specifically Cayucos. I briefly lived in Cayucos, and it’s my favorite spot to stay when we are on the coast.

The central coast is where I grew up, and of course when I go there I feel less like a tourist and more like a local. As it should be right? Except it has now been (gulp) 22 years since I lived there, so deep down I know I’m a tourist there. I do know where to get the best pizza: Nardonne’s in Atascadero. I know how to order it too; in case you are wondering. The thing is, the people who work there can be a bit pissy about making pizza. So you have to say please, please, please, sorry, sorry, sorry, don’t arrive before your designated pick up time, do not complain when they say it will take an hour and ten minutes for your pizza, smile at the chick at the counter, sympathize when she complains how busy they are, apologize again for bothering her by wanting pizza, and then go home and enjoy the best pizza in the world. I can chat with the owner of Good Clean Fun (where we rented our wetsuits and boogie boards) like a local. The owner and I have a mutual friend (my best friend and he were in the same social circle in the 70s), and he was a customer at the deli where I worked in the early 90s. I can find my way around all the central coast towns, and I know where to park. So I feel like a tourist at home.

The thing is, I don’t like the tourist feeling. I have a need to be a local. I want to know the best spots to boogie board. I’d like to not feel like a poseur when I put on the wetsuit. Part of me wishes I had stayed there on the beach where I grew up, instead of moving to New Mexico and then on to Nevada. But I know that if I had done that, I would not have Tommy or Angi or this life I love so much. I think the sad feeling of local/tourist comes from wanting to live on the central coast full time again, and hoping I can work that out some day. During the Christmas trip, in order to really have fun, I had to let go of this feeling of needing to fit in like a local and just enjoy myself and have fun like a tourist.

Strangely, I have this similar feeling with parenting. In some ways, as the boy gets older, I feel like a tourist in his life. I used to know my boy very well, back when he was a little boy. But now, he is growing to be a young man. My local status is waning. There was a time when he was cuddly and called me Mommy. Now I am Mom, but there is an inflection in his voice sometimes that I can’t even write. Sometimes he says mom like you might say “Ew” while looking at a dead snake on the road or somebody else’s puke (well, any puke). I’m not allowed to touch his head because I might mess up his hair, and his room smells so much like Axe it sometimes radiates down the hall and down the stairs. I guess I will navigate this phase like I managed putting on a wetsuit and getting back in the ocean after 20 years: just jump in and try to act like I know what I’m doing. That defines parenting pretty well. It probably describes most new experiences actually.  And parenting an almost 11-year-old boy is new, just like all the ages to come will be new.

This preteen boy is mostly well-behaved, responsible and sweet, and I do enjoy seeing him push off and do his own thing, since my ultimate plan is to move back to the beach when he is all grown up. Right now he says he is going to come with us and work at the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos and go to Cal Poly. I’m down with this plan, but I imagine at 18 he is going to say Peace Out Mom, I’m getting as far away from you as possible! We’ll see what happens. I’ll support all plans, except maybe joining a cult or getting a motorcycle.

Reading: The Girl on the Train (so good!), Ishmael (I’m not sure about his one yet), and on deck is What is the What (I’m very excited for this read)

Camp Session 3, We Did It!

07/28/2015

I usually make a summer bucket list. Last summer, my list included outdoor concerts, writing, sketching, reading, water slides, hiking the Rubicon, camping D.L. Bliss, Barnes and Noble Day, and swimming in Lake Tahoe.  This summer, because I figured I better teach art at least once in the 2014-2015 school year, my bucket list is actually on a bucket. It looks like this:

20150727_172611

I have not yet jumped in the Truckee or finished writing my book, and I’m running out of time, but I did accomplish camp. By camp I mean Camp Lotsafun. And like my summer bucket list, I could list all the things I did at camp, brochure style. Here are all the fun activities you will enjoy if you go to Camp Lotsafun: archery, swimming, mountain biking, hiking, arts and crafts, basketball, soccer, frisbee golf, karaoke, card games, dances, movies, campfires, s’mores, talent shows, volleyball, panning for gold, treasure hunts, tie dye, and even food art. Yep, we played with our food, because at camp you get to do almost anything you want.

If I’m really thinking about what I accomplished at camp, it’s more than a list that would fit on a brochure. It’s more than you will see in the camp pictures. Maybe it reads more like a Help Wanted Ad. A list of reasons you should come work this camp.

The ad might read like this:

Free room and board in beautiful locale, which includes a squeaky bunk in a cabin and pretty good food. Coffee will be provided. Lots of hours, little bit of pay, make friends from around the block, around the state, and around the world.

At camp you will:

Count to 8 one thousand times. Have late night talks in your cabin. Laugh until you cry. Get glitter in your hair. Learn secret handshakes. Sing crazy songs that involve fun lyrics and hand signals. Make up new rules for Uno. Share everything. Get lots of hugs. Have inside jokes and new nicknames. Learn new dance moves. Feel the joy of getting your quiet camper to talk and your oldest camper to dance and play soccer. See amazing sunsets and stars. Love coffee more than ever before.

At camp you may:

Sing all the words to The Gambler, and remember that Sweet Caroline never stops being awesome. Realize one cookie is all you need and share the rest. Be reminded of how lucky you are, and how in your regular life you take things for granted, things like relationships, kids, your freedom, your job, and even your ability to walk quickly or go to the bathroom on your own.

You will probably leave this camp, this job, with an inner sense of calm and a new outlook on life. Apply today.

Three sessions in the books and I feel very proud. And now it’s time to think again about teaching. It starts tomorrow with training, but that road trip is still a plan. The book, well, I’ll keep trying.

Reading: Teach Like a Champion. I can dream baby, I can dream!

 

Camp Lotsafun Part Deux

07/12/2015

Session 2 is in the books and I’m noticing a trend, broken down by days as follows:

Sunday: Counselors arrive. Get set. Read bios. Enjoy the quiet, the scenery, the chance to read and journal and sketch before…

Monday: Crazy. Thoughts like, I can’t do it happen. I forget my campers’ names. I am annoyed at the necessary task of moving STUFF. I can’t wait to already be settled in and programming.

Tuesday: This is what the week will look like. We are on a schedule, in a groove. We make cabin rules and are following them for the most part, with some reminders. I’m learning my group. We get our first rest time. I love me some rest time.

Wednesday: I know my guys, I know what they like, what they don’t like, who wanders, who doesn’t, who is the helper, who is in his own zone, who is excited to be at camp, who is pining for Saturday. It’s easy to be together and the schedule is our happy king. We are a team, moving together everywhere. We also know where to find the cookies and how to bribe the Cabin Fairy. Shhh.

Thursday:  We are gellin’. We have inside jokes. It’s easy. We aren’t thinking about Saturday. We are just thinking about whether we will do bike riding, basketball, drama, karaoke, Arts and Crafts, hiking or beach. Good choices to have on a beautiful summer day at Eagle Lake.

Friday: We feel we’ve been here at least two weeks. The idea of going home is sad and happy.  The cabin smells like feet, farts, and BO. Despite daily showers. We’ve accepted it. It’s our smell, the smell of our Cabin 8 team.

Saturday: I’m home already in my mind. I’m trying to be fully present but once again dealing with STUFF. My mind’s eye can see the Starbucks in Susanville, can see me in it, ordering a Grande caramel machiatto. Making the big decision of hot or iced. It also knows I may never see my guys again and wants me to come back to the now. Saturday is an exercise in mindfulness. The week goes by fast and slow at the same time.

This post, I thought I’d list some of the things I learned from campers during Session 2.

I learned….

  • How to draw Inspector Gadget.
  • The 2005 Dr. Who is better.
  • When making cocoa or tea, double the packets or bags. Always.
  • My plan to hide in a boat on a lake during the Zombie Apocalypse will not work because zombies can swim and stack, and plus they don’t breathe because they are dead so water is no big deal. So. New plan needed, but not offered by these guys.
  • If you want someone to feel like they are part of your tribe, give them a new name. Please just call me Tamika from now on.
  • If you are driving somewhere and you see cows lying down, it means a storm is coming.
  • It’s good to get to work an hour early so you can chill and drink coffee and get ready. I bet I never actually follow this very good advice.
  • You can play a Draw 2 card on top of Draw 2 card in Uno, making the next person draw 4, or 6, or 8, etc. This is not Camp Uno Rules, but REAL UNO RULES.
  • The Backstreet Boys and In Sync broke up. Why? We don’t know.
  • John Lennon and George Harrison are dead. Paul McCartney is a vegetarian.
  • John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln. And Reagan was not, in fact, shot; he died of Alzheimer’s, and don’t try to say anything different. Just. Don’t. Even.
  • You are never too old to get your picture taken with Smokey the Bear.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  • Given the chance to tip a canoe on purpose, dumping your counselor into the lake, you must do it. You must.
  • If your friend is sad, you must go over, put your hand on his shoulder, compliment him on his awesome personality, and tell him it’s okay to cry.

What they learned from me? It’s very polite to go pass gas outside in nature. I’m sure there is more but that’s the one that comes to mind at the moment.

One more session on the horizon. I am going to enjoy this home week, finish my list of things to do, walk dogs, read books, journal, and watch lots of Netflix. Can’t wait for Session 3!

Camp. It Was Lots of Fun.

07/02/2015

With seven weeks off for summer, I thought I’d take an opportunity to work a summer camp. Maybe I’m pining for my youthful days at good old Camp Hapitok. Or maybe I thought I’d get a paid vacation and a chance to commune with nature. Camp Hapitok was so many years ago, and I don’t want to do the math because it’s the kind of math problem that makes me a little bit sad and a lot bit shocked. I remember very little about that camp, but I do remember that at age16, my number one goal was to kiss a hot counselor. This time around, my goal for camp was more altruistic. This time, I wanted to impact somebody’s life in a positive way. I wanted to be like Julie, the super awesome cruise director of not The Love Boat, but Camp Lotsafun.

So what qualifies me to work at a camp for children and adults with disabilities? Having gone to camp before? Being a teacher? The desire to do it? The love I have for this population? Love of the outdoors? Being friends with the director? A willingness to sleep in a cabin, hike, dance badly in front of many people, sing karaoke loudly (also badly, with no social cushion of alcohol), and make beaded necklaces and bird feeders out of toilet paper rolls and peanut butter? Yes, all of the above.

Byron Katie has said, “I’m very clear that everyone in the world loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it yet.” This was how I approached the somewhat nerve-wracking unknown of camp. Yes, I’d be older than all the counselors, but I figured they’d realize how much they love me eventually. And I long ago learned not to offer unsolicited advice to anyone, so I’d be set. Because I remember being in my early 20s and wishing that old lady would stop telling me what to do with my life. Nobody wants that, right? So I would not be that chick, no way. And the campers, well, my plan was to listen. Support. I’d work really hard to not interject my story. I’d listen and ask questions and follow the schedule and not lose any campers. Yes, goal number one, don’t lose anyone. Also make sure they bathe, don’t choke at mealtimes, use sunscreen, and drink enough water. Got it.

And I did do all those things. The session was much like what I expected. I hiked and swam and I sang Kenny Rogers songs loudly and badly and actually remembered I kinda like that guy’s music. I gave lots of high fives and hugs. I talked about important things like The Avengers, The Hulk, what it’s like to pay bills all the time, and 80’s music while waiting for sleep to come late at night. I caught and released 10 moths because one of my campers could not sleep knowing we had “flutterflies” in our cabin. I played a lot of games of Uno. I laughed the daily allotted amount for good health, as recommended by Psychology Today.com. I learned some hip hop dance moves. I slept very little and wished for stronger coffee. All as expected.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: How much my campers would teach me. As I do with my regular job as a teacher, I learned something very valuable from my campers, and all the campers: life, no matter what is going on, is to be appreciated, despite the challenges it offers. My guys, my campers, have real challenges. They have no privacy because they can’t take care of themselves. For some of them, walking is a very difficult. They always need to rely on the help of others. While I was thinking and planning very carefully what books to bring (not realizing there would be zero time or energy for reading), my guys packed nothing to occupy their minds at camp. They, unlike me, don’t have to read at night to calm the crazy monkey mind before being able to fall asleep. One of my campers, who is older than I am, packed a Step Into Reading book that I would probably give to one of my first grade students. For some reason, this made me very sad. Reading, writing, and sketching are so important to me, and I was assuming, like a 4-year old who thinks the whole world revolves around her, that not being able to read a book is such a sad, sad thing. But is it? These guys were happy. Fine. Appreciative. Smiling all the time. Chipper in the morning. Very chipper. Which made me wonder, what’s my issue? Why am I assuming my way is the best way? The right way? It’s human nature I guess.

Whenever I camp I come home with an appreciation for the things that make my life so great. My family, my dogs, my house, morning coffee and journal time, a bathroom that is only ten feet away and pretty clean most of the time.(except baseboards, but those don’t count).  Something else happened after this camp though. I realized that almost all of the stuff I worry about doesn’t really matter. Not my bank account balance, the money my credit card people keep wanting from me every month, the size of my jeans, or the wrinkles on my neck that I hate so much. My life is enough. I am enough. And in this life, what matters is not what you look like, or what you have, but how you make people feel. At the end of Camp Lotsafun, Session 1, I can say for sure that my campers felt listened to. Important. Valued. Nothing else matters. Session 2 is going to rock.

Worst Job Ever

05/20/2015

In an effort to get back in the habit of blogging and writing for an audience, I am reposting this essay from 2008. A friend of mine reminded me of this old post from my TwoMommy blog, one I have since taken down. So in part I’m reposting so I can send her the link. Here I am now, working my dream job – teaching- and finding things to love about it every day. I find things to not love of course too. Any job has love/hates, but flagging construction-what can I say, not a lot to love. 

This is a good ice breaker at a party: ask people to tell you about the worst job they ever had. Forget about questions like how do you know the host or what do you do for a living. It’s more fun to talk about the job you hate then the job you have, although of course those two things could be the same. My worst jobs fight each other for the number one spot. Cleaning a hair salon on Saturdays when I was in high school was pretty bad, there was hair everywhere and it just would not go away, no matter what I did, and then all day Sunday I felt itchy and sneezy- not really worth it for 5 bucks an hour. Being a “package handler” at UPS was pretty bad too; I had the most injuries on that job and too many supervisors with stopwatches yelling things outside my truck like “that’s 1.5 seconds per package Tammy, 1.5! Let’s go, you’re buried!” Apparently I handled a package every 3 seconds, which is unacceptable. And I knew I was buried, I was the one underneath all those packages of infomercial easy gliders, hating every American who ordered that stupid contraption, just praying I’d live another day at that job. The job as a pizza cook at Macaroni Grill was pretty crappy, mostly because the line cooks used to come into my pizza area and fart, and I had no escape. This is the height of restaurant humor to a line cook. Grady’s restaurant was pretty bad too, mostly because they sent all my paychecks to Atlanta instead of Albuquerque, and I was so poor my daily meal was the free pre-shift baked potato. But all of these jobs were not horrible, unbearable, they were just moments of terrible sprinkled with occasions of not so bad.

Here is the pure terrible, worst job ever: flagging construction. You know those people out there with the Slow/Stop sign and the attitude? That was me. Well, minus the attitude. I’d be all like, Hey, if you don’t mind, can you not drive your car through all this hot, freshly laid asphalt and if it’s not too inconvenient, could you slow down at least to 50 MPH please? Here’s a little tidbit of information: construction flaggers have to go to school to learn how to hold, twist and pump that sign. For 2 whole days. It’s like traffic school, and everyone has to go, even the seasoned, career flaggers. It’s way worse than traffic school because the people in the class are allowed to talk and share their flagger stories, and they all have many, each one worse than the next.   My favorite is the one about the guy who was “workin up in Tahoe and this bear came and it was the lady flagger’s, uh, you know, monthly lady time, and so he had to tell her to go to a different part of the construction zone because if that bear smelled her, uh, you know, monthly time stuff, well, he’d kill her. So, I basically saved her life.” Two days of stories like that before you get your little I-can-be-a-flagger card to put proudly in your wallet, never to be taken out again because nobody really cares if you are certified or not.

On Day 1, you get valuable advice like don’t let people push you around, you’re the boss out here, and put your sandwich in you hardhat so the homeless people don’t steal it if you are working downtown. It’s hard to feel like the boss when every time you turn your head your peanut butter and jelly sandwich slides over your ear and hits you on the cheek, and you have to put it back on your head like a girl in heels practicing posture. The truth about flagging is, it’s hot and miserable and boring, and you only get to pee once per day. People throw food and sodas at you, and you’re so thirsty that if the soda lands upright and it’s not empty you seriously consider drinking it. On a particularly miserable, hot, boring day, one of the construction guys yelled at me, “Hey Tammy, sucks huh? Kind of makes you wish you went to college, huh?” And I thought, I did go to college. And graduated. So what the hell am I doing our here, trying not to get hit by cars and trying to avoid eye contact with Paul who always needs a ride home to his downtown weekly hotel, and trying to cut out all liquids so I’d never have to go to pee behind a boulder again. And that was it for me. I quit, and now I only have a few good stories and a lot of sympathy for flaggers, because inside every bossy construction flagger who is pumping their Slow/Stop sign and yelling at you to slow down is a bored, sad, hung-over person who has to pee. Really bad.

Sometimes the people I work with complain that the toilets are so bad you have to flush twice, and I think, come talk to me when you are peeing crouched behind a boulder in South Lake Tahoe, hoping no one is staring at your naked white butt. Then we can talk about your sad work story.

I Kind of Love My Car, As Much a Person Can Love a Car

08/10/2014

I’m not really a car person, just like I’m not a horse person or a video game person. My car is fine. It’s paid off and kind of trashed, but we are in it together, me and my car. I would like to have a car that has a cleaner interior – a little less dirt, dust, half-chewed skittle spooge, sunscreen sprayed on the ceiling, stickers peeling off the window, etc. Of course, I want the car to start every time I need it to, and drive like it is supposed to. This is a requirement. But I don’t admire cars or fantasize about different cars. I guess I’m kind of committed to my car. Other people see a really cool car and stare, following it with their eyes, straining their necks to see it. I don’t really do that with cars. Now books, yes, I stare, stalk and gawk. I will give myself whiplash to read the title of a book a stranger is reading, but cars don’t really get much attention from me.

But I do like my car, and when I think about how it’s paid off, I kind of love it.  We’ve just accomplished the 100,000 mile mark. Since I got the car when it had 8 miles on it, I of course take all the credit. We’ve been through a lot together. My CD player has suffered through Laurie Berkner Band on continuous loop during Tommy’s toddler years, Wayne Dyer during my self actualization years, and Lady Gaga, The Eagles, Fun, the B-52s, Britney Spears, Hatsune Miku and Dirty Heads during our more recent Let’s Rock Out years. She (if a car is a she) has taken me on road trips to san Luis Obispo, Coos Bay Oregon, Six Flags, Petaluma, Napa, Sacramento, and many camping trips to Fallen Leaf Lake and D.L. Bliss. We have had a broken side view mirror, gotten rear ended, and blew a tire on the 101 near Gilroy. We’ve survived 2 new batteries, and the car, she was patient when it took me 3 years to finally deal with the check engine light situation (I have issues. Scam is all I can say). She is full of beach sand, more than a few throw ups from a carsick boy, spilled sodas, wayward French fries, and Dora the Explorer stickers that seriously DO NOT come off windows.

We worked through a phase of me crying on my way to work every day during a bad break up, when I gripped the steering wheel hard and tried to gather up the strength to go into work, smile, and pretend that my life was not falling apart around me. She was steady when I rushed, driven by parental guilt and a total disregard for speeding tickets, to get my child from daycare when I was missing his little face so bad. And she understands that I perhaps slam on the brakes, gun the engine, and follow a little bit too close now and then. Or like, most of the time actually.

She has carted cousins and friends to the water park, Roller Kingdom, Artown concerts, Pah Rah park, Galena Creek, the children’s museum, and the mall, the mall, the mall. She has taken me to classes at UNR, where I paid way too much money to park her. She got me to my work, my play, my writing dates, and my classes.

And she has seen the boy grow up. When her interior was still soft, clean and shiny, the little dude was just brand new. He hadn’t even gotten past ten pounds on the scale yet. I love the car, is all I’m saying. I love that it’s paid off. And while I’m not a car person, and I wouldn’t turn down a free new one, this car and I will keep on keeping on. Maybe we’ll hit the 200,000 mile mark before we part.