Archive for May 18th, 2013

My father taught at my high school.   I wish that my peers had understood how much he was bridling himself in order to have to spend the day with teenagers.  Being his student, I had an interesting vantage point to tell stories at the dinner table about my English teacher.  He provided many.  Here are a fistful of my favorites.

Because our high school doubled as a church building, there were often stacks of unclaimed Bibles in the lost and found.  My dad chose one of the unclaimed Bibles to keep on his desk in the classroom.  It had been engraved.  A student asked, “Mr. Gordon, who is Retha English?”  With an absolutely deadpan expression, he told the high school student, “That was my name before the operation.”

My dad is a very strong man.  When I was in the 9th grade, one of my classmates (who has since become a marine) believed himself to be large enough to challenge my father.   They got in position to arm wrestle.  My dad signaled, “Go.”  The fifteen year old heaved, grunted, and finally, started pulling with two hands.  My father had an expression on his face that made him seem belabored also.  But his expression suddenly changed, exhibiting that my dad’s “struggle” was a ruse.  The student now seemed an unworthy opponent for my dad.  My dad asked effortlessly, “Are you ready?”  The student, groaning and now confused, bellowed, “Yes!”  “Are you sure you’re ready?”  “Yeah!”   SLAM!  My dad soundly won and said very innocently, “Well, you said you were ready.  Would you like me to let go?”  The student begrudgingly admitted defeat and my dad was never challenged again.

After extensively teaching the forms of adjectives, my dad assigned an exercise where we were to identify and label all the adjectives in their forms.  When the students said that they didn’t understand, he patiently explained again, noting the lessons that he had painstakingly taught all week.  They still contested.  With a hint of exasperation (and it is noteworthy that he never uses profanity), he said, “Underline all of the adjective forms in the passage.  Then, label the KIND of adjective it is.  There are determiners (what our curriculum called articles) like ‘the’ and ‘that,’ regular adjectives like ‘juicy’ and ‘red,’ and modifying nouns like ‘brick’ in ‘brick house’ and ‘feather’ in ‘feather duster.’  If it’s a determiner, write a big D (he demonstrated by writing a large letter D on the board behind him without turning around).  If it’s a good ol’ fashioned adjective, write a big A (and wrote likewise on the board.)  Finally, if it’s a modifying noun, write MN (and modeled on the board without looking at his handiwork).  This (pointed to the board behind him) is what I want you to do!”  He did not realize that his labels were an acronym.  (This was especially entertaining and surprising because my dad never used the, ahem, acronym on the board behind him.)

In 12th grade British Literature, the class watched Macbeth on video after studying the unit on the Shakespearian play.  Near the end, Lady Macbeth began disrobing to deliver her monologue.  My father, who despises public nudity even for the sake of art, would never have shown that to a class, but had been assured that it was safe for school.  When he saw, to his horror, that it was not, he employed his high school football tactics and ran to tv avoiding desks the way that he would have run to an in-zone avoiding defenders.  He wheeled the tv backwards out of the view of students and fast forwarded until all of the characters were decent.  As he was fast forwarding and watching the distorted picture of the VHS tapes, the students were laughing.  They knew that he intended to be above reproach.  One of the boys in my class asked, “Hey, Mr. Gordon, does she look good?”  Without missing a beat, my father responded, “not as good as me.”

One of his classes (eighth graders) was so ill-behaved that he decided to use a Dictaphone to list referrals to write later.  Despite the frustration that he felt for students squandering their education, the silver lining was listening to the “highlight reel” as he wrote referrals and called parents at night.  We heard, “So-and-so is talking out of turn.”  A voice in the background would be murmuring loudly, stop, and respond, “I am not!”  One of the “So-and-sos” did an impression of my dad (years later) using his Dictaphone.   I thanked So-and-so for being such insolent child that he had provided hours of laughter around our dinner table while my dad wrote out his referrals.

When I was pregnant with my third child, one of my coworkers commented that I really relish the mommy role, noting that I had been pregnant with somebody or another for half of the time that I had worked with him.  I also sometimes wore my “Epidural?! SCHMEPIDURAL!!”  t-shirt to work.  (I was pregnant and it fit me.  Fitting was the main requirement for clothing then.)  I assured him that, no, I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy, I was merely of childbearing age and having children fit my family.  The childbearing seemed to be my responsibility because my husband lacks a womb.

My coworker noted that I am obviously one of those women who genuinely enjoy being pregnant.  “Nope,” I responded, “if I could grow them in jars in a laboratory, I would find that to be preferable.”  Pregnancy seemed a little more pragmatic than the large jars or the other option of fearing pregnancy and childbirth too much ever to have children.

My brother-in-law noted recently that I am more of a girl than I let on.  For example, I readily discussed natural childbirth with our then pregnant friend.  Nope, it’s just a relevant topic and one where I have knowledge and experience to offer when it is asked of me.

When one of my daughters was hospitalized as an infant and I contested that formula was not the solution because it was not reasonable and it would not fix her, but mask a symptom.  We needed to focus on finding the root of her problem, I was told, “Well, you’re just one of those super-natural mamas.”  I just think that I should feed my infant something that is really food (breastmilk) for the same reasons that I use whole wheat flour instead of Bisquik (aka internal glue) when they’re approximately the same cost.  Our bodies function better when they are fueled properly.  It’s again about pragmatism.

My father-in-law has a graduate degree in agriculture.  He planted a backyard garden for us.  I haven’t done any work in it, but I get to go to my back yard to get side dishes.  He ups my crunchy credit when he’s the one who should be receiving the credit.  My zucchini is delicious and free…and easily accessible!

Now, these are all reasons that I have been called “crunchy” or “natural.”  I’ve even received the snide, judgmental, “Well, aren’t you just trying to win a medal, aren’t you now?”  But really, do not give me credit where credit is not warranted.  I am much too selfish to do these things to create a super-pristine environment for my family.  I’m much too apathetic to care about the opinions of other moms.  Let us replace descriptions like “crunchy” and “natural” with “pragmatic” and “reasonable.”

Natural childbirth.  Yes, I know that hospitals are where they keep the drugs, but it’s also where they keep the knives.  I don’t like to be cut especially when it’s entirely unnecessary.  I have been told 4 different reasons in 3 pregnancies why I needed to have a c-section.  I’m not in the mood to argue about everyone’s experience and hear about why her OB was right that that c-section was the only way, but it was obviously incorrect on 4 bad calls and 3 homebirths later.  I heard, “Well, aren’t you (snear) brave!”  Nope.  Just want to get it get it over with faster.  Don’t slice my abs or my hoohah.  Don’t paralyze and inhibit my body’s ability to birth gently.  Hospitals give people more injuries from which to recover.  When I’ve just had a baby, I don’t want to have to do any unnecessary healing.  No, thank you.  I have plenty to do without interventions adding extras.  Hospital birth as a whole process is just not as efficient as it’s cracked up to be.

Breastfeeding.  Yes, it’s appropriate food for a human and it’s created by a brilliant God, but, people, it’s FREE.  I repeat, FREE!   Furthermore, it’s really easy to administer meds (or herbs as the case may be) to a baby when my work is take the herbs myself, wait an hour, and feed the baby.  While it was not easy for the first two months, it was AMAZINGLY worth it.  Free.

Furthermore, the fact that my children are children makes it very hard to sit down and pay attention to them when they have so little to add to the conversation.  I breastfed them until they were very conversational (1 ½ years).  Breastfeeding was not something that I did because I already felt this mommying desire of sitting and bonding with the baby; it’s what I painstakingly chose to do to CREATE any mommy mojo that I could find.  Now, my children are pretty hilarious people and I love having one-on-one time with each one…and no one has to chew on me.

I was infuriated when I was told that I was breastfeeding because I enjoyed it so much.  Are you bleeping kidding me?  I ENJOY the process of teaching someone with limited communication skills not to bite me?  I ENJOY not getting to do an occupation that I love because I’m too busy feeding someone every 2-3 hours?  I ENJOY being sent to the proverbial corner because someone might suddenly become aware that I possess such appendages?  I ENJOY having sensitive skin cracked open and bleeding?  I once had someone tell me that I was nursing for more than 3 months because it felt good.  What?!  I don’t even know what to do with that.  It hurt.  That was just rude.  Nope.  I nursed the kids because I thought that if I actively chose to do my part in his or her creation, I owe it to him or her to provide proper nutrition for as long as I am responsible for nourishing the child.  Okay, and it’s free.

Couponing.  I really have no idea why this is ever categorized as super-mom material instead of just pragmatic plain and simple.  They let you have stuff for cheaper.  It’s pretty awesome.  Just don’t get free stuff that isn’t food but is masquerading as food.  That doesn’t nourish and is no longer pragmatic.

Herbs.  They work.  Prescriptions have lots of elements that I don’t find to be pragmatic. 1) I have to go to an MD and pay a lot of money to get them.  2) Then, I have to pay for the expensive prescription.  3) The prescription probably won’t work–at least that has been my repeated experience.  4) There are often yucky side effects.

I have a different idea.  Dr. Google is free.  Herbs are significantly cheaper than MD+Rx.  Then, people get well.  Be well is very pragmatic.

Backyard Garden.  I haven’t put work into it.  My father-in-law and husband have worked in it while I was at work.  I just harvest lettuce, zucchini and potatoes.  Maybe I wouldn’t think that it is so pragmatic if I had been the one putting in the elbow grease, but the backyard is more easily accessible than the grocery store.

Cooking at Home.  I deviated last week.  I told my husband that I didn’t want to bother packing a lunch for a family of 5 for an outing.  I should not have told him that.  He was even willing to pack food for me.  He stopped at McD’s.  It took forever.  It was $14 going the “cheap” route.  In the end, it took too long, we overspent, and we felt like we had eaten garbage.  Lesson learned…again.  Home is more pragmatic.  Hubs was right.  There’s produce ready for the next outing as I write.  We can pack what is delicious, easy, inexpensive, and makes our bodies feel well to play all day.

No TV.  This one makes me such a “tough mom.”  “What?!  You don’t have a TV??  That’s inhumane!”  Our antenna gets no reception.  The cable company (the only one in the area) wants to charge us an extra $50/month to watch what comes on hulu for free.  Furthermore, if our kids had anymore venues for media, I’m pretty sure they’d become zombies.  It’s cheaper.

Making Laundry Detergent.  This one is kind of a fad.  I keep the stuff on hand to make it when I run out.  It’s not very pragmatic to run out of detergent with this many mess makers in the house.  It’s cheap and functional.

Making Face Scrub. If I can be diligent about making it once a month, my face appreciates the homemade scrub better than anything store bought.  Pragmatism.

My 5 year old is often in mismatched clothing.  I usually don’t care if my 5 year old is wearing mismatched clothes because she deliberately designed that ensemble.  She dressed herself in clean clothes.  Done.   Some say that I’m a “free spirit” for allowing it; others say that she’s “being raised by wolves.”   I’ll let my apathy soak up the being raised by wolves part so that she can be the free spirit.  There’s something about her free spirit that I think needs to be nurtured.  It’s a part of her that can become the most beautiful.  She’s weird and different kind of weird than I am.  Whatever.  Maybe she’ll grow up with the apathy that becomes so pragmatic.

Don’t eat stuff that’s not food.  High fructose corn syrup and modified food starch are bad.  I sound crazy when I’m in the grocery store with my kids and I REPEATEDLY respond to their questions of why we don’t buy what other families buy with, “Because it’s not…” and the prompted kid responds, “healthy.”  “Right.  It’s not really food.  If you want to eat stuff like that, go somewhere else because you won’t find it at home.”  There’s a lot of unhealthy garbage that they have access to everywhere else (like the pseudo cheese slime that I saw one of my kid’s classmates eating in a school lunch.  Ew.).  I lack the ability to monitor all of that.  So, I’m not going to introduce that stuff into their normal eating hub too.  “If you want to kill your insides, you’re going to have to do it not on my watch.  If you have health problems when you’re an adult you won’t be able to blame me.  Now, have some hummus with cucumber and carrots.  I’ll make you almond milk/avocado chocolate pudding when you’re done (all delicious, by the way).”  Not crunchy.   If Type II Diabetes comes from my genetic line, it would not be pragmatic not to give them the habits and tools not to develop it later.  That’s a life goal, by the way—don’t get all of the nasty diseases that come from lifelong unhealthy eating habits.  All the bad ones in my family seem to be controllable by diet/weight.  Sick doesn’t seem pragmatic.

Therefore, doing what is “crunchy” has nothing to do with winning proverbial medals from other moms; it has to do with reevaluating choices and putting more stock in the best option over what is commonly done.  Again, I am much too apathetic to be concerned winning medals.

A few nights ago, I was talking to friends, none of whom have children, and one of the young men added to the conversation ever so humorously, “When I have kids, I’m not even going to touch them for the first few years.  I mean, they’re weird.  They have that soft spot thing in the head.  They can’t even sit up; their heads flop all weird.  So, when they’re born, I’ll wave.  I’ll say, ‘I’m your dad.  I’ll see you in a couple of years when we can do cool stuff.’”

The other woman in the group noted, “No, you won’t.  Not when it’s your own kid.”

He contested, still intending to make light, “Even my own kid.”  He continued to discuss how he ought not be responsible for a fragile person.

Granted, new dads (and this guy is a long way away from fatherhood) can be afraid of the frailty of a newborn (a fear that can be overcome), but too many dads are quick to believe that they get a pass from “baby stuff” merely because the baby is not appealing to him or that women are better equipped to know how not to break them.  I think that this largely stems from the idea that women in general are naturally inclined to enjoy everything in the baby realm.  I provide myself as a counter example.  I barely liked kids before I had them.  After I had children, I had a great appreciation for my own, but a growing dislike for other people’s kids (underdeveloped humans).  The fact that I was used as a vessel for gestation does not mean that I think that every weird thing that the baby oozes (out of innumerable orifices) smells like flowers.  It weirds me out too.

So, I decided that this nugget of wisdom should be shared with this young fella.  Here it is folks: “YOUR WIFE IS INCLINED TO TREAT YOU THE SAME WAY YOU TREAT THE BABY.  Wives, ahem, provide a lot.  If you want to be held and coddled, hold and coddle the baby.  If you look at the baby and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all,’ your wife will look at you and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all.’  You’re either a help (as a fellow grown-up) or a burden (leaving her to think of you as another child).”

He laughed, “I just don’t want to touch it.”  I replied, “She won’t want to touch it either.”  When it appeared that he wasn’t following the logic, another man in the group piped up, “She’s talking about a different ‘it.’”

Dads would do well to understand the mindset of their wives when they are new moms.

A dad who believes that he is not responsible for taking care of a small child, especially a newborn, contributes to his wife thinking, “This broke me.  I am BROKEN.  I feel terrible.  I look terrible.  I can’t even remember what it feels like to be me.  I have lost my identity.  I am no longer a woman.  I am a pair of sunken, puffy eyes sitting on top of what feels like bruises instead of internal organs and skin that is torn in a variety of ways.  My hormones and brain chemistry tell me that I might hate you, and you’re not making any sort of rebuttal.  You take a pass and rest because you’re a man, because you WEREN’T the one who was broken.  Taking all of the physical stress of gestation was my lot for being female, yet all of the exhausting caretaking is still my job.  You might ‘help me out a little’ with ‘my’ responsibility.  You are killing any hope I have of ever feeling better.  I’m sorry.  I CANNOT take any more.  I have nothing left to give.  Please, as long as you feel that way, don’t get near me.  This is not manipulation or lack of loving you; this is solely because YOU TERRIFY ME.  I am injured (for now, a lot, but a little injured forever) because you came near me.   I’m scared of you and I hurt, but you’re going to let me deal with it all by myself.  Please, I beg you, don’t hurt me anymore.  Don’t crush the broken pieces of me.”

Now, that last part was too much truth to lay on someone.  So, I didn’t .  I, instead, noted how my husband models good dad behavior.  I said, “You know what’s delicious?  My husband carrying our daughters, one in each arm, to their beds is delicious!  They each pick a different animal to pretend to be.  They roar, meow, bark, oink, moo, and hiss all the way up the stairs through their giggles.  I’ll tell you what, that shirtless man’s muscles ripple ever so exquisitely when he’s cradling 80 pounds (total) of preschooler.   You know what else?  My son greets me at the door when I get home from work and says, ‘Dad told us to clean up our messes before you got home.  See?  He’s in the kitchen loading the dishwasher.’  Beautiful.  Mmm, hmm.  When a toddler climbs up in his lap and finds comfort, I look forward to procuring that same seat later.  ‘Good dad’ is yummy.  Remember that.”

When a dad takes responsibility in caring for the offspring, the mother is inclined to think, “He will sustain us!  There will be a day when I will feel healed!  I will survive!  I have hope!  This man is interested in sustaining me and the fruit of my womb!  We are a team and together, we will thrive.  My goodness, he’s hot.”

That last little bit was running through my head as the rest of them discussed.  I think they deviated from that conversation, but I wasn’t really listening; my husband texted me and said that he picked up the kids and he was on the way home.  The night ended at that time when I chuckled loudly and awkwardly.  I didn’t know where the conversation had gone, but I gathered by the way they looked at me that a loud chuckle was very misplaced.  I explained, “heh, heh…my husband’s a really good dad.”  There was a consensus that the night was over and Courtney obviously needed to get home.