Don’t Judge

If there is one thing I have learned from being a parent, it’s that I don’t know anything.

Before our daughter was born, my husband and I decided that our baby would never use a pacifier. Pacifiers were a crutch for weak parents who didn’t know how to properly comfort their children, I said with all the infinite wisdom of a woman who had never even changed a diaper.

My husband and I had no experience with children or pacifiers so our decision was based solely on an air of superiority that can only come from two people who have no idea what the heck they are talking about. But we had skimmed the better part of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” so we felt pretty secure in our first parenting decision.

Two days after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she started crying and wouldn’t stop. We fed her, we changed her, we rocked her, we burped her. But she just kept crying. In a final desperate move, my husband said, “Don’t we have a pacifier somewhere?” We dug a pacifier out of a gift basket in the closet and read the instructions. We boiled it for five minutes, let it cool, then popped it into our daughter’s mouth. Magic happened. She began sucking on it and immediately calmed down and fell asleep.

The next day, I went and purchased every Nuk pacifier I could find. We kept them in the car and in our pockets. We had found the answer and there was no way we were going to be caught without one.

As it turned out, the pacifier wasn’t the only thing we were wrong about. My husband and I always shook our heads at people who put TVs in their children’s rooms. “That’s horrible parenting; our child won’t have a TV in her room until she’s 25, at least.” That’s what we thought until we discovered we had a child who never slept.

I’ve heard parents talk about children not sleeping through the night until they were six or seven months old and I have to laugh. Our daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was two-and-a-half years old. My husband and I were shells of our pre-child selves. I spent over a year with wet hair thrown into a ponytail because I never could quite remember to blow dry my hair before I left the house. My husband fell asleep daily on the train to work, missing his stop on more than one occasion. We discovered that Red Bull and Mountain Dew could render a sleep-deprived person semi-functional and began subsisting on mass quantities of caffeine.

Then we discovered that our daughter would sleep if the TV was on. The only TV we had was in the living room so we began letting our daughter fall asleep on the couch. We would then try to move her to her crib, but she would wake up and scream. Thus began our life of shame: we let our daughter sleep on the couch. We did this for about three months until we agreed that we couldn’t continue to let our two-year-old sleep in the living room. So we bought a TV and put it in our daughter’s room. It worked. She fell asleep in her room and slept all night. My husband and I started sleeping through the night as well and the fog finally cleared from our brains. It was a miracle. Still, we felt like horrible parents and hid the TV in the closet each day so no one would now how unfit we were.

Now our daughter is almost seven and we have finally learned not to judge other parents. Parenting is an art, not a science and everyone paints their masterpiece a little differently. It can’t be learned from a book—it’s something you fumble your way through daily, making decisions based on desperation and a total lack of sleep. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if a child has a pacifier or watches TV or eats McNuggets four times a week, as long as that child is loved.

But just in case I’m wrong, I have started a fund to pay for any counseling our daughter may require for all the mistakes we’ve made along the way.

Am I Cool?

Sometimes I just like to find a comfy chair, settle in, and ponder life’s mysteries. I think about ranch dressing and why the person who invented it hasn’t been given a major award; I wonder why my favorite song only comes on the radio as I pull into my driveway; and I also wonder if the people on House Hunters International know how bad they make Americans look when they move to Paris with a $800 budget and get indignant because what’s in their price range doesn’t come with crown moulding and acreage.

Today a new question popped into my head as I sat in my comfy chair: am I cool? Ah yes, coolness, that indefinable, abstract, yet so desirable Fonzie quality so many people spend their lives trying to obtain. I decide to start at the beginning to track any indication that I was ever cool.

I know I wasn’t cool in elementary school; my mom cut my bangs straight across my forehead and I wore Sesame Street shirts up until fourth grade. I also spent the better part of fifth grade pretending I was the owner of twelve tiny horses that lived in the pockets of my jeans. No, cool is definitely not the right word to describe that kid.

In junior high I discovered blue eyeliner and Sun-In hair lightener. To be clear, I didn’t just use these products, I overused them, then I used a bit more. I looked like a scarecrow with two black eyes. Add to this equation the fact that I secretly still played with my Cabbage Patch Doll and I can safely say I was not cool in junior high.

By the time I got to high school, I was already addicted to Aqua Net hairspray and books by S.E. Hinton. I spent half of my time in the library reading by myself and the other half of my time avoiding eye contact with people. I went to one party in high school where I drank two wine coolers then threw up in front of the local Del Taco as my friends (as well as the other Del Taco patrons) looked on in horror. Ok, so I was undoubtedly not cool in high school either.

My cool little trip down memory lane takes me on to college then into my twenties and thirties, but still no detectable sign of that illusive coolness anywhere. I decide to take this issue to the one person I know is the utmost authority on all things cool, my six-year-old daughter.

“Hey kiddo, do you think Mommy is cool?” I ask with solemnity.

She looked up from her coloring book and gazed at me thoughtfully then she answered with absolute authority, “No.” She kept staring at me for just a minute longer, a smile growing on her face, then she returned to coloring.

I knew the answer to that question a long time ago, but something in the way my daughter looked at me let me know that maybe I am something better than cool.

And that’s fine with me.

Hunter Gatherer

I love people. Well, to be entirely accurate, I love watching people. Not in a creepy I-looked-in-your-window-last-night-and-watched-you-brush-your-teeth kind of way, but in a sit-on-a-bench-at-the-mall-and-take-in-all-the-madness kind of way. I find that all people are fascinating and hysterical and strange; our weirdness is what defines us as a species and I can never get enough of that weirdness.

When I can’t get to the mall to get my people watching fix, I click on a reality TV show. I love reality TV. Not the shows where people are looking for a husband and definitely not the ones where women who profess to be “real” housewives throw wine on overly-Botoxed friends. Not that those women aren’t entertaining, but all that hair-pulling and wine-throwing makes me overly excited and then I have a hard time sleeping, like I just drank a Red Bull and chased it with a Mountain Dew (oddly enough, the same thing happens when I ride elevators; it’s just too much excitement for me). No, I usually prefer to watch stuff that mimics my own boring life, like shows about cooking and home buying.

My newest reality TV obsession is anything about Alaska. For years I had simply dismissed Alaska as the place where ice comes from, but all the time it was this incredibly wild and untamed frontier. To be clear, I have no desire to go to Alaska; any place winter lasts nine months out of the year, is a place I don’t need to visit. (When the temperature dips into single digits where I live I launch an intense letter writing campaign to my congressman because I’m a taxpayer and I shouldn’t have to be burdened with temperatures with only one number in them. So far, there has been no legislation regarding single-digit weather, but I did get a little magnetic notepad with the congressman’s face on it, so I feel I’ve made some progress.) No, it’s just much too cold in Alaska for my taste, but I am completely captivated by the people who brave those Alaskan winters.

Luckily for me there are approximately three dozen shows on TV about Alaska so I can do all the people watching I want from the comfort of my couch. And the people of Alaska are fascinating. A lot of these people live off the grid—no running water, no electricity; they hunt and fish and grow vegetables; they barter for goods and they make what they need with their own hands. These people are everything I’m not and I decided I wanted to become more like them.

I told my husband about my plan be more like an Alaskan.

“I want us to live off the grid,” I announced.

“You want to haul water in buckets and use an outdoor bathroom?” he asked incredulously.

“Ok, I’m going to amend my previous announcement: let’s stay on the grid but live more like hunter/gatherers. Hunter/gatherers who have indoor plumbing,” I said, because I’ve always been fond of hot water and toilets that flush.

“You’re going to hunt and gather?” he asked with amusement.

“Yes, I want to forage and hunt and fish,” I said, now consumed with the primal urge to supply my family with food without stopping at the conveniently located grocery store down the street.

“Where are you going to hunt?” he asked.

“There’s that farm on the other side of town with all those cows. I’m sure I could sneak up and get the jump on one of them. That lady on the Alaska show killed a grizzly with her bare hands, surely I can get the better of an old dairy cow,” I said.

“Honey, I once saw a package of all-beef hotdogs get the better of you,” he said.

“That package was hermitically-sealed; no one could have gotten those hotdogs out,” I said defensively. “Anyway, I already started foraging today. Look, fresh kale!” I said holding up the prize of my forging labors.

“You didn’t forage for that, you took it from the organic neighbors garden,” my husband surmised.

“Hey, they’re the ones who planted a garden in their front yard; if they wanted to protect their crops from renegade gatherers such as myself, they would have put it in the safety of their backyard,” I said smugly.

“You would have just climbed the fence,” he said while shaking his head.

“I don’t have time for this, I need to learn how to field dress a cow before I go hunting tomorrow,” I said as I started Googling hunting tips.

Three gruesome hunting websites later, I found myself at the grocery store purchasing a pre-hunted and pre-packaged cow for dinner (aka steak).

Technology and the Modern Marriage

I love technology. I can’t say that I understand half of all the technology out there, but the stuff I have managed to figure out is very cool. But I am also spoiled by technology. Like when I want to know about the mating habits of the platypus, I don’t want to wait thirty to forty-five seconds for buffering. Who has that kind of time these days? Sadly, I have become a slave to technology, never wandering too far from my phone or computer, lest I miss out on something fabulous happening somewhere in the stratosphere. I have also found that technology is slowly encroaching on my marriage.

The other night my husband and I were sitting on the couch, enjoying the quiet that comes once our daughter is in bed; he was reading mindless drivel on his iPad and I was scrolling though nonsense on my iPhone. I sent him a text.

Remember when we actually had to look at each other to talk? I sent.

Yeah, I’m glad those days are gon. He texted back.

It really helps keep our conversations to a minimum. We can totally save our energy and get to the essence of conversation quickly and efficiently. And, you do know that there is an ‘e’ at the end of ‘gone,’ right? I texted.

That was a lot of words for someone who is saving her energy. And I left the ‘e’ off on purpose. He texted.

What kind of madman just leaves letters off of words? I sent.

The kind of man who knows you love correcting him. I just gave you something to do. Your welcome. He texted.

It’s ‘you’re’ and thanks for keeping me fulfilled with your lack of grammatical prowess. I texted back.

Are we done now? He texted.

Not quite. I was thinking we need to spice things up between us. I sent.

You have my full attention. He sent back.

I want us to start using hashtags. I texted.

Hashtags? He sent while letting out a disappointed sigh.

Yes, apparently you just type a number sign by some words and it automatically makes whatever you just typed like eight times cooler. I sent.

My life’s goal has always been to be eight times cooler than my current state. He texted, the sarcasm almost palpable.

Ok, text something with a hashtag. I sent.

Why are we doing this #. He sent.

Come on, you’re not even trying. We need to try new things even if it defies all logic. We tried Red Bull during the whole energy drink craze, right? #redbull #gavemediarrhea #foraweek #letsneverdothatagain. I texted.

#gotaheadachereadingthat. He sent.

#atleastitwasntdiarrhea. I sent.

Ok, we tried it. Can we stop now? And the next time you suggest we try something new, can it be something a little more risqué? He sent.

#imakenopromises.