Monday 26 May 2014

Parenting For Company: It's Different!

Have you ever been treated to a lecture about your parenting?  I have!  Aren't they terrific?   I swear just hearing the words "I know it's none of my business but..." is enough to send me into a frenzy of anticipation over what I am about to hear because it can ONLY BE AWESOME!!!

You'd think that in this day and age people would know better than to offer unsolicited criticisms of your parenting.

They don't.

Hearing this kind of bullshit friendly advice is only marred by the fact that I know how far off the mark they actually are.  Because the truth is that unless this person lives in my home and cares for my children they really can't know what kind of parent I am.

Generally speaking, when you are on the receiving end of a parenting lecture the person delivering it is someone you know very well like a family member or a friend.  They feel compelled to speak to you after keeping their mouths shut for so long.  They are trying to help you because it is so obvious to everyone but you that you are doing everything wrong.

They feel confident in their right-ness in telling you how wrong you are "because," they will say, "it's been like this every time we visit."

So I would like to explain to all the Well Meaning Dispensers of Wisdom out there on behalf of all us Terrible Parents, why you are wrong.  Dead Wrong.

I, and I suspect the majority of parents, parent my kids differently when I am around company.  I do it differently, but I also do it consistently.

Parenting, when done right, is difficult and time-consuming and complicated.  My kids fight just about every ten minutes.  They fight over toys.  They fight over the best spot on the couch.  They fight over breathing the same air.  When you are not here I would deal with the fighting by first, trying to ignore it in the hopes they will resolve the issue on their own.  If I paid attention to every fight they have I wouldn't be able to get anything else done so I will only interfere if I hear repeated crying or some kind of physical altercation.

At that point I sit them down and cross examine them.  Then I have to play detective to figure out which one's version is closest to the actual truth.  Then I have to come up with some kind of appropriate consequence to help them learn to get along better.  Then I have to oversee that the consequence is being carried out.

Does that sound like a lot to you?  Imagine having to go through this roughly half a dozen times in a three hour period.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Do you really think they are going to put their fighting on hold just because I am trying to have a visit with you?


But when I am with you Wise Friend, it is my wish to enjoy your company and conversation.  As a result I am naturally anxious to put the kibosh on any unpleasantness brewing between my kids so as to maximize the pleasantness of our visit.

And so I will jump on them the moment I hear even a whisper of dischord when I would otherwise try to ignore it.  Because I promise you no one wants to listen to them loudly bicker, whine and scream at each other while they sort their shit out.  I will resolve the issue quickly by placing the blame on whichever child is statistically to be most likely at fault and then issuing a quick and easy to enforce, all-purpose consequence.

If it's the first fight during our visit you may have to watch me go on about it a little too long to my kids because I am hoping that I if I lay down the law then and there I might not have to deal with them for the rest of the visit.  A little naive, I know, but believe it or not that sometimes works.

None of this is what I would call top-notch parenting.  At best it is merely unfair.  Sometimes I make a mistake and blame the wrong child (which will happen anyway no matter how good your parenting is).  At worst it would only serve to damage their relationship even further thus causing more fighting.  I already know this just like I know my kids way better than you do.

So understand that when you see me engaging in shoddy parenting it just means that I am putting my concern for their self-esteem and well-being on hold for a few hours out of consideration for YOU.  Because I am trying to enjoy the time we have together.

It is completely unfair to hear the things you imply in your well meaning lecture.  You imply that I favour one child over the other.  You imply that I am making things worse between my kids.  You imply that you have no faith in my ability to raise my own children without your interference.  Do you realize how much you cross the line here?

With all due respect you are just not there to see me being awesome at what I do.  You're not there with me through the parenting classes and meetings with social workers.  You're not there with me through the meetings with concerned teachers.  You're not there with me and my husband as we discuss parenting strategies together.  You're not there with me when I'm talking my kids through problem solving strategies so they can learn to resolve conflict on their own.

Quite frankly, you have no idea what you are talking about.

But since you have decided against your own better judgment to offer me advice I would like to return the favour.

The next time you hear yourself saying the words "I know it's none of my business but..." JUST STOP TALKING.


Nothing good ever came of anything said after those words.  And it really isn't any of your business so you can relax and just learn to trust me when I say I've got this parenting thing.  As soon as you go home I will be all over it.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

8 Reasons Why Men Can't Take Pictures of Themselves

Selfies are everywhere and mean lots of things to lots of people.  I've seen selfies used to raise awareness for political causes.  I've seen selfies taken for fun like the famous Ellen Celebrity selfie.  And sometimes selfies are taken just because you look good and want a decent picture for your profile.

And while I personally tend to avoid taking selfies (mostly because I am camera shy and my face tends to do weird things in pictures) I don't have a hell of a lot of judgment for those who do indulge because, why not?  Have a little fun.   To each their own.  Hell, even the POTUS and the Pope take selfies.  They honestly seemed mostly harmless to me.

But recently, after James Franco's rather unfortunate, pale and clammy half-naked selfie (blech!) was uploaded, then taken down, and then gone viral (because the internet forgets NOTHING!) talk about selfies seems to be at the forefront of social commentary.

There has been much hand-wringing about the selfie.  Selfies are a cry for help..  Selfies either cause/indicate the presence of poor mental health.  Selfies are addictive.  The pressure to take the perfect selfie is driving teenagers to suicide.  Selfies are going to usher in the END OF AMERICA!

Apparently I was wrong about selfies being harmless fun.  Selfies are super important and super dangerous and can indicate everything and nothing about you!  This is kind of confusing but fortunately for me the internet, in the form of online trashmill of "ironic" misogyny Elite Daily, is here to help you understand.

8 Reasons Why It's Never Okay For a Man to Take a Selfie

I kind of chuckled at the title.  I'm interested in reading articles about selfie-etiquette because the phenomenon interests me as an outsider who does not participate.  I have read a few that seemed to give reasonable advice on the subject but this was the first one I have ever seen that was gender specific.

I didn't expect it to be a good/well-written list of rules (gender specific codes of behaviour rarely are) and it did not disappoint.  As a woman, I am not entirely confident that I can refute such iron-clad social logic so instead I will only attempt to understand it by rendering a rough translation into terms my feeble girly brain can grasp.  So here are...

8 Reasons Why Men Can't Take Pictures of Themselves

1) Selfies are strictly for women.  Women like to brag about what's really important to them: being pretty.  If you don't have titties to display no one wants to see it.

2) No really.  Chicks only.  Men are allowed to have two (or an absolute maximum of three photos if they should be unfortunate enough to get married....shudder), preferably taken by someone else, or you have to officially trade in your dick for a vagina.

Special allowances will be made for more than three photos but only if you are in full Batman costume, which is the most manly of all the superhero costumes.

3 & 4) If you take selfies you are a shallow, attention whore.  Remember: only chicks are allowed to be shallow attention whores.

5) You won't get laid, so why bother?  Nothing is worth doing unless there is an absolute guarantee of a "happy ending".

6) If you insist on taking a selfie like some brainless chick, we'll tell everyone that your penis is small.  Not because there's any research behind that.  Just because we think it's funny to humiliate you if you decide to shamelessly act like a woman according to our arbitrary rules.

7) Real men (like racist, homophobe Chuck Norris) don't take selfies.  Aren't you fucking listening, brah?  Don't you want to be a REAL MAN???

8) You can't be a bad ass and take selfies.  Only chicks and Justin Bieber take selfies and everyone knows it is impossible for either to ever be bad ass.  Don't you want to be a BAD ASS???

(Not paraphrased) "The next time you think about posting a selfie, ask yourself the following: Am I an unmanly, attention-seeking, shallow, small-penised, sissy girl?"

That is a very good question to ask.  Unfortunately Samuel L. Jackson didn't get your memo, guys.  Which one of you Real Man's Men are going to tell him (preferably in person...oh, please make sure it is in person) that he's an "unmanly, attention-seeking, shallow, small-penised, sissy girl"?


No volunteers?

Friday 2 May 2014

Goodbye, Henrietta Findlay (A Eulogy For My Oven)

Alas, my oven has died.

Hetty: A rusty Old Bitch, but we loved her.
Henrietta (also affectionately known as "Hetty", "Skinny Bitch" and "Piece of S#@% That F#$%ing Burned my F@#$ing Bread Again!!!") was the oven that came with my house.  My first thought was "I have lived in a lot of tiny apartments and yet this is the tiniest oven I have ever seen."  She was an itty bitty 20.5" wide.  20.5 inches!!!

You cannot find an oven this small now unless it's a microwave.  We know this because we needed to find replacement parts for her to keep her running over the years and her petite size meant there were some parts we couldn't replace.  This girl was old and broken when we first met.  And it's all been downhill from there.

Eh.  I've worked in smaller kitchens.
My best guess is that she was made sometime in the 1960's.  The company that made her, Findlay's Limited, was bought out by a corporation in 1965 and then went out of business in 1972.  The only evidence of its existence online is in historical archives.  The only way to buy a Findlay stove is on Kijiji as an antique.  We were reluctant to replace her because the smallest possible oven you can buy now is about 24", so no matter what we would have to cut up our kitchen.  There is no other place to put an oven because my kitchen, much like Hetty, is tiny...though not the tiniest.

Hetty served us for ten years.  Which was approximately 30 years past her retirement age.  There were many times we thought we lost her for sure.  There was the time we lost one and then two burners on the stovetop.  But my ingenius husband managed to fix the already-broken-when-we-got-it element on the other side and we just learned to live with 2 out of 4 instead of 3 out of four.  Who needs four elements on their tiny stove anyway?  Not us.

Then there was the first time the oven shut down.  I thought that was it for sure but my husband hooked her up with some new wires and we were good to go.  The second time she died it was because I tried to clean out the oven compartment and the bottom element just disintegrated into ashes when I moved it.  I think that was the time we just moved the broiler element to the bottom of the oven and learned to live without the broiler.  Which BTW totally sucks when you enjoy making nachos, garlic bread and french onion soup.  I had to learn to sear my roasts on the stove top before putting them in to bake.

But after that she worked awesome!  In fact she was working so well that you had to reduce her temperature to about 100 degrees lower than you would actually bake at.  I burned a lot of stuff during that learning curve.  For a while I was not at all capable of baking cookies that weren't black on the bottom.

One time my husband actually salvaged an old element that would actually fit in her and for about three days we had a broiler!  Hallelujah!  But then the broiler died, never to work again, and the bottom element began to slowly die after that.  I started needing to turn the dial up by a hundred degrees hotter than I wanted to bake.  And that was the pattern for the rest of her life.  She would falter in temperature, die, be resuscitated, burn like the fiery pits of hell for a while and begin to falter again.  Keeping her alive while managing to produce decent meals began to be a point of pride for us.

I think I knew it was over for real when we had to stop keeping her clean.  I stopped cleaning the oven because any movement of the elements could jostle a wire too hard and it would stop working.  The last time I tried to clean out the stove elements I discovered that the burner pans were literally being held together by the old aluminum foil cover I was trying to replace.  She looks solid on the outside but her whole insides are riddled with rust.

We were beginning to question the safety of continuing to use this oven when she finally breathed her last.  My husband worked valiantly on her but a vital part snapped in his hands and we lost her forever.

So, Goodbye Hetty.  I'd like to say you served us well but we both know that's not true.  It makes me a little sad knowing how much you won't be missed.  My husband always felt bad about the fact that our kitchen is small given how much I love to cook but the truth is I never minded a small kitchen.  Not really.  The very worst part of my small kitchen was you.  However, I believe when I think of you in the future you will at least be remembered fondly.

But for now....MOMMY'S GETTING A NEW OVEN!!!  WOOHOO!!!  

(dances on Henrietta's rusty old corpse)