The Land Of Expectations

First things first: The American Idol recap from last night is up at Mamapop.  And I was up until 3 am writing it.  So I wouldn't cry if you go read it.  

Second things second: My son came home from school on Monday with his spelling test.  Which he scored 100% on.  Every week, they color in their spelling tests and hang them on display in the classroom.  This week, the test was a coloring sheet that had the face of a woman on it, and he'd drawn a wart on her nose, spots on her teeth and Frankenstein scars on her neck.  He used three tones of crayon and some nice shading techniques and it actually looked pretty good in the end, for a 9 year old.

Stapled to the back of it was a note that said the teacher had a discussion with my son about appropriateness and pride of work and respect and that I should continue this discussion at home, sign the sheet and return it the next day.  He handed it to me and said that I HAD to sign it or he'd be in trouble.  I read it, I looked at the sheet, I re-read it, I re-looked at the sheet.  I had no clue what either one meant, other than that he got 10/10 on his spelling test.

Which is awesome.

So I asked him what this *talk* he had with his teacher was about and he said that is was about him having to get that paper signed or he'd be in trouble.  I asked him if they talked about "appropriateness" or "pride in work" and he said no.  Then I got mad.  The sheet said they did, and he tends to lie, and I didn't feel like doing the '83 degrees of separation from the truth' talk I usually have to with him.  And then he started to cry.

Which is not awesome.

I had him tell me everything and the long & short is that he had a substitute, and she had the students color in their spelling tests after they were graded so they could be hung in the room.  There was no direction other than Color Them In.  So he did.  He drew what he saw and what he saw was a crazy old witch with rotten teeth and a scar on her neck.

What. The fuck.  Ever.

Apparently, 10 other kids or so also took the creepy old woman route and they all got pulled aside on Monday when the teacher returned and were given these notes to bring home.  Because elementary school teachers have nothing better to do than to censor the harmless scribblings of goofball 8 and 9 year old.

So my kid who has struggled all year to merely stay on one task, who has to battle with himself to complete anything in school, my kid who has come from starting the year getting looked at for ADHD and is now wrapping up the year getting 100%'s and finishing all of his work and has finally made some friends, he's crying and I'm kind of pissed because really, this is who he is and it wasn't wrong or dangerous or even disconcerting, just different and I have a very low tolerance for teachers who try to stifle my kid anyways.

So I did what any good parent would do; I told him his teacher was full of shit.

Not entirely true.  We sat on the curb outside while the neighborhood kids played and he snuggled into me and I explained Expectations to him.  I explained to him that so far, he's had *this* tier of expectations from his teacher, and that now he's nine, he's almost done third grade, he's maturing and now he apparently has a whole new, sub-tier of expectations to meet.  Now, it's not just enough that he does the coloring he's asked to do; he needs to know that his teacher expects that coloring to be shiny and happy.  Just like it's not enough now that he just washes his laundry; I now expect him to sort colors before he washes them.  Just like it's not enough that I take the trash out of the car when daddy says, "Dude, clean your car out already" but that he really means "Dude, get the old milk out, vacuum it, windex the windows already and scrape the motherfucking rotten peach out of the trunk before you grow a penicillin colony back there."  And that maybe I won't realize this the first time, but the next time he has to "gently remind me" he'll make sure I know what he means.

I explained to him that sometimes, people create those new sub-tiers of expectations on the fly, and that it's our job to try to recognize those as quickly as we can and work with them as well as we can.  Like when 3of3 is wrestling with him and he decides he's done, but she has no idea that suddenly no actually means no.  He still expects her to stop, even if it takes her a minute to figure that out.

I explained to him that sometimes it can be really confusing when people, especially people in authority like a teacher or a mom or a spouse or a boss, spring these new sub-tiers on you, but that you have two choices in life....let it get to you or realize that sometimes, people are just dumb and sometimes, the only thing you can do is to nod and smile and waaaaaay back, in the back of your brain where no one else can see it, hidden in a thought bubble, you just have to say, "Whatever, dude" and get on with your day.

And he giggled.  Which is awesome.

The next morning we were packing his bag for school and I showed him what I'd written in reply to his teacher.  I said, "I had a long talk with 2of3 about expectations and he assures me that he will meet yours in the future."  He looked up at me, smiled and said, "You just said whatever in your thought bubble, didn't you?"

I did, indeed son.  I sure did.

This Guy

About six weeks ago, I stopped biting my nails.  Yes, this is the kind of hard hitting reporting you get out of me.

You care that I stopped biting my nails about as much as you care that I stopped leading with my left foot for a month, just to see if I could do it.  I, however, care quite a bit that I stopped biting my nails because it's only once or twice I decade I can pull it off.  I almost quit for good when I was four, the day my mother got all up in my face and told me to knock it off before she knocked it off for me.  I think I could have stopped; in fact, I'm sure I would have except that I was really gullible and my big brother was really bored.  He'd already tested out every other theory on me (ask him about gravity...go on) and so that fateful day, he decided to experiment with behavioral science.

"You know," he said to me in our room, just the two of us, with no one listening, "you know, those nails are your nails.  They're not hers. She really can't tell you what to do with your own fingers.  You shouldn't let people tell you what to do all the time."  

And so I did exactly what he told me to.  And I am still a nail biter.  That son of a bitch was right.

Except that once or twice every half decade or so, I can suddenly just stop biting them.  I don't know why and I don't argue it because it's super awesome to have fingernails.  I can open soda cans and scratch my itches and get stuff out of my ears without a q-tip if push comes to shove, and I don't need a fork to do any of it.  What's not super awesome is that my fingernails grow out about the same strength and consistency as parchment paper.  They get holes in the middle of them, they peel off in layers, they split and snag on everything and they drive me insane until I bite them off.  And then I wait five years to do it all again.

And so I have to get my nails done.  I have to get them polished and buffed and reinforced with that liquid cement nail stuff that doesn't smell anywhere near as good as the liquid cement stuff in 3rd grade art class did, but it works so I'll take it.  And because I am a married single mother, if I get a manicure, so does my kid.

If you're so much as thinking about telling me that your mom watches your kids for you so you can get your nails done, or that you do it over your lunch break while your kid is at daycare, or that you don't have any kids so you can get a nice, peaceful manicure whenever you want, just know that I will reach through this computer and punch you in the teeth when you do.

To be noted: Taking a three year old into a nail salon is just about exactly like taking a bull into a china shop, except that she doesn't have the ring in her nose. Yet.  That, and the china shop is full of poison.  Also, to be noted: Old women, surprisingly enough, don't think it's cute when adorable three year old try to splash around in their chemically-induced-blue pedicure soaking tubs.

So I took her with me last time, and she managed to walk out not only alive, but alive with very cute little pink-that-she-picked-out-herself fingernails with tragically cute little flowers painted on her thumbs.  And I managed to walk out with all of my hair.  Win, win.  And then there was this.

And no, she doesn't know her alphabet, she barely speaks English, she can't wipe her own butt and she thinks that purple is called black.  But she's got the "two thumbs" thing down pat.  Yes, I am so proud.

Boudoir Is French For Weigh-Station

So, I'm making the bed in my room tonight at 8:15 and I'm mumbling to myself about how I shouldn't have to make it since I'm never the last one out of it.  I'm honestly just feeling guilty because it's the first time in years days that I've made the damn thing, and feeling kind of moronic to be making it three hours before I'm going to get back in it, and kind of annoyed with myself because who really, actually makes their bed anyway?

And then I realize that all the grown-ups make their beds and I just suck.

So I keep making it and I start thinking about Extreme Home Makeover and how they always make the master bedroom into an oasis or a sanctuary or a refuge or some shit.  There's always a reading area and a big-screen tv and gorgeous drapes and lush rugs and I wonder, do people really spend that much time in their bedrooms that they need all that?  Because if you do, sure, you probably want to make your bed once in a while.  My bedroom is on the 4th floor of my house and the only time I'm in there, I'm unconscious.  I have three children; it's not like I have time to just go lounge around in my room all day long.   And it's not as if anyone except my three year old ever walks past my door and peeks in, and if you do find yourself in the doorway to my bedroom there's a 99% chance you're up there to kill me and I really don't care if you have to trip over some laundry and rustle with the sheets in order to chop me into tiny bits with an old, rusty axe.

And before you say, "What about the ol' winkwink, nudgenudge?" I'll just say this: In my life, I have these two columns that I like to call Things I Will Do and Things I Won't Do and I'll give you three chances to guess which column "It; with the lights on" goes into.  If he's taking the time to stop, grab the night-vision goggles and check the state of the linens, he's doing it all wrong.

Now I do like my kids' beds to be made but the girl only has these two baby blankets so making hers is nothing and the boys have these ginorous loft beds and there are a few activities as equally futile as making ginormous loft beds that I occasional like to engage in, but every time I sit on the floor to converse with the toilet I notice that someone's dribbled peepee all down the sides of it and then I have to clean it, so I try to stay away from those sorts of things if at all possible.

I wish I were the sort of person who makes her bed everyday, but that would mean I'd have to be the sort of person who walks into her bedroom every day, and that's just not me.  I also wish I were the sort of person who folds the laundry right after she dries it, or the sort of person that washes the pan right after she cooks in it, and it occurs to me that if I were that sort of person my husband might suddenly become the sort of person who drags his wife into her bedroom randomly throughout the day.

But then the damn bed would never be made.

I Really Should Offer A Side Of Smelling Salts With These Posts.

Sometime over the coming weeks, my husband is going to leave the house, grab a Starbucks (is TOTALLY a proper noun), head to a room where he'll take off his pants, lay on a table and let someone play with the junk under his trunk.

By "play", of course, I mean "numb, freeze, shave, slice, pull, cut, tuck, superglue and bandage up."

Since I'll be divorced within minutes of him reading that, this event probably has little bearing on me or my reproductive system, but in the event that he decides to take pity on me, I'm about to be sterilized by proxy.

When I was 24 and had just popped out kid #2, a nurse wheeled a cart into my delivery room and announced that she was there to give me my tubal. My heart skipped a beat. My eyes danced. I looked at The Donor and said, "puh-leeeeze?" and he said very mature, sensible things that started with how old I was, or more importantly, wasn't, and ended with something about hell and parkas and dead bodies if the need be.  The nurse looked at us a bit sideways, then looked at her chart and then realized she'd come into the wrong room anyways.

Dream-crushing bitch.

I wanted to get my tubes tied.  I wanted that second child, and two sounded perfect to me.  I wanted to be 42 when my last child left the nest.  I wanted to never, ever have another person claw their way out of my abdomen everever again.  Turns out, I also wanted to have a little girl 5 years later, I just didn't know it at the time.  Thank god for small favours and wise husbands.

When that little girl was getting ready to be born, I told my midwife that I was having a tubal after her delivery, and to not listen to a word that highly educated, smooth-talking hot guy  said to her about it.  She agreed and we started to schedule the surgery.  And you know what that highly educated, smooth-talking jackass did?  He got into the pregnant chick's head.  He played my hormones against me.  He got on bended knee and told me how unfair it was that I had to take all the pills and get all the iud's and carry and deliver all the kids and then have some invasive surgery.  He told me how much he wanted to do this one thing for me, to thank me for his beautiful babies.  He promised me he'd schedule a vasectomy before the baby was born.

She's three years and seven months old now.

And so I scheduled the damn thing for him.

I made one appointment for him that he, within 15 minutes of having it scheduled, weaseled his way out of.  I made another appointment for him for the other day and he went, but he prefaced the whole thing by reminding me that in three weeks our insurance expires and if they don't deport our sorry American asses (I love you Canada.  You look really great in those pants) it'll be at minimum four weeks before our health coverage is reinstated.  (Yes, we go through this every year.  Price you pay for free health care if you're American, yo.)  He clarified that meant that it would be at least seven weeks before he'd be able to actually get in for the snippy-dip, and that's when I reminded him that WE STILL HAVE INSURANCE FOR THREE WEEKS and so maybe, just maybe, I know it's crazy, but maybe he could schedule the appointment for the procedure SOMETIME IN THE NEXT THREE WEEKS?

And so he went to his consultation and he scheduled his vasectomy within the next three weeks, just like I bullied him into doing, and then I cried.  In a parking lot.  Because I don't want it done.  Didn't want it done.  Something like that.

Do I want more kids?  Yup, sure do.  Do I want to have to buy a bigger car and move to a bigger house?  Nope, sure don't.  Do I want to be pregnant again?  Not even to carry the seed of the Lord, thankyouverymuch.  We decided, before we decided to go ahead with the vasectomy, that if time and situations and finances allowed, one day we would foster.  Neither of us are done raising children, just making them.  Fostering is the right choice for us, and I know that in the very deepest pit of my heart, but I still have to give away the one thing I've ever done well...making that man's children.

I stood outside in the rain with him under an awning beside a pizza joint and we shared a cigarette before we headed home after dinner.  We talked about the impending surgery and I felt the lump well up in my throat.  My eyes burned.  I didn't want to cry, not in front of him, not over this, but I couldn't help it.  I told him we had to hurry up and get this done before I changed my mind, and he asked me if I actually knew where that mind was because he was pretty sure I'd lost it.  He said, "Really, you want another baby?" and I said that I just wasn't sure if I was ready for it to be over.  That I liked having his babies, that I was good at having his babies, that it was the only thing I'd actually ever done with my life.

He said, "Well, it's not the only thing you've done" and then he snickered and then I elbowed him and then we giggled and then I realized that he was right, that we've been in the baby business for more than a decade and that we're finally able to stand under awnings and smoke cigarettes and talk to each other.  We're able to leave the house without 18 bags, go to dinner with three kids and leave with no bodily fluids spewed on anyone's clothing.  We're able to dictate the course of our relationship and our lives, and it's time to move on to becoming the next thing, to doing the next thing.

And the idea of that, of having to become something new, it scares the shit out of me.  It won't be easy.  But neither was becoming this.


And it was totally worth it.

See'em all on Flickr.