Friends and Mothers

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

My daughter needs more girl time. She needs someone to play with her hair and try on makeup. She needs someone to listen to her non-stop (seriously, it never stops) discussion about all things. She needs a partner for secret handshakes and jump rope rhymes. She needs, she needs, she needs.

She needs so much for so long that I run out of time and patience and inclination long before her need runs dry. When I have to bow out of our game or dress-up session to make dinner or call the vet or have a moment of silence, she is angry and sad and accuses me of ignoring her. I feel bad when she says this and when I am feeling soggy in my mothering self-esteem, I wonder if I could be doing more. When I am thinking more clearly, though, I realize I can never do enough. Tough as it may be sometimes, I am her parent. I am not her BFF.

Luckily, my daughter has a bunch of friends her own age and even more luckily, a bunch of friends my age. (Truthfully, they were my friends first, but I am ever so happy to share.) These friends are special in that they are willing to treat my daughter as a peer. These friends inquire about her latest artwork, give her ballet recital the serious attention it deserves and engage in endless speculations about the value of sparkly eyeshadow.

My daughter is able to share things with these friends that she cannot or does not share with me and while sometimes I wish I were the recipient of these whispered confidences, I realize I cannot be her everything all the time. We both need to spread all our energy around.

These friends can drop in to scooter up and down the driveway next to my daughter or cheerfuly wonder, “do you ever stop talking?” and get a laugh not a tantrum. These friends bring wonderful presents like the 1975 Butterick Pattern catalogue or the box of feathers and popsicle sticks or the bag of shiny rocks. These friends attend the funerals of bugs with great solemnity. They listen and they laugh and they give my daughter a place in the world.

I cannot be her best friend. I have to be her mother. As a mother, sometimes I will not be any fun. It can’t be helped. Those are the rules. Thank heavens, then, for these friends.

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A Grand Journey

February 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman, Urban Dweller

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

Last weekend, I took my first ride on a mule, got my first look at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon, and suffered my first scorpion sting. It was quite a weekend.

The trip was the brainchild of my stepmother Carla (I call her “La”) who is one of the bravest most adventurous people I know. I credit her influence for my attempts at many things that started out scary and ended up thrilling.

Along with La, my sister-in-law with whom I share a fear of heights and a need to test our own boundaries accompanied me. The last time the three of us took on an adventure, we bought an advertising agency. It took two years and a mediation expert to get us out of that one. I hoped the Grand Canyon trip would be less complicated.

Prior to the trip, to suppress my anxiety, I went shopping. I trolled REI and Sports Chalet, where I stocked up on “wicking” layers, waterproof pants, and extra warm socks. I tied strings to my hat, camera, and sunglasses. I kissed my kids and my husband and got on the plane for Phoenix. I was as ready as I would ever be.

Our ride began at 8 in the morning. The temperature at the rim was just under 20 degrees. I wore two Capilene shirts, a fleece jacket, and a down jacket plus fleece long johns, stretchy, windproof pants, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, a scarf, and a wool cap. I was warm-ish. A cowboy with two missing fingers and a waxed mustache told us that we were about to embark on a grueling ride. He told us we would be riding on the edge of winding, narrow trails. He told us that if we were afraid of heights we should know there would be great heights. He could guarantee drops of at least 3000 feet. He did everything in his power to freak us out and then he asked us to saddle up. And we did. And suddenly, we were on the trail, our mules slipping and stepping down packed snow and ice, the canyon spreading out and opening up all around us. With the first sunlight of the new day illuminating the red rock, the wonderment in my brain squeezed out all the fear. It was amazing. It was all I could do not to break into huge gulping sobs of happiness.

I told this story to my kids. I told them how afraid I was and how amazing the experience was and how if I hadn’t gotten on that mule I would have missed out on a chance to see myself and my world in a different way. I told them about the scorpion and how it hurt and how eventually it stopped hurting and I realized that a scorpion sting is a lot like a bee sting. It’s bad, but if you’re not allergic, it passes and now I have a little less fear of scorpions. And a little less fear of heights. And deep trust for a good mule.

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Old Year, New Year

January 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman, Urban Dweller

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I am multi-tasking. I thought I’d start the New Year without multi-tasking or at the very least without doing it so overtly. But, here it is, Monday night and I’m helping the kids do homework while simultaneously cooking dinner (chicken pot pie), doing laundry (one load in the washer, one in the dryer, one spread all over the dining room in various states of folded-ness.) I am also writing this post. I’ve got an earlier deadline than usual. Sometimes (more than I’d like) I skate in just under the deadline. That deadline was later last year. In this New Year, it’s earlier. By two hours. I’m not prepared. Not that I was really prepared for the old deadline…

At any rate, I’m typing in a smoky kitchen (parchment caught on fire in the oven,) the dryer roars, I offer help with long division, the correct spelling for “especially”, and keep an ear open for the “on my way” phone call from my husband. He’s working extra hard already this year and we feel lucky and grateful that he’s got work, while also wondering if he’ll be home for dinner and whether he’ll be able to get the kids to bed without a huge fight.

Seven days in and this year is already looking a little like last year. But I’m a little more aware. My kids are circling like sharks. They are hungry and tired and loving. They kiss my cheeks and ask how my article is going. They offer to fold the laundry and try to finish their homework. They, too, are a little more aware. And we are already having a happy new year.

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Santa: To Believe or Not To Believe

December 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Sheana Ochoa, Urban Dweller

By: Sheana Ochoa

“Where’s Christmas?” my three-year-old keeps asking.  Since Thanksgiving ended, he sees signs of it everywhere.  There’s another house with its lights up and more tree-lit avenues with elaborate wreaths or even Santa and the reindeer soaring across the intersection.  “Look at the one in the front with the red nose,” I point out. “That’s Rudolph.”  “Oh,” my toddler responds introspectively, “but where’s Christmas?”  I tried explaining that Christmas was a day not a place, but for someone who doesn’t know his days of the week or even the concept of time, this whole Christmas season is baffling.

And let’s just get to the meat of the matter.  He wants to know when he’s going to get his presents.  Ever since his third birthday party he’s got the idea of presents down.  And since Grandma and Mommy have been asking him what he wants for Christmas (chocolate), what he’s really asking is “When am I getting my chocolate?”

I hadn’t planned on bringing up the whole Santa myth, but when I picked him up from preschool last week he started in on the “Where’s Christmas?” inquiry.  So, I drove around playing “I spy” with him as we found all sorts of Christmasy stuff and then there was Santa and Mrs. Clause on the corner of Wilshire and Rodeo and I pulled over.  Maybe Santa could explain to him where Christmas was.  But my boy was too shy with these strangers who wanted him to sit on Santa’s lap and wanted him to sing “Jingle Bells” to ask where Christmas was.

As we headed back to the car amidst fake snow jetting down on our sweaters, the “where’s Christmas” mantra started up again.  So I just decided to tell him Santa was working on it and that seemed to (finally) satiate his curiosity.  Nothing like making someone else responsible.

Without premeditation, I’ve indoctrinated my son into believing in Santa Claus and, of course, the reindeer and how he delivers presents in his sleigh. Yesterday, he saw a reindeer and it sparked a whining bit about getting his presents now.  I used my Santa scapegoat again, explaining that Santa had a lot of work to do since there were a lot of people in the world, but it didn’t work and his whining escalated.  So, I stooped to telling him that if he wasn’t good, Santa wouldn’t give him presents.  I couldn’t believe I was bribing him since I believe it’s manipulative to bribe kids with a reward for being good.

Now my boy believes in Santa Claus and he thinks he has to be a good boy to get his presents.  There’s only one thing to do.  I will let him believe in Santa as a playful thing.  I won’t hide stuffing his stocking or wrapping his presents under the guise that Santa does this.  I won’t use Santa as a weapon to make him behave.  Santa can just be a nice story, another emblem of Christmas like the tree we’ll get this week.  What he will learn is that Christmas, like Thanksgiving, is family time.  A day to spend and honor your family, which I will try to remind him can be everyday and everywhere.

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All Good Things

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tosha Woronov, Urban Dweller

By: Tosha Woronov

So it’s time to just come right out and admit that I’ve been depressed. Admit to you, I mean. The people in and out of my daily life know this well already, have been forced to know it time and time again. But I haven’t wanted to write about it.

I keep thinking it’s going to go away, leaving me to myself, leaving me to my writing, my energy. I thought it would leave as summer did, that season I hate. With fall, my favorite time, I was sure the good feelings would breeze back in with the crisp cool air, pop up like bright orange gourds.

But no.

I tried reading through my depression all summer. I read a lot. Northwest Corner. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. The Sisters Brothers. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Pretty. The Year We Left Home. Tinkers. A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Submission. All good, all worth reading. I was –almost- re-inspired. But the keyboard just stared back at me, my own ideas simply not worth typing out. It was all just too…blah.

It’s not like good things haven’t been happening. Being a mom of a great kid means – thank god – witnessing charm and beauty and growth everyday. Well, you know. But that’s why I couldn’t write about it; I couldn’t see how another reader could possibly care about the feats or sayings of my little one when she had little ones of her own by which to be astounded.

So I read some more, looking for common ground. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Whoops. Maybe too much. I don’t think I need shock treatments, and I sure as hell don’t want to stick my head in the oven. I just feel like not getting out of bed. Or crawling back into bed. Or turning off the living room lights and hiding in my corner on the couch, under a blanket.

It made sense all summer, with my reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not rain or cloudy weather that bring me down, but rather 105-degree heat, a sky that hums electric, brittle grass, dogs tired from nothing more than panting. I hate it.

But now it’s October, time for pumpkin lattes (which I don’t drink, just love seeing on the menu) and petting zoos. Costumes and a light sweater. Time to make chili and spiced breads, butternut squash soup, add some caramel. Now is the time for the beach, wrapped in a down vest, as the sun sets and the pelicans dive.

So why am I still so sad? I know I need to return to the medication that helped me immensely once not too long ago. That’s becoming clear. But there’s an admittance of defeat there that takes a stronger, healthier person to arrive at – a less depressed person. Ah, there’s the rub. Everything I need to get better I can’t seem to do because I can’t get better. The chicken or the egg? My vicious cycle. It would help to write, but (as I already explained) I can’t do that. It would help to visit with my witty and loving friends, but I keep canceling (for the couch, my bed). It would help to exercise, but…yeah right.

I have tried to slog through this, I really have. I cannot allow my label to be “Depressed Person”. I joined a meditation group, and remind myself its teachings: “anything fully experienced brings joy” and “suffering is not in the fact but in the perception of that fact”. I don’t know if I so much believe these things as need to believe them. It would be great if they were true.

And I’ve been really, really good at slowing down and experiencing the moment, which all moms are told to do lest her child grows up too fast. And let me tell you – ha! ha! – it’s easy to do when you have the blues. Oh yeah, I could sit there all day long and play Monopoly with my son, or doodle with him – ignoring the dishes, the groceries, the evil stack of bills. I slowed it all down all right.

I’m angry that I quit my meds, that tiny pill that made such a big, yet subtle difference. I can’t forgive myself for giving up that safe place in the first place, for losing all these months to the malaise in my head.

But something’s got to give.

Yesterday evening I shopped for the ingredients for a thick and hearty homemade soup. Last night I took my meds. This morning I made myself write, and admit to you, that I’m having a hard time. Now I’ll go downstairs (walk past that couch) and heave out the crock pot. This afternoon, I’ll sit on a blanket on this fine October day and watch my son play football, and my husband coach it. And I have faith that when we return home, the smells of this season of all good things will bring me back to where I’m supposed to be.

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Sharing My Less-Than-Best Self: Hateful Confessions on a Thursday

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tosha Woronov, Urban Dweller

By: Tosha Woronov

I hate summer. I hate people who love summer, who go on and on about how much they love it. People who don’t sweat. Who invite you over for a swim. Or to the beach. Every. Damn. Day. I like autumn and winter people. People who suggest coffee and a movie, or a trip to Barnes and Noble. People who get that any invitation requiring a bathing suit is offensive, presumptuous, annoying.

I often won’t bother to open photographs that people email to me. But I lie that I did. I read the jpeg description – “kids at play in Cape Cod” and I email back: “Oh my god the kids are so frickin’ CUTE! Looks like you guys had a blast!” Sometimes I get a crisis of conscience and decide to open them later. But after 15 seconds, if that attachment doesn’t open, forget it. Delete. (I will –and did –stop everything to pore over emailed photos taken at the high-school reunion that I didn’t attend.)

I do expect people to open, view, and comment specifically and with great fanfare on the pictures that I email to them. I’ll check email several times a day to see if they’ve responded. I know, I know. Messed up.

I like when Leo gets sick. I like knowing we are supposed to stay in bed late, watch TV. I like that he probably won’t want dinner, just a popsicle, or some fruit. I like that we have to cancel or decline all play dates until he’s better. I like dosing him with kids’ Motrin.

If one more person tells me they are on their way to, or just returning from, Hawaii, I’m going to throw up.

I write people off the second I see that they’ve used the wrong form of “its”. Or say “I could care less” (makes no sense -it’s couldn’t). The almost always inappropriate and unnecessary use of the word “myself”. The baffling refusal to use the word “me” (“That was so funny to Tom and I” – huh??). And I know I need to get over my issues with LOL, that it has taken over the world, but I can’t. I just…can’t.

I hate the mom who gabs nonstop during her kid’s basketball/baseball/football games, missing passes caught, plays made, points scored. Don’t you know your kid looks for you in the stands after doing something remarkable? You suck.

I am DONE with mothers who refuse to follow the basic rules of society: stand in line, don’t cut (especially your friend with her 5 kids sneaking in at the last minute to “join you”), make your kids sit still, shut the f-up (who cares about the remodel of your kitchen?), and let this poor magician (or juggler, or wildlife expert, or puppeteer) perform his free (!!) act in this public library for your rude ass.

I hate when people don’t email or text me back, but rather, decide to call.
My text: “What time are we meeting tomorrow?”
The response: phone rings.

This, too, has taken over the world and I can’t get over it: invitations to gatherings and parties that appear only on Facebook. Seriously? No one’s even using Evite anymore?

I hate adults who freak out when my dog gallops toward them at the park. I know; it’s the law. He’s supposed to be on a leash. But he’s a stuffed animal. A sweet, waggy-tailed, fluffy stuffed animal. I kinda wish he did bite.

Oh my god, the moms in Whole Foods and other high-end natural food markets! I’m in there, too. I’m buying kale, and wheat grass, and beets. I’m turning my kid on to meatless protein crumbles. But I don’t really belong there. These women in organic cotton sundresses –with their translucent skin, waif-ish arms, and tribal tattoos– they own the place. Like they started the whole…thing. How long have they been eating this shit anyway? And I hate their kids, begging for a spirulina smoothie.

Is no one going to at least admit that processed foods taste good? Really. Kraft macaroni and cheese grosses you out? Really.

I hate people who say they never watch TV. Whatever.

Or people who say they just love! to get up early.

Or…

Sigh.

I could go on and on.

But OMFG I’m hating this, too.

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