I think that one of the things I enjoy most about being a parent is that I get to explain the rules to people all day long. It’s not a control thing. When I was a child I was bounced between a lot of different kinds of environments. I was never told “The house rules are ____” I was just randomly and arbitrarily punished for breaking rules I had never been told were rules. I spend a lot of time (still) feeling bewildered and terrified and like I’m about to be slapped for being rude any second. I don’t know the rules.
My kids don’t have that experience of life. I feel so grateful that I get to find out what it is like for people who are supported.
We visit a fair number of people–especially when we travel to visit. Like, duh and such. We have already been inside three different houses, Grandpa, blacksheep, and Aunt Cookie. Holy hell the rules are different in each house. Completely and totally different in every way. (I’m not upset or complaining. Just stating.)
I appreciate that I get to talk to my kids about this. I appreciate that they get to hear my opinion about how to treat the rules at different houses and then they get to hear other adults argue with me about the rules. My kids understand that *I* don’t always know the rules and we are doing our best guess at all times. My kids don’t feel my terror when asking for clarification. But then again my children have never been slapped for being uppity when they ask for clarification.
Sometimes I look at my children and I’m not sure I can see them because I see this phantom self of me at the same age. I understand how very different we are. I feel a lot of pity for myself. By five my life was hell on earth. Shanna has no perspective for understanding me. I want to keep it that way for a long time.
Different people have completely different expectations for their houses. Some people are ok with little kids coming over and picking everything up and touching it and potentially breaking things. They will just smile and think it is cute that a kid is exploring. (Yay for the Aunt Cookies of the world.)
Some people think it is ok for kids to touch some things but not all things and the kids should know which are which. This is a lot harder. I sure as fuck don’t guess right under those circumstances.
Most people haven’t thought carefully about which things in their house they are ok with “sharing” and they will have different rules suddenly over and over through the day as the kid discovers new things. Sometimes the rule is “Oh it’s just stuff. It’s ok if stuff breaks.” and then all of a sudden, “BUT THAT IS IMPORTANT DON’T TOUCH THAT.”
Grandpa’s house is a lot harder to manage than dear Aunt Cookie. But we have also been here for days already and we were only with Aunt Cookie for two hours.
I spend a lot of time with my kids walking around new houses pointing out all the doo dads at eye level and talking about a)what material it is made out of (some things are more inherently breakable than others) b)which things look super personal and irreplaceable and c)which things they really should specifically ask about before touching.
I feel so much gratitude for being able to do this for someone that sometimes I just sit and cry. I get to make it so someone else isn’t screamed at and beaten. Thank you whoever is letting me do this. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
My children are not bad. My children are not demons. My children are not monsters. They try hard to be considerate. Sure they fail sometimes but they are three and five. Most fifty year olds aren’t perfect.
But for every adult you deal with you have to figure out what their base assumptions are about children and you have to figure out how to manage them without too much backlash.
Last night at Thanksgiving Round Two I rediscovered that I live in a bubble. I didn’t understand the vast majority of the conversations. It helped that more than half of the talking through the whole night was about alcohol. I don’t have a problem with alcohol (or rather… I do… an intestinal problem) so it wasn’t that I felt offended. I just… had nothing to offer.
I nodded and smiled a lot. That’s what I could add. Yup. Y’all drink a lot. And you spend a lot of time thinking about your last drink and planning for your next drink. Ok. I feel that way about ice cream so I’m not throwing stones. If I tried to drink like that I would never leave the bathroom and my poor behind would burn so bad I would spend even more time crying. Totally not worth it.
Culture is interesting. People do the things they do for such a wide variety of reasons. We were looked at funny for bringing a bottle of home made mead to the home school camping trip. Some of the parents openly commented about it being questionably appropriate. I brought a small bottle to share. It was the size of a beer bottle. To share. And people thought that was… sketchy.
So going to dinner last night was a culture shock. Not in a bad way. I didn’t feel disapproving (or disapproved of). I just… didn’t know what to say. I can’t participate in the conversation. I tried. I think I did fine. It was a large group of people I mostly don’t know–of course I don’t really have much to talk about with them. That’s standard in groups of strangers.
I was reading a friend’s blog recently. She posts about her cooking adventures. She would have fit in better at last nights party. I’m not very good at the alcohol infused mad-cap-gaiety thing.
I’ll go sit in a corner and tell depressing stories. I’m frickin Eeyore.
My kids asked me why people were drinking so much alcohol. I’m pretty sure that the only time they have seen groups of people drink before has been at weddings. We just don’t do that much. My kids hear my angsty relationship with alcohol. “Alcohol tastes good in your mouth but it is a poison for your liver. So like a lot of things it is not a problem if you have some once your liver is fully grown but having too much can cause problems. Kind of like eating too much sugar. Some is fine for you. Too much causes problems. How much “too much” is depends on your individual body.”
It is completely ok for people to be different from me. But man do I feel like I am terrible and bad and lame and boring for not conforming to whatever culture I am standing near. Sometimes I wonder if I stopped going to the Burning Man events because I don’t drink much (if I have three glasses of wine it is a *heavy* drinking night–normally I have one. We go through a bottle of wine a month.) and I wanted to stop doing so many drugs. The way I know to do that is to stay home.
I know there are people who can go and be sober and social. I feel awkward. I feel awkward all the time whether I am sober or not. Being not-sober doesn’t make me feel better but it makes me feel more like I am required to stay until I sober up so at least I relax on feeling like I should LEAVE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE SOON EVERYONE WILL HATE ME.
I’d like to apply for a brain transplant, k – thanks?
Do I really believe that everyone will hate me? No.
Noah thinks it is pretty irrational that I worry about the small percentage of people who dislike me. I think I worry about the small percentage of people who have historically hit me and told me that I am not longer welcome wherever I am standing. Yeah, it doesn’t have to be a big group. All you need is one son of a bitch who beats the shit out of you.
Am I really worried about being hit any more? I can’t tell if that is the underlying anxiety or not. I can’t tell if I am just worried about social opprobrium or if I am genuinely afraid of being attacked. It is really hard to tease apart.
Sometimes I think it is less that I am afraid of the bad things that might happen to me. My anxiety has changed a lot since having kids. I am more afraid of rejection now than I was eight years ago. Eight years ago the idea that someone might reject me was really just not a big deal. I was ready and prepared to walk away from anyone and everyone in my life.
I grow more scared by the year. Now if I get in trouble for being bad my children will pay the price. I am so sorry I am your mother.
A while back I watched a movie The Stoning of Soraya M. In it a Muslim woman is married to a bad guy. He wants to be not married and not responsible for supporting his wife. So he gets someone else in the village to imply adultery. The wife gets stoned.
It is a true story. It didn’t even happen that long ago. Sure, it didn’t happen in my country. Would you like me to start pulling up references for what happens to women in my country? It’s not good. I wouldn’t say it is better. Being afraid of random violence is not irrational given the world we live in.
I’ve had a good couple of days. I’m actually at a low anxiety point. I feel cheerful. I feel like things are going fine and I had fun last night and I didn’t offend anyone and things are fine.
But I still have this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m not even sure any more if it anxiety or pain from eating things I shouldn’t. How the fuck do you tell the difference?
Today is lunch with one set of friends. A former lover and his wife are expecting their first child. I can’t wait to see them and express my joy and support. I’m sure they will do well. Tonight we are going to a sleazy party. It will be awesome. Sex will be happening. I’m sure someone will be crying but I’m not sure if it will be me or not. (Err, Noah’s not a bottom.) I haven’t been to a bdsm party in a while. (The hosts may not appreciate me using the adjective sleazy but it makes me very happy.)
Tomorrow the Childrens Museum with good friends.
I get to cook over the next day or so. Cottage pie, turkey soup. That kind of thing. Dad is the sort to just stick his Thanksgiving leftovers on endless pieces of white bread until they are gone. Psh. Not so much.
I feel like I am welcome to be here. Even though this is clearly not my culture. I feel like people are as nice or nicer to me than I deserve. I don’t think I am kind enough in return. I feel like I don’t even know what to do to be more kind. I would like to be more kind but I don’t know what to do.
It will all work out in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.