Shopping sickness

online-shopping-cartoon

I have to come clean. I have a real problem and I don’t know how to get over it. Some people do drugs. Others are addicted to exercise or prescription painkillers. Some people over-eat or under-eat or find themselves in abusive relationships. Let’s face it. Nobody gets through this life unscathed. “Everyone has a story,” someone once told me. I believe that to be true. And while some stories are epic sagas, others are more like comic-book narratives. Mine, on the other hand, resembles one of those Nordstrom catalogues that show up every few weeks in your snail mail box.

My problem is shopping. Not just “walk into a store, need a new pair of pumps” shopping. I’m talking about obsessive, on-line, “can’t go to sleep until I find whatever obscure item I’ve decidedly set my sights upon” shopping.

A few nights ago, I was up half the night in search of a vintage pair of men’s socks that I wanted to buy my husband for Father’s Day. Another night last week, I roamed through columns of ebay listings for the perfect dog collars for my two dogs. (I’d noticed shortly before bedtime that their collars looked a bit dingy.) Last night I researched mascara until 3am when I finally decided that the bags under my eyes were no match for my lashes, no matter how voluminous, dark and lustrous I could make them.

This is a sickness. I lie there in bed, i-pad in hand, and cannot make myself stop. Why am I doing this? It’s not that I’m spending huge amounts of money we don’t have. I buy piddly little crap like cell phone jacks from China or laundry detergent from Dusseldorf. (I’m really not kidding. It’s great detergent.) But once I start researching, I can’t stop myself. Be it the pinnacle of tooth brush refills or the epitome of hand-dyed wrapping paper, once my mind focuses on some kind of need, I become completely obsessed with researching and purchasing the item in question. I seriously know more about diy table cloth fabric than any respectable person ought to know.

And I know I’m not alone. Because I get HUNDREDS of email ads every five minutes. From “Rue-la-la” to “Beyond the Rack” to “Fab.com,” I could literally spend the next six months of my life trying to clear out my email box and delete every on-line solicitation to buy yet another elegant designer handbag for up to 70% off. No joke, I have 17,000 e-mails. And some of them I have to actually read. But I never get to them because every time I try to wade through the morass of e-mails I get side-tracked by yet another “Living Social” deal or “Groupon” ad.

I tried making a rule that no electronics could be brought into the bedroom. But technically that meant I couldn’t keep my husband’s LED alarm clock and he overslept and missed a few morning patients. He insisted that a blanket anti-electronic ban was unacceptable. I could just try to eliminate anything with the letter “i” but I’m pretty attached to my dog, Maggie (maybe I could change the spelling of her name) and I’d hate to rid myself of the chaise at the end of the bed.

No, there’s no way around this. I have to dig deep and find the willpower within to cut myself off from all electronic media post 9p.m. That’s it. No checking e-mail. No sleepy-time surfing. No “Words with Friends” to help soothe me to sleep. It’s just too dangerous. Clearly I cannot use these media responsibly.

Okay, I admit it. I am powerless over my addiction. Breathe. I am taking a fearless moral inventory of myself. Breathe. And I humbly ask a power greater than myself to remove the electronic clatter that clouds my psyche and keeps me from slumber. Breathe.

Is it okay to just concentrate on three steps instead of all twelve? It’s just that time is limited and they get kind of repetitive after a while. Besides, I only have a few minutes before the Disney necktie auction I’ve been following on ebay ends and I really need to get this Goofy tie for Mark for his birthday.

No news would be good news!

The news is so terrible these days. Kidnapping in Cleveland. Bombing in Boston. Murder in Mesa. I can’t take anymore. I feel like I’m living under a fog of darkness. Somebody, please bring me a bouquet of sunflowers and some stevia lemonade to brighten my day. And how exactly are we supposed to talk to our kids about this stuff?

Look, I know that some people say there really isn’t more bad stuff happening today than in decades past. It’s just the media mayhem that magnifies everything. But I’m sorry, I don’t remember all this crazy shit happening when I was a kid. Did I just not know about it? Really? How can that be? My kids, and my youngest is 9, hear all the gruesome details about almost every tantalizing media-hyped tale that circulates. Was it different in the 70s and 80s? I do kind of remember tuning out totally in the 90s. It was a very hip, boho way to go for an actor in Chi town. “The news is so negative,” I would lament in what was probably Chicago’s version of a valley girl twang. “I just choose not to allow those thoughts into my psyche.” Dear Lord, how many things from our past come back to embarrass the hell out of us. At least I never got a tattoo. (JK. I know they’re totally mainstream nowadays.)

But I cringe when I read the story about those three girls locked up for a decade. Nobody knew. This Castro guy was a fine, upstanding neighborhood fellow. The youngest girl was his daughter’s best friend. How are we parents supposed to combat that kind of evil? That is definitely the most horrifying part of this ordeal. That some sick, twisted bastard who holds an ordinary job and hangs out with people on a regular basis could manage to hide three girls and a baby without anyone ever suspecting anything. And who can you trust? Pedophiles lurk everywhere. I want to stop trusting everyone I know and everyone I meet. I mean, why has it taken me 12 years to meet anyone in my neighborhood? Hmmm??? Maybe because they’re all hiding something and don’t want to interact with me which might tip me off to the captive whatevers locked in their basements.

I tell my kids not to go in a car with anyone they don’t know. But I wouldn’t think to tell them to avoid their best bud’s daddy. For crying out loud. How can we keep kids safe? They can be “stranger danger” savvy and still end up missing for 10 years because some disgusting cretan, who masquerades as a normal, upstanding member of the community, abducts them on the way to the playground or coming home from the bus stop. I really can’t take this.

We need to hold fast to our children. Unthinkable evil exists and it could happen to anyone at any moment. I think I might be having a panic attack. Does anyone know if the odds of having your offspring abducted is better or worse than winning the lottery?

Do we mom’s deserve a right to privacy?

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Would a warning like this keep my computer files safe from children’s eyes???

“Get off my computer!” I impatiently bark at my 12-year-old son, Levi. He raised his guilty paws from the keyboard as if a masked robber had surprisingly cornered him and yelled, “Put up your hands!” I moved into his place and started pounding away at an e-mail I had neglected to send earlier in the day.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you,” I later apologized. “It’s just frustrating that you’re always on my laptop. After all, you have your own.”

With that rebuke, Levi slunk away without a word. I felt badly. Mothers are supposed to be selfless and giving. Why am I so irritated and resentful about sharing an electronic device with my kid.

I checked my e-mail as I pondered this maternal quandary. That’s when I saw it; an e-mail from the practice coordinator at our Orthodontic office. It was an introductory sales letter inviting us to meet Dr. Sams and tour the office. This would have been a lovely invitation had we not been already been seeing this Doctor for over two years. I was livid.

My fingers snapped to attention and without effort I typed back a snarky response. “Dear Jenny,” I wrote, “It might behoove you to pay better attention to whom you are sending an introductory letter like this so that you do not inadvertently send it to people who are already patients. Trust me, it makes us feel insignificant.” Then, a captive of my momentary rage, I deliberately hit “send” and watched my haughty response disappear into cyberspace.

Levi was still sulking across the room. “I’m sorry, buddy,” I told him, “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. What were you doing on my computer anyway?”

“Oh, I was just looking back through all of your old e-mails,” he explained. “There are e-mails from like three years ago. Don’t you ever throw stuff in the trash?”

Suddenly a horrifying realization overtook me. “Oh no,” I thought. Yet another Debra moment of leaping to the erroneous conclusion. I re-opened my e-mail and saw the appalling truth. That e-mail from Jenny was in fact from 2010. It was her warm invitation to us to meet Dr. Sams and visit his office. I did it again! I’m like a an emotional Tourette’s patient. I just emote at people randomly, without a shred of rationale for my outbursts. Shit. This is soooooo embarrassing.

“Levi,” I calmly pronounced, “Why would you look up my old e-mails? That’s weird and kind of…creepy.”

“I like to learn stuff about myself when I was younger. Plus now I can read e-mails you wouldn’t let me read back then.”

That actually sounded kind of reasonable. It wasn’t until I was in bed a few hours later that I started to feel like his behavior was completely inappropriate and uncomfortably invasive. I nudged my husband, Mark, who was snoring next to me.

“Huh? What’s wrong?” He bolted upright.

“Do you think it’s okay for me to tell Levi he can’t use my computer and that he is never allowed to read my e-mails? I just feel like I should have some semblance of privacy in my own home. I mean before we had internet and e-mail it wouldn’t have been okay for a kid to rifle through his mom’s mementos hidden away in a box in her closet, would it? So just because everything is electronic these days that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have clear boundaries and restrictions. Right?

A loud snore wafted through the room. He had immediately fallen back to sleep, which seemed to be a fairly common response to my pontificating. I was on my own with this one.

The following morning on the ride to school I told Levi that my computer and email were off limits, that I needed to have some privacy, that not everything about parents should be accessible to their children.

He said he understood and apologized. “But you know, mom,” he said, “There is something really cool about reading all your old blogs and plays and e-mails. I get to really know you, in a way most kids never know their moms. That’s pretty awesome.”

Suddenly the privacy invasion felt a little less irksome. The haunting truth that at any moment adolescence could rear its ugly head and make me the least fascinating creature on the planet, was a reality too ominous to ignore. I felt badly, again. Maybe I had over-reacted.

But I didn’t turn back. I should have a right to my privacy, right? I’m an adult woman who doesn’t want to share every detail of my life with my 12-year-old son. That’s reasonable.

This is one of those issues on which I wish I could take a poll. Do you have personal boundaries in your home that protect your privacy or is everything fair game? I really need some good old fashioned girl-talk on this issue so please, share!

In search of a plot

“I need a plot! What if I die?” this is the text I received Thanksgiving night from my 12 year old son, Levi. He’d finally left the table and was worriedly texting me from the next room.

It all happened because we were enjoying some post repast conversation at my mom’s house. One of the guests, a long time family friend, works at the Jewish cemetery in town. The discourse had shifted to her work and she was astounding us with stories about elderly people who simply refused to contemplate death, funerals and anything associated with burials. My brother-in-law, an uber-responsible physician, chimed in, “It’s just idiotic not to take care of these things ahead of time. Idiotic and irresponsible.”

Suddenly I look across the table and I see Levi, his head in his hands, prone for an anxiety attack. “Why don’t you go play with your cousins,” I suggest.

“No, mom. I want to stay with the adults,” he insists.

“Well, are you sure you can handle this conversation?” I ask gently.

“Yes,” he replies, “I’m sure. But mom, how much is a plot? Because I need to save up and get one.”

Conversation halted and everyone looked at Levi. Several of the adults started to roar with laughter.

“Levi,” I tried to explain, “You really don’t need to worry about that right now.”

“But I’m going to die,” he matter-of-factly refuted, “I don’t want to be stupid, or irresponsible.”

Suddenly I was transported into the celluloid world of my all time favorite Woody Allen movie, “Annie Hall.” I morphed into Alivie Singer’s kvetching Jewish mother and insisted my 9 year old son, Alivie, tell the psychiatrist why he was so depressed.”

Alvie’s mother:
Tell the Doctor why you’re depressed, Alvie. It’s something that he read.

Alvie:
The Universe is expanding.

Doctor:
The Universe is expanding?

Alvie:
Well, the Universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything.

Alvie’s mother:
He stopped doing his homework.

Alvie:
What’s the point?

Alvie’s mother:
What has the Universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not expanding!”

Doctor:
It wont be expanding for billions of years, Alvie. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here.

Why is it that some kids burden themselves with thoughts like these while others are content to stuff themselves silly with turkey, corn and mashed potatoes? I so want to be one of those care-free people who raises easy, playful youngsters who throw spitballs into the unsuspecting heads of classmates and giggle gleefully when the teacher accidentally strings together words like “under” and “where.” But alas, that’s just not who we are.

I actually remember my first 100% sleepless night. I was about my son’s age and was convinced that the angel of death was coming that very night to take me away. My poor father tried everything to get me to go to sleep. Finally, with a tear in his eye, he implored, “Please, Debbie, just close your eyes. I’ll stand guard all night and I promise not to open the door if he comes. Just go to sleep!”

I guess the sad thing here is that this whole experience just confirms what I’ve known all along; that children really are just mirrors that showcase every flaw, fault and foible of our own misguided psyches. Genetics, my friends, are inescapable.

It’s all kind of depressing. In fact, sometimes I find it so disheartening that I relate completely to Annie Hall’s brother, Duane, (played eerily by a young Christopher Walken), who behind the wheel of his automobile,
confesses to Alvie while speeding down a darkened freeway, “Sometimes I have a sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into an oncoming car. I anticipate the explosion, the sound of shattering glass, the…flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.”

Alvie is stumped for a reply but spits out, “Right,” just as they pull to a stop, “Well, I have to — I have to go now, Duane, because I’m due back on the planet earth.”

Sometimes it sucks to be me. I desperately want to see myself as Audrie Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa.” But no matter how hard I try, my true alter ego wont let me forget that I’m really just a female version of a Jewish, neurotic, anxiety-ridden Alvie Singer.

Tell the truth dammit!

Truth search

It’s cold! It’s finally cold outside! Open up the windows! Swing open the French doors! Rattlesnakes be damned! I feel invincible. I can actually breathe again. I needed a sweatshirt this morning to walk with the dogs. Nothing can bring me down.

I love the desert in fall. I love the desert in winter. I love the desert until about April. And then I don’t. Then it turns into a hellish furnace that sucks the life out of me, my family and everything around us. Let’s be honest, April, May, June, July, August, September…that’s six whole months. When I first moved here, people systematically perpetuated the three month conspiracy theory. It went something like this, “Oh, you’ll love living here. The weather is perfect 9 months of the year. Then it gets a little hot. But you get used to it. Besides, it’s a dry heat.” OK, let’s look at this fabrication. No matter how you slice it, it gets unbearably hot in April and stays over 100 degrees well into October. Unless my math is frightfully mistaken, that only leaves 50% of the year where people can reasonably function outdoors.

So why does everyone lie about this? Why not just be honest and tell newcomers, “Here’s the thing, you’ll probably want to kill yourself by the time July rolls around. That’s totally normal. Everyone feels that way. But try to hang in there. October isn’t all that far off.” I would have been much better prepared to face the fiery reality if someone somewhere had told me what to expect.

It’s just like pregnancy. Nobody tells you that you’re gonna have unbearable acid reflux for 9 months, projectile vomit in the car on your way to prenatal yoga, and think seriously about downing an entire bottle of Vicodin at least three times a day to put yourself out of your misery. Instead, books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” describe pregnancy’s healthy glow and emotional euphoria. Come on. Wouldn’t it be better to fess up to the ugly reality awaiting expectant mommies than to set them up for failure by making them feel isolated, detached and forsaken?

We lie about everything! We tell people they look great when they look like crap. We swear up and down that we’re not angry when we’re literally fuming inside. We tell our kids that a big, jolly fat man is gonna come down the chimney on Christmas Eve and leave loads of presents for them. Why do we do this? Is reality truly that bleak?

What would life look like if we just started telling the truth?

“Sorry, Junior. No presents this Christmas. The economy’s in the toilet and we’re barely able to put food on the table. Now go do your homework.”

“You don’t really look fat in those jeans. But you do kind of resemble a sausage that’s been over-stuffed into too small of a skin. Maybe trousers would serve you better.”

“Wow, you must have spent a small fortune to decorate your house and make it look exactly the same as every other ‘contemporary’ Southwestern abode in the neighborhood. So much for individuality.”

I actually crave the opportunity to tell someone the truth. But no one wants to hear it. It’s too mean, too hurtful. We’re programmed to sugar-coat reality. Especially out here in the West. I remember when I first moved to California and everyone was so nice to me all the time. They’d promise me things to my face that would never come to fruition and say things behind my back that were completely opposed to what they’d sworn in a face to face encounter. I got into the habit of brazenly cutting people off mid compliment. “Look, I’m from Chicago,” I’d sneer, “Just tell me the truth.”

I’d like to tell you that I’m gonna go forth honestly from this point forward, that I’m gonna turn over a new leaf, that I’m committed to speak my mind, voice my inner truth, and stop perpetuating the falsehoods that abound. But I can’t. Because that would be…a lie.

My son the RINO: Responsible In Name Only

“Personal accountability!” My husband, Mark and I chimed out in sync at a Saturday morning family school session at our synagogue. “Taking responsibility for one’s actions.” We’d been asked by our Rabbi to name something we’d learnt from our parents and hoped to pass along to our kids. Lots of parents had good answers; “work hard,” “be kind,” “give to charity.” But we liked ours best. It was, after all, the central theme of our parenting philosophy. Having both been raised in families that harped upon us to “make your own breaks” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” we were committed to passing those tenets on to our own offspring.

After we’d finished, our kids were invited back into the room and the Rabbi asked them to go and pick out which value on the list their parents had written. Oh, this was gonna be easy. We snickered to ourselves silently as we waited for Eli to ace this assignment.

“Accept everyone?” he questioned proudly pointing to the third value listed on the white board.

“Well, that’s certainly a good one,” I answered. “But that’s not the one daddy and I wrote. Why don’t you try again, sweetie.”

“Treat others as you would like to be treated?” he confidently corrected.

“Um…no, honey,” I stammered a bit surprised by his error. “Guess again. It’s something that daddy and I make you think about all the time.”

“Be kind!” he shouted with a victorious lilt.


When he trepidatiously pointed to “Ride bicycles together,” I lost it.

“Eli,” I said in a voice much louder than I’d meant to, “None of our bicycles even have tires. We haven’t ridden bicycles since last Halloween. Really?”

Then I pointed to our all capped “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.” “Oh,” he calmly voiced, “I didn’t see that one.”

I was furious–at him, at myself, at my husband. What did all our work add up to if he couldn’t even pick the right parental value out of a line-up of usual suspects that seemed blatantly obvious to us?

I tossed and turned over this all night. Then I woke up and recreated the list on a small poster board and asked our older son, Levi, who wasn’t at the family school event, to peruse the list of parental values and tell us which one was the one we had listed.

“That’s easy, mom,” he answered in less than a nano-second. “Personal Accountability.”
I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “That’s what you’re always saying,” he went on, “That’s pretty much the whole premise of how you parent.”

I wondered if Mark had tipped Levi off and prepped him for my experiment. But my husband firmly denied providing our eldest with any pre-test coaching. The bigger question became; why hadn’t Eli been able to identify our parenting platform?

After much deliberation, we realized that sub-consciously we’ve been giving Eli a pass on a lot of things, in large part due to his younger sibling status. It’s just easier and less of a struggle to ask his older brother to help out. This was a text book birth order pit and we’d stumbled right into it.

As parents, it’s easy to declare loving all of your children equally. But that doesn’t mean we treat them all the same way. Finding those inequalities and managing them is a critical challenge that every parent of multiples needs to face. It’s not a pleasant reality. Maybe you do expect more from one child. Maybe you coddle the second. Maybe one’s easier to manage so you rely on him or her as more of a helper.

It’s not a simple issue. But it is one that’s worth examining. What do you think? How equitable are your parental expectations?

Back to school roller derby

Who will be the next School Supply Roller Derby Queen?

Lace up your skates, moms. It’s time to hit the aisles and go for the gold. If you’re fast and tough, you might actually secure that Justice League lunch box and water bottle your kid’s been pining for all year. Show no mercy. It’s back to school time.

God help me I hate school supply shopping. I hate everything associated with school supply shopping. I hate hordes of people fighting over number 2 pencils, I hate trying to find wide-ruled notebook paper amidst piles and piles of college lined loose leaf. I hate having to buy 4 large glue sticks when they always come 3 to a pack. I hate that despite the fact that every school in the world insists on kids bringing ziploc baggies and disinfectant wipes, they never put that stuff with the school supplies and you have to traipse through the entire store with a million other people to get to the cleaning supply and home storage areas before they run out of the items you need to complete your list.

Argh!!!! It’s awful. It was better this year because I took each boy separately. Trying to navigate two supply lists while maneuvering a shopping cart and corralling two young tykes was nearly impossible last year. At least I wised up a bit.

But the whole process is so utterly angst producing. I’m not even sure why. I love shopping, for almost everything. But this is…just…not fun. I spent over $300 for both boys. That sounds like a lot to me. I mean, that doesn’t even include text books or any real type of learning material.

I saw this one woman, who looked equally distraught, and she said that at her school you can pay extra money and they’ll do your school supply shopping for you. Unfortunately, she had flaked and missed the deadline this year. “Rest assured,” she bemoaned, “that wont happen again.” For a moment I wished our school did that.

But then, in some weird masochistic side of my brain, I heard a voice saying, “but you’d miss such a meaningful mom-son experience if you didn’t go school supply shopping each year.” The fact is, given the choice to abdicate all school related shopping excursions, I probably wouldn’t take it. Because even if I tell myself that instead of the crowded Target aisles, we could go to the water park or the movies or somewhere equally fun and carefree, something else would come up and we’d miss that time together and then it would feel just like every other missed moment I feel guilty and forlorn over.

So, I’ll keep body-checking 12 year-olds to get the last package of yellow highlighters and pushing distracted moms’ carts out of the way to retrieve that one Yoda pencil box that my son simply cannot live without. I will do this year after year after year. Because I’m a mom. And that’s just what we do.

I’m gonna make it after all…really?

Imagine Mary with two boys, a husband and endless loads of laundry.

Note to self: when vacationing without children, do not go anywhere particularly kid-friendly. I say this because I’m out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my husband enjoying some seriously needed down time. Not much to do. Nowhere to be. Simple pleasures of hiking, biking, moose-watching, and so on. But there are kids everywhere. And each one is cuter than the next. Why? Because they’re not mine. And on top of that, the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” stuff is definitely true. I miss my kids.

I miss them so much it hurts. That seems weird to me. Because most of the time that I’m with them I spend fantasizing about being away from them. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. But trying to manage a home, pursue a meaningful career, and take care of two young boys is more than overwhelming to me. I want to be the June Cleaver of sitcom fame. But I’m not. I’m more a child-laden version of Mary Richards from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Imagine me, in the middle of a snowy Minnesota roadway, tossing my infamous beret into the air and trying to catch it victoriously while also reigning in two impish little creatures who think it’s just fun to dart into the street between racing taxi cabs. It’s really not a workable scenario.

I really am torn between being a full-time mother and using my time on the planet to create meaning for myself personally. It’s a conundrum in which many of us find ourselves. We gave up lucrative and often fulfilling professions to be moms. We don’t regret it exactly. We know, deep in our souls, that bringing precious life into this world and raising it with care, love and respect, is clearly our highest calling. But that doesn’t help get us through the daily monotony that clouds our psyches and makes us question the reason for our very existence.

This vacation was supposed to help me relax. Help me stop struggling with the big issues that harass me on a daily basis. But seeing all these kids and happy families makes me feel selfish and more like a maternal failure than ever before. Why am I here alone, without my kids, when everyone else seems to be managing exceedingly well with their children in tow. None of these mommies needed “alone” time. They all look perfectly well adjusted, capable and happy. What is wrong with me?

Maybe next year I’ll go somewhere where they don’t allow kids. “Out of sight out of mind” as they say. Perhaps I’ll find a nice all-inclusive adult-only resort somewhere in the Bahamas where I wont feel bad about myself for being there. Of course, there’ll probably be tons of childless women there who wont have c-section scars or cellulite. That might highlight a whole different class of personal flaws for me. I guess maybe I just can’t win.

Parents of the world, unite!

I'm the one calling the shots and if you don't like it, TOUGH!

I realized something totally unfair today. When I was growing up, children were supposed to be “seen and not heard.” We did what we were told. We went where our parents decided to go. We ate whatever our mom’s made for dinner. And if we didn’t like it, we were “given something to really cry about.”

Now I’m not complaining about the past. That’s about as effective as asking the government to make slavery reparations 150 years after the fact. It’s not necessarily undeserved, but really, what’s the point?

We are on vacation in beautiful Laguna Beach, CA. My seven year-old son, Eli, around whose moods our family seems to constantly revolve, was holding us hostage and I figured out why I am so quick to explode over his maniacal tantrums and so easily irked by his capricious behavior. Because it’s not fair.

You see, I never enjoyed the position of center of the universe with my family of origin. I was a “good” girl who sat and colored when I had to go to appointments with my mother. I cleaned the shelves at my dad’s pharmacy on Saturdays when he was saddled with taking me to work with him because finding a sitter for the whole day would’ve been an outrageous expense. I fit into my parents’ lives like kids were supposed to do.

Cut to: a generation later and the whole model has been turned upside down. Nowadays it’s the parents who give up their lives for their children. The idea of a vacation that isn’t entirely kid-centered is tantamount to child abuse in most of the parent circles I inhabit.

When we were on vacation as kids, if my mom wanted to shop or spa or get her hair done, that’s what we did and we found ways to make that fun. If I even poke my head into a boutique or art gallery these days, my kids go into hissy-fit mode and start whining obnoxiously and carelessly flinging themselves around the store. It’s really not right.

Everyone deserves to be the center of the universe at some point in her life. But it’s like a genetic trait that gets passed on by skipping a generation. Our entire generation of parents got gipped on this one. Back in the day, parents ran the show. But the minute I step into the role of maternal monarch, the rug gets pulled out from under me and instead of reigning gleefully, I’m suddenly the supplicant of a couple of erratic juvenile dictators.

Where did we go wrong? And why isn’t everyone else griping about this injustice? We were slighted out of the attention we deserve and I’m not taking it lightly! No!

I want to matter!
I don’t want everything I do (or don’t do) to be centered around my children!
I want to stop pretending that I don’t have adult needs and that I wouldn’t be happier going out to dinner with my husband alone than playing one more game of “Apples to Apples” with the kids.

Come on. Parents of the world, unite! Stop cow-towing to anyone who measures 4 feet 5 and below.(and Levi, you may be taller than that, but you still count as a “kidtater.”) It’s about us from now on. Because, trust me on this one, if we don’t put some focus back on ourselves, we’re gonna end up with a bunch of self-absorbed narcissists who aren’t gonna be able to take care of themselves, the country, or the planet. And that would suck.

Shhh! I’m trying to listen to myself!

Paper tigers can scare you as much as real ones!

Why is it we think our kids can escape the struggles we’ve spent our entire lives battling against? That’s what I kept thinking as my 10 year old son’s “talking doctor” explained to him that some kids have “worry brains” that always imagine the worst case scenario in every situation. So when I called my husband last night and asked him to meet me down the block so that our puppies didn’t become dinner to a wandering pack of coyotes I’d encountered, my son was certain that the phone call that led my husband out the front door was a tragic announcement of the demise of both myself and our beloved canines. It took several hours and a great deal of cognitive determination on all our parts to calm my son and finally coax him into bed.

But as I listened to him retelling the story today, there was something unnervingly familiar about his process; almost an eerie sense of deja vu engulfed me. Why? Because he is me! The anxiety. The worry. The incessant voices predicting doom and gloom. My first “talking doctor” called it “catastrophizing.” My son’s dramatic reactions are no different from the way I respond when instead of returning home at 6:30, my husband doesn’t arrive until 7:30 and I take myself step by step through the difficulties I will have to face as a newly widowed mother of two young boys.

I can’t help it. I tell myself irrational stories that scare the bejesus out of me. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Frankly, it amazes me when I meet people who don’t live in this type of constant agony. I try hard to contradict the voices that drone on in my head. Sometimes I’m even able to convince myself that whatever impending tragedy awaits me is merely a “paper tiger” as my dad used to say when I was a little girl and my anxiety first surfaced.

But somehow I conveniently forgot about brain genetics when I decided to have children. I guess if I’d realized that my sweet young babies would one day grow up to battle the same mental demons that have pursued me with such unwavering commitment all these years, I might have thought twice about having them. But then where would I be?

Maybe there’s a cosmic challenge here, a symbolic gauntlet that’s been laid at my feet. I need to stop the worry voices in my own head so that I can guide my son to a place of peace and ease within himself so that he doesn’t spend the rest of his life held hostage by a bunch of menacing voices whose only purpose is to keep him from becoming the amazing person he’s meant to become.

Hmmm…easier said than done.