I subscribe to four magazines, and I’m not sure how that happened. Three months worth of Home and Garden sit on the table, gathering dust, while Women’s Health, InStyle, and Popular Science are only a month behind – hey, I like to feel a little healthy, smart, and at least appear like a fashionista.
Fine, I fail on almost all counts.
At least a decade ago I subscribed to three family oriented magazines, and rarely read any of them through. I chalked it up to the demands of single-parenting, and stopped subscribing after a couple of years because I read more when I went to doctor’s appointments than I ever did at home – at least feeling productive with all that waiting time.
The parenting magazines only helped me feel inadequate, and mostly envious of all the energy those interviewed parents had to make those incredible birthday cakes from scratch, plan a beautiful, even if simple, party, and have happy party guests go home with clever little gift bags (hey, it was my kid’s birthday – why should the other kids go home with gifts?).
I would have been a hit on ‘cake-fail’ sites, and the parenting magazine was the first to go, even though, yes, I did read them at my son’s doctor appointments. At least I wasn’t paying for the guilt and inadequacy anymore.
The daycare I worked at a few years before I became a mother gave me good skills I actually practiced. I think I only yelled ‘shut-up!’ once as a parent. ‘Use your inside voice’ was my go-to phrase.
One skill I learned after my son was well past the incessant questioning age, and was never addressed in those parenting ‘zines – and I can save you months of pain and suffering by revealing – is this simple phrase: ‘why do you think that is?’.
We have to go inside now.
Because it’s nearly time for lunch.
Because food keeps us all happier, and healthier.
Because food breaks down into vitamins and nutrients that give us energy.
‘Why do you think that is?’
The above example would have gone on for close to ten minutes with my son, whom I was patient and tolerant with, and I would try to keep answering until he was out of questions – especially because I was not allowed to ask questions when I was growing up. One time the ‘whys’ ended tearfully when I said ‘because I’m stupid, that’s why’! (My tears, not my sons.)
My father’s standard answer to asking ‘why’ was: ‘because y is a crooked letter’ – when he was in a good mood… I had no idea what his answer meant, especially as I wasn’t clever enough to realize he was talking about the letter rather than the word, but it did signal no more questions, as getting beat was likely as not to happen next.
The parenting magazines often showed fabulous ‘easy’ home-made costumes for Halloween, and the best (and only, really) home-made costume for my son was when he was twelve or thirteen, and very into the Final Fantasy video game, he wanted to be a black mage for Halloween.
I am not a seamstress. I have sewed hems, badly, and patches and repaired rips, equally badly, but my son, really, really, wanted this home. made. I guess it would give him street cred, or whatever the video-gamer equivalent is, and so help me god, I heard ‘OK’ come out of my mouth.
OK?! What the hell was I thinking? That sweet boy face – that kid who was already starting to pull away from me and acting like I was the very epitome of ineptitude – was asking me to make him a costume!?
Well, when I put it that way, we can all see why I said OK.
Mind you, the internet was still fairly new in 2002, and all I could afford was dial-up internet anyway, and I wasn’t very internet savvy. Hell, the internet wasn’t very internet savvy then.
I saw what the black mage looked like from a poster my son had, and I went to work: measuring, and figuring out how to make a wizard’s hat, shirt, and cloak – something that would make him proud, and maybe be nicer to me? (Ha!)
I found the right material for the cape – on sale!, and buttons for the shirt that were fantastic, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be making the shirt and cloak, but I nearly went insane (fine, insane-er) when I was making the hat.
I made it out of heavy felt, and found a pattern for a similar hat, but it needed tweaking, so I expanded on the pattern the best I could, and while I began the project in late September, it was a few days before Halloween when I was ready to give up and just let the ‘I hate my idiot Mom’ campaign begin in earnest. But persevere I did, and the hat got made, and it came out beautiful.
Best of all, his friends thought he looked amazing.
Ironically, I never thought to write-up and submit that experience for an article because I found the experience abysmal, and didn’t think any parents out there would relate. Now, of course, I know that at least a few others out there might have sighed in relief knowing that the ‘good-parent’ bar was set just a bit too high in those magazines…
These days I can read magazines without feeling (as) inadequate, but there’s no reason to re-subscribe if all they’re doing is collecting dust.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current