Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Something I Want to Remember

This morning Auden locked us out of our bathroom. She was not stuck in the bathroom; she'd locked the door and pulled it closed behind her. Chad's solution would have been to send her in through the small window and have her unlock the door from the inside. I thought breaking down the door would be a slightly better idea.

She'd been told, repeatedly, not to lock the door, ever. I sent her to time-out while Chad tried to unlock the door with a coat hanger. I told her she could get out of time-out when her dad got the door open, whether that would take one minute or one hour. Her time-outs usually last 3 minutes, so she knew this was a Big Deal. She had sincere remorse.

About five minutes in, she asked, "Could we just hold hands while I'm waiting?"

Her request caught me off guard. "Sure," I said. We held hands for a couple of minutes, just waiting, not talking. Then the door popped open and we were both free.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's a little like Richard Burton and Liz Taylor.

Once when I was about 9, I went with my grandparents to visit some friends of theirs. Soon after we all sat down at their kitchen table for lunch, our hosts' teenage son hurried through the kitchen and out the back door, dragging on a cigarette, barely acknowledging us.

"Is Ronnie smoking now?" my grandfather asked.

"He's in high school," his mother shrugged.

"Well, I guess he's old enough," my grandpa said, and the four adults resumed their previous conversation.

The message I received that day, and would receive again and again, was that there were two kinds of people: those old enough to smoke, and those not old enough to smoke.

The background I'll provide is nothing new: (1) When I was little, my dad used to entertain me by blowing smoke rings. (2) Nearly all the adults in my family smoked, as did the TV characters my parents favored (Andy Griffith, the Ricardos, and a few of the characters from "Taxi"). (3) Then there were the musicians: John, Paul, George and Ringo, Bob Dylan, the Stones...and man, they smoked.

I was a very scrawny kid, and something about my face has always made me look younger than I am. (Once, during my freshman year of college, I was mistaken for a junior high school student.) To complicate matters, I always prefered the company of adults, but kids were pretty much invisible to the adults in my family.

My friend Joni had a much older sister, Tonya, who was an absolute bitch, in the bitchiest sense. She bought our cigarettes and held this power over our heads. The night of my 13th birthday, Tonya drove us around for hours while we smoked, threatening to kick our asses if we burned any holes in her upholstery. The nausea finally caught up with me and Tonya had to pull over so I could throw up. I was back at it again the next day.

A week or so later, after having smoked 4 cigarettes one morning before school, I threw up on the school bus. I was back at it again the next day.

Shortly thereafter I got strep throat. I switched to menthol for awhile after that.

My parents had the audacity to be surprised and angry that I'd taken up smoking. They thought I was somehow better than my surroundings:

"Haven't you listened to what we've been saying all these years? (Inhale)
Don't you know it's bad for you? (Exhale)"

An aunt I seldom saw pulled me aside at a family gathering and tried to talk me into quitting. The argument she used--and the one I heard most often--was that smoking would stunt my growth. My family is comprised of very short people, and I wasn't likely to be much taller than five feet no matter what I did to myself.

I smoked all through high school and college. I always knew I would quit. Eventually.

In my mid-20s, after I got married, my husband and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where only the unsophisticated smoke. This helped me along, I think, in my decision to quit. On April 1, 2001, I applied my first nicotine patch and, although I still had cravings, I succeeded, without cheating. The only exception was the morning of September 11th, when I sat on my front steps and smoked, just one. I didn't know what else to do.

The abbreviated version is that I stayed smoke-free for a couple of years, then went back, and back and forth it went. I thought I was done smoking for good once I got pregnant. But when my daughter was 6 weeks old, I cracked. I weighed a ton and the house was a disaster and my whole body hurt. My in-laws (who are wonderful) and my husband's wealthy, widowed, childless, in-your-face-Christian aunt came to visit. The aunt's very presence put me over the edge. Regardless of my dislike for her, I didn't want her to think I was a slob, but I was in too much physical pain from the rough delivery that I couldn't begin to tackle the mess.

My husband, his parents and his aunt left for a long outing (I demanded to stay home with the baby) and they weren't halfway down the block before I lit up. After that cigarette I cried. I knew it wasn't just one cigarette. I wasn't going to give them up, not for my perfect daughter, not for anyone.

For the next 3 years I smoked. Educated, liberal, Volvo-driving Portland moms don't smoke, so I hid it, which was a colossal pain in the ass. I walked the dog in the pouring rain just for the chance. My jaw ached from all the gum I chewed.

It was my aching jaw, plus the sharply rising cost of cigarettes, that made me quit this time. It was also the little line. I have that small wrinkle now, above my top lip, the one that tells everyone I'm a smoker. A right-handed smoker.

Columnist Mark Morford wrote about his experience quitting his "rock star habit." That simple, throwaway description still resonates with me. When I smoked I felt like an accomplished writer, an ass kicker, someone who didn't give a god damn. How I loved smoking.

It's been three weeks since my last cigarette. A side effect of steady nicotine replacement (i.e., the patch) is amazingly vivid dreaming, which I enjoy very much. Every night I'm dropped into a pretty good independent film starring me. I wake exhausted but amused.

My mom called from her home in northern California a few days ago and asked me if the price of cigarettes has gone up here in Oregon, too. I said yes, but that I'm not concerned with that anymore. How above it all I sounded already, proud of my self-control. She was obviously disappointed that I'd left the team and immediately began cheering for the smoking section. She cited the case of so-and-so who'd quit and died weeks later, as though his body had gone into shock from the sudden lack of carcinogens. She was skeptical of any pride or happiness I had in quitting, unable to fathom how I might go on with my life without cigarettes. I guess my smoking only bothered her when I was so young. As an adult, it was expected of me.

This is how I see it now: smoking is extremely pleasurable, but it's like scratching a mosquito bite: it's nice because it stops the itch, if only temporarily. Soon I hope to not have the mosquito bite in the first place. No itch, no scratch. Just calm. In the meantime I'm trying to overlook the weight I'm gaining. How I love Twix bars.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Kid Will Swear

My husband, Chad, and I, swear...a lot. With three English degrees between us, we subscribe to the "words have only as much power as you give them" philosophy, and so it seemed silly to attempt to curb it when our daughter, Auden, was born. There wasn't much discussion about it; we just continued talking as we've always talked.

Auden recently turned 3. One Saturday a few months ago, her former nanny came by to take her to the museum. As I was helping Auden on with her high tops, I mentioned that these particular shoes were "a pain," subconsciously editing myself in the presence of our much-loved nanny. Auden took the opportunity to remind me that that's not who we are. She looked at Becca and said, "Pain in the ass." Her rhythm in speaking those four words was perfect.

But that's about as far as Auden goes with swearing. Neither her dad nor I has ever told her that certain words are "bad"; she just knows, and she avoids them.

There was one exception. One evening Chad was irritated--as he often is after a long day of meetings--and Auden asked him a question. "I don't fucking know!" he responded. Auden then cocked her head and asked, in her little girl voice, "Why don't you fuckin' know?"

Chad had that one coming, and I think Auden knew it. We felt sheepish enough after that incident to clean up our language in conversations had directly with her. Conversations had near her, though, are still fair game.

As for the real world and being practical parents who don't want people to think their daughter was raised by wild monkeys (or sailor monkeys), we will tell her, eventually, that certain words are inappropriate at certain times. Still, one day it will thrill us (in a we're-such-liberal-parents kind of way) when she'll tell her grandmother that she doesn't like to put on her pink high tops because, well, they're a pain in the ass.

First. Blog. Ever.

I'm new.

As with everything I ultimately partake in, I'm a bit squirmy about blogging, but here is what I can promise:

1. I will keep masturbatory writings to a minimum.
2. I will proofread before I post.

Much of what I write will be parenting-oriented. Everything else will be of the grab-bag variety.

Thanks for reading.