Motherhood From the Frontline

This was my “rainy day” post from BethFishRead’s Bloggiesta mini-challenge… Enjoy 🙂

When it comes to children… especially when they’re your own and you can’t drive them out to the country and dump them because they know their addresses and how to get home… sometimes SANITY is a battle ground, and I feel like I’m battling them for it.  AND, I’m losing.

First off, the odds aren’t in my favor.  There are THREE of them and ONE of me.  Then you gotta add the 3 cats and the dog to that number, because they tease each other with the pets… “Look Maggie, your cat loves me more than you” wait for it “MOOOOOOOM!!!!  Maggie hit me!”  Well, the math adds up to 374 of them to the half-wit ME. 

Seriously, I used to have brains.  I did.  I once took the Mensa test and was well above the entry number.  My IQ, last I checked, is 168.  But see, that was before kids.  Nowadays, I’d be shocked if I could beat out a bunch of Broccoli in a game of Boggle.  My mom always said, “Insanity is hereditary… you get it from your kids!”  And the older they get, the more I realize she’s RIGHT.

I watched a program on PBS about negative emotions the other day… okay, I just watched a segment of the show while COPS was on commercial break, but still… and they said that negative emotions like stress and fear burn memories deeply into your psyche.  That’s why everyone remembers where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001, but few remember what they were doing on September 10th, the day before.  It is ALSO why my mom STILL remembers EVERYTHING I EVER did as a kid, and points out that “Paybacks are a BITCH!” whenever I’m word-vomitting what dastardly deeds the girls have been up to lately. 

Really, I began to understand what my actual role as a parent was when Sam and Gwen were about 7 and 8.  We had went to the mall and had stopped into the store where a friend worked.  Because I was engaged in adult conversation, and because I had taken longer than the generous minute and a half they allowed for such foolishness, the girls began to get antsy and started running around the store.  After a few loud rounds of “THWACK!  Mom!  She hit me!”, I made them sit in time out and confined each of them to their own tile square on the floor.  That I hadn’t set them far enough apart soon became evident when their arguing and tattling reached my ears.  And what were they fighting over now?  A piece of tracked in DIRT.  DIRT!  My darling dimpled dears were debating the ownership of a clod of DIRT!

So what role did I discover I was truly filling?

Wild animal handler.  I’m just here to make sure they don’t get loose and annoy the public.  I feed them, clean their cage and try to learn ’em some manners, but mostly, I’m crowd control.

OH, and I used to hear or read the statistics that some parents only spend about 3 minutes of quality time conversing with their children and I’d think “How horrible!  What terrible and selfish parents can’t make time for their kids?!”  THEN I got teenagers and NOW I think, “GOOD GAWD!  3 minutes?!  They deserve an award!  At least a medal for bravery!”

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Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbank

Title:  Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank:  And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom

Author:  Celia Rivenbark

Hardback:  262 pages

Date Published:  September 2006

PublisherSt. Martin’s Press

ISBN:  9780312339937

When my daughter announced her class was taking a field trip, I involuntarily shrieked “No!” but then had to realize that it was doubtful the kindergarten classes were going to prison or the dookie factory.

Indeed, it was the zoo.  This would be safe and fun, I thought.  Animals frolicking – what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, the baboon, who was frankly obsessed with amorous activities that didn’t require a partner.

“What’s he doing?” a few of the kids asked.

My husband, who was the only man who had come along to chaperone, decided he would deal with this question, and deal with it he did.

“That’s just the traditional baboon way of waving hello,” he said, sounding remarkably poised and knowledgeable.

“Oh,” a little boy in the class said.  “Should we wave back?”

“Oh, God no.”

Next up:  the “desert habitat” where an ancient camel proceeded to amuse the children by leaning down to eat his own shit.  Without even moving his legs, the giraffe savored every bite as if it were the Christmas ham.

Oooh, icky gross! I think I’m gonna hurl!

“It’s just nature,” said one of the kids, trying to comfort my husband.

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark, pages 53-54

I first heard about Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark on the April Books Brought Home Library Thing thread (the discussion starts going around message 174).  It created quite a stir, as everyone passed around their “bad parents and monstrous children” horror stories.  With the conversations circulating, as well as it’s hilarious-but-shocking title, I knew I wanted to read this book.  So I clicked on over to BookMooch, entered the title in the search bar, and voila! mooched the only copy available. 

When it arrived in the mail on Saturday, I cracked open the book and just glanced at the title of the first chapter:  There’s Always Tomorrow(land):  “If You Really Loved Me, You’d Buy Me Pal Mickey”.   The chapter’s about Celia planning and taking her family to Disney World.  Before I realized it, I was at the end of the chapter, ripped envelope still in my lap, and bladder barely holding its ground after all the laughter.  The whole book is like that, and you just about have to tear the book from your hands to put it down to make dinner, sleep or even go to the bathroom (okay, I admit it… Celia went there, too).

With the charm of a Southern Belle, and a snarky, sarcastic wit, Miss Celia expresses all that it is to be a mother/wife/career woman/person with the sense God gave a goose in this day and age.  She tells of her experience trying to buy size 7 clothes for her six-year-old, and only finding outfits that’d make a Vegas showgirl feel naked.  Later, she points out that grown women in character-embossed clothes need to grow up, which points out the Topsy-turvy nature of the American culture today:  Children dressing like sexually mature adults and grown-ups dressing like school kids at play.

Each chapter’s title both encompasses its contents, while being surprising and tongue-in-cheek.  A few examples of this are:

  • Yo Yo Yo!  Where Can a Sista Get a Cowgirl Outfit?:  Holidays Make This Mama Wanna Get in Your Grille
  • Weary Mom to Uppity Teens:  At Least I Know Where the Continent of Chile Is
  • Field Trip, Fornification, and a Shit-Eating Giraffe:  Who Says School Can’t Be Fun?
  • Montel’s Smoking Weed:  (But Will He Share With Sylvia the Psychic?)
  • Reality Bites:  Super Skanks Lewinsky and Hilton Are Fun to Watch, but Those 100-Pound Toddlers Rule!
  • The Butcher’s Great, the Baker’s Suffering:  But How Is the Anti-Carb Frenzy Affecting the Candlestick Maker?
  • The Paradoxical Male:  Smart Enough to Find “Me Time,” but Dumb Enough to Get Stuck Buying the Tampons
  • If It Ain’t On eBay, It Ain’t Worth Having:  (Whoa!  Is That Willie Nelson’s Face in Your Grits?)
  • Politicians Serve Up McValues:  (With Extra Cheese on the Side)

Amidst the humor and anecdotes, Rivenbark manages to slip in facts and evidence that support her position, but  you’re too busy laughing and enjoying her company to realize “Hey, there’s serious journalism going on here!”

I enjoyed Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark  immensely, and am going to buy a new copy from Amazon and have it shipped to my mom for Mother’s Day (don’t tell her, or you’ll ruin the surprise!).  All the way through, I could just hear my mom’s voice in Rivenbark, and I know she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.  While the book won’t stay with me as far as remembering specifics, the feeling of fun and laughter will live on, and I’m sure that when I re-read this review a year from now, I’ll remember specifics in the chapters mention, and laugh again.  For the joy it’s given me and will give to my mom and myself in the future, I give Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark 4 iout of 5 Krispy Kreme donuts 😀

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In this video clip, Celia Rivenbark opens up a book signing by reading an anecdote in an email from a friend.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Title:  A Thouensand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books (the Penguin Group)
Publish Date: 2007
ISBN: 9781594489501

…it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant people that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last… This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.

The second novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns is both complimentary and contrasting to The Kite Runner. The first novel, masculine and brutal, while the second feminine with the underlining current of endurance and sacrifice. Both books are about Kabul, Afghanistan, where Hosseini is from, and both books are tales of survival. While The Kite Runner is a book about a family who left Afghanistan after the soviet invasion and takeover, A Thousand Splendid Suns is about a family who stayed in Kabul throughout nearly all the almost thirty years of the city’s turbulence and war. Both have messages of love and sacrifice.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is an emotional story of two women, Mariam and Laila, who are married to a violent and malicious man. Their husband, Rasheed, reminded me of a concept I had read in Harlan Coben’s Hold Tight: Evil people are always evil, and when they are given the approval to be cruel they will do so with great relish. Rasheed had been a wicked, controlling violent man before the Taliban, but with the absolute freedom of men to do whatever they want to their female family members, Rasheed’s true abusive nature becomes his unabashed identity. He can do whatever, whenever, he wants to the women, and no police will save them because it’s a family matter, no court would believe them because he’s a man and they are women, a class of people who are “only slightly less contemptable than a communist.”

…you’ll learn nothing of value in those schools. There is only one… skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school… Only one skill. And it’s this: tahamul. Endure.

This book is a beautiful story of a deep love and companionship of two women, of their ability to endure beyond their imaginations, of survival, and of the ultimate sacrifice love can make: The laying down of one’s life for another. It is the story of redemption and reunion, Mariam’s illegitimate and loveless life being redeem by the love Laila, Aziza, and Zalmai give her and the reunion of the star-crossed lovers.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a visceral account of life in a war zone, the horror, the sounds and the bodies. It is beautiful at times with poetic passages and loving moments between characters, while revealing the life of oppression women were forced to endure during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It is haunting, depressing, joyful, and hopeful.

… like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her.

For me, whenever the events were stamped with the date, winter of 1993, Summer of 1994, Fall of 1999, etc, I thought of what was going on in my life at the same time, birth of my daughters in clean hospitals, having water that poured from my tap, using an indoor flushing toilet and bathroom with a shower. Not to mention I could walk my kids to the park and not worry about them getting killed by sniper fire and taking it for granted my daughter wouldn’t be raped by soldiers passing by. Never once fearing we’d take a trip out of town and returned to find our house now the possession of the government.

Because this book is graphic and shows the reality of war and domestic violence, this book is not for people who are sensitive to such things. There are several passages that will rip your heart out, and several that makes your stomach sink with dread and worry for Mariam and Laila. I am sure there are people who find the story too depressing to finish.

I didn’t think it was possible that I could like this better than The Kite Runner, but I do. The focus on the women, their struggles, their endurance, their support of one another, and their ability to dream and hope for escape and freedom despite all they go through is humbling and encouraging. I feel a sense of kinship to them, a sense of shared suffering and not giving up, fighting back in the face of hopeless odds. It has a softer and steadier voice than The Kite Runner, as if told by a female narrator instead of a man. It is an incredible journey of forgiveness and redemption.