Most of us know that NSFW means “Not Safe For Work.” We know to interpret that to mean that the material following includes some mature content that you wouldn’t want on your computer screen when your boss passes by. We also know it means that what follows has the potential to be lewd, offensive, or crass. You know who might not know that? People who retired long before the Internet came along and reduced office productivity by 87%. People like the lovely folks I call mom, aunt, or uncle. People who should probably just stop reading now.
Seriously, I’d say we should invent a new acronym, NSFFOAOG: Not Safe For Family Of An Older Generation, but I’m pretty sure they would see that and just assume anyone using it was another illiterate victim of the Whole Language movement of the 80s. Alas. The bottom line is, you have to spell it out for them phonics style. If you were born before the Truman administration, STOP READING THIS NOW! Seriously Aunt Cathy, just stop.
You see, today’s Mama Makes You Feel Better came to me with a little message that said, “I hope this doesn’t offend you.” Offend me it did not. I LOVED it! If my thighs looked this cute, I’d have done it myself long ago. I’m pretty sure that every single mom and dad with a kid under 8 at home (please tell me this stops when they’re 8) can relate to this picture.
Today, Mama is making you feel better because you, my friend, are NOT the only one who has company every time you need to use the facilities. Every. Single. Time. You are not the only ones whose children take your entrance into the bathroom as a sign that you want a hug or to hear a lengthy recap of the latest episode of Sofia the First. You are not alone. Literally.
Because Daddy’s drink wine, too. There’s been some talk about sexism on here recently, and it occurred to us that dads need to be represented more frequently on this page. Good dads put their fair share of work into child rearing, which means they’re enjoying some of the good stuff along with us. And by good stuff, I mean booze.
Our inaugural featured daddy is home only twice a week for dinner. On this night, he and his wife planned to have a really nice steak dinner… their girls had other plans. They both abandoned their dinners, climbed on top of Daddy and polished off everything on his plate. Thankfully, there was one thing they couldn’t get a hold of – Daddy’s wine.
There has been a lot of hype lately about the sexism in the reporting of the Olympics. Obviously these people have never sat in a room with my mother while watching the Games.
While at her house watching the women’s team all-around gymnastics competition, I couldn’t help but find a certain theme to my mother’s commentary. Allow me to share with you some of her direct quotes: “She has a very Russian face; what a beautiful girl.” “Why does she have to wear all of that glitter around her eyes?” “My God, doesn’t she have the most flawless skin?” “Did you see the bodies on those female swimmers the other night? Their shoulders are just enormous.” Comparatively, she makes Dan Hicks sound like Gloria Steinem. When I brought my mom’s comments to her attention, she argued, “They’re all amazing athletes. I mean, can you critique their athletic prowess at all? It all looks incredible; this is all I have the ability to comment on.” She had a point.
A Spectator Sport
Sure, when a gymnast makes a critical mistake, I can see it. However, when an athlete has completed a superhuman feat on a four-inch beam and a judge has found ways to knock three tenths of a point from her, I’m thinking, “Damn, what did she do wrong? I wonder how she gets her smoky eye makeup to stay put through all of that sweat when my eyeliner smudges after I so much as sneeze.” I can’t help it that my thoughts immediately go to such a superficial place, but do they make me an anti-feminist sexist?
I did a little soul searching and made it a point to be mindful of my thoughts while watching male events. Was I solely focused on their athletic abilities and determined minds? Was I in awe of their training schedule and dedication to their sport? In other words, did I root for them for the very reasons that they are competing in the Games? In a word: no.
I found that I watch the men with the same exact critical eye. I am simultaneously intrigued and disturbed with the length of Michael Phelps’s arms, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has serious opinions about Ryan Lochte’s hair (not a fan). Furthermore, do you think I wanted Nathan Adrian to win because I have a deep respect for this training ethic? Hell no! I cheered for him because his goddamn smile makes me weak in the knees. I immediately felt better knowing that I am not sexist. I’m an equal opportunity, superficial, social commentator.
The Human Touch
NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller was criticized for commenting that women watch the Olympics because of the reality television aspect of it, and Lord help me, the Olympics have shown me that this woman certainly does. I love the Olympics because it’s all one big human interest story. I route for the athletes whose stories are told, ones who’ve overcome extraordinary obstacles or demonstrate the character of a person I want as a role model for my daughters. Does the fact that I watch the Games just as Miller described mean I am not a feminist? I’d argue it means I am.
Athletes like Kathleen Baker, who has overcome Crohn’s disease, amaze me. I cried along with Simone Manuel as she made history as the first African-American woman to win an individual medal in Olympic swimming. I root for Aly Raisman, not just because she is so skilled on the beam, but because she is the embodiment of sportsmanship, always cheering on her teammates. Not to mention, I could spend everyday of the rest of my life watching her parents watching her perform.
I demand the same from the male athletes. I thought Michael Phelps’s angry pre-swim face was funny, but I prefer Michael hugging his family in the stands. I fell in love with Ryan Held when he cried on the medal platform and I was rooting for Conor Dwyer because his family just seemed so sweet and supportive. You see, whether male or female, I want to connect with the athletes I am cheering for. I demand they are all-around good people. I want my children to see that, regardless of gender, talent or accomplishment, what matters most is what kind of people we are and how we treat those around us.
Like a Mother
The role models aren’t just limited to my children. There has been criticism of how competitor moms are being portrayed by the media, but I can’t help but feel more in awe of these women because they are mothers. One article wrote about the coverage of Olympic medalist Dana Vollmer, arguing that the constant mention of her new motherhood “implies that women who have children are then incapable of all the things they did before giving birth.” Maybe because we kind of are…to an extent.
After my first baby I was basically incapable of bathing on the regular let alone training for the Olympic Games. The fact that this woman was able to keep her body in peak physical shape throughout 9 months of pregnancy, recover from childbirth, postpartum everything, and train hard enough to participate and excel in the Olympic Games sure as hell seems newsworthy to me. No one questioned Michael Phelps’s ability to perform when he had a three-month old because Michael Phelps didn’t carry or deliver his son. (I’m actually super impressed that his wife was able to travel to Brazil with her three-month old, as I’m fairly certain I was still up all night crying with my first baby at that point.)
Bringing up Vollmer’s baby is not sexist, it goes to show the world that she is a freaking superwoman. I could hardly write a coherent sentence or walk a mile after I had a baby, and this woman has the passion, drive, and dedication to be an Olympian? If that doesn’t make you want to start belting out, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” I don’t know what will.
The Olympics are a time for nations to unite in the spirit of competition and friendship, a time for us to celebrate the human spirit and watch in awe as athletes perform seemingly impossible tasks. In the midst of it all, our commentators are faced with the not-quite as difficult task of instantly finding the right words to say, during some of television’s most dramatic moments. Plus, maybe they’re just trying to give superficial, reality-loving moms like me and my mother exactly what they want. So, let’s just cut them a little slack.
Because bedtime is going to be super easy after each of her children has had a liter of Shirley Temple. Mama’s also trying to figure out what she ever did to the kind bartender at a neighborhood restaurant who is clearly trying to exact revenge on her.
Because you can feel grateful today that your husband does not own three fog machines. Three. I’m sure even if he has one, he doesn’t decide to “try it out” on a Thursday morning. He was willing to compromise and do it on the front porch. Our porch, however, is enclosed. If you’ll excuse me, Mama is going to go check to see if Amazon sells children’s nebulizers.
This morning I woke up in a panic. On summer days, I allow my children to be my alarm clock. Today, I woke up with a start, realizing that the amount of sunshine gleaming through my bedroom window was far too powerful for 7a.m. I turned, expecting to see my husband missing, in my sleepy haze wondering if he’d gotten up with the kids and was letting me sleep in. But there he was, tucked under the covers, snoring gently. A glance at the clock informed me that it was 8:45, and that was when the panic truly set in.
I don’t have a newborn if that’s what you’re thinking. The days of waking up, terrified that something was wrong because your infant was actually sleeping are long gone. No, I was sitting in bed, full of anxiety, because I was afraid that my daughters, aged three and six, would miss our scheduled summer activities. The ones scheduled by me.
I have the summers off and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my children, a luxury I know other parents long for. I do not send them to camp because, in the springtime – when camps begin filling up – I am swamped at work, missing them dearly, and fantasizing about our long, glorious summer days together. Come August, when I have broken up roughly 89 sibling squabbles and waded in the suspiciously warm local kiddie pool a dozen times, I am regretting that decision just a little bit.
By week one of summer vacation, I felt that the only solution to my children’s wild behavior and my boredom was a strict adherence to a schedule of my own creation. If my children were entertained for every minute of the day, not only would we be making memories for them to reminisce about for years to come, but their lack of boredom would mean there would be no reason for them to lash out at me or each other. That sounds pretty Type A of me. I assure you, I am what most people would consider a Type J. Which is why this didn’t quite work out.
Each day would revolve around one or two “events,” like a visit to a museum, a local water park, or an art room. All meals and snacks would be systematically scheduled around said event, and would be mini-events in their own rites. Downtime? Also scheduled. The iPad and television would be used at certain times of the day (like when Mama was making meals or trying to take deep breaths in a corner somewhere). My children would have a routine and we would be a happier family because of it…is what I thought.
Instead, this schedule created a morning of mayhem. Every morning began with a hurried breakfast, angst over what to wear (my three-year-old never wants what I have picked out and my 6-year-old is constantly asking to wear seasonally inappropriate attire, like a long-sleeved velvet dress on a 90-degree day). Then there came the point in the morning where I start shouting, “We are not leaving this house until your hair is brushed!” while one of the girls attempts to slyly stick the hairbrush under a couch cushion.
On average, it takes us an hour and a half to get ourselves ready for the day’s “event.” This means that lunchtime is often delayed, causing everyone’s blood sugar to drop to level “cantankerous.” By 3 p.m. everyone is angry with each other and I begin counting down the seconds (hours) until it is socially acceptable to start drinking wine and for my husband to arrive home from work.
On this particular morning, a dollar showing of Minions was on our agenda. Showtime was at 10 a.m. which meant we had about 40 minutes to get out of the house in order to get there in time. I had a choice: have an even more harried morning than typical so that the rest of our day could go as planned, or just throw the schedule out the window and let the morning play itself out. I reluctantly chose the latter, preparing myself for countless cries of “She’s copying me” and laments about boredom. What I got surprised me.
Going with the flow, when my older daughter asked if she could make everyone breakfast, I obliged. She was soon happily filling up bowls with yogurt and granola, something I never would have allowed her to do if I was worried about getting to one of our events on time. She happily talked herself through the process as if she were hosting a cooking program and beamed with pride as we all gobbled it up. The girls then asked if they could put on some make-up and I obliged, with the condition that they had to ask before they put on each new product – I’ve learned my lesson. They even put on their own tunes.
When the inevitable squabble occurred (One unstructured morning helped our overall morale – it didn’t make us the Von Trapps), it was resolved in less than 5 minutes. Why? Because no one’s patience had been tested. I’d spent my morning sipping earl grey tea – finishing both cups while they were still warm. My children were still in their pajamas, their hair in messy pony tails leftover from the day before. With no one agitated after a chaotic morning, I could react calmly and rationally, choosing to listen to my daughters rather than immediately scolding them. They, in turn, were able to listen to each other and come to an agreement. And okay, fine, for purposes of full disclosure, it also helped that the iPad they were fighting over died while we were reaching a resolution.
The afternoon led us outside where the girls snipped kale from our garden and I picked some zucchini to bake with. When I realized we were out of chocolate chips, we slipped on our shoes and took a stroll down the street to get some from the local convenient store. With the oven on, everyone was getting hot, and when the girls asked if we could head to the pool, I was relaxed enough to actually want to go myself. Two hours later, we came home, put some clothes on over our chlorine-soaked bodies, and when my husband arrived home, went over to my in-laws house for a lovely birthday dinner for my mother-in-law.
When we put the kids to bed that night, everyone was worn out. The kids fell asleep within minutes of putting their heads on their pillows and I was right behind them. Laying in bed, I wondered why everyone was so tuckered out after doing nothing. That’s when I realized that doing nothing was our event of the day. Doing nothing meant putting on pink eye shadow and eating chocolate chips out of the bag. It meant diving for sinking toys in a pool while your mom chatted with friends. Doing nothing was playing a harmonica at the dinner table and eating home-baked blueberry pie. As I dozed off, I realized that, sometimes, the “event” is letting our day reveal itself to us.
Make no mistake, this does not mean that there will be no more events planned for this summer, but that we need to schedule in some time to breathe. Let’s be honest, if we let the day reveal itself to us five days a week, I’m fairly sure our next “event” would be a trip to the pharmacy to pick up a king-sized bottle of Xanax for Mama.