Thanks for the memories

A bit more than eight years ago, CareerMom and I bought this crib. We went to Toys-R-Us, Babies-R-Us and every other R-Us derivative you can imagine. I think we ended up about 15 miles north of our house in some suburb of the suburbs, in a no-name strip mall containing a high-end baby store.

And thus the Bonavita “Carla” crib came into our home.

Two weeks ago, I dismantled it. Eight years and three kids later it’s finally done. And other than some dried, crusty milk between the vertical slats, it’s in pristine condition. None of my kids “teethed” on the rails. It’s bittersweet letting it go, but it was time Baby-Girl got her own big-girl bed.

Government safety laws prohibit the donation of cribs manufactured prior to 2010 due to some issue with drop-sides on pre-2010 cribs and even though ours doesn’t have a drop-side, we still can’t donate it. Which is a shame. You spend $1200 on a crib, you want to see it not end up in a dumpster somewhere. But I think we have a taker for it (for free). Hope it goes to another good home.

The Way Things (Feel Like) They Aught to Be

Jason Bateman Jerry Clower was one of the great old storytelling comedians of all time. When I was a boy and when it was rainy or cold outside, I used to play his records on my little pressed cardboard-boxed record player and on cue, I could recite just about any of the dozens of stories Jerry told.

Each of Jerry’s jokes was actually a story from something that happened to him when he was a kid, which led up to a final comedic ending, and his stories were full of old southern references and “isms” that you just don’t find today. One memorable story from his latter years involved a conversation he had with another man who asked Jerry, “Jerry, do you think kids today are better, or worse than they were when you were young?

Jerry’s response meandered around for a few minutes until finally coming around to the punchline, which used his own son as a reference, “If I’d’a had me one of those…Chrysler Lebaron convertibles when I was his age, not only would I have stole those watermelons, but sir, I woulda gotten away with it too!”

Guess you kinda had to be there…

But times have changed. For instance, you just didn’t NOT call a man “Sir” and a woman “Ma’am” where I grew up. Not doing so was likely to get you in suspension at school, a stern looking at in church, or a raised eyebrow and a dirty look from a parent. You just said “Sir” and “Ma’am” and that was that. As a parent now, I’ve struggled with this with my own kids, because while I’d like for them to say “Sir” and “Ma’am” to other people, I’m not sure I’m ready to be called “Sir” yet to my face, AND I know that there is a relationship divide that occurs between a parent and a child when the child is forced to call his dad sir. I certainly felt it with my dad, and I don’t really want that between my sons and me. So, I’m torn.

Little cathartic moments in life happen, but like most things that grab your attention, it’s when a pattern emerges that you really stop and take notice.
Pattern instance #1:  Recently, a cute little thing at my kids’ daycare called me sir. I brushed it off as a fact that I was a parent and she was an attendant and she was being polite.

Pattern instance #2: At the gym this past weekend, I walked over to a lat pulldown machine that was loaded down with weight. There didn’t appear to be anyone using it, but there was this one great big guy sorta strolling around in the general vicinity and to be polite, I asked him if he was using the machine.

“No sir,” he replied, to which I started laughing and said, “Please don’t call me sir.”

Now, he could have said any number of things here that would have ameliorated any potential damaged pride on my part, but he said what was possibly the worst thing he could have said to me.

He said, “Well, I don’t feel there’s enough respect from young people today to people older than them…” he said something else, but my brain froze up at that point.

“…people older than them?” The guy couldn’t have been more than a handful of years younger than me. Or maybe I’m just completely out of touch. Now granted, in gym years, 35 is almost as old as my computer, but still!

Pattern instance #3: I watched “Juno” last night and as I watched one of my 80s actor-hero’s, Jason Bateman, I thought to myself, “That’s how I want to age.” The guy is 39 and though he still looks young-ish, he portrayed his character with a quiet dignity that I found, well…attractive (don’t even say it!).
It occurred to me then that even though I don’t want to feel older, at the same time I know I am getting there and I wish that I had the same sort of dignity that I see in many of the older (and dare I say, more successful) men that I know.

Of course, then Bateman’s character almost made it with a pregnant 16-year old, after which his wife told him to “Grow up.” I was with him up till that point and then I had to just shrug it off.

Anyway, the point is that sometimes I want my cake and I want to eat it to. For instance:

Sometimes, I just want to get out and play a rough game of football with the guys.

I want to forget that I have a responsible job and just skip off somewhere and do something irresponsible (I have no idea what exactly…)

I want to just say, “Hey, screw you, and you, and you, because I’m tired of being the only person who tries to keep in touch with anyone anymore!”

I want to forget that right now, I have water dripping behind my gutters because I can’t seem to find a trustworthy gutter cleaning company that will risk their neck on that really steep patch of roof and I want to forget that it’s probably going to cost me an arm and a leg to fix something that should have been easily avoidable in the first place.

I want to sit down in my comfy chair with an adult beverage in my hand while I read a really good book; not worrying about whether or not I’ll be sober enough to tolerate the kids’ whining when they get home, or heaven forbid, have to suddenly up and drive one of them to the emergency room.

I want to lock myself up in a room, turn up the speakers really loud and play video games all day.

But then, sometimes I want to come home and hug my family and offer up a burnt offering to the “Old God” in thanks that I don’t have to “date” anymore. I want to skip the gym and instead, sit around and embrace the fact that I’m getting older and then I want to actually enjoy eating a decadent piece of pumpkin/pecan pie with Gran Marnier cool whipped topping.

Getting old sucks…and I still have a long way to go. At some point, my mind is going to start throwing punches that my body can’t back up anymore, and then, well, you might as well just shoot me. Cuz I HATE the way I look in fat pants!

No really…I was working late last night Dad!

say noWarning: Herein lies TMI. Tread cautiously.

I have a coupon in my personal e-mail box for 15% off condoms.

Now, you may ask yourself, “What did he sign up for to get on a condom e-mail list?” I don’t subscribe to Playboy magazine if that’s what you’re wondering. No, I actually DID purchase condoms and so, now I’m on every condom and intimacy Web site mailing list, plus a few others that I hadn’t counted on.

But I think it’s funny how easy it is to get condoms now–and anonymously too. I remember buying condoms when I was in high school (see…TMI) and I remember the difficulty in doing so. There were all kinds of unwritten rules to it, such as:

You couldn’t buy them at the local drug store, because there was only one local drug store and inevitably someone you knew was working there and if they were a school acquaintance, you were immediately tagged as either having sex with your girlfriend or cheating on her. Neither rumor being something you necessarily wanted to get out.

Random, out of the way gas stations were good, but the prices were usually so high that you were forced to decide at what price you wanted to be “safe.”

I think there was a school program for condoms, but again, Really? You want to be going into the guidance counselor’s office for condoms, knowingly submitting yourself to the disapproving gaze of someone who considers herself morally superior to every other human being, even though she chain-smoked like a choochoo on her breaks. Not that I’m saying smoking is a “moral” decision, but when you put it together with the empty cardboard boxes of “Absolut” she had beside her desk, you had to figure!

And I happen to know that purchasing condoms today online is way simpler than anything we were forced to do as kids. I mean, I don’t think they even ask your birthday when you purchase them online, so any kid could order them as long as he/she beats mom and dad home and gets to the mail first.

Which makes me wonder which side of this “free condom in schools” issue I stand on. Georgia doesn’t currently have a program like this, but I figure it’s only a matter of time. But regardless, on the one hand, I want to be the one who teaches my boys about sex; and it’s my morality (my ADULT morality, I should clarify)–not the state’s–that I want to instill in them.

On the other hand, I know from personal experience that my lessons and personal attempts at instilling morality in them only go so far. In the end, those teenage hormones will be the ultimate decision-maker in their deciding to have sex at a young age. And since getting condoms isn’t really any kind of barrier like it used to be, I have to wonder which is the lesser of two evils: sex without a condom, or sex with a condom provided by either me (eek!) or through some state institutional program.

Luckily, I have at least 9 years, if you believe the stats about 13-year olds having sex today, before I have to start worrying about it.

Meanwhile, I have this 15% off coupon in my inbox. What the heck? CareerMom doesn’t appear in any hurry to get back on “the pill” and I’m sure as heck in no hurry to have another baby, so…bottom’s up!

(BTW: I’ll be happy to share my coupon with anyone who “needs” them)

Memories of a Gen-Xer

custom van Every generation blames the one before…no wait…that’s a song.

Let’s try again:

About every 20 years, another generation is born. Or at least, that’s been the schedule up until couples decided they were making too much money and having too much fun by themselves to have kids. I guess now, a lot of people are waiting 30-35 years, so maybe the generation schedule is widening.

Anyway, what with my decrepitude rearing its ugly head again, I’ve been thinking more about getting old. But not in a morose kinda way, but more in a kinda, “How things have changed” kinda way. A few days ago, some of my more enlightened readers and I discussed a bit how parenting has changed and while there is fodder there for at least a week’s worth of blogs, I’m gonna give it a break for a bit.

So today, I’m offering my Top Five list of things that have changed since I was a child in the 70s and 80s. If you’d like to play along, feel free to offer up your top picks via a comment.

Here Goes! The TOP FIVE Things that Have Changed Since Gen-Xers were kids!

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5. Water used to cost .0000143 cents per gallon: Do you remember when you could turn on the Slip n’ Slide in the morning and the only thing that got you off the thing in the afternoon was either dinner, or someone sliding into an anthill, or catching a nipple on a hidden rock? These days, water is so scarce here in the Atlanta area that we can’t even wash our cars. I suspect that in certain demographics, this is causing quite a social uproar. I remember when the big thing was washing your car in the afternoon so you could go cruising for doughnuts chics later that night!

4. There are no quotable movies anymore!: Just this morning I heard part of “Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail” on my Sirius radio. It was the bit about burning witches, “…and so, if the witch weighs as much as a duck…then she must be made of wood!” It got me thinking about how movies today, while visually stunning, lack a certain wit that we all grew up with. I mean, how many different quotes can the average Gen-Xer offer from Star Wars, or CaddyShack or any of the National Lampoon series? Nowadays, the best kids can do is offer, “Lucky” (Napoleon Dynamite) or “Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.” (Ok, that one is actually a GREAT movie, but it was really geared more towards us older folk rather than the kids)

3. Cars suck!: On more than one occasion, I’ve lamented the lack of customized vans today! Oh, do you remember those? We had a blue GMC something or other, with a beautiful airbrushed picture of an old sailboat out on the open sea painted on our van. It had a refrigerator, a huge raised bed in the back (it never occurred to me what that was probably used for when I was a kid), and the BEST! captain’s chairs you ever sat in. Oh, and the windows were tinted so dark, that even if they’d had seat belt laws back then, you could have flaunted them while parading around in your skivvies in the back while driving up I-10! Oh, the good old days!

2. Lack of open space: This is one of those things you hear quite frequently from Gen-X’ers; “When we were kids, mom used to kick us outta the house in the morning and we wouldn’t return till dinner time.” And this was when we were like six years old! Nowadays, if a six year old is seen walking around the neighborhood alone, you can count the minutes before Child Services is knocking on doors trying to figure out who to blame. The problem is not that the kids are out without their parents, its that they are out in plain sight! When we left the house, we disappeared man! We hit the woods, or the drainage tunnels, or the big fields with the massive water ditches. You could stand out on our deck and look out over the back of the neighborhood and all you’d see every now and then is a head pop up out of the sand, or a pine-cone bomb being lobbed towards the enemies’ fort!

And the #1 Change is:

1. Weekend activities expectations: Do you remember what you did on an “average” Saturday? I bet it was something like this:

  •  Get up before 8 a.m.
  •  Eat some cereal while watching some cartoons (but not too   many, “We have things to do young man!”)
  • Do chores for the next hour and a half
  • Eat lunch
  • Maybe go grocery shopping with mom, or get some new shoes. Or maybe dad had you hold the flashlight while he worked on the car, or in the attic or something
  • Free play time till dinner
  • Help mom cook dinner (well, I did this anyway)
  • Maybe watch a movie in front of the TV if dad is feeling magnanimous. A Disney special perhaps, or maybe “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” ( sponsored by: Mutual of Omaha, is people…you can count on, when the going’s rough…)
  • Do the dishes
  • Take a bath/ brush your teeth
  • Off to bed

Nowadays, by 7:30 a.m., my kids are asking, “What are we going to do today?”

What are we going to do? I want to say, “We’re going to catch up on all the daddy chores that we didn’t get done this week because we were too busy working in the day, and playing with you kids at night.” But what really happens is that we parents end up dragging our kids from one activity to the next in a vain attempt at wearing their little butts out so they’ll go to bed early, so that we parents can have a few minutes alone that doesn’t cost $15 p/hour in babysitting fees!

So this was probably waaaay too long of a post, but I hope you at least scanned for the good parts. And I’d love to hear your Top 5 or Top 10 changes. It’d be interesting to compare childhoods!