Her Bad Mother

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Taggy Taggerson and The Tagbots

Tagged, by Mrs. Chicky. Everyone else is doing it, right? (But if everyone else was jumping off of a bridge, sweetie...?) Must conform!

So. Six sorta weird, but completely random and mostly uninteresting things about me:

1) I was often told, when I was young, that I looked like Dana Plato. You know, that chick from Diff’rent Strokes who ended up a gun-toting drug addict? And died? That one. The resemblance stopped being interesting ‘round about the time she robbed the video store at gunpoint. But I hung onto those bangs for a long time.

2) I make up voices for my cats and have long, intense conversations with them about philosophy, rap music and reality TV shows, in which I use my own voice and then articulate their responses in the made-up voices. This has trailed off somewhat since the birth of WonderBaby, who is a more active conversational partner.

3) Oh, hey, funny story: I was once held against my will for two weeks on a Greek island by a weirdo who claimed to be in love with me. It ended when I was able to pick a lock to get into a room with a telephone and call my parents, who contacted the Greek authorities and Interpol. Then I escaped out a window, fled to safe-housing arranged by Interpol and was later smuggled onto a ferry in the middle of the night. I am not making this up.

4) I lived in Spain from the time I was 19 until I was 21, having bailed on University to become an autodidact and write the Great Canadian Novel (which, as it happened, I had no interest in writing in Canada.) I sat around parks and smoky bars in Barcelona writing angsty crap about how my Spanish boyfriend was a cheating liar, but gave that up after a while to become a triple-threat performer (Sing! Dance! Act!) in a touring bilingual musical theater troupe. I’m not making this up, either.

5) I have never actually broken up with a boyfriend. I ended relationships, but always did so passively-aggressively, by compelling them to break up with me (techniques ranged from the classic ‘distancing’ move – never returning phone calls – to arranging for them to be seduced while drunk by a slutty friend so that I could later have an outraged freak-out about their indiscretion and never see them again. Yes, I really did that.)

6) That cycle of evil ended - as did the more troubling cycle of evil that was my predilection for angsty writing – when I was barely into my twenties, around the time that I returned to Canada from Spain and met the future Bad Father. We met young and married young - does that count as weird? - and I am beyond grateful to God/the gods/Fortuna for having arranged that I grow up, into adulthood, with the most wonderful man in the world. Which reminds me…

The best, not-so-weird thing?

I have only been, and will only be, in love once. The day that I met the future Bad Father, I fell in love for the first and last time. And? Out of that love came WonderBaby. So…

7) I’m blessed.

(Or, to put it differently? Things turned out a hell of a lot better for me than they did for Dana Plato.)

So, I must now tag 6 unsuspecting bloggers.... hmm.... some of you have probably been tagged already, but what the hell...

1.) Jezer (Again! Because I know you love it! And we gotta keep the Jezer posts comin'!)
2.) Kristen
3.) Redneck Mommy
4.) chichimama
5.) kittenpie
6.) Sherry
7.) Urban Mommy (I know, your hands are full of newborn goodness, but ya gotta post something fun before you get down to sharing the grim details of the Mother of all Bad Weekends.)

If you're reading this, and I haven't tagged you, and you haven't been tagged yet by someone else, consider yourself tagged. But note well: if you choose to accept this mission, the RULES, below, apply to you.

So, yeah, rules. 'Cause you know that you're not really having fun until someone busts out some RULES:

1.) Tell us six weird things about yourself. (I broke this rule. Why? Because it's my blog and sometimes I like to go a little W.I.L.D. here.)
2.) Come back here and let me know when you've completed the tag so that I can come over and giggle/chortle/comment/etc.
3.) Tag 6 more bloggers. (OK, I broke this rule, too. I got carried away. It's tag, dudes!)
4.) Let those people know that you've tagged them.

I think that's it. I'm gonna go try to get drunk now. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Bad Mother

'What kind of mother are you?' is a fascinating, if totally loaded, question. I'm just starting out with this whole mothering thing, so I'm still really trying to find myself as a mother. The question that I've been more likely to ask myself, then, has been 'what kind of mother will I be?' And more specifically: 'will I be a mother like my own mother?'

I want to preface this by saying that I love my mother to the ends of the earth and beyond. We're the best of friends. And I’m pretty happy with how I turned out. I had a very happy childhood, and consider myself to be a relatively well-adjusted adult with no significant psychological glitches and no major character failings. I really wouldn't change anything about how I was brought up.

(Love you, Mom!)

That said, my mother was, for much of my childhood (and, it must be said, parts of my adulthood), pretty hell-bent on messing me up in the greater service of controlling me and amusing herself. My mother was the Original Bad Mother, originator of the art of bad motherhood in its most efficient and ruthless form. Her methods were unconventional, but they were effective. Oh, were they effective.

The big guns in her child-rearing arsenal:

Guilt. As in, “I’m so disappointed in you, Sweetie.” Or, “I expected more of you.” Prefaced by deep sigh. Followed by sagging of shoulders and slow shaking of head and silent transmission of the following message: you, my only light and hope, have broken my heart. At which point I would scramble madly to get my room tidy or boost that B+ to an A or rinse my dinner plate or floss or just fix whatever it was that I had done to break my poor mother’s heart. Brutal. She wonders now why it was that I was such a fastidious, obedient anal child.

Yeah, Mom. I wonder.

Humiliation. Was I refusing to get out of bed in time to catch the schoolbus? No problem - Mom would drive me to school! But she’d roll the convertible top down (in dead of winter), don a parka, driving goggles and a riding helmet and drive me right up to the grade-school playground area, honk the horn, and yell ‘WE’RE HERE SWEETIE! SAY HELLO TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS!’ I only missed the bus once in my entire school career.

And I'm not even going to go into the detail on the 'DO YOU LIKE THAT BOY?' moments, the many occasions of surprising me in the bathroom with a camera to up her stock of humilating photographs ('TO SHOW YOUR BOYFRIENDS'), the time she turned up in my seventh-grade classroom dressed up as a clown and planted big clown kisses on me... Let's just say that she was known (and universally adored, to my great frustration) among my peers and throughout our neighborhood and very possibly beyond the neighborhood as Cathy's Crazy Mom.

And yes, she always spoke, in such moments, in full caps. It's not really humiliation if every single one of your kid's peers and anyone else who might turn to look can't hear you.

Am I oppressing this child by turning her into an Object of Amusement? Or am I liberating her inner House Party?

Deception. My mother would tell me anything that she thought a) might control my behaviour, and/or b) give her a laugh. By the time I was five, I believed, among other things: that the bottom of my tongue would turn black if I lied; that there was a monster living in my parents’ bedroom closet; that the signs on the highway that said “Watch for Falling Rock” referred to a lost Native American boy who had wandered away from his parents; that I had been found in a cabbage patch and could be sent back there; that if I stuck my finger in my navel my bum would fall off.

Accordingly, I never lied, I never went near my parents’ bedroom closet, I never left my parents’ side when we were out, I refused to eat cabbage and I never, ever touched my belly button.

Distraction. My mother has worn dentures for as long as I can remember (the result of an accident when she was young). And my mother has loved her dentures for as long as I can remember. Why? Because there is no more effective means of stopping a child mid-tantrum than taking out one’s teeth, crossing one’s eyes and going ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.’ This action is even more effective when performed in grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, doctor’s offices or any other public space. (See #2, Humiliation, above.) It is devastating to teenagers.

And just for fun? You can perform this stunt during your child's birthday parties, even when there's no tantrum to stop. Just for fun. And? It's even better if it's your child's 16th birthday party. Brings the house down. Kid won't speak to you for a week, but still. Good times!

This is so not how the story ended for me that day.

So. Did the exercise of these Extreme Parenting tactics mess me up? Absolutely. But did they work? Abso-f***ing-lutely.

I had my troubled teen periods (there was, for example, a Goth phase that freaked both of my parents out: nothing like listening to bands called Skinny Puppy and wearing a rosary as jewellry to freak out Catholic parents) but these were pretty mild - I mostly rebelled by sulking and shunning team sports in favor of Art and Poetry and Obscure Music and by just generally wearing my angst on my sleeve. I saved the Girls Gone Wild behaviour for after I left home, and even then, it was always pretty tame. More along the lines of Girl's Gone A Little Wacky and Is Maybe Getting Drunk On Weekends But Always Feeling Guilty About It Afterward.

(Okay, so the two years in Europe saw some extreme clubbing and a few embarassing Eurotrash club outfits and maybe passing out on the beach on the Costa Brava a few times. But I remained the kind of geek who would usually end up at a museum or art gallery the next day, nursing my hangover in front of Atomic Leda, clutching a dog-eared copy of Simone de Beauvoir's L'Invitée and recording Deep Thoughts in my journal.)

(FYI? The Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain, is the singularly best museum in which to nurse a hangover. Brilliantly askew, such that you are entirely comfortable in your own teetering, head-throbbing skewedness.)

Which is to say - I never had a close relationship with Trouble. I had to work hard just to flirt with Trouble. And if I did end up playing footsie with Trouble? I would usually run off shrieking in the opposite direction. Say it with me: Good Girl.

(For The Record: this is not to say that I was an angel. I very definitely dappled in the arts of bitchery and passive-aggressive psychological warfare. I just never got my hands dirty. And I always - OK, mostly - felt badly about it.)

I want WonderBaby to be a Good Girl - that is, my kind of Good Girl, one who knows when one can or must be bad, even as her mother's voice urgently whispers don't do it - as she sets out on her way to conquer the universe. There's much more that I can - and certainly will, in some later post - say about that, but for now this one statement suffices: I want her to be Good. Not pathologically good, obviously (see past discussions about vulvaphobia) but good enough that she is concerned to avoid, so far as is reasonably possible, being unnecessarily bad. (Could I be more ambivalent about the good/bad nexus here? I've studied Machiavelli and Nietzsche for too long to be unreserved in my praise for goodness.)

Aaaanyway. My mother's techniques were pretty effective in securing the end of Good Daughter. Now, however, I am Her Bad Mother. Do I fully embrace this, and use my mother's techniques on my own daughter, in some form or another?

Ah, there’s the question. I know that I do want to give my daughter many of the things that my mother (and father, who was not so extreme, tho' he could hold his own) gave me: a sense of wonder, a good heart, an experience of faith, a sense of humour. And these gifts, I think, were absolutely bound up in what I've been referring to as her extreme parenting tactics. So I'm inclined to think that if I do become the kind of mother that my mother was - and it looks like I'm well on my way there - that that might be a pretty good thing.

But whatever the case, I’m not sacrificing the teeth.

(Future) Bad Mother, Bad Grandma and Bad Niece, BWB (Before WonderBaby). You think I'm kidding on the BAD? Ha.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday Miscellany - now with more linking action!

I might have saved some of this for WTF Wednesdays (a segment that I have yet to introduce to this site) but that I really needed some totally Lite AM Radio blogging today. To, you know, shake off all of the cringingly earnest NPR/Our Bodies Ourselves blogging of late last week.

So, then: the news from WonderBaby Headquarters (and beyond!)...

1) Guns don't kill people; Teletubbies kill people.

The Teletubbies, apparently, are falling back into their lives of crime. Six years after having caused some scandal by threatening children with gun violence, they're back at it. That is, at least, Tinky Winky is: it was reported late last week that he informed a little Massachusetts boy that he was carrying a gun and not afraid to use it.

But maybe we need to cut Tinky some slack: after all, he is a member of an Oppressed Minority (gay handbag-toting plush toys) and has been the victim of public hate crimes and so it must be expected that he might act out occasionally. Perhaps the kid called him a fag? Kids can be mean. Maybe Tinky was just defending himself.

Then again, as the denizens of WonderBaby Headquarters well know, toys can be rough, tough and of dubious moral character. And so we were not surprised to learn that the Teletubbies deal in more than just guns. These guys put Tony Soprano to shame. Teletubbie Land is clearly the gateway to a vast criminal underworld.

Consider yourself warned.

2. If I could just get the Fed-Ex guys to take the package...

... Kristen could be one happy girl. Clive Owen is within rock-chucking distance of my back patio* as we speak (a benefit or drawback of urban living, depending on how you look at it, is the proliferation of film sets), and if I could get my aim right, I could probably bean him. Then, after he tumbles into my backyard, I could wrap up his crumpled body and send it to Kristen in Mississipi and she could do whatever she needed to do with him to get past her dry spell. But I don't know that he'd get past customs.

(Unless, Kristen, you're not averse to a little lush girly action? 'Cause Monica Belluci is back there, too. And dude? She is smokin'. All the Angelina goodness with none of the creepy Bradness and holier-than-thou tatted-up do-gooder nonsense.)

*(Alas, no, I am not providing photographic evidence of this. Because there is nothing less cool, nothing less I-am-so-not-from-downtown - aside from socks with sandals, tickets to the Saturday afternoon Mamma Mia matinee, and stacked pleather heels - in the tribe of the Urban Dweller than taking photographs of film sets and celebrities. Because, you know, we are much too cool to care. Unless they do something really lame.)

(I will, however, post a picture of the lazy-assed production assistant who is currently napping on the wall at the far end of our backyard. Because taking photos of random stupid people and posting them to the Internet is not uncool. Mean, maybe, and possibly illegal. But not uncool!)

3. Why not keep Clive Owen for myself?

Because, although cute, not my type. And, because yesterday Husband and I moved our mattress back into our bedroom from the nursery and reclaimed the bedroom for ourselves, thereby putting an end to the adolescent sneaking-around that was coming to define the making-out part of our relationship. Which, okay, had its own appeal, I'll admit, but still. Inconvenient. I'll say no more.

4. Do they make these in adult sizes?

WonderBaby's got a new piece of exercise equipment:

There's something a little bit Red Shoes/They Shoot Horses, Don't They? about the whole thing - dance, WonderBaby, dance! Until you can dance no more! - but she loves it. And it's cute. And? Tires her out.

That's gold 'round these here parts. 'Cause the whole sleep-transition thing - out of bassinet into crib; out of swaddle into freestyle sleeping; Bad Parents out of nursery - hasn't been fully sorted out yet. Baby's doing pretty well at night - going down fairly easily, only waking once to nurse - but this has been at the expense of the daytime naps. Which, with an off-the-growth-charts, squirmy Baby who is intent upon putting her plans for world domination into play now, is exhausting. But if she gets a good workout, a good meal, a good snuggle, and then is put down in her carseat, she'll stay down for at least 2 of her 3 daily naps.

And if making her dance 'til she drops helps that cause along, then I'm all for it. What can I say? I'm a Bad Mother.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner