This post originally appeared on my tumblr site. For the next week (while I sit on my bum and eat Doritos) I will run some of my favorite Mary Tyler Mom posts of yore written before moving to my shiny new digs at ChicagoNow in April 2011. I hope you enjoy them. I think they’re awesome, but only three people read them. Also, this post is best experienced when listened to with a soundtrack.
Mary Tyler Son often comes home from his babysitter with some sort of arts and crafts project he’s done that week. Stickers on colored paper go straight to the recycling bin after I coo over it sufficiently in his presence. Holiday items go into holiday storage to be brought out the following year. The really amazing stuff goes straight to the “gallery” in our kitchen room (a sun room Donna named the “kitchen room” as we eat most of our meals in it) or on the front door. And some of it is amazing. Like this traffic light. It’s recognizable. It’s clear Mary Tyler Son made it and not the babysitter. And it lends itself to a pretty cool mothering methaphor.
We teach our kids that green = go, yellow = slow, and red = stop a/k/a Hell to the No. I love Mary Tyler Son’s traffic light. It was classified as a ‘straight to the front door.’ It makes me happy. And there is not a chance in frozen hell that I would have ever thought to break out the glue and black paint required to make it. Hell to the no. I pick Mary Tyler Son up at the end of my three work days and I embrace that there are benefits for him that I work. He is an adaptable kid, by nature, comfortable in lots of different social situations. He likes being with the other kids and his babysitter. Parenting him has been a joy to date and honestly, pretty easy.
But what’s this I typed about the mothering methaphor? Ah, yes, the mothering methaphor. Art projects with my kids have pretty much been not high on my list of priorities. It shames me to type that, but Mary Tyler Mom is committed to honesty, so there it is. I cringe, more than a little, with the thought of finger painting. And a two year old finger painting? Hell to the no. Not on my watch. Mary Tyler Dad excels at this. And one of my favorite moms excels at this – – I would visit her with my daughter and our two girls would make beautiful and amazing art together and the whole time I would be hyperventilating into my elbow while this favorite mom friend was cool as a cuke with paint on the floor, fridge, easel, hair, clothing, you get the idea. I am simply missing the art at any cost gene. I wish I had it, but I don’t. Hell to the n – o, I don’t have it. And I’m okay with that.
It speaks to the pressure we put on ourselves as mothers — not just working mothers, ALL mothers — that we want to be everything to our kids, for our kids. It ain’t possible, ladies. If we try it, we’ll be miserable, and everyone knows that when mom is miserable, the family thing just doesn’t work like it should. So my advice to us all is to know our goes (green), know our slows (yellow), and know our hell to the nos (red). Here’s mine:
- art projects that involve sticky glue, liquid color, sloshing water, spillage potential, etc.
- clipping finger or toe nails; I’ve not done this once, not ever, for my kids
- playing in the snow or rain
- we’re not there yet, but selling things for fundraisers, like popcorn or gift wrap or crap no one wants, but feels pressured to buy; trust me when I say I will be throwing down $100 per fundraiser to not hit up a single facebook friend or colleague or brother-in-law’s sister to buy something they don’t need or want.
- cooking and baking; Mary Tyler Dad has shown me the light on this one. Whereas I was once fretful over flour and sad about sauce, I strap on an apron, hoist my kid into the learning tower and get busy. I love it now, though clean as we go
- taking Mary Tyler Son to the dentist. Personally, I haven’t been to one since I broke a tooth eating a peanut MandM in 2004. I haven’t chewed on the left side of my mouth since 2004 either. You may think I jest or embellish, but you would be wrong. Dentists freak the freak out of me. And yet, somehow, I bring my boy to the dentist, lean back in the chair with him on top of me, and let those sadists have their way with his mouth.
- letting two year old Mary Tyler Son walk on city streets without being chained to me; I trust him in the urban environment. I trust that when he gets close to the curb he stops. I see you, disapproving parent in front of the Old Town School, working hard to stop yourself from leaping forward as Jay nears that curb. I got it. He knows and I know that he is trusted, We’re cool, move along.
- dance parties at The Candy Bar, or as most folks call it, the kitchen. I like music and I like to dance. I teach my kids to do the same. Dancing in a club is fun, loud music is fun, Stevie Wonder singing about Superstitions is fun. We dance a lot at our house.
- discipline. Super Nanny taught me everything I know. No joke. I love and respect this woman. I grieve that her last show aired tonight. I mean, how on earth am I going to handle the next stage of parenting without her showing me what to do on a weekly basis? What were we talking about? Oh yeah, discipline. Kids need it even if they don’t want it. My kids know the terms “non-negotiable,” “unacceptable behavior,” and “time out” from the age of two. And with Donna reaching four and Mary Tyler Son at two, I can count the tantrums they’ve had on one hand. Actually one finger. (NOTE: This was written 6+ months ago. I can definitely no longer count tantrums on one finger, one hand, or all extremities combined. Wow. Toddlers without cancer can be real pills.)
- the extra toy, cookie, desired thing of the moment. I try not to abuse this, but with the knowledge Mary Tyler Dad and I share, that kids die, and there is not a damn thing you can do about it, dessert every night and an extra hot wheel is not going to hurt. I indulge knowing that with the indulgence comes the responsibility to teach and appreciate and savor.
So there’s my goes, my slows and my hell to the nos. And somehow, I hope, I’ve deepened the significance of toddler art. Hats off to all the parents out there who mix it up with their little ones with the glue and the glitter and the dripping color on the new berber. For me it will always be a hell to the no. And that’s okay.