CHANGE IS AS COMFORTABLE AS A CACTUS UP YOUR ASS

I welcome change
I hate change. And yet I crave it. I’m a creature of habit, but I get uncomfortable and frustrated when my life becomes stagnant. Living in the suburbs of Southern California was supposed to be temporary. 2 years—max. Enough time for my ex and I to save up money and move back up north which we both agreed was a much better environment to raise our son.

Welp, 11 years later, things didn’t go quite as planned. The ex and I split and there I was, stuck just trying to keep a roof over my son’s head. I don’t necessarily regret staying in this area for so long, (even though I have nothing but horrendous memories I wish I could lance out of my brain), because I provided stability and a somewhat decent environment for my son for the first 11 years of his life.

But we’ve exhausted our time here, and while I would have loved to give my boy a nice suburban upbringing with extracurricular activities ad nauseam and vacations once a year, I just can’t. So I’ve decided to do the only thing I can think of to bring some free diversity and experience into my child’s sheltered life—move to a big city. Chicago to be exact. Yes, I know it’s freaking cold and windy there. And yes, I know it will be a huge culture shock. My son may hate it. I may hate it. The diva, who doesn’t like weather below 70 degrees, will definitely hate it.

But here’s the logic behind this move: I want my boy to be exposed to different cultures, food, customs, colors of skin, mindsets. If he winds up not being college-bound I want there to be a plethora of other opportunities available to him. I personally want to be able to make more than $12/hr without having to drive an hour. I want to be able to visit the world’s largest aquarium without having to add 3 hours onto the journey for being stuck in LA traffic. I want to be able to walk outside my door and stumble upon a street fair, Farmers Market, musicians. I want various experiences at my fingertips because the truth is I’m dreadfully lazy and unmotivated. And I suck at planning outings. Oh, and I also want to associate with people who speak grammatically correct English, no more “I don’t got no more.” And I really want to live in a place where every other person hasn’t done meth or sold meth.

Basically, I want to be able to grab the boy by the hand sans Xbox controller and say, “Hey, let’s go explore the city and see what we find.”

Am I freaking nuts?

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MY ELECTRONIC BABYSITTER

Jordan's 11 Birthday-2013 003 (This sign does nothing to keep the kids away)

Every summer I write a post about how much summer bites–when you have kids, that is, and no relatives to pawn them off on. My sanity can handle one month of summer vacation—no homework or projects due, no waking up at 7am. Any longer however, and my inadequacies as a mother become blaringly apparent. I don’t like having day-to-day reminders of what a crappy job I’m doing as a mother. It slowly chips away at my already precarious self-esteem.

I haven’t always been a crappy mother. In fact, I was the greatest mother back when my son was a baby. Too bad he’ll never remember all the things I used to do with him. I had more energy, I wasn’t working, he wasn’t talking—all these factors contributed to a much more harmonious relationship between us. We’d go walking with the stroller or baby carrier, play ball or Hot Wheels. I’d hold him in my arms and dance around the living room to Enrique Iglesias. We’d nap together, eat together. Life was so much simpler.

When it came time for me to go back to work, my son went to day care in the summers. $500 a month x 3 months. Well, Mommy works from home now and doesn’t have $500 a month to spend on daycare, so Mommy bought son an Xbox instead. Yes, an electronic babysitter, because all the single moms have one!

I’m well aware that my son’s brain is atrophying, but I’m at a complete loss for alternatives. Most of the kids I know either visit relatives for a while, or the entire family goes on vacation to break up the monotony that excessive summer leisure can bring. Cancel those out for us. My son’s father didn’t even remember to call him on his birthday a few days ago, and the grandma who lives in the same town flaked on his party due to her booming new business, so you can see where their priorities lie.

If I knew how to entertain children for 8-10 hours, I’d be a preschool teacher, instead of a writer. Most writers just want to be alone with their thoughts. Or their Facebook. And while I can take my son swimming and shopping, and to the occasional movie, it’s Just. Not. Enough to fill an entire summer.

Last night I awoke at 4 in the morning to find my son still playing video games. My head almost exploded in disbelief. I stayed awake for 2 more hours trying to decide punishment. Do I take away the Xbox? But that will punish me. How bad do I want to be punished? How bad do I want a paycheck for the work that needs to be done?

Well-meaning folks are so quick to give advice. “Take away all the games,” they say. I’ve done that before, and guess what happens? Every 15 minutes or so, my son wanders in, claiming he’s bored and doesn’t know what to do. Without looking up from the computer screen, I tell him, “Read a book, play with something, wash my car.” He scoffs at those ideas. Because my son is borderline obsessive-compulsive, he’ll continue to interrupt me for hours until I finally lose my temper, then feel guilty and agree to do something with him, which in the end, results in me not getting any work done. So, unless these well-meaning folks plan on paying my bills, they all need to stfu.

The sad thing is my son’s not doing anything different from what I did at his age. I started flying from New York to California to spend summers with my dad when I was 8. He never had a babysitter for me, so while he was away at work all day, I’d watch TV for hours. If you’re in your 40s, you’ll remember shows like Love American Style, Hogan’s Heroes, Love Boat, Fantasy Island. As I got a little older, those shows were replaced with soap operas. Almost 5 straight hours of ABC soap operas a day. Yes, indeed, I was one of the privileged to witness Luke and Laura’s historic wedding on General Hospital.

I’d like to think all that romance watching contributed to my present vocation as a romance writer, but the jury’s still out on that one. The only positive data I’ve read on video-game playing is that it promotes intrinsic motivation, concentration and cognitive effort, and requires a cumulative effort over time to achieve a goal—which could also be loosely translated to mean my son will grow up with the skills to help him be able to score drugs if he wants them, and be successful at doing whatever it takes to continuously score drugs.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to keep a preteen boy busy in this age of technology?

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS I LEARNED FROM MY KID

Sunset
I read a lot of crap about relationships and marriage, even though I’m not in a relationship and I’ve never been married. Human dynamics fascinate me, as do the myriad reasons relationships work or don’t work. I figured because of this, it’s my duty to impart my wisdom (and I always try to be objective and not take sides—except when I’m talking about my exes).

Although I haven’t cohabitated with a man in quite some time, I consider my son to be a little man in training with similar propensities. I’ve had to learn what’s important to him, what he responds to or doesn’t respond to, and I’d like to think all this will help me in future relations with the opposite sex. Mind you, we’re taking food and sex off the table here, because if you were to ask me what men’s 3 top priorities were in life, those two would immediately come to mind. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a third, although it’d probably be a toss-up between money and family.

The following rules are the “little things” that seem important to a man.

1. When he comes home, run to greet him with an effusive hello.

I know a few wives who don’t greet their husbands at the door when they come home from work—either because they’re always in the middle of something or because they’re not touchy-feely women in general. Imo, this makes their husbands feel like they’re not happy to see them after a day of being away. When my son comes home from school, I usually see him walking from the bus before he reaches the front door. This gives me a moment to finish typing a sentence or save a document, get up from my seat and wait for him with open arms. I scream his name, the diva barks uncontrollably—It’s pure chaos and my son loves it. He runs into my arms for about 2.5 seconds before disentangling himself from me. Since he’s admitted he looks forward to this welcome every day, I make sure never to disappoint him.

2. When he’s in a bad mood, leave him alone until he decides to emerge from his shell.

This is hard for me. If I see someone in a bad mood, and especially my son, I want to know what’s wrong RIGHT AWAY. Women may be able to talk about whatever their problem is immediately, but I’ve never met a man who could. Men are like beef stew—it takes awhile for the flavors (issues) to come out. I’m not sure what they’re doing while they’re “stewing”—ruminating, perhaps? Decompressing? In any case, if I push my son to talk about what’s bothering him before he’s ready, he’ll clam up. The few times he’s come home, gone straight into his room and shut the door without saying anything are the times I’ve had to sit on my hands, literally, and give him a few moments to unwind alone. It’s tough, but way better than getting my head bitten off.

3. When he wants to tell you something, stop what you’re doing and listen.

My son’s not a big talker. Except when I’m in the middle of very important work or it’s late at night—my least favorite times to chat. Any other time I get one-word answers to my questions, but it’s when he’s in the mood to talk is when I get truly significant information, like what happened on the playground, which girl likes him, and what he wants to do when he grows up (work at GameStop so he can play video games all day). Sure, I could continue staring at the computer screen while he’s divulging deep, dark secrets, or fall asleep, but these times of disclosure are so few and far between that I make the effort to stop what I’m doing and make eye contact. Even if it kills me.

4. Be his biggest cheerleader.

If you’re not, who will be? My son lives to please me. My disapproval crushes his little spirit. Many husbands say they live for their wives’ approval and when they don’t get it, well, they do naughty things in retaliation like cheat and forget your birthday. I’ve been known to take perverse pleasure in playing the devil’s advocate simply because I like to argue, but that never puts me in good favor with a man because then they think I’m against them. Any male, whether they’re 10 or 70 wants to know that the woman who claims to love him most is in his corner. Even when he’s wrong.

5. Be interested in what floats his boat.

Oh, the pure torture when I’m in the car with no place to escape to and my boy’s yapping about the video game, Minecraft. Crap spews from his mouth like, “There were 5 creepers in a hole, so I had to YOLO dive and pull out my sword and then dive into the pit, yelling ‘YOLO!’ to try and kill them.” It would be so easy to tune it out and fantasize about a romance hero instead, but if I don’t show interest in what he’s talking about, he’ll never want to talk to me, ever. Especially when he’s a teenager. Men are the same way. You may not care how the Dow did, or even what the Dow is, but force yourself to listen anyway, because there will always be another woman out there willing to listen about the cam shifter and interrupter your man replaced in the 1988 Olds with the V-6 engine.

Anybody have anything to add to the list?

THE PORN CONVERSATION

naked barbies
When my son got his Xbox for Christmas, it had to be hooked up to our TV in the living room. It was a new flat screen TV, and since my son had one of those crappy, dinosaur TVs in his room, it made perfect sense. For him, not me. I have an open floor plan in my home, which means the TV room is near the dining room is near the kitchen is near the living room, if that makes sense.

The dining room doubles as my “office.” Every day, I get to listen to hyper preteen boys yelling and reveling in the game of Minecraft while I try to get some work done. Normally I pride myself on being able to work through distractions, what with the diva barking all day long at every creature that dares to breathe around her and the parakeets that don’t have a melodic bone in their feathery bodies.

But it eventually got to the point where the words Fuck, Shit, and Bitch being spewed from the mouth of babes was no longer conducive to my romance writing. I couldn’t concentrate anymore, so something drastic had to be done. (Something other than shipping them off to Abu Dhabi, which was my first choice.) Part of the fun of these Xbox games is being able to do multiplayer with split screens. Apparently, one can’t do that on a crappy, archaic TV, which would have been nice to know before moving all the equipment into my son’s room. Son had a fit of course, so singlewritermom had to get a new TV for her spoiled son to ensure her peace-of-mind.

Once the electronic devil was hooked up to my son’s new TV and the boys were ensconced in my son’s bedroom, I breathed a sigh of relief. With the bedroom door shut, their voices were muffled. I didn’t have to listen to the garbage that came out of their mouths any longer. But then I realized I could no longer hear the garbage coming out of their mouths, which meant I no longer knew what they were talking about. Which could be dangerous. There was no monitoring of mouths. And no monitoring of eyes. Which meant…

…the possibilities for porn were endless.

A mother never had to worry about any of this when I was growing up. If someone wanted to watch porn they had to go to a theater with sticky floors in Times Square. Or buy a shoddy VHS tape from a sex shop in Times Square. I didn’t watch my first porn until college, and it was only because my friends thought it’d be a hoot to go to a porn theater in Italy. It was a hoot until this guy plopped himself down in the empty seat next to my friend and started wanking it.

You can access the internet on all game systems if you have Wifi. Internet = Porn. Boys = Porn. My son is still innocent in my eyes, but when my neighbor told me she found out one of my son’s friends had been watching porn on the family’s communal laptop, well, I realized my “innocent” boy could be corrupted by one of his horny friends at any moment.

I know you can put parental controls on these systems, but it would require a boatload of changes to accounts, etc. and I will indeed do it, but for the moment, I had to channel my inner dominatrix and have a porn talk with the boys. (If there’s anything I know about talking to boys, or any males, it is to be brief. The last thing they want to hear is long-winded explanations about why they shouldn’t do something. Get to the point, and quickly.)

“Listen up,” I told them. “If I catch anyone watching porn, you will be in so much trouble my head will explode.”

They looked up at me, wide-eyed and embarrassed that I was even having a conversation with them about porn.

“You will never be allowed inside this house again.” I turned to my son. “And you, will have your Xbox taken away forever. Understand?”

“Yeah,” they murmured and went back to playing their game.

Just to seal the threat I let them know I could track their every viewing move on my computer, and I threw an extra arched eyebrow at my son’s potential porn-addicted friend.

Would I have had to make this announcement to my daughter (if I had one) and her friends? I think not. The only thing we girls did when we were younger was mash our naked Barbie and Ken dolls together. That’s mild compared to the kink that’s out there today.

NEVER FLICK THE FAMILY JEWELS

Phallic Parsnip

I realize I will probably lose all my male followers after they read this post.

DISCLAIMER ALERT FOR MEN: Reading this post may cause feelings of rage, sorrow, and desire for revenge against the writer. Please do not act on any of them.

I’m usually extremely in tune with the penis. We go waaaay back, you see, from the time I was 8, maybe 9, and me and the boy upstairs took nudie pictures of our privates with my Kodak Instamatic camera. The photos were developed, but there was a note attached to the envelope alerting my mother to “inappropriate content.”

Fast forward 35 years and to more penises than I care to recall. I understand that we women need to treat a penis gently. To listen to men describe their pride and joy though, you’d think one needed to treat it like a premature incubated chick, with a temperature-controlled climate and white kid gloves.

I know it hurts when men get hit there. I’ve seen them doubled over in pain. Girls are usually schooled in the art of handling the package, often from a man himself, and it’s a wonder we’re not frightened to go near it. Such importance, power, and domineering characteristics—we react to it like we do to celebrity lifestyles: we ooh and aah over them, but in reality, we have no concept of what it’s like to have one.

My 10 year old son adores his penis, although he doesn’t worship it yet, if you know what I mean. I try not to make his love of nudity a huge issue because I don’t want to give him a complex, but I will tell him to put the little General away when I’m in his room, hanging out. It’s enough that my son’s friends are always hanging out, I don’t need to see his dangling participle hanging, too.

He told me the other day, “My penis hurts.” The first thing that came to mind was to ask him whether it burned when he peed, except he’s too young for gonorrhea. My words in Prissy’s voice (Scarlett O’Hara’s maid), kept ringing in my ears: “I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout little boys’ penises.” I cursed my son’s father for not being around to discuss these boy things.

I asked my son if it hurt on the inside or the outside.

“All over,” he said.

“Okay, well…uh, have you been, er, maybe, aah, um, touching it too much?”

“No.”

“Did you bang it on something?”

“No.”

“Get hit with a ball?”

“No.”

“No one else has been touching it, have they?” I said, starting to panic. He looked at me like I had just asked him if he wanted a side of broccoli with his birthday cake.

“No!”

I had nothing else. “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I told him.

Because of my thinking of his penis always in the third person, coupled with his constant waving it around like the American flag, I forget how fragile the wee little thing is. A few weeks later, when my son lost at a card game we were playing, he attacked me and all I saw was his crotch heading for my face. I should mention he wasn’t wearing any pants at the time. Or underwear. (Before anyone decides we must live in a freaky clothing-optional home, please know his entire lower half was covered by a blanket the whole time we were playing cards.)

So my son’s crotch was heading toward my face and I did something I have never done to any man or boy. I flicked it. Yes, I flicked his junk. His tenders. His privates. Flick. I immediately realized what I had done, and we both froze and stared at each other for a moment, eyes wide in horror. Then my son’s lip started to quiver, the tears came, and I felt like the worst mommy on the planet.

How could I have done that? The worst possible thing to do to a male and I had done it to my son. I had caused my son pain and he was crying. I felt worse than pond scum. I hugged him, rocked him, begged his forgiveness. I made sure I stressed how wrong I was to have done that, I had violated the unspoken rule between men and women, and I would never, ever do it again. Pinky swear.

I think I need to lay down some rules in my home. My son needs to have his goods covered at all times. I don’t want to see them, and I sure as hell don’t want them coming anywhere near my face. I don’t think that’s too unreasonable, do you?

HELL IF I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN

BOXER

If you’ve read my blog for awhile you know I have to be both mother and father to my 10 year old boy. Often, I have expressed frustration over being at a total loss when it comes to teaching him how to be a man. But there’s no one else around to do the job, so that leaves me. I don’t claim to understand men; if I did, I’d probably be in a healthy relationship right now. Even though I write from my male character’s POV in my romances, who knows whether it’s really accurate? It may be, it may not be—ultimately, it’s a male mindset from a woman’s point of view.

Women are always complaining about how they want their men to be more emotional, more expressive and sensitive. I don’t want that. I’m already that. I sure as hell don’t need two of me blubbering over a romantic comedy. I need a man to be strong mentally, esp. in stressful or dangerous situations, and strong physically, as in they’re able to kick the ass of another man if needed.

I happen to be one of the least warm and fuzzy women on the planet. I don’t like talking about my feelings, and I sure as hell don’t want to discuss my feelings with a man. That’s what I have girlfriends for when I’m so inclined. I don’t need to know how you feel about me or where our relationship (if we have one) is going, because as far as I’m concerned actions speak louder than words. I’ve had boyfriends tell me they loved me while at the same time were screwing other women, so words don’t mean much to me.

Weakness in men makes me emotionally uncomfortable and frustrated. I know that comes across as harsh, but if you have a toothache and you’re writhing about in bed, asking for last rites to be delivered, well, in my eyes, your penis has just gotten smaller by about 3 inches. I’m pretty sure that unapologetic attitude comes from having gone through 16 hours of unanesthetized back labor, getting a cavity filled without Novocaine, and growing up with a mean, nasty father.

How does this all translate to my son? From the time he was little I was the kind of mom who, when he fell down and hurt himself, would coddle him for a few seconds, then send him on his way. (Suck it up, you’re a boy.) I don’t have a hellava lot of sympathy for him when he’s whiny with a head cold, but I’ll happily administer the Motrin and vitamin C. I don’t force him to talk when he doesn’t want to, or demand he give me a proper kiss (he gives me the top of his head to kiss). And from what I’ve seen, most people tend to act the same way with their boys, esp. dads. After all, we gotta teach our boys to be tough, right?

My son is extremely attached to me, definitely a mama’s boy, not real aggressive, slight in body, shy, anxious. These are not traits that bode well for a man, imo. Men should be confident, self-assured, outgoing, bold, shouldn’t they? In the words of my father, my son is “a weenie,” made worse by the fact that I’m a single mom.

I am embarrassed to admit I agreed with my father for a time, if only because I couldn’t get the kid out of my bed until he turned 10. He wasn’t tackling the crap out of others in football, hanging out with a pack of boys on the corner, setting off fireworks, or able to watch scary movies without becoming frightened. How in the world would he ever be able to assimilate into a society where the majority of boys are like this?

I’m reading a book called The Strong Sensitive Boy by Ted Zeff, and I realize now that my son isn’t a weenie, he’s sensitive, and trying to force him to be something he’s not will result in more harm than good. Example: I took my son to see a concert when he was 8. The Black Eyed Peas (who he loved at the time) opened for U2. He wanted to leave after the second U2 song because they were “too loud.” I was so disappointed in him. (It was U2, for God’s sake!) What I didn’t understand at the time was that he’s extremely sensitive to loud noises and I’ll never be able to change that.

It’s a shame that boys growing up in North America have a harder time of it when they’re sensitive, creative introverts—that is, until they grow up to become a famous musician or actor and the world worships them. Telling sensitive boys not to cry or forcing them to do activities they don’t feel comfortable doing will undoubtedly saddle them with huge intensive therapy bills later on in life.

Our western society thinks Bruce Willis in the Die Hard films or James Bond when they think of “real men,” or (shudder) Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t know about you, but I think I need to reevaluate my definition of masculinity. After all, I had to reevaluate my definition of a “real dog.” I wanted a Lab—strong, steady, reliable, but the weight limit in our complex dictated we set our sights more on little runt dogs. Well, that and my son insisting on a Chihuahua after seeing the movie, Beverly Hill Chihuahua. While the Chihuahua we ended up getting is certainly a miserable diva to the tenth degree, I’ve learned to be thankful for what we have, even if I have to grit my teeth the entire time

What’s your definition of masculinity? Do you think perceptions of men are changing?

HE STILL BELIEVES

Easter labor

photo by Dan4th

 

My son still believes in the Easter bunny. And Santa. And the Tooth Fairy. He’s almost 11, so every year I wonder, will this be the year when all his “role models” will be exposed for who they really are?

He came to me the day before Easter and asked, “Mom, are you the one who hides my eggs?” I asked him what he believed. (Always answer a question with a question when you don’t have a good answer.) He thought about it for a moment. “I still believe in the Easter bunny,” he said.

Which meant I had to once again scurry to hide eggs in the dark that night when I walked the diva Chihuahua. Yes, my life would be easier if I didn’t have to pretend to be these larger-than-life figures. I wouldn’t have to sneak around stealthily hiding eggs and candy, or set my alarm to ensure I don’t fall asleep on Christmas eve before putting presents under the tree (one of my worst nightmares), or hold my breath while I rummage under my son’s pillow for his tiny tooth.

The look of sheer joy and delight on my son’s face when he wakes up to discover these surprises makes all the worry and lost sleep worth it. It’s okay that he woke me up at 6:45 on Easter Sunday and dragged me outside into the cold, damp morning to search for eggs with him. Walking behind him down our backyard path, watching him swing his colorful wicker Easter basket in his footie pajamas made me wish he could stay young and innocent forever.

Of course, after he consumed major amounts of chocolate and jellybeans he was so jacked-up and annoying, I couldn’t wait for his grandma to pick him up and take him away for the day. But during that morning hunt, I had as much fun as he did. I rue the day when he discovers Santa, the TF, and the Easter Bunny are just plain, old Mom.

 

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