Cheez-It Parenting in an Extreme Parenting World

Help, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and I can’t get out. Worse, I don’t even know if I want to get out which is quite frankly embarrassing because I feel like I’m in the  ”Real Housewives” of rabbit holes. By that I mean I’m staying in it because on some level it makes me feel a smidge superior.

You know just like when you watch an episode of the “Real Housewives of New York” and you think to yourself, “Well, here I am sitting on my sofa stuffing my face with handfuls of Toasty Cheez-Its while trying not to get orange Cheez-It residue on the seven loads of laundry I’m folding and also hoping that I can soon garner the strength to investigate an iffy smell in my  basement. But hey, at least I’ve never done something as vulgar as throw a drink in someone’s face while riding in a limo.”

Drawing me in deeper is that this rabbit hole has some stellar parental humble bragging. Go ahead and judge but I love to witness a good humble brag in all its audacity, shamelessness, and over the top glory.

The rabbit hole also features another one of my favorite things – the know it all parent. This fusion of pomposity teamed with humble bragging is like a value size box of Toasty Cheez-It – I can’t not partake.

Please note this hole I find myself unable/unwilling to extricate myself from I didn’t even seek out. A friend, without my permission mind you, added me to a Facebook group and down, down I went. I’m currently daily gobsmacked by the postings on the “Unofficial University Parent Collective” for my daughter’s college.

To confuse you further I’m a late bloomer to this group. My daughter will be a junior in college and I’ve just been introduced to this gem. I don’t know whether to be sad or glad about that. A part of me is a bit bereft that I spent the last two years without being able to wallow in the wonder of this forum.

The current hot topic is parents asking other parents about what classes and professors their kids should take. The parents in the know are responding with in-depth missives combined with assorted humble brags on their child’s genius by stating that the information that is being offered is based on their kid’s “need for exceptional academic rigor.”

This leaves me with so many questions. Topping the list is are these parents going to class with their adult children because how else could they know so much about the inner workings of a certain professor’s teaching style, homework, grading scale and exam schedule?

To be honest I didn’t know that much about my children’s middle school classes. At some point you have to let the micromanaging go. But the bigger head scratcher is what kid at 18 plus years old would allow his parents that much access into the inner workings of his or her college existence?

Should I be jealous, impressed or mystified? I’m choosing to be mystified because I don’t think I want to live in a world where I know my 20 year old’s homework schedule.

Scenarios like this are what’s keeping me firmly entrenched in the Facebook group. I can’t stop reading the posts. It’s a journey to a land of extreme uber parenting. Meanwhile, I’m the Cheez-It parent just along for the spectacle of it all.

I know I need to stop but someone just posted asking what professors are open to communicating directly with parents and sorry but I’m going back in. I have a feeling some epic humble brag bombs about to be dropped.

Dear Snarky – My Mom Favors and is Enabling Our Older Sister

Dear Snarky,

We’re two sisters who are sick and tired of our mother enabling our oldest sister. We’re both college students that have been working doing instacart during the coronavirus to make extra money. Meanwhile, our oldest sister, who flunked out of school, thinks she is too good to actually work and has been living off of our mom.

We were both amazed when my mom told us our sister got a job. Turns out her job is being part of a pyramid scheme selling make up and my mom gave my sister $500 for her “selling starter kit.”

If this isn’t bad enough my mom told us that we need to buy $200 each worth of product from our sister to help her meet her sales quota. We’ve also been told that we should each host a Zoom cosmetics party for our sister. Really?

How do we get our mom to wake up and quit throwing money away? It’s hurtful that our mom repeatedly seems to favor one daughter more. I think we’re at our breaking point where our relationship with our mom is going to be damaged forever.

Signed, Two Sad Sisters

Dear Sisters,

Let’s start with the bad news first. You can’t control your mom. If she wants to keep on propping up your sister and financially supporting her that’s her business. I’m not making excuses for your mom but sometimes parents will laser focus their attention on the child that is struggling and pretty much throw everything they’ve got to rescue that kid.

The downside is the rest of the family suffers and the struggling child is artificially being bolstered which in most cases doesn’t solve their problems it just postpones them for a little while.

The good news is you both are hardworking college students and I think you need to sit down with your mother and tell her how you feel. You have nothing to lose by being honest and even if your mom continues to have blinders on when it comes to your older sister at least you’ve made your feelings known and that’s important because you’ve empowered yourself.

You also can take a hard pass on buying make up from your sister or hustling your friends to buy makeup. It’s your money, you earned it and it’s yours to decide how to spend it or save it.

This journey your sister is on maybe a long one so you both need to set boundaries with your mother and sister and repeatedly remind yourself  that you have zero control over what both of them do.

I urge you to stay centered on your own goals and not let the current family dynamic drag you down. Put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing which is continuing to work hard and get your degree. Just in case your mom isn’t saying this I will. I’m proud of both of you.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

 

 

 

Do I Suck At Being A Mother? ( Deep Thoughts At the Grocery Store)

I think I may be a bad mother. No, correction I think I may be considered a bad mother if you apply 21st century suburban perimeters to my parenting skills. Okay, I’m going to change that again because this admitting you’re a bad mother thing is hard. I’m a bad mother, but only in regards to the teenage years.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I came to this watershed event of questioning my parenting greatness. It happened at the grocery store. Yeah, the flipping grocery store. There I was trying to decide if I wanted to buy the classic Cheez It or the new Cheez It Bacon and Cheese duo, which is quite the taste sensation, but you feel a tad greasy and a smidge shameful after eating them. So, as I was reaching for the Bacon and Cheese Cheez It (Of course, I decided the greasy shame would be worth it.) two mothers that I know strolled into the same aisle. As moms do we started talking about our kids and that’s when it hit me.

I stink at motherhood.

These moms, who both did not have carts with any processed snack foods, began rhapsodizing about all the things they were planning on doing to ensure their teens last summer before they graduate high school would be “magical.” Instead of nodding my head and just rolling with the conversation I had to open my mouth and blurt out, “My definition of a magical teen summer is making sure my kids get  jobs that run June through August.”

This was not the right thing to say. I got “THE LOOK” x 2. Any mom knows what the look is. It’s a judgmental side eye delivered by another mother that’s accompanied with the slow burn of sanctimony.

At first I was confused. What did I say that was wrong? Summer jobs and teenagers go together like bacon and cheese infused into a cracker. It’s a good thing – right? Well apparently not because according to these moms by making my children work I was “robbing them of memories.”

Oh how I wished they hadn’t gone there. I’m not a memory mom. A long time ago I took a pledge to not base my parenting and every moment of my life ensuring my kids would be living in their own personal fairy tale thus ensuing a childhood resplendent with momentous memories. Sorry, but I have/had no interest in raising a prince or princess. Primarily because for that happen you have to be their servant. I took a firm pass on that job.

For a brief moment I thought about defending myself and then just accepted that in these moms eyes I was a bad parent. It hurt a little. No mother wants anyone to think she’s failing at raising her children. I, adroitly as I could, made an excuse to leave that conversation and hauled over to the frozen food section.

As I stared at the Eggo chocolate chip waffles I had a moment of deep reflection. Had I made a mistake by years ago not embracing the “memory mom” movement? Would my kids look back on their childhood and shudder because I never packed their lunch boxes with food origamied and styled to look like Cinderella’s castle? Seriously, I was Smuckers Uncrustable mom. Good Lord, the horrors of eating a sandwich that wasn’t sculpted into Thomas the Tank Engine.

I got so upset I had to lean my head against the cold glass doors of the freezer section for relief. Then one of the memory moms walked by and she was on her phone. It sounded like she was having a fight with one of her kids. I stood up, held my head high, and thought that’s the problem with parenting in Fantasy Land, no matter what, reality always finds a way to creep in.

Dear Snarky – Pokemon Go Away

Pokemon-Go-Full-Google-Access.pngDear Snarky,

I have a friend who is now calling me a stalker. We both have boys who are 9  and do a lot together. A couple of days ago I texted her about taking our boys out and doing Pokemon Go. She told me that she was already doing Pokemon as a family “team building” activity which I thought sounded weird, but whatever. THEN when I’m out with my son I see her with some other moms from school and their boys playing Pokemon. I parked my car to join them and I heard the mom, that I thought was my friend, whisper stalker.

I’m hurt and angry for my son that he was left out of Pokemon Go and furious that I was called a stalker. Should I confront my friend about it?

Signed, Pokemom

Dear Pokemom,

First, I’m going to tell you what you want to hear. The mom who called you a stalker is a jerk. Now get ready for some hard truths. I’m afraid the problem might not be all  the other mom’s fault. I could be wrong here, but you seem awfully needy and I’m going to guess that possibly you’re more upset that you weren’t included than the fact that your son was left out. So ask yourself why did you feel the need to join up with a group when your friend had fibbed to keep you away? Why didn’t you just keep on driving and have a blast playing Pokemon Go with your son and be done with it?

Attention mothers everywhere you don’t have to do everything in groups. It’s okay and a lot of times preferable to enjoy your child’s company without a gaggle of other moms around. Think back to your childhood did your mom coordinate everything you did to such an extent that each outing was a like a mother/child mixer?

My advice is to get over being called a stalker. Yes it was mean, but who cares. This woman doesn’t sound worth you expending anymore energy on. The fact that you now know this is a blessing. You need to focus on appreciating the things you can control like spending one-on-one time with your kids and not worrying about what everyone else is doing.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky 21st Century Advice With an Attitude email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or leave me a private message on my Snarky Facebook page.

Are You Suffering From FOKMO?

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 10.10.49 AMBecause, I guess, I’ve made a career out of complaining (proving the adage that everybody is good at something) friends, random strangers, and Target employees quite frequently enjoy sharing their latest outrage with me. It usually starts with, “You’re not going to believe this.”

I act appropriately to their story and by this I mean I shake my head and say, “Are you kidding me?” But more often than not I’m thinking yikes, I can so see myself doing that or much worse, I have done that.

The latest missive of shock and awe that came my way was a mother sharing the insanity of her sister-in-law who was canceling a long-awaited family vacation because her eight-year-old son made a Little League All Star team and couldn’t afford to miss practice. She was all WTH about it and how crazy we had gotten as parents that our family priorities were skewed towards a third graders recreational sports schedule.

I did my “are you kidding me” thing and then felt sheepish for not attempting to defend the sister-in-law. That’s right defend because I saw what happened five years ago when a friend of mine opted to take a family vacay to Hawaii instead of having her, then elementary school, son play on the All Star team. It was a long and winding road of retribution.

Because of “Vacationgate” the next spring when it came to the Little League “draft” her son was not selected until the last round and at the first practice the coach (a dad who lived down the street and was an assistant pastor at their church) came up to the mom and solemnly shared with her that “no one had wanted her son because of the family’s egregious lack of commitment to the league” and then quoted some bible story from the book of Malachi. (Umm, am I the only one who didn’t know there was a book of Malachi?)

Then even when her kid killed it during the regular season hitting home run after home run and being an amazing first baseman he was not selected for the All Star team and the mom was told once again it was because of the “bailing on the team” the previous summer. It took the family years and getting their son in a competitive baseball league for the stench of the “Vacationgate” to finally dissipate.

This level of extra curricular crazy is, I’m afraid, the norm and has led parents in massive numbers to be afflicted with FOKMO – Fear Of Kid Missing Out. FOKMO is like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but a million times more intense because it’s about your kids. I mean really once you have children who cares if you’re missing out, but, by God and all that is holy, you don’t want your kid to be a single rider in the not included lane.

I believe FOKMO, fueled by its evil sidekick Social Media, is the number one reason why our children’s summers are so bloated with organized activity. In this day and age is there anything worse than admitting your kid has the big Z.E.R.O. going on? I think for many moms and dads it’s akin to admitting you suck as a parent. If you want to see a group of moms throw down just mention how your kids are so busy and then step back and watch the one-upmanship.

Listen I’m not judging. I’m as guilty as everyone else. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to sign a contract stipulating your attendance, dedication, and obedience to your child’s sports activity. Yeah, my hand is now raised and I can only imagine what my mother would have done decades ago if someone had asked her to sign such a thing. She was a southern lady so it wouldn’t have been hoisting her middle finger, but I’m sure she would said something along the lines of  “Well bless your heart” then she would have gently returned the contract unsigned.

Why is it that our parents never suffered from FOKMO? Was it because they were smarter and  knew the value of boredom? A dollop of boredom allows your brain to recharge, to wander and to create. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my very best ideas have occurred while vacuuming. Now, I feel like as parents we have been conned into believing if our kids aren’t constantly doing a planned activity it will culminate in an embarrassing ACT score.

Recently I put myself in FOKMO rehab. Mainly because FOKMO takes up a lot of time. To be a stellar FOKMO parent you constantly have to be searching for new opportunities for your child and be on high alert for what everyone else is doing. These days I think I’d rather vacuum.

 

Excuse Me But I Can’t See Through Your Kid

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 8.39.15 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.19.28 AMMost parents think their kids have super powers as in super smart, super athletic and well just to save time on this list take pretty much any adjective that would look good on a college application and put super in front of it. Bam, list done. The one super power I’m not buying is the whole invisible thing. No one’s child was born with a cloak of invisibility and yet many parents act like their kids are see through at events like theatre and musical performances.

I understand that parents want their children to experience something like the symphony, but there are common courtesies that still are in place no matter what the age. For example, no child should be allowed to stand up the whole time or do what I call the wander hike.

This is when a kid uses a venue for exploration purposes. It begins with what might, at first, glance seem like an innocent aisle saunter and then grows to include roaming the stairs next to the row of seats their parents are inhabiting. Once that trail is well-worn the intrepid adventurer starts a parade of bathroom visits so robust you begin to question the integrity of the child’s bladder.

Now while all this is happening the kid’s parents seem oblivious to the disruption of their fellow audience members’ enjoyment of the event. They act as if their progeny shares the same transparency as say Casper the Ghost. The very best you can hope for is for the child to get bored and proceed to play games on an iPhone with a screen bright enough to make the sun feel impotent.

When this happens I always feel I have only three choices: One is tamping down my irritation and pretending that it’s no big deal. Two, attempting to ever so discreetly get the parents attention with perhaps just the tiniest of hand waves (and I’m talking the complete hand no single fingers) and gesture that their kid needs to be corralled or three actually saying something. And by this I mean using your words via your vocal cords not coming home and going all cray on social media. Yes, Facebook is an all you can eat buffet for complainers, but more often than not moaning and groaning as a status update is not really accomplishing much.

Last week, I was attending an indoor musical and the aforementioned three choices were all swirling in the head as I was feeling crabby towards a family sitting in front of me. Two parents with a preschooler were allowing their child to not only do the wander hike, but also stand up in his chair and stare at me.

I gave it ten minutes to see if the parents would harness their collective brainpower and have an “ah ha” moment that their child was not made of glass.  After that I felt, based on my rising blood pressure, that my health mandated I do a little hand wave thingy indicating their precious gumdrop needed to attach his fanny to the seat.

Well, if that had worked I wouldn’t now be writing this so we all know the hand wave was a fail. This lead to me ever so gently leaning forward and sweetly whispering, “Pardon me, but I can’t see through your son.”  That earned me a searing look and then the mother told her son, “Honey you need to sit down because there’s a mean lady behind you.”

Whatever. All I cared about is that I could now see the stage. It was all-good until intermission when the dad saw me and began a beration oration for “interrupting them during the show.”  This stumped me to such a degree I was rendered mute until the mom piped up with, “We also didn’t appreciate you making our son feel bad.”

Okay, by now I was experiencing two emotions. The most important one was relief. Finally, I had something to write about for my column. Yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes at that, but hey it’s not easy finding something to blab about every week.

I was also feeling generous. I was going to use this as a teachable moment and reach out to these young parents. So, I replied, “I am so sorry I wasn’t trying to make your son feel bad. I was only attempting to awaken what must be very dormant parenting instincts.”

The dad looked at me like he wasn’t quite sure if I was insulting them. I took that as my cue to exit their range of vision. When the musical started up again the family was no longer inhabiting their seats. I guess they had figured out what I was talking about after all.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

 

Dear Snarky – Help, I’ve Lied To My Mom Friends!

609d7b389ff7a7660fe3e11a39842d59Dear Snarky,

I’m the mother of a soon to be kindergartener. All my pre-school mom friends are going to be sending their kids off to a private kindergarten in the fall. I kind of, because I didn’t want to be the odd man out, lied that my son would also being going to this private kindergarten. The truth is we can’t afford it and our public schools are great.

Well, now all the moms are talking about the Spring Welcome to Kindergarten meeting and I have to fess up that my child will never be going to that school.

What’s the best way to do this and not look like a big liar?

Signed,

Worried Mom

dear_snarky_logo-1 Dear Worried,

 I could tell you to cleanse your conscience and be 100% truthful yet I’m sure that’s not the kind of advice you’re seeking. I’m guessing you want me to give you a way to save face. So, because this is Dear Snarky not Dear Abby here’s what I recommend.

 Share with your posse of pre school moms that after much soul-searching and thoughtful deliberation you and your husband have decided to support your local public schools. You feel as a family that by investing in public education you are doing your part to build a better community for everyone.

 I call this a two-fer. It gets you out of a sticky spot and you’re making yourself sound like a burgeoning community activist.

 Now for some advice you didn’t ask for. In the future stop trying so hard to fit in with the herd and quit fibbing. There are only so many times I’m going to be able to come to your rescue. 

If you have a question for Dear Snarky, “21st Century advice with an attitude” please email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or private message me on my Snarky Facebook page.

 

Ode to My Mother Who Kicked Ass

Parenting gurus like to share the theory that by the time a child reaches the age of 10 mothers lose their place as the primary influencer in their kids’ lives. I was always skeptical of this belief and felt that these so called experts simply enjoyed torturing parents by using this supposition as a sort of scared straight program for hovering moms.

Now, I can tell you that, without a doubt, that the often-repeated parenting claim is not true. Your mother’s influence never ever goes away or loses its impact. I know this because my funny, wise, beautiful and hard-working mother, Gwen Claypool, recently passed away.

I was given the honor of writing her eulogy, which was, I think, a brave choice for my mom to make. She had to have known I would deliver an untraditional tribute.

For sure, some older ladies got a little ticked off when I celebrated my mom’s talent for seriously kicking butt. She was a force to be reckoned with how could I not celebrate that? The fact that she had, during her life, kicked the fannies of some of the ladies present at her service, well sorry (but you know, not really).

The act of writing my mother’s eulogy, of putting on paper everything she had done, and what she meant to me crystallized the fact that what you learn from your mom is steeped into the deepest parts of your brain and soul.

I know my love of reading comes directly from my mother. We would go the library with two laundry hampers, fill them full of books, and spend days just wallowing in the written word.

My mother, descended from Puritans, also valued a work ethic. There was never an excuse to not honor your commitments. Whenever I want to get out of doing something I see her face and it’s giving me the look that says, “I’m disappointed you are even wasting time entertaining this thought.”

She was smart as they come and had no time for “intelligent people doing ignorant things.” This lead to her having zero tolerance for stupidity in any form and if you were being stupid she’d let you know it even if you were a stranger. Of course, being from the South she would put it in such a way that you didn’t really know you were getting the stern scold.

Not being from the South, yet watching my mother’s campaign against idiots, I took up her gauntlet and have attempted to continue this crusade. The problem is I can’t do it with the grace she did. I’ve tried, but I just don’t have her innate charm. (Although, I was sent to charm school, but that’s a story for another day.)

One of the biggest gifts my mom bequeathed me was the freedom to be myself. She was a nonconformist and “felt tremendous sadness” for the herd. This even translated to clothing choices.

When I was a teenager it was the preppy era of fashion. Everyone was wearing $40 Ralph Lauren Polo shirts which back in the early 80’s was pretty pricey. My mother refused to let me buy any Polo garments (even if I was going to use my own money). Her response to my whining was “Why don’t I just let you wear a sandwich board that reads ‘My mother failed because I think a horse on a shirt is important.’”

To this day I can’t buy name brands. Northface, Patagonia, Uggs – never going to happen.

Another wonderful thing about my mom was that she was funny and slyly sarcastic. Someone the other day asked me where I got my signature eye roll. I replied my mother. He laughed and said, “You owe her. It’s a great eye roll.”

She also knew how to hold a grudge and in fact, considered it a character flaw if you didn’t have the “moral fiber to archive dishonesty.” Granted being Southern the grudge was concealed, kind of like pecans in a 10 layered pea salad, but, trust me, it was there.

Sometimes she was very serious in her archival pursuits other times she was joyously silly. For example, she had an encyclopedic memory of who gave me what for a wedding present. And to the woman who gave me a chip and dip platter from Target after she gifted that women’s three daughters with very nice sterling silver all I have to say is since 1984 she’s referred to the woman as “Chip and Dip.”

So, here’s what I have to share with all experts – a parent who has done their job well never loses their influence. In fact, one of the proudest things I will ever say is that I am Gwen Claypool’s daughter.