Monday, May 9, 2011

La Vie en Rose....AVEC les Enfants!

I don't watch much TV, which is odd considering my dream is to write for it. But tonight I watched three consecutive hours flipping between non-cable channels. The most I've watched straight in the last five years, probably. So excuse me if what I'm about to write is old-hat to most of you, but it's completely new to me because of my just emerging from a television coma:

Pfffft, Bayer. Pardon me. More specifically, Pfffft "Beyaz," Bayer's birth control pill.

Just saw your ad for the first time ever. A bunch of young women in a "store" choosing between all the wonderful things life has to offer. Hot car. Dream job. Buying a house. Trip to Paris. Or... a manic stork trying to drop a bundle at your feet. If you want one of the first four, you'd better stay well-clear of the bundle of joy that pesky diaper bearing ciconiiforme is dying to unload at your Manolo Blahnik's.

Mind you, I'm well aware that I'd be in a completely different place if I'd opted to NOT have kids. Yeah, this twin would probably be a single. On a bigger plot, in a better part of town, with a newer/better/leased foreign car parked in an attached three-car garage. I'd probably be waking up nights worrying about my investments instead of my kid's algebra test and bill collectors. And I'd be plotting how to get rid of my corporate competition instead of piece-mealing my share of the family's coffers. But a huge UP YOURS to Bayer for suggesting that nothing good can be obtained from that "store" if you opt for the stork's bundle.

I've been to Europe, several times before kids and once after. The trip after took a lot more pinching/saving/ebaying, but was the most memorable of the lot. Yeah, my car is extremely used, leaks oil and shows numerous traces of kids' wear-and-tear in the backseat. But I wouldn't trade a single crayon mark, sticky soda stain or smudge mark. My kids made them. My messy, fabulous kids. (Remind me to make them clean my car for a late Mothers Day present)

We own our house. It's not huge and it's not new, it's not in a "hot" neighborhood...but we bought it, despite the parasitic stork that Bayer's commercial blasts. So pardon my French, but va te faire foutre, Bayer et Beyaz. Life doesn't necessarily automatically suck if you have a kid or two.

Yeah, there aren't as many goodies. Some of your goodies may have to be second-hand, smudged, or domestic instead of imported. But every year on the second Sunday in May I get something awesome made from a handprint in art class. And every Christmas morning I get two amazed faces descending the staircase (even though one of them is faking it). And every day I get to know that I've had some small part in creating and shaping two kickass boys who'll do something decent and leave this trash heap of a planet a little better than they found it.

Yes, I gave up a LOT by deciding to have kids. But I got a lot in return. For Bayer/Beyaz to suggest that it's a dreams-or-genes alternative is infuriating to me. Unfulfilled dreams? Yeah, I've got some. But so do a lot of those "shoppers" who picked the house/trips/career over kids. Life isn't that black-and-white Bayer. Awesomeness and fulfillment are subjective. It's not up to some 50-something white guy at the corporate office in north Jersey to tell women that it's one or the other. Schmuck.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to research "European vacations" online with my boys. We may have to save for five years to get there, but we will. And we'll send you a postcard. Postage due.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Smoth...I Mean Mothers Day!

It’s Mothers Day Eve Eve. Or in layman’s terms, Friday night.

We’re back from Lansdale’s First Friday night, the boys and I have settled into the living room and are flipping through our limited non-cable channels for something to watch; they with their diet colas and “cheesy poofs” and me with my glass of cheap white wine and little dish of pistachios. As baseball fans, we all agree on the documentary-in-progress on PBS, a re-airing of Ken Burns series on Baseball that none of us has seen. It’s 30-minutes into the “Fifth Inning” when we turn on the television. This episode covers 1930-1940... Babe Ruth. Bob Feller. Joltin’ Joe. Dizzy Dean. The Negro Leagues and Satchel Paige.

As a family of baseball nuts, it’s the perfect choice to end the evening. We’ve just had a lovely stroll down our town’s Main Street, listening to mediocre musicians, popping into thrift stores and coin shops, and splitting desserts and fried pickles at the town’s Irish pub. As we settle in for the night, and the boys stop fidgeting and actually listen to the script being read by John Chancellor, 2nd grader Ben starts asking questions: “Why couldn’t the black player play with the white players?” … “They really couldn’t stay at the hotels or eat at the restaurants when they toured? Why not?” … “How come? I don’t get it.”

And with that “I don’t get it” … suddenly I do.

I may be a so-so sister. I may be an occasionally iffy friend. And I’ll admit to being a less-than-perfect wife. But that “I don’t get it” made me feel like a kick-ass mom.
That four-word sentence made me realize that I’ve done a decent job raising a color-blind, non-judgmental, all-accepting pair of sons. What’s to “get”? Treating people as inferior simply because they’re a different skin tone isn’t something you SHOULD “get.” It’s stupid. It’s illogical. It’s wrong. The fact that it’s beyond their comprehension makes me proud.

Sure, one of them may be floundering in algebra, and the other may be considering making competitive eating a vocation once he finishes 3rd grade. But they’re both two of the most decent, loving, unbigoted human beings on the planet. And I think/hope that I’ve somehow had a shred of influence on their becoming that way.

Mind you, I’m not exactly Mother Theresa and I freely admit it. I have a problem with people as a whole. I’m rather intolerant at times. Arrogant/ignorant drivers. People who talk on their cells loudly in public. Folks who act/feel like they have a sense of entitlement that sets them a notch above the rest of creation. Anyone who drives a Hummer. And anyone who has to punch a code into a gated community to make it to their driveway or lives in a “community” named after the species they wiped out to make room for their four-car garages…I could do without. But none of those prejudices are based on race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. They’re based on your being a pompous asshole.

However, listening to my boxer-clad boys ponder why on earth anyone would object to a person of another color sitting/drinking/eating/residing or playing baseball alongside them flushed me with maternal pride. For all my Hummer-hating shortcomings, I have somehow successfully managed to rear two awesome sons who see people for what truly matters. Sure one of them can’t spell worth a hoot and the other one is a wee bit too cocksure for an 8-year-old. These are two boys who know what’s important; who know what’s right, what’s wrong, and know how to bait a hook without getting squeamish. I think that rocks. Happy Mothers Day to me.

I tried explaining in 2nd grade terms why some people during that time period treated people of a different color that way. Why mediocre white boys were paid quadruple-plus what players like Satchel Paige were paid. I thought of blaming it on the times, or blaming it on the South…but just one block away from our little three-bedroom-one-bath twin is a more expensive single home that proudly flies a Confederate flag in their front yard. And we live WELL above the Mason-Dixon. In 2011. So I told them it’s not about “the times”…and it’s not about “the South”…it’s about some people from the beginning of time having the need to feel better about themselves by looking down on someone else.

And they got it. They “get” it. They know in their heart/gut that the guy living behind us is making some sort of “I’m better than them” statement by flying that thing in his yard. Just like they know that the “old guy owners” in the documentary were making an asinine “We’re better than them” statement by keeping non-white greats out of the “real” leagues back in the day.

So I don’t care if I get any macaroni art or wilting flowers this Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed, a quarrel-free day, a Hallmark card…I can live without ‘em. Just knowing that I’ve had a tiny part in raising two awesome boys who know that people’s worth has nothing to do with their race/gender/religion/orientation tops any brunch or bouquet.

(But a mug of hazelnut with cream and 3 Splendas would still be nice come Sunday morning. I’m just sayin’….)