the mediocrity maintenance plan

by renegademama

At the risk of sounding a little conceited, I have to admit that everyday, I think I get a little closer to reaching the absolute pinnacle of perfect, unparalleled mediocrity. I have a true talent for this. We’re not talking about half-assed mediocrity. We’re talking the real freaking deal. Pure, unhindered, unadulterated average. The gray area is my domain, people. I rule the middle of the road. If my life were junior high classes, I’d be pulling C’s every period.

I know. It’s impressive.

Perfecting this art may seem complicated, especially since most people excel at something simply by default. But really, it isn’t that hard. And, since I tend to place others above myself (not unlike Mother Theresa and Ghandi), I’m willing to share with you the following guidelines in case you’d like to perfect the general mediocrity in your life. By following these simple steps, you’ll find that you absolutely cannot excel in any area of your existence. You will do exactly what you have to do each day simply to survive – nothing more, nothing less – and one day you will wake up, realizing joyfully that you have achieved real, true mediocrity.

  1. Have children. Preferably more than two.
  2. Make sure one of those children is under the age of one and wakes up at least three times a night, ensuring inadequate sleep patterns and unceasing general exhaustion.
  3. Do not stay home with those children, but go to work.
  4. But don’t work full time. Work part time. Working full time may result in actual focus on work, which could produce above-average performance. What we’re going for here is a sort of “one foot in – one foot out” scenario – so you’re not a working mom and you’re not a stay-at-home one either.
  5. On your days home, frantically attempt to make up for the time you were at work and do nothing else. This will ensure that you do not have time for any stellar stay-at-home mom tasks such as engaging with older children, sewing, cooking, communicating without yelling, gardening and/or doing crafts.
  6. Add many, many other activities to these two realms, as a safeguard against potential achievement in either the work or home arena (examples include, but are not limited to, sports and other activities for the children, having friends, staying married, reading, eating, writing a blog, pursing a graduate education, getting your hair done, losing weight, breastfeeding, keeping a pet alive, visiting family, bathing, etc.).

While it may seem too simple, I guarantee that with these steps will lead you to mediocre functioning no matter what. There is no way around it. You will be spread so thin that there will be no room for anything else. You will have friends you really care about but only call occasionally. You will miss appointments with them and not return calls. You will be too tired at work to do anything beyond the minimum, even though you want to, and when you are home, you will be so behind on housework and household tasks (from the days that you were at work) that excellence in mothering or wifedom will be out of the question. With very little effort on your part, you will become a staggering idiot at work – a frantic nut-job at home – treading water in the deep end, every day, pumping your little legs frantically just to keep your mouth a 1/2  inch above the water. You will move furiously and with wild abandon to keep from drowning. Under these conditions, mediocrity invariably reigns.

If you find yourself excelling in an area, no worries. Just add more activities to your list. Or, and this one never fails to produce immediate results: have another baby.

Then repeat steps 1-6. Forever. And call me. We’ll remind each other of the merits of mediocrity, in between spells of weeping and general malaise.


what I learned this week

by renegademama

Perhaps from now on, on Sundays, I’ll post the biggest lessons I learned that week, as a sort of record of my general regression. I meant progression.

Anyway, here’s what I learned this week:

  1. I hate selling Girl Scout cookies. It’s too much work and I feel like an indentured servant to the Girl Scouts corporation, which swindles us all into thinking we’re earning money for the girls, when really we’re just working for them. Besides, if they really give a shit about kids, why are the cookies chock full of trans-fats? Next year, I will make every attempt to weasel out of selling those beastly boxes of deliciousness.
  2. On average, five-year olds ask seventy-five thousand questions an hour, most of them hypothetical and, if answered honestly, rather complicated. Examples: “Could a thousand ants pull an elephant?” “If I were to die, where would my heart go?” “What if there were three suns and three earths and we lived on all of them at the same time?” “If I were Secretariat and you were a racecar, who would go faster?”
  3. I can answer 5-year old questions for exactly 2 hours before needing a break. If I don’t get a break, I become irritable and feisty and they’re no longer cute and my tone demonstrates my increasing lack of interest and need for silence. For non-kid talking. For non hypothetical interaction. I am a bad mother for needing that. But it’s true.
  4. When there’s a little girl rockin’ out in the back of your car, Justin Bieber ain’t that bad.
  5. My son is capable of “break-dancing” in front of the entire school during a school-wide talent show.
  6. My daughter is capable of performing a dance she and her friend invented during recess, also during a talent show in front of the whole school.
  7. Both my kids are decidedly cooler than I am and evidently unhindered by fear of looking like a jackass. Not that they looked like jackasses. They were freaking adorable. In my experience, however, fear of looking like a jackass made dancing in front of crowds while sober a complete impossibility, so obviously they’ve overcome my impediments.
  8. It’s possible to get so tired your eyes randomly blur out of focus and life starts looking like a Monet painting held 2 inches from your face.
  9. If you’ve been so sleep deprived that your eyes are blurring randomly, and you finally get a good night’s sleep, you will feel like Julie Andrews singing “the hills are alive” – you will spread your joy, frolicking with the butterflies in the eternal sunshine of your beautiful life.
  10. That feeling will end abruptly, the next day, when you return to 4-hours of sleep a night, in 45-minute increments, and realize it’s Sunday and 11:53pm and you have to work on Monday.

Goodnight, friends.  Hello, Monet painting.

here's Rocket. Didn't include an Ava picture because her friend is in it (privacy issue).

5 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | February 27, 2011

does walmart sell bieber?

by renegademama

So…remember this post? The one where I got all self-righteous about my kid’s impressive musical taste and how great a mother I am for introducing her to good music and blocking her from mainstream crap, etc., etc.? Well, as per usual, in the perfect symmetry of my life, wherein every time I think I have an area of parenting dialed, something happens almost immediately that sends me right back to the parenting time-out chair, I now stand corrected and am currently removing a size 11 foot from my mouth (which used to be a size 10, by the way, until I had Georgia – why the hell do feet grow during pregnancy? Does everything have to grow during pregnancy?). Sorry. I’m focusing.

Here’s what happened.

We’re about to leave for school on Wednesday: chaos, baby screaming in her car seat while Rocket “helps me” by buckling her in (bad plan, FYI) – I’ve got seventy five bags of critical items, I’m pissed off and irritable and questioning the purpose of life as I do every morning while trying to get to school and work, and Ava looks at me very seriously with a little fear in her eyes (smart kid) and says, “Mama, what would you think if I liked Justin Bieber? Is liking Justin Bieber bad music taste?”

And my whole world stops.

It stops because I hear the faintest quiver in my daughter’s voice and see her vast blue eyes seeking my approval so earnestly and hoping I’m proud of her and I see a little insecurity in her posture, some hesitance, caution, and I know it took guts for her to say that to me, that she was worried I would judge her or make fun and she just wants to please me so badly as usual and shit that breaks my heart. I ask “well, do you like Justin Bieber? And she says quietly “well, I kinda do.”

And once again in the face of my child I see myself clearly for just a moment, see the way my ego has backfired once again  – in trying to “teach” her good music taste, in being overly vocal about what’s good and what sucks, I scared her into doubting her own tastes. The message I sent was “like what I like” not “like what you like and screw what other people think” (which is what I meant to be saying).

Hello, my name is Janelle. And I am a fucktard.

Here I am judging the hell out of people who limit their kids’ exposure to music by only playing mainstream crap because it’s “appropriate” (okay I stand by my previous assertion that that is lame), while I am doing the same thing just in another direction: only exposing my kids to certain types of music because I think it’s “good.” I have inadvertently shoved my ideas on her so forcefully that she feels afraid to pursue her own tastes because maybe mama won’t think it’s “cool.” Whah, I hate mothering.

What I should be doing is introducing her to all types of music, without judgment, keeping my own ego intact, allowing her to explore freely and find her own way rather than mirror mine.

But it’s just so hard.

What I want for my children is freedom. I want them to be free to be themselves. But I just can’t seem to help forcing myself on them, even though my intentions are good, even though I think I’m “helping” them or “showing them the way.” I need some humility. I need to back the hell off. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but I believe the most enduring and powerful gift I can give my children is the confidence and ability to be exactly who they are no matter what, especially in the face of those who may judge them. Basically, in the face of assholes like me.

So tonight, when Ava gets home from school, she’ll have a new Justin Bieber CD on her pillow, with a note from her mom that says “I can’t wait to listen to this with you!”

And I’ll swallow another gallon of my overflowing well of pride, and try to do better next time.

14 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 25, 2011

counting? who needs it.

by renegademama

A couple days ago we were driving to school and Rocket declares “my teachers are cuckoo!” Before responding, I pause for a moment and wonder where he learned such a kid-appropriate word. Certainly wasn’t from his parents. Then I ask him why. He cocks his head to one side and throws his hands out, palms up, contorting his face into a “you’re not going to believe this” look and responds, “They wanted me to count to 30. Isn’t that cuckoo?” Dude, he said it again.


I try not to laugh (or smile) because the kid is sensitive and really gets his feelings hurt when he’s being serious and the idiots around him are obviously missing the point. The ‘good mother’ voice in my head whispers that I should back up his teachers, explain the importance of learning, and counting, whether it’s to thirty or elsewhere…but he’s sitting there with those freckles and blue eyes, dirty Vans and grass-stained khakis, and those unruly blond curls stuck against his forehead and I have NO POWER, so I respond immediately and with vigor “WHAT? They wanted you to do WHAT? Insane! Totally inappropriate! Why would they want you to count to thirty? It’s just weird really.” And he’s getting excited, nodding his head, “I know, I know” as if finally somebody understands the crap he has to go through every day. Ava knows immediately what to do (she’s smiling in the back seat cause he can’t see her), and she joins the discussion, emphatically agreeing that counting to 30 is a silly and unreasonable task. He’s visibly relieved that we understand the gravity of the situation.


 And in that moment I adore my little family. We are satisfied and happy.


Because we were being a family, doing what families should do, together, supporting each other. Because Rocket needed us and we delivered. I knew the reason he belittled the task was that he couldn’t do it. And I knew he probably should be able to do it at his age. But the truth is I really don’t care. And I hope I never care. I hope I never let some “life lesson” about learning or achievement or school or whatever outshine the simple message we sent him that day in the car, the one that promised your family will always, always have your back, little one.





8 Comments | Posted in unenlightened parenting techniques. | February 23, 2011

a boy is a boy or a girl, who is a girl or maybe a boy. or neither or both.

by renegademama

So we’re at the checkout line in the Goodwill this weekend and I’m chatting with a couple people behind me – somehow we get on the topic of girl versus boy children (oh right, they told me they raised 4 boys and I said “I think I’d shoot myself” and they said “we considered it” and then we laughed.). Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my little man, but he drives me around the bend sometimes.  So we chatted about the differences between boys and girls, the way a girl at five seems so oddly capable of just doing a task (even a complicated one, like putting socks on without first throwing them across the room a few times, or sitting in a chair without tipping it backwards or otherwise flailing around). The lady behind the counter agreed, having mothered 5 boys. Then this blonde woman behind us, who we didn’t exactly invite into our little discussion I might add, gets all condescending and pipes up “You know, I don’t think it’s a boy/girl thing. It’s just a person thing. It’s just an individual personality difference – it has nothing to do with being male or female. I raised a boy who is so sensitive and gentle. It’s just a human difference.”

She’s impressed with herself.

I’m less impressed, and I feel like saying “Look, bitch, don’t play the gender equality social justice card with me. I’ve read more Judith Butler and bell hooks and studied more queer and feminist theory than your sorry ass could fathom, so if you really want to throw down some identity politics right here in the Goodwill check-out line, I’m in, you out-of-touch wannabe intellectual shit-head. Otherwise, shut the hell up and let me and the toothless worker lady banter in peace.”

But I kept that inside.

For the good of all mankind, I’m perfecting that skill.

Just to clarify, I haven’t read that much queer or feminist theory. But I’ve read enough to intellectually bitch-slap somebody dumb enough to think the Goodwill store is a good time to question gender construction. Plus, when people treat me like an empty vessel into which they shall altruistically pour their enlightened parenting skills, I get defensive and self-righteous with an overwhelming urge to retaliate irrationally. (That’s what happens when you’re mature and well-adjusted.)

But really the bottom line is this: theory is theory and real life is real life. I want to believe that there is no difference between male and female, that my son and daughter function in exactly the same way with the same instinct, mental approach, etc. But when you have a son suddenly chewing his pretzels into the shape of a gun, you begin to wonder. I mean I can’t blatantly deny what’s in front of me. That would be wrong. There are 12-step groups for that kind of behavior.

Of course I agree that there are no across-the-board, unwavering gender identities inherent in either sex, nor do I believe that there is a “right” way to be a “man” or a “woman.” Rocket went through a phase where he loved to wear Ava’s princess dresses – he’d parade around proudly in pink ruffles, a hard hat and cowboy boots. Loved it. And I took the same women’s studies class that Captain Justice took, you know, the one where the professor explains that gender roles are social constructs of the male hierarchy with no basis in reality and there’s no such thing as mother’s intuition (that one kinda hurt my feelings) and there are no inherent differences between the sexes. And I believed that for a long time. But then I got married (um, different blog post) and I had kids. And I’m not sure I believe that anymore.

Because in my experience, there is a HUGE STARTLING difference between Ava and Rocket, even though I tried to give them gender neutral toys and raise them the same way. And while it could be just personality differences, my experience seems to be shared with lots of other parents, who have experienced similar phenomena in their families. I do however have a huge problem with the idea of excusing rude or thoughtless or physically rough behavior because “boys will be boys” or overly dramatic, silly behavior because “girls will be girls.” Lame. Not cool. Period.

Anyway, I’m sure there are exceptions – boys who don’t place their penises in funnels or collapse on the floor in hysterics when the dog passes gas. I’m sure there’s one who has more than a 12-second attention span when it comes to tasks he’s not interested in. And I’m sure there are girls who aren’t generally organized, “on task” or helpful with siblings. I just don’t have one of those kids, and there appear to be lots of other mothers who don’t have one either, and it’s fun to chat about it.

It’s fun to be human with other humans, to commiserate and laugh for a moment even if it isn’t politically correct or right or progressive. Sometimes I just want to be real, with other real people. I don’t want to be enlightened or deep. I just want to laugh about my life, exactly as it is. Right or wrong. Maybe I am furthering the male hegemony. Maybe I am dead wrong and holding onto archaic 1950s ideas. But I’ll tell you one thing I don’t doubt, and that is that the toothless lady behind the Goodwill counter, making 8 bucks an hour trying to support her grandkids, probably isn’t too interested in engaging in theoretical discourse surrounding the nature of gender identity. She, like me, probably just enjoyed a good laugh.




17 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | February 21, 2011