“Mama, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

by Janelle Hanchett

Not too long ago Ava asked me that question:  “Mama, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

Awwwww. That kid. So sweet.

There I stood in the kitchen with my tattoos and questionable attitude, throwing together some jerry-rigged meal of non-organic clearance items while yelling at the 5-year old and the husband simultaneously, singing kid unfriendly music between rants, trying to convince myself that 8pm is in fact a reasonable time to start dinner, wondering what sort of hellish after-school activity will plague me tomorrow …and she wants to know why I’m not in the PTA.

 Sweet innocence.

I figured “well, this conversation was bound to happen someday.” –  Kind of like the sex talk. You don’t want to have it, but you must. It’s just one of those things.

So I laid it out for her: “Ava, there are two kinds of mothers in this world: those who are in the PTA and those who are not. You come from a long line of women not in the PTA.”

And I left it at that, hoping she’d drop it.

But she didn’t drop it – because she’s Ava. She never drops anything. Except her stuff as she’s trying to get in the car with 75,000 items NOT IN HER BACKPACK (though oddly, her backpack is one of the things she’s dropping, as it bangs around, (since it’s empty and therefore floppy), whacking other items out of her arms and onto the ground). Damn. Nine-year olds are weird.

(Don’t you wish I could stay on topic? Yeah. So did my high school English teacher.)

So of COURSE the dreaded question comes next “What do you mean?”

And then I have to decide…truth? Kid appropriate bullshit? Truth? Kid appropriate bullshit?

That night I chose edited truth. “Well, some women are into that sort of thing. Some women are all PTA-ish – you know, they dig that stuff – the organized mommy movement and such. They fit in and like planning and cheerfulness and whatnot. And perhaps more importantly, they usually don’t work, which means they have time and, most likely, money, (or insane drive and devotion) – and since I have neither, I’m not in the PTA.”

The unedited truth would have sounded something like this: “well, Ava, I hate organizational meetings. The only thing I can imagine worse than an organizational meeting is an organizational meeting of mothers debating which gift is the appropriate one for Teacher Appreciation Week or who should bring the gluten-free cookies to the next open house – because there’s just so much talking and so little action and I inevitably find myself asking the same glaring question: WHO.GIVES.A.FUCK. Basically I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a spoon than get involved with something like that.”

But I didn’t say that. Because that would be inappropriate. 

Though even my edited version seemed to hurt her feelings a little, so I explained further.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be involved in your education and school. It’s just that it isn’t really my ‘thing,’ as much as I’d like it to be. Part of growing up is realizing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. And I’m not very good at that sort of thing. I tend to scare people with my bad attitude and general disdain for group activities (That was a thought. Not an outside voice item.). I prefer to get involved other ways.” (Um, yeah, still looking for those “other ways,” but I’m sure they exist. Somewhere.)

I mean the PTA emails ALONE irritate the hell out of me. 

For example, I was not joking about the Teacher Appreciation Week. It started out with a seemingly innocuous email by the lead PTA person…”Hi it’s [upbeat PTA woman]….blah blah blah….teacher week….etc…we decided that every parent should give $30.00 to buy gift cards for the teachers.” Hmmmm. I considered this. Here were my thoughts:

  1.  Dude, $30.00? That’s a damn lotta money. I don’t really have $30.00. Screw you for assuming everybody has an extra $30.00, you damn out-of-touch yuppie. What happened to the good old $5.00 limit?;
  2. Why should I pay $30.00 to show my appreciation anyway? I show my appreciation by paying the freaking tuition each month; and
  3. Moreover, how the hell does MY paying $30.00 show my KID how to demonstrate appreciation to those who help her, which is allegedly the point of this exercise?

And then, of course, my final thought: “There is no way in hell I’m participating in this activity.”

So I write a (very) edited version of the aforementioned thought pattern and [wrongly] assume that I won’t hear any more about this, having decided with Ava that we would make beeswax candles for her teacher and write her a letter of gratitude, possibly giving her some roses from our front yard (if they’re not “gross” by then).

But OH NO it’s not the end. It’s not the end because people don’t understand the “reply-all” function (or they are hell-bent on making me bash my BlackBerry into the ground until it falls helter-skelter into 5 crushed pieces of plastic), which means I will receive no less than twenty-seven irrelevant and superfluous emails registering in favor of the $30.00 gift card scheme or  acting as ‘friendly reminders’ (which are not friendly at all, just annoying) or asking deep critical questions such as “what about the specialty teachers?” “what do they get?” “what about the after-school aids?” “how much does each one get?” “do we have the kids sign a card?” “if so, what sort of card?” “who’s going to get the card?” “what about the teacher’s husband’s mother?” “does she get a card?”

AND NOW.

Say it with me people…

WHO

GIVES

A

FUCK.

And that, my friends, is why I’m not in the PTA.

Cause I can’t even handle the cyber decision-making.

How to get unfriended on Facebook…

by Janelle Hanchett

I’m writing this post because I’m a bad person.

And this list is not comprehensive.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to it…

How to get unfriended on Facebook…or at least annoy the living shit out of people.

  1. Post more than 5 times a day. If possible, give us a run-down of where you’re going, especially if it involves running errands. Because that is really interesting stuff that people want to read (dude WAH?): “Going to post office;” “Headed to the park!”; “getting my nails done!”; “leaving work. TGIF!”
  2. Write about your cat. Sorry, but nobody gives a shit. If your cat dies, that’s sad. You should post that. If your cat vomits on your face, that’s interesting and you should definitely post that. But if your cat is just cute and you feel like sharing, or it has feline behavioral problems (oh yeah, they exist) or the sniffles, you should not write about that because I’m pretty sure about 1% of the population gives a shit, and those are really poor odds.
  3. Call your pet your “baby.” Your pet is not your baby. Even if it’s a puppy, or a kitten, it’s not your baby. I know this for a fact because the last time I left my actual baby outside with a bowl of water, some food and a scratching post, I got in BIG trouble.
  4. Try to sound smart. Say profound stuff. Talk about your graduate degrees. Impress us with your stunning intellect and piercing creativity by dropping quotes of obscure philosophers and applying them to your daily life. Because we are impressed. Because everybody appreciates your insights. Fucktard.
  5. Post inspirational quotes and cute, happy little sayings about friendship, flowers, love, looking on the bright side, new doors opening and other such ridiculous meaningless feel-good crap. Use smiley faces and exclamation points. A lot! 🙂
  6. Play Farmville. Send requests to people who don’t play.
  7. Use your relationship status as a retaliatory tool against your partner. Perhaps you think we don’t notice that you go from “married” to “single” to “in a relationship” 5-7 times a year, sometimes within the same month. But we do notice. We do. And every time we see it, we think you’re an idiot and wish you’d figure your shit out once and for all so we can finally stop reading about it.
  8. Post a lot of pictures of yourself. Post a lot of pictures of yourself all dressed up, in cool, exotic, fancy places – and make sure you are the only person in each photo. In each picture, make the exact same “I’m hot” face and if you’re a female, show cleavage. Tilt your head down and slightly to the left. Have a small lock of hair fall strategically over one eye. Look coy. Repeat.
  9. Post politically charged, highly controversial statements that trigger raging arguments between 300 idiots on Facebook who don’t know each other or anything about the topic at hand. Say things like “keep your laws out of my uterus” or “the institution of marriage is sacred and it’s between man and woman” or “Go Dodgers!” or “I think breastfeeding in public should be a felony!”
  10. Whine. Tell us how much your life sucks. Go on and on about it. Lay it on thick. Use Facebook as a virtual, one-sided therapist. And one of these days, after we put away our violins and inspirational quotes, we’ll tell you to get the fuck off Facebook and go change things if you’re so damn unhappy. Or, if we’re more the passive aggressive type, we’ll just unfriend you, then claim we had no idea what happened.

I wonder if calling people out on the annoying shit they do is a way to get unfriended on Facebook? I hope not. Cause that would hurt my feelings. And then I’d have to whine. And we all know how that goes.

Happy Friday! TGIF! 🙂

yep. pretty much.

don’t worry, I’m a parenting expert

by Janelle Hanchett

Parenting Expert

This expression slaughters me. You know you’ve heard it: “I am a parenting expert.”

Well no, you’re not.

Let’s talk about why, shall we?

The Oxford English Dictionary (oh how I love thee, my OED) defines the word “parenting” as “the activity of being a parent; the rearing of a child or children; the manner in which a parent raises a child.” Clear enough. It defines “expert” as “one whose special knowledge or skill causes him to be regarded as an authority; a specialist.”

So let me get this straight…you are a specialist in the rearing of my children?

Wow. That is fancy.

Here I thought I was doing this all by my lonesome and all this time you were right there – the untapped resource, the authority, the specialist, the expert in my experience?! And I didn’t even know it! Gee whiz I never thought to look for you. Silly me. I assumed that since I am me and I’m the only me there is (as far as I can tell) and my kids are my kids and only my kids (as far as I can tell), if anybody were to become an “expert” in raising them, it would, by definition, have to be ME, since I am in fact the only one involved in their rearing and therefore, the only one who could gain sufficient skill or knowledge to reach “expert status.”

I mean how have you managed to acquire that skill and knowledge? Are you clairvoyant? Do you spy on us? Do you live in my attic and peep down through the heater vents? Or do you somehow “just know” how kids should be raised?

Alright, all kidding and sarcasm aside, I’d like to get serious for a moment and invite all current and potential parenting experts to step away from the computer and kindly go screw themselves.

Twice.

I’m serious people. What the hell? I see those two words EVERYWHERE and it is clearly driving me batty. The worst are the people who blog because they are “parenting experts” and apparently just can’t help but share their knowledge with us dumb shits. How do people even say that with a straight face? How can you be an expert in something so intensely personal, ever-changing and unpredictable? How can you be an expert in the rearing of a child you’ve never met? And even more frightening, are there actually parents who see that bio or blog summary and say to themselves “oh good! Somebody who knows how to raise my children! Yay! What a relief! I was thinking I had to figure this out on my own! Whew.”

I imagine that if some of these “experts” were to read this post they would defend themselves by saying something like… “oh, I’m not telling you how to raise your children. I’m an expert in the many different ways parents raise children. I just have a lot of knowledge. I’m not advocating for one over the other. I just want to provide information.”

Which is, of course, total bullshit, because there’s always bias and slant and the only type of person pretentious enough to claim an authoritative status on something as ambiguous and subjective as parenting is exactly the type of person who maintains a very strong opinion on the way things should be done. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be calling themselves an expert. An expert is called upon for their expert opinion – their informed expert opinion. That’s the whole fucking point of being an expert. Otherwise, you’re just a knowledge sharer.

And I have yet to see that on a blogger bio “I am a knowledge sharer.”

Blah!

And…

I’m done.

(Thanks. I feel better now.)


and then this one time, I got my kid to T-ball practice

by Janelle Hanchett

One of the reasons I started writing this blog is that simple, “normal” parenting tasks – ones that other people seem to complete with relative ease – completely overwhelm me. They floor me. I gotta have an outlet for this confusion, lest I finally determine that I am, in fact, fatally maladjusted and ill-equipped for life, and give up entirely.

For example: extracurricular activities. I don’t get those. I mean, I “get” them: it’s the stuff kids do outside of school.

But I don’t get them – like, how to DO THEM.

One, maybe. Extracurricular Activity. Not plural. No plural around here.

Each kid gets one.

Yeah, I know. Bad mother.

But you gotta understand the situation here. I am genuinely impressed with my parenting skills when each one of my kids is involved in a single extracurricular activity. Except Georgia. Georgia gets boob. That’s her activity.

And I’m not kidding. I feel like an over-achieving, June-Cleaver-emulating, Martha-Stewart-weeps-in-the-corner-when-she-sees-me-coming bad ass when I get Ava to softball practice. And if I’m on time? Whoa. Hold up. Somebody’s on FIRE.

I think about this sometimes when I see other people’s kids doing freaking everything. Tennis lessons, Girl Scouts, violin lessons, French lessons, karate, earth-appreciation camp, junior democrat camp, social justice grammar school league (okay I made those last two up). And I don’t get it. Do their parents have chauffeurs? Do they have house boys (I have no idea what that is, but I think I want one.). Have they discovered 5 additional hours in the day, perhaps hiding under the armoire? Are they self-employed? Are they independently wealthy? Is there something wrong with me? (well, yes, Janelle. We’ve been over that. Now move along).

I mean COME ON I can hardly get my kids to SCHOOL each day, let alone optional character-building activities.

I think it’s a bit unreasonable to set those kind of expectations.

I mean pretty much the only reason my kids make it to school every day is because I’ll get arrested if I don’t take them and I really need them to leave the premises for awhile, so I can gather my strength to face the upcoming after-school extracurricular. I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

These things sound okay on paper. Like T-ball for example. Sounds innocuous, right?. Little kids, uniforms, balls, dirt, tees. One practice on Thursdays. One game on Fridays. Yeah, alright. I’m in. It’ll be fun.

Oh NO it won’t.

They didn’t tell you that the practice is at 4pm on Thursdays, so unless you’re a stay-at-home-mom, it’s a virtual act of God to get a kid moved from school to the park at 4pm on a Thursday – which means you’ll spend every Wednesday (when it occurs to you with a pang of sorrow that tomorrow is Thursday and thus T-ball practice) calling grandparents and distant relatives and old friends who hate you, begging them to help. Games at 6pm on Fridays? Alright. Manageable. But it isn’t just a game. It’s a game that requires particular clothing, meaning you will first have to locate this clothing (“Rocket WHY are your baseball socks tied to the dog kennel in the neighbor’s yard?”) and quite possibly wash that clothing (which of course is optional. But locating them? Not optional.). And then there’s the gear. (“Where the F is the mit?”) AGAIN. And of course we’re trying to eat food before the game so nobody starves, in addition to trying to dress Rocket in a baseball uniform that doesn’t exist (while he’s rolling on the floor in hysterics after trying to lick his sister, who is now screaming because her privacy’s been violated and she has homework and doesn’t want to go the game at all and NOBODY EVER CARES ABOUT HER EVENTS!) and it’s cold on the field so dress appropriately (but “I HATE UNDERSHIRTS MAMA!”) and the baby went to the bathroom for the 3rd time today, right now, so I’m yelling at Mac to handle it but he’s making food and I’m wrestling kids. And everybody’s reeling and WHY? Why is my life sucking so badly at 5:45pm on a Friday?

Because of the damn extracurricular activity.

I know what you’re thinking. Plan better, Janelle. Make a schedule. Organize your life. Use a calendar for goodness sake. Act like a grown-up.

But the problem is, I can’t do that either.

I put things in my Blackberry calendar then never look at it again. Or I write things on the family calendar then fail to realize that today is the day indicated on the calendar. Yes, I do these things. This is me.

Hello. My name is Janelle and I am inept.

We don’t plan. We avert disaster.

Maybe my kids will resent me one day because they only got to do one thing at a time. And that’s okay. I do what I can. And once they have their own kids, suddenly facing their own limitations, they’ll realize with perfect clarity that I did the best I could, with the tools I had at the time.

Or didn’t have. As the case may be.

 

Hey kids! I have an idea. Let's watch T.V. in a cardboard box instead of doing extracurricular activities!

How to Get 86’d from a Waldorf Mother’s Group (in 10 minutes or less)

by Janelle Hanchett

I don’t know how this information is helpful. Or useful at all, to anybody. But you never know.

At any rate, here is a fool proof plan for getting kicked out of a Waldorf mother’s group in 10 minutes or less. If you try it, please let me know what happens. Please. No really, don’t forget.

  1. Pull up to the play group with your baby in a giant Graco “travel system,” preferably in gender-appropriate colors and themes (e.g. blue with boats or pink with flowers).
  2. If your baby is a girl, make sure she has one of those huge fake flower bands on her head and a polyester zebra-print shirt.
  3. Obviously, use disposable diapers and wear a lot of make-up.
  4. Dress your toddler girl in a Dora the Explorer shirt, Barney pants and Disney Princess shoes (the ones that light up). Let her play with your cell phone.
  5. Dress your boy in G-I Joe gear and give him a metal light-up gun to play with. Instruct him to ask the other boys if they want to play “WWF wrestling” with him.
  6. Within 5 minutes, prop a bottle of formula up in the baby’s mouth, keeping her in the stroller.
  7. Place a piece of bark next to your toddler. When she picks it up, run over and declare “Honey! Yuck! Don’t play with that – dirty dirty!” Take it away from her and chuck it, then hand her a brightly-colored toy out of a McDonald’s happy meal.
  8. Make little gagging sounds and pretend to vomit a little when the other mothers bring out their kids’ gluten-free raw-goat-milk barley walnut muffin.
  9. Immediately after, eat the McDonald’s happy meal. Feed it to your kids.
  10. Bring Twinkies and Cheetos to share.
  11. As a conversation piece, invite the other mothers to join your Book Club, excitedly telling them you’ll be featuring the writings of John McCain, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Pailin. Then ask which local day care is the least expensive and open the longest, explaining that since you work full time for the NRA, you need a reliable and cheap babysitter.
  12. If your baby starts crying, leave her there for a few minutes. Or a long time. If she persists, give her a pacifier.
  13. When your kid misbehaves, tell him that if he doesn’t shape up you’re going to take away his Nintendo DS and limit his Playstation time to 5 hours a day.
  14. And finally, dump a giant bag of florescent noise-making T.V. character plastic crap toys – all Made in China and purchased from Walmart –in the center of the children’s drum circle, exclaiming “Wouldn’t you like to have one of these rather than that silly Amish Maplewood toy?” Watch the kids’ eyes light up.

Then run like hell. Cause they’re gonna slaughter you. Well, they would if they weren’t such pacifists.

To avoid pro-Waldorf backlash, I've included this picture of my baby playing with an over-priced Waldorf wooden teething ring, so you know I'm just PLAYIN. P.S. I hate Disney character items and light-up shoes and Cheetos. No, I don't hate Cheetos.