The Epic Fail of My Big Bang Theory Theory
“What exactly does that expression mean, ‘friends with benefits’? Does he provide her with health insurance?” Sheldon, Big Bang Theory
I am really beginning to dread springtime. Some people associate spring with warmth and new life, looking forward to the promise of summer and dreamy vacations. Not me. Since about two years ago, I associate spring with one thing – the Annual School Sex Talk.
In our little pocket of conservative, gun-totin’ Texas, I am a bit surprised any kind of sex education is undertaken by our public schools, but I support it whole-heartedly. The problem is that my daughter does not, which is probably better than the opposite extreme – a ravenous hunger to discuss every detail. But it still bothers me.
My own mother raised me to talk about things, and I had no problem asking her questions about the topic. I also had no problem giving my opinion about it the first time I saw “the video” in 5th grade. “That is absolutely disgusting, and there is no way I’m going to do that! Ever!!!”
I hear horror stories from many of my peers about how prudish their own parents were, and how they had to learn everything, most of it wrong, from their friends. So I resolved that my daughter would feel just as comfortable talking about the topic with me as I had been with my mom.
All of the experts say, “Answer their questions honestly, but don’t go into detail. Don’t give them more information than they request.”
“No problem,” I thought.
Only my daughter refuses to cooperate with this plan. According to her, there is nothing to discuss.
In 3rd grade, she learned about the menstrual cycle.
In 4th grade, she learned about her anatomy.
This year, I got wise. I told Cap’n Firepants that we needed to stop shielding our daughter from “risque” shows, because it was probably making her think that we were embarrassed by the whole topic of sex. My reasoning was, if we don’t make a big deal about it, then she won’t feel like it’s a big deal to ask questions. Hence, no more switching to the Disney Channel every time she walked into the room while we are watching The Big Bang Theory. The Cap’n seemed pretty doubtful about this reasoning. But since his name is Cap’n Firepants, I don’t see how he really has any room to talk.
So this year, in 5th grade, she learned about the male anatomy, and fertilization of eggs. No mention of how the sperm gets there in the first place…
No. Questions. HOW CAN YOU NOT QUESTION THAT? First you have eggs, and suddenly they are dodging sperm missiles. Sperm missiles that you were just told are in the MALE ANATOMY. Does it not occur to the kids watching this film that a key part of the story is missing?
Sheldon would question that. But my daughter is obviously not Sheldon. Which I am thankful for – most of the time.
“So, how was Maturation today?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Did you learn anything you didn’t know before?”
“Do you have any questions?”
The experts don’t say what to do about that.
I don’t want to scar the kid for life, but what if she thinks she knows something that she really doesn’t know? How am I supposed to know?
More importantly, what if she never talks about it, and then she grows up and tells everyone that her mom never discussed the topic with her so she had to learn it on the street?
I’m not sure what street she would learn it on, because our suburban cul-de-sac inhabited by octogenarians who never come outside seems an unlikely place to get educated about sex, but I guess you never know.
The point is, I could get the rap for being a bad mom, which is completely unfair because I totally tried.
Of course, I could also get the rap for being a bad mom because I included my daughter in the same post as sperm missiles.
You Never Said it Had to Be Fun
“Do you have anything for me to do?”
“The thank-you card for your grandparents? Or how about cleaning the – ”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re not good at that.”
“Giving me something fun to do.”
Someday on my tombstone it will read, “Here lies my mother. I hope God doesn’t ask her for anything to do.”
I Vow to Never Embarrass My Daughter – at Least Not on Purpose
Long before I took on the burden of humiliating myself on a regular basis, my step-father was more than happy to perform the job himself. It wasn’t a difficult task. Unfortunately, I cared way too much about what other people thought of me, and my step-father was good at leveraging this weakness.
One Saturday, when I was about 11 or 12, the doorbell rang. It was early afternoon, but I was still in my pajamas, my hair tousled, my teeth unbrushed. There were four people in the house at the time, three of whom were actually dressed. I was told to look out the peephole to see who it was. I did, and reeled back quickly from the door.
“It’s John Doodah*!” I whispered frantically.
John Doodah was our paperboy. He was also the cutest boy in my class and I had a wild crush on him.
“Well, answer the door,” my step-father said.
I was horrified. “No, please don’t make me answer it,” I begged.
“Answer it,” he said sternly.
And I did, mentally rehearsing what I would say that Monday when I got to school, “Oh, John. I hear you met my cousin. Isn’t she a mess?”
I never said that to him, mostly because I could never get up the courage to speak to him. To this day, I am convinced that my ascent to the Peak of Popularity was effectively derailed that Saturday morning, and as soon as John told all of his friends about my disheveled appearance, they took out the tracks and the ski-lift and anything else that could get me up to the Peak.
Fast forward thirty-four years to today. I am taking one of my infrequent Days of No Obligation. This is when I give myself permission to lay around all day, reading books, in my pajamas. At around 1:00, I decided to eat lunch. My 10-year-old daughter, who was also in pajamas because I did not feel the obligation to tell her to change, was watching T.V. in the living room.
The doorbell rang. The dogs leapt from their resting places and barked frantically.
We looked at each other. My daughter snuck over to where I was. We peeked out to the living room window, where we could see the caller standing on the front porch.
“Who is it?” I said.
“It’s the boy across the street.” (Who happens to be in her grade level. At her school. Which also happens to be the school where I teach.)
“Go answer it,” I said.
“No!” she said, horrified. “You go answer it!”
“I’m in my pajamas!”
“So am I!”
I thought back to the John Doodah Fiasco. How it had essentially ruined my life. How this was one of those decisive moments when I could teach my child about character, how appearances shouldn’t be so important, how parents are in control and can make their kids do whatever they say.
“Let’s keep hiding back here,” I said.
And we cowered in the kitchen until the coast was clear.
I think I made the right decision.
*This name has been changed to protect
me from being further embarrassed in case John Doodah ever reads this post the innocent.
Mixed Messages I Give My Daughter
Don’t tell my daughter that I said this, but it is entirely possible that our communication difficulties do not stem from the fact that she does not listen well enough, but rather from the fact that I talk too much…
“You can talk to me about anything.”
“No, you can’t watch The Big Bang Theory.” Because they talk about sex, and then you might want to talk to me about something.
“Yes, you must go to bed at 8:00. It’s important for you to get a good night’s sleep.”
“You better finish that homework; I don’t care if you have to stay up until midnight.”
“You don’t need makeup. You look beautiful exactly as you are.”
“Would you please stay still for two seconds so I can glop your lashes with mascara?” (It turns out that in synchronized swimming, natural beauty is not quite enough.)
“You should always take your time to do your best on your work.”
“Aren’t you finished, yet? Why on earth are you taking so long?”
“Do not put personal information on the internet.”
“Do you mind if I blog about your most embarrassing moment?”
“You shouldn’t base your decisions on what other people think.”
“You should be part of this special group because the Principal invited you, and that means she thinks very highly of you. Plus, she’s my boss.”
“You should follow your passion.”
“Are you kidding?!! Do you have any idea how much horseback riding lessons cost?”
“I really wish you would be more adventurous and try to eat different foods.”
“I don’t care if she’s one of your friends! When someone offers you a mysterious white substance from a Ziplock bag at lunch, YOU DO NOT ACCEPT!” (It turned out to be sea salt.)
If You Insist on Being Supermom You Better Take A Lot of Pictures
I often wake up in the middle of the night, panicked that I still have a googlemillion things left to teach my daughter, and only 8 more years until she goes to college where everything I have taught her will be turned into a Bucket List of Things I Should Do to Freak Out my Mom. For example, I keep forgetting to tell her to, “always check for toilet paper before you pull your pants down.” Of course, I know this is important, and I am 44 years old – and I still forget to check.
In fact, I think I’ve had to ask my own daughter if she can “spare a square” a couple of times.
So, this not only means that I need to teach her a googlemillion things, but I need to repeat each thing a googlemillion times so it will finally sink in and she will make it to 44 years old without ever having found herself in a bathroom stall at Dairy Queen begging for toilet paper from her daughter.
My ineptitude as a mother reveals itself daily, but even I was horrified by my own failings a couple of nights ago when reading to 10-year-old Dimples from The Fire Chronicle before she went to bed.
“The universe is a mass of constantly expanding energy, and one day it will collapse upon itself. Like a cake left too long in the oven.”
“Why would you put a cake in the oven?” she derisively interrupted.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked. Then I thought, maybe she means after it’s already frosted and ready to eat. “Not after it’s made. You know, when you’re baking it.”
Oh. My. God. My 10-year-old child does not know that cakes are made by baking them in the oven. *
I started hyperventilating.
“Where did you think cakes came from?” I managed to splurt out.
I think I blacked out.
Later that evening, as I surfed the net in search for some excerpts from Mommy Dearest to make myself feel better, I realized that I actually have made cakes with her before. It’s been awhile, but we did it together for a couple of her birthdays.
Okay. They were 5 and 6 years ago. But still.
This led me to the conclusion that it is a complete waste of time to try to be a good mother to your child before the age of 6. They remember none of it, show absolutely no gratitude, and by the time they develop any kind of memory retention, you will be too burned out to continue in the vein in which you started.
A better plan is to keep a notebook of important advice, which you can bestow upon them the first day they realize you have taught them absolutely nothing.
Here’s a list to get you started:
#1. Always check for toilet paper before you pull down your pants. Because one day your momma won’t be there to bring you some more.
Deuce. Cakes do not grow on trees.
III. When backing out of a Kroger’s parking spot, do not keep looking behind you, or your front end will dent your neighbor’s car, and you will then be faced with the dilemma of either leaving a note or driving away in shame and having that guilt on your conscience for the rest of your life.
This is just a suggested list. You can write whatever you want. But you might have to pay the price if you don’t include number III. Insurance for teenagers is expensive. I’m just sayin’.
There’s Absolutely Nothing Wrong with Eating Hamburger Helper for Breakfast
My family does not trust me in the kitchen. Even the dog. Mrs. Pain in the Butt, our golden retriever, paces and pants every time I turn the stove on – just because I happened to set off the smoke alarm a few years ago while I was cooking. My husband is just as bad. Since I had never operated a gas stove before we moved into this house, he is convinced that I am going to blow us all up. This paranoia stemmed from the fact that, the first night we moved into the house, I placed a box on the counter next to the stove, inadvertently turning one of the dials ever so slightly. We woke up in the middle of the night to the distinct smell of gas. I try to tell him, “But I wasn’t even cooking when I almost killed us!” He does not find that reassuring.
The only family member that meets my rare trips to the kitchen with delight and anticipation is our bulldog, Wonderbutt. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he steadfastly clenches to the belief that I am going to give him food scraps while I am foraging for a Diet Coke.
And our daughter? Here is how confident she is about my kitchen skills:
My husband, who usually prepares breakfast in the morning, had to leave early one day, and reluctantly left it up to me. My daily breakfast is cereal, but my daughter is used to gourmet meals made to order by Cap’n Firepants. That morning, at 6:20, I went to wake her up.
“Hey, sweetie. Time to get up.”
“Umm. Daddy had to go to work early, so it’s just me today.”
“What would you like for breakfast?”
Silence. Then a hesitant, “You know how to make waffles, don’t you?”
“Well, I probably could. I think it has a recipe on the side of the box. But I think I would need to use the mixer (don’t I?), and that would take a lot of time. Plus, you know I’m not good at doing multi-step tasks early in the morning.”
She sat up, and looked at me.
“You. Just. Put. Them in the. Toaster,” she said slowly.
“Oh! Those kind of waffles! Sure, I can do that!” I said with great confidence.
“Okay,” she said, looking at me doubtfully.
“I can!” I said.
I marched to the kitchen to prove my point, thinking, “Geez, why can’t she just have a darn Pop Tart like every other kid in America?”
Oh yeah, because we don’t have Pop Tarts.
Another thing no one trusts me to do – the grocery shopping.
I Suppose this is Why I Wasn’t Picked to Be the New Secretary of State
If you ever wonder what I do when I’m not blogging, this is my secret – I am wasting my valuable time arguing with my 10-year-old daughter.
“You need to get a flu shot this year.”
“Because you got the flu last year.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did! I can’t believe you don’t remember that. You missed school for almost a week.”
She got the flu shot. Only because I made her father do it, too. He didn’t remember having the flu last year, either.
One month later:
“I think we can skip the electives fair tomorrow since you already know what you want to take.”
“Awww. But I want to go.”
“But it’s a waste of time.”
“No it’s not.”
She got sick that day, and couldn’t go anyway.
“You have your scoliosis screening tomorrow, so don’t forget to wear a halter.”
“No, I don’t. It was today.” (when she was home sick)
“No. It says on my calendar it’s tomorrow.”
“No. I’m positive it was today.”
I find the website for her school’s calendar.
“See. It says it’s tomorrow.”
“Well they told us today.”
She was sick for the scoliosis screening.
It turned out it was the flu. She missed school the rest of the week.
Thursday night, still sick, she came into the living room at 10:15 p.m., where I was watching The Daily Show with Wonderbutt. (I mean that I was watching the show with our bulldog, Wonderbutt, not a show called The Daily Show with Wonderbutt, though that might be a good title for a show. And, I don’t mean that Wonderbutt was actually watching the show. He was just snoring and passing gas on my lap while I tried to make out the screen through his toxic haze.)
“What’s up?” I ask.
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
“I can’t hear you,” I say.
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
I mute the T.V.
“I still didn’t hear you. What do you need?”
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
I get up, and approach her.
“Oh, never mind!!!!!” She turns to leave.
“No, what? What did you want?”
“Um, what kind of cards?”
“Geez, just cards!!!!”
“Like thank you cards?”
At this point, I realized that she must be asleep.
“I think you should go back to bed,” I said.
She whirled around and ran back to her bed. I followed her back, and she was curled up and asleep before I even entered her room.
The next day, of course, she remembered nothing about the incident.
“What did I say?” she asked.
“”You said, ‘I need to buy a card that says my mother is always right and I should never argue with her again.'”
I have now calculated that all of the time that I spent on arguing with her about the flu shot and the events of this week adds up to the number of years that she has been alive. Years that I could have used to invent a time machine that would take me back to the day she was born and told my idealistic self that it is absolutely pointless to ever quarrel with your 10-year-old daughter.
Of course, I probably would have argued with myself about that.
Just Say No to M.U.G.S.
I find moms intimidating. Especially in large numbers. Like when they are supporting their daughters’ sports teams.
All of these years I’ve been preaching to my students about not caving in to peer pressure during their teens, and it turns out that adolescence is merely a brief introduction to the angst you will experience as the mother of a female involved in athletics.
I sang in the choir when I was growing up. My mother’s only responsibility was picking me up on time after school from rehearsal or performances. And her success record in that department was only about 50%.
So, I thought I was doing pretty good when I started shuttling my daughter to and from her swim practices three times a week in a timely manner. Sometimes, I even go above and beyond and actually stay to watch the practice.
It is becoming more obvious each month that my participation would register about .01 on the Richter Scale of Supportive Moms.
On competition days, when all of the other moms wear the same blinged-out t-shirts, loudly proclaiming the name of the team, I shamefully wear a non-denominational blouse whose only writing can be found on a small tag in the lining that says, “Hand Wash Only.”
When all of the other moms wear 20 inch photo buttons on their chests of their daughters’ smiling faces, with ribbons trailing from the bottom, I forget my button at home, and hope that I will not have to admit to anyone that I am not even certain of its current location – which means that I could have used it as a coaster, the bulldog could have eaten it, or it might have been thrown into the box labelled “Miscellaneous Christmas Decorations that are not Ornaments, Candles or Nativity Sets or That We Left on the Shelf Until February Because We Forgot About Them and We Never Dust.”
When all of the other moms get together and plan yet another party to celebrate Winter or Groundhog Day or Surviving Two Whole Weeks Without a Party, I am the only one who meekly says, “Um, is this really necessary?”
When all of the other moms help their children find the miscellaneous pieces of clothing that they shed all over the natatorium throughout the day, I am the one who shrugs and says to my kid, “Well, you wore it here, so it has to be somewhere.”
When all of the other moms stand by with towels for their shivering daughters in between competitions, I am the one whose daughter walks up, turns to the person to my side, and says, “Daddy, can you hold my towel for me?”
Some day, the other moms are going to have one of those meetings that I never attend, and they are going to kick me out of the ‘hood. The Mother Hood.
I’m going to stand strong, though. You don’t have to join the Mothers with Unlimited Gem-stoned Shirts to prove your love to your kid.
Just get her an iPhone, and she’ll get the message.
I Am Still Waiting for My Standing Ovation
It’s been almost 24 hours, and I am still mad at JLo. You will probably argue that I should not be upset with her. But then I’ll just be mad at you, too.
It all started with a “project.” * I am seriously beginning to hate that word. It is an obvious euphemism for “homework assignment that will cause family turmoil and erode the already tenuous bond between a parent and her 10-year-old daughter because the father would much rather stay out of the whole thing.”
My daughter was assigned a landform, archipelago. She informed me a couple of weeks ago that she needed to make her landform out of salt dough on cardboard and paint it. I will not get into the ins and outs of why this “project” did not get done until the night before it was due. I’ll grant JLo this; it wasn’t her fault that my daughter started it late.
So, last night my daughter started painting her archipelago before synchronized swimming practice, then pulled out a paper that detailed the other part of the project about which she had neglected to inform me.
At 8:40 PM, after synchro practice and dropping off our carpooler, my daughter finally started Part II. This included researching, folding, decorating, labeling, and finding the square root of Pi. She is now the world’s Greatest Expert on Archipelagoes. We will be putting that on her college application, I am sure.
At 9:40 PM, our golden retriever came indoors with poop all over one foot, and managed to smear it all around our living room archipelago of furniture before my husband realized it. He cleaned up the concrete floor. I got the job of getting the poop off her foot.
At 10 PM, our daughter informed me that the printer would not print out the non-mandatory picture that she had decided to add to her masterpiece.
At 10 PM and 5 seconds, I said, “If it’s not on the instructions, you don’t need it.” Thus, completely reinforcing her notion that she should never have to do more work than the actual minimum required. I will be contradicting this notion the next time I ask her to clean her room. “I am not fixing the printer right now. Go to bed.”
At 10:20 PM, I was watching Jon Stewart, who was interviewing JLo.
“You have twins, don’t you? How old are they now?” he asked.
“They’re about to turn 5,” JLo said, proudly.
AND THE AUDIENCE CLAPPED AND HOOTED ENTHUSIASTICALLY.
For JLo. Because she has kids. And they are about to turn 5.
Yeah, JLo. You rock. What a great mom you are. For keeping your kids alive to the age of 5.
Have you had to work a long day, come home, fix dinner, ride herd on your child to finish her project (even though you agree with her that it is a complete waste of time), drive carpool, ride herd some more, clean a poopy dog foot, and shove your bulldog to one side just so you can fall into an armchair to rest at 10:05 as your daughter glares at you for not fixing a printer or reading to her before she goes to bed?
I think not. And, I don’t think you ever will.
That is why I am mad at JLo.
Because it’s completely pointless to be mad at the half-witted audience who applauded her just for being a pop star with two almost-5-year-olds.
Or an archaic school system that feels it is necessary to pit parents against children on a regular basis in the name of “education.”
Plus, she was a little bit too flirty with Jon Stewart.
You can only push me so far.
*(If you are interested in more of my commentary on school projects, you might want to read “The Science-is-Not-Fair”, a titillating expose of the negative impact of science fairs on unsuspecting families. And, yes, I know expose is supposed to have an accent mark, but I am so blindly angry at JLo that I cannot remember how to add one.)
And for Our Next Book – Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
Beth died last night. She was supposed to die tonight, but my hard-hearted husband hastened her departure by going to bed early. Of course, he did not know that he was killing Beth by doing this. And the alternative would have just prolonged the inevitable. But still.
I had put off preparing for the death because I thought I would have more time. But Cap’n Firepants threw the zinger at me at our daughter’s bed time that he was pretty exhausted, and could I please read tonight? He stepped back from me a bit when I acted like he had just asked me to climb the roof at midnight and clean up squirrel poop. Generally, I jump at the chance for an extra night to read to our daughter. But I dreaded the chapter that I knew was next.
Cap’n Firepants reads a different book with Dimples, so he can be forgiven for not knowing that he had just asked me to walk into the Valley of Death. And, I am sure that he would point out that I was the one who picked the book in the first place.
It’s just that I did not realize that Beth’s death in Little Women would occur while I am still in mourning over the approximately one hundred and thirteen people who perished in Les Miserables. I am still reeling from that massacre, and the repercussions of its soundtrack, and now I had to add one more body to the pile.
Plus, Dimples and I had just recently had our class picture argument, and I was pretty sure that reading an entire chapter to her about the death of a beloved character was not going to endear me any more to her. She makes it a point to avoid sappy death scenes in books, and I had kind of tricked her into this one.
Of course, Dimples handled it much better than I did. She is not a middle-aged mother fighting depression and haunted by visions of Anne Hathaway dreaming a dream as she is dying in a filthy street in Paris. And, I think that it is entirely possible that she would be happy with all of the characters being killed off as I have probably referred to these paragons of virtue a little too often. (“Do you think Beth would complain if her mother asked her to clean the toilet? Do you think Beth even had a toilet?”)
Fortunately, she has not compared me to Marmee, yet. Because we all know how that Battle of the Moms would shake out.
So, at the end of the day I cried more than she did. And that night, I dreamed my dear daughter was in the hospital dying from the flu.
I try not to censor my daughter’s reading, but I’m beginning to think someone should probably censor mine.