2005-09-28

Doggy-Mama

Oh Laguna Beach.
Why do you torment me so?
Why do I feel like every Monday night, I wait impatiently for the 10 Spot to Drop and to hear the opening strains of that simple, simple piano before Hilary Duff: "Perfect. Everything feels so perfect...." while the camera spins over that stunning California coastline and I have to remind myself that it's very cold there and I would never be happy with an average temperature of 72.
Never.
I need warmer.
Now, if I could afford a shack in Orange County, I'm not saying I wouldn't move. I'm just saying that if I did move to Nirvana, I'm betting I would bitch about the weather a lot because I really do not like to be cold at all. Hence, Tucson. Where every Saturday, I get home from some shopping and I switch into my bikini and I lay out around the latest episode since the LB marathon tend to run right through my optimal boost of vitamin D.

Do I really hate children?
Now, hate's a strong word, isn't it? But yes, I'm not into kids too much. I don't have them. I don't know that I'd be suited to have them - physically or mentally. I get really mad at the dog and I am really happy when it's 10 and she's so tired she lurches over to her crate to go to bed, looking up at me pleadingly to go to bed because no matter how tired she is, she will force herself to stay awake if my lights are on. My lights? Yeah she has a nightlight. So what? Shut up. I love the hell out of that little buggy dogger. But like a child, she wants every second of my attention when I'm at home. She is next to me from the minute I walk in to the minute we go to bed and I shut the door to her "room". Heaven forbid I leave her inside and go over to a neighbor's, where she can still hear my voice. She thinks I'm leaving her forever. I hear her start crying and then it turns to full-on puppy wailing. You would think that I was actually AT HOME, beating her senseless, rather than innocently having a conversation about the flora on the ranch. Frankly, by the time I resign to Rosie's tantrum, the idea of beating her senseless has been both considered and tossed aside but tossed aside, only because I really don't need any more legal issues.

But why don't you like children, Sarah?
Oh alright. Fine. They take up a lot of attention for starters. Attention that could be for me. Everybody thinks that every kid is a gift from God. Let me tell you, there are only a couple of actually special children and they grow up to be the couple of actually special adults that you know, like me. Why give a kid more attention than me just because a kid is smaller and doesn't know how to flush. Little doesn't mean better. Kids are cute, sure. So am I. They're a blank slate, okay. I'm blunt and a little jaded but whatevski. They say the darndest things?
Please. They say things that sound funny because they aren't that smart and things like puns or mis-spoken clichés seem funny because they hit us at the lowest common denominator, thus making the "joke" seem funnier. I am an incredible conversationalist and can carry a room if I have to.

I guess...
All joking aside, I was raised to want kids. Like going to college, wanting children wasn't something that you really even thought about. You go to high school, you go to college, you get your MRS degree and you have children. Things were starting to change while I was growing up but ultimately, that's the way life was expected to unfold for a white girl from the middle class.
This path was so unquestioned that it was widely assumed that all of us would be great baby-sitters, that all of us would light some spark in every child's eye, and that all of us would glow over our own children...
it sometimes makes me want to cry for the disappointment that I bring to my family by not really wanting children - and this isn't supposed to be funny at all. I'm serious - when I realize how much I don't want to have babies, mine or anyone else's. It's a big deal to my relatives and an indication that there might be something wrong with me. There's not... I just don't think children are really in my path and furthermore, they aren't the penultimate experience for me that they seem to be for other people. They kind of gross me out with the throw-up and the snot.

My parents did the best they could. You have to believe in people or you might as well leave in the sense of "die and quickly". You have to believe that people do their best, no matter what they are doing. Going from that assumption, you have to trust that if someone's best isn't the same as your best, that doesn't make either one of you right or wrong, better or worst. Best isn't subjective... it is or it isn't. My parents did do their best but I'm not sure how much I learned about being a grown-up from them and about healthy parenting. I am 31 and I've JUST figured out how to navigate the waters I've been sailing since I was probably 6 years old and my parents announced a formal split to my sister and I on a Sunday afternoon.

Cut to 16, when my dad dies unexpectedly. I look a lot like him and have a lot of the same character qualities. So many people assume that we had this super relationship and the fact is that... my dad was really busy focusing on my mom, my mom was pretty focused, although to be fair a less so, on my dad. My sister was smaller and not as hearty and I was. She didn't necessarily feel the responsibility to balance both of our houses the way I did so maybe she wasn't as out on a limb as I was but for whatever reason, my trying to be helpful landed me in trouble a lot of the time, just by the very fact that I was available and therefore convenient for frustration release.

I'm not really sure that everybody is clear on the actual relationship me and my dad had. It wasn't some kind of perfect father-daughter fairytale. Early in high school, in Springfield, I wanted to move back to Carbondale because I really missed it there and I wasn't having a ball with my mom. When I asked if I could move back to Carbondale, and move in with my dad, there was a pretty definitive and unpublicized "no" that came from the House of Bob. I think a lot of people assume incorrectly that because we are a lot alike, my dad and I had a great relationship. I'll bet we would be best friends now, those similarities serving to illustrate and extricate. When I was a kid, I think we both expected more from each other. I expected more than he could give as a parent and he expected more than I had figured out because I was a kid. Because of our expectation failings, I think he was probably closer to my sister and for sure closer to my mom than to me. And that's okay -it's not a contest, you know?
But the way people drape this perfect relationship on me, it isn't fair.

I remember one time, my dad was so mad at me for something stupid, something that didn't have anything really to do with me. I most likely made a smartass comment and I probably made the comment because I felt owed the right to do so, given that at the time the comment was made, I was doing he laundry for him, me and my sister while they were on their way to order breakfast at the deli next to the laundry mat. I was really into Fleetwood Mac at the time and when the laundry was done, I felt totally owed the right to listen to my Fleetwood Mac tape so I pushed it into the tape deck and turned up the volume. My dad was still mad at me, or at whatever, and he hit eject and in one, smooth motion, threw my tape out of the window of the moving car. I quit talking for the day because it just seemed kind of the smart and dramatic thing to do. Way later, still in silence, we went back to the parking lot to look for the tape but it was smashed flat and just lying there in the dark.
Shit like that wasn't exactly uncommon. I never got a chance to push boundaries without getting schooled for it and I never got rewarded for going above and beyond on the home front.

I don't doubt that my parents loved me a lot and that they sis their best. I know they did and I know how different my early child years were from the aftermath of my parents starting to split up - a process that took almost half the time that I knew my dad before he died. I do doubt why, when they got so caught up with each other for so long, I doubt why they didn't just let me alone to make up whatever goofy outfits I wanted to and to listen to whatever I wanted to after I'd done THEIR WORK. I wasn't the parent. Laundry wasn't my job. I was THE KID. I was trying to help and I didn't know how to and rather than letting me not know how, or teaching me how, I just got sniped at and not just at one house - I had two houses in which I learned how to stick close to the hallway wall so that I wouldn't be seen. I had two houses where much of my time was spent trying to be very quiet, hoping that I wouldn't be noticed.
And I used that trick a lot - that lying low and moving very stealthily so as not to draw any more attention from one frustrated parent or the other.

I'm not sure that anybody knew how often my dad was angry with me, or disappointed. It was like, when he and my mom looked up from their relationship, I was in the cross-hairs for one silly reason or another. In one house, I was fat and I didn't work hard enough and in the other, I was bossy and weird.
I WAS 10.
It's too much pressure.
It's not about love… I know at that same primordial level where I can’t stand the thought of birth, I know how much my parents love me.
I know that their loving me so deeply matters a lot more than the things that I call mistakes or that they call regrets.
But I don't want that debate of mistake, regret, and righteousness for myself.
I don’t want to make choices between myself and my children. Maybe I'll get to a point in life someday where there's not a choice and I'll be healthy enough to just devote 100% into the little kid in the backseat. Because of my experiences and because of how dedicated I actually am, there's no way that I would be able to have a kid and not be as perfect a mother at 13 as I am at 3.
And I'm not sure that's very realistic.

Plus birth is so gross. If I hear that jackhole off in a near-by office talk about induction and coming out and shit one more time, I'm going to pop my head in his office and tell him that I'm so grossed out I feel harassed or something.

Anyway, now that I'm a doggy-mama, I know factually that puppies are more fun than babies. You can teach them tricks and they don't grow up to be troubled teens. They grow up to be dogs that know tricks and that will slide up next to you and rest a soft red, head in the crook of your elbow, staring up at you and just patiently waiting for you to reach down and scratch their ears; then and only then do they close their eyes and sigh so loudly that the world seems to soften and exhale.

arizonasarah at 8:42 a.m.

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