Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I AM NOT YOUR DAYCARE (and other play date violations)

As a mother of three children who span the "we need to set up a playdate" and "Mom, my friends and I just want to hang out" ages, I have spent years dealing with other parents and have worked hard to remain as diplomatic as possible when communicating with different personality types.

But I'm starting to realize that I'm one of the very few who seem to try and work the "play date" system with any sort of tact and I've now figured out why so may of the kids who come to my house seem to be devoid of any manners.

It's because their parents are.

So, for all of those parents who are like me and worry about things like whether you have invited my child over to your house somewhat equally to how many times I've invited your child to mine or who take any consideration for my time and effort and try to put forth the same...I say THANK YOU.

For the rest of you...I'd like for you to get that We're Not Gonna Take It song by Twisted Sister stuck in your head for a while.

Because I'm over it.

1.  I am not a daycare:  

Did I hand you a release when you dropped your kid off for that first play date?  Did I check to see if your kid had been immunized?  Nope.  Because that initial invite was not a blanket offer for you to drop your kid off at will whenever you need to pop down to the gym.  I've got a newsflash for you:  I would love a good workout (or at least the option).  I would love to meet a friend for lunch.  But I don't think it's your responsibility to watch my kid (unless an earlier agreement has been reached) at my leisure while I go get the much-deserved pedicure I couldn't seem to find the time for between the hours of The View and Ellen.

2.  I don't want all of your kids:

My cordial invitation was not meant for all of your children.  It was meant for the child that my child goes to school with.  So, while I'm sure that they are all a delight...they can be delightful at your house.

3.  My cell phone is NOT a way for your child to communicate with mine:

Hey...guess what???  I work.  And I have shit going on.  So, when your child picks up your phone and starts texting mine with messages like "are you home?  hello?  hello?" or "I want to come over to your house" or the message "it's me" 50 times, I really don't appreciate it.  The first time it happens, I'll assume that you don't know they've done it.  By the fourth, I'd like to text back "You know, your mom mentioned that she'd really like you to put her cell phone in the toilet."

4.  Invite my child to YOUR house.  Don't invite your child to mine:

This one just astounds me because my elementary school-age children know better.  It is not polite to invite your children to someone else's home.  So, when you text me with "how about my kids come over to your house this weekend?" (I'm not kidding...I just got that text last night), you are violating several rules of etiquette and are going to get back a big HELL NO in response.  And I have news for you - now I don't want to extend the invitation again EVER.

5.  Talk to your kids about proper manners at someone's home:

I once had a child come over uninvited, stay all day, and then walk up to me and say, "Hey.  What's for dinner?"  I have since asked my children if they have ever said that to another adult and they looked at me like I had a third head.  When you come to my house, you are not allowed to rummage through my pantry without permission, play in a separate room from the friend you came over to see, or generally treat my house as your own.  You are a guest and if you don't know better...your parents are failing you.

6.  Be clear about your intentions when asking for a play date:

Okay.  I've had this happen before, too.  I've had plans and a sitter has canceled or I'm running late to let my kids in the house after school.  And what do I do?  I call someone I trust and say, rather apologetically, "I'm so sorry, but I'm running late.  Can you get my kids for a few minutes?  I'll be happy to return the favor sometime."  I have not, however, called another mother and said, "My son really wants to have a play date with your son!"

"Great!  When would you like to set something up?"

"I'm on my way to your house right now!"

That mother ended up violating rules one, two and four when she dumped her other kid on me while she ran to the gym.  Needless to say, they haven't been invited back and I don't even pick up the phone when she calls.  I'm no fool - I'm not getting trapped into that again.

7.  Reciprocate:

I used to think that it was common knowledge that if someone invited you over to their home, you returned the invitation at some point.  Not so much.  I have had many kids come over to my house many times and my children have never even seen the inside of their friends' homes.  And while I understand that some homes may not be conducive to guests (could be remodeling or just not possible for some reason), it's quite okay for you to call and say, "We're going to the park today.  Would your child like to come along?"

8.  Tell me ahead of time if there could be a problem with your child:

None of us wants to think that our angels are anything less than perfect, but sometimes they are.  And it's only fair to warn the receiving parent that there could be issues.  The night that I had four boys over for a sleepover and one of them was a total demon...it would have been nice for his mother to give me a heads-up rather than say the next morning, "Oh, yeah.  I thought that would be a problem."

Thanks, lady.

9.  Say "THANK YOU":

I happen to live on a block where kids are in and out of each others homes constantly.  So, very rarely is a parent dropping them off or picking them up.  And in many cases, there is one house in particular the kids seem to gravitate towards - the house where they eat snacks, play with toys, and generally use up resources.  For the parents who don't have the common courtesy to say "thanks" every once in a while (and usually raise children who follow suit), don't be surprised when the hosting parent finally throws up her hands in frustration and says, "NO MORE!"

Everyone has their breaking point.  And that last pack of cheese and crackers that your kid just took out of the pantry without asking could be it.

10.  Don't be an ass:  

Hey, guess what?  When you consistently violate any or all of these rules, PEOPLE NOTICE.  And here's a newsflash for you - when we're sitting in the bleachers watching a soccer game or waiting for a recital to start...we're usually bored and talking to other parents.  So, if there is an issue with one kid or set of parents, usually everyone knows about it.

And no one wants to be the subject of that topic of conversation.  That shit sticks with you until those kids are in college and they have a new set of people to annoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Three Question Test: How to Avoid the Self-Absorbed Man

I've been swimming around the dating pool for quite a while. 

Sometimes I feel ready to dive in head-first and sometimes I'm shyly testing the waters with my big toe.  In the beginning, I was probably more open-minded than I am now because I was just so anxious to get out into the world and meet people and I didn't give much thought about the people I was actually meeting.

Six years later, still single...I'm paying more attention.

I didn't anticipate becoming as jaded as I am now, but after each encounter - whether it's a single meeting over a beer where you just know it's not going to go anywhere or a long-term relationship that takes you a little while longer to come to the same conclusion - I can't help but walk away with a little more insight into what I want.

This awareness has provided me with some short-cuts that have sometimes sped up the "this isn't going anywhere process."  And while I'm hoping that these rules aren't cutting out anyone who should be making the cut (I don't think they are), I truly believe that they are saving me a lot of time, frustration, and beer money.

Most of them are obvious.  I've already written about the things that turn me off when looking at a guy's profile online - pay attention to the crap in the background of your picture, don't take a picture holding a large fish, etc. - but should someone actually make it past the profile stage to actual communication...that's when the real challenge begins.

The "Please Don't Start Sexting Me Before We've Even Met" Rule:  I would like to think that most woman have the dignity to hold on tight to that one.  While I like an assertive man (to a certain degree), I can't help but wonder what they're thinking when they do that.  What happens if I show up to meet you and I weigh 500 lbs and have a hair growing out of the wart I Photoshopped on my profile?  Golly...won't you feel foolish.

The "Don't Immediately Start Bitching About Your Ex" Rule:  I get it.  We all come with baggage.  But I know enough by now to realize that every story usually has three sides (yours, hers, and the truth) and it's actually more comforting to hear, "We get along for the sake of the kids, but other than that I really don't have much to do with her" rather than a laundry list of how you've been done wrong.  Because, usually the longer the list, the more I start realizing that you're either not over her or are so bitter about your situation that you probably wouldn't know something good if it sexted you.

But here's my new little test.  And it's not something that will make me want to completely dismiss someone as a possibility, but it definitely sends up a little red flag.

If I have asked you three questions about yourself and you haven't even asked me one...this just might not work out.

Think about it.  I'm interested in you, but I have things to talk about, too.  Yes, I want to know all about your kids, your favorite sports teams, and hear the story about that fish in your picture...but I have a life as well.  And I'll tell you this - I'm not spending my beer money, my time, or the rest of my life with someone who is so into himself he doesn't really care to hear about what I've got going on.

You are not interesting enough to fill up a lifetime of conversation on your own.

This is the part of that movie "Hitch" (remember?  Kevin James?  Will Smith?  The dating expert?) that is so true.  One of the main things he tells every guy is to listen.  Don't just ramble about yourself.  Don't be so into your own story you don't care about someone else's. I mean, for crying out loud - you could end up months from now, chained to a woman you don't even like just because you didn't get to know her way back when during those first few dates and you just realized what a bitch she is because you finally gave her the opportunity to talk.

So here's what I do.  I ask questions to keep the conversation going.  And if a guy hasn't asked me one question about me or even stopped the conversation long enough to let me interject anything, I'll stop the inquiry.  If the result of the silence is my date asking me a question, then he might just have a chance.  But if the only way the guy can think to fill the lull is yet another story about himself...well...

He might have better luck talking to that big ol' fish.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ten Things to do Now to Prepare for Frozen Pipes Tomorrow

Given the fact that I have just had yet another plumber over here to "shock" my pipes into action (okay, that sounded dirty, when I assure you it was just expensive), I feel like somewhat of an expert on how to prepare yourself for the possibility of frozen pipes.  Since most of us in the US are experiencing a delightful little phenomenon called the "Polar Vortex" I'm sure I'm not the only one this is happening to.

And if it hasn't happened to you...BEWARE.  You could be next.

So, here are 10 things you can do now to prepare yourself for frozen pipes tomorrow.  As I said...I speak from experience:

1.  Be nice to your neighbors:  Sure, they may not be your favorite people.  Sure, they like to rev their Harley at 3:00 in the morning, let their dogs bark until you feel violent urges you've never experienced before, and borrow your crap and never give it back.  But keep in mind that someday you may be in desperate need of their plumbing.  So let the little things slide (that sounded gross with my previous sentence, but you know what I mean).

2.  Join a gym:  Not to work out, silly.  But that membership paid for itself a couple of months ago when I was two days into frozen pipes and no shower. I was just one more person who looked crappy on the way in and put-together on the way out.  So what if I skipped that pesky workout in-between?

3.  Have an affair with a plumber:  I don't care what gender you are or if you're single.  I want you to go to the nearest bar and flirt your way into the heart of any man there wearing a shirt with his name ironed on.  Believe me, there is a price on your dignity and it's less than what it costs to unfreeze your pipes.

4.  Stop eating fiber.  NOW:  You have no idea how often you feel like you have to go to the bathroom until you don't have immediate access to one.  Cheese, bananas, french fries - these are your friends.  You'll thank me later.

5.  Potty train your kids:  Sure, I know that most kids know how to use a toilet, but they all need to be potty TRAINED when you have no flushing toilets.  All children need to know that potty times happen only between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM when they're at school.

6.  Identify an interesting point on your wall:  You'll need something to stare at while you wait for the plumber and wonder how this could have happened to you, how you got to this place in your life, and whether or not anyone will ever find true love on The Bachelor.  Finding that spot now will really take a load off your mind later.

7.  Make a Potty Map:  Take out a large piece of paper and draw a map of your neighborhood and the surround area, including gas stations, grocery stores, and the porta potty you know is outside your neighbor's house while his kitchen is being remodeled. 

8.  Buy plastic dishware:  I have three kids, so I really don't use anything else, but for you classier people out there, it's worth a CostCo trip to stock up.

9.  Buy liquorSure, you'll regret it in the middle of the night when you have to pee and you're trying to read where Point A is on your Potty Map, but we all need to relax a little when something like this happens.

10.  Go back and buy more:  A couple more glasses and you can just pee in the backyard.