It’s quantity, not quality

Way back in the misty, far-away time that was my early 30s, a slightly older friend gave me a bit of sage parenting advice.

I was debating whether to spend an upcoming holiday schlepping my little preschoolers to a fun family-oriented festival at the art museum or to let them run through the sprinkler while the hubs and I putzed around the yard and caught up on some chores.

I didn’t want to waste the day off, I explained, and I could make the case that I was with either of those scenarios.

“It’s quantity, not quality,” my friend said, turning on its end the parenting mantra of the day. (He was also locally famous for this assessment of our local Labor Day street fair: “The gene pool’s pretty shallow there.”)

Quantity, not quality. That flew in the face of everything I had strived for during my first five years of parenting, when I worked long hours as a newspaper reporter and my children spent their days in daycare. Back then, I slept little but threw the most outrageous birthday parties, if I do say so myself. Only now do I realize that the princess birthday party with the homemade castle cake and the pirate birthday party complete with a treasure the hubs and I buried were symptoms of my overfunctioning.

I wasn’t around much, but by golly, when I was on, I was ON!

But by the time my friend suggested short spurts of quality weren’t enough, I was already past that stage. I had quit my full-time job a year before because I wanted to slow down and spend more time with my kids. And pretty quickly, I had realized that the days were l-o-o-n-n-n-g-g-g when you had to figure out something to do with a 3 year old and a 4 year old every.Single.Minute.

So a year in, I was running out of ideas. I feared I’d become one of those mommies who watched soaps all afternoon (they still were on then,) cracked open a cold one around 4 p.m. when Oprah came on and let the neighbors worry about my kids.

Quantity, not quality. What did it mean?

I really wasn’t sure, but I kept it at the front of my mind when I began stressing over whether I was enriching my children enough. Should I be teaching them to read instead of reading to them? Should I enroll them in a kiddie cooking class instead of baking cookies with them? What about signing them up for Ceramics for Children instead of letting them just play with the Play-Doh at the kitchen table?

Quantity, not quality.

And then we had a third child, and I really didn’t have as much time for my neuroses because the older two entered school. And life got busier. And frankly, the birthday parties became quite a bit less elaborate. And “quantity over quality” faded from my mind.

Until a few weeks ago, when I was driving my daughter, younger son and a niece home from the mall. My daughter and my niece began talking about a mutual friend who had been in their Girl Scout troop.

“Wait a minute,” my son said to my niece, “you were in Girl Scouts?”

“Duh,” she said.

“Why aren’t you still in it?” he asked.

Before she could answer, I piped up. “Because she had the worst leader ever. Didn’t even like kids, really.”

Then my daughter spoke up. “Mom,” she said, “you were our leader.”

“Exactly,” I said.

And then…

“I thought you were a good leader,” my daughter said. “I loved it when you were our leader.”

I was so stunned I almost hit the car in front of me.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, flooded with memories of the dread I felt each week as I prepared for the Girl Scout meeting, my panic when the cookie money didn’t add up, the sore on my tongue from the many times I had to bite it to keep from snapping on a hyper kid.

“Yeah,” she said wistfully, “it was great. We had fun. I always thought you planned fun stuff.”

Quantity, not quality. My friend was right. 

Santa’s white? Yeahhhhhhh, right!

Megyn Kelly, your little mind is wrong. It has been affected by the pea-brained ideologues with which you surround yourself at Fox News.

You claimed a week or so ago on your show, “The Kelly File,” that Santa, along with Jesus, is a white man. You said it was a verifiable fact that we all just need to accept – kind of like acknowledging that if your dad and granddad went to Yale, you’ll go there, too, regardless of how you score on the SAT.

I’m not even going to touch the Jesus comment, but I’ll let you do the math, Megyn.  Jesus was born in the Middle East, and by all accounts (and by all I mean the Old Testament,) his mother’s people were from the same general area. And his Dad’s peeps – well, I mean, his Dad was God. So it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus looked more like Omar Sharif than Orlando Bloom (yes, I know Omar Sharif is Egyptian, but you get my point.)

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Omar Sharif in his younger days

And I know that rationally, Santa Claus no doubt is white. He’s from northern Europe, right? Well, not so fast, Ms. Smartypants Kelly. St. Nicholas, the third-century bishop who lived in a small town in Turkey and who is Santa’s forebear, was Greek. He no doubt looked like this ancient painting of him:

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St. Nicholas

So, yes. He looks a little like Omar Sharif, too.

Not black, I know. But closer than the lily-white, red-suit-wearing jovial red-cheeked Santa from the Clement Clarke Moore poem and whom you, no doubt, invoked in scolding writer Aisha Harris for pining for a black Santa.

I’m here to set the record straight. Yes, Megyn, there is a Santa, and he (sometimes) is black.

One December day in 1979, my family drove north from our little town in southeast Missouri, searching for snow on our way to my grandparents’ house. In tow we had my 16-year-old cousin, a Florida native who wanted to see snow for Christmas. No luck in our part of the Midwest, so we headed north.

We stopped in St. Louis to show my cousin the big city and to see the lovely decorated windows at downtown stores like Famous-Barr and Stix, Baer and Fuller. At Famous, we set out to find Santa. My younger sister was 7, my older sister a jaded 15. I was 11 and still a believer.

Famous-Barr’s Santa held court at the end of a winding path through Candyland, full of toy trains and beautiful automated displays. As we inched nearer, I remember, my heart pounded, wondering if this was the year I’d get that coveted Tuesday Taylor doll whose scalp swiveled, allowing her to change from blond to brunette in seconds.

When we hit the front of the line, we hit a fork in the road. A nattily dressed elf asked whether we wanted a photo with Santa, and my parents declined. Not sure why – maybe we’d already seen Santa elsewhere. But when we said “no photo,” the elf pointed down one hall and said we could find Santa there.

So we filed down that hallway, turned a corner and went through a door and came face to face with Santa – a black Santa.

I remember the look on his face – utter surprise. Maybe that was aimed at us, because I’m sure the faces of my sisters and me (and maybe my Florida cousin, too,) registered complete and absolute shock.

We lived in a southern town where sharecroppers still existed. Black people and white people didn’t live in the same parts of town. They didn’t even go to the same churches.

Yet there we were, three little white girls and their Florida cracker cousin, climbing onto Santa’s lap and telling him our Christmas dreams.  It was just like all the other times we’d sat on Santa’s lap, only this time, Santa looked like Flip Wilson instead of Mickey Rooney.

So that was that. We promised to leave cookies for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph and bid Santa good-bye. He told us to be good.

And we were. And I did receive the Tuesday Taylor doll, who took up residence in the sorority house that was the Barbie Town House in my room.

And I frankly forgot the incident until recently, Megyn, when your ignorance caused my brain to cough up this memory.

So yes, Megyn, there is a black Santa Claus. And probably a Latino one and an Asian one, and maybe a redneck one, for all I know.

Why is the most wonderful time of year so depressing?

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I remember when I loved this time of year.

My memories of Thanksgiving are peppered with car trips literally over the river (either the Mississippi or Missouri, depending on which side of the family we were visiting) and through the woods to a grandmother’s house.

I close my eyes and can see through the VW van windows the trees rushing past, many still clinging to their golden and orange leaves, some already stark wintry silhouettes against a cloudy November sky.

My memories are of good smells and laughter, cheek pinches from elderly relatives we saw only once a year, too much pie and the dim roar of a parade or football game emanating from an ancient television.

My birthday fought with Thanksgiving for attention, and some years, they shared the day. Those were the special years, the years my mom would tell me the whole country was celebrating my birthday with a day off from work and school and a New York City parade to boot! I felt pretty special.

And then I grew up. And the grandmothers died, along with the other relatives we saw on Turkey Day. And it became not as much fun to mark each passing year, to realize I’m now the age my maternal grandmother was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

When November dawns each year, my heart feels heavy. I never wanted to feel this way, to struggle to celebrate the present because I can’t forget the past. I spend my working life now helping others leave their pasts behind so they can move forward, but I’m having a hard time doing that myself.

One thing my new career as a therapist has taught me is that I’m not alone is clinging to these idyllic visions of past holidays. Many folks wish for what they remember as the salad days, happier times when no one fought and the turkey was perfect and the whole scene looked like something out of a painting.

And for that, I’m blaming Norman Rockwell.

He’s an easy target. For one thing, I don’t know him personally. And for another, he’s dead.

But seriously – think about it. He painted scene after scene of an idealized America. His paintings showed the America we always wanted, and the one that stands out in my mind is that of the Thanksgiving holiday:

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This is what I think of when I remember my childhood holidays.

Yet a few weeks back, I heard an interesting story on NPR about Norman Rockwell, best known for his idyllic images of America that graced so many covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

Rockwell grew famous painting life in Stockbridge, Mass., which became a stand-in for Anytown, USA. The neighborly police officer. The schoolteacher. The kindly doctor. The postman.

Rockwell lived with his family in this quintessential New England town – that fact is well known. But what isn’t so well known is that he moved his family there so his wife, an alcoholic who also suffered from depression, could receive treatment at the Austen Riggs Institute, a psychiatric facility.

And Rockwell became an Austen Riggs client, too, seeking treatment from the renowned psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, whose Theory of Psychosocial Development became a cornerstone of the study of human behavior.

In the NPR story, author Deborah Solomon explains what Rockwell was doing when painted his famous depictions of American life: “”I think he painted a view of America as a caring, concerned place,” Solomon told NPR report Robert Siegel. “He certainly was not painting his own reality, but he was painting, I think, his longing.”

His longing is everyone’s longing, though. Don’t we all want to only remember the good times or think of life as it should be, not how it sometimes is?

This year, our immediate family had to change our Thanksgiving plans. For the past several years, we’ve had the main meal with my husband’s side of the family, then driven to my parents’ farm for the rest of the weekend.

But a variety of events conspired against us this year, and we aren’t going to the farm. Which was OK with my husband and me, since we could use the extra time at home to catch up. But our elder son expressed deep disappointment.

“Honey,” I said, trying to comfort him, “sometimes it’s crazy there. And it’ll be cold, and we’d all be stuck inside. Remember how you and your cousins sometimes fight?”
Nope, he said. He didn’t remember that at all. He just remembered the good times.

Which made me realize that’s what I’m doing, too. If I try really hard, I can remember the Thanksgivings past when we had some family debacle in the middle of dinner, or the time a distant uncle showed up drunk, or the year my mom dropped the turkey on the floor (much to my dad’s delight, since he can’t stand poultry anyway.)

Maybe Norman Rockwell had the right idea. Just long for the good times and try to forget the bad ones.

Think I’ll try that next year.

You don’t have to support this tax

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It’s difficult not to support raising money for research into curing our most horrible diseases.

After all, that’s like saying kittens are ugly or all those videos of laughing babies are time-suckers. I might as well start yelling, “Get off my lawn!” right now.

But sorry, folks, I cannot support the proposed half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 5 ballot in Jackson County. I’m not an anti-tax person. I rarely meet a tax I can’t get behind.

Except this one. It’s unfair, it’s regressive and it’s not the right tax.

The proposed 20-year sales tax would raise $800 million for translational medical research. “Translational” is defined as creating new drugs and devices to combat disease based on research. The Hall Family Foundation has promised $75 million toward the building of a new research facility at Children’s Mercy Hospital if the tax passes.

The Committee for Research, Treatment and Cures promises the tax money will:

  • Attract top research talent to the Kansas City area.
  • Create the Institute for Translational Medicine on Hospital Hill, a collaboration between Children’s Mercy, St. Luke’s Hospital System, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
  • Help the local economy by luring companies here and generating “hundreds of millions of dollars for our community.”

Sounds like a plan, right? Who doesn’t want to cure cancer?

I do, of course. I’m a huge fan of Children’s Mercy – the hubs and I write a check every month, paying off our kids’ latest ER visit. Love St. Luke’s, too. That’s where all my docs are. And both Matt and I are proud graduates of UMKC.

But I can’t support this tax because it’s unfair. It’s a tax ONLY for Jackson County – not the rest of the state or even the area. To be sure, Johnson County, Kan., has a similar tax, but it’s one-eighth of a cent. And the folks who dreamed up this current tax proposal – the elite Civic Council in Kansas City – are, I believe, out of touch with the real economic hardship a half-cent tax could wreak on the regular folk in Jackson County.

Let me throw these numbers at you (they’re from www.city-data.com; the U.S. Census website is offline because of the government shutdown):

  • 66208 – that’s the ZIP code in Johnson County where many Civic Council members live. While they might work in Jackson County, you can be certain they’re not buying their groceries or everyday living items in Jackson County.
  • $233,599 – that’s the 2011 median household income in Mission Hills, Kan., in the 66208 ZIP code, home to the Halls of the Hall Family Foundation and to several Civic Council members. The median per capita income there is $101,863.
  • $45,886 – that’s the 2009 median household income in Jackson County.
  • $41,487 – that’s the 2009 median household income in Independence.

Consider those numbers and decide for yourself who is hit harder by an increase in the sales tax – the person clearing $100,000 annually, or someone making less than half that?

A sales tax is regressive – it hurts those with lower incomes far worse than those at the upper end. Unlike property taxes, which rise with a property’s worth, sales taxes are blind – they are tacked onto purchases regardless of who’s purchasing.

And should a government that’s already spread too thin trying to pay for roads, infrastructure, parks and facilities even get into the research game? Isn’t that best left to the private sector? Who will own the patents on the research that’s generated here? Who gets that income?

I’m sorry, Civic Council. I applaud your intent, but there’s got to be a better way.

My friend and former Kansas City Star colleague Jim Fitzpatrick of Kansas City has some ideas. He’s started the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure (which I have joined – full disclosure.) At stopabadcure.org, you can read about his research on this tax proposal and his alternative idea:

The Hall Family Foundation, instead of challenging taxpayers to fund this research, should issue that challenge to corporations, foundations and the wealthy (hello, Civic Council members…) to raise the money the tax would raise. With private money raised, the county could seek a much smaller sales-tax increase of one-eighth cent for 15 years.

And that would leave some wiggle room for light-rail proponents to ask voters in the future to approve a sales tax that would pay for much-needed upgrades to our public transportation – which would help everyone from low-income fast-food workers to corporate executives to those who make their money from tourism.

It’s a win-win.

Life on the launching pad

Our oldest is a senior in high school.

As the hubs and I navigate these uncharted (for us) waters, we find ourselves focusing on every “last” event. The last first day of high school. The last band show. The last back-to-school night.

We will drive ourselves batty if we don’t stop, but how can we? We look at our oldest, and all we see is the chubby little baby we brought home from the hospital 17 years ago.

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But now, along with the lasts, we’re dealing with the firsts, too. These are a little easier to handle, though, since with Joe, life has always been full of firsts.

He was the first baby. The first child we potty trained. The first kid to get braces.

Last weekend, the hubs helped Joe submit his first college application, to the University of Missouri, our alma mater. We hold no illusions that he’ll end up there; he’s told us it’s a little too big for his taste. But he humored us, as all good kids do their parents, and dutifully applied to Ol’ Mizzou.

After they completed the online application, Joe wandered off, no doubt texting a buddy or his girlfriend to tell them what dorks his parents are. Matt came into the kitchen, where I was folding clothes.

“I can’t believe our baby just applied to MU,” he said, a little emotionally. “Where did the time go?”

I felt the same. All those years when Joe and his siblings were babies and toddlers and preschoolers – while they were happening, they seemed so long. The nights were so long. Some days were, too.

And then – blip. They’re gone. And here we are.

I nodded sympathetically.

What makes this even more emotional for us, though, is that we know how much our boy has overcome. Not as much as some kids, to be sure. He’s not homeless. He hasn’t lost a parent. He’s not chronically ill.

But from the get-go, Joe was a sensitive soul, full of anxiety. I was, too, and I remember holding him as an infant, willing myself to calm down so my baby would be calm, too. But I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was scared I’d break him.

Childhood was sometimes fraught with peril for Joe. We watched as he navigated things that caused him angst, rites of passage that didn’t throw his younger siblings or his cousins for a loop. We sought professional help and learned to help him develop the calming skills he needed.

And we watched when he wasn’t always able to implement what he had learned. It’s painful to watch your child learn from natural consequences, even as you know it’s the best way.

Elementary school was rough at times, but with each passing year, Joe matured and learned from his past. And he paved the way for his sister and brother, who don’t share his disposition but who nonetheless benefitted from the trail he blazed.

Now he’s facing his first jumping-off point, and we hope and pray he’ll be able to use those skills he’s learned over the years as he takes his first steps into adulthood. He’s grown into such a great kid. I know all parents say that, and I hope they all mean that. I am proud of my son for the person he has grown into despite his parents’ ineptitude and because of the strength of his character. If he weren’t my kid, I’d still want to know him.

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When I think of him leaving for college in less than a year, all I picture is the little boy I took to kindergarten in August 2001. He was scared. I could see it in his eyes. But he was brave, mostly for his dad and me, I know now.

He found his desk that day and waved good-bye. I went out into the hallway and waited where he couldn’t see me. I wanted to make sure he didn’t cry.

His bottom lip quivered. He wanted to cry. But he stood tall as the principal announced on the intercom that it was time for the Pledge of Allegiance. He never looked back, even though I’m sure that he knew I was there watching, praying and crying just a little.

This time next year, he’ll be gone, having left willingly to spread his wings. But I’ll still be there, watching to make sure everything’s all right.

And I think he knows that, too.

The mysterious case of the Dinner Plate Dahlias

It has come to my attention that perhaps I watch too many crime shows.

I reached that conclusion after the recent destruction of my prize dahlias.

These lovely yellow flowers produce blooms the size of dinner plates – hence the name, Dinner Plate Dahlia. I am appropriately self-deprecating about the lovely blooms these bulbs produce, acting as if it’s nothing when in reality I have lovingly pruned and fertilized and babied these beauties.

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“Oh, it’s nothing,” I have said, smiling smugly.

Well, in reality, it is nothing, because not only did I just toss these bulbs – which my friend Cynthia gave me – into the flower bed outside my side door but I also did that in spring 2012. Yes, these bulbs should not have made it through the strange winter of 2012-2013 to bloom another summer.

But they did. And they are miracles. And I will take all the credit, which is, after all, the American Way.

Now these dahlias reside, along with some other miracle plants like the Gerbera daisy of 2003, which comes back year after year, and last year’s annual purple salvia, in a small flower bed outside my side door, next to my driveway. Also taking up space there are a couple grape tomato plants because it’s the only consistently sunny spot in our yard.

Anywho. The basketball goal also is in the driveway, as basketball goals are wont to be. This has been a bone of contention for many years.

Often I have found the tomatoes threatened by a wayward basketball, or the rudbeckia Goldsturm west of the door along the driveway bent down by a playground ball or hastily discarded basketball.

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In early August, in fact, I completely embarrassed my 17-year-old son and his soccer friends by frequently interrupting their basketball game to warn them about the consequences of messing with my flowers.

Mama has a long fuse, but it ain’t that long, people.

So on the evening before the first day of school, the hubs and I took the kiddos to eat their last supper before heading back to the salt mines. We got home about dusk.

As I approached my side door, I saw this:

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And this:

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I stopped and stared. Each of my children gaped, wide-eyed, at the carnage, then turned slowly to look at me. Almost in unison, they declared their innocence.

Well, of course, they didn’t do this. We were gone. And when we’d left home at 5:45 p.m., the three dahlias stood tall, their ginormous blooms smiling at me.

Now, they were bent toward the driveway, their sturdy stalks bent and broken.

There were several suspects, most of them relatives. I grabbed my cell phone and started dialing.

It was so strange. Each of my three nephews had been playing basketball on the driveway, they said, but none had seen anyone trampling the flowers. Unless it was the two little neighbor boys. Yeah. It could have been them. But maybe not. Gee, they were sorry.

It was a case for Unsolved Mysteries. Or maybe Dateline: NBC. Or Major Crimes. Or Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

The next morning, my youngest and I headed to my parents for the annual back-to-school breakfast my mom prepares. She’s done this for years, sending her grandkids in grade school back to class with a hearty breakfast in their stomachs. This year, there are only two youngsters left who don’t leave before 7:30 a.m.: my younger son and my youngest nephew.

He’s a genial sort, loquacious to the nth degree. If you want to find out any scoop on anyone who lives on our block, you just ask this fellow the right question, and BOOM! You know about it. He’s like our own personal town crier.

So I pulled my best Brenda Leigh Johnson and prepared for some answers.

As my nephew gobbled up his French toast, I made small talk about first grade and recess and what have you. Then I pounced.

“Hey,” I said, “you know those giant yellow flowers that grow by my driveway?”

“Yep,” he said, shoving a forkful of syrupy bread into his mouth.

“It’s so weird,” I said. “When we got home last night from dinner, those flowers were knocked over. Broken. And I found a green-and-purple rubber ball stuck back in the tomatoes.”

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“Hmm….,” he said, continuing to eat.
I paused. You have to let the silence do its work.

“Say,” I said, “what do you think happened?”

Fork in the air as if he were thinking really hard, he puckered his forehead. Then he looked at me.

“I know,” he said.

YES!! I thought. I KNEW I could’ve been a cop.

“You do?” I asked, all Brenda Leigh-like.

“Yep,” he said, picking up a piece of bacon. “It was the wind.”

Yeah….only there wasn’t any wind.

But I didn’t bother.

Each day after that, my flower bed suffered assaults, all mysterious, all without witness. It’s as if there’s a vandal specifically targeting my side flower bed for destruction.

My family tires of my complaining about such a first-world problem. One of my elders suggested that perhaps I should move the dahlias. Others maintain that someday, there will be no kids playing in my driveway and I can grow all the darned flowers I want there.

Sure, they’re right. I certainly don’t want to go all “GET OFF MAHHH LAWN!!!” on any young ‘uns.

However, when a body has asked and asked if the kiddos will be more careful and the basketball goal is MOVABLE, for Christ’s sake, I think I have a right to be upset when my flowers are destroyed.

So today, I struck first. I grabbed my pruners and cut most of the plants waaaaaaaayyyy back. Then I watered the bejesus out of them.

And I hid all the basketballs. For now.

Stop the competition already

These days, I pretty much get all my news from Facebook.

Probably what happens when you ditch journalism. I am no longer beholden to getting all my news from the New York Times and other erudite sources. Now that I’m no longer an official member of the Fourth Estate, I can start quoting sites like the Huffington Post and (gasp!) Yahoo news.

So that’s how I came across this little gem (click here.)

New moms are getting spray-tanned, made up, etc., while or shortly before they go into labor so they look awesome in the inevitable Facebook and Twitter photos.

And we wonder why other countries hate the United States.

Seriously. As if women needed another venue in which to compete with each other. I am so over this I’m about to go all Jamie Lee Curtis and stop dyeing my hair and start eating that yogurt that makes you poop.

As a female human, I have been dealing with this idiotic competiveness since I was born. However, I didn’t pay much attention to it until I was in my early 20s. That’s about the time I was graduating from college and getting married.

You know how we women like to one-up each other with our weddings. No need to rehash that one since Bridezillas does it most nights on cable. I was in a lot of weddings back then. I’m not even sure how many times I was a bridesmaid or how many taffeta dresses of differing colors still hang in the back of my closet.

But it was a lot. And I observed a lot. And so by the time I got married the summer after the hubs and I graduated college, I knew what I wanted our wedding to look like.

But really, that was just the beginning of the ongoing reality show of life. We were still newlyweds when the hubs joined a softball league with some buddies he’d known in high school and college. I was a newspaper reporter by then, but on nights I didn’t work, I dutifully sat on the bleachers and watched a bunch of guys play slow-pitch.

I didn’t know many folks and was lonely for friends, so I generally sat amongst the other girlfriends and wives.

Oy vey. It was an education.

Two of the women talked of nothing but trying to get pregnant, who was pregnant, what they were going to name their as-yet unconceived babies, what the nurseries would look like, what kind of car they needed to cart the infants around, buying a house, buying a bigger house, blah, blah, blah. It was exhausting to listen to. This must be what it feels like to be brainwashed, I thought.

And the one time I tried to change the subject to, I don’t know, the 1992 election, they looked at me like I was speaking some weird Balkan language.

So then a few years later, most of our married friends started actually having babies. Like good childless friends, we visited them in the hospital. For the ones we were especially close to – there were maybe two – we even sat in the waiting room until the babies popped out.

That’s when I learned about how you know if your kiddo is exceptional from the minute he or/and she is born: the Apgar score.

Apgar. What is it? The hubs and I looked at each other. One mom saw our confusion and explained that it’s the first test a child ever is given and proves whether the baby is alert. She said “alert” with a certain gleam in her eye, which I took to mean, “My baby is smarter than any kids of yours can ever hope to be.”

So, of course, by the time I actually became pregnant with our own little kiddo, I was all stoked about the Apgar. But then I started to realize that the Apgar would likely be affected by how I chose to give birth. And by how, I mean what childbirth method I used and whether I received an epidural to numb the excruciating pain that comes from forcing something the size of a watermelon through a hole the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

One well-meaning friend suggested against Lamaze because the father wasn’t involved enough. She said that to the 27-year-old version of me, who thought, but did not say out loud, that probably the father had already been involved quite enough, thank you very much. (For the record, the 44-year-old version of me would just say it out loud. And for the record, three epidurals AND three Apgar scores of 9. Ahem.)

A new baby presents many, many opportunities for competition, from whether and how long you breastfeed to when and how many words the kiddo can say before he or she turns a year old to how much you spend on daycare (“OMG, it’s like my whole check goes to the Montessori. But it’s worth it if little Haven can speak French and Spanish at 3, right?”)

I could go on and on. However, the older I get, the less I’m generally inclined to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the uber-competitive mommies I encounter, mainly because I just don’t give a !@#$% anymore.

More women should adopt this attitude because frankly, this competition over stuff that doesn’t really matter is killing us, making us strive for a perfection we can never attain. We have only ourselves to blame, too.

Sprays tan or new ‘do while you’re in labor? I can’t imagine anything worse. Here’s a photo of me in labor with my first child.

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Don’t ask.

If you would have come at with some self-tanner or a hair dryer, I would have cut you.