A Generation of Idiots – My Issues With YA

Having watched the Hunger Games recently (no, I haven’t read the books yet… They’re on my list), I have noticed a disturbing trend in YA these days. It’s not the violence, the sex, the vacuous characters (I’m looking at you, Vampire Academy) and it’s not something I noticed when I was a young adult myself but I can see it now as an adult:

Incompetent, stupid, lazy parents/adults. And I mean pull your hair out stupid…

Beginning with the Hunger Games, which cemented this annoyance from me, Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute in the death match for her district…

If this is spoilers for you by now, please get out from the rock you’ve been living under.

Anyway, as I watch the movie, Katniss gets stung by super wasps and hallucinates. One of the things she sees implies her father was killed in a mine accident and her mother has been traumatized ever since, leaving Katniss to be “mom” to her younger sister. She is literally screaming and shaking her mother in the vision to get her mother to actually SEE her. Not to mention that the parents don’t go batshit crazy at the THOUGHT of offering up their pre-teens to a death game that will be broadcast for the amusement of others. Defeated in a war or not, I can’t see how an uprising wouldn’t happen at the mere mention of such an edict. The parents are frighteningly complicit (as mocked here).

Then there’s Twilight, where Bella moves in with her dad because her mother is busy traveling with her boyfriend and her father is just plain ignorant of what his daughter is getting up to with a 107 year old vampire. She sits in a room and mopes for three months when Edward leaves (for some reason) and weeks pass before her father even notices something’s up with her. Bella can also manage to drop everything and leave the country with a total stranger (as far as her father is concerned) to face supernatural creatures and he isn’t even informed. Bella’s no toddler (debatable, I know) and it may not be right to compare her to my 6 year old (again, debatable) but if my kid takes too long to get something from the fridge, I go to investigate. I don’t see not figuring out something’s wrong with my kid if she hasn’t left her own room for months… Or left the frigging country.

Harry Potter doesn’t get a pass here, either. Harry’s parents sacrifice their lives for their son and even come back from the dead to help him in battle (again, if these are spoilers for you, what the bloody hell…) but the other authority figures are pretty damn good at allowing small children into deadly situations. Cracked has touched on this (twice) and done a great job of pointing out how kids are sent to deadly places as a punishment, allowed to attend a school where paintings spy on them and the staircases move at a whim (cool for a moment till you think about it…), and you know what? As much as we all love Lupin as a character, he IS a danger to the students! I get you wanna give the guy a fair shot but (again, spoilers if you never saw these) he is just a human being. If he forgets to take his potion for whatever reason, he could turn into a werewolf make a meal of the whole damn school.

Wanna go back further? How long did Buffy’s mom have no clue what her hero daughter was doing? Put aside the gut reaction of “Young lady! You put that stake down and get your hands off that old (but hot) vampire right now and go do your homework!” and think about it for a second: Her daughter was a hero. An awesome hero who literally went to hell and back to save lives. Buffy had her friends, she had Giles (the definition of awesome), but her mom was mostly in the dark and portrayed as a bit of a ditz before she finds out after two years of washing bloodstains out of her daughter’s clothes!! But can you imagine if she’d had her daughter’s back from the beginning!? If she came home at night to a proud mom who had a hot cup of tea and some bandages ready and saying “Great job on saving the world AND getting all your homework done, sweetie.” Because remember, Buffy graduated. Yeah, she’s proud of Buffy later, but at first she saw Buffy as a typical trouble making teen; remaining willfully ignorant of what her daughter is going through. And if you’ve seen the show, Buffy really could have used her mom’s support.

Now, I’m 33 years old but I remember being a preteen and teenager. I thought all adults were idiots and they didn’t get me or understand life the way I did because I was so smrt and knew just ALL the things. But I DIDN’T. Not only did I NOT know everything, I had really smart adults guiding me to make the right decisions in my life. As a parent, I’m a little afraid of the idea being marketed to kids that adults know nothing or are useless.

I get it, though. As a teen, you know more about life yet you are still at the mercy of everything and everyone. Even if you’re one of those responsible, level-headed kids (like I was), you still get the sense you are not in control and you’re being pandered to because of your age. I remember telling adults “I know I don’t know everything, but you’re ignoring what I DO know!” Ya know the shocker? My mother listened. Not all parents/adults are idiots.

Pertaining to the heading, I’m not saying YA is raising a generation of idiots, I’m saying it’s encouraging kids to believe the generation ahead of them is useless to them, can never understand them, never listen to them, and is an implicit danger to them. Of course there are major exceptions (we can start with any adult comic book hero, but again a lot of them had dead/absent parents) but the overwhelming idea is to fear and shun adults because they are either useless or the source of your problems. And it’s scary to see so many of these characters to be unwilling or unable to turn to their parents for help because one day, my daughter may look up to characters like these and assume I’m of no use to her.

Don’t get me wrong; I am completely aware that it is MY job to be a parent and earn my child’s faith that I’m not an idiot and can help her. If I’ve done my job right, I’ll be the first one she comes to. But media has a powerful sway over people of any age (TwiMoms, anyone?) and it scares me how often I watch a movie or a cartoon and think: Where the hell are the parents and why are they morons?! Who keeps letting the Rugrats get more than five feet without supervision?! I wanna smack Timmy Turner’s parents just right in the face… I find myself going back to older cartoons because Kim Possible’s parents were reDONKulously proud of her and – while a bit of a ninny himself – Professor Utonioum was proud of his girls, too.

I’m also a writer. Stories need conflict. It’s kinda the point. And perfect lives don’t make riveting stories or back-stories. “I was born in a perfect family with perfect parents and lived a perfect life till I died of old age surrounded by love. The end.” Better hold on tight for that literary roller roaster. However, the default setting shouldn’t be dead, incompetent, or ignorant (willfully or not) adults, pandering to the worst feelings adolescents have about the world. I would love to see a major franchise sweep the nation for young people showing their parents as a competent support to their children at the very least. It could show them that the world may suck; I have to fight demons, there’s a war, there’s a bully, there are zombies, the sky is on fire, and the aliens stole my lunch money again. But when I came home? My parents told me I did a good job. I got a hug and somebody told me it’s gonna be ok.

And the worst part about all this? As parents they tell us the kids need our attention and support in order to really thrive. The kid’s entertainment tells them in order to be great, their parents need to get the hell out of the way. It shouldn’t be all or nothing here. I tell my daughter we’re a team so her heroes should have parents on their team, too.

End of Summer and Why I Shun Playdates

Ahh, the joy of back to school. I am blessed that my child is at the age where she’s excited to go back to school because she gets to see all of her friends again. To be honest, she hasn’t seen much of her friends over the summer. Partly because they’re busy too and partly because I shun playdates like a mofo.

Why? Am I some sort of antisocial malcontent who hates spending time with other people?

Well, partly. >D Give me a good book and a glass of wine any night but that’s not why the demon seed hasn’t seen much of her friends in a setting outside of camp or the daycare.

Reason #1 is that I’m a single working mother. I don’t have a lot of time to be schlepping my kid all over creation just to see her friends. A lot of her friends mom’s work at home or part time so it’s not easy when I get out of work when our respective offspring should be eating dinner already.

Reason #2 is (and this is the most important) is that I’m a single working mother. What little spare time I have I want to spend it with my kid! Sorry to disappoint fellow parents but I don’t think real quality time is spent running errands and doing chores. It’s awesome that your kid wants to play with my kid but aside from rushing her to eat, get clean, get to whoever’s watching her, rushing home, rush to eat, get clean, and get to sleep, I’d like to play with her!  Damnit, I made her so I should get first dibs!

So, with the first Saturday I’m not working looming ahead and about a dozen or so invites from various parents to come see them on Labor Day weekend, I have holed up like a crazy person hiding from the Black Plague. It’s MY weekend, for gods’ sakes; the LAST weekend. And I aim to make it count. 😉

You all can play with her when I’m done with her.

 

Mommy Monday and the glory of ONE

I am frequently asked “When are you gonna have another one?” when I am seen walking with my 5 year old daughter. Do I want one? Want is a strong word. Do I feel the biological pull of my uterus to create more offspring? Yes. But after this weekend when I took a road trip with my kid and my 8 year old niece to visit my mother in law in Pennsylvania, I was reminded why one can be more than enough.

I adore my niece but when the two of them get together, EVERYTHING is a pissing contest. And I see it with the other families around me as well. I can’t imagine throwing 2 or MORE kids in the back seat to spent 6 hours driving, keeping them all entertained (we don’t have a DVD player in the car so books, books, and more books), fed, and clean for the duration of the trip. For me, it’s hard enough with just the one!

Now I understand why I’m an only child. XD

This is not to say if I found myself suddenly pregnant again, I wouldn’t keep it, but in a perfect world, one is good. I still have so much I want to do with my own life that I can’t imagine putting it off any longer. Best to be happy with the one healthy, happy kid I’ve got. 🙂

Let’s all share! Or not… Picking my battles.

I got a flyer in my kid’s folder inviting parents to come share their holiday traditions. I didn’t even have to read the whole thing in order to decide there was no way in hell I was doing that even if I was free from work to do so.

Why? This is why. And so is this.

I have no intention of turning my kid’s pre-k into a religious battle ground and making school miserable for her. Granted, in all likelihood, nothing would come of me going there and saying what the Solstice means to me but if I’m gonna throw down for my religion, it’s not gonna be there.

You may think me cowardly for not using this as a teaching opportunity or something like that, but I pick my battles carefully. When someone asks me what my pentacle means, I tell them exactly what it means. If another parent has a problem with me rolling up to the school with all my pentacles on, it’s on them, not me. I remove them for NO ONE. But it’s not MY school, it’s my daughter’s. I teach her my traditions but I feel it’s not the right place to get such a discussion started.

This Tattooed Mama’s Defense of Tattoo Barbie

(image from article)

My history with Barbie is strange, much like my history with everything else. :p The big deal with my parents was I used my allowance to buy my own Barbie and she was White. My family only got me African American Barbie dolls so I could have toys that “looked like me.” That is in quotes because I am biracial and have an olive complexion. NO mainstream doll looks like me.

But I digress…

Now the parents are whining and complaining that this collectable has tattoos. I won’t lie, when I was a kid, I wanted tattoos. They were in the vending machines with the candy, they came free with comics I bought, in party favors, and on men AND women I’d see in my day to day kid life. Barbie didn’t make me want a damn thing except more Barbies. I didn’t even play “Barbie” with them. Me and my best friend had basket ball games and played X-Men with them.

I dunno if Barbie gave me poor body image (I think it was more likely the boys calling me a “charging buffalo”) but I can tell you it was the TATTOOS that made me wanna get tattoos. Not some stupid doll. I thought the temporary ones were fun but I always wanted one that wouldn’t peel and go away. My mother said “Not till you’re 18” figuring I’d get over it. The summer I turned 18, I got my first tattoo. Was my mother pleased? FUCK no!! But as an adult, I can make shittastic decisions.

Now that I’m 30, I STILL love that first tattoo and have gotten three more (most recently Monday night). Every one is of spiritual importance to me.

“What are you gonna do when you get old?” Easy, I will be old and have tattoos. Duh.

“What about the risk of disease?” If you go to a clean, reputable place and take good care of your skin art, this is a non issue.

“What if you get sick of it?” I go by the hard an fast rule of picking a design and waiting 3-6 months. If I still like it after that time, I go for it. It also gives me time to save up the money.

“What if your kid says SHE wants one.” I will tell her the same thing my Ma told me: “When you’re 18.” With the added caveat to not get any damn trendy tattoos, go to a clean place with a good reputation, and don’t ask me to pay for it.

Right now, my kid is 4. She does like tattoos but said flat out she only likes the temporary ones. On the other hand, she complements strangers on their tattoos if she likes them. She doesn’t think tattoos are bad things, just something people can have. Or not.

The mere possession of tattoos doesn’t make me a bad mother. There are plenty of ways I can screw up my kids (I’m sure there’s some hair pulling when I say I include her in my Pagan traditions) but what I mark MY skin with is not one of them.

Bottom line: If you are so terrified that a doll will forever ruin your child’s life, the problem isn’t the doll, it’s you. I don’t expect tokidoki to do my parenting for me. If my daughter is doing/saying/watching something I don’t agree with, I tell her so! She tells her teacher her mama thinks Sponge Bob is bad and won’t let her watch it. You wanna let your kid watch it? Fine. I don’t judge. But if we’re going to teach our girls they can be anything they want (and Barbie’s been a doctor and even a NASCAR driver!!!) they can certainly have tattoos if they want them.

And honestly, people… It’s a DOLL. Just don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

What I learned from my kid’s back to school night

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1: Much like me, schools have no money.

The beginning of the meeting can be summed up like this: “Hi! Welcome to Important Person School. I am J. Q. Principle and can you please buy/donate/sell-so-we-can-have-money all this swag?  For the children?” Not that I don’t want to help children but I think I’m doing great by being employed so I can keep food in my daughter’s belly, clean clothes on her back, and gas in the sitter’s car (gotta pay HER too) so she can get to school in the first place. Not to mention I’m a bit bitter about having to buy SHARED supplies for the classroom. When I was a kid (shakes cane for emphasis) the school paid for glue and markers. That there was some fancy book lernin!

I’m sure we can have the meeting about what my kid is learning every day BEFORE you try to sell me things I don’t need or want.

2: I am a freak.

But I knew this so… Specifically, I got these sidelong looks when other parent’s saw I brought my daughter with me. What was I supposed to do? Make her wait in the car? People always comment on how well my daughter talks and how social she is and that’s because I take her with me EVERYWHERE. We don’t have much choice considering she’s not at the age where I can trust her home alone without drinking Drano or burning the house down. If there’s a meeting where BOTH parents wanna go, expect to see kids there.

3: My kid is fucking with me.

I always worried about how my daughter was behaving in school. Is she hitting other kids? Is she running around like a nut? Is she listening? Is her head spinning around and she’s going full Linda Blair on the teachers? So, given the opportunity, I ask the teachers if she’s being good in school.

Turns out she’s MORE than good. She’s fucking phenomenal. I had another kid’s parents come up to me to thank me because the boy comes home RAVING about how nice my daughter is to him. She’s so helpful in class and “has so much personality” (this was said with a smile so I’m taking that as a good thing) it took everything I had not to turn to her in front of them all and yell “WHY AREN’T YOU THAT GOOD AT HOME!!!

My theory is, she saves up all the evil tantrums for me like a cat saves the most disgusting dead thing to give you as a gift.

And finally…

4: I am a cynical, antisocial bitch.

I barely said two words I didn’t have to while I was there. I was so tired, hungry (because back to school night is of course at dinner time THROUGH bedtime) and rather would have been writing. This is not to say I didn’t like talking to the teacher or hearing about what my kid does all day but I am not like my husband (who is a fucking social butterfly handing out his phone number to all the shiny new people he’s met). I want to get in and get shit done. I would always rather be writing so that’s beside he point. XD

Here’s where I feel like a horrible mother because I’m not all up in the school’s buttcrack about every molecule my kid touches in her school. Is she doing well? Awesome. I don’t feel the need to buddy up to ALL the parents (who glare at me anyway). I feel like one of the Coneheads or something when I’m in a crowd with them. Right there is the cynical part. I expect them to be catty and horrid Stepford Wives trying to steal my brain.

There was also an eye roll I almost had an aneurism trying NOT to do when the co-presidents of the PTA were bragged about taking the time out to be co-presidents of the PTA while having 4 kids and working full time. Well, aren’t you a special snowflake! Between my ONE kid, full time job, writing, and the overtime I scrape together by the skin of my teeth, AND doing an assload of housework, NO, I will NOT be giving time to the PTA. I’m lucky I have time to read a book to my kid and I would rather be doing THAT than talking to them.

I suppose I should be more positive about the whole thing. My daughter’s teacher is really nice and pleased with how she’s performing in class. My husband made some friends and spent some good money on stuff for the school to use on… Whatever they need to use it for. I did not curse anyone out, learned some interesting things about child development, and my daughter gave me the most adorable tour of her classroom ever in life evar. Happiness all around, right? XD

When NOT to feel guilty – A Writer Mama’s Discovery

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Sorry, hon. I need to finish this before I can play.”

How many of us women writers with children have had to say this and feel our heart clench at the disappointed frown on our kid’s faces? Oh it totally feels like being kicked in the chest but it’s inevitable. You’ll be on a roll, ideas flowing, pen making the paper smoke cause you are on FIRE, baby!! Lo, and behold! The same child who’s been ignoring you for the last three hours will decide your immediate and total attention MUST be paid or the sky will fall down.

So, what to do?

No really. I’m asking. Because I haven’t a freakin’ clue.

I’ve tried bargaining, I’ve tried explaining, I’ve tried running away and hiding (little buggers always find you) and that last elusive sentence that’s DYIN to come out gets lost in a sea of “BUUUTTTT MOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!” never to be heard from again.

I tell my daughter that if she wants a happy mom, she’s gotta let me work a little. She doesn’t like it but if I promise to play with her later, she usually lets me off the hook for a little bit.

Every time I make a sale or finish a project, it makes me feel so happy, I run to her and give her a great big hug. She looks up at me and says “Mama, I am so proud of you.” That’s why I don’t feel guilt and why no mom should feel guilty. Because when the work is done, we are happier, better people. Every writer, parent or not, knows the feeling of completing a work. You take a deep breath, your muse gives you an approving nod, the sun is brighter, and you wanna run through the streets with all the happiness. Since I don’t do street running, I hug my kid.

Then I play “He Man.”