Archive for June, 2010

Empty-Nesters for a Week

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Last week, Steve and I experienced something that hasn’t happened to us in 22 years: six consecutive nights without any children in the house.

In the past couple of years since our oldest son moved out, it has happened once or twice that both of our daughters were invited to sleep-overs and were out of the house on the same night. But I hardly noticed that they were gone before it was time to pick them up the next morning.

However, for the last seven days, Valerie and Jennifer have been on a trip to Mexico with our church’s youth group. So Steve and I have had a small glimpse into a phase of our lives that seemed so far away for so many years, but is actually just around the corner for us ““ assuming Jennifer goes away to college four years from now and the other two don’t boomerang back home.

Since having the house all-to-ourselves ““ if you don’t count the cats ““ was a new experience for us, I wondered what it would feel like to come home from work and not have the girls at home. Would it seem empty and sterile without the energy”¦and piles of purses, shoes, and laundry”¦that our two teenage daughters add to the household?

The house certainly felt different; it was quieter, tidier and calmer.

While they were gone, it gave Steve and me the opportunity to spend more time together because our lives weren’t revolving around the girls’ schedule. I wasn’t distracted by whether Jennifer needed to be taken somewhere or what time she needed to be picked up. We could do whatever we wanted to whenever we wanted to.

And it wasn’t as if without the girls at home that we did anything crazy like running around the house naked”¦now there’s a scary thought”¦it’s just that while they were gone our relationship wasn’t taking a backseat to their agenda.

Plus, not having the girls at home certainly lightened the load of chores and grocery shopping. I loved coming home to the house just they way I had left it in the morning. There weren’t any new craft projects spread over the coffee table. There weren’t any shreds of Mini-Wheats crunching under my feet. I was done with the Saturday chores in half the time. And since Steve and I are okay living on an assortment of protein bars, I didn’t go to the grocery store once all week.

If I keep going with this line of thinking about how much work kids are, I might start wondering with why we ever decided to have them.

But we’ve got them and we’re grateful for them. It’s just that after a week without hearing the pitter-patter of teenage feet around the house, I found myself thinking that I could get used to this”¦and without that much difficulty.

In 2010, Father Doesn’t Know Best

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Today is Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June in which we take time to celebrate the many good qualities of our fathers and husbands.

That’s one day a year. What about the way men are depicted in the TV commercials that air 365 days a year? In the typical “slice of life” commercial, instead of showing men as intelligent, authoritative, loving, or any other number of honorable characteristics, more times than not, the wives in the ads are shown as barely tolerating their husband’s simplemindedness.

It’s as if the mom and the kids are the competent members of the family and dad is like a special needs child. “Poor dear, he doesn’t know enough to put the lid on the blender before turning it on, and now I have to use (fill in the blank) brand of paper towels to clean up the mess he made.”

There are plenty of examples of this kind of commercial. For instance, take the Yoplait ad in which the husband isn’t smart enough to realize the wife is talking about flavors of yogurt, not desserts. Or the Sears spot in which the mouth-breathing husbands  play ping-pong”¦because of course, all men are instantly drawn to games”¦while the smart wives make the decision about the washer and dryer.

But the ad that has aired recently that offends me the most is the Hanes sock commercial. It’s the one in which the wife comes home to find the husband dipping their son in paste because he’s tired of socks that don’t fit and he has invented a solution to the problem.

Her response is to say, “That’s really stupid” which is akin to saying “You’re really stupid.” She might as well go on to say, “It’s a good thing I’m home now to make sure you don’t play with matches and set the house on fire.”

How did this “men are idiots” trend start and why is reflected in so much of what we see on TV? How over the last 50 years has the attitude about dads on TV changed from “Father Knows Best” to “Dad is Totally Clueless?”

It’s complicated. I’m sure chroniclers of popular media and social trends could fill volumes will the reasons.

All I can deal with in a blog is my immediate world. So although treating your husband with arrogance seems to be the norm these days on TV, it is not the way most women I know treat their husbands. It’s not the way I interact with Steve”¦well, there was that snotty comment I made last week about him not bringing the trash cans”¦but a tone of superiority towards him certainly doesn’t work to create a partnership in our marriage. This is our life, not a sit-com where snappy put-downs are applauded.

I was trying to come up way to wrap up my blog when Steve related a story from his past. A copywriter in an ad agency he worked at in the 1970’s had a popular ad tag line hung on the wall of his office. The line was “If you want him to be more of a man, try being more of a woman.” To which the copywriter had added, “And less of a bitch.” I agree.

Taking Time Together

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Just in case you parents out there haven’t noticed, raising children takes a lot of time and money. (Yes, insights like that are why I get paid the big bucks for writing a blog.)

In theory, when our middle daughter goes away to college in the fall and we have two out of our three kids out of the house, the kid-associated demands on our time should be reduced by another third. You know the kind of demands I’m talking about, the ones that determine the weekend agenda. There are shopping trips to Target, church and sports events to attend, and chauffeuring to friends’ houses or the movies.

However when it comes to money, with two kids in college, it will be quite some time before we don’t feel the impact of our children on our bank accounts.

But back to my point, which is about Steve and me focusing less on the kids”¦in a couple of months there’s only going to be one of them at home”¦and us having more time to spend with each other. We don’t want to be the kind of couple that looks at each other once the kids are out of the house and has to reintroduce themselves to each other.

And truthfully, I can’t just blame the kids for taking priority over spending time with my husband. For me, there’s always another load of laundry to do, more weeds to be pulled, and plenty of bills to angst over. And even writing a blog can take up time on a Sunday that could otherwise be spent with Steve.

So with that in mind, I’m going to abbreviate my blog this week so Steve and I can have a date enjoying the beautiful summer weather and window-shopping in Petaluma guilt-free that I should really be home finishing up my blog. The laundry, weeds and bills will all still be there on Monday but for now, I’m going to appreciate the gift of time together.

Petaluma High School Graduation: Letter Perfect

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

About 10 days before school ended, the administration at Petaluma High School held a meeting to give the parents of seniors information about the year-end events including the prom, graduation and Project Grad.

One of the major topics discussed at the meeting was the decision by the administration this year to seat the graduating seniors in alphabetical order for the Saturday morning graduation ceremony. In prior years, there weren’t any rules about how the seniors would be organized and so the kids could “walk with their friends,” and of course, sit with their friends for the duration of the ceremony.

From what I gathered at the meeting, this approach worked just fine until last year’s graduation ceremony when some students used this freedom as an opportunity to see if they could get the party started early by launching various projectiles and raising the decibel level ““ so much so that it was difficult to hear student’s names as they were announced.

Rather than take more drastic disciplinary approach to the problem if students disrupted this year’s ceremony, the administration’s solution was to work with the entire senior class well in advance of graduation to remind them that this is a ceremony that deserves to be treated with respect. And they felt that putting the students in alphabetical order would also help discourage the boldness that comes when kids carry out their actions as a group.

Several parents at the meeting felt that the class of 2010 was being punished for the sins of the class of 2009 and that by not allowing their children to walk with their friends, their children were losing out on one of the more memorable parts of the graduation ceremony. It was also reported that students were  upset about not being able to walk with their friends and were circulating a petition.

After attending Saturday’s graduation exercise, I am grateful that the administration didn’t succumb to pressure from parents and students and stuck with their alphabetical plan; the ceremony wasn’t stuffy, yet it was impressive and respectful of the occasion. Parties can be wild and crazy, ceremonies such as graduation shouldn’t be. It is a milestone event worthy of being celebrated with dignity.

I know that every class has a different character and there is no saying that the class of 2010 would have behaved badly like their predecessors. However, since only a handful of students speak at the graduation, all the families and friends of the other 350 graduates are really only there for one reason: to hear the name of their loved one announced over the speaker system. It would have been a shame if the bad behavior of a few had obliterated this precious moment for us.

The students have the rest of their lives to sit with their friends. Having the students make the sacrifice of sitting alphabetically for an hour and a half to ensure that each graduate was duly honored, was worth it. It was a wonderful graduation ceremony and I was proud to be a parent of a PHS student.