Parenting (and Junk)

Junk first, of course.

I pulled a couple of muscles in my back while exercising earlier. So I’ll just sit here, real still-like, and type a post and work on my site. Ow.

I tried to give blood yesterday to the Red Cross, but I am just slightly too anemic. They require a hematocrit value of 38%, and mine is 36%. I’m not really anemic from a clinical standpoint, but as they are taking a pint of blood, they want the numbers to be a little high. So I couldn’t give blood. That irked me quite a bit, and ruined my day yesterday. I still want to give blood, so I’ve started taking Vitamin C supplements, and will probably start eating more peanuts and raisins.

Today was Hannah’s birthday; she turned a ripe old eighteen. I think it’s amazing how we have both mellowed out over this past year. Hell, even these past several months. I used to not enjoy being around her that much; as smart as she is, she seemed too cocky, too impatient for us dumb little folks. I don’t know exactly what changed… but we get along great now. Between talks of college (although she did insult WPI…), teachers, school, IB students, books, etc., I have gotten to know her a little better and can definitely call her a friend now. So I had no trouble at all driving across town to find her the coolest pen I could on the combined money of four people. It is a Lamy pen, by the way. Quite sexy.

On a more interesting note, I’ve been noticing parenting methods more and more lately. I read the blog of an author/programmer frequently, and have found it interesting how he talks about his children, and how his opinions of child-raising show through his writing. One of his children recently had a visit to the emergency room, and, as anyone who has been in a waiting room knows, there’s usually a television on. This one happened to be showing an edited-for-television version of Con Air, which he remarked was “hardly suitable fare for a child”. I read that once, and stopped. Then I read it again. And sort of laughed a little. Things are so different in my household. My little sister is three, much like Elf’s child, and it’s amazing what my parents let her watch. For one thing, she watches a minimum of four hours of television a day. A minimum. I haven’t watched four hours of television in a week in quite some time. I think it’s sickening that the Rat sits in front of a T.V. for that length of time everyday.

My mother spends her time either cleaning house, cooking/whatever for the Rat, on her computer, or watching television herself. As soon as the Rat is done watching television, my mother flicks the channel to something else, unless she just has to go somewhere, like the grocery store. Whenever my mother is watching T.V., though, it’s woe unto anyone that interrupts. That means the Rat must be silent and still (or simply remain unseen) for the duration of mother’s T.V. time. Which can last hours. The Rat doesn’t seem old enough to have picked up the skill of playing by herself much. I know I did then, but I was always an only child. So she wanders around and gets in a lot of trouble, because my mother wants to relax a little and watch this re-run of Golden Girls. While I certainly don’t doubt that taking care of the Rat twenty-four hours a day is quite the chore… something isn’t right about this, you know? Even when I was young (mother stayed home then, too), my mother seemed to watch hours of soap operas around her house cleaning chores.

The Rat has a bedtime of around 8 o’clock. My father usually comes home around 8:30 or 9:00, meaning she is already asleep. After mother has fought to get the Rat into bed and still (so that she can watch more television), what does the old man do? “Hey, where’s Ali? Ali? Come say hi to me!” A total lack of respect for whatever discipline mother-deary tries to instill. Anything mother says she can’t have, father is sneaking to her, all in an effort to remain on her good side, to remain her hero. This is, of course, primarily because he’s never here. He leaves the house and comes home late just to get away from her, because he can’t work with all the noise she makes and all the times she interrupts him. I guess the fact that he chose to put his desk smack dab in the middle of the living room should discourage her from approaching him, right? He’s got that “flip-mode” attitude going on (and I mean that in less of a slang way, and in more of a “manic-depressive” way), where during any minute of the weekend when he is conscious he’s liable to snap and bitch if she tries to give him a hug, but during the weeknights, after work, she can run and jump on his head in the middle of the night, and it’s “aww, isn’t that cute!” Inherent instability.

I understand that it’s all related to what she is and is not supposed to be doing. If it’s 6:00 in the morning, and mom tells her to go back to bed, it’s not daytime yet, and no, you’re not hungry, she runs into the living room and hangs out with father-deary, who proceeds to give her a huge cup of sugar-free Kool-Aid and some junk food (like cookies, or peanut butter) and turns on the T.V. for her. We tell him not to give her 24 ounces (0.7098 L) of any liquid just before she goes to bed, and particularly not milk or Kool-Aid, as we will all wake up floating in urine in the morning. So, of course, every night before she goes to bed, she complains about being thirsty, and the old man fixes her a huge cup of milk or Kool-Aid, and sends her off to bed. He has to seem cool to her somehow, and he’s not such a creative type when it comes to people and children, ya know. She’s almost four years old and still has to wear pull-ups to bed, although at one point she was almost completely potty-trained. We mention it, and mention it, but the old man has this wonderful ability to disregard any information that he doesn’t have any direct proof of himself. And that’s fine. For an unmarried man with no children.

But back to my original chuckle about the movie Con Air. My father rents 3-8 movies per week, usually, although he sleeps through them all. On the weeknights when he’s planning to watch a movie with mother, he’ll keep the Rat awake so they can “hang out”. Hanging out consists of eating junk food (candybars, popcorn, Kool-Aid, etc.) while watching a border-line porn or a hack-and-slash horror B- or C-level movie. I don’t even watch that shit, and I’m just an immature teenager. It’s quite funny to my father for her to walk around repeating “stupid fucking ass” after watching Baby Boy with my mother. Again, mother and I used to try to tell her that it’s not funny, but making father-deary proud has been, and always will be, a higher priority than almost anything anyone else wants. I say this from experience. But I digress. I distictly remember, when I was just a little girl, going to the theater with my parents (and a couple of their friends, I think), and sitting through New Jack City, a rather violent, rather sexual film released back in 1991. That means I was about 6 years old. They covered my eyes, of course, but I still remember the violence, the sex, the music, the faces of that movie. And that wasn’t my first rated-R movie. I’ve always been of the opinion that you can show whatever you want to a child, as long as you instill in them the basic morals that you feel will keep them healthy/sane of mind. If you teach them correctly, give them enough to contextualize, they can handle just about anything. But at three, can you really instill those values of right and wrong in such a way that someone with that short of an attention span will take note? Even if you can, do my parents even try? I have seen no indication that they do. And I don’t really remember anything of that sort from my own childhood, either. By covering my eyes, they convinced me that watching sex and violence was a bad thing to do (to this day, at eighteen, I still don’t watch most sex scenes in movies). It wasn’t until much, much later that talks about sexuality came into being, and, while that makes sense in terms of puberty and maturity, how many misconceptions do I have about sex because of the way my parents handled things?

My father is of the opnion that people should find out about these sorts of things on their own, and that you can’t force morality on anyone. And while I can agree with that when dealing with teenagers and adults, I’m not sure that I do with regards to children. Who will instill these ideas in your child’s head if you aren’t ever home, the mother doesn’t seem to care too much about such lofty issues, and you don’t feel that the education system should do it? Perhaps the Rat should learn by example? Ha. In America? Do you think that in ten years she will remember that I never dated or had sex, never drank, never partied; that her father never raised a hand to her mother, that he worked many hours a day to provide a home for us; that mother didn’t work for several years to make sure that she didn’t have to go to daycare? By the time she actively remembers these things, she will be past that stage of real impressionability, and will probably already be set in her ways (whatever they are).

All I can do is watch quietly, and, in the event that I find myself stuck with a kid in the future (perish the thought), try to find an interesting balance between being overly protective and forceful, and being too lax about such matters.