Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Karma is a Beast!

Karma is a Beast - Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged
I have this irrational contempt for people who cry all the time.  Whether it be over disappointment, fear, stress, sad moments, happy moments, or whatever, whenever I come across folks that weep physical tears frequently, I cringe.  It makes my skin itch.  

Let’s be clear here: I don’t flinch because I’m uncomfortable with people crying or displaying emotion.  I truly believe emotions of every type are not only valid, but should in fact be displayed frequently when the situation calls for it, if not from time to time.  I cry on a regular basis and tend to be a decent listener when those around decide to bust out the tissues. 

No, I get annoyed with people who tend to default to crying on all occasions where an emotion is deemed necessary, but it’s not always clear which one.  It’s like playing Uno and every time you get a Wild! Card you choose red.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  To me it signifies someone who’s not prepared to process what’s coming at them.  Stub your toe on the radiator?  Burst into tears.  Receive a demerit at work over your performance?  Have a good weep.  Lose a $100 bill out of your back pocket while riding the train?  By all means, cry about it.  Experience disappointment over a friend hurting your feelings?  Go ahead, turn on the waterworks. 

It simply drives me crazy!  Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker, or in some cases, a character on television, I usually have to physically leave the scene to avoid confrontation, if someone is sobbing or being dramatic over something that could have been addressed without tears.  This is not someone blubbering over a breakup or wailing over a death or shedding tears over the birth of a child.   This is someone going Tammy Faye Baker over molded cheese.  People using dramatic crying as a catch-all ignites such a visceral response from me that I sometimes have to wonder about the source of my angst. 

Ask and you shall receive, as karma has a funny way of rearing its ugly head.  Over the past year, I have developed this sick and uncontrollable habit of crying over small achievements and performances.  Not my own achievements or productions, but anyone else’s, such as my family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers.  If a child, any child, performs anything on a stage, any stage in the world, my eyes fill up with crocodile tears that eventually make their way down my cheeks.  If I hear a street musician hit middle C while playing his sax in the urine-reeking subway station to an audience of none, my nose starts to get stuffed up trying to stifle a jewel from dropping out of my eye.  When our 14-year-old babysitter scores 2 points in her high school basketball game, I instantly mist up.  When the priest at church honors the men and women, none of whom I know personally, who’ve volunteered their time fundraising, my eyes start to burn trying to hold in the teardrops that have been created in the ducts beneath my eyeballs.  I don’t even watch Dancing with the Stars, but when I accidentally catch it while flipping TV stations, my eyes automatically well up the second a dancer takes the stage.  When my daughter practiced her song on the piano at home before auditioning for the musical, I created 50 mL of saline in 10 seconds flat.  For cripes sake, I even cried when my partner was describing the flash mob dance she and her coworkers performed at their last management meeting.

Simply put, I have a problem. Surely you can imagine my dismay when my illogical disdain toward those who cry as a pastime has been overshadowed by own irrepressible tear production.  Without warning, I am reduced to Tearful Tina.  While I am fully aware that I am being forced by the universe to have compassion for others through experiencing my own lack of control in crying at inappropriate moments, I feel inclined to wonder if I brought some of this on myself with my own theatrical distaste toward the staged snivel.  After all, just as the crybaby has the choice to tackle his emotion with other defenses than tears, the finger-pointer can also choose to not step onto that soapbox.  I can’t help but apply Friedrich Nietzsche’s words when he said, "The man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself."  

While this dragon is still queasy when it comes to a public display of waterworks, I’m now more aware than ever of the ludicrousness of my aversion.  I’m quickly becoming more tolerant of others’ actions through the charity displayed to me regarding my own.  No one seems to notice or really care, other than my partner and my kids, when I quietly tear up at moments that don’t deem crying.  I’ve certainly never had anyone physically leave the room in disgust after catching a glimpse of my wet cheeks.  Maybe once the lesson has been absorbed, my tears will dry up.  Until then, you’ll find me in the audience, dabbing at my eyes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

That Mom

That Mom - Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Progress
I never would have pegged myself as ‘that mom.’  You know the likes of her.  She camps out overnight outside the preschool on the eve of sign up to make sure her kid gets in for the fall season.  She works three devices simultaneously, each cued up and ready to ‘add to cart’ from her Wish List at 9am when the online spring sports registration opens up for the park district.  Or in my case, she shows up two hours early at the rink to ensure her 4-year-old a spot in Winter Tot Ice Skating.

I don’t know how I morphed into the person I’m describing, but it happened without my conscious intention, that’s for sure, as I’m usually the one mocking the over-the-top mothers who go to great lengths to get their kids in pole position.  Yet here I stand with my registration sheet in hand and instructions on the best way to fit my toddler into skates, having scored the last available spot in the class for my kid.

As I sat in assigned spot number 57 among the folding chairs lined up like stadium seating surrounding the check-out desk at the ice rink, I looked around at the other people in line and wondered if they’d always been ‘that person’ that I had clearly become.  Some I recognized, and knew from first-hand experience that without a doubt, they were in it to win it.  Others I studied and tried to figure out their story.  I asked one parent in front of me if she’d ever done this line-up before for an activity for her child, and like me, she said this was a first.  She seemed pretty comfortable in the scenario, and that, coupled with the demure daughter who saddled up next to her whose actions in no way resembled those of Veruca Salt, made me settle more easily into the new role.  

I guess it’s a good lesson for all of us vocal folks who are not shy about adding our two cent’s worth to any discussion involving parenting.  You never know where you’ll end up on issues or whose shoes you’ll end up walking in.  Whether it’s parenting, politicking, doping, or diversifying your funds, your views change over time as you acquire more knowledge and experience more of what life has to offer.

“If it were me, I’d just tell my kid no,” I remember telling another parent a few years ago when my older daughter’s friend’s parents were spending thousands of dollars on competitive cheer for their 5-year-old, while complaining about the expense.

Years later, I may be on the other side of the conversation.  If there’s one thing I know, it’s that change is inevitable.  Situations change.  People change.  Viewpoints change.  As a conscientious people, we evolve constantly.  

Recognizing this point allows me to feel comfortable voicing my strong opinions, whether right or wrong, without worrying too much about backlash from others, because I truly believe we’re all in this together.  My audience of peers, parents, and pipsqueak kids is experiencing the same thing I am.  They’re working their way through situations and events, developing their often-changing opinions as they go.  Nothing ever has to be set in stone.  Yesterday Justin Beiber had the best music on the planet and today Rihanna is the only artist who matters.  Similarly, today I argue the negative example it sets for our kids when parents keep kids home on standardized testing days because they don’t find value in the concept of standardized testing.  Yet next year I may end up keeping my own kids home because of opinions formed while discussing the issue to death this year.  

The point is, for those of us that have or voice opinions on ANYTHING to others, it’s hard to model a moment in time where you’ll think differently down the road.  Yet there’s that little warning signal in the back of our minds, poised and ready to ding when we get so absolute, as we know subconsciously as humans, we will one day change.  It may be an opinion, a hairstyle, a career path, or a station in life, but there is no way of avoiding movement.  So next time you throw out your input on something, do it with gusto.  Make your case, stick to your guns, and bear down on your audience.  Be bold!  But know that as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, at some point you will hold different priorities, opinions, and sticking points than you do today.  Be prepared to eat your words and see how the other half lives.  Be prepared to be ‘that mom.’

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'll Take Your Pity

I love Craigslist. I've sold lots of things over the years; from baby clothes to unused old toys to crystal vases to a Honda SUV, I've run the gamut with sales prices.  I’ve even used it to give away free stuff in the alley, like moving boxes and unused furniture.  I've also bought lots if things on Craigslist.  Training wheels and patio furniture, chairs and bed frames, it's all the same.  The idea of re-using items instead of buying new at outrageous prices or trashing STUFF to go sit in some landfill just makes so much sense.  Couple that with the thrill of the negotiating, my favorite pastime, even if it’s just over five dollars, and Craigslist is a dream come true for me!

Sanford and Son - Parentunplugged- Stacy Snyder - I'll Take Your Pity
Yesterday I was chasing down faux Tiffany lamps on Craigslist, as we recently painted our living room, and the result was a gorgeous hue of rich green that contrasted beautifully with the dark woodwork, but reduced the lighting to dungeon-status.  I emailed back and forth with a woman in the city over a set of Tiffany-inspired lamps.  I inquired about the height, the working order, and the brightness of the light output.  We did not talk about price, but I knew I wanted to buy the lamps, so I was prepared to pay the full list price of $50 apiece, but as always, would be ready to bargain.

We arranged a time for me to come to her home.  I told her I’d have my kid, so as to prepare her for a child in her house.  I was at least ten minutes late and as I pulled up to the huge Victorian home where she lived in my dirty ’98 Camry, toting a 4-year-old clad in an unzipped coat without hat and mittens, despite the fact that it was windy and fifteen degrees outside with spitting snow, she met me at the front door and welcomed us inside.

We worked our way upstairs to the room where the lamps were located, and she flipped on the bulbs.
“I love them!” I gushed.  “Is it $50 for both lamps or $50 apiece?” I inquired.

“Oh, it’s $50 for them both,” she answered, “and I’ll be happy to give them to you for $40,” she uncomfortably stammered, as she avoided eye-contact with me.

I was shocked!  I’d never had anyone so quickly offer a discount, unless there was an obvious deformity in the item or urgency to unload the merchandise, which didn’t seem like the case here.  

“I’ll take them,” I gushed and counted out $40 in ones, pulled from a roll of cash in my coat pocket.   

As we worked our way down the stairs with the lamps, I glanced at my 4-year-old with strawberry yogurt crusted on her mouth and her shoes on the wrong feet.  I looked down at my own painting pants I hadn’t bothered to change out of since yesterday, and I brushed my cheek against my Village Discount H&M winter coat purchased three winters ago for $6 with the screwed up zipper.  I scratched my itchy scalp which was disguised underneath a tightly haphazard ponytail and gazed out at the car while carrying the lamps, studying the gashes in the paint on the back bumper.  I subconsciously noted to myself that by the time another fifty parallel parks have been executed, the entire bumper would be void of any color at all.
By the time I’d made two trips to the car with my toddler in tow and lamps in hand, I realized that I had gotten a pity discount.  I laughed out loud at the thought of the sight of my daughter and I pulling up to this big house loaded with room after room of furniture and antiques and I lovingly patted the roll of bills I’d saved because of our appearance, still occupying my coat pocket.  

For a sick moment, I apologetically thought about working this new angle of a scruffy getup from here on out while Craigslist shopping, then again laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole situation.  My stained-glass lamps look amazing in the newly decorated living room and no one has to know about my pity discount.  I have a feeling the funny story will make its way out though!