The last day of Springbreak I answered my phone, which I rarely do to unknown numbers, but I made an exception since it was obviously a local call. The voice on the other end said “Hello, my name is “Bashful Betty” and my son is in Tucker’s class. Tucker gave out his number because he wanted the boys to get together for a play-date.” Now, I’m pretty sure Tucker has never used, or even heard the word play-date, but I’m game. (Later he told me he gives his phone number to everyone in case anyone wants to come play Xbox 360, and by play, he means watch him complete the levels…)
“Perfect timing! He can come on over!” It was a rare day, where Blondie (who by the way was ecstatic to be back in Texas) and Pickles were at a rodeo carnival. I dropped the little ones off at nursery school- I was conquering Mt. Stinky Clothes while working on my unfinished kitchen remodel by using a blow torch to get the old tile off the floor, so a playmate for Tucker was the perfect gift! Or so I thought…
She called again and offered for the boys to play at her house, but we already had one playmate here, so I figured it was better for the new friend to just be dropped off. I had just cranked up the blow torch again, when the phone rang, yet again. She offered to bring Mc Donalds. Could I get any luckier? Not only would I not have to work on lunch, but I even had the $10 in my purse to pay my fair share! This day was definitely looking up. She arrived at the front door, and I made my way to my car to fetch the $10 to reimburse her (she was a bit shocked that the boys here have outgrown Happy Meals and go straight for the Big Mac!) while she made her way to the dining room table, with not one, but three kids in tow!
I was immediately filled with angst, I mean Mt. Stinky Clothes had become Mt. Fresh Pile to Fold all over the couch! The kitchen sported a contractor size trash bag right in the middle of the floor that I was slowly filling up with items I had decided to discard and remnants of what once was the tile on my floor. I could feel the knots twisting inside my stomach, and then my inner voice reasoned with me. “Of course she has to stay a few minutes, she doesn’t know you like most of the other parents do. She’s just making sure you’re not Andrea Yates.” I forget sometimes that I don’t know everyone around here. Blondie’s in 11th grade, and I’ve served many years as a mix of PTO President / Substitute Teacher so I know most of the kids around here. A lot of Tucker’s friends are the younger siblings of Pickles’ friends, who are siblings of Blondie’s friends, and so on… We’ve been there, done this, and yet I forgot that Play-date usually includes the mothers! What was I thinking??
Ever able to go with the flow, I poured myself a glass of tea, heated up a bowl of noodles (I just can’t eat that stuff from the Golden Arches) and joined them at the dining room table. Of course that was after a ten minute search finally led me to the almost lost bottle of ketchup I knew I had just bought- boy was it’s almost-disappearance tragic!
Through the course of conversation during lunch, I quickly realized that it was going to be hard to find some common ground between us. This lady is sweet, really, but she’s a bit too shy to roll with me. I appreciate people with highly vocal opinions. But it was just lunch, right? I can play nice! Really, I can… (Why are you still doubting that, even as you get to this sentence??) Everyone finished eating, I started putting all the trash in my gigantic bag, and off Tucker went to play with his friend. At this point, I figured we would agree on a time for her to come back and fetch her child, instead, she sent the others out to play with them on the trampoline.
Now anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love visitors. But there’s a catch. I love the kind of visitors that can totally handle it if I bounce in and out of the room checking on my mountain. I love visitors who have accepted that while I may be just as creative, I just cannot keep my house Martha Stewart ready. I’ve tried. I am still trying… But I’m not so sure Ms. Betty gets me. My first clue was that when I ran to the laundry room, I came back to find her looking around the house as if she were in a museum, carefully examining each piece sitting on every shelf. “I know, I’m bit of a pack-rat, but I’m in recovery.” I joked. To which she replied, “yeah, I don’t really collect stuff. In fact, I don’t really have any decorations, I’m not much into stuff.” What? Hold the Presses! Not a collector, this I understand, it’s a terrible habit to pick up. Not a decorator, I guess I can forgive, not everyone has a knack for hanging pictures on the wall. But not into stuff, not any stuff at all? Isn’t this America, land of the over indulgence in stuff? I’ve definitely been weeding out my collections of stuff; I don’t want Hoarders to be my reality TV debut, but I cannot imagine looking around my house and seeing blank walls everywhere. I need color, sparkle, razzle-dazzle, look at me stuff! But hey, to each their own, right? This just means I won’t have to worry about her as my competition at the City-Wide garage sale. I can move past this, but then clue number 2 jumps out at me.
“Our children only listen to Christian music.” Uh-oh, did she say this because its true, or was she hoping it would somehow impress me, or spark a conversation? I’m not sure. I’m a lover of all music. I’m struggling to think of a genre I can tell you I hate… When they were little I was careful to never let them listen to things with bad words or explicit lyrics, then in junior high Blondie came home and taught me the lyrics to a little song called Lollipop, and I realized then that what I didn’t play, they were gonna hear anyway. So I just tried to keep it to radio edits… Then their dad blew it out of the water because he couldn’t wait for me to hear a song about a Crazy (W)itch, and he played it in his truck (despite my very loud protest), and that was it, the damn busted. So just when the words “Christian music only” emerge from her lips, a feeling of doom comes over me because I’m wondering if she heard the song I was blasting before the door bell rang. I know it’s a terrible song! I shouldn’t listen to it, it’s lewd and it’s as tacky as can be, but something about “Porn Star Dancing” just motivates me when I’m scraping tile. The worst part of it all is that one of my kids stumbled across this song on YouTube and said “hey Mom, I found a song you will love!” Maybe I’ve never let my inner pole-dancer shine, who knows, all I know is that I better change the keyword on Pandora quickly.
It gets worse. One of her boys begins to tell me all about the video game at their house. They have a Sega! As in Sega Genesis. They had 19 games for it, but then they had to throw one away. You guessed it, it was too violent. One guy killed another guy in the game. I might as well dig a hole in the sand and change my name from Prestridge to Ostrich, because there is absolutely no excuse for what I am gonna tell you next. Just as the little boy was telling me all about their Sega, my son was teaching her son how to get to the next level in Grand Theft Auto. Ok, there, I admitted it. My son plays Grand Theft Auto. It’s bad enough that I never let my older son play it at this age. It’s even worse that the guy at the game store point-blank asked me if I knew what I was buying, but now I have been busted. I’m not Miss Goody Two-Shoes after all. In my defense, I have bought him rated E games, but they were never exciting or challenging enough. Anything he can solve in less than a day is a waste of my $40. Well, actually, his $40 if we want to be fair because he saved up the money for the Xbox. He buys the games. There have been a few exceptions, like when his Aunt mailed him a box of games her boys no longer played, which forever secured her position as “Best Aunt in the World!” and his MeMaw often pops in and out of GameStop, but for the most part, this is something he has to finance on his own. So, it teaches him a lot about the value of a dollar, earning what you want to have, and I have read that many children with ADHD are drawn to video games because they really engage their little minds. He’s smart enough to realize that in real life you can’t just jump in a car, until you see a motorcycle, hop on that, and go find a helicopter. And, just like in real life, I’ve told him I better not catch him in any strip clubs… I have to admit, despite the fact that I was once strongly opposed to such games, I am quite impressed with the little boy who knows how to use a cheat code book and the internet to navigate these games, googling tips for solving problems in different levels. I just don’t think that was an option when I played Pac-Man and Super Mario, yes, the original!
I’m certainly not saying that every parent should go out and get some new video games, because I’m sure its better to give them tighter boundaries, but in my life, I have decided, I’d rather let him play it. I make a point to couple that with some common sense lessons about the real world. For example, he once asked me if he could be a hacker when he grows up, which gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss when it is and isn’t OK to hack! Too many parents never have the hacking discussion, and their children are left in a world of hackers with no guidance what so ever! Despite being my only child to play this game, he is also my only child who refuses to say bad words (I have caught all the others mumbling them from time to time) so there is truth in the theory that all kids are not the same, and what works for one isn’t necessarily right for another. But back to our play-date…
We rounded off the day with her wondering what church I suggest she attend, as she is in between congregations. Here’s the deal. I have a great deal of faith in God. I don’t have near as much faith in churches. I think they can be good, they can be bad, and they can get real ugly. My suggestion? Find the place that speaks to your heart, and follow it there. Whether that be a big white building with a beautiful steeple or a rock by a creek where you sit and pray, I think He just appreciates the time you spend in prayer. And I think he likes my song too. Come on now, you know He’s got a sense of humor. He made duck-billed platypuses just so that Blondie would not believe in them! And you also know that he’s got a bit of a dirty mind too, otherwise the stork really would drop our babies off neatly on the front porch…
I’m not going to apologize for the choices I make as a parent. No, they’re not always right, or what everyone else thinks I should do. But at the end of the day, my children are safe, fed, loved, and tickled! We missed out on the magic formula and the perfect answers, and Martha Stewart never did take the job as our housekeeper, but we’ve got a pretty neat family, full of some down to earth kiddos, and they make me pretty darned proud! But this play-date isn’t quite finished yet, there’s more to tell you! And would you believe, it has to do with blogging?
Part 2 coming up next….