How Parenting and Being in a Gang Are Basically the Same

They sport their affiliation with their clothing or jewelry. Is their necklace hand-crafted from organic seed beads? Does it boast a little silver Tiffany tag? Or is it made from the macaroni noodles a toddler strung together? It’s a little more subtle, but it’s similar to spying a colored bandana or a tattooed area code on a forearm.

They’ve got territory that’s theirs and territory that isn’t. Elite preschools vs. in-home daycares vs.baby-wearing to work through the toddler years. Janie and Jack vs. Old Navy vs.Thrift Stores. Twistars vs. swim class at the Y vs. catching frogs and jumping in mud puddles on nature preserves. Whole foods vs. fast foods vs. Neighborhood Sustainability Gardens. There is not much crossing paths between groups.

They’re part of a family. Not a family they came from, but a family they chose. They count on their crew for survival – to keep them sane, to keep them grounded, to keep them feeling like they’re doing things right. They’re following the rules of the group, even if the rules are stupid. It feels good to pretend they know what they’re doing.

They’ve got intimidation tactics. They’re posting photos of their homemade baby food and organic veggies. They’re writing angry forum posts about how your child is going to have life-long hip injuries from that baby carrier you’re using or listing all the reasons their child is safer than yours in the car. Or, they walk past you in in the store flaunting their children’s goldfish, chicken nugget, and oreo cookie diet.

They fight over stupid shit that feels worthy of a life or death altercation. Things like breastfeeding and sleep training and when to introduce what kind of solids. Things like time-outs, t.v. time and, and the best way to throw a birthday party. Their “family” honor is at stake.

Someone’s bound to get hurt – whether it’s gang wars or mom wars –  if someone messes with one of their family members. Parents might not always walk down the street in packs, but they most definitely appear in swarms online.

Rat-a-tat-tat.

parenting

Parenting cliques. Which tribe are you a part of?

 

Here are some common gangs in your area and tips about how they can be identified:

 

GANG: hippie.jpg

MOTTO: “Feed them farro”.

GANG SIGN: The Gyan Mudra.  Alternate: Connecting fingers with thumb to form a circle, which symbolizes a multitude of things such as, the Sun and Moon, a whole (as in Whole 30) and a “zero” (as in zero preservatives or artificial ingredients).

TERRITORY: Yoga studios, local natural food stores, baby-wearing meetings, the great outdoors (particularly in non-landscaped settings).

ATTIRE:  Rainbow colored (as found naturally in the real rainbow, not as in artificially colored rainbows), earthy green, tans and ochre colors required.  Paisley pattern allowed. Second-hand preferred. Beaded bracelets and crystal amulets as accessories.

PRIZE ITEMS: Organic, all-natural, baby carrier (the kind that doesn’t ruin delicate baby hips), crystal body deodorant, nutritional yeast, essential oils (especially frankincense), heirloom tomatoes, any book by Dr. Sears, crocheted teacup coozies.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Eating chocolate that is not at least 60% cacao or that is not fair trade. Letting their child cry it out.

KEY LINGO: Sustainable, Free-range, Antioxidant, Breath, Spiritual, Attachment.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to crops.

 

GANG:

richlady

MOTTO: Go Get ‘Em!

GANG SIGN: A loose hug where no one actually touches accompanied with a fake smile and a slow, subtlety judgmental sweep of the eyes down, then back up.

TERRITORY: The pool at the high-priced gym, the benches in the high school football stadium, all-inclusive resorts on the right beaches in Mexico.

ATTIRE: Color coordinated outfits showcasing this year’s name-brand fashions.  Preferably fashions not available in stores but purchased from an in-home hosted party.  Perfectly coiffed hair, well-applied makeup, groomed brows.

PRIZE ITEMS: Ceramic Starbucks thermos, Current Books Focusing on Achievement and Success (such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The 80/20 Principle), Beta Brand Yoga Pants.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Pinteresting incorrectly, not enrolling children in a minimum of 37 activities per year, kids attending less than elite preschools, overall not being good enough at everything.

KEY LINGO: Cost, Achievement, Production, Accomplish, Meta-cognition.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to clothing.

 

GANG:

sweatshirt.jpg

MOTTO: Cheers!

GANG SIGN: A straight up middle finger accompanied with a wry grin. Because this crew does not give a fuck.

TERRITORY: At the bar (with kids in tow), or at home (formula feeding, or kids running amok since they are not enrolled in activities).

ATTIRE: The same jeans you saw them in last year and a t-shirt from a 5k they ran in 2008. Most likely also wearing the resting bitchface expression.

PRIZE ITEMS: Books (any kind), Beer, Coffee, Large bags of popcorn, Ball jar filled with ice and moonshine.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES:  Formula feeding.  Oversharing.  Going out in public after not bathing kids for over 7 days, and/or not showering self for over 3 days.

KEY LINGO: Damn, Shit, Ass.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to seasonal brews on tap.

 

 

Which gang do you affiliate with? Share if you dare, just watch out for the rat-a-tat-tats that might come in response.

 

Human Light-Brites

There’s this thing called face blindness.  Some people have it, and it makes it really hard for them to recognize others, even those they interact with often. Face blindness can compromise the ability to form lasting friendships or positive networking connections because a lot of people aren’t aware this exists, so it just seems weird when someone doesn’t say hi to you or notice you when you’re right near them.  Once you know this is a thing though, you can help someone with face blindness by reminding them of who you are when you greet them, or you could work with them to come up with some type of cool code or signal to implement so they will recognize that.

I sometimes think I have a similar type of condition, except it’s not that I don’t remember what people look like, but instead I just don’t notice superficial changes in appearance. I’m not the best at noticing new hair styles or new jewelry.  I don’t notice if you’re wearing a new lipstick, or shadow or if you’re even wearing makeup at all.  I suck at recognizing a fresh mani-pedi or new pair of pumps.  I hate to admit this, but even when my own mother developed a condition that deforms the structure of bone and it started warping her skull, pushing one eyeball out a little further than the other one, I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out. Once she did, I couldn’t unsee it, and it stayed that way for a month or so, I kept ogling her orbs. I still know that one eye looks a lot bigger than the other one does, but now, since I know it isn’t caused by a brain tumor or other life-threatening reason, I’m back to not noticing it again.  All of those visual characteristics people often pay so much attention to just seem really fuzzy and irrelevant to me.  I sort of get a glimpse of where those with face blindness are coming from.

Sometimes this causes problems.  Like, “Hey, don’t you like my haircut?!” asked in a way that is not really a question but is more of an accusation.  A lot of women seem to get mad at their spouses for not noticing those things, but maybe it’s really not so bad.

While I might not notice your new spring wardrobe, I also don’t notice when your face is dripping with sweat, or you are smeared with dirt, or you have a million rogue eyebrows shooting off in all directions.  I don’t see that the tank top and yoga pants you are wearing is the same one I saw you in yesterday.   I don’t see that your eyes have no liner or your shirt is wrinkled or you have a blemish on your skin.  But, it’s not like I’m not paying attention to you.   I still totally SEE you, just in a different kind of way.

We took Toddler Grouch to a museum not that long ago and they had a vertical wall full of holes, and huge colored plastic pegs you could push into them to create any pattern or shape you desired.  I snapped a photo of her and it looked like this:

lightbrite

This is sort of how I see you.  I see a basic outline and a few details of what you look like, but it’s the lit-up board in the background that I really focus on.  The background is part of you, too.  Each peg represents some positive quality you have, so a blue peg might be your compassion and an orange peg might be your commitment and a white peg might be your honesty and a green peg your humor. There are pegs for your interests and activities, like running, or singing, or sailing, or crafting.  There are pegs for positive parenting and pegs for your kindness and concern for others. There are pegs for your listening and pegs for your sharing.  There are even pegs for your anxieties and your fears, if you’ve been willing to honestly expose them.  I will admit that I while I do sometimes appreciate superficial beauty, that’s only one peg, so if that’s all you’ve got, your background still looks pretty dark and dreary, but if you’ve got all the rest of the pegs on the board filled, missing one isn’t noticed. The more pegs you have the more lovely you are.  Toddler Grouch’s real board is packed with many more pegs than the one depicted in this photograph.

Not noticing everything about a person’s appearance makes some people upset. Some people want me to comment on their fancy watch or their coiffed hair, or their pushed back cuticles.  Sometimes I use this to my advantage to weed out those who care too much about looks, since many of those people have really empty boards behind them, or are so heavily guarded that trying to dig through their built up defensives to find their pegs takes more energy than I have available to expend. Maybe people who deal with face blindness weed others out in similar fashion.

10 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Friends After Having Kids

After having kids, shit changes. Anyone who argues this point is either a liar or is truly an asshole of a parent.  But, I will concede that shit changes in varying degrees, due to the natural laws associated with Tiered Friendships.

Tier One:  These are your closest friends.  You communicate with them the most, they have known you for the longest, they know the details of your most intimate business.  You do your best to keep in touch with them at all costs, before and after having children (sometimes partially because you don’t want them to turn on you and leak all of your dirty little secrets).

Tier Two:  These are the members of your social group, who may or may not be friends due as much to proximity as due to heart-to-heart connection.  These are the folks you may work with, play on a softball league with on Tuesdays, or on a bowling league with on Sundays, or DJ trivia with on Wednesdays.. (*Note that many of these events involve the potential for consuming adult beverages).  You made an effort to stay in touch with them before kids, because you truly enjoy the activities involved, and their company, but these friendships tend to suffer dramatically after you have kids.

Tier Three:  These are the ex-colleagues, or ex-roommates or ex-classmates that you really only know what is going on in their lives because you see what they are posting on Facebook.  You didn’t make much of an effort to stay in touch before, and you don’t do much to stay in touch with them after.  And you’re fine with that.

Below are some tips for keeping up with friends, as much as possible, within the confines of the chaos and exhaustion that ensue after becoming a parent.

1.  Utilize social media.  If you’re reading this blog post it means you’re likely a pro at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar sites. While this might seem obvious, making an effort to comment on your friend’s photos and posts, “like”, “favorite”, or “heart” some of their photos and remembering to send a private message every now and again shows that you are seeing and caring about what your pals are sharing.  Bonus, you can do this in your PJ’s while hunkered down on the couch, any time of day or night.

Do not be an ass and make a comment that brings the conversation back to you and your kids STFU parents style. That is no way to keep friends. Make sure to comment on what is going on with THEM.  On your end of the social media spectrum, you need to make sure to not ONLY post updates and photos of your children. Especially ones that are over the top ridiculous. It’s hard, I know, to not post that photo of that first poop in the toilet, but no matter how beautiful that fragrant lump of brown fecal matter may be to you (it smells so much less like shit and so much more like freedom and crisp twenties dollar bills in your pocket, to you, doesn’t it?), DON’T DO IT.  Hold yourself back, for the sake of your friendships.  Remember when you used to post snarky ecards, or photos of your dinner, or hilariously cute cat videos? Keep posting that kind of crap, just like the good ol’ days.

2.  Fire Out Fast Facts to Your Friends.   My friends and I have a system we call “Three Things”. One of us sends out a group email with “3 Things” in the subject and the body of the message contains a personal triad of information about what we are thinking about or things that are going on in our lives at that moment. They can be big things like, “I finally told my boss to shove it and found myself a new job!” Or strange things like, “I sprained my vagina” (that was one of my friend’s Three Things once, I swear to God), or silly things like, “I’m thinking I haven’t eaten cherry pie in a while, and I’m super excited to stuff my face with cherry pie as soon as I get out of work. Pie! Pie!”.  Our group has done this long enough that one of us initiates the email chain at least once a month, sometimes more often.  Everyone has the time for writing, and reading, three quick bullet points. No one cares about grammar. Sometimes these spiral into many more group emails, sometimes they don’t.  But no matter what, it helps us know what is going on with our friends, which is the most important thing.

3.  Go out to breakfast.  Who doesn’t like french toast, pancakes, eggs and bacon? NO ONE, that’s who.  At least, no one worth being friends with (seriously, if you don’t like bacon I have some serious suspicions about you as a person).  For parents, this is typically a great time of day to connect. The kids are fresh and perky, there’s no stressors from the day built up yet in our shoulders, and there are unlimited refills of coffee!  Glorious coffee!  Your friend isn’t a morning person, you say?  Invite them anyway, and don’t hold any grudges if they decline.

4.  Let them know they have an open invite to any of your kid’s events.  We often neglect to invite our pals because we care about them.  We don’t want them to feel obligated to come to some crazy party that even WE think will be obnoxious and overwhelming, where we can’t really focus on them anyway.  We don’t want them to feel like we’re asking them to buy our kid presents.   BUT, not inviting them can make them feel excluded, forgotten, and unimportant, even if they didn’t really want to come to the eardrum-splitting, plague-filled bounce house anyway.  Tell them you just need to know that they are interested in advance so you have an accurate head count and let them make the decision about whether the potential for losing the hearing in their left ear, or leaving the event with regurgitated hot dogs and neon frosted cupcakes all over their shoes is worth it, in their mind, to see you.

5.  Line Up The Workout Buddies.  So, as moms we always complain that we don’t have the time or energy to work out or see our friends, even though we know full well that both physical and mental health is supremely important.  Solution?  Meet up with friends at the gym, or outside for a jog.  The conversation we can have the 5 minutes before and after our class starts, and the little moments of connection during a class may be all we need to help ensure you’re connecting, while toning our thighs so they look better in our mom jeans. Extra bonus: we might be able to snag a quick glass of wine right after yoga every now again, if the stars align.  This one might be easier said than done, but for some of us, it can work.

6.  Send notes.  Short and sweet.  Ridiculous. Funny.  In the mail. Through the interwebs.  Through Pinterest.  Through tweets.  Whatever.  Just freaking say hi.  You can do this.  And, bonus, you can do this at 2.30 in the morning or whenever you’re up. Even if you haven’t contacted someone in 6 months, don’t be shy.  A little note saying, “I’ve been thinking of you.  How are things?” can go a long way.

7.  Keep a friend contact chart.  Okay, you’ll need to embrace your inner Type A personality for this one.  If you’re feeling super brain-dead, keep a list of the top friends you want to make sure you don’t neglect, leave it on the fridge, and make a tally mark when you make contact.  Sounds absolutely insane, I know, but c’mon, you know we parents are capable of forgetting EVERYTHING, sometimes even who our best friends are.  Hell, I walked into the bathroom to give a urine sample at the doctor the other day and somehow FORGOT TO PEE IN THE DAMN CUP.  Mommy-brain is real.

8. Acknowledge that you know you are spending less time with them and that you miss them.  But just can’t make it work right now.  Don’t completely drop off the face of the Earth.  That’s just rude.

9. Ditch work early and head to happy hour sometime.  Meeting up for one drink, for one hour can feel like a vacation.  Does this even really need an explanation?

10.  Every now and again, get that babysitter.  There becomes a certain point for most parents where if you’ve literally NEVER had a night out, you’re making a conscious choice to seclude yourself.  For every family, this cut-off point is different, depending on whether you have family available to watch the kids, or if you have a child with special needs. Since it can’t happen often, make it easier by bundling friends – have a night out every few months that includes a large group of people – a night out to dinner, or an overnight.   My friends and I utilize my parent’s cottage (thanks, mom and dad!) and I make a huge effort to host two Girls Weekend events a year.  Sometimes I only see those friends during those two nights throughout the entire year, but I relish them, and I think they do to.  Even if they can’t all attend, they will appreciate the invitation and the fact that you made yourself available.

Good luck balancing work, home, family, marriage, children and personal alone time!  It’s no easy feat.