There is something about growing older that can make one feel more fearful. Instead of a youthful exuberance to bungee jump across Europe, you suddenly find yourself sitting down with a guy named Hank to compare life insurance plans – just in case you really do get hit by a bus when you go out to get your mail.
Maybe it’s that you have more to lose than you did when you were 20. Or maybe because you were a size 4 with tight abs and no neck wrinkles so you thought you were untouchable. Maybe the world seemed so wide open with possibilities that you wouldn’t have even considered limiting your options in any way.
I’ll admit – even when I was young I wasn’t the “jump out of an airplane” kind of girl. But I was certainly more daring.
I didn’t worry much about anyone but myself. Now I worry constantly about these little people that are all over my house. Am I giving them a good life? Am I raising them to be kind, compassionate people? Am I to blame that one of them is standing on top of the roof of the minivan having a sword fight? Stuff like that.
Somehow as we age, we start shutting ourselves off to possibilities. We think – hey, maybe I can control my fate if I’m just a bit more careful. But I’ve actually heard that we can’t actually control the world which is sort of lame but certainly noteworthy. So I thought to myself – maybe it’s time to do a bit more leaping.
Which is how I found myself at the top of a trapeze last weekend. I did the trapeze about 10 years ago in New Paltz, New York and I did not particularly like it.
So why was I back a decade later?! Because I have a 7 and 10 year old daughter and they wanted me to do it while we were on vacation at Club Med. And if I couldn’t be brave for myself, I could at least be courageous for them.
Plus, when we live our lives being too afraid, we start losing ourselves. Oh and my mother-in-law got up there and swung from the trapeze so I didn’t want her to think her son was married to some kind of pathetic wimp.
So I did it…
Okay, it’s not a high flying Cirque du Soleil trapeze performance but it was scary to climb up the ladder and jump off from that plank of death up there.
And I showed my girls that in life you push through fear and go for it. Because taking the leap is what life is all about.
An no, you won’t find me jumping out of an airplane.
Or bungee jumping across Europe.
But sword fighting on top of my minivan is definitely a possibility.
I have never had one bit of interest in cars. I mean, except learning to drive one when I turned 16. And I was also very interested in getting myself into a Jeep Wrangler when I was in my 20’s so I could have the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the pouring rain on my head when I couldn’t get the top up in time.
I now drive a gold minivan which I pretend is just a very large mini cooper. When I take my car in to the shop, they talk about “transmission fluid and gaskets and tire rotations” and I hear “This is going to cost a lot of money. How is Ryan Gosling so hot and so talented at the same time? I wonder how long my car is going to be in the shop because I have school pick up at 2.” That kind of thing.
In general the only time I ever think about cars is when I listen to “Car Talk” on NPR. The show, featuring two Cambridge, Massachusetts brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, has been airing on NPR since 1987.
Recently Tom Magliozzi passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s. And I can’t help escape the feeling that the world feels a little emptier. Certainly more quiet. Because Tom had a laugh that was so compelling – you had to join in.
The show’s long time producer Doug Berman had this to say about him…
“His laugh was so great and infectious. It just made everyone around him feel better. It was such a gift. He had a way of making everyone around him feel good and when you put him in front of a microphone, millions of people felt better and I think that’s a great legacy.”
(If you’ve never listened to the show, stop reading immediately, download the NPR app and listen to one of the podcasts.)
The two brothers went to MIT and ended up running their own “Do It Yourself” auto mechanic shop in the 70’s where they would help people fix their own cars. (It sounds like a crazy idea but the 70’s were a very “How hard can it be to fix your own car radiator?!” kind of time.
What the Magliozzi brothers quickly learned was they were doing all the work, they weren’t making any money and the garage finally transitioned into a more traditional auto shop.
It was an appearance by Tom on a Boston radio station that turned into a local show which was eventually picked up by NPR and loved by millions.
The brothers were brilliant at being themselves and not taking life too seriously. Tom would give out advice like…
“Do it while you’re young. You may never have another chance to do anything this stupid again!”
Their NPR show was about cars. And it wasn’t. There were a lot of tangents, diversions and comedic banter. You didn’t even have to own a car or care about cars to adore these two guys. As a listener, you were just along for the ride – wherever it might go.
Previously recorded episodes of “Car Talk” are still on the air.
The thing about parenthood is that you usually feel like you are doing it wrong. Before kids, you have some kind of confidence in your abilities to navigate life. You think to yourself, “Hey, I have a job! I show up on time. My shirt is reasonably clean. I pay my rent. I eat pretty good food. I get to the gym sort of regularly. I’m kicking ass in this life thing.”
Then one day you have a baby. And life gets strangely hard. You are no longer on time, you are eating leftover chicken nuggets for breakfast and by 4 in the afternoon, you are still wearing pajamas. What the hell happened?!
Luckily, there are lots of resources for getting your life back on track. A quick google search will tell you how to get your baby sleeping better, eating better and doing whatever else better.
And as your child grows – there are even more tips and advice (usually in number form like… “The top 5 ways to manage your kids screen time!” or “The top 10 biggest mistakes when it comes to helping your kids with their homework” or “Six reasons why you should let your kids fail or else you will raise the biggest losers of all time”).
And if you click on these lists (which you probably will because those links are like crack cocaine for parents), you will read through some mediocre or maybe helpful advice which will make you feel like you are doing this parenting thing wrong.
I have many downfalls as a parent (I’d like to yell less, not worry about the mess so much and put my phone away even more) but overall I really love my kids an insane amount and think they are turning out pretty awesome. So I don’t want to constantly hear about how I’m failing all the time.
Which is why I felt a great sense of relief and happiness when I read the following quote from comedian Jim Gaffigan…
“I love being a parent and enjoy finding the humor in parenting. If you complain about how you spend your Saturdays taking your kid to birthday parties, that means you are taking your kid to birthday parties. If you complain about how hard it is to get your kid to read, it means you are trying to get your kid to read. If you are complaining about your kid not helping around the house, that means you have a fat, lazy kid. You joke about it. That’s how you deal. If parents don’t like being a parent, they don’t talk about being a parent. They are absent. And probably having a great time somewhere.”
So my friends, if you are complaining about your kids because your toddler washed his hands in toilet bowl water this morning or your 4th grader was sobbing because she got 3 minutes less of screen time than her sibling or because your kids were squabbling over who got which chair at dinner time or because someone was singing too loudly for someone else or because one certain child said, “I’m hungry” for 14 straight minutes in the car – THEN YOU ARE DOING THIS PARENTING THING RIGHT.
It means you are involved. You are passionate. You are present. You love them madly. And your kids sometimes drive you crazy.
It means you are kicking ass at being a parent.
I’m a little sad Halloween is over. There is something incredibly freeing, glorious and guilt free about this holiday. It’s the day when anything organic is cast aside, high fructose corn syrup rules and candy is calorie free (or at least that’s what I heard. Or made up. Whatever).
There are no bedtime routines or soapy baths. Just power ranger outfits, Cleopatra gowns and an explosion of Elsa’s.
At one point, I heard a gigantic Gumby say, “I just accidentally scared the crap out of Elsa.”
And yes, it was my Elsa. But she didn’t seem too shaken up. Evidently, it takes a lot more than a big green, whatever the hell he is to spook 4 year old Harlowe.
It’s her twin Chase who hates anything scary so obviously this is not his dream holiday. He was terrified of every scary outfit and especially those adults who like to dress like the grim reaper and hold the candy bowl very very still until some unsuspecting power ranger comes along and just as he takes a Kit Kat out of the bowl – BAM. The grim reaper suddenly moves and my poor 4 year old jumps about 3 miles in the air, runs back to me and sobs and sobs.
Man, it’s not easy to get a free mini candy bar these days.
When Chase wasn’t crying, 7 year old Summer (dressed as Katy Perry/diva girl) was screeching and freaking about every dog (from the biggest canine to the teacup poodle) who came her way.
Of course every dog owner, when they notice Summer’s upset, says the same thing… “She’s a sweet dog. She won’t hurt anyone.” And I believe them, despite the fact I once said the same thing to a man who was pretty much being tackled on a beach by our former dog Martini.
Now I don’t know the dog population numbers for South Florida but I’m going to estimate that every single person has a dog. So Summer was on a real emotional roller coaster all night long. Dog! (miserable) Candy! (happy) Dog! (miserable) Candy! (happy).
Meanwhile… from what I could tell, every teenager in our neighborhood was dressed as a bloody vampire. Although props to the one kid who bucked peer pressure and went as a banana. (Especially because it’s really hard to pass someone in a banana outfit and not share your best banana joke. You’re thinking of a banana joke right now, aren’t you?)
Rick missed out on the whole thing because he was working but the next morning we took a rollerblade/walk and you would be amazed at how much unopened, perfectly good candy you can find on the ground the day after Halloween.
And if you think we are too fancy to pick up candy from the ground, well then you underestimate our love of candy around here.
So now it’s back to baths, bedtime routines and homework. Damn.
Obviously we can’t all be as successful as those couples who find eternal love on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette but with a little advice we can all have a better chance of staying together.
These are my best marriage tips and by best I mean, these are the ones I could think of while watching TV and eating whoppers…
Hugging and Planning
Always give your spouse a hug and kiss when they get home from work. But realize this is still a multi tasking opportunity where you can discuss how you finally got that oil change taken care of but the minivan now needs to immediately go back for a required transmission and radiator flushing. Whatever that is. The more car problems, the longer the hug can be!
Saving Money Means Less Marital Stress
Want to save money? Every time your spouse says, “I really really want a new flat screen TV. Ours is so outdated,” you respond, “I really want new granite in the kitchen. Ours is uglier than grandma Helen’s in the 1970s. This is what we call a marital standstill and it will prevent you from doing anything, thus saving money which reduces marital stress.
Watch Your Favorite Shows Together – Just in Different Rooms
You like The Mindy Project and he likes The Black List? No problem. Watch them in different rooms! Send warm, loving texts like, “I hope you’re enjoying your show!” Run into each other in the kitchen while getting snacks and tell each other about exciting plot developments. It’s like watching a show together without the painful agony of sitting through a TV program you absolutely can’t stand.
Find Marital Balance
It works like this… He promises to not put plastic in the dishwasher as long as you let the kids stay up when his football team is playing because apparently their focused energy on the game can actually help his team win.
For the record, he has no idea why plastic can’t go in the dishwasher and you have no idea how sleeping children could cause his team to lose, but that’s okay. You have reached a state of marital balance where you do puzzling things to make the other person happy.
Saturday Night: Paint the Town Red and Find Out How Your Kid is Doing in School
Go out to dinner with other couples. The couple will at some point ask, “How are your kids?” And this is when you will find out about important information you and your partner forgot to discuss… like your kid’s parent teacher conference, the fact that you are the designated snack family for this week’s soccer game and that your daughter wants to drop piano and take up guitar. Date night is like a fact finding mission with cocktails!
Acts of Kindness
Do nice things for your each other. Like he won’t post pictures of you on Facebook where you look 5 months pregnant (you’re not). And you won’t post pictures on Facebook that shows his chin from an unflattering angle.
You can do other sweet things for your spouse like make the coffee in the morning, leave him little notes and record TV shows for him in standard-definition. Oh wait, was it high definition that he prefers? Oh who cares! It all looks the same. He won’t know the difference.
Say You’re Sorry! And then say it again!
You don’t know why you are saying sorry, but just do it. A lot! Once in awhile your spouse will say, “Why are you sorry?” and you won’t know the answer to that one. But don’t panic. Just say, “Because I was wrong. And you look beautiful/handsome. Let’s kiss and put on your favorite movie.”
It’s as easy as that.
So follow all these tips and marital bliss is yours. Because if reality stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are still together (Yup. For real.), surely there is hope for the rest of us.
Photo Courtesy of Ruffled.