Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wake Up!

Waking up in the morning; honestly, the difficulty eludes me. I seem to be in a minority about this however. It started before having kids when my husband’s alarm would go off and he would press the snooze repeatedly until the alarm simply stopped trying. This usually took 90 minutes. That’s an alarm sounding every 9 minutes for as long as it took him to muster the strength and motivation to push the snooze button. Until finally he would get up with just enough time to get ready for work and sprint to the train, jumping on just as it was pulling out of the station.

And now my children: Teenager #1 has inherited my husband’s practice of waking up, but with none of his urgency. Teenager #2 has inherited my ability to wake up with plenty of time to spare, but with a touch of superiority, which usually comes out in the car while I am driving at breakneck speed to get to school on time, and, as you can imagine, rarely goes over well.

I am still baffled by the complexity made of what is perhaps one of the simplest decisions we have to make all day, getting out of bed. On the simplest level it is just a matter of practicality and logic: I need this much time to get ready in order to be out the door and to where I need to go by this other time. But, of course nothing is as simple as it seems. Waking up is not merely a physical reality it is the first and most important move in the game of Starting Your Day, some might say the most addictive and perplexing game Milton Bradley never invented.

The object: Negotiate the challenges of the morning and make it to the car before the countdown clock goes off.

Set-up: Each player places an alarm clock within arm’s distance of their side of the bed. One player of a parental nature picks the time to be out of the house. Each player goes to bed and the game begins.

To sleep or not to sleep: There are two paths “To sleep” or “Not to sleep.” The path you choose is determined by a roll of the dice. The dice is an eight-sided die each side marked by one of the following:

Incomplete work
Relationship crisis
Unpaid bills
What is that ache
All caught up
Just finished that book
Feeling loved
Looking good

What side you land on determines your opening path. Once everyone’s opening path is chosen, the alarms go off and the countdown clock begins.

Snooze Crossroads: The two paths intersect throughout the playing board. These intersections are called “Snooze Crossroads.” You must stop at each intersection and choose which path you will continue on. After three consecutive Snooze choices you must head directly to “You Snooze You Lose Falls” and remain there for two full turns before returning to the game.

Challenge Cards: when you land on a challenge card spot, you must pick a card. Examples of Challenge cards are:

            Performance review: go back two spaces and change your outfit
Major Chapter exam: go directly to panic attack whirlpool and freak out

Old Mother Hubbard: Your cupboards are bare, deduct 15 minutes from countdown clock to stop at Dunkin Donuts.

Shower Wars: If you reach the Shower Wars space on your own, you may proceed with the game as normal. If, however, you land on this space at the same time as another player, you must participate in “Shower Wars.” For this you spin the Shower wheel whose choices consist of:
            No hot water
            No more soap
            Soap in your eyes
            Oops I forgot a towel
            Falls asleep in the shower
            Shower complete

Once you spin shower complete, you may move on, anything else causes you to lose a turn.

What Should I Wear: When you reach this space you must undergo a 30 second challenge to find an outfit. You are dealt three cards. You are trying to get one shirt card, one pants/skirt card, and one shoes card. If you get all three in 30 seconds you may proceed. You have 30 seconds to continue picking cards until you get all three. Other cards include:

            Dirty laundry
            Left it in the car
            No matching socks
            Sweat stains too prominent
            You chose a dress and boots-proceed to next space
            You laid out your clothes the night before- skip two spaces.

You must remain on this space until you complete this challenge, regardless of how many turns it takes.

Breakfast Relay: when you’ve completed all necessary challenges you arrive at the final challenge “The Breakfast Relay.” If you are the first to arrive and there is still time on your countdown clock, you may go to “Hot Breakfast Buffet” and take several turns to choose a breakfast and sides. If you arrive second, third, etc, you must join forces in the breakfast relays. This is a physical challenge involving breakable dishware, a full gallon of milk, a mercurial toaster, hot coffee, only one serving of healthy tasteless cereal, and a confined space(all included in game). You and the other players must complete this challenge together. Whoever makes the least mess with time left on the countdown clock may proceed directly to the front seat of the victory car. The loser must clean up the mess and share the backseat with piles of backpacks, and a crying baby.

Winning the Game: There can be more than one winner in the game. You win by making it to the car before the countdown clock goes off. If you do not make it to the car before the clock goes off, you earn 5 stress points for your next game the following morning. Stress points are cumulative and can only be decreased by earning common sense points throughout the game. Common sense points can be earned at “Snooze Crossroads”, setting your alarm clock ten minutes earlier at the start of the game, and for “Sucking it up” at the “Everybody’s Tired” complaint station.

Starting Your Day is not a game you buy to enjoy. It is a game reality hands you to master or fall victim to. I’m not saying it’s an easy game, but I guarantee it is less complicated than Monopoly.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Use Your Words"

So for the second time in the course of his adolescence my son sent me a text telling me to fuck off. This is upsetting not because of what he said but because he misspelled ‘off’ both times. He left off the second ‘f’ which kind of dilutes the impact and quite frankly the meaning of the insult. ‘Fuck of’ really just sounds like the beginning of the punch line for a dirty Irish joke.

Oh wait a minute…you thought I’d be more upset by what he said. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t thrilled about it. And, if I’m honest, I judged him a little bit, just as you are doing right now. “What kind of a son says that to his mother?” Unfortunately, probably a lot more than we’d all like to admit. And rest assured, there were consequences; I am not so cavalier or so far in denial as to not see the extremity of the moment. But when you come right down to it, he did use his words, like we’ve been telling them all to do for so many years. Not my favorite words; there were definitely more polite and respectful ways of communicating his sentiment at that moment, but few more succinct.

I was shocked (less shocked than the first time it happened), I doubted my parenting, I feared for his future, I sobbed by myself in the living room when no one else was home. And then I remembered, he is a teenager. And sometimes teenagers can be assholes, because being a teenager sucks. So I tried to remember a few things:

How lonely I felt.

How much I wanted everyone to like me, but I was too shy to let anyone see why they should.

How bad it felt to get in trouble.

How bad it felt to get a low grade on a test or a paper or a report card.

How my parents were suddenly strangers and the last people I wanted to talk to.

How hard I tried to look pretty or cool or awesome.

How stupid I felt most of the time.

How nobody understood me.

How badly I wanted a boyfriend.

How badly I just wanted it to be the future already.

I tried to remember all of that. And that helped but it wasn’t good enough, because he’s not me. There are other rocks in his Sisyphean backpack. So then I had to…

Imagine if all I had to do was login and scroll down to see how much more fun everyone else was having.

Imagine if I had to focus on a test while the girl sitting next to me is wearing tights that count as pants because they’re called “leggings.”

Imagine if I had to start up a non-profit by the time I’m a junior if I hope to get into college.

Imagine if I had to have a tutor when other people seemed to be fine without one.

Imagine if there were 3000 channels on TV, plus Youtube, plus vines to distract me from homework rather than 3 major networks, 2 syndicated channels and PBS.

Imagine if I felt all the teachers hated me because I wasn’t good at the things they wanted me to be good at.

Imagine if no matter how adults spin it or positively couch it, I know there is something wrong with me; I feel wrong…almost all the time.

I had to remember how hard it was for me, and then imagine how much harder it is for him before I assumed I had all the answers. I do not have many answers. I do know that saying ‘Fuck off’ is not okay, that is something I can handle. And when it happens again I will:

a)    Try to remember and imagine before I assume the worst.
b)    Point him to a dictionary if it is misspelled again.