Leave it to Eddie

One kind of fun thing that happened recently is that XUP Jr. fell madly and passionately in love – the kind of mad, passionate, all-consuming love generally only experienced by teenagers.

Do you remember your teenage love? The one you were so sure you were going to grow old with? The one with whom you planned your future together — a future where anything was possible. The one you shared all your hopes and dreams with. The one you felt so secure with and so sure of? The one who (and I quote XUP Jr.) “makes the whole world seem like such a much better place.”

I was beginning to wonder if she ever would experience this. She’s 18 now and so far, the boyfriends she’s had were all very casual. Here today, gone tomorrow. No big deal.

 But not this one. This one is “it” apparently. The one. No doubts whatsoever. She’s completely besotted with him and he with her. They are going to spend the rest of their lives together, they tell me.

I call him Eddie because he reminds me of Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver– but in a good way. He doesn’t look like Eddie Haskell and as far as I know he isn’t a little creep when adults aren’t around. But he is always very chatty and polite and tries really, really hard to please. Really hard. He desperately wants me to like him. Although, before the election, he did throw caution to the winds and tell me very ernestly:

“I don’t know what your politics are, but I just wanted you to know that I will never vote Conservative. I don’t know if that changes your opinion of me or not, but I thought I should put it out there.”

Then he looked really worried.

Do I  look like a Harperite or something? Sheesh. I was torn between slapping him for thinking I might be a Tory and adopting him on the spot.

Because Eddie would make a good son. When he eats here, not only does he clear his dishes, he clears the whole table, washes the dishes, dries them and puts them away AND tidies up the entire kitchen. Once he even cleaned XUP Jr.’s room while she was in the bathroom having a shower.

I’m sure he would vacuum for me every week if I asked him to — or maybe even if I didn’t ask and the place just  looked like it could do with a bit of a hoovering.

I had to find a YouTube clip of Leave it to Beaver to show the both of them since neither of them knew who Eddie Haskell was. Eddie’s not quite sure if the comparison is meant to be a compliment or not. I told him to stop worrying and that as long as XUP Jr. likes him and he was good to her, he could relax and just be himself.

He said he was being himself. (I’m going to make damn sure he knows where the vacuum cleaner is kept). He also very solemnly assured me that he would always treat my daughter well and that he thinks she is the most amazing person he has ever known.

Coincidentally, he’s going to university in Toronto in the fall, too. I don’t know what would have happened if they had to separate. They’ll be apart for most of the summer as it it, except for occasional weekend visits. I expect there will be a lot of pining (and skyping) going on.

I like Eddie. He’s very nice and smart and very genuine with just the right amount of old-fashioned ingenuousness.

And I kind of hope they do stay together forever (and not just for the excellent house-keeping benefits).

I think there’s a lot to be said for finding your true love when you’re young. It’s got to be better than serial dating for 20 years and becoming all bitter and jaded and finally just settling for someone with as much or more baggage as you because you’re freaking out about the possibility of dying alone, right?


When I was 17, I ran away from home. My best friend’s parents were kind enough to take me in until school was finished. But as soon as my last exam was written, they started hinting broadly that perhaps it was time I got both a job and the hell out of their house.

So, I moved in with a girl I met in a coffee shop in the wee hours one morning after the bars closed. Her name was Robin and the whole idea of us being roommates had disaster written all over it from the very beginning.

Robin was a very old 19. For one thing she was DIVORCED. At 19.  (Which sounds even crazier from where I’m sitting now than it did from where I was sitting back then.) 

For another thing, Robin was probably psychotic.

She would have episodes where, for no discernable reason, she’d suddenly completely freak out and start screaming and throwing and breaking stuff and threatening violence against herself and others. Fortunately (or unfortunately) she usually did this when I had people over. 

Robin never did any cleaning.  Never. She’d just leave her dishes where she happened to be when she ate off them. She dropped her clothes wherever she took them off.  If I said anything she’d say, “Hey, I don’t care what the place looks like. If you want it clean, you clean it”

When she ran out of clean clothes, she’d “borrow” mine (without asking) — including my underwear.  Sometimes I had to look for my clothes in her room. It was really scary in there. The underwear I let her keep.

She also “borrowed” my food and my money if I was careless enough not to lock it up somewhere.

She’d bring home strange men from bars. Sometimes she’d bring home two or three and go to her room with one of them and “leave the rest for me.” I had a good lock put on my bedroom door.

One day while I was at work, Robin moved out. She took all her stuff and most of mine. I never saw her again.

I lived on my own for a long time after that.

Over the years, however,  I had four more roommates – two female and two male. Both of the female roommates were great. The males were more like relationships than roommates so those situations were all tangled up with stuff outside of sharing accommodations, so they weren’t quite so great in the long run.

Which brings me to the roommate I have now. Let’s call her “Jr.” She may be the second worst roommate I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong — she’s a lovely, lovely person – but she kind of sucks as a roommate.

She pays none of the bills, for instance. Ya, that’s right. I pay ALL the bills and pay for all the groceries and toiletries – I even pay for transportation, vacations, school, electronics, some of her clothes, and pretty much everything else.

But, since she hardly makes any money, I don’t really mind paying all the bills. The worst part is that she’s really, really messy.

Her room is 2-feet deep in clothes and who-knows-what else. I don’t know how she manages to emerge from there each day looking immaculately groomed, coiffed and dressed.

I don’t have to look at her room, so that’s not so bad. I keep the door closed and hope nothing ever escapes from there. But she’s just as messy in the rest of the house. For instance, her bathroom is also the main bathroom and the one that guests use. So it would be nice for it to not look like the toilets at Cleetus’ Highway 12 Gas-Up ‘n’ Go.

I ask, I tell, I beg her to keep that bathroom clean. She keeps telling me it is clean and yet it really, really isn’t. Does she just not see the green stuff growing in her toothbrush holder or the dark ring around the inside of the tub?  I don’t understand.

And she can just walk through the kitchen to turn it from tidy and shiny to sticky and smeary. Let’s say she makes a peanut butter sandwich. There will be a trail of crumbs from the toaster, across the counter and down to the floor. There will be peanut butter and jam on the fridge handle, on the cupboard doors and on the cutlery drawer. Sometimes even on the stove though she doesn’t, as far as I know, need the stove to make a peanut butter sandwich.

The knife will have an entire sandwich-worth of peanut butter on it still and will be stuck to the counter. The plate, I will find somewhere in the house —eventually. Or it, along with a stack of other dishes, will re-appear during the Annual Cleaning of Her Room Event.

And she never re-fastens the lids to anything. After using the peanut butter or the jam or the juice or whatever, she just gently places the lid on the jar. So the next time I go to take something out of the fridge, I end up holding a lid. The jar and everything in it end up all over the floor.

I’ve tried paying her to do the weekly cleaning in hopes that it will help her recognize what a pain it is when you don’t clean up as you go along. But I soon realized that things were actually getting dirtier when she was responsible for the cleaning. I’d pull dishes out of the cupboard that still had actual food on them – not streaks or crusty spots, but puddles of ketchup, smears of egg and once I even found a French fry on a plate stuck to some gluey ketchup.

I give up. I’m tired of arguing about it. I think it’s just easier to do it myself and then grumble and blog about it.

How is/are your roommate(s)??

Have you ever had a roommate from hell?

Any innovate ideas on how I can get mine to pitch in?

Table for Two?

Now that XUP Jr.’s part-time, after-school job is finished for the summer, she went and got herself a summer job working in a restaurant. Gak!

I guess it’s a rite of passage for pretty much every female on the planet to do some sort of restaurant work at least once in their young lives. Restaurants have a high turn-over in staff, so jobs are not that difficult to get. And once you have some restaurant experience under your belt, you pretty much never need to worry about being out of work anywhere, ever again. So, in that respect, I guess this was a good move on XUP Jr.’s part. That, and the fact that eventually there is some big money to be made in tips if you’re a good, experienced server.

But for now XUP Jr. is just a hostess – learning the biz from the bottom up. And what a learning curve it been!

She comes home exhausted and smelly. Her feet are killing her and she’s starving because she hasn’t been allowed to stop for her entire 6 hour shift to grab a bite to eat. So far she seems to like it, though. She’s even been getting into the restaurant-workers’ tradition of coming in early or staying late after her shift to hang around and socialize with her coworkers.

Perhaps this is why I never really got the allure of  restaurant work – I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there at the end of my shift. I’ve had many friends though who loved being servers and the whole weird other-worldliness of working in a restaurant. They loved it so much they kept taking evening or weekend shifts even after they got real full-time jobs after university.

To me, restaurants are like some sort of prison or Lord of the Flies island society where normal life stuff doesn’t apply and where crazy, quirky things like labour laws just get in the way of running an efficient dining room.

What is it that makes restaurant work so bizarre?

  1. The Customers: Some people get peculiar when they go out to eat. They figure this is their one big chance in life to be prima donnas or something:
    • They are rude and haughty to restaurant staff;
    • They demand unreasonable things like “turning the music off” or asking why, in a seafood restaurant, there is nothing but fish on the menu because they’re allergic to fish;
    • They quibble over the bill acting all outraged that it’s so high when they could have made the same thing at home for a fraction of the cost; and,
    • A surprising number of people just dine and dash, which gets the server in big shit.
  2. The Tipping: Personally, I think the whole tipping thing is outrageous. Restaurant staff get paid next-to-nothing and have to rely on tips to make a living. If it’s not a busy night or customers choose not to tip, they’re screwed. Then servers have to share out their tips with hostesses, bus staff, dishwashers, bartenders, prep crew, etc. Why can’t we just, across the board, add 15% or 20% to the price of the meal and pay restaurant staff a living wage?
  3. The Work: It’s an incredibly hectic work pace. There’s no time or place for breaks in a restaurant, labour laws be damned. Unless there are no customers and nothing else that needs doing, you’re running non-stop from the beginning to the end of your shift. And if the place does clear out, they just send you home and they save a few hours’ pay.
  4. The Coworkers: You learn pretty quickly that there’s a hierarchy of people you have to suck up to in the restaurant business:
    1. Bartender – he or she is kind of the god of the restaurant. If you don’t do serious, serious kissing up and sharing of tips with your bartender, he will not look upon you with favour and will make your life miserable. (NB: I think when I retire, I might take a bartending course and make that my old-age career. I think being a god might suit me.)
    2. Manager – why are restaurant managers all power-mad cretins? They love to throw their weight around in the most demeaning possible ways. They love to devise bizarre little schemes to pit staff against each other. They love to screw with schedules just to keep people on their toes.
    3. Lifers – there’s usually one person who’s been in the same restaurant, in the same job since the place opened in 1953. The manager is afraid of her and the only person she’s chummy with is the bartender. After you’ve worked there a few years and haven’t screwed anything up too badly, she might say something nice to you.
    4. Cooks – I don’t even know what to say about them. They’re pretty much all psychotic in some way from what I’ve been able to gather. They’re allowed to yell and swear and throw things and reduce staff to tears and no one dares object. They’re all “about to open a place of their own that’s run properly,” so everyone walks on eggshells around them so they don’t walk away in a huff in the middle of the dinner rush.

Well, that’s my take on the industry anyway. I was a terrible restaurant employee, which may somewhat colour my view of the business. But, I would love to hear some of your love/hate stories of working in restaurants — and I know almost all of you have some.

Meanwhile, if you’re dining in an Ottawa restaurant this summer, please be nice to the hostess – she might be XUP Jr.

The Middle-Aged Cute

The other day, I had finally had the opportunity to meet XUP Jr.’s latest beau – the dreaded 19-year-old.

I’d been imagining a cocky, bearded frat boy/man with gold-festooned chest hair,  a pocket full of condoms, a Corvette and a pipe. Instead he was shy, slouchy and diffident; wore goofy neon sk8er shoes;  had a lot of hair on his head and in his eyes, but no hair visible anywhere else; arrived on the bus and looked about 16. Yay! Oh, and he was punctual, which earned him huge bonus points in my book.

Naturally, I think XUP Jr. is waaay out of his league, but she likes him for now and he seems harmless enough, so we can all relax. A little bit. Probably.

“Soooooo???? What did you think of him? What did you think of him? Isn’t he gorgeous?” she asks when she returns from the date.

“Well, he’s certainly a lot better than what I thought.”

“Why? What do you like about him?” she begged.

“Ummm….. He was on time…. He was polite….ummmm… he didn’t have chest hair?”

“WHAT? Why would he have chest hair? Is that all? Didn’t you like him?”

“I only saw him for three seconds, it’s hard to say, but he seemed okay.”

“OKAY? Just okay? I think he’s really nice and he was really sweet and he paid for everything and he wrote me a poem and he said he thought you were cute.”

Now, if this had been the first time someone had every called me “cute” he probably would never be allowed to darken my door again. However, a lot of people  before him (who don’t know me at all) have said I was “cute”.  And every single one of XUP Jr.’s other friends also seem to think I’m “cute”, so wasn’t as horrified as I might have been.

“Are you making this up?” I ask. “Seriously – again with the cute?” I said, frowning in a decidedly uncute manner.

“I know! It’s weird, eh? All my friends think you’re cute.” she replied.

 And then….

And then. She. Pinched. My. Cheeks. And said (with a scrunchy face), “You are cute, with those little dimples.”

And then she casually looked me up and down and said, “Am I taller than you yet?”

I think I’m quickly losing the whole “authority figure” vibe thing I had going on for the last 17  years or so. What do you think?

I don’t know. At my age – or at any age, actually – I never, ever aspired to be cute. Babies and toddlers are cute. Gap-toothed seven-year-olds are cute.  Puppies and kittens are cute. Apple-cheeked little old ladies with mountains of fluffy white hair twisted on top of their heads held in place with a pencil are cute.

I’m none of those things. Really, I’m not. I’d much rather XUP Jr.s friends think I’m scary and omniscient, yet available for food and problem-solving. Some of them have come to realize that over time, but really, it should be apparent right off the bat.

Oh well. I suppose if I think about it, there are some middle-aged women we all know that I might describe as cute. Sally Field, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss, Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore (though I don’t know if she qualifies as middle-aged yet), Goldie Hawn, Ellen Degeneres….I’m sure there are more.  So, I guess it’s not that bad.

I reckon there are worse things XUP Jr.’s friends could call me. Maybe I should just surrender and go with the cute thing – start wearing dirndls and pig tails…take up tap dancing maybe.

A Conversation

Daughter: If I ask you a question will you promise to answer it without asking any follow-up questions?

Mother: No, because the question needs follow-up questions in order for me to answer it or you wouldn’t have asked me that.

Daughter: Fine! Nevermind!

Mother: No, go ahead ask the question.

Daughter: I don’t want to.

Mother: Yes, you do. You’re dying to ask me and it’s obviously about some boy you want to go out with that you think I won’t approve of.

Daughter: OH MY GOD! How do you know that? You’re soooooo weird.

Mother: Please. I know you better than you know yourself. It’s my motherly job. Ask the question.

Daughter: No!

Mother: Ask it.

 Daughter: Okay. Here’s the question. What’s the maximum age for someone you’ll let me go out with? And just answer it without asking me a bunch of stuff, pleeeease.

 Mother: 40.

 Daughter: What? Ewwwww! You’d let me go out with a 40-year-old man?

 Mother: See? You’re asking follow-up questions. Sometimes they’re important.

 Daughter: Very funny. How old, really?

 Mother: I don’t know – maybe 19. Depends on the guy and the circumstances. How old is this guy?

 Daughter: 19

 Mother: Where do you know a 19-year-old guy from?

 Daughter: Through my friend Shelley that I work with.

 Mother: When did you meet this guy?

 Daughter: I don’t know. I’ve talked to him lots of times.

 Mother: In real life or on chat?

 Daughter: In real life, too.

 Mother: And he’s not in high school anymore, right?

Daughter: No, he’s in university. Didn’t you ever go out with university guys when you were in high school?

 Mother: Yes, and I thought it was really cool at the time, but when I was in university I thought it was really creepy when a university guy went out with a high school girl.

 Daughter: Oh so I suppose it would be better if he’d flunked out a lot and was still in high school at 19?

 Mother: No, of course not.

 Daughter: Well, you said I could go out with a 19-year-old. What did you think he’d be doing?

Mother: Touché. I’ll change my answer to 18.

 Daughter: NOoooOOOooooo! You can’t do that!!

Mother: You should be sticking to guys your own age anyway.

 Daughter: I’ll be 18 in a couple of months

 Mother: You’ll be 18 in 8 months. You just turned 17.

Daughter: Whatever. It’s your own fault for sending me to an arts school where there are hardly any boys and the ones that are there are all gay.

Mother: You wanted to go there. I did warn you.

Daughter: How was I supposed to know they were going to be that gay? Anyway, can I go out with this guy or not?

 Mother: Where are you planning to go with this boy?

Daughter: I don’t know. For coffee, he said.

Mother: Oh, so just around the corner at Starbucks? And you’ll meet him there one afternoon like?

Daughter: I don’t know. We might go somewhere else. He has a car.

Mother: Ha ha ha ha ha HA! And you think I’m going to let you drive off in a car with some 19-year-old university guy I’ve never met?

Daughter: He can come in first so you can meet him.

Mother: No. I suggest you just meet him over at Starbucks the first time and see how it goes or go with Shelley and him and some other people. It’s never a good idea, no matter how old you are to drive off on a first date with someone you barely know.

Daughter: Fiiiiiiiiiiine!!!!!


“My friend Erin’s mom is such a bitch!” XUP Jr. declared over lunch on Saturday, apropos to nothing at all.

“Oh? Why?” I ask, always eager to hear about the problems other parents have with their teenagers.

Erin is one of the many kids who lives one week at her mother’s and one week at her father’s. Friday was transition day and apparently Erin had left her mother’s house a bit of a mess that morning. So, Erin’s mother had left Erin a message on her cell phone telling her she had to come back to the house after school and clean up the crumbs and jam and stuff she left on the coffee table (where she wasn’t supposed to be eating anyway) and she had to return her mother’s t-shirt and make-up brush that she’d borrowed without asking.

So, this, according to XUP Jr. was petty and mean of Erin’s mom and just a little crazy because what’s the big deal about a few crumbs? Plus it would mean that instead of taking the bus to her dad’s after school Erin would have to go to her mom’s first and then WALK for 40 minutes to her dad’s.

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What a great opportunity for a long-winded lecture mother-daughter discussion.

As I commented to Dani the other day on her blog, it seems like almost overnight your kids become grown-up. Parents with young children, like Dani often feel that their lives seem like a never-ending round of getting them up, getting them dressed, hurrying them up, feeding them, cleaning them up, helping them with homework, ferrying them to soccer and music lessons and friends homes, attending their school events, reading them stories, playing with them, taking them on outings, wiping their tears, fixing their boo-boos, forcing them into the bath, putting them to bed, etc., etc. — all while trying to manage all the regular stuff a human being needs to do to conduct a life.

And when you’re in the middle of that cycle of chaos it often seems so endless and completely overwhelming, but in retrospect, it was over so quickly. Children claim their independence little by little without you really noticing until suddenly one day you realize that your entire parenting role has changed. Yes, you still have to set some rules and boundaries and they might even want you to wipe up a tear or two now and again or mollycoddle them when they’re not feeling well, but other than that all they really want you to do is:

  • Fork over money;
  • Keep the fridge stocked with food; and
  • Provide transportation occasionally

What they don’t want you to do, but which you really feel like you have to do is inundate them with advice because it dawns on you that there’s a lot of stuff you might not have yet managed to fully drill into their heads and soon they’ll be out in the big world all alone.

So what I talked to XUP Jr. about regarding Erin and her mother is this transition time. This weird time when everything changes quite rapidly for both parents and kids. Kids are demanding to be treated like adults…or at least their vision of what adults are – being allowed to come and go as they wish; making their own decisions without interference; indulging in adult vices, and so forth. And parents are delighted to have their own lives back; to come and go as they wish.

I told XUP Jr. that we would love to be able to treat our teenagers more like adults, except – they don’t behave like adults most of the time…or at least not the type of adults anyone would want to live with. 

A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has borrowed their clothing without asking and not returned it. A person does not want to come home to find that another “adult” in the house has left the place a mess.

“So you see, “I said to XUP Jr., in conclusion “We really, really don’t like treating fully grown young women like toddlers. It would be good, for example, if we didn’t have to keep cleaning up after you.”

We’ve had variations on this discussion probably about a million times, but it just doesn’t seem to sink in. For instance, whenever I go grocery shopping I ask her if there’s anything in particular she wants me to get and she always brushes me off with an “how should I know” because, unlike a real adult,  she only thinks about food when she’s actually hungry. At which point, of course she complains that there’s nothing good to eat in the house.

Also, I always do laundry on Sunday morning and every Saturday  night I have to remind XUP Jr. to put her laundry in the hamper if she wants it done. This Saturday night I forgot to remind her, mainly because she wasn’t home, so her stuff didn’t get washed.

Boy, you’d think I’d sold one of her kidneys while she was asleep the way she carried on about having to do her own laundry and why didn’t I remind her and now she has to waste her day off on Monday doing laundry, boo hoo hoo.

And on that note, may I’d like to wish everyone in Ontario a happy Family Day. I hope you all get to spend it doing something really nice with your family — unless of course you’re  a federal government employee who — even though everyone else in the province gets the day off —  don’t get Family Day off because it’s not a federal holiday – boo hoo hoo.


FAMILY DAY UPDATE: On my lunchtime run today I was really heartened and gruntled to see so many, many families, of every possible configuration, skating on the canal and careening down the various designated and non-designated snowy hills . I only wish (yes again) I’d had a pair of camera sunglasses so I could have captured all the family joy going on out there.

Things You Shouldn’t Do Naked

One of my neighbours popped by on Saturday to ask my advice on something – because I’m so wise…or maybe because I was the only one home. But anyway, she said I could blog about it even though she never reads blogs and maybe doesn’t really understand what a blog I, although I did my very best to explain it to her.

Saturday morning — let’s call her Molly, although that’s not her real name  — got up bright and early and sent her husband and youngest son off to the boy’s hockey practice or hockey game or whatever it is hockey kids do at 5:00 am on a Saturday. Since she was up and since her other son, a teenager, was dead to the world in his room, Molly decided to get some housework done and then enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

After Molly finished cleaning, she even whipped up a batch of her famous breakfast buns[1] before hopping in the shower. The day is off to a spectacular start! It’s not even 9:00 o’clock and she has most of her Saturday chores done already.

 And then it all goes horribly wrong.

Molly gets out of the shower and realizes that there are no towels in the bathroom since she’s put them all in the wash. There’s a linen cupboard in the hall outside the bathroom door with more towels, but Molly suddenly gets a bright idea. She decides it would really help her enjoy her decadent morning breakfast if she could wrap up in a hot towel out of the dryer and then put on some hot-out-of-the-dryer clothes.

So out of the bathroom she scurries and heads down to the basement to fetch her warm, cuddly togs.

Except she’s still wet from the shower.

And so slips halfway down to the basement and bounces on her ass the rest of the way down the stairs.

She’s completely winded and in shock and spread-eagle on the basement floor, buck naked, when her teenaged son pops his head around the basement door.

Was he awakened by the noise of her fall or the delightful aroma of Molly’s breakfast buns? Who knows? All she remembers is his rumpled, half-awake appearance and the horrified look in his eyes as if he’s found himself in the middle of his worst nightmare.

“Holy shit” was all he said.

Molly, being winded, could only respond with some belaboured grunts, “Uhnnn, uhnnn, uhnn.”

The boy, getting his priorities straight, grabbed a blanket off the sofa and went down to throw it on his mom before asking her if she was all right.

Molly is all right — physically. She has a bruised and very sore coccyx and one of her elbows hurts, but otherwise she’s okay.  Her son, however,  hasn’t been able to look her in the eye since that morning and scurries out of the room whenever she’s around. Molly reckons if only she hadn’t been in quite such a splayed posture it wouldn’t be so bad. He’s probably seen glimpses of her butt or boobs during the course of 16 years of everyday life, but he’s never seen his mom looking like a poorly-staged Hustler centerfold. She thinks their relationship will never be the same again.

(The breakfast buns, by the way, were saved in the nick of time.)

She doesn’t know if she should say anything. She doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to see her as a mom again. She doesn’t know what the hell he was doing up so early. And in the middle of this angstful monologue, Molly says, “Well, there’s another thing I can add to my list of things never to do when I’m naked.” At which point I stopped listening to her and started wondering if she actually has a list like that and what might be on it.

So I interrupt her moaning about her parental woes and asked her.

“Oh, you know, the usual,” she said, looking surprised at the question. “Frying bacon, bathing the cat, sliding down a banister. Then we laughed and started thinking of other things you shouldn’t do in the nude. And then we started making a list of careers you should avoid if you want to be naked all the time.

It’s interesting really how many jobs you could do without danger, legalities aside,  if you were naked. There are a few though that would probably create too many problems to be worth the unfettered freedom. For instance:

  • Hot dog vendor
  • Accordion player
  • Beekeeper
  • Welder
  • Firefighter
  • Lumberjack
  • Prison guard
  • Vet
  • Dentist 
  • Rodeo cowboy
  • Hockey player
  • Tap dancer on Sesame Street

[1] These things are amazing. They’re like cinnamon buns but denser made with lots of eggs and nuts and raisins and other stuff and no sugar – just a bit of a maple glaze on top. A half one of these is a complete breakfast.

What do we owe our kids?

A young lady (YL), in her mid-teens, and her long-suffering mother (LSM) are preparing to leave the house to go their respective Saturday morning activities.

LSM: So, I’ll see you back here after lunch some time?

YL: Yup (while texting)

 LSM: Do you want to do something this afternoon?

 YL: (stops texting for a moment) YES! You can take me to Winners  and buy me new clothes.

LSM: Ha ha. Your bedroom floor is 3 feet deep with clothes. I don’t think you need anymore right now.

YL: (whining) Yes, I do. All my clothes are old and yucky.

LSM: Maybe if you and all your friends didn’t have to walk over them to get into your room, they wouldn’t be so yucky? Maybe you should buy your own clothes and then you’d take better care of them.

YL: WHAT? I already have to buy everything myself.

YSM: Everything, eh? Like what?

YL: Like everything. It’s not fair. No one else has to have a stupid job and pay for all their own stuff.

YSM: All your own stuff? Like what?

YL: I had to pay for the movie yesterday. My friends didn’t have to pay for their own movie. My friends’ parents just give them money whenever they want it.

 Listening to these two quibble reminds me of a hundred similar arguments I’ve had with XUP Jr. I’m sure that somewhere in her heart of hearts she knows she’s doing okay and that there are kids in the world worse off than she is, but you wouldn’t know it by some of the hard-done-by stories she comes out with.

 And this always leads me to question: As responsible people and parents, what exactly do we owe our kids? Aside from the basics like love, nurturing, food, water, shelter, etc.?

I’ve chosen where we live based on the quality of the available schools in the area. This is great in many ways because she goes to school with kids who are mostly quite motivated to learn; who have fairly stable home lives; and who generally walk the path of straight and narrow.

In other ways, this rather insular peer group has given XUP Jr. a bit of an unrealistic  picture of what is “normal”.  Based on her peer experiences:

  •  All kids have large homes with rec rooms in the basement where teenagers can hang out, watch big-screen TVs, play air hockey, steal booze from the wet bar and crash out for the night
  • All kids take one major vacation a year to Europe or China or Australia or cruise to Alaska
  • All kids also have one minor vacation a year during March break to somewhere warm or Disneyland
  • All kids go on two or three road trips every year to New York, Chicago, Montreal or Vancouver
  • All kids spend a good part of their summer at the family cottage
  • All kids have computers and TVs in their rooms
  • All kids have the most current cell phone technology and the most current iPod (both of which change every 6 months)
  • All kids buy their clothes only from only the most expensive boutiques
  • All kids’ families have at least 2 cars and will drive the kids anywhere they want to go any time, day or night

Some of her friends do have jobs (though she chooses to forget that) but many of her friends don’t and yet always have money for shopping, eating out, movies and other outings. So, I have to assume that what she, and they, say is true – their parents just give them money whenever they want it.

I think parents do owe their kids something beyond the basics. Though circumstances don’t always make it possible, we should strive for some enrichment activities for our children – sports or music or dance lessons or something. Something that encourages their particular passion or skill or strength. Something that they can feel especially proud of themselves for. Something that may give them an edge as they go through life.

I think we also owe our kids some sort of additional start in life – whether that’s paying for their first university degree or college diploma or, if that’s not the way they want to go, some seed money to start up a business or buy their first home or whatever.

Travel, though it has so many issues these days, can also be a very important part of a child’s growth. Travel doesn’t necessarily have to mean exotic vacations. Just getting kids out of their own town once in a while and letting them experience a different community, different people, different lifestyles is good.

 Anyway, these are things I always tried to provide for my kid above and beyond the basics. And as much as we can poo-poo the cliquishness of school, I confess I’ve always done what I could to help her “fit in.” She was already a bit of an oddball because she doesn’t have a father and because she eats “weird stuff” and because I don’t have a car to drive her around in.  So, I bought her trendier clothes that cost a bit more than the sensible clothes. And, she was one of the first kids to have a cell phone – though that was more so we could keep in touch than to be cool. And she has the the best iPod in the whole world thanks mummy.

And contrary to what she may tell everyone, I still buy most of her stuff. Her money goes to movies and nail polish and $70 leggings from Holt Renfrew. I worry sometimes about her values. I hope they’ll sort themselves out once the self-centered teen years are over.

It’s a tough parental line to walk – that balance between your desire to give your kids every thing/every advantage and letting them learn how to set and accomplish their own goals, to expect them to put some effort (aside from sticking their hand out)  into achieving their desires.

How do you, or how did your parents, work that one out?

All-Consuming Passion

XUP Jr. tells me that being madly in love is out of style; that it’s a Hollywood invention; something that people in the “olden days” bought into; but which today’s youth are too cool for.

I’m talking about that all-consuming passion that teenagers can (could?) do best, but which many adults are also able to fall into. I’m talking about that kind of “in-love’ where you can’t keep your hands off each other; where you want to be together every minute of every day; where you can stare at each other for hours; where all you can talk about is how amazing it is that you found each other and how much in love you are; where you’re only half alive when you’re apart. I’m talking about the kind of in-love that makes your friends sick  to be around you.

I’m talking about the kind of “in love” which is so intense that it can’t possibly sustain itself in the long term and which will either burn itself out or morph into something calmer, more comfortable and enduring. (Or, sometimes it can also turn into something ugly depending on circumstances).

I think it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, don’t you?  

Is it possible for something like that to go out of style? Seems to me it’s been around forever, so why should just this generation suddenly become passionless? Please say it ain’t so.

But, the “relationships” my kid and her friends have all seem to be very …. whatever the opposite of intense is… very casual, passionless, unconsuming.

Maybe that’s a good thing?

Did you have a teenaged-madly-in-love relationship? Are they still around? Have you had an adult-madly-in-love relationship? Are they healthy? Or is a loving, mutually respectful, companionable relationship healthier? Can you have both at the same time? (With the same person?)

Just one of the many things we’re having long, heated discussions about here at the XUP household during our little winter holiday.

How we made it to 17

One half a score and seven years ago today, I brought forth on this planet a new infant conceived in….

…the usual way.

And today she’s 17.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who never thought we’d make it this far. I was always a big fan of the adage, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I tend to run away when things get difficult. Yup, I’m a quitter from way back. I quit jobs, I quit places, I quit people, I quit eating meat, I quit smoking, I even quit drinking all forms of alcohol once for almost a year. And then I thought, “Why did I do that?” and had a glass of wine.

So, when I first figured out that I was going to be raising a child by myself, you’d think my baser instincts would have kicked in and I would have left her on someone’s doorstep, wouldn’t you?

But no. I reckon birthing must seriously mess with your hormones and your head. How else can you explain what you’ll put up with?

  • You never get to sleep anymore because the kid cries every hour or so, 24 hours a day, wanting food or wanting out of a wet diaper or just wanting human contact.  You have to do, like, everything for them for years.
  • They can’t feed themselves for the longest time. (They don’t even come with teeth, for pete’s sake).
  • They poop wherever and whenever the poop feels like sliding out and you have to clean it up.
  • You can’t just send them off for a bath because they’ll drown without constant supervision.
  • They can’t dress themselves until they’re around 30. Even now I keep having to remind her that it’s almost winter and that she’ll probably be cold if she leaves the house in just a t-shirt.
  • You can’t go anywhere with them because they’re always wailing about something or shouting out embarrassing things or breaking stuff or doing something gross like sucking the snot out of their own noses or wetting themselves or throwing up for no apparent reason.
  • And you can’t go anywhere without them because they’ll burn the house down or fall on scissors or something. And also, it’s illegal.
  • Kids are bloody expensive, too. They need an entire new wardrobe at least twice a year, every year until they move out. That’s clothes, shoes, boots, coats – the works. Plus there are all those school supplies, extracurricular activities, lessons, musical instruments, skates, toys, electronics. And let’s not even discuss the cost of food. They never stop eating. Never.


I could go on and on, but I think you get the point – how the hell did we make it to XUP Jr.’s 17th birthday?

Well, nature makes the little humans really, really cute so they’re difficult to just give away or otherwise dispose of. Often they look a lot like you, which makes it even freakier. And, the very helplessness that sucks the life out of you, also makes it impossible for you not to care for them. I mean, you have to be pretty heartless to turn your back on a completely defenseless little critter that needs you for absolutely everything, right?

And then, as they get older, unlike pets, kids develop some self-sufficiency. They learn to tie their shoes and read and how to aim their poop for the toilet and even, eventually, how to wipe their bums properly so that you don’t have to do a separate load of laundry just for their skiddy underpants.

  • And then they get to the point where you can almost see a real person about to emerge. You can have actual intelligent conversations with them.
  • You can leave them on their own for days without worrying too much (as long as you call two or three times a day just to make sure they’re still in one piece).
  • If you close the door to their bedrooms, you can pretend that your house is occupied by normal, tidy adults.
  • And, the really fun thing is that they’ll do almost anything for money, so for a few bucks they’ll do all the chores you don’t feel like doing anymore.
  • And you find yourself liking them as people – people you’d want to spend time with even if you weren’t being forced to because of your parental obligations.

A really weird thing is that somewhere along the line you even find yourself liking yourself more and you realize it’s because of the kid. They seem to find your flaws and weaknesses and are somehow able to smooth them over or turn them into strengths. For instance:

  • By trying my patience remorselessly, XUP Jr. has actually made me a more patient person.
  • By demanding constant attention, she’s forced me to stop focusing so much on me and fretting about stupid self-absorbed stuff. 
  • By needing so damn much, she’s obliged me to stop farting around and buckle down and stick to a job and make a home.
  • By depending on me for everything, all the time, she’s given me a reason to get up every morning.
  • And just by being, she’s gifted me the incomparable feeling of absolute and unconditional love for another human.

Like every parent since time began, I know I messed up plenty over the years and wish I could have do-overs for more than a few things I’ve said and done. And I know she has a list of ways I’ve ruined her life which she will hold on to forever and torment me with when I’m hold and feeble. But, nevertheless, so far she’s turning into a lovely young woman. She’s happy, confident, smart, opinionated, outgoing, articulate, kind-hearted, funny, talented, interesting, engaging,has good values, etc., etc.

So, I guess overall, we’re doing okay.

Happy Birthday, darlin’