Thursday, May 10, 2012

Noah's Arc of Life

I am not an emotional person.  I can only recall experiencing any ocular moistness twice in the past decade: At the end of Toy Story 3 and when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

So it is not entirely insignificant that something our President said recently caused me to have what I can only describe as a pre-weep twinge. And I have to give kudos to our Vice President for greasing the emotional wheels.

Although my official academic field of inquiry is Psychology, there are several topics that spark my interest more than the one which is my professional bread and butter. Well, actually only two: Politics and Sports.

Come to think of it, it really isn't much of a stretch for a psychologist to be compelled to follow these. Both are replete with characters that would make even an undergrad psych student chuckle.

But because of the clinically diagnosable narcissism, grandiosity, and histrionics displayed by many (dare I say most?) athletes and politicians, it is rare indeed for a product of either world to exhibit the one thing that purported role models should: Integrity.

President Obama--doubly cursed as an athletic politician!--has, in a sense, reversed the curse. While I have always suspected him to be a person with a keen sense of fairness, I will admit I was a little disappointed when, by January 23, 2009, he hadn't rolled back decades of inequity by issuing Executive Orders willy-nilly, and punishing the narcissistic, grandiose, and histrionic so-called leaders who preceded him. No one said integrity can't come with a dose of vindictiveness.

So while I have had moments of appreciation for President Obama's actions regarding stem-cell research and ridiculously discriminatory military policy, as my "Got Hope?" bumper sticker slowly peels from my car, a vaguely dissatisfied feeling had continued to linger. My gnawing disappointment stemmed from the feeling that he has so much potential. There was little doubt that he was on the right (as in correct, of course, not right-leaning) side of many of the "social" issues that government really has no business dictating. And maybe it was this sort of squeamishness that gave him pause when teachable moments presented themselves on these issues.

But President Obama erased years of frustration by stating the obvious: "Same sex couples should be able to get married." Such a no-brainer, but score one for integrity anyway. 

However, not to take away from this almost-tear-inducing moment in history, but to me, there are two elements to the whole "Who should get married?" debate that are even more fundamental: 1) There is really nothing inherent in the act of getting married that necessarily implies that partners will become parents; and 2) The only people who have any idea what goes on in a couple's life ("married" or not) are the two people themselves, no matter what sexes they are.

President Obama prefaced his aforementioned support of same-sex marriage with the rationale that he knows of many people in "committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together." While this, again, is stating the obvious, it really has nothing to do with whether two people should be allowed to marry.

While in many senses, a committed couple--married or not--constitutes a "family," at least by IRS standards, the debate about same-sex marriage has been erroneously (in my view) focused on a couple's ability to parent. Conservatives spout off abut how a "family" has a mom and a dad, while more progressive believers timidly point out that off-spring of same-sex couples can fare just as well.

The commitment and responsibilities of being married and being a parent often overlap, but they are not necessarily embarked on by the same people. Is there anyone who has never met a couple (same-sex or otherwise) who has no children? Is there anyone who has never met a single parent or non-biological parent raising a child? 

What has been missing from the utterly pointless debate about same-sex marriage is the fact that people--coupled or not--of all ilks go through life, sometimes raising children and sometimes not, through reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who want children often do not rear them, for reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who did not plan on being parents often become a caregiver through reasons both within and out of their control.

The "traditional" assumption seems to be that a man and woman who don a tuxedo and white dress are an ongoing benefit to society. If anyone didn't already suspect that there was something appallingly dangerous in ascribing virtue to people based on their ability to participate in a wedding celebration, all they need to do is consult news reports, many of our dear Sports and Political figures, of couples who are "married" in the "traditional" sense. Cheating, violence, humiliation, irresponsibility, murder--all of these despicable acts occur behind closed doors of officially married and non-married people alike. Every day. 

So why legislate dysfunction to only couples of the opposite sex?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Your Child is Sick!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any child sent home from school is a targeted victim of a classmate who wants to wreak havoc on the well-being of that child's family.

Work meetings have been scheduled, carpools have been arranged, the contents of the refrigerator is not set to expire for another 24 hours. The entire work/school week is planned down to the second. Pee breaks are even accounted for, as long as no one washes hands for more than the AMA-approved 30 seconds.

So how dare little Jared or Jenna so much as breathe on my precious spawn. At drop-off this week, I am pretty sure I saw a globule of snot perched precariously on Penelope's nose. She better avoid my kid like the plague. I know for a fact that her father freelances at home, so if Penelope's nasal mucous starts to turn, she can go home, use the neti pot, and plant herself in front of Yo Gabba Gabba until her sinuses get aired out. (Dads are OK with TV on sick days; moms generally are not.) I, on the other hand, am utterly useless at home during a weekday, and cannot afford to spend an entire day sitting in the home office, refreshing the screen of my iPad over and over, making a concerted effort to ignore my child so she does not think sick days are fun.

Last week, I dabbled in staying at home. My child displayed some of the classic components of malaise, and it was a Friday anyway, so I worked in the morning while my husband stayed at home, then switched with him at mid-day. I spent most of the morning at work trying to figure out which child in my daughter's school was the germ bully who had the nerve to inflict this unwellness on her.

Within a four-hour span, I had cleaned and vacuumed the entire interior of my rather large car--the first time in its 10-year lifespan that I can recall "tidying it up." I unearthed permission slips from 2004, a Power Rangers VCR tape, and a bag of Pirate Booty that had inflated like a balloon. I also tilled bare patches on the lawn, and mowed the grass, which included three different areas of the property. I updated Little League websites and sent snack reminders to the teams' parents. I made an actual phone call to someone to schedule something, but never heard back. I picked up my son and a friend from school--when school actually let out! True, it took me about 20 minutes to figure out where to find him on the campus, but, hey, I was a woman of leisure, I had nothing but time! I continuously fed my son's bottomless pit of a friend, who apparently has not learned that the question: "Can I get you anything?" is meant to be purely rhetorical.

I was utterly exhausted from four hours of channeling my inner Ann Romney.

OK, I will confess to the fact that I have sent my very own Typhoid Child to school on more than one occasion. If there is one thing parents who work in and out of the home all agree on: Children must be out of the house as much as possible. It is imperative in order to preserve the sanity of the parents. That is not to say I doubt the psychological stability of those who home-school their kids*. Well, maybe I am saying that. Anyhow, from infancy to about 2, a feverish, inconsolable child can be deposited at daycare guilt-free by pronouncing the child to merely be "teething" and to note that you will be unreachable for the rest of the day. From preschool through elementary school, bags under the eyes and lethargy can be written off to the child "not being a morning person" before being dropped at the school office door. In middle and high schools, a mid-day call from the nurse can be brushed off by proclaiming how "dramatic" your child is, and allude to a Language Arts test the child may be trying to avoid.

Working parents know that sick days are precious commodities in the corporate world, not to be wasted on days where anyone is actually too sick to take advantage of the day off. So just a warning to my children's classmates: If you have so much as a sniffle, convince your parents you need to stay home. That will make me happy. And if you see my child vomiting on the playground, discreetly hand her a paper towel and don't tell the teacher. I've got work to do.

*Editor's note (by the way, I am the editor): I recently met a family who home-schooled their kids not because they were religious fanatics, but because they were an impressively bright and creative family... granted, an impressively bright and creative family with ample free time, patience, and income to stay home with their children while fostering their being impressively bright and creative.