April 16, 2014

Sweet Tea Tuesday: In a people house

My love of language has been none short of rewarding throughout the years. It is with that acknowledgment that I skate through each day, knowing, waiting, for it to backfire. Waiting, for my frequent use of hyperbole, and double entendre to turn on me in some undeniably irrevocable way. Words are our friends (they’ve also cost me some), censorship is not. In our house, if you can read it, you may read it. I must admit, there is a special place in Mom Hell for me.

In a not so unusual moment, in our ever busy kitchen, Yael strolls over and asks, “Mom, what’s an ann-uss“? Her head, nodding syncopatically as she emphasises the syllabicism. I look up. “A what?! How is it being used?” Off she goes, to her room where she retrieves a new book that she and Favorite Guy picked out on one of their standing Mondays dates. She reads, “Then I sniff her ann-uss. It smells rich and full of Celeste”. In an instant, every lewd, horrific joke about “happy clams”, “meat pops”, and other X-rated folly I engage whilst my children are within earshot floods my conscience. I look to Favorite Guy who has turned his back on the impending train wreck. He stands motionlessly. He has a faith in his powers of invisibility that can be rivaled only by the Emperor’s belief that he is clothed.

Shaky hand outstretched, I request the book. Front cover, Newberry Honor holding author, check. Back cover: Ages 8-12, check. Harper Collins publishing, check. Everything seems in order, so I go back a page or two. Celeste and Reggie are the best friends’ of best friends. Celeste is a dalmatian…Reggie is a sheepdog*. All is well again. As the busy kitchen sounds resume, Favorite Guy slowly begins to show signs of life. With a gleam in my eye, a chuckle escapes, I turn to Yael and nodding syncopatically I retort, with the correct pronunciation, “an a-nus is a butt hole”.

* The excerpted phrases are from: The Wish by Gail Carson Levine

This post was originally published on Tea & Honey Bread in November of 2008, the author still wields words with reckless abandon.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts

Sweet Tea Tuesday: Privacy

“That is private, Mom!” She shrieked, from rose-tinted, angry lips; her slim frame engaged in full on pre-pubescent sass and terpsichore: eye rolls, neck rolls, arms flailing. Huh, I thought, as I answered with my very own patented dance move: the serious as hell, side-eye, no jazz hands needed. “Hmmp!” Battle aborted.

This family room sass-off began over an undisclosed screen name linked to an unauthorized account on a social networking site. The name-only a slight variation on the approved screen name for her authorized internet activity- had the potential for disaster in the online world. Think: Nicknamexox versus Nicknamexxx. In a letter, my sweet Yael inadvertently went from eleven to eleventy-seven. Reaches for smelling salts. And, this is precisely why I inspect what I expect. Now, you may call it snooping, meddling, invading privacy, I call it parental involvement.

I located the account in my fairly regular sweep of her computer’s internet history and activity, a practice I honed to a science when Jordan was just a few years older than she is now. Through the years, I’ve put the kibosh on a few drank parties, my-parents-aren’t-home-bring-girls parties, libelous rants about me for putting the kibosh on said parties, and other potentially disastrous suburban kid shenanigans. Potentially disastrous findings- yes, extraordinary-no. In truth, if I hadn’t engaged in my share of stupid kid stuff, I wouldn’t know where to look.

Save for the screen name, the content was…well, impressive. I came across some exceptionally well-written Salinger-esque short stories, ripe with colorful language and a notable- humorous, even- disdain for authority. Geniously creative or semi-autobiographical? Hmm, could I be the “headmistress” of whom she speaks? One never knows. Alas, my work here was done, we agreed to change the screen name, I encouraged her to use spell check for the words that are actually in the dictionary, and reminded her that the well-timed placement of expletives is a bonus not a substitute for good writing. Between us here, they were very well placed.

And so it goes, for me anyway. She’s still undone about the “invasion”, and I suppose some of you feel the same way. Why do I do it, these egregious invasions of my children’s privacy? Well, the nay-sayers have a point, I do have trust issues. I don’t trust the capacity for sound judgment in even the most developed, well-adjusted child’s mind when paired against the equally skilled maladjusted mind of a predator. The internet is at once anonymous and personally invasive, deepening my concern not so much for what my children will do when I’m not looking, as it does what others may do because I’m not looking.

What are your thoughts about young people and internet privacy, or privacy in general? Do you inspect what you expect?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts

Sweet Tea Tuesday: Back to school?

This time of year, the question on many minds and lips has something to do with going back to school. School? Well, if you mean the place where our social skills are developed and strengthed, where strong character foundation is built, lessons on friendships are taught, where healthy competition is fostered and of course where all of the obligatory academics are learned- we never left. In fact, we never leave, we are lifelong learners and un/homeschoolers, the world is our classroom and “school” is in session all day, everyday.

“Homeschoolers?! What about…”- I’m not even going to let you finish. What about socialization/social skills, yes? Well, what about them? (“High Fructose Corn Syrup Lady”" stare) Family, however large, small, blended, nuclear was our-yes, yours too- intro to Social Skills 101. If you’ve held a door, set a table or washed and dried dinner dishes, you’re a team player. If you’ve ever swapped chores, or followed an alternating recycling and trash schedule with a sibling, cousin, parent; ever received an allowance? You’ve engaged in reciprocity. Sat at the dinner table? Commensality. It’s all right there, right here, at home. Of course, as the years start to add up, the situations become increasingly more complex, but when it gets right down to it, the rules are still the same.

Huh? Did you say something about healthy competition? Candy Land for a thousand, Alex! Tic Tac Toe, road trip Yahtzee; Bingo, Old Maid, etc. And, no- I never let them win; no home court advantage at our table! Board games are a great way to teach children about healthy competition; about being gracious winners, how to lose with dignity, dust off and get back in the game. I’m still the reiging champion at most of our reading table tournaments, but these kids are birthday party phenoms, I’m telling you!

This week we’re on a getaway celebrating our family’s anniversary, and just today we covered social science, earth science, art, art history, geography, and math! Our university student is with us, writing lyrics for his next iTunes EP release and promoting previously released projects. Those are just a few events I’m able to consciously “pluck” from the barrage of our day’s happenings.

Agreed, our lifestyle is not suited to the needs and tastes of every family, just as the school setting doesn’t work for us. However, I wanted to clarify some of the common misconceptions about lifelong learners and homeschooling families. We’re here, we’re there, and we’re learning, thriving and socializing. If you’ve ever thought about homeschooling or what it might be like if you never went back to school-actually never left- you ask, and we’ll answer.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts

Sweet Tea Tuesday: After the playground

Earlier this week, Catherine asked, “what have been some of your parenting ah-ha’s around helping your young children learn how to initiate and maintain meaningful friendships?” Upon reading her post, I smiled a little at the fond memories of playgroups and playdates-I certainly felt a tinge of nostalgic longing, envy even for the simplicity of parenting young children. But my reflection was short-lived, interrupted by the reality of a new set of circumstances, my “a-ha moments”, these days seem to be mostly replaced by “oy vey moments” as I teeter the tenuous line of parenting a young adult.

At times I feel superfluous, other times my strident teachings are quite poignantly displayed as the sinews of our little family. There’s something far greater than anything I’ve consciously observed and/or absorbed which powers me to meet repeated rejection with resilience and even more love.(Thanks, Mother Teresa) Greater still, is the restraint displayed in not wavering, enabling or otherwise justifying unacceptable behaviors just to avoid said repeated rejection.

This weekend, our resident young adult behaved in a way that was unacceptable. He was not a good friend, and in turn he was called to answer for it both by the person he wronged, his girlfriend of two years, and by us. At eighteen, surely we handed down no punishment, we didn’t force the two to grimacingly serve up apologies and a handshake with all the willingness of handling a dead fish, but I did seize the opportunity to address sound judgment, character and propriety.

As difficult as it was for me to witness his fragility at the shameful recognizance of what he had done, I did not swoop in to coddle him. Instead, I looked upon him lovingly and acknowledged his pain as I encouraged him to be accountable and seek resolution even if reconciliation was not ultimately the outcome. Despite the criticism of well-meaning friends, I did become “involved”, just as I had in the playgroups, the playground and at recess. This time, I did so not only as his mother, but as a woman, and a trusted friend.

Admittedly, as the words and tears were streaming, I played those playgroup, playground, recess days over in my mind and wondered- if only for a moment- where we, where I missed an opportunity. Only to find, we hadn’t-the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself until now. Much like the other mothers cited, I hadn’t thought much about what he’d be like as a boyfriend any more than they thought of their barely autonomous children as friends. But now that I knew better, it was my responsibility-my duty even to do better, and that meant teaching. And, I did and we spoke and we spoke some more, and some more after that.

We exchanged war stories and he laughed at some of the antics of the far-less-refined-before-his-time versions of his dad and I. As he chortled in sympathetic embarrassment, I saw in him the makings of a great man, friend and partner with some experience and tweaking of his own. We then moved on to forgiveness and the the importance of being sorry and not just saying sorry. Of course not forgetting to touch upon egos, elephants, and the dreaded self-esteem. It was our moment, and it was nice, it was very nice. Although I still writhe en sodade for my little playground cherub, the look on the fuzzy-faced-raspy-voiced-tower-of-tan-skin-perfect-curls-and-gorgeous-teeth before me assured me, if just for a moment (Hell, who am I foolin’ y’all know the first real break-up can go on for days, weeks, months even!) that I was far more super than superfluous, and with that I too, once again, get to say, “a-ha”!

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts

Sweet Tea Tuesday: Today

Today is a new day, a day full of firsts: my first thought, my first sip of coffee (not necessarily in that order), the first cat/ child/ phone call to greet me; my first smile

Today is a new day, a day full of choices: forgive yesterday’s foolery, reward today’s accomplishments, forget old worries, forge ahead, take precautions, take heed; learn

Today is a new day, a day full of love: birdsong, trilling, laughter, familiar voices, a restful sigh, winds blowing, branches rustling; a joyous high

Today is a new day a day full of peace; silence

Tomorrow is unknown, seize your today!

Originally published on Tea & Honey Bread.

I wrote this post on December 30th of 2009, undoubtedly prompted by the anxiety of the impending new year. I’m always ambivalent about the big milestone-marking observances. Have I accomplished enough? Have I failed? Am I where I thought I’d be? Where I wanted to be? Where everyone else expected me to be? Interestingly enough, and completely incidentally this post shaped the better part of my new year- my new me. It wasn’t a resolution, it wasn’t a commitment, it was an organic happening.

Yesterday marked the start of my 37th year, the days which preceded it however were unusually peaceful, refreshing even. The year itself hadn’t been monumentally different than the others, at least I didn’t think so, but things were happening for me, to me and within me. I’d discovered the hidden magic of well spent moments. In the moments when I held on tenaciously, in the moments when I let go graciously, in moments of hearty laughter, and of sorrowful tears, I found the magic of restoration.

So when I rose to face the big day, rather than reflecting on what could have been, I focused solely on being. Instead of making a list, I made a pot of coffee, then I went to the gym, smiled at a stranger, loved freely and vulnerably, ate in moderation and laughed in excess. It’s the little things y’know. You did know, didn’t you? Now go forward and seize your today, then do it again tomorrow.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts

Sweet Tea Tuesday: A woman’s worth

She rolls the mile; makes you smile, all the while being true.
Don’t take for granted the passions that she has for you.
You will lose, if you choose, to refuse to put her first.

-Alicia Keys

Last week over coffee, a gal pal and I discussed current events, specifically the divorce of a certain rich golf guy and his (sung just like the line in Alanis Morrissette’s, “Ironic“) be-a-u-tiful wife. Now, I gotta tell you, I steer away from celebrity gossip because there is a fine line between fame and infamy that is often, and quite sickeningly blurred, but this topic wasn’t about fame and fortune for me, truly-it was about principle.

Underneath the Spanx, ruffles and chintz is a woman, at some point before the single ladies toss all dignity to the wind, and get down straight derby style for the bouquet, there is an agreement; a contractual obligation. Please highlight “obligation”, in the US there is a 65% chance you will come back to this line.

Marriage is a union “…that establishes a family: a social unit whose functions are to regulate sexual activity, to produce and raise children with a particular social identity and cultural skills and to constitute a basic economic unit”. (Heider, 2007) Historically, and to this day in some cultures women have been and are still maimed and murdered for marital transgressions: potential, real and imagined.

Following our lively discussion, my gal pal becomes entangled in the same discussion on the 4th of July, at grillside. The stench aroma of charred flesh, free-flowing spirits and men, this is not exactly home court advantage. She called me later to tell me of the men’s position, not surprisingly, they felt it wasn’t her money, that she didn’t deserve that much money.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree it is quite a large sum of money no matter which of the numerous settlement quotes you go with. To that end, it still befuddles me that hitting a ball can generate that kind of income, I digress. Part of me hopes she’ll start a fund for the wives of less fiscally fortuitous, fornicatin’ (insert alliteratively apropos expletive here). But the other, more serious part of me feels that even in the most simplistic tribal cultures, there is a price and a set of responsibilities which must be adhered when starting a family; a price that has led to genocide of female babies, and the inhumane treatment and murders of many women. These acts have been carried out as a deterrent, and as a means to protect marriage as both a sacrament and a basic economic unit.

Why then, when women here in the “civilized” US of A set out -in accordance with societal norms and legal governance- to do exactly that- is their worth in question? Is worth relative? Is only women’s worth relative? Is the big payout the cultural evolution of stoning, what say you?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

More Posts