We’ve only got one kid. I know a lot of people only have one kid, and a lot of people have more than one kid, and a lot of people have no kids. Today I am talking about only having one kid. Specifically I’m talking about us only having one kid, because probably if you only have one kid you don’t do things the same way.
One of the benefits we’ve appreciated about only having one kid is that we don’t have to set a lot of rules. I’m not talking about, like, household anarchy. But with more than one kid, with several kids, you’ve got to work harder to keep order. You probably want to keep order, what with all those arms and legs in your house. But for us (for us), with just one, we’re just really flexible. We only have a few hard rules. Listen the first time. Don’t be a turd in public, you can’t be rude to people. Manners. Actually, that’s about it. We feed her a separate dinner a lot. There’s no set rule on eating this to get that. Her bedtime is within a certain window, but largely relies on when she seems like she’s ready to go to sleep. Lots of things have no set “rule” in our house, and it works with just one kid, because we can bend a previous guideline to fit the situation without having the whole house erupt into unfairness or madness.
Mostly this stems from just not wanting to fight about every little thing, because she’s at that age. Where she is ready to fight about every little thing. So we’re careful not to make everything a hill to die on. We just evaluate whatever situation is currently happening and do what works, rather than set a hard line for every time a similar situation comes up. As a rule for myself, I don’t dig my heels in unless I’m ready to fight something down to the end, and with Penny, every little thing can become a fight down to the end, and it is EXHAUSTING to battle a five year old because it’s not like she comes up with new and interesting arguments.
“Can I paint?”
“No, we’re not painting today.”
“Ok, but can I paint?”
“I just said no, no paint today.”
“Can I paint, though?”
“Penelope. There’s no painting right now.”
“When I finish with this, can I paint?”
“HOLY SHIT IF YOU SAY THE WORD PAINT ONE MORE TIME I WILL EAT OFF YOUR ARM.”
Point is, I’m careful not to say anything that I don’t really, really, really intend to stick to, even in the face of endless questioning and fit throwing. That’s not a lot of stuff. Mostly like, you will say thank you, you will apologize, you will not burn this house down.
I made a mistake a few days ago, though. I mean, it’s not really a mistake. I think I’m in the right. But holy shit, has it turned into complete insanity in this house. I didn’t know Penelope had the attention span to harp on an issue for more than an hour, but it has been like a WEEK and we are all LOSING IT.
Kohl’s has these magic blankets, you know? And they go on sale multiple times a year, right around Christmas, usually. So in October, I think, I picked up three of them with the intent of having one for each of us at Christmas. One gray, one purple, one blue. The gray and purple have the same pattern on them, and the blue one has white polka dots. I don’t know why this matters. They’re all the same goddamn blanket. (You with the multiple children that you’ve had for a lot of years, you’re probably already laughing at me, like OH IT MATTERS.)
Every year on Christmas eve, we go out for dinner. While we’re gone, our elf, Roland, takes off to help Santa for the night and leaves a gift. This year, he left a microwave s’mores maker (AND IT IS GREAT), and I also put out the three blankets I got, thinking it would be nice for her to have a new blanket before bed, and that she could take on the car trip to Disneyland she didn’t know we were taking at the time.
So we get home and she sees the gift from Roland, and I tell her hey, I also got us each a blanket, go ahead and pick one for yourself. She chose the blue. Phil took the gray and I got the purple. Everyone was pleased. We took them along on our trip. Penelope actually even got a second magic blanket from family, one with dogs in sweaters on it. So she has two. I am not jealous because I am an adult and I will use her dogs with sweaters blanket while she’s at school if I want to. As long as I put it back before she notices.
A couple days after we got back from our trip, Penelope informed me that she wanted my blanket instead of hers. She wanted purple, not blue. And here is where I fucked up. I told her no, you had an opportunity to pick out your blanket, and you picked blue. The purple is mine.
WHY DIDN’T I JUST SHRUG AND EXCHANGE THE BLANKETS?
(Probably because she had just filled hers with a particularly rank fart and I was trying to escape her bedroom with my life at the moment.)
Oh, she was mad. But I decided. If you pick something, you stick with your choice and that is that. This is a life lesson. A life lesson with blankets. You can’t go back and take what someone else has because you regret your decision for whatever stupid reason. THE BLANKETS ARE ALL THE SAME.
The next night, she comes at me again. She wants the purple. I told her, look, you have the blue. The purple and gray have the same pattern, but you have the special one. You’re keeping the blue. I’m condensing this conversation for your sanity, but the back and forth was very, very similar to the paint discussion above (which also happened recently).
The next night she comes to me and tells me she doesn’t want the special blanket. In fact, she says, I should have the special blanket because I’m the most special one in the house. Well, as much as I agree about my own specialness, I’m now in much too deep to just let this go. NO. You keep blue. Purple is mine.
“BUT MAMA, when I picked the blue, that night, I was feeling like blue, but every every every other night EVERY OTHER NIGHT has been PURPLE!”
Penelope is like most kids, and when she’s tired, she just… loses all control. She’s completely unreasonable. Two nights ago she came in my room after school and made her play, again, for the purple blanket, and she was ON THE EDGE OF SANITY. Just going on and on and on, yelling and stomping her feet. She’s not a bad kid and she’s not really prone to tantrums, except when she’s this tired. She just latches on to something and can’t let it go for anything, absolutely cannot handle disappointments she usually takes quite well. I had to send her out of my room.
A couple minutes later, I get a text from Phil who is downstairs with her. It just said, “please kill me.” I can hear her yelling and yelling, and I just assumed, I guess, that she’d moved on to expressing her displeasure about her dinner, or about wanting to play a video game, or about not being allowed to launch a pirate ship from the backyard to sail the seven seas plundering unsuspecting cruise liners for their quality shrimp spreads.
But no. What am I, new? She was downstairs, pleading her case to Phil about the blanket. How she’s feeling very purple. How she needs to have the purple blanket. How he should make me give her the purple blanket. She was loud and shrill and in a full on meltdown over this.
At this point, I realize I am a 35 year old adult refusing to give a 5 year old the blanket she wants.
But I said! I SAID! That I wouldn’t exchange the blankets! That I was making a point! That you can’t pick and then unpick! This is how life goes! It’s my job as your mother to teach you these hard blanket-based lessons! What am I now if I give it to her? I’M NOTHING! I WILL CEDE CONTROL OF THIS HOUSE! I CANNOT!
Phil finally managed to stuff a little food in her and send her to bed, after 15-20 minutes of shrill blanket monologue, because while she really does want my blanket, she doesn’t usually resort to out of control shrieking unless she’s just too exhausted to go on. She’ll come back at me again, when she’s rested and at her most dangerous, with some new logical approach that will surely make me see the light and understand that she is the most deserving of the purple blanket.
But you guys. I SAID. I ALREADY SAID. I can’t let this go now. THIS IS WHY RULES ARE STUPID. I swear to never ever ever speak in absolutes to my child ever again. I will only ever say maybe. I promise you on my purple blanket, I WILL ONLY EVER SAY MAYBE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
I was going to ask this question around Christmas, but, you know, life. I’m still curious, though, so I’m asking it anyway, and now you have a wealth of recent experience to use as examples for your answers, which you are surely going to give me.
Okay, a couple of scenarios.
One. You have a group of people you exchange gifts with. Family, friends, whoever. Just people you regularly buy for. And you set a gift budget for the group as a whole – like you’re going to spend $150 on each person. That’s a made up number on the high side, or the low side. It’s made up. It doesn’t matter. So you’ve got $150 to spend per person. Obviously not strict – if you find a great $145 item for someone, you don’t scramble to find a $5 thinger to make it exactly even. In the same vein, if you spend $160 on someone for the perfect gift, no big. You get me. $150-ish. Now, say you find the perfect item for someone. It’s what they want/need/secretly desire in their heart of hearts or whatever. And it costs $150. Perfect. Except, you get some insane deal on it. Like, totally insane. You’ve got a coupon and reward points and there’s also a sale and it turns out your giftees tastes match up with no one else’s so this item is totally unfavored by the rest of the world so it’s also on clearance. You end up spending, say, $50 for a $150 item. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s clearly an expensive item, anyone who sees it can ballpark the price, etc.
Now, keeping in mind that your budget is not a shared budget, it’s just what you’ve decided to spend on each person privately, not a group agreement, what do you do? Do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And buy that person an extra $100 gift to go with your sweet $50 deal, bringing their total actual value of gifts up to $250 while you spent $150 on everyone else in the group? Or, do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And redirect your saved $100 to Christmas eve dinner, or a bonus gift for your spouse, or, surprise!, you needed new tires right before Christmas because you were driving to Disneyland and didn’t actually check the tires well in advance to prepare for this possibility, which was surely going to happen regardless, because that’s just how your life goes, and even if you had checked them in advance and budgeted for them, your dog certainly would have eaten a glass ornament or something just to fuck with you?
Two. Work gift exchange, or secret santa with your volunteer group, or teacher gift, or something like that. Public budget is set and it’s $10. Unlike the scenario above where you set your own budget for the group of people you’re giving to, independent of their budgets, and everyone gets each other what they can comfortably afford to spend and everyone appreciates everything regardless because we’re all good people and we all know good people, in this case, the budget is set and public, fair and agreed upon by everyone, and everyone in the exchange will be getting each other gifts around the same value. You pull someone’s name, a friend, right, or someone you comfortably know. And it just so happens you have a $10-$15 item at home that you were given, new and unopened. It’s not a crap regift, it’s good. Maybe you were talking to that person about a thing you own, and they say they always meant to get one, and then, surprise, you were gifted a duplicate! Something you might have bought for your giftee anyway.
So, you decide you’re going to give your person this $10-$15 item. You acquired it at zero cost, therefore you’re putting out no money on the exchange, when everyone else is, in theory, spending $10-$15. In this case, do you grab another $10 item and include it, so your giftee does have more value in their gift than the rest of those in the exchange, but you haven’t spent any more than anyone else? Or maybe tack on a $2 or $5 item just so you feel like you also spent something? Or just give them the brand new perfectly suitable gift, knowing it meets the budget, and save your $10 for when your dog slams himself into a wall trying to run away from home inside the house because the sonic booms from the ceremonial F-4 Phantom II retirement flyover shook the houses on base so badly someone’s door actually fell off and your dog is a giant wiener and maybe you can put that $10 toward his prozac prescription?
Two different scenarios, right? I’m sure you’ve come across these more than once in your life, maybe even this year, because we’re all similar people, right? And you know what’s written on my family crest. Never Pay Full Price. So we all get killer deals here and there from time to time. But how do you handle them with gift giving and budgets?
To recap, in scenario one, your budget is private, just what you personally have decided to spend on each person in the group. Each person in the group may spend differently – more or less. No one knows your budget. You’ve just set an even one for each person. In scenario two, everyone knows the budget, and everyone has the same budget, and everyone will exchange gifts together in some kind of horrific forced fun holiday thing in a conference room where most people are checking their email on the phones, and two people are wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and continually turning up the volume on the Christmas carols playing over someone’s iPhone WITHOUT EVEN A BLUETOOTH SPEAKER ATTACHED.
I am interested to hear what you do.
I didn’t do one of these surveys last year because I felt like 2015 was particularly hard and just… not fitting for a survey. I wasn’t feeling it. 2016 would be the year I could do a great survey.
I was wrong. 2015 was not that bad. I miss 2015. I miss the particular shambles my life was in in 2015. This is a whole new shambles and I regret not appreciating my previous shambles.
I will put pictures of Penny in here so you can just skip from picture to picture like islands in a sea of crap.
1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
I learned how to make fancy coffee. I took over the day to day operations of a shop and did a lot of stuff I didn’t really picture myself being the kind of person to … do that stuff. I apparently kept on with the habit of starting sentences without knowing where I was going with them. I put a pet to sleep. I took my child to Disneyland (that was last week and I haven’t written anything about it yet, but it was swell). I sent a kid to kindergarten. Geeze. Without a consistent blogging habit to look back over, I really don’t remember a lot of what I did this year. I think it was a lot of the same with a few events sprinkled here and there.
2. Did you keep your resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make resolutions, but I did have a general feeling that 2016 was going to finally be our year. It wasn’t, and I won’t make the mistake of pinning hopes on the flipping of a calendar page again.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I have always defined this question as, “did anyone I know well enough to visit in the hospital or immediately following the birth of their child give birth?” and that remains a no, though all three female friends I have on this base did give birth this year. Or near the end of last year. I can’t really recall. So, not that close, then.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
I still do not travel. I still do not even own a passport. I don’t really have any thoughts of abandoning this country after the election, either, so I don’t know when I’ll get around to getting one.
6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
A more solid idea of what our exact plans are when Phil retires at the end of the year. Financial stability. I don’t even care about financial security at this point. Just pick a spot and stay stable there, finances, even if it’s a shitty spot. A vasectomy (that one’s not for me). A bigger house. Less stuff. Way, way, way less stuff.
7. What moments from 2016 will remain etched in your memory and why?
When I realized Hillary Clinton was going to lose. The day after the election when some friendly Germans asked me about it and I cried. Watching Penelope watch the parade at Disneyland. She was on Phil’s shoulders and kept turning around to scream down at me. “IT’S GOOFY! MAMA! IT’S DONAAAALLLLD!!” When we lost Brinkley, those last few minutes. When a customer bought two coffees and when they were made, said one was for me, because I never get to have coffee during the day. When the French guys left. WHEN FRENCH GUYS CAME INTO THE SHOP TWO WEEKS AGO!! When we took Penny to the beach, that whole trip.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I guess nothing in particular this year, other than just doing well at work. My customers like me, my boss likes me, my boss trusts me with a lot, and said she’s going to miss me when I had to give notice recently. I like the job, and I don’t hate going there or being there every day. Sometimes that feels like a pretty decent accomplishment. Also, I feel kind of okay about the fact that I worked as long as I could, and eventually got myself around to the point that I felt okay about quitting without soul-crushing guilt. Just a regular amount of guilt.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Every other aspect of my life that was not work. Our kid looks like a hobo all the time. I never grocery shop and rarely get a decent cooked meal on the table. My house is… well, disaster is putting it nicely. I was an utter and complete failure at managing to hold it together this year. About halfway through, shit went sideways and stopped working well for us, leaving us just hanging on by the tips of our fingers as the year came to a close.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I’ve talked about this before – how I have a rare condition, the details are stupid and unimportant and depressing. And how I lost a bunch of weight and was feeling better, but then not feeling better again, and I had a spinal tap, which showed that my condition was controlled. Which was good news and also depressing, because if the condition is controlled, why do I feel like shit? So, turns out I have two other, less rare, pretty normal, but definitely shitty migraine and headache type conditions as well. So we adjusted some medications and lifestyle shit, and I started to feel okay again, until I didn’t. Until I really didn’t. So, back to the doctor, and he decided to do a spinal tap, because it’s his damn favorite thing to do. This was probably the hardest part of my year, if I’m thinking selfishly only about me, which I usually do. We all expected this spinal tap was just a check in, just to confirm that condition 1 is still under control so that we could move on without having to consider it as we figured out how to handle everything else that was happening. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the test results were quite bad. My exact words when my doctor announced it were, “you have to be fucking kidding me.”
I don’t really know how to explain why this particular moment was the most difficult, except that… it made it clear that I won’t ever be done with this. I struggled with it for years, actual years spent doing not much more than just laying in bed every single day, dealing with not only feeling like hot garbage, but also the guilt that comes with being chronically ill, which either you understand or you don’t. And I met a new doctor and got better and set that part of my life aside as closed, except it’s just not and it won’t be. It can’t be cured, only managed, and we’ve once again hit a point of “this might be as good as it gets,” with “as good as it gets” being so not good that I’ve had to quit the job I really enjoy, cancel plans, avoid making plans in the first place, and spend so much time sleeping that my kid declared our 14 hour car trip “the best day of her life” because she actually got to hang out with both parents for so much time. And I think worse than feeling like shit – not much worse, but a little worse – are all the feelings that come wrapped up with being chronically ill. I feel guilty, of course. Like, all the time. And angry a lot. Then I feel bad for being angry because what right do I have to wail about the unfairness of it all? And I feel snappish toward well-meaning people who cheerfully suggest it will surely get better, or have I tried this, or have I considered that, and I have to bite my tongue not to tell them to fuck right off, and then, of course, feel awful, because they mean well. And I’m the buttfaced dickbiscuit for even considering raining on their cheer-parade with a trout-smack of reality. THEY’RE being hopeful for me, how dare I not play along like the brave little soldiers sick people are supposed to be?
Anyway, it’s complicated. I want to be sick without also being an asshole, but they seem to go hand in hand.
To answer the question, yeah, I suffered some illness. I also randomly went blind in one eye, but that was only scary the first time. It’s fine now, usually, except when it’s not, and I can just wait it out. Oh, also, I went to a trampoline park a couple days ago and my thighs are fucking killing me.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmm. LEE KWANG SCOOT.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Phil’s, of course. Just re-read above if you need help developing an accurate picture of all the shit that’s heaped upon him on the regular. Penny. She’s been pretty great this year. Five is pretty great. She’s generally understanding of situations as they stand in this house, and does her best to cope with them. As best as someone her age can. She also loves school and brings home great reports almost every day. Other kids like her and she’s made a lot of friends.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Can. We. Not.
14. Where did most of your money go?
The vet. Daycare. The beach and Disneyland. This year, she’s coming out of daycare, though, and we’re down a dog, so maybe we can catch our breaths a bit there.
15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Tickets to see BTS.
Taking Penny to Disneyland.
A new drink a friend and I invented called The French DeVonte. (My friend’s name is DeVonte.)
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
It came a little late in the year, but Big Bang’s Last Dance.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?
sadder, about the same, poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Texting people when I think about them. Don’t I say this every year? If I have your number, I’m writing you at least two to three texts a week, then deleting them before I send them. Sorry/you’re welcome.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Sleeping. Wallowing in a pit of despair/my own filth/empty diet soda cans. Being short-tempered.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We spent it at home, as I prefer to do. We went out for Chinese the night before, then spent the morning opening gifts together. We told Penny she’d be leaving for California to go to Disneyland. Later in the day, I made a pile of snacks. I basically arm-swept the fancy meats and cheeses shelf. At night, after Penny went to bed, we packed our bags and our car and early the next day, we left for Phil’s aunt’s house in California. We went to the aquarium (though we had to leave quite quickly because I didn’t feel well, see entry re: guilt above). We went to Disneyland. We ate ramen. Penny taught a bunch of people how to play her favorite card game. We went to a trampoline park. And then we drove 14 hours home.
21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Does renewing my love for DBSK and Rain count?
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Running Man. It’s always Running Man. I have a somewhat irrational attachment to the show. When I was spending most of my time in bed, it’s almost all I watched. 200+ episodes. I’ve always just told people simply, it puts me in a good mood. It always has and I love it deeply. Unfortunately, some things happened this year that weren’t cool but likely uninteresting to you if I explain, and the show will be ending in early 2017. I’m taking it so hard it would probably be comical to anyone else. But before you find it comical, you should know that Business Insider found Running Man to be the ninth most popular show in the world of 2016, and the number one most popular non-American television show. In the world. (link) So stick that in your butt and fuck off. I’m sorry, the pain is still very fresh.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
I can’t remember what date exactly I started hating Donald Trump instead of just finding him to be a giant but harmless tool.
24. What was the best book you read?
Probably A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Feel free to ruin your own life by reading it.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I continue to discover that kpop is fucking awesome.
26. What did you want and get?
My job. Um, some new sneakers the other day.
27. What did you want and not get?
Good results in basically any situation in which I was waiting for results.
28. What was your favorite film of the year?
I only saw one, and it was Sully, and IT WAS SO GREAT.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 35, and I’m pretty sure I took a nap. Oh, and I worked. Which was kind of weird because all my co-workers were surprised. “Why are you at work on your birthday?” Is taking a day off for your birthday a thing? Why? I dunno. I worked. It was fine.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
You know, I don’t know. I hate this saying, like everyone else, but it kind of just is what it is, right?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Uniform, elastic pants, onesie pajama suits.
32. What kept you sane?
Probably Running Man.
33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Always this guy. He’s so great and you don’t even know it.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
CAN WE NOT.
35. Who did you miss?
The characters from the dramas that I finished watching.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
More like a group of people. I love my little German lunch groups. These little pods of regular customers who are also German. They are my favorite people, after me.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I will not.
38. Quote a lyric that sums up your year.
I don’t think so Tim.
Happy fucking New Year. Don’t fuck it up.