Not the Center of the Universe

On Sunday, I dropped Punk #3 off at a birthday party. ¬†She walked into the yard, saw her friends and took off running. ¬†I confirmed times with the birthday girl’s mother and left. ¬†I went home and had Punk #2 help me with repairs to Coffin #1. ¬†It is Halloween season, after all.

Birthday Party Bash

Birthday Party Bash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I came back two hours later, they had just finished eating cake and were about to open up presents, so I got to hang around for a while.

I noticed some amazing things:

  • Fully 75% of this family’s living room was devoted to play space for the kid. ¬†As you walk in the front door, you get to see a giant pile of toys and kid-craft crap. ¬†Most of what is traditionally a gathering area was taken over by kid.
  • Of the dozen or so children who came to the party, close to half of the parents stayed. ¬†Really, is your precious little snowflake so endangered by her friends that you can’t come up with something better to do that watch her play with her friends and ignore you for two hours while under the supervision of the resident parent?
  • Clowns. ¬†Ok, it wasn’t technically a clown, but a guy named Mr. Fun who hands out whoopie cushions and entertains kids while wearing odd clothes counts as a clown, to me. ¬†I get it, you want your special little snowflake to have a memorable birthday, but if every party is big and over-the-top, which one will she remember? ¬†Maybe she’ll only remember a sense of entitlement.

I very firmly believe that children should not be raised to feel like they are the center of the universe. ¬†Not even to Mom & Dad. ¬† They need to know that we have lives and interests that aren’t them.

Mothers and fathers NEED to have lives and interests that are entirely separate from their children.  If your entire focus for 20+years is on the lives of your little brats, what is going to happen to you when they move out?  Are you prepared to abandon two decades of self-training and suddenly become your own person again?

Husbands and wives need to have time to themselves that excludes the children. ¬†When the monsters finally leave, you need to be able to have a relationship that doesn’t revolve around who spilled what where and who’s turn is it to clean it up.

Children are not–and should not be–the focal point of a household. ¬†Leave them at a birthday party. ¬†Let them find a way to entertain themselves for a few hours. ¬†Go on a date.

I promise you, letting your kids see their parents happily doing things together–even if it’s gleefully leaving them with a sitter–will do more for their long-term well-being than knowing you’re standing in the corner at a birthday party watching her fake a fart with a 25 cent toy.

Let her be independent.  Let her know that other priorities do exist for other people.  Let her fall down and scrape her knees.  Let her figure out how things work for herself.

That is life, after all. ¬†Let her live it and don’t forget to live it for yourself.

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$1500 Luxury

I’ve got some expensive habits. ¬† Not like Charlie Sheen snorting $2500 of blow of a hooker’s boobs, but still expensive.

Charlie Sheen in March 2009

Charlie Sheen in March 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My latest one is dancing lessons.  Linda surprised me on one of weekly date nights a few months ago.  She found a Groupon for the dancing studio we used before we got married.  It was $69 for a month of unlimited group lessons.

When the month was up, we signed on for their beginner cycle of lessons, which cost another $400.

And now we’re starting the Social Foundation program.

Social Foundation is a series of classes that teach some advanced moves, but also to teach dancers how to lead and follow properly and how to dance socially and look respectable on a dance floor in any number of situations. ¬† Leading and following are important because every single dance move out there has specific cues that tell your partner what’s coming next. ¬†If she doesn’t know, you both look clumsy.

So we chose the four dances we’re going to learn better and signed up. ¬† We’re going to learn the Rumba, Waltz, Tango, and Swing. ¬†We’re already pretty good at Rumba and Swing, but we’re going to get better. ¬†Personally, I’m hoping to also figure out how to use the Tango on an open dance floor without crashing into people. ¬†That way, we can pretend to be Gomez and Morticia, my heroes.

Now, the thing is, dance lessons aren’t cheap. ¬†They cost about $100 per hour, where an hour is defined as 45 minutes. ¬† We’re rolling the last half of our beginner lessons into our social foundation lessons and paying $1400.

Ouch.

They gave us the option of financing it over 3-4 months, but I didn’t want to pay an extra $200 for the privilege. ¬† I think we’ll be tapping the vacation fund to pay for the lessons.

Why am I willing to pay this much?

Dancing is one of the very few things Linda and I both enjoy. ¬†We’re pretty good at it, it’s great exercise, it’s fun, and (shhh!) it counts as foreplay. ¬†It also doesn’t hurt to have the sidelines of the dance floor lined with people watching us dance, wishing they could do what we’re doing…or wishing their husbands were willing to learn how to dance. ¬† This also isn’t just something we’re doing at the studio. ¬†We are out on a dance floor dancing to a live band almost every week. ¬†That usually comes with about $25 in cover charges and drinks.

Fun, exercise, have sex, and inspire jealousy. ¬†That’s a winning combination. ¬†And finding things to do that we both love to do is difficult and easily worth the $2000 we’ve paid the dance studio this year.

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Did I Die?

If you’re reading this, you should probably be able to guess that I have not, in fact, died.

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured ...

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured in dance: an early moving picture demonstrates the waltz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So your next question may be “What the heck are you up to, if you’re not posting here?”

That’s a valid question.

It’s been a rough year, and I won’t share details about all of it, but here goes:

I’ve been trying to focus on my marriage. ¬†We’ve had some problems that take time to work out. ¬† One of the problems is that I’m traveling for work at least monthly. ¬†That sounds like staying in a hotel with nothing to do¬†would be great for writing, but it never seems to work out that way. ¬† There’s always something going on.

One of the solutions for that–in relation to my marriage–is that we are going on weekly date nights. ¬†Every Friday, the boy watches his sisters and the wife and I go out. ¬†We usually have a dance lesson, followed by dinner and some activity, which has meant actual dancing in actual bars on actual dance floors with actual bands playing live music. ¬†It’s fun, but it sidesteps frugality completely. ¬†The dancing lessons run $95 each. ¬†Most nights, there’s a $5 cover at the bar where we dance, and dinner is somewhere between $50 and $100, depending on the restaurant and drinks. ¬†So, we’re dropping $150-200 per week on dates.

Totally worth it.

The date nights have also spun off into a new venture. ¬†Dating & Dining¬†(click the link!) is the site where we document and review our dates. ¬†We’re not reviewing our date, because that would be weird. ¬†“Honey, you rocked my world when we got home, bu you were kinda crabby tonight.¬† I’m only going to give you 3 stars.”

No.

We are reviewing the restaurants and activities we’re doing, using the traditional “Pants Off” rating system. ¬†A really good restaurant will knock our pants off, sometimes literally.

That’s more writing and a lot of time gone.

On top of that, Linda has gotten both her motorcycle license and her carry permit, so there’s riding and shooting(never together!) to fill in the time.

And kids. ¬†Kids–much like our¬†dog, but totally unlike our pythons–want attention. ¬† And food. ¬†And games. ¬†And a freaking overpriced American Girl Doll. ¬†And time. ¬†So we play games and bring out the Daddy/Daughter date.

In short, since we got our finances in order, I’ve been trying to draw back from being an obsessive workaholic and focus on the reason I became one in the first place: my family.

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5 Things Guaranteed To Annoy Your Wife

The grotesque nagging wife

The grotesque nagging wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One from the vaults….

If you’re married, or anything close to being married, you’ve irritated your wife. ¬†Even if you think you are perfect and the¬†epitome¬†of unannoyingness, I promise, there has been a day when she strongly wished you traveled for a living.

It’s long been known that the two things most likely to break up a marriage are money and sex. ¬† The former because there is too much, too little, or just the right amount going to the wrong places, and the latter because there is too much, too little, ¬†it’s not with each other, or it is with each other, but you’d really prefer otherwise. ¬† If your problem is the latter, I can’t help you.

If your problem is the former, I can help you understand some things you may be doing that are driving her batty.   Kill-you-in-your-sleep-and-pretend-it-was-the-dog type of  batty.

1. ¬†Nagging her about her shopping, but buying whatever you want. ¬†Gentlemen, this is known as a double standard. ¬† Don’t do it. ¬†In my house, my wife’s on an allowance. ¬† It was her idea. ¬†A few months later, I realized that I needed to be on one, too. ¬† Naturally, her allowance is bigger than mine. ¬† I don’t mind the disparity, because she still smokes. ¬†If her allowance didn’t give her room to smoke and shop, her allowance would be nothing more than a polite fiction. ¬†Whatever you do, find something that works for both of you and meets both of your needs, fairly. ¬† ¬†Anything else will only build a resentment that will burn for a long time.

2. ¬†Nagging her about her shopping, yet demanding she do all of the shopping. ¬† My wife has a weakness: clearance tags. ¬†If something is on sale, there’s a good chance it’s going to come to our house. ¬† I have an aversion to shopping. ¬†I hate it. ¬† Our budget dies a little bit each time my wife shops alone. ¬† ¬† We’ve come to an agreement. ¬† Now, I do most of the shopping, so she doesn’t feel tempted. ¬† I’m learning to embrace my inner material girl so we don’t have to have “discussions” every time she steps out for milk and comes home with $100 worth of clothes for the younger brats.

3. ¬†Nagging her about her shopping. ¬†Nobody likes being nagged. ¬† If you’re having a problem that keeps repeating itself, talking about it more won’t help. ¬†Neither will talking about it louder. ¬† You need to find a way to communicate that she will hear and understand. ¬† ¬†Different people communicate in different ways. ¬† ¬†Find the way that works for both of you.

4. ¬†Nagging her. ¬†¬†A wise man once said, if everyone around you is a jerkface, maybe the problem isn’t everyone around you. ¬† Have you ever considered the idea that the problem might be you? ¬† If nagging is the only way you have to deal with people, you need to work on that. ¬†Don’t blame her. ¬†Maybe you’re ticked off about something that isn’t irritating. ¬†If that’s the case, she certainly has the right to be annoyed that you are nagging her.

5. ¬†Going on and on about how much you’d like to be me. ¬† Yes, I live the rockstar life, driving the station wagon with 6 disc changer and all. ¬†Yes, I am the neatest thing since sliced bread, and even that was a close contest, but really, confidence is important. ¬†You don’t have to be me to be cool. ¬†You’re swell, too. ¬† You’re right, this one isn’t about money, but it’s probably still irritating.

There you have it, my perfect solution to a happy marriage: don’t nag and quit trying to be me. ¬† ¬† There are other important bits, like love, respect, and communication, but this is a good start.

What do you do that annoys your spouse?

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