Hanging On By a Claw

A while back, there was a video going around Facebook that brought everyone to tears. When I watched it, it made me cry too, but for different reasons. (For a much funnier take on this same video, read here.) The longer I watched, the more frustrated I became with the woman’s helpless doormat attitude, and when it began to dawn on me that this was being portrayed as a positive thing, as the Way Women Should Be, I just started crying. I cried because I know I’m not that kind of woman, and that I don’t really want to be. And I cried because of the message it was sending to already overloaded, over-guilted women that setting boundaries is selfish.

I mean, sure, I agree with the overall premise that you never know how much good you are doing when you serve others. I won’t argue with you there. And I’m just as guilty at times – I have plenty of trouble saying no when people ask me to do things. But this video made it seem like the ideal woman gives everything in to her children. Did you see that evil, triumphant stare her daughter gave her when she got her way? Hey mom, going without breakfast one day won’t kill your daughter, and it just might save you from hundreds of second breakfasts (and steely neener-neener mean girl looks) in the future. And elementary school grades don’t really affect a child’s lifelong prospects. Maybe your son’s embarrassment from forgetting a project and his experiencing the consequence of a lower grade might just help him remember to do his work the next time around. Also according to the video, an ideal woman makes a casserole from scratch even if buying pizza would be faster since she’s late to an appointment and wastes an hour trying to cook it before delivering it to a home that I’m pretty sure has a working oven. An ideal woman never says no and instead suffers in silence (except for the occasional heavy sigh) and, as a result, resents everyone around her. (Also, why don’t they include a “you never know” shot of her poor cousin sitting in the airport in tears because she was stood up? What about Cousin Night?)

The silliest thing that bothered me for weeks about this video is one item on her list: Photos for Blog. She’s having a crazy day. Her to-do list is so long, but setting up a Pinteresty picture for a blog is so important that it can’t wait another day? Now that’s just ridiculous. Prioritize, sister! Ever hear of time management?

I’ve discovered that my mind is so disorganized that if I want to remember to get something done, it has to be on a schedule. Exercise three days a week? That will never happen. Exercise every day? Done. Everything in my life has to either be on a daily or weekly schedule or I’ll never remember to do it.

This blog is no exception – this navel-gazing, self-indulgent hobby of mine has a strict, self-imposed every-Wednesday-or-else deadline that doesn’t matter to anyone but me. What is the consequence of me skipping a week or posting a day or two late? Nothing! Not a single consequence! But does that stop me from dragging my husband somewhere miserable for date night just so I’ll have something to write about, or from slipping out to the hallway during intermission at a concert just to get a post up in time, or from snapping at my kids to just give me fifteen minutes of silence to throw together a poorly written post just to meet my imaginary deadline? How is that any crazier than taping newspaper to a wall for a toddler photo shoot?

Last Wednesday I realized I hadn’t done anything all week for the blog. I looked through my list to see if there was anything I could do in an hour on a weekday morning, but I quickly realized I had nothing. Then I remembered that annoying video and especially the seemingly unnecessary blog photo and I didn’t appreciate the similarities to my own situation. So I decided that the week’s challenge would be to just let a week go by without posting, to see if I could let something go for just one week without quitting altogether. I just skipped it, let it fall right off my to-do list, and, not surprisingly, I was just fine.

By missing a week, I didn’t feel less whole as a person or less valid. Instead, I cleaned out a bunch of files stacked on my desk, saw The King’s Singers in concert, supervised Fritz’s first time making chocolate chip cookies, stayed up late talking with my husband too many nights in a row, and finally got around to taking a mandatory online state driving test for my job as a piano accompanist (totally pointless, since the job will never require me to drive, but I still felt great pride at getting 100% and want everyone to know I got 100%). And I think it’s safe to assume that everyone else in the world went on with their lives and spent the week doing all the things that mattered to them as well. Only my mom noticed I skipped a week (aren’t moms great that way?) – no one else noticed because no one else is my mom. And that’s how it should be.

Of course, my biggest worry about skipping something is that it’ll become a slippery slope and I’ll get out of the habit completely and just give up. I worry about that because that’s what I’ve done my whole life, but I managed to get right back to my List this week. You might assume that, to make up for lost time, I chose something extra meaningful, something truly amazing, to try this week.

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This one falls under the “Why Would Anyone Want to…” category on my List, along with reading tabloids or watching professional wrestlingFriday night, our three older boys were off doing older kid stuff so my husband and I gathered up all the quarters from all the spare change spots we have around the house ($10.50 total) and took Fritz to Walmart to try our luck with the claw machines.

Yes, claw machines are a ripoff. Yes, they offer nothing of value as prizes. But this guy has them figured out. He even has his own claw machine YouTube channel. So it’s not impossible.

I gave it a shot. After $3, I was ready to give up because, as I mentioned before, claw machines are stupid. I really don’t think I can emphasize that enough. But I still had a pocket full of quarters and Fritz had such hope and how could I really know the appeal of claw machines without investing some time and $7 more? Right? Plus, I was losing my cred with all the loitering teenagers who were watching me lose again and again.

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And then, out of nowhere, a miracle occurred. A little miracle Fritz has decided to name “Lamby”.

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Seriously, out of all the ugly stuffed animals in the machine, I managed to snag the ugliest of them all. A blue sheep? It’s like they weren’t even trying. But Fritz loved it and I could finally say that after shelling quarter after quarter into this machine, it was totally worth it. Actually no, it was not worth it at all (I mean look at it), but at least I wasn’t a complete failure.

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Fritz had much more luck at the kid’s claw machine, which was a relief because he is going through a stage where winning is very important and every small disappointment is soul-crushing. But just look at the treasure he won. Actually, he won three crappy plastic toys. Three! They are priceless. (If priceless means “worth absolutely nothing”.)

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So I never became the claw machine expert Fritz hoped I would and neither did he. But I think the experience will prove to be memorable, if only because it was so uncharacteristic for our family. How many kids can say their parents hang out with them in the Walmart arcade room on a Friday night? Well, now that I think about it, it is possible that many kids can say that. But how many of our kids can say that? Only one.

 

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