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The Single Stupidest Argument I’ve Ever Had With My Mother

My mom and I have butt heads many times over the last thirty-grumble-grumble years. Many, many times. A good many of them were emo-teenage arguments, like “You don’t understand me!” or “My life is so hard!” or “Why won’t you let me close the door to my bedroom?” Many more were about my wedding. (“I really don’t want to invite your sister’s cousin’s daughter who knows your hairdresser, who you also invited.”) But the thing we’ve argued about the most is how to parent my son.

I’m just going to rewind that back. How to parent MY son.

Yes, my mom has the wisdom of many more years of motherhood than I do, which is why I often listen to her advice. I know she’s a fantastic mother and a wonderful grandmother—that cannot be argued. What can be argued is how I choose to feed, bath, dress, educate, and entertain my child. And mom has something to say about all of them. She wouldn’t be an Italian Mother if she didn’t.

This particular argument started when I (mistakenly) called my mom to vent about what a pain in the ass Lucas had been that day. It was then that my mom offered her patented “he needs more stimulation” formula, which usually involves me spending lots of money of crap he never uses.

child at christmas
Looks pretty stimulating to me.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that word: STIMULATION. The word stimulate means to make more active, to cause something to develop, or to make a person excited about something. Here are things that should be stimulated: hair growth, a passion for learning, the economy, nipples. Here’s what my son, the most energetic, non-stop-party person in the universe doesn’t need: stimulation. Love, affection, attention, fun, support, guidance, yes. Stimulation, no. If I stimulated that child any more than he is already naturally stimulated, then he’d make a double espresso with a sprinkle of crack look like warm milk.

So when I called my mom to say “Lucas was driving us bonkers today,” and she said, “He needs more stimulation,” you can bet that it pinched a mommy nerve. Here’s how it went down.

Mom: He’s just bored. He needs more stimulation.

Me: We took him for a walk around the neighborhood, then to the park, the he rode his bike up and down the street, then he played basketball, and we ended the night by watching two movies!

Mom: Well, he’s probably sick of doing those things. He needs more stimulation.

Me: Wha? Like what?

Mom: Like some new toys. I’m sure he’s sick of his old ones.

Me: We just had Christmas!

Mom: But he needs a train set. Every little boy needs a train set. I’m going to buy it for him for his birthday.

Me: I…no he doesn’t NEED a train set! We have no place to put it!

Mom: Well, I’m just saying. He’s bored.

Christmas LEGOS. Very stimulating.
Christmas LEGOS. Very stimulating.

I’m not lying when I say we discussed this “needs more toys” and “train set” issue for 30 minutes, starting off at regular Italian volume (loud) and ending with the two of us yelling at the top of our lungs at each other while my dad tried to mediate and my husband was in the background shouting, “And tell her we already bought him a train and he doesn’t play with it!” It was a total melee. Over a fucking train set.

Basketball hoop: ultimate stimulation.
Basketball hoop: ultimate stimulation.

I’m sure a good part of it was me being frazzled at my son’s behavior and being couped up in the house for the last week and a half while my office was closed. I was exhausted and cranky and craving my old routine. On top of which, I had made every effort to make my child’s Christmas magical, but somehow, Italian Mother Guilt penetrated all of that. My mom saying “Lucas needs a train set” became “You’re not a good mother.”

Would my mom ever say those words to me? No. In fact, she has even told me I’m doing a good job. (GASP!) But the curse of Italian Mother Guilt is that it doesn’t matter what you did or what your mom said before. Every argument is seasoned with “You’re not a good mother” in the same way we season our salad dressing with oregano. I bet her mother did it to her, and her mother did it to her mother before her. Every Italian mother of the past was doing it right, and every Italian mother of the present is totally fucking it up.

I’m sure I’ll guilt my son about other things, like “When are ya gonna get a job and move out of here?” But the guilt passed from Italian mother to daughter is as thick as lasagna.

In a way I’m sad to miss out on this important tradition of proving my superiority in all things motherly. But mostly I just want it to be known that Lucas doesn’t really need a train set. He’s already getting the best gift my parents could give him: they’ll be here to celebrate his birthday.


office space quoteMost people greet Mondays with a begrudging sigh of defeat. They’ve got a full week of work ahead of them—five whole days until they can relax and kick up their feet to enjoy two fleeting days of rest. They drag their dull bodies out of bed, sleepwalk through their morning routine, down an extra cup of coffee, and trudge into the office, zombie-like, with a case of the Mondays.

Me? I’m like…Heck yah, it’s Monday! TGIM!

I know I’m not alone. Talk to any other working (or non-working for that matter) parent about how much relaxing they get to do on the weekend. Ask them about how their child decides to rise extra early on Saturday mornings, even though you can hardly wake him during the week. Inquire about attempting to clean your house while your kid runs around behind you undoing it all. Wonder about fighting over naps, giving in to let your kid stay up, and then dealing with the hyperactive fallout by 5pm, when he’s gone into his energy reserves and has officially taken on the persona of a crazy person.

Ask about how much their child gives a damn that you are pregnant, tired, cranky, and nauseous, and when you lay down on the couch for a second to rest, how he takes that as a signal to drop kick you in the head for funsies.

Oh yes, kids. I love Mondays. I love scrambling to pack lunches and hustling a drowsy kid out the door to head back to pre-school. I love dropping him off, bleary-eyed, with his little buddies and going, “See you in 9 hours!” I love walking into my blissfully quiet office to sit down and work in peace. I love that when I finish writing a lesson or a blog, I don’t have to argue with a toddler over how it needs to stay that way. It’s just done. I love that by the end of the day, I actually miss my child and can’t wait to pick him up from school.

Monday? You and I are cool. We gotta have a chat with Friday, though. Not sure that day is pulling its weight.

What Your Morbid Fantasies Say About You

The other day I was in the shower shaving my legs when some suds began to trickle down into my eye. Without thinking, I reached up, razor still in hand, and brushed them away. Nothing happened, but I spent the rest of the day picturing what it would feel like if I had accidentally shaved my eye.

I imagine it wouldn’t have felt too good.

Whenever I have these freak show visions (and sadly, I have them often), I’m scared to tell anyone about them because I feel that will be the final nail in the “is she quirky or just straight crazy—oh yeah, she’s totally nuts” coffin. Fortunately, it turns out I am very much not alone in the morbid fantasies club.

Can’t shake the feeling you are going to fall into the subway tracks? Imagine your car driving off the overpass? Engage in a debate about whether you’d rather burn alive or drown—and then be unable to scrub the vivid details of your final moments in either of those scenarios? Guess what? You’re twisted, just like me!

But before we have ourselves committed, I thought I would consult with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Google, on what these morbid fantasies may actually represent. Are they a not-so-thinly-veiled death wish, Freud? Or are they simply the product of an overactive imagination? Let’s delve into this a little deeper.

In this article for Psychology Today, author Eric G. Wilson says we can’t help but be drawn to the morbid. He states, “We are enamored of our own ruin.” Wilson cites famed psychologist Carl Jung’s assertion that our mental health depends on our shadow—that part of our psyche that harbors our darkest thoughts. The more we repress the morbid, the more it feeds the crazy. To achieve wholeness, we must acknowledge our most demonic inclinations.

In plain speak, Jung and Wilson are saying that craning your neck to get a better view of that car crash, while seemingly vile, is actually helping to foster feelings of empathy and counteracting any evil tendencies lurking within.

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
I’ve possibly seen every video on the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami ever made. I hate myself a lot for this.

But what about that fearful projection of your own injury or death? Jung’s explanation only covers things like obsessively watching 9/11 or tsunami footage over and over (guilty). What about clenching your ass cheeks every time you drive under a bridge, or worse, over one?

In an article for xoJane about the urge to jump from high places, writer Helena Johnson says that people with “high anxiety sensitivity” are more affected by the slightest threat, and therefore their bodies go into flight mode at the slimmest chance of danger. I like to think this theory extends beyond the threat of high places to the threat of razors, fire, falling down, ice, water, and pretty much anything anywhere in life that could ever seriously injure or kill you.

In fact, Johnson was referring to a study conducted in 2012 with the rad title An Urge to Jump Affirms the Urge to Live. The study concludes that the impulse to drive off an overpass or throw yourself off a building is not a Freudian death wish, but rather a simple miscommunication.

Your brain is all: Whoah, it’s really high up here. You need to be careful and step the frick back, girl. Like seriously, get as far away from this high place as possible.

And then your brain goes: Well wait a minute, there’s really no danger here. This is just a step stool in your kitchen; the same step stool you climb on daily to reach your happy pills in the medicine cabinet.

Your overactive brain then decides to chime in a third time and conclude: Dude, you must have wanted to JUMP and THAT’S why it was dangerous! Good thing I saved you.

So basically yeah, those of us with morbid fantasies and urges to throw ourselves off high places aren’t so much crazy as highly sensitive and empathetic. Also our brains could use a little crash course in “no touching hot or sharp things” and “no throwing yourselves off high rises.” I’ve been working on it with my 3-year-old. Turns out I could use a little brushing up myself.

Let’s Talk About Sex…or How About Let’s Not

My husband and I have this argument on a regular basis. He’s thinks it’s totally natural and okay to discuss sex with members of your family—your baby brother, your aunt, your PARENTS. And I think that talking about the private parts of the people who made you or the people whose diapers you’ve changed is absolutely forbidden. Like…no.

That shit is gross.

I really don’t want to hear funny sex stories about how when your brother was 2 years old, he jumped onto your parents’ backs while they were doing it and yelled “AH, AH, AH!” I don’t want to listen to your dad snicker while he jokes about how your mom noticed the ceiling paint was chipped while he was banging her. Conversely, I DEFINITELY do not want to hear a goddamn word about my own parents’ sex life. Like…no.

Seriously, that shit is gross.

Today in my office, for whatever reason, sex talk was in the air, and in a matter of 20 minutes I heard a senior staff member make innuendo about her husband’s junk and another person whom I prefer to think of as completely asexual use the word “sex” in a sentence. Pretty harmless stuff but let me make my stance on sex talk with office people perfectly clear:


Lest you think I’m a prude, I am comfortable with sex. I don’t think the actual act is gross. It is a natural, beautiful part of life and should be celebrated. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there are certain people with which sex should never be discussed. It’s uncomfortable. It’s icky.

Office folk are great, but there’s a certain kind of distance you need to keep with them in order to maintain a professional relationship. Yes, some of my best friends are people who I’ve worked with, and with those people I don’t mind discussing our sex lives. But for people that are either way above me in status or in age, I just don’t wanna hear it. Case closed.

Same goes for family. I can have a superficial discussion about sex with my same-age cousins. Just keep it PG-13 and I’m cool. But parents?! Kids whose peeps I saw when I had to wipe poo off their asses?! In case I haven’t drummed this point home enough….


What is your stance on sex talk with your family or coworkers? You cool with it? Or are you as skeezed out as I am?