August 02, 2005

My Active Fantasy Life

I have a confession to make: I have an active fantasy life. This fantasy life started when I was very young. I would have to say my mother was at first responsible for this fantasy life. I am not ashamed to admit this because I know there are millions of women out there who share the same active fantasy life. This isn't about Mel Gibson. This isn't a fantasy life spun from reading Harlequin romances. This isn't even a fantasy life about sex at all. Well, sex was involved but that is only responsible for ramping up my fantasy life.

You fantasy life is about well, my family. As a teen babysitter I had all sorts of mental commentary that was along the lines of "When I am a mother, I will not have a baby who is up past 8 pm. Ever." Soon Fantasy Mom arrived; she continued to visit and harp in the same vein for years and years pre-children. She moved in permanently once I actually started a family. Fantasy Mom said "Snotty nosed toddlers...nope, my children will always have clean faces and clearly the medical issue behind snotty noses can be cured promptly." She said: "No kid of mine is going to suck her thumb or one of those pacifiers." Fantasy Mom had a whole list of things she was going to be: neatly dressed, no bad hair, no lost car keys. Fantasy Mom also had a list of appropriate standards for every age from infant (no crying when left with a sitter, no diaper rash, no sugar, fried food or preservatives before age 1) to school aged (no backtalk, clean rooms, sibling harmony, interesting hobbies) and beyond. There were of course the standards that applied to all ages...clean clothes, neatly dressed, clean faces, no scuffs, scabs, snot, all those s words. All of that is well and good.

There were even higher standards though for Fantasy Mom, herself. Fantasy Mom is a cross between June Cleaver and Mary Poppins. Fantasy mom would cook healthy, preferably organic from scratch meals. Fantasy Mom has a sparkling home. Fantasy Mom would be the mom all the other moms hated because she was the best room mother, had the most clever ideas for birthday parties, volunteered at the school, head of the PTA but still had time to bake homemade cookies for after school snack. Fantasy Mom always has an ear and understanding for social drama, as well as school drama. Fantasy Mom has the answer when a teacher is unfair, when kids are mean, and when the hamster turns up missing and the cat looks happy. Fantasy Mom knows exactly what to dress the children in so they fit in. Fantasy Mom always knows how to listen so kids can talk. She is always calm, collected and of course uses only the latest and greatest methods to guide and train her children (who of course will never need any more discipline than that) Fantasy Mom never hands the kids a bag of M&Ms so she can get 10 minutes to herself. Fantasy Mom always has engaging age appropriate after school activities. Crafts mostly...culled from the pages of Family Fun and the hundreds of 365 ways to spend time with kids in the best fantasy mom way books she owns. Weekend outings are always fun, usually educational. Fantasy mom sure never turns on the tv for an hour...or two. She doesn't call out for pizza. Fantasy Mom is fit. Fantasy Mom never has a haircut, clothes, shoes or says anything that may embarrass her children. Her car is clean, has no dents, scratches, dings. It isn't out of the ordinary but isn't embarrassingly ordinary. Fantasy Mom is one amazing woman and her life is amazing.

Unfortunately, I am not Fantasy Mom. I want to be. Wait, let me take that back...I do and don't want to be. There are some Fantasy Mom fantasies that are just lovely for daydreaming.(i.e. no tv fantasy mom directly conflicts with well-adjusted children who can talk about popular culture with peers Fantasy Mom)

I am a real mom. I am a mom whose children have gone out of the house with dirty faces, marker on their hands and/or face. I am the mom who let her preschooler wear pajamas, princess costumes, backwards, not matching clothes to preschool. I am a mom familiar with the various corn dog options in the freezer case, who has been known to buy bizarrely colored food products, who even shrugs and hands an apple to her children in the morning with the Frosted Flakes or worse...Pop-Tart. I don't always know what the stats are for a Yu-gi-oh card. I sometimes forget which one of my children doesn't eat catsup. I have been known to forget it is snack day. My kids have slammed doors, picked on their siblings, cried in public, have had potty training accidents in public. I have lost my keys, my purse, my grocery list. I have picked my children up from school in a messy car. I have kissed my kids at school (thus violating all sorts of Fantasy Mom rules most importantly the embarrassment one).

Sometimes you have to come to the realization that Fantasy Mom doesn't and shouldn't exist. My children, all my children, are amazing. They aren't perfect. They wouldn't be perfect even if they had Fantasy Mom full-time. What makes the best mom changes from moment to moment, child to child. The right strategy for a child doesn't mean it is the right strategy for every child. Children are unique. Mommies are unique. I think it is the blend of child and a mommy who just keeps working at doing the right thing for that individual child that really makes the best mommy. At least I hope so. I keep working at being a fantasy mom...can't give it up now. But I realize that each day, each minute, each child, that Fantasy Mom doesn't know best. Real mom doesn't always know best either. But real mom is there every day and keeps trying. Fantasy Mom...well like all good fantasies, skips out leaving the bed unmade. She sometimes has great ideas but is never there in a pinch.

I think that is why the televised "supernannies" are so popular. Fantasy mom comes in and turns every family into the fantasy family. One week and you are living the fantasy. We can watch and laugh. We can watch and go geez, my family isn't as bad as that. We can watch and while being entertained get fresh ideas or fresh reminders of Fantasy Mom problem solvers. But in the is all a fantasy like all tv. The perfect fantasy for all the imperfect moms out there who called for pizza and forgot to buy new shoelaces at the store. The New York Times felt it necessary to tell us that these shows are fantasies. I think we all knew that...but a little fantasy is a good thing...for us and our children.


Denise said...

OK I've got a problem. My sex life may now suffer because I'll be picturing you as fantasy mom. LOL

I think it would be interesting to ask all six of our children what their fantasy mom would be like. (RJ of course would say just like you and then turn and say just like you, to me, lol)

TW said...

Maybe I will save that question for when they podcast ala Patrick Scoble. (making note to not ever decide to podcast)

supa said...

my fantasies lately revolve around a giant, empty king-size bed and no alarm clock ... but i hear you on this.

Fantasy Mom has been a real bitch to live with.

jess said...

I echo the Supa fantasy. But, I did feed my kids an entire box of Cap'n Crunch today followed by much guilt and peas in the pod to even it out.

TW said...

Yeah, she gets worse mb. Of course that didn't stop me from looking longingly for the perfect parenting book tonight at the book store. Surely one of those titles has the fast track.

TW said...

LOL on the Capn Crunch. My kids won't touch it. Perhaps that is so they can point it out to the occassional visitor who I would NOT want to know that Mommy has her special cereal with the weird man on the front. That never fails to make my hostess anxiety go away. :::::::::eyeroll::::::::: I did want them to talk?