As a transplanted New Englander, I’ve grown accustomed to the long and unpredictable winters of the Northeast. Less than a month ago, I was still hiking clear trails in New Hampshire and Maine. Now we’re stuck under eight million feet of snow with more to come and that’s just how it goes here.
I’m also a mom to very active three-year-old and as I’m sure anyone with small children will agree, long hours spent in the confines of home, (no matter the number of toys or the extent of parental creative juices), have the same effect on a toddler as trapping a wild animal in a shoebox for an extended period of time and then unleashing it in a room full of shiny breakables.
Eventually, your child becomes a shrieking, irrational, hurricane of emotional highs and lows ripping throughout your home and you begin to wonder if you should call an exorcist, or if your kid is just going crazy and taking you with him.
Fortunately, when the winter woes begin to rear their ugly head, we have amusement options. While I can’t speak for other parts of the country, in my area, indoor play spaces have begun to pop up in a number of communities in close proximity to our home. They are often warehouses or defunct department stores that have been converted into giant playgrounds complete with all the necessary equipment and artificial sunshine necessary to keep a kid engaged for hours.
They have large wooden structures designed in the shape of pirate ships or forts with slides and swings and plenty of opportunities to climb. Some spaces are devoted to all things inflatable and are full of every sized bouncy house on the market. Others are a giant maze of tubes and nets and mini-obstacle courses guaranteed to burn off any pent up energy.
I consider these places a gift from the heavens. Not just because of the opportunity they afford my little one to stretch his legs and play until he just can’t play any more….but because they are a parental melting pot where various parenting styles and all walks of life collide and never fail to create a phenomenal opportunity to people watch.
1. The Basic White Girl Mom’s:
I had never heard the term “Basic White Girl” until very recently when I read an article online called, “20 Signs You’re a Basic White Girl” and I had to concede that I met most of the criteria a good portion of the time.
√ – Starbuck’s Venti Non-Fat Skinny Vanilla Latte (or something similar, but of course purchased at Starbuck’s)
√ – Infinity Scarf
√ – Some combination of a tank-top/button-down/cardigan/cable sweater/tunic/sweater dress
√ – Skinny Jeans
√ – Riding Boots or Uggs or Ballet Flats….unless it’s raining/snowing and then it’s Hunter Wellies or Bean Boots.
√ – Longchamp Tote
Some ladies in the group do it up much better than others though and I’m not one of them. While I do admit to owning a good portion of the wardrobe, I often fall short on the makeup and accessories part of the total package.
More often than I care to admit, I’m wearing socks that don’t match and I have only applied mascara to one eye….because apparently, somewhere deep in my subconscious, I have decided that the “Clockwork Orange” look is a good one for me.
Also, I tend to fly solo and these mom’s almost always arrive in packs or join one as soon as they arrive. While their children play, they hover close by, discussing various Pinterest projects, PTA drama, their husbands, their friends husbands, outlet shopping and depending on the season….weekends on the Cape, leaf peeping in Vermont or skiing in New Hampshire.
Lastly, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect, like me, they all drive some kind of SUV or Volvo…
Ugh, I’m so basic.
2. The United Nations – Nanny Division
Apparently, indoor play spaces have become the traveling World Headquarters for Au Pairs. They too have a pack-like mentality. They release their charges immediately upon entering and then make their way over to the France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Dominican or Portuguese side of the room and commence what is either friendly chatter, or a full scale Nanny domination plan….if I spoke any of these languages I would be better equipped to eavesdrop and report out on their conversations….so, sorry, that’s all I’ve got.
3. Mr. and Mrs. High Cholesterol and their children, Coronary and Diabetes
Many of the play spaces we visit offer a wide variety of food options from light snacks to a full menu of amusement park fare….pizza, hot dogs, fries and onion rings, fried chicken fingers, nacho’s with mounds of thick faux cheese, candy and soda.
We aren’t generally connoisseurs of this type of cuisine, but we aren’t the type of parents who strictly withhold it either. Extremists are never good.
My mother was the type to force feed a poached egg down my throat most mornings, followed by a melty-like alfalfa pill, (the memory of which still makes me gag nearly thirty years later). Mealtimes where almost always traumatic battles of will. No matter how much I cried and begged, I was not allowed to leave the dinner table until every last stinky brussels sprout was choked down.
On the rare occasions I thought I might have won the battle by being sent directly from the dinner table to bed, it wasn’t unusual to find those same brussels sprouts, cold and withered, sitting on my breakfast plate the next morning nestled beside a lump of plain oatmeal….It’s not a parenting practice I’ve chosen to adopt, but I do believe in the importance of establishing a healthy balance and moderation.
It’s no secret that America takes the cake as the most obese nation in the world and it’s not hard to figure out how we won that pie-eating contest. Fast food and convenience, no matter the nutritional sacrifice, have led the charge for years.
Maybe, back in the day, we weren’t fully aware of the potential long term risks associated with a diet consisting primarily of drive thru food and whatever else could be scarfed from a plastic bag or box…. but these days, it’s a fairly long and established fact that proper diet and exercise are important for long term health….especially in children.
So….I find it unfortunate and irresponsible when I see an overweight parent waddle up to the food counter and proceed to order every available option that is served dripping in grease or deep friend in a vat of it. Then, when the heaping plates of heart attack arrive, bellowing across the room, “Foods here!”
Um, here’s a thought….how about putting down that handful of chili-cheese smothered french fries, peeling your butt off that seat and walking the length of the room to summon your child? Considering you had the stamina to make your way to the food counter, I’m guessing one more surge of activity before digging in, probably isn’t going to kill you.
Furthermore, your child appears to be on the verge of some sort of cardiac event and that gigantic cup of soda probably isn’t doing him any favors.
Before you start to think I’m an insensitive jerk and prepare to lodge the argument that maybe these people have a glandular problem or some other medical malady, I’m happy to concede that maybe they do. However, I’ve never heard a doctor suggest that a treatment plan for tackling obesity should include consuming 5,000 horrible calories in one sitting.
4. Is that Organic?
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the parents whose children have never tasted anything that has high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients. Their kids are named Summer Rain or Xander Moonbeam, their clothing is made of organic cotton or hemp and at lunch time, they pull out spotty, brown banana’s and kale chips to be eaten with tofu and sprouts from reusable burlap sacks they probably spun themselves.
I get it….sort of. I made 100% of my son’s baby food from organic fruits, vegetables and meats I purchased at Farmer’s Markets or Whole Foods and we try to practice “clean eating” as often as possible, but I also think it’s OK to allow a little junk food and indulge a bit here and there.
When your kid is eyeing the plate of nacho’s and pepperoni pizza with extra cheese at the next table like he might just consider homicide for a small taste, you have already lost the battle.
I understand how difficult it is for a working mom to successfully balance family and career responsibilities. I am one of these moms.
For a lot of women, contributing financially is essential to the family budget, especially in this economy. On the flip side, many families can’t afford the cost of childcare and the villages of grandparents willing to do the work have all but disappeared to Florida.
A lot of women I know have turned to establishing small home based businesses as a solution. The really creative, crafty mom’s have e-shops on ETSY. The super fit moms sell the secrets of the 21 Day Fix, and others are Pampered Chef or Silpada Jewelry consultants.
At one of the play places my son and I frequent there is always the same woman selling Mary Kay cosmetics. She has two young boys she dresses in pink t-shirts that say, “Real Men Wear Pink” and while they are cute and creative billboards, they are also heathens.
While their mother is busy recruiting the mom’s who look like parenthood just ran them over with a Mack truck in a puddle of baby food and vomit, (which, by the way, I think is a brilliant business tactic), her son’s are busy wreaking havoc.
A few times, I’ve heard parents interrupt her makeover sessions to advise that her children appear to be hell bent on enacting a gang initiation on unwilling small children.
She huff’s, as if it’s so inappropriate to be interrupting her workday, pretends to regulate and then promptly returns to her customers while her boys take off in the opposite direction in search of new victims….like the kids with the non-English speaking nannies.
6. Since When Did I Become a Daycare Provider?
I don’t consider myself a “Helicopter Parent,” but I do think it’s my responsibility to supervise my child as he plays….especially in public where other children are also all learning how to engage with one another and solve conflict. While I don’t think it’s necessary for me to jump in and immediately control those moments, I do think it’s important to be available to interject before someone get’s bitten or punched.
So there is nothing more irritating than a parent who unleashes their child upon arrival and then settles in with a book or some electronic device and expects other parents to track them down when their kid poops on the floor, begs strangers for hydration, or starts undressing in the bouncy house.
Immediately, the supervising parents in the vicinity flash a “NOT IT!” expression and attempt to redirect their own children to another part of the facility. No one wants to have to assume responsibility for a stranger’s child….or for interrupting the parent hiding behind a tabloid magazine to report that their kid is now chewing gum she found under a table.
It’s going to be a long, but entertaining winter….
Over the years, I’ve easily spent thousands of hours reviewing applications, resumes and speaking with applicants about various employment opportunities.
There are the people I talk to once and never again….there are the people I ultimately hire and speak to regularly throughout the process and beyond….and then there are the Repeaters….the people who apply for my openings on a regular basis and who are as familiar to me as my own family members….the crazy ones I only see at weddings and funerals and who always end up doing something wildly inappropriate, but awesomely entertaining.
When I see the Repeaters pop up in my applicant feed, I can immediately picture them, along with their list of accomplishments….which says nothing about my memory, just how short their lists are.
I know all about their various misfortunes, their divorces and how many times they’ve been remarried. I am privy to their financial hardships and their complicated relationships with the legal system, unemployment system, public assistance system….pretty much any system.
I groan and curse and complain a little….because certain rules I’m required to abide by mean I can’t just ignore them….but deep down, I’m also a little intrigued by the all the weird possibilities our next meeting could hold.
Not all repeaters are the same though, so my level of intrigue is largely based on the category I’ve assigned them to.
My categories are as follows:
Category #1 – Please Take Pity On Me
This group represents my lowest level of intrigue, just so you know.
In my role, I don’t hire for highly technical positions…advanced degrees or specialized areas of study are not required….but my jobs do require a certain skill set and a short list of minimum qualifications….like passing certain parameters of a background check….passing a drug test, having and/or having the ability to obtain a driver’s license….a pulse….
So, when I reject applicants because they don’t meet the base criteria for hiring, it’s generally not the kind of thing that is likely to change in a week or even several months. Some applicants accept this fact and move on, but there are others who apparently prefer to re-hash rejection over and over again.
This category of Repeaters is the group most likely to cry during their interview as they implore me to reconsider because this job could mean the difference between losing the family home to foreclosure or keeping a roof over their children’s heads….The difference between a shabby Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and empty stockings Christmas morning or a fulfilled holiday wish list.
Though I am being a bit flippant here, I am not a heartless soul who lacks compassion for these folks….granted, I feel a little less compassion when they come and go in a luxury car with the latest iPhone technology in hand, but I still feel for them. It’s just that sometimes, there are barriers too insurmountable to overcome and no attempts to try and appeal to me on an emotional level will change that fact.
For one, I don’t make the rules.
For two, managing my part of the business is not about choosing the most down trodden, it’s about choosing the most qualified for the job and emotions have little place in the selection process. That’s why our interview questions do not include any of the following:
“Tell me, what has been your most emotionally traumatic experience to date and why?”
“On a scale of 1-10, how depressed would you say you are in comparison to the other applicants in the waiting room?”
“If I can’t give you this job, how likely are you to wind up sleeping under a bridge….or jumping off one?”
Category #2 – My Significant Other Made Me
There are many who fall into this category….they are the group who continue to apply because a spouse or parent make them….in many cases, it’s the significant other who has actually filled out the application and submitted the resume and the person who show’s up for the interview has no idea what they’ve applied for.
About once a month, I meet with an applicant named Marc who applies for one of three positions. When he arrives for his interview, the first question he asks is:
“Now, which job are we going to talk about this time?”
To his credit, he shows up for every interview looking like he just stepped off the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port….Fresh from an afternoon of sailing along the coast with Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Cheryl Hines….His hair is perfectly styled and combed, but without looking as though it required substantial effort. His khaki’s are neatly pressed and paired with a tasteful collared shirt and tie, occasionally, he wears a sport coat. He even wears proper socks and shoes and his wire rimmed glasses are stylish and high end.
He looks the part….better than the part, actually….but then he opens his mouth and becomes proof positive that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover and also, that he probably didn’t dress himself.
He refers to his many past positions with various employers as “stints.”
“I did a stint with Fedex.”
“I did a stint with the Post Office.”
“I did a stint at Walmart.”
There are many, many “stints” to cover and he’s never able to explain why he left any of them, only that his wife is tired of all his “stints” and so that’s why he’s applied….he’s looking for something that might be less “stint-like.”
When I ask why he thinks my particular position won’t be just another “stint,” he says he doesn’t really know, his wife just thinks it’s a good company and makes him apply….I suspect it’s also because he’s already worked everywhere else and we are one of his last remaining options.
Category #3 – Unemployment Made Me
This category of Repeaters, to borrow a quote from Dumb & Dumber, “really chaps my ass.”
It’s always amazing to me how many people will tell me at some point in the process that they don’t really want the job, they just have to apply in order to satisfy Unemployment.
I asked an applicant once if he wasn’t at all concerned I might call Unemployment and report him and he laughed and said:
“Go for it….I’m a tiny fish in a huge pond, it’s not worth the resources to investigate me.”
This group of Repeaters reapply constantly….for jobs they are not even remotely qualified for….jobs that are fifty or more miles away from where they are actually willing to work….and in the event they show up for the interview, they will nitpick and debate every detail of the jobs responsibilities and occasionally toss in statements like:
“Yeah, I broke my back and blew out my knee and tore my rotator cuff at my last job….I can’t stand for more than ten minutes at a time, I can’t lift anything heavier than a sheet of paper and my right arm is required to dangle at my side for at least 12 hours a day.”
Now, as an HR Manager who abides by the law, I will tell you that statements like the above mean nothing. I do not write them down on any of the paperwork I use to document the interview and I ask no follow-up questions….However, let’s be real.
It’s like a prospective juror telling an attorney during jury selection for a high profile case he REALLY wants to sit on, that he has not at all been influenced by the media surrounding the case….Lies.
So, though I don’t write it down and it’s genuinely never the reason I ultimately reject the person, it’s still in my head and influencing me on some level. Often, it will prompt me to call their bluff.
“No worries,” I might say, “I can assess the possibility of accommodating you in some way, or we could explore another opportunity.”
At this, the applicant will waffle a bit, maybe toss in a few more undesirable ailments….a peg leg, uncontrolled schizophrenia, narcolepsy….and when I stay my course, they will ultimately agree that we can consider other options and then neglect to respond to any further correspondence. Box checked!
Most of the time though, they don’t show up for the interviews at all. They will confirm a date and time and never arrive. Or, they will send me an email five minutes before their scheduled time to tell me they will not make it because their car broke down……..someone got sick….their brothers, cousin’s, uncles, sisters, neighbor’s plumber was involved in some sort of freak unclogging accident, died and they just can’t mentally manage it.
I will express some modicum of sympathy and offer some rescheduling options and never hear from them again.
The worst though, are those who respond to the emailed interview invite with something like:
Applicant: (From email address, BigPimpin) Got your message, how much do it pay?
Me: Dear Mr. BigPimpin: It pay $X.
Applicant: That to low. I making more on umployment….I need $100 hourly least.
Me: Dear Mr. BigPimpin: That is nowhere near the market standard for this position and according to your application, you have never earned anywhere near that with any of your prior employers.
Me: Dear Mr. BigPimpin: I assume you are asking what the schedule for this position will require? If that’s the case, you would be required to work X.
Applicant: Can’t. I need every third Wednesday off from 10:00am to 2:00pm and every full moon. Religious reasons.
Me: Dear Mr. BigPimpin: Well, I suppose this isn’t the job for you then. Best of luck in finding an employer who will accommodate you.
P.S., Mr. BigPimpin, just so you know…none of the above will have changed when you apply for this again in a week. Just so you know….please consider this….please.
In the spirit of Throwback Thursday….on a day when summer seems so far away….I thought I would share this beautiful moment between friends that I was fortunate enough to have captured from afar.
It was a glorious summer day. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, the lake was perfect for boating….a slight breeze might have been a helpful sign that something was exposed….but I think it would have ruined the moment….