Afterbirth is about what parenting is really like: full of inappropriate impulses, unbelievable frustrations, and idiotic situations. It’s about how life for some parents changes for the worse after their kids are born. Or so it feels. It’s about how not every threeyear- old is charming and delightful and about how sometimes when your kid is having a tantrum, you have to stifle the impulse to round-house him. And Afterbirth is funny—the participants are some of the best comic writers and performers today, turning their attention very close to home and sparing no one, particularly themselves. The thirty-five pieces include:
- Caroline Aaron on what it feels like when the kid moves out of the house (“The New Parenting Paradigm”)
- Christie Mellor on why it’s dangerous to tell people what you really think about being a mommy (“Yahooey”)
- Joan Rater on parenting the unexpected (“Attachment Adoption”)
- Neil Pollack on unforeseeable and unreasonable parental rage (“The Tennis Pro”)
- Matt Weiner on trying not to parent violently like his father did (“Go Easy on the Old Man”)
What’s the expression? “Careful who your friends are.” Is that it? Or “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” No. “Keep your friends close. And enemies closer.” Right. That’s not a problem since I’m my own worst enemy… But what happens when your friends are your enemies? And if your kids become friends with your friends who are your enemies – does that make your kid your enemy? I’m getting ahead of myself…”
“…What can I say? I did not become my father. I am my father. With the hairy forearms and disciplining other peoples’ children and eating your Halloween candy while you sleep– I’m sick about it. All I can do is try and use my powers for good. My oversensitive one, Arlo likes to dress up. Not in costume but in fancy clothes. I’ll admit I envy his confidence as he walks around in a top hat and tails and knickers. He got to meet Alice Cooper and they were mutual grooving on each other. But at school some older kid said to him one morning, “Why do you dress like that? Why do you do that?” It’s hard to explain what wasn’t nice about it unless you are oversensitive like Arlo and me. Arlo’s eyes well. So I say to the eight year old, “Why are you so boring? It’s sad but you are. Why is that?” As we walked away Arlo smiled and grabbed my hand. And when you humiliate another child to make yours feel better, that’s good parenting.”
Matthew Weiner from Go Easy On The Old Man
“Now I know all about the terrible twos threes and fours. I know how to set limits. I’m not a push over. I have no problem giving a time out, turning a deaf ear to a tantrum. I have watched Supernanny. But this is different.
Mommy, what’s your favorite color?
Daddy? What’s your favorite color?
This is the only conversation we have these days. Besides what’s your favorite shape and who’s your favorite Sesame Street character. And it’s not a conversation so much a recitation of the prescribed answers to Sally’s questions. For instance – the first time Sally asked me who my favorite Sesame Street character was, I said, Cookie Monster. Now, that’s my answer. If I try to change it, Sally cries. If I give two answers, say Cookie Monster and Big Bird, she sobs. If I refuse to play, she whines until I give in. So I answer – Cookie Monster, Sal. We all do. It’s easier. Tony, Maggie and I push food around our plates and answer, “triangle,” or “square” when asked our favorite shape, which we are over and over again. We’re worn down. We fight back every now and then, find a therapist who suggests we buy a dollhouse and do play therapy. Our doll selves get beaten down too. I spend a few weeks trying to M&M train Sally to let us talk about other things, to let us talk to each other. It doesn’t go well. We start to have friends come over after Sally is asleep because the bossiness is so out of control and we’re embarrassed at how we have succumbed.
Joan Rater from The Long Hug