Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

the gospel of toddlers & tiaras

January 23rd, 2012    -    17 Comments

On Wednesday evenings I’ve taken to watching TV with my daughter. It’s her one night off from gym practice and after she finishes homework, she likes to tune in to a controversial reality show called Toddlers & Tiaras. I grimaced through a few episodes of overbearing mothers parading their kids through grotesque beauty pageants until I came away with an enlightened view of the whole thing. Here is what I’ve learned:

Delusion begins with hair and makeup. The line between reality and psychosis is drawn with Maybelline Master Drama Brow and Eye Pencils.

There is no end to delusion. You can just keep piling it on.

There are no bad kids. There are just bad adults behaving like bad kids. And bad kids behaving like really, really bad adults.

The husbands are the sane ones. Just admitting this makes me crazy.

The room is empty except for you. The chairs are mostly vacant, the competition is entirely imaginary, and the judges wish they could disappear.

When you win, you lose. When they crown you a Queen, or Most Beautiful, or Best Talent, or Miss Congeniality, it means you didn’t win. In fact, it means you finished last. You don’t want those titles or sashes. Spit on them! You have to lose for a chance to win big, by coming back onstage later, when you really don’t win.

It’s all about you. “We keep doing this because she really loves it.” At the end of the show, when the kids are maniacal with hunger or exhaustion, tearing off the butt-ugly $1200 dresses that will take their parents two years to pay for, all the moms and dads say that. But it’s not true. You keep coming back because you don’t have a life! You’re sick, or bored, or you don’t want to make dinner, or fold laundry, or pay the bills, or face reality! You keep coming back for a chance to sit in a room with your own child, or at least I do! I’ll keep doing this because this show gives me a piercing view of my own shit while reminding me that if I’m not careful I could be a much worse parent than I am.

I’ll be back because this show is about me.

“Mom, do you see now why I watch this show?”

“Yes, I do, honey. I’m afraid I really do.”

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lo it is written

December 28th, 2011    -    12 Comments

I’m posting this early because everyone likes to have their fortune told.

You will bribe her with french fries
storm the gates of the forbidden
amassing a mortuary
of happy meal toys
and extra ketchup packets.
Join the zoo, the aquarium,
and the natural history museum,
surrendering the educational mission
for another stuffed animal at the gift shop.
Buy an army of Barbies.
Throw good money after bad.
Throw caution.
Throw fits.
Ante up to the American Girls.
One hundred dollars a pop.
Thank heaven for doting relatives.
You will overspend on school fundraisers
for mixed nuts, note cards, and candy
packed eight lousy pieces to the box.
Buy two cases of girl scout cookies
enough to enter winning territory
for a beach towel she’ll never use.
You will overpraise recklessly,
overjudge relentlessly,
underestimate entirely.
Give in on the cell phone.
And the next.
Awaiting her text.
You will go overboard at Christmas,
blow out Hanukkah,
host the birthday party from hell.
You will  exalt in her naptimes.
Cry in the shower.
Bide your time.
Bite your tongue.
Release her to the sleepover.
The trampoline. The mall.
The crush.
Scream your fool head off.
Or worse, or worse, it can always be
worse.
You will squander the good days.
You will, you will, you know you will.
You will fail her
and you will forgive her,
failing only to forgive yourself.
You will start over, verily, over again.
As it is written
in the year 2012 AD.

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the fog of love

October 18th, 2011    -    8 Comments

Dense fog covered the foothills this morning. It rolled over the ground in such billows I thought it might be fire. But it was love.

I used to wish I had the presence of mind to mark my calendar every time my daughter caught some bug so I could track the attacks each year. I would no longer be overwhelmed by the slog of sneezes and wheezes, sinus and ear infections, if I could see the enemy coming.

These days I would mark my calendar with something else. The days one of us shatters and breaks apart, loosens a scream or a slam, and we enter the fog of anger where neither of us sees a way out. We become each other’s enemy. Perhaps they are equally predictable.

What am I thinking? That I can outrun the trouble? Outsmart the pain?

As before, I wake my daughter every morning with a kiss.

“I sure do love you.”

“I love you too.”

My wounds are just stones in my shoe. Tiny, temporary, and easy to take care of. Not like the path ahead of this family, and this family, and this one, who are teaching me so much more about love and fog and waking each morning with a kiss.

“I’m worried about my friends walking to school,” she said as we entered a thick bank. I told her not to worry.

“When you are on the ground, you can see right in front of you. Not far, but just far enough to keep going.”

I am sure of nothing but this: I sure do love you. Love is the one thing for sure.

***
I hope you can make your way to Athens, Georgia this Saturday. It might be a far and long trip for both of us, but there will be love in return.

Love Beyond Limits parenting workshop in Athens, GA, Saturday, Oct. 22

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99% perspiration

October 14th, 2011    -    5 Comments

the rolls of a lifetime

July 16th, 2011    -    5 Comments

The role of a parent in the life of a child: Patience
The role of a child in the life of a parent: Impatience
The role of a partner in the life of a relationship: Acceptance
The role of a relationship in the life of a partner: Irritation
The role of a teacher in the life of a student: Demonstration
The role of a student in the life of a teacher: Attention
The role of toil, trouble, disappointment and inconvenience: Service
The role of anger: Equanimity
The role of hatred: Love
The role of enemies: Harmony
The role of community: Solitude
The role of light, food, shelter and air: Generosity
The role of the self:  None*

*Which means replace the empty roll while you’re at it.

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how to raise a Buddhist child

July 11th, 2011    -    6 Comments

When someone borrowed my post on teachable moments last week they referred to this as a blog on “Buddhist parenting.” I hadn’t thought about that for awhile, so it seems a good time to share these tips on raising a Buddhist child.

1. Honestly, have no idea.
2. Diligently, make no effort.
3. Faithfully, accept what is.
4. Sincerely, pay attention.
5. Be kind.
6. Otherwise, apologize.
7. Raise a Buddhist parent instead.

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seeing through

March 23rd, 2011    -    18 Comments

Here’s the thing about your 11-year-old. She has begun to see through the school she tries to like and the teachers she tries to love. See through the endless days and the culminating years. See through the grades and contests, the History Festival, Science Fair, Math Olympics and the Cultural Appreciation Day, all serving a half-hidden agenda. She has begun to see through the false privilege of measured gifts and talents, the flimsy prize of more work and extra credit. She has begun to see through the exaggerated stakes, the badges, and the salesmanship without end. She has begun to see through the unmasked elitism, the hysteria of parents in panic. She has begun to see through anyone and anything that would make a pet or pawn of her. And that empty stare, that wounded glare she brings to you – she’s wondering if you don’t see through it too.

There is that one thing, though, that ignites her pulse and passion, that giant leap beyond reason, a goal that defies the odds. See that through. Just see that through. And scream your fool head off.

the particular sadness of yes

November 14th, 2010    -    10 Comments

It is time, and such a short time it is, to say yes.

Can I write the tooth fairy a note asking to keep this tooth?
Can I sleep with you?
Can I ride with you?
Can I walk with you?
Can I go with you?
Can I keep the bottle cap?
Can I save the ribbon?
Can I have the last piece of candy?
Can we go to Disneyland?
Can I get this doll?
Can you wash my jacket because at lunch I looked down and saw a bug on it.

Yes, I say, yes, yes. Because there is an end to these questions, and yes is what you say when you see them go.

Oh good, she says. Because I was afraid I was supposed to outgrow it.

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sitting quietly doing nothing

June 28th, 2010    -    14 Comments

Last week my daughter finished fourth grade.

At the beginning of the year her teacher asked the students to make a time capsule from a cardboard cylinder and fill it with artifacts. Inside went a self-portrait; a hand print; names of favorite foods, movies and books; and a list of goals for the year ahead. She opened it on the last day of school, and this was what it said:

What I would like to learn this year:
1. Pi
2.More long division
3.More multiplication
4.To type

What I would like to accomplish in school this year:
1. Math Field Day
2. Student Council

What I would like to accomplish at home this year:
1. Middle split
2. Back handspring

What I would like to do to become a better person:
1. Volunteer at the aquarium

I record these things here not for her, but for me. I had not one thing to do with anything on this list, and she did them all. I no longer know what pi is or does, and any handsprings I do are mere metaphors. I post it to remind myself that her life is her own, and to make space for it to grow in every direction. To trust her able hands, agile mind, limber legs and passionate heart. To delight in the scenery and to marvel at the change. To keep company with her – silent, loving, loyal company – and to leave her off my list.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.

For an up-close view of what I mean, see what my friend Pixie saw in my patch of paradise. The photo credit is hers.

the no-project project

March 31st, 2010    -    21 Comments

The other week I turned down the invitation to speak to a preschool. Politely, I hope. I said something like “my recent encounters with preschool groups have had unreliable outcomes.” There’s more (and less) to it, but I’ve applied the rule of three: when things don’t go quite the way you expect three times in a row, it’s a good time to turn in another direction.

I’ve suddenly realized I don’t have much to say about how to raise your kids.

You probably aren’t surprised, since I blew my own lid off about this topic a couple of months ago with a rant about the proliferation of cynical parenting advice and so-called scientific breakthroughs. The piece is reprinted in this month’s Get Born magazine, and that’s a good place for it. The rant is over now; my Tea Party moment has passed. My fury birthed a clarifying truth for me: parenting is not a project! At least, my parenting is not a project. Ten years into the blitzkrieg of late-life motherhood, I’ve recognized that kids do a pretty good job of growing up by themselves. Thank goodness, because parents like me can make a mess out of the simplest things.

This is not to say I don’t stand by Momma Zen. It is as sweet and disarming a book of no-parenting advice as any out there, and more popular than ever. I’m happy it turned out okay all by itself.

My daughter is 10. We are likely to be enemies any day now, then wary survivors, before our amity is once again restored. I can attest how wonderful 10-year-olds can be: how purely emotional, brutally honest, sincere, enthusiastic, coy, shrewd, and worldly wise. And I can tell you that my daughter at 10 years is exactly the same girl she showed herself to be at 10 months. She has never been anyone but wholly, recognizably herself, all the while I have been occupying myself with pushing a wooden bead along a circuitous route. (Hey, they said it was educational.) read more

where I’m at

February 2nd, 2010    -    No Comments

To be honest, my head is still spinning, but to find out why I’m going to make you friend me on Facebook. While you’re here let me tell you about the spots I’ll soon be seeing before my own eyes:

On Sat., April 17 I’ll be at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a 9 a.m.-noon workshop on “Parenting as a Spiritual Path,” an incredibly intimate, practical and inspiring program on the spiritual vocation of parenthood. This occasion has been a year in the planning, and at $5 per person in advance, it will fill up fast, so call Carren Shelden at 415.749.6369 to save spots for you, your spouse or partner and all your friends. Space is limited. It is the first event at which my new book, Hand Wash Cold, will be available, and I won’t let you forget it.

On Sun., May 2 I’ll be launching the Kitchen Table Tour, my homemade brand of book readings for groups of friends in private homes, with a kick-off event in my own home and garden. And everyone is invited! (Note to self: Tell husband.) If you want me to come to your house, to meet your friends and hog your table, reading from Hand Wash Cold and making a big scene, just leave me a comment and tell me where you’re at.

The merit of no merit

January 10th, 2010    -    12 Comments

The other day I sewed a half dozen new merit badges on a girl scout sash. Since my daughter graduated in the scouting ranks her new sash has been empty. The flag patch waves on her slim shoulder; the troop numbers march across her collar bone; but the merit was entirely missing. We studied the scouting book and decided that – lookee there! – several of her passionate pastimes already measured up for an award without doing anything more. We skipped the fine print in favor of a quick feather or two.

Honestly, how good does a good kid have to get?

The merit of a badge is equal to the merit of a mother sewing on the badge, which is to say, there is no merit. But I forget. I keep thinking there’s something for me to figure out, something to get, something to show. That there’s something that good mothers do, and some way that good daughters prove it. I’m always wrong about that.

She paraded off to school with six new badges to flash. They don’t mean a thing. But it’s a nice wide sash, this margin of error, this no-badge of honor, where good girls grow up by themselves and mothers simply stop keeping score.

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How to make a baby

November 15th, 2009    -    13 Comments

Add baby.
Dispose of birth plan.
Put all cashmere out of reach.
Abandon eurostyle.
Abandon style.
Piss on style.
Shop Wal-Mart in haste and desperation.
Beg for hand-me-downs.
Wear husband’s sweatpants.
Every day.
Leave room for baby weight, flat feet, worry lines and permanent scars.
Resemble your grandmother.
Forget bathing.
Luxuriate in a hot shower for 7 seconds one day.
Forget that day.
Chop off your hair.
Lose your head.
Soak all stains overnight in salty tears.
(The stains remain and the tears return.)
Simmer in fatigue.
Whisk in exhaustion.
Churn the night into the day.
Let surface harden until brittle.
Scrape the bottom.
Let time evaporate.
Give up completely.
Make nothing.
Except mac and cheese microwaved for 3.5 minutes on High.
Love without doubt.
Forever.

If you have a minute, stop by here and give Theresa an attagirl.

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