Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Life interrupted

September 28th, 2007    -    6 Comments


I know I said I was going away. I’ve swept the tea house, I’ve walked the dog, I’ve scooped the poop. Later, I’ll go to Target and you know what that means.

But right now, I need to pipe up and call a spade a spade. This is a lie. A deception. Nickelodeon network is going “dark” for three hours this Saturday and advising kids to go out and play. Not. Get in shape. Sure. And then come back inside before the day is done and watch a kid’s reality show about not watching TV. On TV. Cripes.

And look! The news media gives it a pass. They wave a flag at it!

This is called “getting in front of an issue.” This is called public relations. I give myself permission to sneer because this was once my chosen profession. By the time I left it I was jumping up and down, waving my arms and hollering, “Don’t believe a thing you read in the paper or see on TV!”

I liken this TV-network-on-an-anti-obesity-crusade to my experience doing PR for a beer company. You read that right. The big daddy of brewers. We spent a lot of PR time and dollars trying to convince the media that we cared about people drinking responsibly. We had a catchy slogan for it. We wrote speeches and talking points. Then one morning the regional vice president called me at home, before work, because he was watching the early morning local TV news report of an overnight, fatal car accident in which alcohol was implicated. The news report showed footage of the police officer at the grisly scene lining up a dozen empty cans of our preferred product, all retrieved from the mangled wreckage. The VP, my client, wanted to know why I didn’t have enough clout to keep the local station from showing pictures of our brand in such an unfavorable way.

I resigned from the job that day. Soon, I resigned from everything else. After that, I began to have a life. My own ultimate reality show. The money isn’t as good but the beer is much better.

In real life, there’s a place to put Nickelodeon and this stunt that really is dark. Where the sun don’t shine. Then go out and play and don’t come back in.

In love with another woman

September 23rd, 2007    -    10 Comments

Dyson_DC18_All_Floors_Vacuum_CleanerWhen we kids used to ask my mom what she wanted for her birthday or Christmas, she would say something like, “panty hose.” No, she wouldn’t say something like panty hose. That’s exactly what she said. She said panty hose, or stationery, or stamps, or Tupperware lids. (Not needing the bowls, you see, but the lids that always came up missing.) These answers were ridiculous to us. We cracked jokes about them. We cracked jokes about her. We didn’t believe anyone could be so unimaginative, so uninspired by the opportunity to improve herself. She was only interested in the trifling, mundane things she could actually use. Snort.

I’m probably remembering this now because my birthday is this week. Birthdays are rather significant to me. I am of a substantial age. And the product you see pictured here is my heart’s desire. I realized recently that it has long been my heart’s desire, but I have not been open enough with my own heart to express its desire. I am over jewelry; I don’t object to it but I just don’t wear it. Books find their way in and out by themselves. Fine cookware, of late, has energized my meal-making, so I’ve restocked. But otherwise, when I’m asked what I want as a gift, I have to say nothing, in the most sincere way. I’m through trying to dress up the scenery.

Until this year.

So I’m thinking again of my mother and what a mystery she has been to me in so many ways. This anniversary of my birth is the anniversary of her, long ago and far away from her family, barely 23, a good girl, smart, hard-working and fresh-off-the-farm in love with a reckless and insecure boy of 25, giving birth to her second baby in as many years. There would be one more and then she would be 27 and done with the having babies part.

But not done, indeed, never done, with the raising kids, keeping house and doing laundry part; the cooking and cleaning part; the shopping, clipping coupons and scrimp-and-saving part; the worrying night-and-day part; the folding grocery sacks and changing the vacuum filter part; the get-up-and-go-to-work-part; the night school, the ever-onward to the next credential; to overdue promotions; to conventions and committees; to daily troubles and nightly heartbreaks; to writing weekly letters and stamping endless envelopes; and storing leftovers in Tupperware after every meal.

It took me more than 40 years to comprehend a fraction of my mother’s life: the parts we shared and especially the parts we didn’t. But I’ve been coming around on this front, just as you have. We all understand our mothers better now, or so I hope for your sake. My mother wasn’t what I thought she was. She never stopped improving things. She alone kept things going. She took every opportunity to make things better. She knew all along what I’ve only learned lately. Once you put yourself into the effort, your whole heart, your undying love, there’s really nothing else you need.

But the Dyson DC 18 Slim All Floors Vacuum? That little dazzler sure can turn your head.

Written with love to my forever mother.

Your middle one,
Karen Kay

Girl on the verge

September 21st, 2007    -    3 Comments

Of a wardrobe malfunction: “Starting now, I’m choosing what I wear every day.”
Of dropping out of 2nd grade: “We don’t even have Share Day!”
Of following in my footsteps: “Do these panties make me look fat?”
Of blowing her mind: “What are tampons for anyway?”
Of losing the battle: “I got all my toys out, so it’s only fair that you put everything away.”
Of stopping me in my tracks: “When am I ever going to get my own agent?”
Of waking me up at 5:30 a.m.: “Can I go on your computer?”
Of saying goodbye: “I’m 59 pounds!” *

*See “California Child Restraint Law,” or just ask Georgia, the resident expert.

Still crying it out

September 20th, 2007    -    10 Comments

“Not knowing is most intimate”
– Zen koan

I’ve been writing more than reading lately, and I’ve just backtracked to a fascinating article in the Sept. 17 issue of The New Yorker. Fascinating because it is sublimely inconclusive and oh, so close to home. I wish I could link to it, but it’s not online: “Crybabies” by Jerome Groopman. “The conundrum of colic” is the subtitle. My life had that exact subtitle too, for a few months back in 1999. The colic, of course, is ancient history, but the subtitle still lingers, and fits every now and then as I enter some new, inscrutable chapter.

If you’re intrigued, you can read abstracts here and here and another mother’s perspective here.

I love to read Groopman for his open-eyed examination of how little is known by medical science. I love to read him because he is a doctor, and he knows what he doesn’t know. He also knows what the medical establishment doesn’t know, the kind of unknowing that few doctors – and patients – can honestly admit or accept.

Colic seems to be related to maternal temperament. Or not. It seems to be tied to immature digestive systems. Or not. It seems to improve with babywearing. Or not. It is sometimes associated with diet. Or not. It seems to be relieved by antacids, herbal tea, rocking, swaddling, cuddling, and motion. Or not. It seems neverending. But it’s not.

Colic arrives just as you begin to think you have a grasp, a handle, a way of living in the new world. It tears that grip away from you. It steals every ounce of optimism, every hopeful conclusion. It shreds every fix and remedy. It leaves you with nothing to try or trust. Nothing but time.

Colic is the last thing you expect to give birth to. No one wishes it on anyone. But in its own ravaging wake, it leaves a gift. That’s the gift of not knowing. Not knowing when or how or if. Of surrendering to futility. Of succumbing to the tears. Of accepting the certainty of nothing but another day, and a different ending.

Everyone always outgrows colic. But I’m not sure anyone ever outgrows colic. Least of all the parent.

Dropping off

September 12th, 2007    -    4 Comments

Let go and make yourself independent and free, not being bound by things and not seeking to escape from things – Yuanwu

It’s remarkable how profoundly intense the first 90 minutes of the morning can be for a mother like me.

Gotta get up, gotta make coffee, gotta make breakfast. Gotta pack lunch, check homework, gotta get her dressed, hair combed. You’ve gotta brush your teeth! You’ve gotta change those shoes!

Oh!

Gotta feed the dog, gotta unload the dishwasher, make the beds. Gotta feed your fish!

Oooh!

Gotta jump in and out of the shower, gotta get myself dressed, gotta do something with this hair, gotta grab a hat!

We gotta go!

Gotta hurry, no time to walk, we gotta drive!

With minutes ticking toward the 7:40 a.m. school bell, the pace pounds.

Gotta find a place to park, gotta get out and walk her into the playground, gotta see her off and in line with her teacher, gotta be a good mom, gotta do it right, gotta do it all, gotta run because I’ve made us late, late again!

Then from the backseat, with the sagacious calm and steady poise of her eight years, with her serenely impeccable timing, she offers the morning’s benediction, the first sane words that have passed between my ears since I flew into action at dawn.

Mom, you can drop me off.

She turned a rosy cheek to me then, like a gift, a floral tribute. I kissed it, and that was that.

Famous last

August 24th, 2007    -    6 Comments

I can’t get pregnant.
I think it’s a boy.
I’ll breastfeed.
I’ll still be working.
She’s due Sept. 23.
She looks like me.
She’s a genius.
She’s an Einstein.
She’s a Mozart.
She’s sleeping through the night.
She likes it.
She’s a good eater.
It’s just the sniffles.
It’s just a tummy ache.
Fevers can’t go that high.
This won’t hurt.
She’s not afraid of the water.
She’s not afraid of the dark.
Lights out.
She likes vegetables.
She doesn’t know that word.
She doesn’t watch TV.
She didn’t hear us.
She won’t remember.
Wait until your birthday.
No means no.
I’ll never buy another goldfish.

Making childhood last

August 13th, 2007    -    16 Comments

Sunday was Georgia’s 8th birthday. We had a costume party, a pageant of make-believe featuring her in the dual leads as both herself, coyly turning 8, and as Lucy Pevensie, regally self-possessed as the Queen of Narnia. For weeks, Georgia was lost in lustrous imaginings of this wish come true.

She is, at this cusp, the very best of all. Still sweetly a child pretending to be everything she is and could be, yet so nearly a tween. But then, being the best of all is what I’ve always found her to be; it’s what I’ve found each year, after the anguish of anticipation, under the opaque folds of doubt and uncertainty. Every year is the best year yet.

How I wish they would last! How I wish it all wasn’t so soon to pass. How well I know better.

It’s with that yearning, that wistful backward glance, that I offer this modest summary for your consideration.

5 Ways to Make Childhood Last

1. Wake up. Let your children wake you up. Better yet, let them drag you out of bed. How much of your life – how much of their lives – do you spend in this ceaseless struggle to get more sleep? Give up already. I promise you, one day too soon the house will grow empty. Then sleep will once more evade. Seize the day! Seize the night! This divine mission to bring us into full awareness of our lives is the reason your child has come. So crack a lid and get this party started. If you could just once see the exhilarating potential they wake to every day, you’d know why children don’t want to waste a minute to slumber.

2. Break the rules. Brownies for breakfast. Painting your hair. Jumping on the beds. Staying up late and missing school. Adventure! Daring! Build your house on rules, but then have the good sense to barrel right through them from time to time. Breaking rules brings your home to life. It brings you to life!

3. Get on the floor. For one hour a day, get down on the floor and surrender to play. Not play on your terms – where you choose the game, control the action, and make corrections – play on their terms. Set a kitchen timer to keep track. Your children need one hour of undistracted attention from you each day. The trouble is, we spend 16 hours avoiding it.

4. Hold hands. Kisses grow scarce. Cuddles are outgrown. Your scrumptious love bugs will soon be parceling out the affection in piddling doses. How then to keep close? Hold hands at every chance. It’s the last, best way to stay in touch. It’s practical, it’s intimate, it’s precious, and it’s the ageless sign of peaceful coexistence. And when your child finally lets go of your fingertips, you’ll know one thing for sure. All this time you thought you were guiding them forward, they were really leading you here. To the point of letting go.

5. Say it a million times over. I love you. I’m proud of you. You’re funny. Good idea! I like it. That’s perfect. Yes! You make me smile. I missed you. Good choice! I had fun with you today. I believe you. I’m glad to see you. Let’s play. Blow me a kiss. Sit on my lap. Let me tell you a story. Once there was a little girl who turned into a queen. Happy birthday Lucy! You can be anything and anyone you wish.

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