Archive for the 'Parenthood' Category

10
Nov
15

letter to Only Daughter’s teacher

Hello,

I would like to start by introducing myself. I’m “Only Daughter’s” mom, and regret that I am unable to come to conferences for the 27 1/2 minutes each semester they are offered, as those minutes fall during the hours of my job. Please don’t cause that to make you think I don’t care about my child or about her education. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

I would like also to thank you for your hard work with Only Daughter in learning her parts of speech. Despite the fact that these are, apparently, the same grammar lessons she had last year, she reports that you are “not as bad of a teacher” as the one she had last year, so I suppose that the review is worthwhile.

I can’t help but wonder whether your lessons on grammar and effective writing might not be better taught using samples of beautiful writing from actual literature, but I’m “just” a layperson who has only read something like 500 books, so I probably don’t actually know what I’m talking about, so will defer to your expertise.

I was wondering, though, whether you were under some kind of misapprehension that led you to believe that I, too, was enrolled in your freshman English class, as I keep getting emails updating me about the class content, homework assignments, online reviews, and upcoming quizzes.

See, the thing is, I’m actually done with high school. In fact, I graduated in 1982. (I’m going to guess, given your teaching style, this was many years before you were even born.) And from college in 1986, masters in 1988, and a doctorate in 2005. Now granted, none of those degrees required that I knew the difference between a linking verb and a helping verb, but nonetheless, I am no longer a student.

My daughter, on the other hand, is. And while I recognize the importance of a parent encouraging and supporting their child, including making sure that their day is well structured, they have adequate sleep and healthful meals, I don’t believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to be checking that every single bit of homework is done. See, I believe that is the child’s responsibility. And the sooner we let the CHILD know that, the better off everyone would be. That includes them, you, me, their future boss(es), their future spouse(s), their child(ren), etc. etc.

They have a job to do, and that is to be a student. You have a job to do, which is to teach them, and to stimulate and engage them enough that they want to do the work and do it as well as possible. And I have a job to do, which IS NOT TO DO THE WORK FOR THEM.

See, this is how it goes. Only Daughter gets home from school. I ask her how her day was, listen, give her a hug, watch her get her snack, ask her if she has homework, if she says yes, ask her when she plans to do it, ask her if she needs me to take her phone for a while to help her keep from getting distracted, and then I sit at my desk and do MY WORK while she goes and does HERS. And if she doesn’t do her work, she doesn’t get a good grade, and then she realizes that it might affect her dream of getting into medical school some day, and the next time it comes around she tries harder. AND I DIDN’T REALLY HAVE TO DO ANYTHING. It’s a beautiful system. And from what I read from the latest in child development research, probably the best one out there.

I’m actually surprised you haven’t read it.

Let me help.

Click here

And here.

And here.

I could go on. But I won’t.

The thing is, you’re the “expert” in this field — shouldn’t you have read them already?

Maybe you were too busy sending parents emails about the next review: Indefinite Pronouns!

Blergh.

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25
May
15

parenting, marriage, and feminism

First, read this.

How American parenting is killing the American marriage.

And then go and join this page.

And think about these things:

1.  Your children won’t like to hear it (I know Only Daughter didn’t), but your marriage SHOULD be the most important relationship you have. Your children will (hopefully) go off someday and have one of their own. In which case, you are left with this person you have ignored for the previous 20-30 years, and shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have anything to talk about.

2.  If your whole life revolves around them YOU’RE not getting any adult satisfaction

and your children are growing up thinking that the world revolves around them. And that’s not good for anybody.

For example, there is a lot of pressure on parents to go to EVERY sports event in which their child participates. If the parent has to work, the other parents may even make snarky comments such as “I don’t know what x’s father is thinking” or “I can’t believe y’s mother never comes to these things.” (I actually overheard this at one of the few of First Son’s soccer games I was able to attend.) But, in fact, it’s better for the children if the parents stay home. You can express your interest by asking about the game over THE DINNER THAT YOU EAT TOGETHER, but leave the coaching to the coach, and the cheering to the teammates, and let your child have ownership of something that doesn’t have anything to do with you.

They actually prefer it that way.

3. Children need to do things for themselves, fail, try again, maybe even fail again. They need to do their own homework and their own science projects and face the consequences if they don’t (staying in from recess to finish a homework assignment or getting a bad grade gets the message across a lot more loudly than mom standing over his shoulder at the dinner table yelling at him); and clean their own rooms (and live in their own filth if they don’t) and put their own cream cheese on their own bagels. Nobody gets better at putting their cream cheese on their bagel if somebody else is always doing it for them.  Yes, you could do it better, and neater, and faster. But that’s only because you got lots of practice. (Am I right?) If your child is washing dishes and they’re not clean, position yourself as rinser, and silently hand them back to her to wash again. Hire your child to clean the whole house (not his or her room; that should be automatically their responsibility); if it’s not very clean, don’t pay him very much. He’ll figure it out. (I did this with First Son; he actually sent me a text a few years ago thanking me for “teaching him how to clean.” I never really taught him anything, except that it wasn’t the act of cleaning that counted, but the result.) If they’re not very good at something, have them do it more; it’s clear they need lots of practice.

I teach at a summer arts/music camp, and there are always a few campers whose parents come and hoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhover. These campers don’t usually do very well, and often leave before the end of camp. I don’t think it’s because the campers weren’t ready for camp, but because their parents weren’t.

helicopter-parents 4

This isn’t helping. Maybe there should be a camp for parents, called Hawaii. Or A Life.

If you don’t let children fail, they will learn that “failing” is too awful to contemplate, and probably something they can’t recover from. If you hover around them, you’re telling them that you don’t think they can succeed, and their failure is too awful to contemplate. If you let them fail, and give them encouragement to try again and maybe just a wee bit of guidance or advice to help them succeed (but only if they want it, and only a wee bit), they learn about tenacity and optimism and hope. It seems pretty obvious which of these two we want our children to be learning.

4. Most (not all, but most) of the women I know, myself included, made professional sacrifices in the name of “raising their own children.” Most of these same women are still working part-time, in less challenging/suitable/interesting jobs than they could do, and make significantly less money than their husbands do. And all of you women out there in your 20s and early 30s reading this, and nodding, and thinking, well, yes, of course, but that’s a) not going to happen to me, or b) I won’t mind. The thing is, you might mind. I mind. And the effects of those choices may actually impact your professional choices FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. And, in case you haven’t realized this already, YOU CAN’T GO BACK AND HAVE A REDO.

I used to think that feminism meant we all get to choose what we want to do (and be paid the same for it as men), and nobody gets to give us a hard time about it. It’s kind of that, still, I suppose; but I also think we have a responsibility, to ourselves, our spouses, our children, to

  • have work we love
  • make enough money that we could support ourselves if we have to
  • devote as much time cultivating the relationship we have with our spouse as we do cultivating all the others (children, friends)
  • not feel compelled to sacrifice any of the above without asking our (male) significant other to make them of the same magnitude, and
  • STOP FEELING GUILTY

But maybe it’s just me.

 

05
Mar
15

the real reason Rapunzel was locked up in that tower

rapunzelsketchMaybe Rapunzel was an eighth grader, going to public school.

Maybe all Rapunzel could talk about was boys, and all she worried about was her hair, her complexion, her makeup, her clothes, and whether the “popular” people (who, apparently, no one actually liked) liked her or not.

Maybe the boys on Rapunzel’s bus constantly made sexually suggestive and, therefore, (duh) inappropriate, comments and watched carefully to see what her reaction would be so as to know whether they could continue to make sexually suggestive and inappropriate comments or not.

Maybe Rapunzel thought it was so  important that these skanky excuses for human beings liked her and that she not seem a prude that it never even occurred to her to point out that their behavior made her uncomfortable. Maybe she had so little sense of herself and her own rights that their behavior didn’t even make her uncomfortable. And maybe this caused her parents great distress.

Maybe, at the same time, she was being treated to the state-approved “Sex Education” curriculum, “Willing to Wait” also known as “If you have sex you will get chlamydia and die” program.

Not helping.

I imagine Rapunzel’s parents would have been reassured if the class had involved realistic and valid discussions about the physical and emotional implications of having sex WHEN BARELY A TEENAGER; or discussions about what is and is not appropriate to say or to have to listen to.

I imagine Rapunzel’s parents would have felt better about Rapunzel’s outlook on life, career, education, her self and her agency and her responsibility for her own life if more of Rapunzel’s focus was less about what the world thought of her and more about what she thought of herself. It might also have helped if part of the discussion in these “Willing to Wait” classes included teaching the boys that what won’t be appropriate to say in the workplace when they’re 30 is also not appropriate to say when they’re 15, even if they are currently suffering from hormone-induced mental illness. Or if someone besides Rapunzel’s mother was telling her daughter that whether the boy liked her or not was less than half as important as whether she liked the boy; or that the first thing the girl needed to learn how to do was to support herself so that she would never need to rely on someone else for housing or food.

I imagine Rapunzel’s parents thought that shutting her up in a tower until she was 25 was actually for her own good.

rapunzeltower

I imagine I could agree.

It is too bad that the “happy ending” in this story requires her being rescued by a handsome prince.

rapunzel and prince

Alas.

Even better: a kick-ass job with a six-figure salary and a complete disregard for what anyone else in the world thinks about her appearance.

kickassrapunzel

12
May
13

the grass is always greener

Heard in the car, à la Only Daughter:

“I wish I could curl my hair so I could straighten it. That would be so cool.”

 

Tonight, after I cut 7″ of said hair off:

“Now that I look 14 can I have a later bedtime?”

 

As if.

 

14 year old haircut

 

More like time to lock her in her room and put bars on the windows.

Just sayin’.

 

11
Mar
13

Is Having a Child a “Rational” Decision, part 2

This article in NPR discusses some writings on the topic.

You can read it, or not, before commenting.

I would vote no. Just ran across a funny line in Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, where her friend tells her that having a child is like getting a tattoo on your face — you should be really sure before doing it.

But how can anyone be sure of something for which they can have no possible idea what it will actually be like before they do it, one might ask, not-all-that-rhetorically.

I’m not saying it’s not worth it, or that I regret it, I’m just saying that what I thought it would be before I went ahead (and had THREE for crying out loud!) resembles very little what it actually was.

Just sayin’.

 

07
Mar
13

a day in the life, aka parenting in two parts

Can you guess the age of the perpetrator?^ (Left on the kitchen table for 2 days; I actually thought there were still brownies within.)

browniepan1

browniepan2

 

Only Daughter, as the only remaining-at-home child of a perpetually-distracted parent in her late 40s has developed some bad habits regarding snacking. To be specific, junk food junk food junk food. The daily salt intake could preserve an entire ham. She tried to take salami (no bread) and goldfish (the cracker) in her lunch one day; the day after I had discovered that between when she got home on the bus (4:10 p.m.) and dinner (7:30 p.m.) she had eaten salami, a large cereal bowl full of pistachios, a same-size bowl of tortilla chips and salsa and a same-size bowl of goldfish (the cracker). Yesterday Husband came out to get her dinner while I was at a rehearsal to discover that she was in the process of eating chips and salsa for the THIRD TIME that day.

This morning we had the first of a two-part conversation regarding healthful eating and what’s going to happen to her favorite food choices if she doesn’t start demonstrating some ability to make reasonable decisions.* This includes my approval of what she eats for breakfast, what she puts in her lunch, and permission for any snacks. Like when she was four. (She’s 12 going on 25. As if.)

The second part will include a list of foods that she can eat as much of as she’d like (spinach, carrots, whole wheat toast with peanut butter)(rightthat’llhappen) and foods that need to be approached a bit more judiciously (everything that she eats when given the chance).

Here is my contribution towards judiciousness, waiting to greet her when she arrives home from school today (during which time I will be teaching a piano lesson):

Hannah'ssnack

^The perpetrator is 19. He tried to tell me the other day, when I was questioning his decision not to work over spring break, that he was “20” and that I should trust him to make his own decisions. This was two days before he told me that his housing payment had been due a few days earlier, that he needed me to pay it since he was out of savings. It was also the day that he washed his popcorn pan while leaving the rest of the dishes in the sink and was doing all of his laundry in our washing machine using our soap.

You know, some species eat their young. (I hear they taste like chicken.)

*Second Son also tried to convince me the other day that his bad eating habits are my fault. Since I raised him feeding him mostly healthful foods, he has developed a taste for white bread, cereal of the Cap’n Crunch persuasion, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. If I had raised him on junk, he would now be a vegan. He actually told me this, and I believe that he actually believes it.

19
Feb
13

Really? That’s it? My quest for “happiness”

I am, and have always been, someone who strives to find/feel “happiness” every day. To live in the moment — to the point where I, a 48-year old woman, (with a nose piercing, but only 2 sets of holes in her ears), have seriously contemplated getting this tattoo’d on my inner forearm to remind me to live in the moment:

Chineselivethemoment

(This does, actually mean “live in the moment,” not “one order of Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side.” I know this because I’ve checked.) (Still trying to get up my nerve. Any suggestions? warnings? Anybody out there want to drive me to the tattoo parlor and hold my hand and hang around for the next 30 years and remind me of what a good idea it was when my skin gets all dry and wrinkly like paper and the tattoo ends up looking exactly like it it is actually an order for Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side? I didn’t think so.)

Anyway. . .

As you all know, I am also dealing with the death of both of my parents, my father a few weeks ago, and my mom last August. As you might imagine, my relationship with them was probably much like yours is with your parents — I didn’t talk to them often enough, my mom was often “disappointed” in me being, well, too much like me, (I’m not making this up), etc., etc., but I loved them and they loved me and they were my parents, and now they’re gone. Despite knowing that my dad died exactly how he would have wanted to — peacefully, apparently in his sleep, perfectly healthy as-far-as-he-knew one moment, and gone the next — I am still so incredibly sad to have lost him. (And it doesn’t do much to reassure me that the same won’t happen to me? Husband? Heaven help us whoever next.)

I’ve also struggled with having to let go of some of my professional dreams, and am still struggling with trying to find time to do the work I need to do to pay my bills, be there for Only Daughter when she needs me to be, and pursue the other things in life that have always tempted or interested me — namely, I want to read more, knit more, would love to take a painting class, and a photography class, would like to try to write an actual book someday, etc. etc.

Yesterday in my yoga class, a class with one of my favorite yoga teachers, and one which offered exactly what I needed (hip openers!) after having missed yoga for two weeks, the teacher did the opening meditation on happiness. She started with the American Indian/Cherokee story a chief tells his granddaughters, about the two wolves which live and battle each other inside each of us. One of the wolves is anger, fear, resentment, frustration, disappointment; the other joy, happiness, contentment. One of the granddaughters asks which wolf wins the battle, and the answer is “The wolf you feed.”

I started thinking about how much of my energy is spent feeding my resentment towards the people who have wronged me, how I should stop feeding that wolf, but how their petty insecurities have interfered with my ability to really live up to my personal or professional potential, and how letting that anger go is like letting them get away with it, and how unfair that is, and how much energy do they ever spend thinking about me and so on, and so on, and so on.

By the time I left, I was all nicely warmed up and limbered up and felt like I had really had a good yoga practice, physically, and was an absolute mess emotionally; nearly in tears before Savasana, barely able to roll up my matt and depart at the end.

I came home, and Only Daughter was here, as it was still her schools’ mid-winter break. I decided that, rather than do our usual, which is her at the computer watching ridiculous ridiculousness on youtube (Dance Moms! Ugh!) and reading her books and me practicing and at my computer answering emails, etc., we would go see a special exhibit at the local museum. So I shower, and we grab a quick lunch, and off we go.

First I park near what used to be one of our area museums, but it’s now part of a local arts college. Of course, I don’t discover this until I’ve fed every single piece of loose change I own into the meter, trying to eke out 90 minutes. We then drive to the correct museum (which has the name of it clearly above the door, a name which does not resemble in any way the name of the museum on all of the billboards touting the new exhibit), and can’t find a parking space. After driving around the block twice we find that someone has departed, so I do an illegal U-turn, grab the spot, manage to find two more nickels in the bottom of my purse, (I’ll get change when we get the tickets), and in we go. . .but the line is 150 people long, and I have piano students in two hours.

Never mind.

The rest of the day is much like this. I won’t bore you with the details, but it did include driving a long way out of the way to go to an arts supply store, doing extensive research in books introducing painting with watercolors, selecting paints, and brushes, and paper, and getting overwhelmed and intimidated and putting it all back.

After a kind of restless but adequate night’s sleep I wake up with the decision (!) that this will be a better day; I will make it so if it’s the last thing I do, gol’darn’it. I will start this day by writing the name of every person who has “wronged” me on a piece of paper and burning it in a foil tray, and that will release me from their hold on me. I do this. And there aren’t really that many people. And I laugh and think, “that’s it? It seemed like so many.” I start to wrack my brain to see if I can think of anyone else, decide I’m utterly ridiculous, and that’s that.

Of course, it’s not really that simple.

I picture this ideal, where there is this part way down deep in the center of me that is strong and confident and good, like a little tiny diamond carat from which the rest of me radiates; and some days I know it’s there and some days I think it’s there and some days I hope it’s there and some days I just can’t seem to find it, or believe that it ever existed.

But I have everything I need, and my husband and children are healthy and smart and strong, and my problems, in comparison to the problems of the world, are pretty small. I know all of these things.  So I make these vows to myself, to be more present, to be more joyful, to be more that tiny little diamond carat and less the dark swirling shadows that engulf it. . .and then my students come and they don’t have their assignment book, or their Etudes book, or they were skiing for the whole weekend and didn’t practice until yesterday; or I will be a better and more patient mom and then I catch Only Daughter eating her fourth snack since school, at the computer, and three of her Tuesday chores not done; or. . .

But today, I wrote an eleven-page paper about a Bach piece that I love and that I will submit for publication. And I got a last-minute gig playing for two gala occasions in area cities this weekend. And I bought myself these boots:

redbootsHow fun/happy is that?

(Alas, I have to wait 30-60 days for them. Not sure why, but I think it’s important not to ask too many questions in cases like this. Of course, my credit card has already been charged.)

(And yes, I know retail therapy isn’t the answer to everything, and that it is not possible to actually buy happiness. But I’m thinking that it might sometimes help. I mean, did you see the boots? They’re red. And embroidered. And the toes curl up in that insouciant manner, almost like a smile. Did I mention they’re red?)




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