Archive for the 'Teenagers' Category

09
Aug
16

Random Thoughts

Yes, I’m still here.

Waiting till I have something to say I guess.

And now just these:

This world is not a meritocracy. It sucks, but it’s true. Discuss.

There might be something to be said about an unforeseen problem brought on by showing your children unconditional love, as in no one feels compelled to clean the house before your return after a long absence. Creating the psychological need to “earn” love might be underrated after all.

One can definitely gauge one’s fed-up-ness with the world, that is, the state of politics and the American citizenry’s unwillingnessifnotinability to actually Face the Truth, by one’s propensity to take “Cook’s Illustrated” to bed rather than the New Yorker.

Alas.

 

 

 

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.

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

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.

23
May
12

and this just proves that I’m a big fat baby

(Husband says it just proves that I’m a sap. I say it’s the same thing.)

I cry every single time I see this.

Every. Single. Time.

 

15
Mar
12

Murakami, and why I won’t be reading him anymore; UPDATED

I had this all written this morning, (some of my best work,) and when I went to insert the picture I lost the whole post. (Ain’t technology grand?) I’m still not sure I have the heart to start over. But here goes.

***********

Still taking a break from The Street Sweeper, although I plan on finishing it. Instead, though, I just read Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Supposedly his readership went into the millions with the publication of this book, but I can’t really figure out how, unless it was high schoolers looking for the sex scenes.

Ugh.

Toru is a “preternaturally serious” student. In case we miss this by the fact that he has very few friends, and spends all of his time going to class, doing his homework, and working at his job at a “lame” record store (is there a geekier job than working at a “lame” record store?), the few friends he does interact with can’t seem to stop telling him how “strange” he is, or how “strange” he talks, even when what he says seems perfectly normal.

In this way, Murakami seems to demonstrate very little faith in his readers. Another example: Toru travels to visit the young woman he truly loves, Naoko, who has secluded herself in the mountains of northern Japan at an idyllic mental institution retreat recovering from the emotional trauma of first her older sister’s, then her long-term boyfriend’s, suicides. (There is a lot of suicide in this book; it seems to be the solution of choice in Murakami’s Japan; and surprisingly, many of those who commit suicide in this story don’t seem to have demonstrated any signs of emotional or psychological instability beforehand.) The line between patient and doctor is particularly blurry — when Toru first meets Naoko’s roommate, she is introduced as “Dr.” because she teaches music to some of the patients; a fellow patient wears a white coat and makes his “rounds” from table to table at mealtimes expounding on arcane topics. The “patients” live calm, idyllic lives, eating prepared meals, living in austere yet comfortable houses, performing “meaningful” menial tasks. Many patients stay for years. In case the insidiousness of this is lost on us, Toru just happens to have a copy of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain in his backpack. “How could you bring a book like that to a place like this?” Reiko asks him. How indeed?

And then there’s the sex.

Murakami is clearly trying to write the way the teenagers/twenty-somethings talk about, think about, sex. But I don’t think he’s very good at it. It’s too self-aware, too self-conscious, too proper. And that’s not the worst part. Besides the fact that, except for Toru, none of the men treat their girlfriends very well, the women themselves seem to have no sexual desire, no needs, no agency, of their own. (Update: Actually, this isn’t true, I somehow forgot one twist to the story. There is one “woman” with sexual desire and agency, she just happens to be a “pathologically lying” 13-year old girl who tries to seduce Reiko during one of the girl’s piano lessons. An event so traumatic it triggers Reiko’s latest psychological break. And, as far as I can tell from the story, the only lie the girl has told is after her seduction fails, and she reports that Reiko tried to seduce her. Apparently the idea of a 13 year old girl being sexually assertive and/or curious, or that she would spitefully lie about it later, is too bizarre for Murakami to consider.)

But back to the rest of them:

Naoko is a virgin when her long-term boyfriend commits suicide; apparently she was unable to, well, open herself to him. Naoko and Toru have one apparently mutually-satisfying sexual encounter, immediately after which she disappears and checks herself into the rehabilitation center. (There’s a ringing endorsement.) When Toru visits, Naoko services him in various ways, (Ugh), but waves off his offers of reciprocity.

Toru’s one male friend at university sleeps with dozens of women, despite having a beautiful, accomplished, intelligent young woman as a girlfriend. This girlfriend apparently knows about his philanderings, but tolerates them, claiming that she loves him and this is just what he must do. Reportedly she, too, will commit suicide, around four years after the end of this particular story.

While Toru waits patiently for Naoko to decide she can return to society, he is befriend by Midori, a “sexually liberated” young woman in one of his drama classes. They are physically attracted to each other, but are unwilling to consummate the relationship because she is “trying” to be faithful to her boyfriend (this is Murakami’s version of “sexually liberated”? That a twenty-something young woman has sex with her boyfriend?), despite the fact that the boyfriend criticizes the way she talks, the way she dresses.

And then there’s Reiko. Reiko is in her 30s, and, perhaps as an outward symbol of her long-term struggle with mental illness, is apparently extremely wrinkled. Reiko comes to visit Toru in Tokyo after (spoiler alert) Naoko’s suicide (see?), finally leaving the “center” after 8 years, on her way to teach music lessons in yet another secluded location. They cook together, and then make love, four times, in one evening. The first two are strictly for Toru, iykwim*; but afterwards, she lies in bed, eyes dewy, and declares: “I never have to do this again, for the rest of my life.”

Seriously?

Ugh.

The next day, Reiko departs, and Toru calls Midori, telling her that “all [he] wants in the world is [her].”

Funny way of showing it, but whatever.

*if you know what I mean

13
Mar
12

Horrifying

Read this, and watch the clips.

Take a good look at the young woman who is faulted for having “too big” of hips.

And then refuse to buy a single magazine with an underage, emaciated, and/or exploited female model in it.

Who knows, it might actually make a difference.




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