A professor I knew used to begin one of his classes by saying, “Everything I’m going to tell you is a lie. But it’s a helpful lie.” Today’s post contains a very short poem (just a quote, really), and two useful lies about raising boys: 1) you cannot raise boys without weaponry, and 2) you cannot raise boys without meat.
Maybe this counts as one lie with two parts; I’m not sure. And just to be clear, the weaponry and the meat are for the boys, not you, though weapons would come in handy, particularly anything with a trapping device. I feel strongly that even if these two things are not true, someone needs to stand up for them because they seem to cause a lot of pressure and anxiety for parents who frankly, have more than enough to go around. My advice to people who are fighting the battles of guns vs. no guns, and/or meat vs. no meat is this: give up immediately. There are so many more important things to worry about, such as why there is never any dirty underwear in your sons’ laundry.
In 2005, many first-days-of school ago, I watched my 7-year old son walk into his kindergarten class with tears stinging my eyes. I felt stuck in place, unable to leave, and was surprised to see another kindergarten mother walking quite snappily back to her car. It struck me as somewhat unseemly, her sprightly air. The kindergarten teacher, a wise and, I would come to learn, hilarious woman, looked at my weepy-mommy face and winked. “This isn’t her first rodeo,” she said, smiling.
Now, eight years later, with two sons in high school and one starting 1st grade, this impending school year is no longer my first rodeo. Which is why there are no traces of sentimentality left around one of the critical steps in gearing up for 1st grade: the School Supply List.
Long gone are the days when school supplies held the air of freshly sharpened pencils and sheaves of blank, potential-filled paper. Long vanished is the fantasy of cheerfully picking out pencil cases, notebooks, and new crayons with my sons. And good riddance.
Having seen 3 boys through preschool, a process of some 15 years duration, I have made a final decision on the most traumatic aspect of this experience. Separation anxiety, the exposure of your child to influences outside your control, industrialized food stuffs, and the omnipresent smell of bleach were all considered. These are traumatic, yes, but they are not the most traumatic. Continue reading
It is such a good thing that people lie to you when you have very young children, and you ask them if it ever gets easier and they say “Yes!” Because if they told the truth, your own and possibly your offspring’s chances of surviving the first 5 years of their lives would decrease significantly. I don’t know why people lie to parents of small children about this. It might be because the horrible physical demands of early parenting do easy up (sleep deprivation, carrying loads of crap everywhere, existing in a constant state of muscle-twitching vigilance, etc.) , and you don’t really have to deal with vomit or snot or feces as much with a teenager as you do with an under-3. Of course, if you did, you’ve really got a completely different set of issues. No, I think the reason people perpetuate the myth that parenting gets easier is because the reality would just be too much to take on board for at least the first 10 years. And the reality is that with each year of your child’s life that passes, you lose less and less control. So whereas at first your main job is to keep another human alive, when every atom of your body is dedicated to this 24/7/365 to infinity, eventually you just become obsolete. Except no one remembers to tell your heart this.
Filed under love, parenting
Halloween at Gabe's daycare
In the dark early hours of the morning, I saw a shadowy figure in my bedroom, and my first thought was that it was Jesus. I’d been reading some Anne Lamott the night before—the part of Travelling Mercies where she describes what she later came to believe was Jesus’ presence in her bedroom as she was struggling alone, drunk, strung out, through the aftermath of an abortion. Anne writes that she could feel the presence so strongly that she got up and turned on the light to see if someone was there.
The thought of writing about this topic, #1 of the “43 Eternal Truths,” has been plaguing me since I decided to do it. No inspiration. No insight. Just confusion, that dull, awful feeling when the gears in your brain keep getting stuck at the same place, over and over. The dilemma was this: I feel that I should agree with the statement, “This is it!” because what it seems to be saying are things like, “This is your life! Be here now! Moments are all we have!” And that’s fine. That’s good. I get it.
But in my heart, I don’t actually agree that this is IT, that this is all we get or have. And I don’t agree with the message that you shouldn’t hold onto things, or project into the future, or care too much about outcomes, or that living in the present is the ultimate goal.
I am a big advocate of mindfulness, of presence, of paying attention.
However, wrestling with these three little words–this is it–has made me realize that I am also an advocate of allowing ourselves to live in the past, present, future, or our own imaginations, to project whatever desires we want onto our lives, to be strongly attached to whatever really, really matters to us, to care as much as we possibly can about whatever we want, knowing of course that none of this guarantees anything. Anything, that is, except a life of deep passion and commitment, self-permission and the chance to let your longing and desire become visible enough, powerful enough, that you cannot help but follow it.
If you are a Dr. Phil viewer, you may have seen the recent show on Dr. John Robinson’s time-use study claiming that “Women have at least 30 hours of leisure every week. In fact, women have more leisure now than they did in the 1960s, even though more women are working outside the home.”* If you are a working woman, you may have already used Google Earth to locate Dr. Robinson’s home, somewhere in the Baltimore area, and are currently figuring out how to make something very large and very heavy fall onto it. And if you were doing this, by the way, you’d be using your “leisure time.” As Brigid Schulte wrote, in her Washington Post article on the study, answering emails or using the computer for anything other than work is leisure time. Other examples include:
“Watching movies with the kids. Visiting a sick friend with the kids. Talking to a friend about her leisure time on the cellphone to report this story while taking my son’s bike to the shop for repairs with the kids. Leisure, leisure, leisure.”
“Printing out a gift card to Best Buy for my friend’s son while yelling at kids and husband to “get into the car now” two minutes before leaving to go to a birthday dinner. Leisure.”
“Sitting in a hot, broken-down car for two hours on a median strip and playing tic-tac-toe with my daughter while waiting for a tow truck. Yes, that, too.”
Things got a little hairy on the mothering front last night because it was Report Card Day. There was a difference of opinion between Noah and me about what constitutes a “good report card” and I ended up locking him out of the house. Yes indeed. In a move of deep maternal wisdom, after he stormed out the front door and slammed it behind him, my hand went right for the lock and clicked it shut. “That kid is not getting back into this house,” I thought. A well-thought-out parenting strategy if ever there was one.
One of the funniest websites for all things parenting and pregnancy related is Let’s Panic! by the fabulous writers Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy. I wish I had created it, because it’s like they open their mouths and everyone’s voices come out, except 100 times funnier. Here are some of their tips on “Alternatives to Yelling:”
Tamp your anger down, down, farther down, as deeply as you can, until you are wild-eyed and tense as a jungle cat. But at least you’re not taking it out on your child! Oops: you have cancer now.
Instead of making noise at your child, express yourself through art. Try a collage made with your child’s photograph and large streaks of thick oil paint and maybe some animal teeth or feathers. So cathartic!
Communicate your feelings via your child’s teddy bear. You can’t punch your child, but you can punch Mr. Fuzzy. Just punch and punch and punch some more. Mr. Fuzzy can take it.
Move out. Make sure to leave him or her some beef jerky and spare lightbulbs. No need to be cruel. (source=Let’s Panic!) Continue reading
Guess who's along for the ride!
“Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
is on the road again.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.”
–Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again”
From what I understand, despite prevailing stereotypes, travel in the old gypsy tradition had a sense of pride and nobility about it. So as I mentioned in my last post, it seems clear that Willie Nelson did not have traveling with children in mind when he wrote his song.
In fact, quite the last thing I felt after our 13-hour trip from Illinois to Niagara, NY was noble. As Sid the Sloth says to Diego the Saber Tooth Tiger at the end of the classic film, Ice Age 1: “You’re traveling with us now, buddy! Dignity’s got nothing to do with it!”