Monday, December 27, 2010

Snowed In


Photo from Nyack Snap

It is a blizzard and we cozy in our little stone house. The ham in the oven has infused the house with familiar childhood smell of Sunday dinner. The Beast is reconfiguring her iPod music into folders and subfolders at the dining room table as she sips hot chocolate. The Man and I are happily ensconced in the living room within earshot of the quietly singing child as we sink into our deep, old couches and shift the sleeping cats closer and warm our legs with the heat of our laptops.

This is us--separate, but together.

I was just reading a story about the sharp drop in teen pregnancy in the US. “They”, whoever “they” might be, have not formulated a theory to go with this new data, but some people say it is due to the economy—which makes sense to me. Not because teens do the math and realize it would be EVEN harder to have kids in this economy rather than a booming one, but because families are probably spending more time together as they weather the poor market.

We live in a rather fancy-smancy neighborhood full of Viking stoves, BMW SUVs, Mc Mansions and excessively large flat screen TVs. I have noticed with the tanking of the economy that there has been return to the simple pleasures rather than the fiendish desire for more and more. Even here, in this upper middle class suburb, you don’t really hear people talking about their newest purchase because they are either not making them or they realize there is a new mindset to go along with this stormy economic environment.

I think the recession has stopped a lot of people from feeling the need to keep up with the Jones and just like during a snow storm—to slow down, make sure family is safe and then to happily hunker-down at home and appreciate what they have.

And I think that is what kids want more than the big screen TV or all the status symbols—they want their parent there. So perhaps this return to the essentials is what is helping the teen pregnancy rate. When your whole family is home—when does a teen have time to get intimate? They don’t and hence my theory.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Egyptians


“Do you allow your daughter to wear make-up?” a friend at work asked. She also has a thirteen year old daughter and they apparently constantly battle with one another over the detritus of everyday life…Blackberries, Uggs, friends, parties and now apparently make-up.

“No.” I told her. “The Beast does what she wants and I only hear about it later. So there is no permission granted, but I have witnessed make-up on my daughter’s face” I told the horrified mother.

The Beast is smart and very much an old soul. She rarely, if ever, asks my permission to do anything so mundane like putting on make-up. I believe her theory is that she will just start doing something and gauge the response.

About a year ago I came home and the Beast looked up from her laptop and I almost fell into the deep pools of her huge eyes that seemed to swallow everything in the room. I came closer, but not too close --for safety reasons….”Your eyes look VERY large—like you have not eaten for days.”

“It is just a little make-up” she reported matter-of-factly and turned back to her computer.

I thought for a while as I made a cup of coffee…and I thought…”yes. It is just a little make-up…it is not a tattoo, it is not a nose piercing. It is a little bit of make-up that can easily wash off.”

And here I should mention that The Man and I sort of stumbled into parenthood with the idea it would be fun to have a kid around the house. We are often ill prepared for the bigger questions like the one my co-worker asked me—“What sort of message are you sending your teenager if you allow her to wear make-up?”

We are not ones to “send messages”…we have always been fairly basic in our parenting goals…I mean goal: KEEP THE CHILD ALIVE. So that is what I told my co-worker: “For heaven’s sake—it is ‘just a little make-up’—it is not going to kill them. So the girls look like ancient Egyptians…where is the harm in that? “

The tension and the terror melted from my ever nervous co-worker’s face as she broke into laughter…”You crazy.” She said.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thinking Like a Girl

“You know what you are doing? You are thinking like a girl.” Mr. Attorney said, in his accusatory court room voice, as we slogged through the rainy day NYC traffic.

“Yo Einstein—I AM a girl.” I informed my passenger.

“No, no, no…that is not what I meant. It is that you are waiting for something to be presented to you at work when you should just be asking for it.”

As much as Mr. Attorney and I fight like cats and dogs about politics, religion, child rearing practices etc…he is someone who I have talked to almost every day for way too many years—so we know one another fairly well. We have been together SO LONG that we can really push emotional buttons….like adult siblings at a holiday get together.

Yet the man is right—I DO think like a girl and I am trying to stop. I am trying to ask for things I want and need….not just in my career, but also at home. And I don’t think I alone am missing this skill. Women at work are ALWAYS the “team players” aka the suckers. Women volunteer to take the kids, volunteer to take on the extra work projects…we volunteer our lives away. Even if we don’t volunteer because…as you know…I am not one for volunteering—we do have a tendency to passively accept rather than actively seek out and demand what we want.

The Beast and her friends seem comfortable and confident in asking for what they want. I hope this new generation of women will maintain this ability to speak-up for themselves as their mothers learn how to.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Girls! Smell the TREE!

The golden, early morning sun is hitting the bridge that leads to the city that I love. The city, just across this majestic bridge, is awash in that Hudson River Light that seems to pull colors to everything it drenches with light—all skyscrapers and trees and cars are supersaturated with color and shimmer with an energy like the first few hours of an LSD trip. I am overwhelmed with the beauty of the moment and I turn to glance a my carpool passenger to share the beauty of it and the dope is instead looking at an ad on a truck in the next lane over and he says in his is slight Long Island by way of Brooklyn accent—“Look at the gecko!”

And this is when I REALLY wish Ms. Seize the Moment would commute in with me rather than the pragmatic Mr. Attorney. She is someone who truly appreciates the everyday moments of pure beauty. It is all too often in our picturesque little town on the Hudson that we forget how lucky we are to live in a place of splendor. But Ms. Seize the Moment does not forget—she captures the moments and she gives voice to them. Witnessing a grand view of the Hudson from a little curvy mountainside road during a walk—“Girls—come here and look at this view and thank you parents for allowing you to grow up surrounded by beauty.”

The children, her Elfin Princess and The Beast are long suffering, but so completely spoiled by attention and love that they really cannot complain and they don’t because they know we would move to a cul-de-sac development house in a heartbeat just to prove our point.

Last winter we took a long walk through the town which took us past a huge, towering pine tree that was not pretty to look at, but the scent automatically recalled every happy Christmas memory from childhood. The girls strolled pasted, only to be recalled by Ms. Seize the Moment. “Girls! Come and Smell the TREE!” and we all did and we are all better for it.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the trees this Christmas.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volunteering for Stupid

“Tell me AGAIN why you want me to take off work to serve my child pizza in the school cafeteria? No, no…it is not that I did not hear you the first time, I am just HOPING there is SANE reason such as the union lunch workers are on strike.” I hissed into the phone at an Ubermom who is shocked I would not want to “treat” the children to “a restaurant day” at school.

And for me…this is the thing about volunteering at the schools—most of the events we are asked to volunteer for are criminally idiotic. And although I like this week’s New York Time piece—“Frazzled Moms Push Back Against Volunteering” they did not mention the REAL problem--the vast increase in number of these dim-witted celebrations. This craziness is what moms should REALLY be fighting against. Remember the day when we had class mothers and we had 3 or 4 holiday parties a year—the last two periods before the end of the day…and the bigger events happened in High School—why? Because the kids could plan the parties themselves in High School.

Although I feel terribly guilty about not helping with the Science Garden at the elementary school—I have no compunction telling the zealous mom organizing Beanie Baby bingo that “if I wanted my child to grow-up white trash I would save some money and move even FURTHER upstate.” Or the chubster mom who came up with the idea of Ice Cream Day—“Are you trying to kill our children—have you seen all these pudgy kids wandering the halls?!!”

I have refused to participate in any number of brainless follies…just on principle and I have never felt guilty. Even though the Times article mentions school events with titles that scream stupid like “Donuts for Dad Day” and “Movie Night” —not a word. The mindset of the moms needs to change to: “I do not want to volunteer for another mind numbing event AND I do NOT want my kid participating in yet another event which glorifies either overeating or getting more stuff.

We have to stop the madness. If someone comes up with a dumb event idea—just say NO.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Milk Crate Fairies



Sometimes if I wake up in the middle of night and if I listen closely I can hear The Beast in her sleep laughing or sometimes singing….often there is light-hearted chatter. The Beast’s innately cheerful character bleeds through to her sleeping soul and thus her vivid dreams are often filled with happy magical creatures and wondrous places.

The other night when I came home I walked into the tail end of the Beast’s re-telling a dream to The Husband…I wanted her to tell me too, but she said it was too long, but it was about Milk Crate Fairies. Then she turned and went to her room to write fan-fiction. I have been dying to know what the Milk Crate Fairies look like and what the dream was about, but the child does not do repeat performances.

Typical artist.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Woman Warrior


“I like this new Woman Warrior persona”—The Husband reports after he has dropped The Beast off at fencing practice.

I do too.

The Wonder Woman breast plate, the smart white jacket, the leather glove, fencing mask and the sword--our Beast has transformed into a Woman Warrior.

For what seems like decades…Mr. Attorney, my carpool buddy, insisted that team sports are especially important for girls. Yet, I could not, for the life of me, find a sport that suited the Beast.
Soccer was full of Peppermint Patty girls.
Softball was dull.
Lacrosse too hostile.
Field hockey was violent
Volleyball was full of girls who were head and shoulders taller than The Beast….

One day against Mr. Attorney’s insanity producing repeating sound track of “sports good for girls—bad mother for not getting her involved”…the scales fell from my eyes and I realized The Beast is just not a team sports person because the outfits are all wrong—she hates looking exactly like everyone else. She is independent! Turning to my tormenter—I told him to shut his ugly gob—he does not KNOW my child the way I do. And like the broken record player that he is…he warbled to a stop with a few minor protests.

Just to prove me wrong, however, The Beast during sixth grade became obsessed with Greek mythology. And suddenly…out of the blue…she wanted to do archery like Artemis. The best I could find in this god forsaken suburb was a fencing class and now the child is on the fencing team.

This is the perfect sport for The Beast because it is elegant and independent with a bunch of team mates backing you up. I love the strength and power this new sport gives her because we all want strong and independent daughters. Tough and autonomous with a team cheering you on.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Boys and Cars and Sex


Ms. Seize the Moment and I are in my vintage Subaru on the Westside Highway inching down to SoHo in city traffic. It is one of those perfect, fall NYC Sundays…clear and bright and just the right temperature for walking…unfortunately we were still in the car somewhere in 50s. As we waited for yet another red light—we talked and looked out at the blue, sparkling Hudson still filled with boats from the summer—slowly the sensual, thumping sound of urban music drifted into our open car windows and then the deep, eager, testosterone enriched voices of young men in a group. Looking in the rear view mirror I see a BMW full with young guys and they seem to looking in our direction—deducing the beat-up suburban station wagon with the two moms are not the target of their interest…I look around for a car filled with girls.

That was when I realized…

WE are the car filled with girls. In my backseat are three absolutely gorgeous girls--the other half of this mother-daughter outing. Two striking blonds and The Beast with her beautiful mane of black curly hair. I am not sure what they did. THEY are not sure what they did, but they definitely did something and got attention.

“Girls! you are too old to wave at other people in cars—they will get the wrong impression. And believe me—you do not want Ms. Seize the Moment to get out of the car on the Westside Highway and correct their impressions. It WILL be embarrassing”

The girls stopped what every they were “not doing” and we finally parked in the West Village and walked over to SOHO--the day was perfect…. full of unexpected beauty, wonderful food and the excitement of exploring new places...but there are other new places that I worry about.

It is a whole new social setting that the girls are entering into and I wonder how much we can prepare them for dealing with unwanted attention and attention that is wanted but may be more then they are ready for.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Tale of Two Houses

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and, oddly enough, it was the exact same time.

They have been talking about siblings on NPR and I was just thinking about my own two brothers and one sister and I always think about how different we all are...NOT so much in political views or economically or intellectually…but in our general outlook on life.

My brother and I grew up in a cheerful house where we would all hang out together in the first floor kitchen and dining room which was one big open space with a beautiful old brick floor and a huge fire place on the far wall. We would all be together at the big dining room table doing projects or making snacks or pondering over homework while my mother would either be smoking and drinking coffee with her friends or throwing together some barely edible meal—cooking was not one of her creative outlets. Neighbors—both adults and kids were constantly in and out of the kitchen. They would stop by for a cup of coffee and chat and to see what was going on.

My eldest brother and my sister grew up in place that was bleaker than a Dickensian orphanage . It is not that my brother and I were adopted by some kind couple and the other two siblings were left to the demise of our real troll parents, but rather it was just perspective—we lived in the same house with the same parents at the same time.

My sister and eldest brother saw our childhood as one long, painful trial that we just managed to squeak through with our bodies and sanity intact. The ancient house’s heat never worked on the upper floors—we were forced to be in on the first floor together near the fireplace. We had to make our own fun because we never had huge color TVs or vacations in Disneyland like other families. People cluttered the house…commenting and budding in with their opinions on everything that we did.

To my brother and me—our house was warm and cozy and full of life. To my sister and eldest brother—it was a place of non-stop annoyance…cold and drafty and crowded with people.

In my younger years when I lived in Manhattan I went to a therapist, like all true New Yorkers. My therapist explained that it is often the case that siblings grow up in the exact same house but with completely different experiences. “ It is purely personal perceptions.” she said—“Both realities are true.”

I worried when I was pregnant—what if our child did not like us and found our lifestyle depressingly dull? So far my fears have been unfounded. The Beast’s default setting seems to be bubbling over with happiness. She sings in the shower, giggles with her friends, chuckles over computer videos, chatters happily with the cats and acts out an endless stream of stories for us.

I am not sure if you can ever change a person’s default setting from a gray outlook on life into one that is in 1950’s Technicolor, but I am sure with the right combination of mood elevating drugs and regular exercise that perceptions can change.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Parent-Teacher Conference Confessions

She looks familiar. Then I realize—she is dressed like Mary Tyler Moore from the 1970’s Mary Tyler Moore Show…but she is, of course, older than the show’s main character. She is The Beast’s business teacher. Why my 13 year old child has a business class is beyond me and it just goes to show I should pay more attention to her education.

I am sitting there with this Mary Tyler Moore wanna be because I had officially “requested” a conference with the teacher who gave my daughter the lowest grade the child has ever received.

“I am surprised by my daughter’s grade”-- I tell Ms. 1970’s-Women’s-Business-Suit. “Could you please explain ‘typing technique’ and why The Beast, who is almost fused to the computer keyboard at home, scored so low?”

In a pinched voice the older woman explained that her “fingering” was all wrong.

I stare her down after finally locating her eyes behind her large, round, fly eye-like glasses and paint by numbers eye shadow.

I very quietly whisper, so the other parents who are waiting outside in the hall for their meetings do not hear me, “I expect her grade to go up to match her other grades or….I will challenge your grading methods….whatever they might be…

The large saucers of glass over her eyes flash in the light as they nod up and down with her head--this confirms my belief that her grading is, at best, random. “Oh…The Beast’s grades will definitely go up—I can tell she is catching on.”

“Wonderful” I tell the quick study teacher.

Another successful parent-teacher conference—sometimes you just need to state what you want.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hands-On-Parenting

I was at the Middle School a few nights ago for the Parent-Teacher Conferences because I lost the coin flip contest with The Husband.

It is always a surreal experience.

On my way out I see a mom I rarely get a chance to chat with. She was rushing out of the school door. I stop her. “I have not seen you in FOREVER!” I say “Where are you rushing off to?”

“ We have a French test tomorrow!” She tells me.

“WE?!”--I think…”Is this another one of those realistic nightmares where you are back in Middle School and you have a test that you have not studied for”…I am thinking…”but I took Latin in school…not French. This is REALLY not fair.” I guess the other mom sees the terror on my face. “Oh—The Beast did not tell you there is a French test tomorrow? Don't you help her study?”

And this is what sets me apart from good mothers.

“No” I admit to Ms. Super-Care-Mom “In fact--I do not take advantage of any of the on-line tools for hands-on-parenting that the school provides…such as checking to see if The Beast handed in homework or what tests are coming up. I simply ask her how her day was and if she has done her homework and that is basically the entirety of my parental involvement in school. That…and coming here to these horrible one-on-ones”

The other mother looks at me in shock and dismay.

Oddly enough—the child thrives without parental intervention.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lying about Facebook

“What do you look at on my Facebook page?” She asked. “You don’t spend a lot of time on it, but I can tell you visit because of the software I installed.”

My first thought was: “These annoyingly clever kids.” My second thought was—“Do I lie or tell the truth?” I lied. “Oh I just check for bad words….you know—THAT and other mom stuff.”

The truth is…I look at her friends sites, because—you know—my obsession with her friends. I especially look at the boys that are friended. I am see a smattering of boys from school, but a growing number from that Quaker Camp we sent her to in the middle of no-where Pennsylvania …Those damn Quakers with their sensitivity and non-violence…bound to attract young and impressionable girls.

These are boys who play Frisbee and go to charter schools in Philadelphia…and probably have video blogs…. These are the boys I worry about.

I will continue to look for mom-stuff on her Facebook page—I can only hope the software does not become smarter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The BFF Mom


The Beast often regales me with tales about the “Nice Moms”...the moms who let their kids do all sorts of things…like stay up late on school nights, eat junk food, hang out at the mall, fully fund their child’s every whim. I fall far short on the “Nice “ meter and I am, of course, suspicious of moms who are too high up on that niceness scale. On the opposite spectrum from my low placement…the most dangerous in my opinion… are the BFF moms—the Best Friends Forever moms. They turn motherhood into another popularity contest and there is really no winner.

There are a lot of BFF moms. It is easiest to spot them with their teen daughters buying clothes at The Mall. The mom is wearing an almost identical outfit to her daughter…looking like the sadly unpopular girl from high school who believes if she gets the right cloths, agrees with everything that popular girl says or demands—that she will win her love.

I was in The Mall with The Beast last winter buying, what I hope is, her first and last pair of new UGGS—it was there that we witness a teen daughter—dressed, in all intents and purposes, in pajamas…her beautiful, slim hip bones showing between her short, tight t-shirt and the elastic on her flannel pajama bottoms. I looked at the girl and thought—What would your mother say if she saw you out and about with that perfectly beautiful stomach exposed to the world?! But then I saw her—a tired woman, also sporting UGGS picking up the discarded shoes from her daughter’s shopping spree….she was encouraging the girl to make one more purchase of UGG boots because” they are so cute.”

I stared at the woman in amazement and daughter stared at the woman in disgusted…tossing get another box on their pile to buy. Neither of them looked happy. The BFF mom desperate to seek approval from her daughter, the daughter annoyed by her mom’s attempt to buy friendship.

The Beast is my favorite person. She is so like me and so like The Husband—what is not to love? Yet there are fights and challenges and constant pushing of boundaries. Sometimes with the delicacy of a well trained diplomat I am able to craft an agreement between the two us. But sometimes…sometimes I just have to be the mean, mean mommy. And to quote Ms. Leather-Pants—“I’m not your friend, I ‘m your mom. You don’t have to like me.” And believe me—there are times when she really doesn’t like me. But it is not the end of the world—she can’t drop me as a mother.

The role of BFF is best left to someone else. Too much pressure...not enough power.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Growing Older Gracefully

I am trying not to stare. I am attempting to subtly catch a glimpse of some anatomical feature of the person walking in front of me which would tip me off to the gender of the person…a waist, hips, some sensual backside curve. I, sadly, can find nothing. The person I am staring at turns out to be a middle aged woman with short hair (short for convenience, not for edgey fashion) in a boxy dark business suit—non-descript earrings and a scarf to denote sex.

Have you noticed the de-feminization of women in the United States as they get older?

I am not sure if it is a resent occurrence because I have only recently started obsessing about women slightly older than I am in an attempt to find a fashion role model. My mother, although not a beautiful woman, was always striking and she had a particular style that was all her own right up into her 70’s.

Now I see middle aged women in suits with no real shape, or in easy-fit mom-jeans. I think there is a certain giving oneself over to the ravages of time rather than embracing a new age. I, of course, blame the media and for women who take the bait--hook, line and sinker. It is not just that the media holds this bizarre ideal of teen beauty as a pinnacle for all women, but they place older women in oddly gender neutral positions…like automatons who take care of children or the house. We are the ones who care about the dirty carpet by the front door. We are the ones who obsess about dust and germs in the home. Or at work—we are the ones who are serious…we are the ones who get things done while the men talk.

Just like in adolescence—I feel with middle-age the need to redefine myself. No longer a young girl, no longer a care taker of a baby, no longer needed for childcare. I want to be more European in attitude. European women take time for themselves, they feel it is their right to feel beautiful at any age. I am guessing—but I think, at least, Parisian woman feel it is more important to shop for the perfect scarf than obsess about germs on their bidets.

I refuse to slip into the asexual role that the media has created for moms of a certain age. The Beast is grown-up and what she needs now is not a maid, not a chauffeur, not an ATM, but a role model. A positive role model of a woman who enjoys life, sex, and really a good meal with friends. I am off to find the perfect scarf.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Think Fast!


“Think Fast!” an adolescent boy’s voice calls out. I see it out of the corner of my eye a watermelon flying toward me. Without even thinking, like a skilled football receiver, I catch the huge green melon before it smashes into a million pieces on the ancient, unforgiving brick floor in our kitchen/dining room of my childhood home. The watermelon quarterback—my brother…is on the other side of the room. His belief—people do better when they spontaneously react to a situation…this includes ten year old girls catching ten pound watermelons.

He was notorious for this little trick—my mother who looked and sounded like a matriarch from Boston would catch cantaloupes and honeydews with her little proper black leather handbag swinging from her arm. “Oh for heaven’s sake Stephen!” She would chide in her New England accent—“Must I be bombarded by fruit the minute I walk in the door? Please stop playing with the food.”

Although we were annoyed by these surprise attacks—there was something also deeply satisfy about being able to test your reaction time and hand-eye coordination. People go out of their way now to push themselves…to test their skills—executive outward bound programs, training for and running the NYC Marathon. Perhaps all they need is a stealth boy tossing fruit at them. You have no time to doubt yourself when you have a watermelon headed your way. Think FAST!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Building the Fire



It is Bar/Bat Mitzvah high season for The Beast. Although born and raised an atheist—the child has embraced the Jewish culture—the singing, the dancing, the clapping, the high end catering, the swag….

It was a Bat Mitzvah that brought me, the ultimate non-religious person, to a temple this past Saturday.

I was watching the sailboats out on the river from this beautiful temple perch high on a hill in the Hudson Valley and suddenly in this quiet religious spot I looked down at the translation of what the child was reading in Hebrew. It was about building a fire…which is, of course, symbolic of so many things, but in the setting of the temple on a sunny, fall, Bat Mitzvah day—I could only think of one thing….raising a child.

In this wealthy suburb with houses packed full of goods and the children packed full of school and lessons and events—I thought about this prayer about how to build a fire. This prayer says that a strong fire is built by placing just as much care on the empty spaces as on the places where there is wood. It is about the space that is left between the wood that allows the fire to grow. Too much wood and the fire just smolders and never catches.

With our lives so full—is there room to build a fire? Is there room to grow or have we allowed the busyness of our lives to suffocate what we are actually trying to achieve? The child with so many activities, even if they are all good for her—does she have space to grow into what she want to become? Does she have time to decide what she wants to become? Thanks to religion I had some space in my day to think of The Beast and the need to put some space in our lives so the fire can grow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Poetry and the Meaning of True Love

“Why does anyone like poetry?” Asked my attorney car-pool buddy as we sped away from the sleepy suburbs early in the morning towards the always vibrant New York City.

“I like poetry because it reminds me of the deep, gut wrenching feelings of first love and that subtle primal longing for sex that is buried in our day to day thoughts…and, of course, all those other human emotions” I said and then added “But it could be just me.”

I saw Mr. Attorney's normally placid expression dissolved into, what I first thought, was horror, or perhaps…just disgust. “Why do you ask? Still upset about your son going off to graduate school in poetry? “

Mr. Attorney is THE dictionary definition of pragmatic, yet the deep love for his son overwhelmed his practical soul and he sent the boy, first, to an ivy league college where he studied creative writing, and then, across the country to a graduate program in POETRY. All this money for something Mr. Attorney doesn’t even understand or like.

“You know,” he said, “a parent just wants what is best for his child. I was never upset that he chose poetry, I just hope it is a choice that will make him happy. Or at least as happy as you are about poetry.”

Then I realized…his expression was not of horror or disgust, but of relief. His son is doing something of deep value to people, perhaps not Mr. Attorney’s cup of tea…or warm milk…but others will appreciate his son’s poetry.

It is odd how our children turn out to be our true love. All the gut wrenching love from our younger years pales in comparison to the passion, the longing and the hope that we have for our children. Our one hope that we made the right choices along the way and that our child turns into a happy, responsible and kind adult.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chalk it up to a "Teachable Moment"


“I said THE WORD.” She whispered into the phone. “ And he heard it.”

Apparently…It was a long drive home, everyone was tired and it just came out. Everyone heard THE WORD, everyone that is, but The Child. A hush fell over the car and, of course, the pre-teen boy wanted to know why everyone was so quiet. What word had mommy said?

Why one of the adults in the car, all with superior intelligence, could not make up another word to substitute for THE WORD is beyond me…helllllo…organism, octopus, octagon, organic…all possible and plausible substitutes because honestly…no one wants to have to explain to a little boy the concept of an orgasm since we all know it is too elusive an idea for the male mind to grasp…especially coming from a woman. But because it was a car full of egg-heads--the only thought was to elucidate, which is odd since my first reaction is often to lie to my child.

My friend was mortified and was not sure if she had warped the poor child. And I said…
“Pleasssse—Do what every other parent does—chalk it up to a “teachable moment.” “

It is important to remember that you and your child do not live in the 50’s TV sitcom of Leave it to Beaver. Things are just a little more complicated nowadays. Why someone’s father is lying happily on your lawn with an open magnum of wine tucked under one arm after another successful party… why there are so many Mermaids with hairy chests at the Coney Island Mermaid day parade…why there are those inflatable dolls in that store window when it is not even close to Halloween?

It is your choice—lie if you must, but my feeling is—if you have the time and you know this issue of inappropriate drunkenness, cross-dressing or deviant sexual behavior may come up again in your child’s life---this may be your ONE opportunity to express your opinion and help warp…I mean form your child’s mindset. Call it "early intervention." Because if they don’t have your voice in their head— that overly informed friend whom child likes to hang with will happily explain. (You know the friend, the one you WISH your child would stop playing with—the one with the older siblings or with a mother who treats her child like her BFF.)

So…here is your chance—“Drinking can be fun, but with so many opportunities to post photos on line—you should probably never have THAT much wine at someone else’s house because you might find photos of yourself looking silly on the web for all the world to see.” “Some boys like to dress-up like girls—they think it is fun and they do seem to be having a good time, look at how happy they are…Now mommy needs a beer, would you like a smoothie?" “Yes, yes…I am sure it is for Halloween—see how her mouth is opened in a scream?”

Okay, okay—I do lie. I will let that annoying know-it-all friend explain the use of blow-up dolls—I am not going there with my baby.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Power of the Boobs

“Have you told her?” Asked a woman I work with.
“Told her what?” I replied.
“ About her new power.” She said gesturing to her chest.
“Ohhhh…I think The Beast has an inkling. The guys at the corner coffee cart gave her a coffee, orange juice, bagel and donut for free this morning—I think she is beginning to suspect something is going on and I beginning to think that I should stop taking her to work on school holidays.”

My co-worker is right—girls need to be told about the power of the boobs. I feel there should be a handbook that goes along with the boobs--like a user’s guide. They could sell it at that teen bra store that I love—Aerie. Not a dreary book like, Our Bodies Ourselves, that tries to convince women that having an orgasm with a man is akin to seeing Loch Ness monster or discovering Camelot. But something fun like a younger girls version of Sex Tips for Girls by Cynthia Helmel…but without the Sex part…please….

Although there are countless joys to having boobs—how they look, how they feel, how wonderfully responsive men are to them…there is the flip side. The boobs attract jerks and pigs. With the power of the boobs comes a responsibility to clearly and firmly establish boundaries with boys.

Of course what scares a mother the most are the dangers of the predators, the scum bags and the generally jerky who will try to use any type of pressure—psychological or physical to get closer to their desire--all require an unequivocal—“I WILL call the police, I WILL file a crime report and I WILL ruin your life…if need be. “ Girls need to be given tools for self defense. I think I will write –“Boobs, the User’s Guide.” Look for it on Amazon at Christmas time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Character Building

Being stuck in a foreign country with no money, getting lost in a shady section of the city, having my bicycle run over just before a big bike trip, changing my apartment locks on a cheating boyfriend….all of these events are compartmentalized in my mind not as bad things per se, but as “character building events” in my life. Or at least that is the term my parents would use to refer to these unfortunate occurrences in my life.

Character Building…something that made me a stronger and better person…like exercise and vitamins.

My parents had the belief that rather than stepping in to rescue me from any discomfort or angst—it was their job to remind me that I had choices and the power to do something about the situation. Perhaps it was purely a New England parenting technique, not to be confused with neglect, although the only thing that differentiates it from parental negligence is ACTIVELY not stepping in…choosing to not step in. Announcing that, as parents, they believe “ you can think this problem through and overcome it without them”…and then they neglect you.

I was not always happy with this style of parenting, but there is nothing like being out of money in a foreign country with one more week until your return flight to really make you think and get creative. The more college kids I deal with at work, the more I realize that problem solving is a lost art among kids. I think perhaps it is just too easy to speed dial your mom and ask for help and the parents are more than willing to step-in to rescue their babies.

“My mom is not supporting my quote unquote LIFESTYLE and I am out of money” I heard The Beast, with disgust in her voice, tell a friend when she had to explain to why she could not meet them for lunch. I must be honest—I too have a hard time allowing The Beast to “struggle” when it would be so easy to step in, but how else will she learn that if she spends all her money on earrings from Claire’s that she will be out of luck later.

Mr. Attorney, my car pool buddy, is the exact opposite of my parents and me. Even with his kids well into their late twenties—he is still on the phone with them everyday reminding them to pay their credit card bills, telling them the best car to rent, offering help with all the little day to day activities of their lives. It makes me wonder what is being created by this culture of helicopter parenting that continues well beyond the playground.

Take a look at Free Range Kids for a teen's perspective on hovering parents.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Don't Like that Kid and I don't Like her Parents Either.

The party had evolved, or rather, devolved into the kids making-out on the patio and skinny-dipping in the pool. The parents, tucked away in their palatial kitchen-- lined with granite counter tops and high end stainless steel appliances… were apparently oblivious to the children’s activity—I hope. This was not a high school party—this was a 13 year olds’ birthday party.

You know I obsess about The Beast’s friends, but I am not sure if I mentioned it—I have an unhealthy fixation with the parents of her friends too. I know…for someone who refers to her child as The Beast, has questionable parenting practices of her own and relates her personal rag-tag upbringing on-line…one would think I should not talk…yet, chatter away I do.

Perhaps it is unfair to equate house size or level of luxury to parenting style, but just on anecdotal evidence I have noticed a decrease in control/engagement with the child the larger the house or the appliances. McMansions, Viking stoves, Architectural Digest kitchens, Audi in the driveway are all red flags to me. Red flags that suggest the parents are driven, busy and probably pleasing their children rather than parenting them.

When I think back on my own childhood—it was the rich kids in the new development houses that had THE parties. They had the basement rec rooms with the pot and alcohol. I think I witness more pot consumption in suburban basements during my high school years then in my entire college career—which is saying a lot. I can only imagine with these larger houses and busier parents this little pre-view of the Young Teens Gone Wild Pool Party is just the beginning of a long slide downhill into the high school years.

I am thinking boarding school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Orphans

“We are orphans now!” my oldest brother gravely announced the day my father died.

“You know…when I think orphan—I think of a hollow cheeked Oliver Twist or perhaps Jane Eyre starving at some horrible charity school with sadistic teachers.” I said…trying to unsuccessfully cheer him up. “ I don’t think about a bunch for middle age people with kids of their own qualify as “orphans” in the strictest sense. “

My eldest brother always had a dramatic flair…in a Shakespearian sort of way…NOT a Barbara Streisand/Judy Garland way…. The rest of us find this personality trait annoying, but my mother always reminded us—he keeps life interesting. Of course she was not the one being roused from a sound sleep to creep down three flights of stairs and out of the house to the local graveyard to “avenge the death” of our missing cat that was probably run over by a car. She was not the one charged with “securing” one part of the house since a mentally challenged person was reported missing from a half-way house and my brother insisted that he was no doubt a "criminally insane murderer" stalking our ramshackle home.

Of course, my parents both agreed that ONLY an insane person would willing stalk a house full of wild children, assorted smoking, chattering adults and too many animals to count.

Yet—my brother is right…this once. Even if it is only symbolic…there is certain feeling like the bottom has dropped out of your life when you realize that your parents are gone.

A friend’s 87 year old mother died a few weeks ago. She had lived a long and happy life and had just come back from Norway where she saw her childhood town, but my friend was so, so sad. Her pain bought back my own clear, sharp, longing after my mother died. It is as if some invisible mooring has been removed from your life and you are waiting…waiting for a line to be thrown to you, but you know it is not coming, yet you linger. Sometimes…just sometimes…a Shakespearean view of life is appropriate.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Social Moves

“Well…we moved to this little artsy-fartsy town to expand my son’s social horizons.” explained the mom to me when we were introduced at the cool hippie-dippy toy store in my town.

I am often amazed by the parental commitment so many moms have in this affluent suburb. This actually the third mom I have encounter who moved to Nyack because their kids wanted to live here. Barring burning crosses on our lawn or out and out violence—I would be hard pressed to move again unless it is to a beautiful Riverside Drive apartment with roof garden, views of the Hudson and working fireplace.
I would never consider moving because my daughter wanted to go to school with cooler kids. In fact—I think I mentioned we were stuck in the non-hippy-dippy, Red State school for the six LONG years of elementary school before being released into the middle school which has much more of the artsy-fartsy flavor of our little enclave of the super pseudo-liberals.

Still amazed by this act of selflessness on the part of the parents—I curiously asked…”Did you think of other options before moving? Like…
signing him up for a class in the Y or The Art Center that pulls kids from all over the county…or, I know it is daring, going into the city with him? Camp…camp is another good option—kids come from all over to go to camps in the middle of nowhere. “ Because frankly—that would be the most I would be willing to do for The Beast’s “social horizons”.

The mother stared at me in amazement. Apparently no one ever did this little problem solving exercise with her. “Camp” she murmured….”I loved camp. That is a good idea.” Hopefully this bit of Lazy Mom CafĂ© wisdom will help the mom to realize that no matter where you move your son—he is still the same person. Classes might help.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sexy is the New Pink


Have you noticed? This new sexiness the 13 year olds have? I see it all over Facebook…because I am THAT much of a masochist...yes, yes, yes...I ACTUALLY look. And my gut feeling is that a lot of mothers are not looking because it is just too disturbing to see. Thank you Steve Jobs and Apple for making it SO easy to take photos and post them on line...

Remember when they were little girls…
First there was pink—everything had to be pink. The sneakers, the backpack, the fleece. Then pink and glitter, then purple and glitter, then just purple….then rainbow…then rainbow and peace signs….The Beast made a quick foray into acid green, but …now…NOW…it is sexy. It is odd how you can tell a girl’s age just by looking at the colors they are sporting.

Today--everything is about cleavage or a thick, beautiful, mane of hair or highly mascara-ed eyes—or in my case all of the above. Of course I look at her friends pages too..because I am that type of Nazi mom—pouty lips, glossy hair cascading down perfect faces… One can only sigh with resignation.

I am hoping this experimentation with sexy will go the way of the Barbie pink and the glittery purple to more subtle explorations of adulthood. I am trying to remember when sexy became something that I watched out in my dress style rather than actively seeked out. I think it might have been after spending more time in the city…I think it will take some time…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coffee



She was hiding. Sitting on the rock on the beach outside our little cottage. We thought it was a game—“where is mum?” “I found her!” some little voice would call out and my mother with laugh. She was sitting there early in the morning on her rock or the steps down to the beach with her cigarette and coffee.

The desire to sit and think quietly at the beginning of the day is everyone’s desire—I think. I too have a morning ritual which only involves coffee, although I understand and appreciate the joy of smoking. Coffee for us is the one sacred thing that binds us together as a family.

One brother makes pots and pots of espresso with an Italian stove top espresso pot with lots of hot milk.
The other brother must use a “coffee maker” nothing fancy, but it must be plugged in. It must require a paper filter.
My sister, always the gourmet, must have something special—a coffee grinder AND electric drip coffee maker in one.
I…I am closer to my mother. I fill a tea kettle (nothing fancy) with water and go take a shower. When I return I poor the boiling water into my no-name, insulated, French coffee press. I put the top on to let the caffeine and flavor seep into the water. I put my coffee mug on the burner I had just used to heat the water. I put a big spoonful of sugar in the cup. I wait…perhaps I wash dishes, perhaps I put contact lens in…but soon—the coffee is ready and I press the plunger down. In my warm cup, I pour the beautiful dark coffee and leave a lot of room for whole, organic milk. If the weather permits--I go outside and let the little hens wander around the grass as I watch the day begin

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Good Mother Lets Go


I can feel the world pulling… tugging at my child’s arm…testing my strength as I hold on to her… and I think of Brecht’s play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

I have been thinking about that play because of my changing relationship with The Beast. I am sure you know the story—it is originally from the Bible--two women claim to be the mother of a child and the judge tells both women-- whoever can pull the child from the chalk circle can have the child. As the two women pull at the child the good mother realizing the child is in pain—she lets go. She gives up her child to save him.

It is so hard for me to let go of The Beast. She has demanded, for so long, constant attention. From the time she was born she wanted to be carried and shown everything as she grew-up she wanted to explain to me her drawings and tell me stories…but I see the larger world is pulling her. Tugging at her desire for excitement and adventure.

And I know…I know a good mother lets go—but I think it is very fine line between when to hold on and when to let go...and I am not sure where that line is. Yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Competition



I try to avoid it. Competition that is…but sometimes…just sometimes…I get a tinge of cut-throat, I will pull your veins from your neck with my teeth competitive feel.

I blame my parents, of course. Although artists, they were also athletes and they were from Boston, where—if you have never lived there—is a WHOLE different mind-set. Don’t let the goofy regional accent throw you off—those people are competitive—think The Kennedys…they were not an anomaly. From pick-up basketball t to badminton to tree climbing and grades….and OMG games—Monopoly, RISK, Parcheesi…Sun Tzu had nothing left to teach us after our childhood.

“Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance”

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

I still remember a game of Trivial Pursuit with a boyfriend’s family. The father, on the other team, was not sure of an answer. I gave him a hint, a misleading hint...about a question on Shakespeare. With his new found confidence from my hint—he announce his answer and with utter disbelief—his face fell and he said to me—that was NOT a good hint. I reminded him—I am NOT on your team, what did you expect?

I married a man who is also competitive I OFTEN have to remind him--Hellllo, WE are on the same team.

The Beast is good and generally kind, but she too has the competitive gene. Games are the addiction. We don’t play them often, but when we do friendships and feelings are at risk. Beware.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Listening

“She is talking about Poe and Poe’s influence on the modern literature and I know I should be listening…I mean REALLY listening rather than just pretending—but I am not…I am making dinner and thinking about whether I need to do a load of laundry.” Ms. Churchlady confessed to me years ago. I did not understand her quandary, or guilt, then. It was not until I had The Beast did I realize the amount of listening it takes to be a parent.

The Beast, like Ms. Churchlady’s daughter, is a born storyteller….so you can imagine the quantity of listening that we do. From the time she could talk she had stories. One of her first longer “works” started with a baby blanket wrapped around her head and shoulders like a shawl. The three year old Beast informed us that she was a little girl from a far away village where the whole village had only a large block of cheese to eat…they had to eat with their hands they were so poor. She did look like a little girl from some post Soviet eastern-bloc country. They were very hungry she continued….and they were very tired of eating cheese in their little village so she was sent out to find food.

Her story was SO long, involved and dramatic that we got the video camera out to film and after about twenty minutes we began to worry that perhaps instead of getting out the camera we should get out the phone and start calling up a.) a psychiatrist b.) an exorcist or c.) psychic who specializes in former lives. Her stories have continued and we continue to listen..some are made up stories, others are about her life outside our realm—both tend to be somewhat scary and totally engrossing.

I was talking to my brother the other day who was wondering why I was so lame and only taking one night course a semester to finish my masters degree. The Beast was grown-up enough to be left alone for longer periods of time he argued.

I explained that I feel my job is to listen…to listen and just be there for The Beast. There seems to be huge push for people to rush through life and get a lot of stuff done, rather then enjoying what we have. When I am not there to listen to The Beast—I feel Mrs. Churchlady’s guilt. I want to see and hear the changes The Beast is going through—she is my creation and I love to see her evolve and grow. I watch and listen to her with a mix of spine tingling terror and deep joy. I am totally engrossed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mum

The police sirens were the first hint that our practical joke may have been played on the wrong person.

“Do you know about April Fool’s Day? It is an important holiday.” said my mother earlier in the day.

At four, I had not yet experienced April Fool’s Day, but our family was one for practical jokes on any day of the year. Plastic bugs tucked into sandwiches, tiny holes punched into paper cups, teeth blackening gum…. Apparently this holiday opened it up to people not living in our house. I was excited…my mother was more so. The older kids were at school so we were alone filling up three boxes each with a few bricks and a note that read: “Ha, Ha, Ha—April Fool’s On You!” We wrapped the boxes , addressed them to our closest neighbors and deposited them quietly on their front doors.

Although we had received a cheerful phone call from one recipient of our prank and a personal thanks with a plate of homemade cookies for another practical joke target…the third victim obviously had not checked her calendar and had forgotten that she lived next to that crazy family who, apparently, had too much time on their hands. Mrs. CIA Plot was that neighbor and her obsessions ranged from cheating politicians to government plots and, of course, terrorists ….the weatherman underground type—not the foreign type. It was, after all, the 60’s

My mother and I wandered next door to explain to the policeman that the box was not a bomb as Mrs. CIA PLOT had suspected, but a friendly April Fool’s Day prank. The policeman was amused, but not Mrs. CIA Plot. She insisted that it could have very well been a bomb.

“For heaven sakes Mrs. CIA Plot” my mother chided “who would want to blow-up a suburban home in a sleepy little town? Someone who does not like historical houses?”

Mrs. CIA Plot’s eyes widened “Exactly—someone who is anti-American—trying to blow-up our colonial houses” she said now with renewed enthusiasm since her hysteria now seemed almost plausible.

“Come on Mrs. CIA Plot, let’s have a cup of coffee and a homemade cookie. We can think of practical jokes to play on the children when they get home.” Said mum. And we did.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Have Seen the Enemy and it is

My Sister.

There they are…like two peas in a pod looking through a rack of trashy little teen tops at Marshall’s—our favorite store. I forget, my sister who is now a high-powered administrator at a famous university, was at one time, a parent-heart-attack-inducing, teen. I remember her storming out of the house in her velvet hot-pants and matching velvet kitty ears as a young teen to go to a friend’s Halloween party. My parents trying to talk reason to her and explain to her the ways of the world—but she did not listen. She was beautiful and sexy and she was going to that party in that dangerous black cat costume. Smart, beautiful and rebellious—everything a parent wants and dreads. She was, of course, my elder sister and my hero.

There she was…talking to my daughter…lingering over little tank tops…talking about styling and cut and the fabric. A shiver ran down my spine…I must remember--there will be no consultation with The Aunt about Halloween costumes THIS YEAR—not anymore. I know her and she is still my smart, beautiful and rebellious sister—leading my daughter towards all the fun and she is loving it. They are both loving it.

I think it is time to fight fire with fire—one more fashion intervention with my daughter…I am going to start sending motorcycle magazines to her son… or…perhaps skydiving…. He is young…but I already see “risk-taker, dare-devil” written all over him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Facebook or Not to Facebook

There she is…large eyes, looking up at the camera, something not quite sensual... but very, very close. On the verge. I feel all the girls are on the verge, but I am afraid to think of what that threshold is…

The Beast has been dying to get on Facebook for the last few years, but we have avoided the request by saying she is too young, but now the child is 13 and 13 was the magical number. Unlike our promise to take her to church when she turned 10…THIS promise she did not forget.

I, like every other mother, made my own account first and looked up all The Beast’s friends. And let me tell—these little girls are eager to look older. Older and sexy. The hair on the back of my neck is still standing up. And I would like to mention to other moms—Hello—check your daughters’ security settings—because I can see EVERYTHING and I am NOT a friend…one can only imagine who else is lurking and viewing the girls…our beautiful girls who want so desperately to grow-up.

I used to have nightmares about losing the Beast when she was a baby, a toddler in a store or on a crowded street….now I have the same sort of dream as I watch her slip into maturity and away from me.

I hold my breath. She is leaping into adulthood and I hold my breath for both of us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Other Mother's Voice in My Head

My mother’s high spirited voice is always in my head… “Rules are made to be broken!” / “Let’s do it.” / “Who would know?”/ “Why not?” That is my mother’s voice. But there is another voice that surfaces from the history of my life in times when a high spirited voice does not suit the situation.

Out of the blue...a voice with a British accent whispers in my conscious—clipped, hard and full of clear directives. This happens whenever I am feeling too self-indulgent or too lazy or too fearful—I hear Ms. Filmmaker’s mom. It is her voice that pulls me out of the morass of indecision, of languid contemplation, of paralyzing apprehension.

Ms. Filmmaker’s mom is a woman who survived WWII in England as a child and told us all her horror stories—no candy, no gym suits (they had to wear just their underwear in gym) no fruit, jelly with fake wood seeds to mimic raspberry jelly. She decided not to get married, but instead travel to India to work as a physical therapist for the poor where she actually massaged amputees’ stumps.

Ms. Filmmaker and I were mesmerized by these horror stories of a childhood during wartime and of the exotic and repulsive acts of bravery in India. She was a formidable mother. For the first few years of my friendship with Ms. Filmmaker—I was terrified by her mom. It was not until 3rd or 4th grade did I realize she was not mean, just English.

And like all English—She was a good time and adaptable to any situation. We were hiking through the woods one day with Ms. Filmmaker’s mom when we were about 10 years old--we came across a young couple copulating right in the middle of the trail. Ms. Filmmaker and I stood, like statues, with our mouths wide open taking in the event until her mother said, like a British general,—“come along girls—let’s take a LESS scenic route” and promptly cut a wide trail around the amorous couple.

The woman would bluntly answer any question regardless of topic—hence Ms. Filmmaker and I were able to find out in clear illuminating detail …first how babies were made and, later… in our early teen years, how babies were prevented. Oblivious to potential psychological damage she might be inflicting even questions that were not really meant to be answered honestly were…“Of course you two are fat—you eat like horses and act like sloths. Stop reading those stupid teen magazines and get outside” said the English mom

I can hear both voices of both moms become my own voice with my daughter.

My daughter too will have many mom voices to hear as she grows up—Ms. Filmmaker, Ms. Churchlady, Ms PR… and I hope the chorus of voices full of high-spirits, thoughtfulness and spin will follow her and help her on her way through life.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Art of Not Volunteering

I saw her standing there…a smile plastered on her face, her lips barely opening to contain her seething rage—she was trying to communicate to a volunteer mom who does not work outside the home. “Just an e-mail message sent to ALL the parents would be huge help especially to us with very tight schedules.” she was kindly trying explain to the woman, but only getting a blank stare in return.

I was that woman last year. But this year—it was Ms. Churchlady, my favorite Super Mom. History repeating itself.

I still find it hard to stop myself. I see waste, the lack of organization, the petty squabbling and my desire to step in with an excel spreadsheet and a few merged e-mail messages is overwhelming. I can taste the success of a concisely worded, witty e-mail to mothers who want to help, but no one has given them instruction.

When you reach this point—at this exact moment—you must step away. Take a deep breath and cleanse your body of the urge to volunteer out of sheer frustration.

Do not take on one more job because you can do it better. Of course you can do it better—that is why you are making the big bucks. But keep in mind—you can’t do everything and it is not even wise—this event will come and go and no one will remember or care about the lame coordination leading up to it.

Standing in the auditorium lobby of the school during the spring play intermission I spied Ms. Churchlady. Still shell-shocked she was mumbling her mantra—“a form for everyone’s e-mail address, one big list of addresses, a few e-mail notes—that is all it would take. I can do it easily… “ I walked her back to our seats. One more performance—then we are free and clear until next year. I will talk to her later—try to get her to see the light in the Art of NOT Volunteering.

Big Cleansing Breath Everyone

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fourteen

I woke up suddenly and early, very early for a Saturday and the thought that shook my mind awake was: The Beast will be 14 next year!

I was 14 when I had my first boyfriend. And even though I was a late bloomer—I am praying that The Beast will be an even later bloomer.

Actually I still am a late bloomer…slow to get a boyfriend, reluctant to finish college, vague in my career, unhurried to get married, late having a child, but suddenly everything is going fast. I hear that as we get older we do the same things over and over again so one day blends into the next and one year melds with the next and thus time seems to go fast when in fact—we are just doing the same things over and over again so our life stretches into one long continuously playing loop—until you are jolted awake by a revelation.

I clearly remember the excitement of 14—which, mind you, had nothing to do with the incredibly self-centered boyfriend I had. It was the year that my friends and I went off on a two week bike trip around Cape Cod, on our own, with no adult supervision. We got lost, we fought, we turned a dark shade of tan, lived in youth hostels, and we had best time ever. Ms. Filmmaker still goes back on occasion to that youth hostel on the dunes of Truro because it was such a beautiful place.

Things are different now—kids seem to grow up more quickly in many ways, but in other ways they live in a bubble of parent/school protection. The thought of sending The Beast off to Cape Cod with just a bicycle, some cash and a few traveler checks would not cross my mind—yet we were able to convince three sets of parents that everything would be just fine. And it was.

I am hoping that The Beast is a late bloomer too. She is too beautiful, too soulful, too thoughtful to rush into the complexities of boyfriends. If she rushes anywhere, I hope it is towards her own adventures and passions with her friends.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting to NO

We have just hit the teen years and like every other developmental stage in The Beast’s life—we are woefully unprepared.
The husband and I are almost always on the same page as far as parenting which consists of: Let the little nipper run wild.

But there are times when even we have to say no, but we both have different techniques…well…let me put it this way—I have a technique and the husband just says NO.

I want the child to get to NO on her own. I want her to think through the process as to why something is not a good idea and realize on her own (with constant suggestions from me) why walking bare foot into town is not a good idea…why being dropped off in the city for the day is not a good idea without a friend…why wearing certain outfits to school could be problematic… I want her to develop her own judgment. Or, at the very least, have my voice echo in her head when I am not around.

Although getting to NO is difficult in these new teen years—I find it somewhat similar to the toddler years. The first NO to something is always the hardest. In the toddler years—crying, begging, heart wrenching pleading. Now with the teen there are accusations about being out of touch with today’s culture and basic lameness on the part of the parents etc. But the next NO is often much more of a negotiation and more convivial—the Beast will say, before I even open my mouth, “Please, spare me the lecture—I am only wearing these shorts outside in the backyard.”

Slowly we get to NO or some close approximation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

5 Essential Party Planning Tips


It is that time of year—The Beast’s birthday MONTH…because in this family we celebrate the ENTIRE month.

Now that the child is older I was hoping to get away from the big home parties, but the child hates to leave friends out—so once again we had a house full of screaming, giggling girls and one husband constantly saying: “SHHHHH.” It is a sad battle, but one that seems inevitable.

As a public service to newer mothers I have compiled some essential tips for a perfect home party—just follow these simple rules:

1. Pick a Theme
o A theme will help you and YOUR child focus. (Sweetheart, put down that troll, we can do a troll party next year, this year is your Beautiful Butterfly Birthday party...don’t you want to wear those beautiful butterflies wings we just bought you?) The child re-focuses and you are saved countless dollars.
o Once you have a theme—there is no need to go to one of those expensive party stores. Dollar stores, Target clearance shelves, on-line cheap-o-party stuff...spend enough to get free shipping and use any money left over for alcohol for parents.

2. Invite with Care
o Nothing ruins a party faster than a brat. Generally by age three the brats and their oblivious parents have been clearly identified via various nursery school functions or other peoples parties.
o I have never been a supporter of inviting the whole class or all the girls or all the boys.
o We all know there are some kids who are better at parties than others. You may love little Betsy who reads constantly and you should invite her, but remember to invite the fun, high energy kids...you know who they are and you should invite at least two. And the bonus is that their parents tend to be fun too.

3. Do NOT Try to be Too Creative
o Now is NOT the time to be Martha Stewart. The kids will not appreciate it and the other parents will just hate you for it. It is a lose-lose situation.
 Buy a cake—do not make cute themed cupcakes.
 Buy cheap decorations—do not paint murals on Kraft paper and hang them up...you will just embarrass your child.

4. Have Grown-up Refreshments
o Nothing is more appreciated by parents at a party full of wild, screaming kids than a beer or a glass of wine.
o Cheeze Doodles are fine for children, but spring for some cheese and crackers for the adults or something to go with the beer.

5. Buy Decorations that will Double as Prizes or Giveaways at the End of the Party
o Let’s be honest, by the end of the party you will never want to see another butterfly, dinosaur, monkey etc. Give those inflatable dinosaurs, absurdly large flowers, and coconut shaped cups away—I promise you. You will never use them again.

This year’s theme—A Literary Masquerade Ball where all the girls came as their favorite fictional character. We had Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, Olivia the Pig, Eloise at the Plaza, PipPi Longstocking, Tom Sawyer, two T.S. Elliott Cats, Ralph from UP, several characters from present day novels, King Tut and the Beast was Artemis , goddess of the hunt and protector of maidens. Way to Go Artemis!

A good time was had by all. No brats, no fights, just happy children and happy wine drinking adults.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Red Wine--Dieter's Delight!


Drinking does not just improve parenting…but apparently it also helps to keep the weight off. In the New York Times Blog, Well, the post on “Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight” by Tara Parker-Pope finally gives women the green light to drink some red wine with dinner…not that I ever felt the need for a green light in order to drink... But for anyone who was waiting--the time has come to get out the corkscrew.

“The link between consumption of red wine and less weight gain was particularly pronounced in the Archives study. Some studies have suggested that resveratrol, a compound present in grapes and red wine, appears to inhibit the development of fat cells and to have other antiobesity properties.”

Those French women are right again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Condoms


The strip of condoms swung into my line of vision .” What are these?” asked the annoyingly curious Beast as she proudly waved the prize she found in the detritus that had fallen from by bag.

I had not thought of condoms in…say 10 years…until a bunch of them were shoved into my hand as I walked by the Columbia University main gate on the Upper Westside.

Often people are at the Broadway gate handing out free samples…mints, gum, soda, coconut water…whatever the marketers are interested in testing with college kids. So when a tiny, wrinkled, Asian woman in an apron with large pockets handed me a wade of some individually wrapped circular shaped objects it took me a while to realize these where not mints, but the new NYC condoms…curtsey of NYC….thank you Mayor Bloomberg.

Not knowing what to do with them—I tucked them in my bag for later disposal. I few days later at home while I emptied my bag the snake of brightly colored condoms fell out. The Beast was intrigued. I tried to be nonchalant—“oh…that is something they were handing out…free samples.” I said—hoping that would end the conversation.

But the Beast persisted. “ It is sort of big for a mint and it feels funny…squishy.” I always remember Ms. SexEdLady’s mantra—“capture the teachable moments when they happen.” Taking a deep breath, I elucidated as quickly as I could the purpose of the squishy sample.

The Beast, still intrigued, would not let the free sample go…so with further explanation AND a demo with a banana—I felt I gave a rather comprehensive overview of the purpose and use and even history of condoms followed by a warning not to touch boys because even condoms will not protect you from cooties . The Beast was completely and utterly disgusted…thankfully.

In case you ever doubted, I am here to tell you— it is true what the experts say—Children DO listen to their parents. Perhaps it was a year later while walking along the Hudson River with one of The Beast’s friends, the girls discovered an unwrapped, probably used, condom lying just off the path. The friend was curious and wanted to investigate further, but the Beast knew exactly what it was…”Oh that is like a rubber glove for a penis.” Horror tinged with nausea crept over the friend’s face as she dropped the stick she was planning to use for a closer inspection. Another successful sex ed intervention and I did not have to say a word.

Thank you Ms. SexExLady!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Teen Bra Heaven--Aerie


This is a public service announcement for all moms with tween/teen daughters.

We all know the initial excitement of getting the first bra soon fades…especially when Target’s girls section is no longer an option--things become a little more complicated. And what shopping experience can be worse than being the mother of a tween/teen looking for a bra—let me tell you…not too many.

After a quick look at Lord and Taylors where their bra selection seemed limited to push-ups and dowager LARGE cups styles, we tried H & M—too sexy, Victoria Secret’s…no way. I was just about call it quits at the mall and take The Beast into the Town Shop on the Upper Westside—until we came across Aerie—the prefect mix between J Crew and Victoria Secret’s—a sort of clean-cut sexy—if that is possible.

A fresh faced girl in jeans and t-shirt showed us the their system. They have drawers of bras categorized by chest and cup size —so you can try on every style they carry in your size in one sitting. There is a little call button in the dressing room so you can call for assistance without getting dressed and tracking down the sales person and all the bra styles are named with girl names. Once you find the style you like—you just go to that rack, pick your size and your favorite colors. It is brilliant and simple.

Three bras and $75 later--happy daughter and relived mother.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In


The winner is…(Drum roll):
Ms. HR and Ms. Smarty-Pants Scientist
They tied—both reduced their BMI by 1.5.
CONGRATULATIONS! A really, really cool prize is on its way to you…as soon as I figure out what it is…

And perhaps they are thinking it is just sour grapes on our part, but the rest of us…me and my one pound/.2 BMI reduction and the others from the Sloth Club feel that we need a different method—so the new diet challenge beginning TODAY is percentage body weight. Send your weight to me at lazymomcafe@gmail.com. The competition will end June 10th giving us 4 months to recreate that perfect body.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

FItness Friday/Saturday--Last Day

I am SO sleepy. This cold weather has just slowed me down completely. That and my new found passion for baking bread (How crunchy is THAT?). Anyhoo…YAWN…the first phase of the competition ends tomorrow.

Since I do not have a scale I had to run to Ms. PR house this afternoon to do a quick weigh-in and to my surprise…I had not gain weight as I suspected. I actually lost A POUND! Okay, okay—granted it was 13 pounds short of what my goal was…but I am not giving up. In fact--Ms. Seize the Moment, Ms. HR, Ms. Proud Procrastinator and I are continuing on in our quest for the perfect body. However, this time we are doing percentage of weight lost rather than BMI or poundage.

So the final day is Sunday for the Phase I competition…so please send your final BMI number (in strictest confidence) to lazymomcafe@gmail.com and I will crown the winner tomorrow.

Not to scare anyone off—but Ms. HR came back with her new BMI and she has dropped 1.5 BMI numbers. I, on the other hand, have dropped .2 BMI.

If you want to join phase II of the Iron Mom competition—please e-mail your weight (again in strictest confidence ) to lazymomcafe@gmail.com .

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fitness Friday--1 Week to Go!

Okay, Okay…My wallowing has stopped. I believe my present sluggishness is actually a hibernation gene that is still linger in my modern body from pre-caveman days…the days when giant sloths roamed the land—as soon as the temperature drops below freezing outside the only activities I can do are read, eat and, in the evening, drink red wine. Even watching “films” requires too much emotional investment. I have re-ordered my Netflix queue to send me only comedies. The foreign documentaries on personal struggles have to wait.

Ms. Seize-the-Moment and I have decided to extend our competition since we are obviously LOSERS…or rather—we are NOT losers, but lazy and slovenly. But I must be honest—lazy and slovenly has a certain appeal which Puritanical Americans refuse to recognize. It saves money—no need to run to the gym and use gas and spend money, no need to clean your house—lying on the couch and reading doesn’t make a mess. It is really a “green” way of living.

We, of course, will have our final Winter Weigh-In on 1/31 and the victor will be crowned. I am not sure who to place my bets on. Ms. HR is using a diet which I can tell is working by just looking at her. And Ms. Proud Procrastinator, for all her talk about not doing anything, seems to do a lot. The chic certainly does not procrastinate with exercise. I tried, and failed, to sabotage Ms. Smart-Pants-Scientist last night at the Mother-Daughter book club by suggesting the garlic knots and pizza, but the woman has control.

So…for anyone who feels they could lose more weight—June is our next goal and we REALLY mean it. Let me know if you want to join-in. We are accepting applications for a limited time only. I am definitely losing fourteen to twenty pounds!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fitness Friday--2 Weeks to Go!

Is everyone back on track with eating right and exercising? Good for YOU!

I am still wallowing in self-loathing. Of course, I blame Ms. Seize the Moment for feeding me a meal with enough calories to nourish a small nation for a day. Those foodies—they are very tricky with their claims: “ Olive oil is good for your, dark chocolate—it is almost health food….” 10,000 calories later I am lying on my couch in a comatose state of caloric overload. Thank you Ms. Seize the Moment. That woman will do anything to win the competition.

The trick…apparently…is not to give up…at least that is what my self-help books tell me.

In times like this I think of Ms. Filmmaker’s English mother who never pulled her punches about “disgustingly fat people.” Oh…the ever sensitive English, of course, it is far more difficult to turn down a piece of lasagna oozing with fresh, melted mozzarella than a piece of toast with the tar-like Marmite spread on it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Niche Mothering

I KNOW there are mothers who are better than I am…at…say…volunteering at the school, pushing their child towards academic excellence, getting camp forms in on time, knowing the school holidays… I know because there are Ubermoms all around me in this upscale suburban town that I call home.

However, as much as these Ubermoms try to make me feel insecure—I KNOW that I excel at other, more important, aspects of motherhood. I consider myself a niche mom. My focus is the cultural stuff….Family Art Projects at the MoMA—we are there. Modern dance at City Center—present. Experiencing fondue at a French restaurant on the Eastside—an absolute must for little girls. Carnegie Hall kids--a prefect day. Experimental theater—kids love it. ( Nothing like strobe lights and scantily clad dancers swimming above you in a see-thru Plexiglas swimming pool to get the kids revved up about theater.) Europe over Disney for a family holiday—Venice is SO much more enchanting than the Magic Kingdom plus the wine is better too.

The next time you find yourself accidentally in the middle of an Ubermom competition—who worked the hardest volunteering at the school, whose child won some major award for ending world hunger, who has just placed their child in the most exclusive, most expensive camp on the East Coast—screw them. Focus on your niche mothering. You are not here to be the CEO of your kid’s life. You are here to enjoy your life with your kid.

See you at the museum!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fitness Friday--A Day Late


I must confess--I actually GAINED a pound since the last time we spoke. But I am back on track…now that I finished my final holiday bon-bon….
I also read a few articles in the New York Times about weight loss and one article pointed out that slower heart rate exercises are better for burning fat than intense exercise that is better at burning carbs . So if you want to sprint off that pizza you just ate—fine. However, if you are trying to lose the saddle bags on your thighs—a long, long walk is more effective.
Anyone up for a long, long, walk in this cold, cold weather? Not me. But soon.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Power of Imagination

The husband is creative. His imagination runs wild and fast. A lot of his creative work is unknown outside the immediate family. And I am sure that there is work that he has done just for himself that even WE don’t know about. Like my daughter’s little homes for fairies—I often stumble upon an artwork that my husband has randomly created for fun like the fire breathing man fireplace he made for the patio, but on a smaller scale.

Although I always knew he was creative, his true brilliance was not tested until we were stuck at a highway McDonald’s in the dead of winter with a tired, cranky four year old waiting for a tow truck and nothing packed for distracting The Beast since we had planned only a short trip.

The Husband started by dipping the ends of two stray French fries into a pool of red catsup and strutting them across the table singing “we are off to see the wizard.” Followed by my daughter stacking the little half and half containers to create the tin man. The Big Mac container became the “Great and Powerful Oz”

The husband and the daughter put on the entire “show” of the Wizard of Oz using only the remains of a happy meals as the cast and set-- 20 minutes later the production was over, the car was on a tow truck and we were headed home. Unfortunately the cast and set had to be tossed in the trash on the way out the door, but the memories stay with us forever.