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.