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


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.