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.