Saturday, January 29, 2011

Designer Children

JGH over at Nyack Backyard wrote a piece recently on the new documentary, Race to Nowhere, and it got me thinking about the driven moms in our little town who feel the need to design their off-spring’s future…map it out and drag them along the path to success.

When I first met Ms. Super Care Mom she told me how to DO IT. “What I have is a file…it is really very simple. Every time Princess Perfect volunteers, is mentioned in the newspaper, joins a club, gets an award or performs in a play—I put it in the file and the whole file is handed into the guidance counselor at the end of the year to become part of her school dossier.

“That is amazing.” I said to the beaming mother. But I was thinking “Amazing the guidance counselor has not gone off the deep end dealing with these parents—she probably either has the patience of Job or is just circular filing this C.V. of teenage brilliance.

Ms. Super Care Mom knows all the tricks to push and pull your kid to the top of the heap and they are all based on good child psychology and strong-arming the school system administrators and teachers. It works and you can do it too, but do you want your child on the top of that heap?

The Man and I were raised in oddly similar laissez faire homes-- packed full of kids with parents who were more artistic than focused. We were fed, clothed and loved and then set loose on the world. There was not a lot of individual attention to FORMAL achievements, but rather constant encouragement to try new things…break rules... be independent.

The Beast and her close friends are, for the most part, unfettered by the chains of an over-scheduled life. Yet, they are busy. They make their own busy—they plan, they build, they create. Our mantra to The Beast has always been— “Try it, you may like it….broaden your horizons” And she does.

God help us when it comes time to do college essays—I am sure the child will decide to film some social media driven event or create street art in response to unseen poverty or whatever passion she is into at the moment rather than write the standard college brag essay.

But that is her and this is a new world.

We are no longer in the 1950’s—what is success today, will be not be tomorrow. As parents, we don’t know where our children's successes will lie, so we cannot give them detail directions how to get there. We can only give them the skills to navigate to find their way—to invent their own future and success.

To quote my favorite educator, Jean Piaget: "Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society . . . but for me and no one else, education means making creators. . . . You have to make inventors, innovators—not conformists"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Beast Blogs

I knew it was just a matter of time. The Beast has created her own teen daughter blog in response to my mom blog. So if you want the other side of the story check out Thoughts From a Wild Thing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting to Know You...Getting to Know ALL About You....

The Beast, like her father, is social…very social. With every new school year I am thrown into a group of New Moms because of the child’s ever expanding social connections. Some moms I click with and others not so much. Some I think I would like, but then some horrible character flaw is revealed—like they don’t drink or are republicans.

“I just picked up a bottle of wine—would you like a glass?” Said the New Mom to me.

So far, so good—always wise to offer to another mom, regardless of event (this happened to be an evening birthday party pick-up) a glass of wine. Then she called out over her shoulder as she was getting the glasses “ I hate keeping wine in the house. I think it is dangerous.”

And I thought—“Freak! Guns are dangerous to have in the house—wine is a good thing.” Obviously this New Mom is taking the D.A.R.E. program to the Extremes.

But instead of being thoughtful and inquiring about AA issues in the home…I said: “That’s odd. I hate if we have less than the case of red wine in the cellar—just on the off chance there is another 9/11 event—we want to be prepared…wine is key, that and the 40 bags of Starbucks coffee.”

She stared at me as though to say—“You know--you are letting the terrorists win.” But instead…she just smiled.

The chic still drinks and has the social wherewithal to offer me wine—she has potential. Unlike the non-drinking, pseudo tea-party types who live in the McMansions down the street.

The Man tells me if I were more open-minded and less snarky—I would probably have more friends. I remind him—I would no longer be the woman he fell in love with: A bitter and sarcastic New Yorker.

I will let The Beast and The Man grow our social sphere.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Erotic Capital

We pulled our red VW microbus up behind the massive black Mercedes with diplomatic plates. It was one of those Technicolor memories from my childhood. The large circular driveway, the huge fountain with that abstract sculpture in the middle, the flags from every country waving in the warm breeze and the grand, glass, rectangle of United Nations in front of us…my sister, beside me, seething…of course.

We had gone into the city on this beautiful, sunny, spring morning (not sure why my sister was not in school—I was barely five) to have a girls day in the city. My mother could not find street parking near the UN where we planned to meet my father for lunch. Rather than go to a parking garage my mother convinced the guard at the entrance of the UN, through smiles and pleasantries, to allow us to park in the stately front entrance normally reserved for heads of state. My sister was mortified. I was…intrigued by this power my mother had over men.

My mother always had a certain style that appealed. Brought up by a single mother, but in the circle of the upper class of Boston families—she had an easy elegance, a common touch and a warmth that carried her through life with a grace and a charm. She had what I now know is erotic capital.

“You don’t hear women in the U.S. talking about Erotic Capital” said the head with the truly great golden blond die job (I would say it has at least three layers of highlights to create that hair color that is almost too perfect) as she looked down at me over her big boobs.
Ms. Older Woman Sexy is probably around my age, but sans child and husband. She takes time on her appearance—fingernails flawless, eye brows perfectly arched—she is sexy. She is also a lesbian, but that does not stop her from using that capital on everyone. It is an exciting skill which I never really thought about in formal terms, but we were discussing the dress style of the younger people in our group—all of whom are very stylish ….and nice…and smart…very sexy.

I, like my mother, use my erotic capital (mainly my very sexy phone voice)…which I define as the ability to connect with people, mainly men, on the more gut level. My sister, although always more attractive than I (and with the exact same voice), never wanted to developed the skill. She refused. Obviously still scarred by the United Nations experience.

Now that I am a mother—I wonder about this skill of wielding erotic capital. I am not sure how I feel about The Beast manipulating that power. There are debates…mainly among women. Does Erotic Capital help women? Does it hurt women? I am not sure—I look at Hugh Grant and Pierce Bronson and think—they have it and use it. It is combination of charm, connecting with people and humor…and of course that underlying sexuality.
“Why not?” I guess is the true question. Sexually will always be there Why Not use it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Secret

“Your life will become a WAR ZONE.” I tell the eager young man. Slowly the giddy smile fades from his face. “I know you don’t believe me now, but I just want to let you know—you will have extremes of emotions and although there are some exceptional highs there are more lows than you could ever think possible.”

“You will hate your wife. You will hate her with a deep-down pit of stomach burning passion….Just the look of her will disgust you. Of course…she will feel the exactly same way about you too, but MORE SO because she actually had to birth the little monster. Just a heads up…"I said lightly, "but don’t worry—it lifts after the first year and it is it intermingled with a great deal of unexplainable, transformational joy.”

“So…when your new baby arrives and thoughts of murder start to bubble up--just remember it is all perfectly normal and remember this conversation that you think is so bizarre right now.”

“I will expect a thank you card in about 2 years.” I tell him. He laughs. And I said—“I laughed too when our birthing class nurse told me I would want to throw the baby from the window…but lo and behold…as I was heading toward the window with that screaming beast 3 months later—I smiled instead of opening the window.”

This is why I always give alcohol to new parents.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's that Whole Work-Life Balance Thang

The Man vacuums around me as I recline on the couch. He actively clatters dishes in the sink. He pretends to be searching under MY couch for something that does not exist.

I am immunized to this type of behavior.

I have always felt housework was a complete waste of time unless company is coming or the health department may have reason to investigate.

He glares from his stance far above my couch. I lie there with pen in hand and my little notebook of New Year’s Resolutions and I happily read while I write:
“More Work-Life Balance”