19 April 2014

Parenting Books Are a Racket: Here's Why

You know those parents who always talk to their kids in calm voices?  And are always saying things like, "I think you could have made a better choice"? And are irritatingly peaceful when their children are doing things that would make the rest of us want to scream and/or run for the hills?

I used to roll my eyes at them.  Now, I want to be one of them.

I used to think they were acting that way because they were sure that doing so was a better parenting strategy, that they would raise better children with this method than with all that yellin' the rest of us do..

Lately, I'm thinking that this is not the case.  I've tried that calm voice thing.  For days on end now, I've been curbing my yelling, encouraging better choices, offering positive alternatives, and modeling the change I want to see in my children.  It's totally not working.  They remain shrill gremlin-like harpies.

I don't think parenting makes a whit of difference.  Case in point:

Kids bickering to beat the band?  Making you want to tear your own ears off?

  • If you yell and scream at them and get really pissed off that they can't manage a 5 minute car ride without being evil to each other, they will still fight and bicker and behave abominably
  • If you calmly tell them that you expect them to be better to each other, and calmly explain a tangible consequence if they choose to keep fighting, and calmly grip the steering wheel without going all Samuel Jackson on their asses, they will still fight and bicker and behave abominably.

The only difference is you.  If you chose the latter, you will not have succumbed to hypocrisy and your throat will not hurt.  You will not have anything to feel bad about later (unless you count having children who ignore you; depending on the day, I do) and you will not be exhausted by your own rage.  The kids?  Will be exactly as unpleasant as ever.  Mox nix.  Makes no difference.  Calm parents know this.

I suspect that every parenting book in the world is really only about making parents feel better about themselves, not about changing children's behavior.  It's as if the title of every single one should really just be: How Not To Be A Hypocrite, and Save Your Vocal Cords in the Process.

All those books?  Are about exactly the same thing.  Survival.
image from http://dulcefamily.blogspot.com

The kids will raise themselves.  I'm just gonna try to get them to adulthood with my throat and my dignity intact.

* * *

18 April 2014

Good Friday Rerun

Originally posted back in 2010.

This morning, Little T asked me to tell her the story of when Jesus died. I was a little occupied with 3 or 4 other multi-tasking distractions, so I tapped her 5 year old sister for the job. (Little T told me a few weeks ago that Lady E had told her the story before, so there was precedence.)

Lady E happily complied:

So when Jesus died, there were these people who put nails on his wrists and his feet and put him up on a cross because he wouldn't punch his pilot.

Unfortunately, she never made it to the Resurrection part of the story because her mother was howling too loudly with laughter.  The real question here, then, is: WWJFWhich Would Jesus Fly: Coach or First Class??

* * *

Postscript: the 3 and 5 year olds of this story are now 7 and 9.  I still howl every time I think of it.  Also? The first time I posted this, I got two awesome answers to the real question:

Sandy said...
Don't be silly - He'd be the co-pilot

Homemaker Man said...
Jesus flies business class. On Virgin airlines.

On that hilarious note, a blessed Good Friday to all!

* * *

09 April 2014

Kurt! I Had No Idea I Loved You So!

I have learned more cool stuff about Kurt Vonnegut in the last few weeks than I ever thought I would want to know.

First, there was the article in the Huffington Post about the letter Mr. Vonnegut wrote in 2006 to a class of high school students who had asked him to come and visit them.  He declined the visit, but gave them the best life advice ever.  Good for students, good for people.  Good for curmudgeonly moms too.

"Do art, and do it for the rest of your lives."  Go read the rest.  Seriously, do it right now.

And it turns out, writing was not his only art!  Page-turner, a New Yorker blog, has a post up about Vonnegut's "whimsical drawings."  Here is one:

My favorite!

Look at that.  It's awesome.  And I do not mean to diminish his work one teensy bit when I say that it reminds me of my kids' art.  Their art is awesome too.  I particularly love the way he has colored in some of the shapes created by his free flowing black lines.  My kids do this.  I did this when I was a youth.  Looking at this picture makes me kind of want to do it more. 

Do art, people.  It's good for the soul.  

Thanks Mr. Vonnegut!  I'm sure you are having a grand ole time in that eternal art studio in the sky!

* * *

07 April 2014

So Over Frozen

After disappointing my daughters this morning and earning the title Meanest Mom Ever for the umpteenth time by not agreeing to buy a Do You Want to Build a Snowman ringtone for my phone, that song was -- predictably -- stuck in my head.  I even made a graphic for it:

It stuck in my head so badly, that I finally just gave in and came up with an impromptu version of my own.  

Perhaps a few of you can relate.

So here, for your enjoyment,  is an ode to my daughters, who are making me koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs with their endless, infernal repetitions of those damn catchy Frozen numbers.

Do You Wanna Make My Ears Bleed?  

(Sing along…I know you know the tune.)


(Said child, rapping on my skull: Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, rap)

Do you wanna make my ears bleed?
Come on, admit you do.
I always hear you, everyday
Singing away
It's like you’ve pushed me far
Off the deep end, baby
And now, I’m nuts
I wish you would stop sing-EEEENG

Do you wanna make my ears bleed?
Or maybe make me lose my coo-ool.

My kid:
Go away, Mama
Would if I could, kid.

Do you wanna make my ears bleed?
Or ride my nerves to shreds
I think lots of silence is overdue
I've started craving
a cell with empty walls—
(Cloistered or padded, Mama?)
I’d like to be a little lonely
In some empty rooms,

Just hearing the hours tick by-
(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)


My Kid (Knocking)

Please, I know you really love me,
Show me by shutting uh-up.
I say “have mercy” and I’m begging you
I’m always here for you, just close your mouth!
You only have one mother
Don’t make her go insane
What is it gonna be?

Do you wanna make my ears bleed?

* * *

Camera pulls away from a weeping mother…fade to black…aaaaaaand: scene.

* * *

10 March 2014

Denial is a river you can float pretty far on...

Sunday started far too early yesterday.  Curse that Daylight Savings Time thing.  There I was, cuddling up with my youngest at 6:45am, feeling the full effects of missing a precious hour of snooze.

She, on the other hand, was radiant at that ungodly hour.  She climbed in bed, looked up at me with a satisfied smile, tucked her hands behind her head and sighed blissfully:

"Ahhhh, it felt so good to get an extra hour of sleep last night!"

While it was inspiring to see someone so happy at that hour of the morning, I felt the need to correct her.  I told her that I was happy she felt so rested!  And that actually, we lost an hour of sleep overnight, instead of getting an extra one.

"Oh no, no, no, mama!  I went to bed early last night!  I was asleep when you all skipped that hour of sleep, and then I stayed asleep even longer, so I got an extra one!"

Little T springs forward with panache.


* * *

03 March 2014

What I Want My Daughters To Know. And My Sons.

The deeper business of being beautiful on the inside.

Please share this far and wide.  Lupita, I am so grateful to you for your words.

* * *

15 February 2014

Don't Miss This Opportunity

Yesterday, I found out why I've been experiencing muscle pain and muscle fatigue for the past several months: turns out I have a pretty severe Vitamin D deficiency.  How delightful that my inability to move is not a character flaw!  How delightful is health insurance!  How delightful that, with Vitamin D supplements on board, my children might remember me for something besides collapsing on my pillows!  I am so looking forward to feeling better.

This discovery is a good reminder that we should listen to our bodies.  I've been ignoring my collection of symptoms for a long, long time, assuming that it was just a matter of not getting enough rest, or just because I'm getting older, or just not important enough to pay attention to.  I would never have ignored the ongoing, chronic aches and pains of one of my children; why was I willing to ignore my own?

Think about your own body: are you ignoring anything that you maybe should give a little credence to?  Anything worth asking a doctor about?  Anything worth feeling better for?  Don't miss this opportunity.

* * *

Yesterday, I read a New Yorker essay by Roger Angell* that moved me to tears.  (Updated: The link will take you to full article; The New Yorker posted it in its entirety today.)  So much of my day is occupied by keeping up with my computer and responding to my smart phone that I think some of those tears were due to spending a few minutes with the slick, weighted pages of a good magazine, but most of them were because Angell's writing is exquisite.  His ability to weave back and forth between the personal and the universal is captivating.  I miss reading and I miss writers, and I can't wait to read more and more and more.  Why and how did I ever lose that habit?

Think about your nightstand: does it hold books and magazines you have been meaning to read? Are you making time for Downton and Duck Dynasty but putting off Didion, Diaz or Dos Passos?  Is there anything there worth spending time with?  Don't miss this opportunity.

* * *

Yesterday, while I was ranting on Facebook about mistakenly buying cilantro instead of parsley and being severely disappointed that I couldn't make the dinner I was planning, a family in San Diego was mourning the loss of a 20 year old son, killed while skateboarding by a young drunk driver who fled the scene.  I heard about it, mere moments after my silly FB post, from a friend of mine who knows the family.

There aren't really words for losing a child.  It's too painful to imagine or express.  So many things are unimportant, so many daily annoyances and inconveniences distract us from what really matters.  I read the article about the family: there was a photo of 7 or 8 of them, gathered on the beach facing a makeshift memorial of balloons and flowers.  They stood in a group, shoulder to shoulder, leaning and holding on to each other, keeping each other upright in their grief.  One of them was missing.  One of the people who belonged there was not there, could not help with the holding.

Think about your family and friends: who belongs there?  Are any of them missing?  Can you go grab one and hold him up for awhile?  Can one of them do the same for you?  Do you need to leave aside minor annoyances and tell someone you love them?  Don't miss this opportunity.

* * *  

*Thank you Kelly Corrigan, for the Twitter recommendation for Angell's essay.