Archive for the ‘parenting’ category

Poem For Father’s Day (Baby Birds)

June 19, 2011

I’ve posted this poem before, and it doesn’t really go with the picture above, but Father’s Day is almost over, and I would really like to commemorate both it (and my wonderful father), so here goes:

My Father (baby birds)

My father’s voice
when he sang
was deep and cragged and
reminded me of a froggie
gone a’courting.
But this was baby birds.

It was not even a person
who had died.
It was not even a particularly noble dog,
though like all of its species, it was capable
of a self-debasing attachment that could
seem Arthurian.

But after the accident, the rush,
the sad blur home,
my father’s back faced me in my room
with a sound
of birds.
It silenced all gone wrong,
turned me back into a person
who could do things in the world.

(All rights reserved.)

National Poetry Month – Day 15 – “Buddha Hands”

April 15, 2011

Draft poem for today.  It has nothing to do with taxes!

Buddha Hands

My mother says she was a sassy child.
Her father egged her on, she thinks now, liking
to see whether she could get a rise
out of her own mother, a kind of a tease.
“Terrible,’ she says, and I see
her father, whom I don’t truly remember, as
a sharp-nosed, sharp-tongued man, who nonetheless
had a wink about him, his reddish face rough from the cold of 
Minnesota when he ducked into the kitchen to warm up
with coffee and a bottle of brandy stashed
in a cracker tin.  He, she tried to please, but her mom, she says,
she could be ornery to.

Yet, when she was tired, my mother says,
her mother, to whom she could be so ornery, would let her
put her head on her lap, and would wipe her hair
back from her face, smoothing her forehead.
It felt so good, she sighs, that now, nearly 88,
she sometimes wipes her own hair back in just that way.
As she speaks, as she stands before me, she palms
the grey strands from the still dark
widow’s peak; she soothes the reddish brow
again and again, passing her hand over and up
her forehead.

I think of how she used to do exactly
the same to me: in the back seat of a car, on a long drive,
where no tasks could tended, and my pointed, busy, mother, stroked
my head.  I think too of Buddha hands,
a temple market in Asia, where they were lined up
inside a counter, the tapered fingers
flaked with gilt, and how if there were ever such a thing on this
Earth as freedom from desire, freedom from suffering,
it could be found (for me at least) in that one
smooth space on my forehead where my mother, her mother too,
ran their hands,
without grasping, without clinging, without even
holding on.

All rights reserved.  Suggestions welcomed.

PS Sorry to those of you who follow this blog regularly that I sometimes recycle old drawings.  This arises from lack of time (and illustrational capacity!)

Hurray For Michelle (Obama Not Bachmann) – Tweets on the T–t!

February 18, 2011

Hurrah for Michelle Obama coming out in favor of breastfeeding.    (See the New York Times article about Mrs. Obama’s promotion of breast feeding as part of her program against childhood obesity.

Boo to Michelle Bachmann (who breastfed all of her children) and who has now criticized Mrs. Obama as promoting a “hard left” position of governmental control.  Please note Mrs. Bachmann that the government is not paying for breast pumps but offering tax deductions for these costs if tax payers itemize their deductions.  (My understanding is that this means that the breast pumps would be treated like other health-related or work-related expenses.)

Boo to Sarah Palin who just said in Woodbury, New York that “nobody is more qualified to multitasking and doing all the things that you need to do as president than a woman, a mom.”

What is more synonymous of multi-tasking and being a mom than breast-feeding?   Seriously–it is a lot easier to nurse and tweet than heat up formula, clean and wash a bottle, and tweet.

More and more evidence of the incredible range of benefits of breastfeeding for both child and mother comes to light each day.  Of course, not all women are able to breastfeed; but many many more women choose not to breastfeed, or not to persevere in breastfeeding, due to lack of accurate information about its benefits and all kinds of thoughtless cultural prejudices.  Hurrah for Michelle (Obama) for bravely using her bully pulpit to counteract these prejudices;  boo to Bachmann and Palin for their infantile hypocrisy.

Still Sheepish on Halloween

October 30, 2010

Sheepish About Halloween

In honor of Halloween and under pressure due to the upcoming Nanowrimo (Novel Writing Month), I direct your attention to a post I wrote last year about my conflicted feelings about Halloween, and my all-time favorite homemade costume, depicted above–my daughter as a sheep.

As a side note, congratulations to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for bringing off their rally.  Congratulations to counter-terrorism operatives for finding Yemeni explosives.  Congratulations to all of us for getting through more than two years since the fall of Lehman Brothers and all that followed.

Happy Halloween.

Agh! (“Childing” Aging Parents)

September 28, 2010

As some friends know, an aging me has spent much of the last month trying to sort out health and care issues of aging parents.  I am not really writing this post to complain (or vent!) but because it seems that this is an increasingly common situation in today’s world, at least among people of my generation.  Following years of parenting children, many are suddenly trying to learn how to skillfully “child” aging parents.

I am not at all good at it.  It is simply excruciatingly difficult to persuade parents, especially parents, who like mine, were marked by the Depression and World War II, to accept the idea of outside help, especially paid help.

There are generational obstacles at play, then too, the natural reluctance of age==issues of ego and feelings of self-worth.

Of course, there are also “simple” problems of logistics, economics, ethics (issues, for example, of free will).

Perhaps more difficult are problems inherent with certain types of personalities.  People change as they age– some distinguishing characteristics (hair, for example) fade or even wear away, while many other traits (let’s say, noses, or ears, or how about stubbornness seem to accentuate.

Some of these personality traits, as well as age-old habits, even belongings, can feel like like life rafts for the elderly–they are clung to with desperate persistence even when the weight of years of flotsam causes them to drag their charges down, or worse, speed them headlong into a dangerous waterfall.  (Leave out the water.)

More painful difficulties arise from  the emotional history between the parent and child–all those incidents, tendencies, expectations, frustrations–similarities.  The same personal traits mentioned above may have already played starring roles in each of the parties’ lives–sometimes to great and wonderful effect, sometimes less so.

History, memory, reverberation–even small sounds are magnified in an echo chamber.  How confusing that these same echoes are interpreted so differently by each side–the parent who feels that they can never please the bossy child; the child who feels that they can never please the bossy parent.

An impasse.  With a history.  And echoes.  Complicated by love, guilt, control!  All played out with a semi-reversal of roles, and with the backdrop of looming disaster.


Summer Clean-Up – STUFF – “But Will It Make You Happy?”

August 8, 2010

Collector of Bunnies (Dust)?

Every once in a while the clutter of daily life, compounded by the dust and grit of open-windowed life, mounts up to a level that a general clean-up is called for, especially if you have a need to get to the front door of your apartment.

While it would be nice if this general clean-up also included closets, closets seem kind of spring-like, not appropriate for a humid mid-summer attack (which tends towards the front and center.)

A clean-up day can’t help but raise the question of why you/I/all of us have so much stuff.  Stuff needs to be put places (hopefully out of sight).  Worse yet is the way the stuff itself collects stuff, stuff that seems to be almost its anagram–not ffuts – but tufts (of dust), fluffs (of dust), dust must dust.

There is an article in the New York Times today called “But Will It Make You Happy?”, which focuses on a movement of people who divest themselves, narrowing themselves down to approximately 100 items;  people who have purposely whittled down their income too, and who, in the process, have magnified their available time and general contentment.

I would very much like to get myself to be like these people.

I notice, however, that couple described by the article does not have children.

Children certainly bring happiness.  They also inspire accumulation.  Even parents who never bought absolutely goofy things like baby wipe warmers (honestly!) may find themselves with:

Both store-bought and handmade (that is, child-made) books about bunnies.

Beloved stacks of bath-tub matted paperbacks.

Many Harry Potters.

Old photographs, videos, year books, diaries, school reports, papers, programs, TROPHIES, paintings, really really favored stuffed animals.

An old computer whose files were never downloaded.

Soccer balls, cleats, sleeping bag pads, never-opened bottles of bug dope, text books.

Even when children are grown – the extra pjs for when they come to visit and don’t bring any; the extra sweaters because it may be cold on that visit; those dress shoes that in a pinch (despite the pinch)–

So I suppose some of that could go—

But as for whittling income down by means other than spending it….

On the other hand, when one has children, more non-job time is even more priceless.  And too, a simpler, less consumption-filled life–

Still too hot to go after the closets.

“Know-Nothings”, “Know-Not-Enoughs”, Breastfeeding, Obesity, Food

August 4, 2010

The “Know-Nothings” has always been my favorite name for an American political movement.  It just seems so forthright. (In fact, the 1850s movement got its name not because of the self-awareness of its members but because, if questioned about their affiliation, they were supposed to answer, “I know nothing.”)

Realistically, no one today is likely to adopt a name as truthful as that, even sarcastically.    I’d settle for a movement called the “Know-Not-Enoughs.”

This comes up for me today not in the context of politics, but health.   It’s raised by two unrelated articles in the Times – one about new discoveries of further merits of breastfeeding (“Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants A Protective Coat” by Nicholas Wade); and one about the unsolved problem of the rising rates of obesity in the U.S. (“Obesity Rates Keep Rising, Troubling Health Officials” by Denise Grady.)

The breastfeeding article talks about how undigested complex sugars in breastmilk have now been found to play an important role in providing beneficial intestinal bacteria for infants.  The findings have made the researchers more sharply aware of the evolutionary miracle that is breastmilk:  “It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,” Dr. [David] Mills said. “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”

I have always been a major proponent of breastfeeding but the doctor’s strong urging still surprised me.  For many years, health professionals seem to have routinely mentioned the benefits of breastfeeding, but then everyone seemed to quickly change the subject to personal preferences.  No one wanted to make a new mother feel guilty or pressured; no one wanted to step on cultural toes, even if they were not traditional cultural toes. especially if the preferences seemed to correlate to any ethnic group or educational level.  There has been a feeling, as in much of dialogue about just about everything, that everyone was entitled to their opinion or preference, and that all of these opinions and preferences were wonderfully equal on some vast universal scale.

I don’t let scientists off the hook.  When I grew up, scientists creating and even pushing infant formulas  were the opposite of “Know-Not-Enoughs.”

Now, among other things, we have a society that’s obese.   Putting aside any specific causal connection between the reduction in breastfeeding and obesity, there are certainly parallels between the substitution of formula for breastmilk, and the replacement of fresh, traditional foods, with fake “know-everything” food.  For the last few decades, people have eaten as if food could be manufactured, and as if such manufactured foods could satisfy all nutritional needs (which were also considered to be more or less known.)

No wonder people eat and eat;  no wonder flesh clings to what it ingests.  Bodies seem to know something is missing, but not where or how to get it.

Father’s Day – Missing Dads

June 20, 2010

My Father Taking Me Everywhere

Father’s Day somehow carries an edge of sadness for me.  I have the greatest father in the world.  He is quite old (but thankfully still around) and struggles with a variety of serious illnesses.  None of these ever weakens his “fatherliness”, that is, his unwavering, (crazily) uncritical, and unconditional love and support.

I’m conscious now of being very very lucky.  The edge of sadness comes…well, partly memories of teenagerdom, when I was not so conscious of my good luck.  (Though my father has certainly never held any of those snarly rebellions against me, I hate to think of causing him past pain.)

Then there’s the fact that, with job and immediate family demands and the geographic dispersal of modern day life,  I don’t get to see my father as much as I’d like.

But part of the sadness is my sense of how unusual my luck is; how many children today don’t have the gift of a present, loving, self-sacrificing father.

The absence of a daily father is a multi-whammied loss.  Apart from the  absence of the particular person, there’s the additional emotional, physical and financial stress on the mother or grandmother, faced with a huge amount for one person to do alone.  A successful single parent of young children, even if armed with family support, must be willing to sacrifice quite a bit of their separate personhood (the part of them that is not primarily parent) in order to fully play a solo role.

Yes, I know that even in two-parent families, there may be one primary caretaker, who may be as overwhelmed as a single parent.  I also know that sometimes familial stress may be reduced by the absence of father, especially an uncommitted, or difficult, or troubled father–I’ve just finished the Steig Larsson The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, after all, in which father figures are not painted in the most flattering light.  I can well understand that a house led by just one parent may have a peacefulness that is uncommon in a house run by a couple.   (And I’m not making any comment, or even comparison, here about the differences of families with fathers over families with same-sex parents, etc.)  I’m just sorry that so many kids today don’t have what has been so important to me personally–a Dad.

In Praise of Daughters

June 14, 2010

Letting Mom Sing Along

For ages past, and in many parts of the world even today, people have prayed (and done more than pray) for sons.   I personally never participated in such prayers, and was lucky enough to be blessed with daughters.

I’m sure sons are very wonderful.  I have lots of terrific nephews;  my daughters have male friends who are fine people.    But I was lucky enough to be blessed with daughters.

I really don’t want to seem sexist here.  I suppose it is true that sons, in this modern age, can and do enjoy many of the activities that daughters do; I am sure sons can, like daughters, keep their mothers company in ways that are extremely kind and thoughtful (and also a bit goofy).  But I also think it probable that sons, especially in their teens and early twenties, may be more driven than daughters to separate themselves in clear and definite ways, ways that may keep them from indulging their mother’s silliness, and that may interfere with a certain playful cameraderie.

Most college age sons, for example, probably will not (even with groans) sit next to their mom while she watches Robert Pattinson on MTV.  (Actually, even daughters won’t put up with this for long.)

Nor will most sons dance away dark clouds on a country lawn.   Nor make risotto, and then something called, “fool” (without a single comment that it resembles a certain older female family member.)    (Fool’s like custard but with folded-in whipped egg whites.)   Nor will most sons play clips (communally) of old musical comedies on Youtube, letting the mom sing along.

Somehow daughters can do things like this and still remain extremely independent.  An amazing gift in all senses of the word.

iPad Sunnyside Up–Let Me Just Check My Mail

June 7, 2010

iPad Sunnyside Up

The  New York Times has a couple of articles this morning on how technology is re-wiring our brains; you can find them if you check online—excuse me a sec, I’ve got a new gmail coming in.

The articles talk about the mental and emotional price of a life hooked into, and hooked on—oops—there’s my cell….gizmos.

(Sorry, sweetie, I’m writing my blog.  Can I call you back in two minutes?)

Some people think multi-tasking makes them more productive, but studies show it makes people actually accomplish less, and encourages a kind of shallowness.

Did you know, btw, that Robert Pattinson won MTV awards for best actor, global star, and perpetrator of best 2010 screen kiss last night?   (Does ManicDDaily have her finger on the popular pulse, or what?)

One article depicts a software executive (hey, what do you expect?  The guy’s a software executive, head of a start-up, in Silicon Valley), who “works” in front of three or four large video screens.

In the photos of the guy’s family , they all have iPads.  Even the kids.  The guy even reads Winnie the Pooh on an iPad to his littlest kid.  In bed. (I know it’s kind of awful, but the graphics are also amazing!)

I can’t help wondering if the article will be good for Apple stock.

(I’m just going to check that, okay, it’s bookmarked, so won’t take a mo.)

The guy’s wife say it’s hard for him to be fully in the moment, that when the emotional going gets tough, he escapes into computer games.  But then one of the articles cites a kid who texts a lot in school and that kid says that the “the moment”–that is all the time she spent in school before she had texting–was incredibly lonely and isolating.

I feel sympathy for the kid, but isn’t loneliness and isolation part of what school is all about?  Childhood?  Has she not read Jane Eyre?  Virtually any Dickens?   (I’m sure they are on Kindle.  Maybe even for free.  Or Google Books?  Let me check a sec.)

Oops, there’s my other email, office, you know, my crackberry, the red light is blinking—do you mind?