Just a Little Advice for the Kids

We all know that moms, especially, are regularly subjected to a deluge of parenting advice, pretty much all conflicting, and much of it—can we be honest?—downright impossible. Here’s just one example: When my son was in pre-school, a friend with three grown kids offered me this sage advice: “Don’t ever yell.” Um, what? I’m not a huge yeller; I don’t like to yell; I try mostly to refrain from yelling. But every now and then, after saying the same thing twelve times in eight and a half different ways and getting absolutely no reaction, no look of acknowledgment, not even the subtlest responsive motion out of my kid, I bellow something to the effect of “If I have to say it one more time, I am going to lose it!” And I stand by the necessity of doing that, because if I didn’t, my head would have exploded long, long ago.

Let’s face it: placing these kinds of inhumane expectations on moms, who are dealing with pressure from all sides to be perfect in every sphere of our lives and to never, ever allow our work performance, housekeeping, homework monitoring, bedtime routines, and personal appearance to slip one iota, is just freakin’… well… inhumane. So let’s let up on moms, why don’t we? Instead, I’d like to see some advice directed toward a different demographic entirely: kids.

Yes, kids. Wouldn’t it be great if children, just once in a great while, were held accountable for their own role in the parent-child relationship? There are so many things that seem so common-sensical and yet elude the attention and understanding of so many of our offspring, and I’d like to address some of those right now.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????1. Wee Ones, you see Mom buckling under the weight of a huge basket of laundry as she carts it down to the basement, grimacing with disgust as she uses her chin to keep your not-so-charming socks and underwear from slipping off the teeming, stinking pile of nastiness… Or perhaps she’s on her knees, reaching into the cabinet under the sink to tighten a leaking pipe and in the process jabs her elbow on a stray screw or cuts her arm on a shard of glass that missed the garbage bin….Why at this particular moment do you ask for a glass of milk? And after asking her for milk at such a time and having her grit her teeth and tell you, with most impressive restraint, “You are going to have to wait just one minute,” why does it not occur to you the next time to wait uno momento until Mom is no longer occupied to make your request?

I mean, I’m just sayin’.

2. Young and Diminutive Persons, you do understand, don’t you, that when folks are driving they mostly have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of and around them, so as not to miss the changing of lights from green to red, or fail to notice the car in front suddenly stopping? You do comprehend, don’t you, that not getting into an accident is a good idea when it comes to your own personal safety? So why is it that you insist on parents looking at you just as they’re changing lanes or avoiding a freakin’ dipshit who’s in the process of dangerously cutting them off?

“This is the face that Stevie makes whenever he’s called on in class, Mommy. It’s so funny. Look!” 

Please just stop it.

Kiddos, you know we love you so, so much. But we are not perfect. In fact, we’re really just kids like you who have lived long enough to be considered “grown up.” At times we’re confused, overwhelmed, tired, or stressed out and we admit that we can and do get it wrong. But we try to do the best we can for you because you are so important to us and we’re committed to you.

So help us out once in a while by remembering that we’re human, just like you. A little forgiveness and assistance goes a long way in this mutual journey we call “parenting” and “growing up.”

Photo: © Merkushev | Dreamstime.com

 

Think, Thank, Thunk

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This has been a wonderful winter break; I have felt fortunate to have so much time off over “the holidays” and have relished the opportunity to think, read, sleep in lazily, get some exercise, spend time with my boys, binge-listen to Serial, walk our friends’ dog (they’re traveling), and weigh what’s important to me and what isn’t, what I can and should leave behind and what ought to be salvaged. So here I am, because I’ve come to realize that I do want to continue this blog. I do. I do. I reallyreally do!

I was visiting with a (wonderful) friend lately and mentioned that my ambivalence about the blog has much to do with struggles I’m facing and my reluctance to write about them. I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to determine what should be kept private and what can be shared. And no, I am not trying to make the case that there are clearcut lines that apply to every blog; each writer has to draw that line herself. But when the issues that most heavily loom are ones you don’t feel comfortable sharing with just anyone who stumbles upon your blog, you can find yourself facing a serious case of writer’s block.

Last night, at a small, informal, perfectly ad hoc and fun New Year’s Eve gathering, someone said she had attended a talk by a rabbi, who asked, “Why is it a good thing that Jews tend to blame ourselves for everything?” As a Jew with something of a self-blaming habit, I’m sure I would have been stumped by that question.

The rabbi’s answer: Blaming yourself is a form of taking control of a situation. If you are to blame for something going wrong, you can change it or do things differently next time. And that’s not at all the case if you are wholly a victim.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Ultimately, I’m of the belief that most situations entail a combination of factors. Things I don’t like about my life are partly my doing; the situation is also the product of a confluence of things. Often we choose what seems to be the best possible solution, and rarely are those choices ideal. It can happen that the situation turns out better than we feared, or things improve over time. It can also happen that whatever benefits promised by the situation fade over time, or that the benefits we imagined aren’t very beneficial after all. Making a change entails a whole new set of risks and sacrifices, so maybe we put that decision off, try to make the current situation work, hope for things to get better.

It helps immensely when we have the time to step away and examine the complex knot of our lives, spotting the thread we’ve woven in ourselves. Is it worth pulling on that thread? If the entire ball unravels, what will I be left with? Will the sacrifices be worthwhile?

2015 looks as though it might be the year I find out.

Thanks to all who have read and are reading Old Mom, Young Child. I am grateful to every last one of you and truly wish you the happiest of new years.

Images: Top: © Smiltena; Bottom: © Dimitris Kolyris. Both from Dreamstime.com.

 

Old Mom & Jonah Share a Post!

Inchoate Virtuoso

Noah drawing on 11-26-14 at 7.42 PM #2Jonah is a wee artistic virtuoso in training. He zips through his comic creations, pressing down hard on his pencil, hand desperate to keep up with his racing brain. He uses his pictures to tell the stories he imagines with great exuberance and his mind is likely already on the next cel before the one he’s working on is finished.

Today he was working on puppets  and background images for a puppet show he was planning to film. He wanted me to help him and I said I would, but I asked for guidance. It’s incredible, and somewhat daunting, to see his individual style emerge in his drawings. They are full of character and humor. I can occasionally re-create something simple but that’s about all I’m capable of. It amazes me when he draws something from memory. “Draw some ribs,” he says. “Here’s how you do it.” And he proceeds to draw some ribs (human ones) and explain to me how it’s done. “It’s a series of half moons. And then it comes to a point.” Oh, yeah, I think. How does he see that in his brain? It’s a talent I don’t possess in the slightest and it floors me.

Here Jonah answers the question from his last post and introduces you to a friend.

Meet Jonah’s Little Friend

Hi, it’s Jonah again. Do you remember last time? You know, with the question? Here’s the answer.

Well, if you guessed Harry failed—sorry mate, try again. Harry does make it through. But (if you were wondering) the death eaters don’t make it.

So all’s well that ends well. Right?

MAD - mini assistance droid

To change the subject, MAY I INTRODUCE THE ONE AND ONLY M.A.D.?! The M.A.D. (mini-assistant-droid) is gonna be a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG breakthrough (if I ever invent it).  Sounds  great right?

Well, it’s time for…

Jonah’s Question Time!

How many Lego bricks  is the model above made of?

FIND OUT THE ANSWER ON MY NEXT POST.

A Post by Jonah

Noah comicI started making comics on  pieces of paper then I went into sketch pads. I really have developed a taste for comics.

This comic is one of my most recent ones where Harry is being chased by death eaters and has to make it through a water maze. Will he succeed or will he fail?

HEAR THE REST ON MY NEXT POST!

Graphic & Novel

harrys ideaI’m guessing my son’s fascination with graphic novels began when our friend Xavier sent him a Tintin book from France. Many Tintin adventures later, and having expanded into Asterix the Gaul, the little guy not only loves this form of storytelling but creates comics and little books of his own. During our trip to England this past summer he filled an entire sketch pad with comics of various kinds, pulling the pad out whenever there was a lull: after ordering in restaurants, while riding on the train, during a seemingly interminable wait for the Tour de France’s “Grand Départ” to begin in Cambridge. Many of the stories he made were about characters from the Harry Potter series, most with the addition of Ewoks.

I really never paid much mind to graphic novels before my little guy developed an interest in them but I have a new appreciation for those that are done well. Here are a few that are big favorites in our house:

Giants Beware!

Anyone who knows me will be wholly unsurprised by my admiring a book that not only has a dauntless female hero but that features a pug named Valiant. Giants Beware! is an exciting adventure story that seeks to break stereotypes and has a surprising and positive twist ending. Jonah has read this book so many times it is looking a bit tattered. He’ll be happy to learn that its sequel, Dragons Beware! is coming out in May 2015.

Jedi Academy

This Lucasfilm-approved book is a wonderfully imaginative take on the Star Wars franchise. It’s largely a journal by a boy named Roan, who lives on the planet Tatooine and has always dreamed of attending pilot school. Disappointed when he receives a rejection letter and is instead accepted to agriculture school, he grudgingly accepts an unexpected offer from Jedi Academy. The book is an amalgam of journal writing, sketches, letters, and cartoons and addresses recognizable situations even for kids on planet Earth: fitting in, loneliness, first crushes. It’s humorous and clever. And there’s a sequel, Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan, which is just as good as the first.

 Zita the Spacegirl

zitaI love that this book was on my son’s school book fair ‘wish list,’ and I partially credit Giant’s Beware! for helping him realize that books with female protagonists should not be a turn-off for boys. This book is an exciting story about a girl whose strong will blasts her friend into an alternate universe, compelling her to rescue him. It’s more reliant on pictures than language, so it’s a quick read; this might be good or bad, depending on your point of view. The illustrations are wonderful and the characters compelling. I’m sure my half pint will happily read the sequels, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Is Huge Cabret a graphic novel? I absolutely love this book, and find myself entranced by many of its illustrations. Sadly, having been upset by the movie, in which the father is killed in a fire, Jonah refuses to even look at the book. I’m hoping he’ll one day get past this, because he—and most kids, I’m sure—would find inspiration in this stunning classic of children’s literature.

 

 

Images: Top: Sketches by Jonah; Bottom: Cover of Zita the Spacegirl © Ben Hatke, used by permission of First Second Books

It’s all Gone Topsy-Turvy

Let’s just say that the past few weeks might be largely—though not entirely—characterized by the time Jonah and I walked out of Stop & Shop to find the car beside ours parked at a crazy angle, forcing me to squeeze in between to get to my driver’s seat, and I’m a fairly small person. When I opened the car door—although I did so carefully—it touched the other car, prompting the driver (who was sitting in her car, presumably waiting for someone) to honk her horn and gesture at me angrily.

“If you don’t want me to touch your car with my car door, then park properly!” I shouted at her, and she looked at me as though I’d lost my mind… which I had, temporarily, at the injustice of it.

IMG_2583It’s been a crazy last few weeks, with snatches of the inevitable (a big, depressing-if-you-let-it-be birthday), surreal (our local frozen yogurt place taping a handwritten note to their door stating they’re closed and our gradual realization they mean for good, because the cash register is gone, although the tables and chairs remain), and the wonderful (Jonah and I spending a weekend in the city, seeing a play and exploring and just generally enjoying each other’s company. We found a diner/soda fountain that had Bassett’s ice cream from Philadelphia and sat down to share an eight-dollar super-chocolately shake and Jonah said in his not-so-indoor voice, “What kind of ice cream is this again? Bastard’s?”). Most of all I’ve been grappling with several Big Questions and the many possible answers to each of those questions and what to do and what not to and what is the right way to approach this or that situation and it’s all been a bit much.

Do you ever feel as though you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in a topsy-turvy world, thankful for the few voices of sanity countering the shrieks of “No room!” when there’s obviously plenty of room, or the Queen of Heart’s demands that the gardeners paint the red roses white? Ever wonder whether and how much the larger world, full of fear and ignorance and mind-numbing injustice and incivility, influences the behavior of the people around you? Sometimes I have to remind myself that there’s beauty to be discovered, like the work of this Australian artist who creates exquisite creations with thread. Mind blowing, in the best of all possible ways.

mila

These past weeks surprise birthday gifts, unexpected and delightful, have arrived from thoughtful and beloved people. And here is Mila, a seemingly perfect, cuddly combination of pug and something else with whom I’ve fallen in love at first sight and would love to bring home… but I am reminded by the hub-sand that a third furry critter isn’t in the cards for us right now. I know he’s right but I can’t get her out of my mind. She is beautiful.

Life sometimes throws a whole lotta stuff at us at once, making it hard to know whether to duck or to throw our arms open for a whole-hearted embrace. I may need to celebrate a few more birthdays before I’m certain I can tell the difference.

 

New Neighbo(u)rs

 

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

– Mr. Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice” (Jane Austen)

Too Little, Too Late

We hadn’t even officially moved into our new place when it occurred to me that the people living on the third floor weren’t the most responsible tenants in the world. The first-floor apartment, which was to be ours, had been vacant for some time and the second-floor one had brand-new tenants in it. Yet two of the garbage cans were filled to the brim and, in the heat of the summer, were growing quite rank. Once I saw that the other residents of our street had brought out their trash and recycling, I wheeled the heavy, odiferous bins down the driveway and parked them near the curb.

Not long after moving in, I came home to find cat litter spilled on the stairs leading up to the second and third floors. I smelled it before seeing it. It wasn’t pretty. After a few hours with no sign of a kitty litter clean-up crew , I taped a note to the door leading to the outside, which all the tenants use to go out to our cars. The note began “I apologize for this note.” It went on to ask the offending party to please clean up. Our very kind second-floor neighbor left me a note the next morning saying he wasn’t sure it was theirs but had cleaned it up, anyway. I had an inkling it wasn’t theirs. I had no idea which of my neighbors had cats, but I just don’t see how it’s possible to walk downstairs with a trash bag leaking dirty cat litter and not know it.

It turned out there were two women in their early twenties living on the top floor, although one, apparently, had moved out, and the other had plans to do the same.  On Labor Day weekend, her dad arrived from New Jersey with his pick-up truck and—somehow unsurprisingly—blocked the driveway regularly as they filled his truck with her furniture. We spent our weekend very boringly unpacking boxes and organizing our things, barely managing to get outside, but I did notice on Sunday the greyness of the sky and the heavy humidity, confirming the accuracy of the predictions of rain. It wasn’t until the rain began pouring down in sheets that I noticed the pick-up truck parked at the back of the house, filled with our neighbor’s stuff, including her mattress and box spring.

The truck sat there for hours, and I wondered where they’d gone and why. Who fills an open pickup with furniture and a mattress on a day when rain’s been forecasted …and then leaves?

That’s a rhetorical question.

On Labor Day morning, I woke up to this

pickup at 52

and when the hub-sand got up, we couldn’t help it: We laughed. Hard.

Later that day, dad and daughter having disappeared, I found myself dealing with their detritus, breaking down boxes to put in the recycling bins, throwing out junk, and—what a shocker!—disposing of a cat box filled with… you guessed it… dirty, stinky litter.

I don’t mean to be mean. But I’m kind of glad they’re gone.