Tag Archives: family

Call your dad

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Hallmark and its ilk made out like bandits; FTD is still recovering from the onslaught of last-minute, guilt-ridden orders for flowers; and even restaurants that don’t normally offer Sunday brunch are licking their chops over the land office business they did. But what of the mothers, I ask? Are the recipients as pleased with the attention as the businesses are with the cash infusions?

Mother’s Day too often functions like a maternal Yom Kippur. On that Jewish holiday you’re either deemed worthy of being sealed into the Book of Life for the following year, or not. Once you’re in, you can pretty much relax for another year until it’s time to take stock and atone for your sins just in time for the next round of the Days of Awe. Taking Mom out for brunch once a year, however, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the next 364 days.

There’s a generally accepted rule in business that there should be nothing in an employee’s annual review that will come as a surprise to them. If you manage someone who does not perform to your expectations it behooves you to meet with them regularly to try to help them improve. If they’re not making the desired changes at least they’re not surprised when you tell them that something drastic may have to happen.

If you are in the habit of telling your mom you love her, and showing it in little ways throughout the year, I’ll bet she’d excuse you for not contributing to Hallmark’s coffers on Mother’s Day. Conversely, if you treat your mom badly all year, do you honestly think that one gesture is going to make up for it?

And what of the mother who is also a daughter, and a daughter-in-law? Which title takes precedence? As a daughter, are you obligated to spend time with your mother rather than taking your rightful place as Queen-for-a-day within your nuclear family? Is it acceptable to be the honoree at brunch while your own mother sits alone in the dark saying, “No, no, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine here all by myself.”

As a daughter, I could do without one more obligation on my calendar to worry about. I could probably ignore Mother’s Day and not lose my place in her affections; my mother knows I love her. I would, however, like my daughter to make at least one positive gesture in my general direction each year and if Mother’s Day facilitates that, count me in.

And just when we mothers have successfully navigated the emotional waters of Mother’s Day, it’s time to pass the baton to dad for Father’s Day. I think I’ll call mine today and tell him I love him, just to get a jump on the holiday.

Laid low by a volcano

Who would of thunk that a volcano could put the kibosh on hundreds of thousands of travel plans? Terrorists, maybe, but a volcano?

I was diligently wrapping up my obligations prior to a family vacation in Paris that was scheduled to depart the following day, oblivious to what was going on in the outside world, when my husband emailed me a link to a French newspaper. My French doesn’t even qualify as rudimentary but there was no mistaking the headline which, loosely translated, said, ‘you are about to be severely disappointed.’

We watched anxiously as flights were canceled and airports closed. But our Friday afternoon flight to Paris, via Philadelphia, was still showing an on-time departure. We were already packed so when the time came to go to the airport we figured we might as well; maybe we’d be able to fly in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary. At the check-in counter the less-than-gracious US Airways employee informed us that yes, the flight was still scheduled and no, she couldn’t advise us as to the best course of action; we could check in or not, it was no skin off her nose. We had an hour or so to decide.

“What happens to our luggage if we check in now, and then the flight’s canceled?” we asked.

“You try to get it back,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

Since most of my underwear was in my suitcase, and it would be inconvenient to be without it for an unspecified amount of time, I suggested we not check in quite yet, but instead go have lunch and see if anything definitive transpired in the next hour.

Just as we finished ordering, we got an automated message that our flight had been canceled. I waved the waiter back and ordered a drink.

We were, of course, extremely disappointed that our trip had been canceled, but we knew right away that we were luckier than many. From an inconvenience perspective we suffered not one whit. We were grounded, but we were on home turf with all our underwear. One friend from the UK was stuck here while her valiant husband wrangled their two young daughters on his own for an extra week. Another friend was stuck in Germany while his wife tried to hold onto her sanity as a single parent here. Another friend in the UK had a scaled down wedding party because her European friends were unable to travel, and another wedding was canceled altogether. Those are just a few of the stories that I’ve heard from people I know. Imagine how many other plans were ruined, and lives disrupted, by that pesky natural phenomenon.

I’m sorry that my daughter’s school vacation did not work out as planned; that she didn’t get to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or visit Versailles, or practice her French. But we got to participate in a moment in history that will not soon be forgotten.

C’est la vie.

Memory lane is a lonely road

My parents finally kicked me out of the house. Okay, technically they kicked my stuff out of the house. It’s true that I bought my first house over twenty years ago but I’ve happily continued to use theirs as my off-site storage facility. The recent rain flooded their basement which in turn prompted them to start throwing things out. Years of experience has taught them that it’s unwise to pitch things that belong to me without asking first so they skipped that step and appeared at my house with a large box which they unceremoniously dumped on the floor. Dad said, “This is yours. You decide what to do with it.”

The box was labeled ‘Judy’s school stuff.’ I left it where it had landed in my front hall for a couple of weeks while I worked up the energy for a long trip down memory lane. The smell of the box, which had spent multiple decades in a musty basement, finally compelled me to explore the contents so I could decide what to do with them and air out my hallway.

As labeled, the box contained school papers and other treasures from elementary school through high school. A selection of notable finds included a ticket to a production of ‘Lil’ Abner’ that we did in Jr. High that had a bit of Mark V.’s fake mustache taped to it; a letter I wrote to NBC in 1973 protesting the cancelation of Bonanza which, along with letters to Save the Children and the local Board of Selectman, was apparently a school project not evidence of my precociousness as I originally thought; a tenth grade World Civilization paper marked ‘C-, barely’; and a paper where the teacher wrote, ‘Where’s the argument? I know you like controversy. I see it in class all the time.’ I was surprised to discover that I was not as bad at math as I remembered, or as good at everything else.

Over the course of several days (memory lane is a long road) I tried to engage my daughter in the review of my early years but she was singularly uninterested. I had her intrigued for a minute when I undertook an explanation of mimeograph machines but she wandered off when it became clear that I didn’t actually know how they worked. My husband lit up briefly when I gave him a printout from an early computer which we were teaching to play blackjack (or maybe it was teaching us) but mostly he nodded and said, “That’s nice, dear,” sounding exactly like his own father. I finally resigned myself to the fact that my cherished mementos are never going to become anyone else’s. Down the road when my daughter is cleaning out my basement she’s not going to stop and read my old papers, she’s going to toss them out. I guess I’ll save her the trouble. I kept a few representative things (all the papers that got A’s) and recycled the rest. I’ll have to remember to tell my parents that if they come across any of their school papers while they’re cleaning they should feel free to throw them out.

Mind you, this applies only to items found in the basement. When it’s time to clean out my room I’d prefer they not touch anything without asking me first.

Self-censoring is a parent’s best weapon

When my daughter graduated to the Young Adult section of the library I was proud and excited. I didn’t give a thought to what she was reading because I naively assumed that if it was labeled Young Adult than it was age appropriate. Granted, she hadn’t hit thirteen yet so I knew some of the books might be too adult but nonetheless I figured that if she wanted to read them, and could understand them, then it was all good. And if she couldn’t understand them it didn’t matter anyway.

Then one day she told me she’d read a great book and I should read it too, so I did. That was the end of my blissful ignorance. In that particular book, Deadline, (which, by the way, I thought was extremely well-written and recommend highly) there was, in no particular order; a boy with a terminal illness; a girl with a little brother who turned out to be her son, the result of being raped by her uncle; an alcoholic ex-priest who’d molested children, and more. That was when I learned that nothing is taboo in YA literature.

That experience made me question, briefly, my decision not to censor her reading material, however, my daughter is a voracious reader; it’s not unusual for her to take ten books out of the library at a time. It would be a full time job to stay on top of YA books to the extent that I could approve or reject her choices. Laziness aside (which believe me, is a major contributor to my resistance) censoring anything is a slippery slope. My daughter knows better than I do what she’s capable of understanding and if it’s too graphic, or too scary, she self-censors.

The movie rating system, designed to protect parents from making stupid mistakes with their children’s viewing choices, continuously disappoints me. The choices that the MPAA makes are not consistent with the choices that I would make for my child. I’d much rather she hear a few F-bombs than be exposed to people being blown up, yet the former nets an R rating and the latter a PG-13.

We were away for a weekend with another family and we rented I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry for the kids to watch, because my daughter insisted it was age-appropriate. The kids in question ranged from 9- to 13-years-old. The sophomoric humor was immediately off-putting for me but the kids were enjoying it. Each time something questionable was said or done the parents would sneak looks at each other to see who was going to be the first to crack and shut it off. Consensus came during a shower scene where several buff naked men, shot from the back, prepared to play ‘pick up the soap.’ Our collective parental gasp made it clear that no amount of arguing was going to get the movie turned back on. That movie was PG-13.

This weekend, we watched Up In the Air. It had one brief scene of a naked woman, shot from the back, and verbal innuendo about the sex post-facto. Oh yeah, there were F-bombs. That movie was rated R. Guess which one I’d prefer my daughter watch?

I continue to censor movies in my own, lazy fashion. I know from experience that the visual nature of movies makes a deeper impression on my daughter than reading, so if it’s too ‘adult’ or scary we don’t allow it. But then, if it was too ‘adult’ or scary she wouldn’t want to see it.

When it comes to books, however, self-censoring is a highly effective parenting tool, and the only one I need.