Tag Archives: parenting

What a beautiful…outfit

I used to say I didn’t like children, but I’ve softened my stance a bit of late. I don’t dislike them; it would be more accurate to say that I have no interest in them. Babies leave me cold. It’s much easier for me to admire the outfit the baby sports than the baby itself. (There’s a reason people make jokes about how all babies look like Winston Churchill.) I rarely ask to hold them, and never volunteer to babysit for friends. When I was pregnant, my sister said, “You’ll see, when you have your own, you’ll like kids.” She was wrong (not something I get to say with such authority very often). I love my own child, but that’s part of the grand design. If we didn’t love our own babies, the race would cease to exist, but other people’s babies continue to leave me cold.

A baby at rest in its bucket is relatively easy to ignore. A toddler is a horse of a different color. There is nothing remotely charming about a child with a runny nose, or sticky fingers, or a stinky diaper. I see no reason to cut them any slack when they kick the back of my seat in a plane or a movie theater.

Over time I’ve come to realize that my nemesis is not the child, but the parent. Why is it that parents assume that everyone will be as taken with their child as they are? If an adult was running around a café screaming and throwing things they’d probably be arrested. When a child does that, the parent smiles and shrugs. I don’t smile. I look stern and may even harrumph. Am I being unfair?

Many years ago, before I had my daughter, I got up in the wee hours of the morning to secure a spot as close to the action as I could get for the annual re-enactment of the start of the American Revolution. After standing in the freezing, pre-dawn darkness for almost an hour, a woman shoved her child in front of me and said, “You don’t mind do you?” Well, yes, I did. I honestly don’t remember what I said to the woman, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that I asked her to remove him. I recount this with some shame, which is probably why I can’t remember my response, because I expect you to think I was being unreasonable. But was I, really?

Do you not cringe when parents put their children on the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts while they’re waiting for their coffee? Is it just me?

If it does take a village to raise a child, I can see why there are communities where no children are allowed.

Next week I may rant about people who treat their dogs like children. Those poor animals are trapped forever in a toddler-like existence. At least little kids grow up. And when they hit middle school, I find them very entertaining. I’ll tell you about that some other time.

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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.

A blanket apology

As evidenced by previous posts, this blog has no particular theme. It will reflect whatever is top of mind when I sit down to write. These days I spend a lot of time thinking about my work-in-progress, a Young Adult novel for, well, young adults. (I look forward to telling you more about that in subsequent posts.) I also spend a lot of time thinking about my daughter and that’s where I feel the need to issue a blanket apology, in advance.

I, like you, have limited patience for people who talk about their children ad nauseam. It’s okay, you can admit it, we’re alone. When your friends start talking about their children you fix your smile and prepare to be a good sport. If the story is about a younger child and is told in a voice meant to approximate that of the child, you might even leave your smile in place like the Cheshire cat and go off to your happy place in your head.

These are the defense mechanisms we employ when parents are speaking admiringly of their offspring. The reactions are different if the parents are angry at their children. Those stories are entertaining. They cause our antenna to go up as we lean forward in our chairs. Our heartbeat accelerates as we anticipate a story that will validate that we are not alone.

Parenting can be a very lonely job, not unlike writing a novel. Even if there is another adult in the family there are hours in the day when you are on your own, or worse, just feel like you are. Parenting happens in real time, you don’t get to go back and edit it once you’re done. So what do we do instead? We talk about it. Sometimes the stories are uplifting and sometimes they’re a downer, but there’s a constant stream of them because parenting is 24/7.

So, I hereby issue a blanket apology for all the posts about my daughter that will inevitably worm their way into this blog. You are not obligated to read them, of course, but she is an endlessly entertaining subject. She’s very smart and as an only child she relates well to adults. Her teachers are always struck by how nuanced her sense of humor is and how well she communicates. Why just the other day, oops, sorry. This post was the apology, I’ll save the stories for later.