I Am Awake

I am awakeIt’s March 1st. It’s 22 degrees outside. The birds are not singing. It is, decidedly, NOT spring.  But as far as I am concerned it’s the beginning of a new year.

Back in January when everyone was resolving to lose weight, write more, be  a better friend, suck less, I was curling up on the sofa with a good book and a cat and whole lot of peanut M&Ms. The curtains were drawn to trap in whatever heat remained.

Wake me when it’s warm.

I wasn’t suffering in the dark. I was regenerating. Percolating in thought. Wrapping myself in a blanket of memories and words.

And, let’s be honest, I was binge watching a ton of television.

It was an awesome winter.

But being a creature of habits (good and bad) and being a slave to biological impulses, the brighter days have gotten me off the sofa. Despite the lingering cold, the curtains have been pulled open to let the sun shine in.

I am awake.

I’m not sure I’d feel the same renewal of spirit if I lived in a place with a more subtle seasonal shift—I never felt it as a kid growing up in the deep south—but I feel it every year living where I do now.

March 1st is my New Year’s Day. I am rested and renewed.

And I have things to do.

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Filed under Writing and Reading

The pendulum swings for thee

The car was quiet. We were driving in uncharacteristic silence. So I called to the back of the car.

“Is everything ok?”

There was no answer.

“Are you reading?”

Crickets.

“Hey!” I said with a little more force.

I got his attention.

“Sorry, Mom. I was imagining.”

Oh, to be inside the imagination of a six-year-old boy.

“Sorry for interrupting, Sweetie. Go back to what you were thinking about.”

I hoped I hadn’t taken him too far off his imaginative journey and settled back into our silent ride. I smiled and gave myself a little internal high-five.

No permanent damage. Despite going against all the advice and recommendations against screen time, my little child—a child of the second decade of the second millennium, a child for whom we have set relatively few screen time limits–has managed to maintain a connection with his imaginative mind and uses that mind just fine.

“When we get home I’m going to write a story about me and a dragon,” I hear from the back before he disappears into what I can only assume is a magical dragon filled world.

Parents spend an awful lot of time worrying if we’re doing it right–‘IT’ being this whole raising kids thing. On any given day one can find hundreds of articles about how to do it better, faster, stronger. Each article presents their best arguments for why their way is the right way. They throw out studies, statistics, and how to lists.

We sift through the words and adopt and discard pieces of advice. We grab hold of labels and concepts and theories about raising kids. We make choices. In the same day we can read something about the best apps for your child in this tech savvy world to lists of things to do with felt and wood with your organically raised earth child. Every article written with the same intentions: raising kids who will thrive and succeed (“success”, of course, meaning a great many different things to a great many different people).

Sometimes we cling to our parenting choices with a firmness that leaves our hands blistered and our bodies tired. I will PROVE my way is right even if it kills us all.

Sometimes we turn on a dime. We read something new. We copy someone else. We twist and turn in the information storm. New statistics, new studies, new recommendations can’t be ignored, after all.

Sometimes we throw our hands up in the air and resort to “if it was good enough for me when I was a kid then…” kind of approach.

pendulumAnd so, the parenting pendulum swings back and forth in perpetuity, never really landing on the perfect parenting technique.

There is, as it turns out, no such thing.

With more than twenty years of parenting behind me (and many years to go) I have the benefit of my experiences to guide me in my choices and the only thing I can truly be sure of is that the longer you are a parent the more profoundly aware you are of how imperfect parenting is. The longer you are a parent the easier it is for you to understand how that pendulum works.

Back and forth it goes. This is right. That is right. This is best. That is best. This works. That works.

It’s not quite clockwork but it is almost comical as you see parenting trends come and go and come and go.

I see young parents today making choices that they think are unconventional, innovative, progressive, or pioneering and it makes me laugh. Not at them, but at myself. I am sure I was just the same when I started out with my first child. I was full of quiet judgment and polite arrogance because *I* was going to forge a new way. I read all the books and the studies. I had a modern philosophy and a style and a plan.

Over time the plan morphed to fit a growing family, a changing world, and an understanding that despite emerging theories about child development, the day-to-day life of a family has not changed all that much over the years.  And while I’m the first to argue that anecdotes do not a sound argument make, I know our life is defined in simple terms: what works for my family in this moment and time is all I need care about.

I’ve been a mother for almost twenty-two years and I won’t pretend that I’ve got this parenting thing down–I make as many mistakes now as any new parent–but I don’t dwell on my mistakes or worry my children will be left to suffer a life of mediocrity because of them. Time is on my side. Statistically the pendulum and I will match at some point.

The how-to-parent pendulum that swings back and forth is a reminder that the rules, the advice, the recommendations, the choices, and the positions we take are just a starting point. What makes us good parents is our ability and willingness to sway along and accept the full spectrum of the arc of the pendulum’s path.

In our home we’re not particularly rigid about screens. We are, if I’m being honest, not particularly big on rules at all, outside of the simple idea of being respectful to yourself and to those around you. I could worry about this, but I don’t. I know better. I know what works for us. My six-year-old boy sits in front of a screen more than the experts recommend but right now he’s daydreaming about dragons.

Parent in your moment. The pendulum swings for thee.

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Filed under Feminist Parenting, Health and Wellness

Running With Scissors

Of all the things I set out to do with my writing, giving advice was never one of them. I fancy myself as more of a serial opiner rather than an advice giver. I am simply not built for the world of Dear Abby. I lack the compassion and I have a short attention span and, frankly, I’ve yet to come across any advice that can be universally applied to all people (even running with scissors can be justified under the right circumstances).

Run, run, as fast as you can!

Run, run, as fast as you can!

Let’s be honest, if you’ve read more than a few things I’ve written you know I am mostly full of attitude and observations. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I am full of wisdom. Occasionally I am full of naïveté. I have even been full of myself, full of promise, full of piss and vinegar, full of awesome (fuck yeah!), full of shit, full of anger, full of despair, full of rage, full of questions, full of baloney, full of grace, full of cheer, full of hot air, full of joy, full of nonsense, full of uncertainty, and definitely full of sarcasm.

Never have I set out to be full of advice, and lord help the person who thinks I am.

Thankfully most people get it right away. They grasp the concept of free will. They come, they read, they possibly comment, and then they leave. Sometimes they come again and again. I can only assume those who return like what I say or at least enjoy the way I say things. That works for me. That works for them. It’s a benign symbiotic relationship.

As a blog reader myself, I approach what I read with the time honored philosophy that one should take what they need and leave the rest behind. No need to make a pointless fuss.

Of course, there are a few people who forget that this whole reading blogs thing is a voluntary activity.

Take Blair, for example.

Blair—hey, Blair, I like the gender neutral name—was obviously forced to come to my blog page. I say ‘forced’ because any normal person who didn’t agree with a blog post would simply move on and never give it another thought. But after reading just one—and probably just the first half of one—of my essays, Blair, poor, poor Blair, was compelled to send me an email saying that I am, and let me be sure to quote Blair accurately:

“…a terrible human being who should be convicted for emotional abuse….It is feminists like you that have inspired the Woman Against Feminism movement. It is feminists like you that allow me to earn a pay check writing anti-feminist literature.”

Oh Blair, who made you suffer through the rantings and ravings of an unapologetic feminist mother? Obviously your delete and/or close tab keys must have been disabled. And then you must write anti-feminist literature? Oh, the humanity!

Typically I wouldn’t give someone like Blair the time of day let alone a spotlight, but clearly Blair is crying out for our help. You see, Blair is special because he writes for Return of Kings. He’s trapped in that cave of ignorance and stupidity. Poor, poor weak-assed Blair.

If you’re not familiar with Return of Kings here is an excerpt from their website to give you a taste of their point of view:

“Return Of Kings is a blog for heterosexual, masculine men. It’s meant for a small but vocal collection of men in America today who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine.”

And they add, ever so politely:

“Women and homosexuals are discouraged from commenting here.”

Their beliefs, which they outline for their readers, include things like “A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty. A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.”

Absolutely charming, isn’t it? And poor emasculated Blair is stuck there, forced to read feminist blogs and then send out poorly written and uninformed hate mail to writers like me, writers who mostly feel sorry for men like Blair.

So while I’m not in the business of giving advice, I’d suggest to Blair and his “small but vocal collection of men” that they run hard and run fast with a big, sharp pair of scissors. May you trip over your own egos. And if you can handle getting advice from a woman, Blair, I suggest you spend more time reading and less time sending out emails to women who I can guarantee will never give you the time of day again.

~~

 “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” ~Gloria Steinem

P.S. If you want the web address to Return of Kings you’re going to have to get it yourself. I will not link to such garbage. Truly they are not worth your time.

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Filed under Feminism, Sexism, and Equality