Monthly Archives: February 2009

Violence Unsilenced

            If we are silent…

            If we hide the bruises…

            If we lie about the past…

            If we hold their secrets for them…

            Then we are honoring their violence.  We are accepting their estimation of us as worth a buck-fifty plus tax.  We are letting them write our stories.  We are feeling their shame as our own.

            And we are accomplices in allowing it to happen to us and to someone else.

            Go.  Read these brave stories.  Visit every week.  Because I for one am worth at least the price of a latte.

Readiness

            When I post about Proposition 8, I create respectful and well thought-out debate.  When I post about karate, I hear from numerous readers about the way karate has affected them or their families.  When I post about losing my shit and hollering like a banshee at my children, I get a lot of “me, too” comments.  Last week, however, I clearly hit on the mother of all topics, because I have rarely gotten as many comments as I did on my post last week.

            Wow.  Like, you people have some serious opinions on kindergarten. 

            J and I appreciate all the feedback.  The consensus was that red-shirting will make him bored in school and an extra year will make no difference in his social anxiety, except for all the people who felt he definitely needs to be held because being the youngest will lead directly to a third-grade crack addiction.  In other words, there was absolutely no definitive answer.  Shit.

            The feedback that pushed us over the edge was probably an email from J’s cousin, who has a bit of experience with four-year-olds, given that she used to run a preschool and now teaches early childhood educators.  She was emphatic and unequivocal, and she told us what we were already thinking anyway.  Send him.

            So, while the decision is not 100%, Zachary will most likely be going to kindergarten in the fall.  Which scares the living shit out of me, because he may be ready for kindergarten, but I’m not sure that I am.

First date

            Zachary takes play dates quite seriously.  He plans them out in his head, thinking of all the things he wants to do with his friend, and imbues them with tremendous significance.  Then he crashes and burns ten minutes in.  The anticipation exhausts him before it even starts.

            Can’t wait to see this child on actual dates someday.

            We have learned to manage the anticipation, both by waiting to tell him about play dates and by keeping him calm and distracted in the moments before.  But, lately, play dates that take place at our house implode for a different reason: the other children steadfastly refuse to do whatever Zachary tells them to do.

            Now, I know that the bossiness might be a manifestation of his social bewilderment, and I get that an extrovert with social anxiety is drinking a mighty strong cocktail.  I just wish he would stop going ballistic every time he does not get his way.

            Like me, he does better with social occasions at other people’s houses or in a neutral spot, and he certainly is more in control if his two-year-old brother is not around.  But, I have three kids, and that means sometimes he has to have the play date at home with Benjamin there to pester him.

            Sometimes the other child’s mother tries to offer him a suggestion, which is especially effective if she cuts me off in the middle of telling him that no, he cannot scream at his friend for wanting to play with the Lincoln Logs.  When he is over-stimulated, you can imagine how well he responds to two adults talking to him at the same time.

            What works the best, of course, is when the other child has the ability to deal with it herself.  Such was the case a few weeks ago, when we had a play date with five-year-old twin girls.  Set aside for the moment the crude jokes about male fantasies and a pair of older women; Zachary likes these girls a lot.  I like their mother.  And the girls like him, although I suspect they might sometimes be using him to get to his baby sister.

            When they arrived, he wanted to serve them a snack.  They had already snacked in the car.  Seven seconds into the play date and we were on a collision course with a meltdown.  I tried to compromise with him, but he insisted that they all were to sit down and eat a snack together.

            “But, baby, they aren’t hungry,” I explained, completely exasperated.

            “Actually,” one of the girls piped up, “I’m a little hungry.”

            As I sliced up a pear for this little girl and an apple for my son, I filed away a thank you to the gods who had arranged for his friend to find a smidgen of hunger inside herself.  Five minutes later, Zach got down from the table and went to proceed to the next social landmine, and this little girl turned to her mother, whispering her guilty secret.  “I wasn’t really hungry,” she confessed.

            And, heaven help me, but I was just a little jealous of my friend for how proud she could be of her child’s desire to set someone else at ease.

Magic 8 Ball

            Zachary will turn five in September.  Perhaps that does not seem like much of an issue to you, in which case you probably don’t live in California or do not have children.  If however, you do happen to be raising children in the Golden State, then you know exactly what is going on in our house.  Each night, after we lasso the children into the bath, negotiate pajama colors, read several annoying books about Disney Princesses, and give the baby one last feeding, my husband and I snuggle up for a little adult time, which we use just as you would imagine we do.

            We discuss kindergarten. 

            Because California’s cutoff is one of the latest in the country, Zach makes it by several months and is eligible to start in September.  Cognitively the child is ready.  And I mean ready.  He is a sharp little cookie.  With emphasis on “little.”  Is it OK to send a kid to kindergarten while he is still wearing size 3T?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just affix that “kick me” sign to his back ourselves, instead of waiting for the class bully to do it?

            “I’d like to see a list of their kindergarten birthdays,” J tells me.  But it will just tell us what we already know: Zach is destined either to be among the oldest or among the youngest children in his class.  No matter how much we discuss it, he is never going to be in the middle.

            He is the type of child who will dumb himself down to fit in, so he should be with older children.  He gets anxious in a group, so he should be with younger children.  He mimics the other kids’ behavior, so he behaves better if he is the youngest.  He is sensitive about teasing, so he is safer if he is the oldest.

            What if, in a few years, we move to a state with an earlier cutoff, making him the youngest by far?  What if he hits puberty early and he is already the oldest in the class?

            We sit here, waiting for the right answer to come crashing through the roof and hit us on the heads.  This hasn’t happened yet, and I am starting to have this sinking feeling that perhaps there is no right answer.  Maybe, like everything else in parenting, this is a lesson in how limited is our control over their lives. 

            Or maybe I could ask you all to give your opinions so we have more fodder for tonight’s episode of The Great Kindergarten Debate.

But we keep trying

            “He wanted to wear his princess shoes to school, but they aren’t safe,” I told Lena as we waited to collect our two-year-olds at our synagogue preschool.  “He’s only allowed to wear them around the house.”

            “Is your husband worried?” she asked.

            “Why would he be worried?” I asked, although I knew full well.  When your sons both love pink and the younger goes to the grocery dressed as Tinkerbell, you get asked pretty frequently whether your husband is worried.

            Lena began to tell me about some televangelist who screeched about homosexuality only to be caught with a male prostitute.  “And he was molested as a little boy.  I think that’s what pushed him that way.”  It was sort of sweet, I guess.  She was trying to reassure me that molestation, not princess shoes, is the key ingredient for an adult life of sodomy and deviance.

            “Well, it may be what made him a hypocrite,” I responded, but I’m pretty sure it’s not what made him gay.”

            In answer to her question, no, my husband is not worried.  Given his time with Mask & Wig in college, he’s pretty comfortable with drag.  He doesn’t care one way or the other about sexual orientation.  I, on the other hand, do care.  “I’d like at least one of my kids to be gay,” I told her.  “Preferably Lilah, because if she’s into guys, Benjamin will scare off all her prospective boyfriends.  I think girls won’t be afraid of him, but I just can’t imagine any boy daring to date Ben’s little sister.”

            “Why would you want your kid to be gay?” she asked.  “They’ll miss out on one of the most fundamental human experiences.”  There was a pause as I tried to figure out what she meant.  I decided she must mean pen#s/v@ginal sex, because I couldn’t come up with anything else that gay people miss out on.  But, while I’m a big fan of that kind of sex, I wouldn’t call it a fundamental human experience.

            “What do you mean?” I had to inquire.

            “Having a family,” she replied.

            For the moment, put aside all the arguments over whether the childless can be called a family and whether having children is an essential component of a fulfilling life.  We don’t even need to go there because her basic assumption that homosexuals can’t have children ignores quite a number of families, including the guy who chairs our preschool’s parent association.  “A and M have four kids,” I helpfully pointed out, starting to wonder how it was I had been transported to Pleasantville.

            Apparently, she didn’t know them, and she was definitely unconvinced.  “I would have a really hard time if one of my kids was gay,” she repeated, abusing the subjunctive case.  We could hear the teachers leading our children in the Goodbye Song, which is really more accurately described as “dragging” since only one little girl actually joins in the singing.  “Being gay would make their lives a lot harder.”

            I started to open the door to the classroom, but I turned back to look at her.  “So will being Jewish.”

            I never cease to be bewildered by these kinds of conversations, although I have stopped attributing them to hatred.  Moving from place to place, I am coming to realize that so much of what we believe is cultural.  This mother is part of a cultural group that reveres gender stereotypes and rejects homosexuality.  There are quite a few families in our preschool who are from this same community, and many have grown up insulated from different ideas.

            The next day, as we listened to the dulcet sounds of our children not singing, she turned to me, a mild wonder on her face.  “I haven’t stopped thinking about the things you said.”

Video killed the radio star

            When I first started blogging, almost two years ago, there was a vibrant community of bloggers waiting to welcome me with open arms.  They were intelligent women (mostly) and men (or at least a man) who wrote wittily and thought deeply about parenting, politics, and something else that begins with a P.

            Lately, however, I am starting to feel like Bette Midler in the phone booth at the end of The Rose.

            Some people have bid dramatic adieus, some have stopped posting with any regularity, and some stopped reading and then stopped writing.  Part of this is due to life’s craziness.  Hell, if you have a blog, you’ve probably noticed that I no longer use capital letters when I comment, if I comment at all.  That’s because I am breastfeeding with the other hand.  My comments are few and far between, but I promise, I am there reading.

            Where have all the bloggers gone? Pete Seeger famously asked.  As far as I can tell, most of them are on Twitter.  So, I went ahead and joined Twitter, and my reaction was much like my response to Tom Cruise: I just don’t get the appeal.  Facebook I like.  It allows me to get in touch with people from my past lives (how very Shirley MacLaine of me).  I also like the updates, which are often witty and usually not too plentiful.

            Twitter?  Call me old-fashioned, but I like full sentences sometimes.  Maybe it is just too casual for someone who likes the formality of the written word.  Maybe I am a curmudgeon who cannot accept that the times, they are a’changing.  Who knows?

            Back in my senior year of high school, when I was filling out financial aid forms, I got totally stressed out because my life was way too complicated for those little spaces on the form.  I couldn’t make my situation fit into those tiny boxes.  Life is not fill-in-the-blank.

            So, by all means, follow me on Twitter.  I’ll post every now and again.  But, if you want to really know what is going on in my life, you’re going to have to check in here, because my life is too complicated for 140 characters.  I have found wonderful new blogs to read, but I miss some of the folks who have moved on.  Maybe I am like the ghost on Grey’s Anatomy: I just won’t accept you are breaking up with me. 

Saturday

            Having recently popped my cherry, I seem to be on a blogger-meeting roll.  Because I am lazy, cheap, and nursing a baby, you are unlikely to ever see me at a blogging conference.  I am all about the nearby bloggers, and Marste gets extra points for meeting me around the corner from my house.  So, you can imagine how much I wanted to meet her when I tell you I drove over an hour with two kids in the backseat.  Through a rainstorm.

            She’s moving out of the country, and she’s staying with relatives until then.  I just had to lay eyes on her once before she left.  So, J took Benjamin to Disneyland and I took Zachary on his very first blind date.

            We didn’t get to talk as much as I would have liked, what with the four-year-olds squabbling and the baby spitting up on the suede couch (did the stain come out?).  Then there was the moment I found myself explaining the specific details of the mechanics of breastfeeding to a very inquisitive little girl.

            It was over much too soon, because momma don’t mess with naptime, but I am grateful for the few hours we got to see each other.  Since I am surely not hauling my ass down to Belize, it is going to be an awfully long time before we get together again.

            But, we’ll need to do it again.  And maybe by then the kids will be old enough to refrain from pulling the table back and forth from each other at lunch time.