Archive for the ‘ Parenthood ’ Category

Another Mother Taken for Granted (and Loving It)

Hello, dear readers. I invite you to read the following guest post written by my step-mother. Enjoy! – MD

I just returned from another whirlwind 500 mile round trip in three days to see my parents. They are getting older – late 70’s/early 80’s kind of older – and I like to see them often, every 4-6 weeks. It’s not easy. I always take my son with me. He is three now and a somewhat better car traveler than he was. Though this is not saying much. He does not sleep in the car. We do not have a DVD player for him. He talks. He eats. He asks for things by genre. He wants something to play with. He wants something to read. He wants something to eat. He wants something to draw with. He wants water. Miraculously all of these desires are fulfilled by the pop-up laundry hamper, the cooler, the narrow cardboard box that once held a digital projector and an odd assortment of bags all within my arm’s reach.

I am an old mom. Not older. Old. I was 43 when Henry was born. I tell you this so that you can understand how thankful I am to have the chance to be Henry’s mom.

I grew up in a charmed family situation. My grandparents lived near enough to babysit and visit multiple times during the week. My paternal grandmother actually baked bread and knit mittens for me. I didn’t think about it much when I was younger. Seeing my parents parents so often, I expected them to be there and ready to share the fun. Singing songs with them. Planting flowers. Going for walks. Talking to squirrels. Baking pies. Though I know not everyone saw their grandparents with the frequency I did, it didn’t seem special. It just was. I took it for granted.

Here is where you, the reader, expect me to lament my youthful ways and regret my lack of gratefulness. But I am not regretful. In fact, I want Henry to have the opportunity to take my parents and me for granted. I want him to expect me to be there. To anticipate the drive to my folks’ house. To expect them to dote on him and to play with him and make time for him. I don’t want him to have to be thankful for a parent or a grandparent who is patient and thoughtful. I want him to believe that he deserves these kind of relationships. In fact, my desire for him to take my parents for granted is the reason I make the trek through Chicago more than 20 times a year with a passenger seat filled with 50 cent toys and books from the thrift store.

– NK

Money Matters

I’ve been thinking about how to talk to Miss Red about money. Money was a tense subject in my house growing up and I want her to have a sense of empowerment about budgeting and monetary decisions, because it’s something I still struggle with at 34. My husband and I have a pretty good way of talking about money – sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s tense – but in the end we generally reach the same conclusions. Most of the time.

I’m working on not seeing spending as something to feel guilty about, and doing my best to witness my relationship to money. Geneen Roth, the author of Women, Food and God, wrote a book called Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money, where she chronicles how she lost everything to Bernie Madoff, and how her relationship to money is related to food. Interesting, no?

My mother-in-law was able to be part of a cool Sesame Street project, which focused on financial literacy. She even met Elmo and got to stand in Oscar’s trash can! Sesame Street’s model is an interesting one, but I’m wondering what you all do to talk about money with your kids. Do you plan on giving them allowance? Will you ask them to save for college?

– MD

Indoctrination

My husband and I were raised by very politically progressive parents. You know, liberals. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree for both of us, and while I consider us to be open-minded and left-leaning, there are some areas where our parents might out-leftie us. I consider this an advantage, and yet I am always so curious when I meet people who are now socially progressive, yet grew up in conservative homes. What made the change? What do their parents think? How awkward are family holidays? Then again, I like to pepper people with a lot of questions.

So, as someone who has worked at non-profits and now works for a union, my family remains committed to various causes. And we talk about them with Miss Red. Some might call it indoctrination. Whatever you call it – family conversations, belief structures, family plans, goals – I hope she grows up knowing that she can make a difference. I mean, with more than a year of Capitol protests under her belt, how can she not?

My favorite protestors.

What about you? How do you discuss and navigate the waters of social causes and issues in your family?

– MD

Revelation

My family was downtown last weekend, and walking back to our car we encountered a gaggle of drunk college-aged men. They stepped aside, but as I looked at their backwards hats, weaving walks and heard their asinine conversations, I realized that one day, some guy like that might want to sleep with my daughter.

Oh. Em. Gee.

– MD

Spines

“Mama, the edges of books are called spines,” said Miss Red on Monday night.

We were reading a few books from the library. There are two series that she’s currently wild about, and we are, too. Polly Dunbar has written a number of books, but the ones that keep getting renewed are from the Tilly and Friends series, including Doodle Bites, Goodnight Tiptoe, Where’s Tumpty?, Happy Hector and Hello Tilly. My aunt also gave Miss Red Dunbar’s Here’s a Little Poem for the holidays, and I look forward to her growing into the words. I mean, of course you name a pig Hector and include a chicken who wears lipstick.

Hello Tilly by Polly Dunbar

The second series is the Piggy and Gerald set of books by Mo Willems. Most people are familiar with Willems from his Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series, but I personally think, and Miss Red agrees, that the Piggie and Gerald series is better. A pig and elephant are best friends? Check. Said animals have witty banter and facial expressions? Double check.

I Will Surprise My Friend! by Mo Willems

What about you? Any great book recommendations?

– MD

Roses and Thorns

It’s very important to our family that we eat dinner together. I cook about 90% of the time. I enjoy it. It’s not always world-class cuisine, but it’s nice to do for my family. Every Sunday I make a menu for the week, which helps me plan the grocery shopping, and takes the stress of wondering what to make each night.

It’s a family affair: Miss Red now sets the table and CH cleans up.

For years, even before Miss Red was born, we’d ask a certain set of questions:
1. What was your favorite part of the day?
2. What was your least favorite part of the day?
3. What were you most thankful for?

We do this to take the edge of the day and connect. It’s our version of praying. The responses are funny, too. Miss Red vacillates between “I don’t know,” or “this,” or something that happened weeks ago. We take turns answering and it usually puts a smile on the grown-up faces. If for some reason we don’t eat dinner together, CH and I find that we still ask one another before bed.

I remembering reading that the Obamas do something similar, which they call Roses and Thorns. Which basically means we’re a presidential family.

So even though I was crabby yesterday after a challenging day at work, we still asked the questions. I didn’t have a response, but knew that I was looking forward to my yoga class. While short on patience, the questions did help me relax into the dinner I had made – sauteed kale, baked feta topped with capers, tomatoes and basil, and warmed pita. It got me into my food and out of my head. And while I couldn’t handle much of the whining that Miss Red emitted before I whisked off to yoga, I know that when we ask the questions tonight, I will say, “this.”

– MD

Let Me Be Honest

My post yesterday on divorce started many interesting conversations on the blog and on my personal Facebook page. Can I say that it’s these types of conversations that make me happy to be an adult? That people can talk about scary things and feel OK? I don’t know if that makes sense, but to me it feels so right.

I wanted to be more honest about my relationship with my husband. While I wrote that my husband and I talk frequently about our relationship, I am also the one who, when things are difficult, jump to the conclusion that we will get divorced. That thought no longer makes me panic, but it was part of a larger shift in becoming an adult.

I got married at 25, which now, upon reflection, seems like I was a zygote. For years my parents had told me not to get married until I was 30, and I didn’t understand that until I was 28, when one day, while eating breakfast, I turned to my beloved cat, Linus, who was sitting on a kitchen chair while I ate, and said out loud, “I don’t want to be anyone else but myself.” I don’t know where that thought came from – it literally came from the ether – and I understood. I understood that it takes years for a person to become a person. It also now made sense of the fact that my husband and I had a lot of bumps in our early years. That is not unique; I know that the early years of marriage are difficult, but I think a lot of it came from me not knowing who I really was, to my core.

To be honest, I thought about divorce a lot in the early years of our marriage, in that “it’s not too late to get out!” kind of way. Looking back, I can see that it was fear. Fear that gripped me from taking time, investing, and calming down. Thinking back, those years were painful, and I feel light-years away from those thoughts, but I did have them. And divorce still is my “default” option in my brain when things are rough. Again, I have no plans on getting divorced. I love my husband, value him, think he’s incredibly cute, and cherish the family and life we have created. We both feel bound to one another by a sense of deep, deep affection and actively work to make life nice for each other – offering compliments, being thoughtful, and most important, making one another laugh.  But I am not naive enough to know that even that can sometimes not be enough.

So let me sprinkle a little bit of hope and faith into the mix. You?

– MD